Uncorked Ventures Blog
A brief introduction to Gewurztraminer, one of the most difficult grapes for growers to work with, but one of the most aromatically pleasing white wine's when made well.
Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. First, I hope everybody's having a good Thursday as we get closer and closer here to the end of the week. I also hope that everyone's temperatures locally are coming down. If you are looking for 'where the heck is my wine clip shipment?', the short answer is, we delayed a week or 10 days or so. We had mid-80 degree temperatures last week in San Francisco. Quite frankly, I was in Walla Walla for the week and, so 80 degrees in San Francisco, at least over 100 elsewhere. I talked with somebody in the Midwest yesterday. He said they were 108 locally. That's not a good time for us to ship any wine. Wine is on its way. You should have it shortly. Thanks for the patience, as always during the summer months. We know. It's tough.
I'm joined today by two bottles and you can tell these are a little bit interesting looking to start with. They're both Gewürztraminers. A couple of words about the grape first, to start. Traminer is kind of the grape family. There's 10 or 12 of them floating around. The fact of the matter is, traminers are historically good at changing genetics on us. Over the past 100 years or so, we've ended up with a bunch of different versions of the grape. They're all kind of cousins at this point, but not directly related, you know, father-son kind of thing.
Gewürztraminer. We don't see it much in California and you're starting to see it more in the Pacific Northwest. Amity is an Oregon player. Novarro is kind of an entry-level producer. California is Anderson Valley. You don't see it a lot in California. You don't see it a lot outside of kind of the Northwest because, quite honestly, it needs cold weather. If the weather gets too warm, the grape grows and grows and grows. The vines are almost unwieldy, where you see, if you've ever grown pumpkins in your backyard and they tend to grow a foot a day. The grape vines actually do a little something like that. Big vines, kind of foliage everywhere, leads to a lot of grape growth and it leads to pretty crappy wine. They need cold weather.
The other problem with that is they lay in cold weather so that they can keep their best traits. One of the best traits is they have this beautiful floral aroma that the grape's well-known for, but it is also a very early bud-break and a very slow ripener. Early bud-break in cold climate sounds all fine and good until you realize that in cold climates, you're more likely to have a early spring frost. That literally kills off an entire crop of grapes.
Gewürztraminer, it's something that if you find yourself saying I don't love Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc's not really exactly my thing, I am constantly looking for something on the white wine side that I enjoy, the aromatics on the thing are great. The acidity is usually pretty high. That's both because that's what the grape takes, but to make it well, you have to make it in a cold enough climate that you keep most of the acidity. It's well-worth a look. Look for Oregon, California's Anderson Valley probably makes the best stuff in the U.S. right now. The Finger Lakes region of New York is definitely trying. They've had a wide variety of success and not exactly success with it. They're coming and getting stronger as it goes. It's well worth a look.
If you're somebody who wants to branch out a little bit, Gewürztraminer. I'll ask you the question the same way we ask people sometimes when we talk on the phone to them. Name a part of France. The quick version that people come up with, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, blah blah, blah. They go down the list. The Lower Valley, the Round Valley, and then we mention Alsace. They kind of stare at us. This is an Alsacian varietal. Anderson Valley does an Alsace Festival. It's a really really interesting look into world wine that you probably don't see all the time. If you're a member of our cheapest wine club, our Explorations Wine Club, you might be receiving an Amity Gewürztraminer. You might now. We got split shipment going right now. If that's something you're interested in and you'd like to try Gewürztraminer, shoot us an email. We can find you a bottle or two.
Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Have a good week.
A short introduction to two of my favorite Paso Robles wineries: Kinero and Atla Colina. Different setups to be sure, but both making some amazing wine at prices which are more than fair. Also, a few words on why prices in Paso Robles have yet to get out of control.
Hi guys. Mark Aselstine again with Uncorked Ventures. I'm joined today by two bottles of red wine, both from Paso Robos. I wanted to take a couple minutes to talk about Paso, and the general feeling of the wine industry down there, and what's going on.
First, I should take a minute to introduce. Paso's a region in California. It's about equidistant between Los Angeles and San Francisco, about 200 miles from each. The good news with that is that they have relatively easy access to both markets. The bad news is San Francisco is still dominated by Napa and Sonoma. L.A., it's one of the most competitive markets in the country. As a wine maker, or a wine sales rep, if you had to spend a couple days somewhere, say in the middle of February, no matter what region of the country you are from, or region of the world for that matter, L.A.'s not really a bad spot. Especially when you can count on it being 75 degrees and clear. In any case, L.A. competitive. San Francisco's uber competitive, perhaps the most competitive market in the world.
Wineries have this [inaudible 01:03] position. They're making great wine. They're making it at great prices, but they don't have a huge natural market like some others do. That has helped to keep prices down, and has helped to keep production sizes down while at the same time making world class wine.
I think first we will start with, so this is a Kinero seller's bottle. I've talked about Anthony Yount in this space, and in other's before. He's the wine maker at Denner Vineyards. Anthony is somebody who I have a ton of respect for, and somebody who's really starting to influence other wine makers. I'm starting to have more and more conversations with folks from both the central coast, and even sonoma, saying "Hey, I spent a couple days with that guy last year, and he really changed the way that I make wine." I don't think there's any higher praise that someone can get.
A minute about Denner. Robert Parker, of course, wine advocate, and probably the most famous critic in the world. At some point, a few years back, he was in 5 grand crew vineyards in California. That is, if we would take the French classification system and bring it to California, which 5 vineyards would he name? He named 4 up here in Napa and Sonoma, and then he named one in Paso. That's the James Berry vineyard. When you walk through the James Berry vineyard, something really interesting happens. You walk across a golf cart path. Really, about three feet or so, and then you hit the Denner Estate vineyard.
Anthony is the wine maker at Denner. The Syrah and other stuff they produce is well worth a look. He also makes this small personal label called Kinero. Kinero up to this point has been focused exclusively on white wines. He tells the story that his dad didn't drink white wine. He wanted to make something that his dad would like. You're talking a more acidic chardonnay. He makes that grenache-blanc blend, which our most inexpensive wine club, our explorations wine club received this last month. This is the first red he's produced. It's from the Basseti vineyard. It is Grenache, which I think that a lot of people that know me or know me well think that I might be obsessed with the grape, especially when it's done well. This shows everything that's important and interesting about Paso.
First, $40. I believe 47 cases produced, that's about 2 barrels of wine. It's a minuscule quantity, almost small enough to be almost a joke. We have it for our wine club members. Our premium wine club, our reserved wine club will receive it, and if you are a monthly special selections member, you'll receive it too. Other than that, sorry, there's just not much of it to go around.
Basseti vineyard, they've got some pretty great Sera. I'm in essence going to tell you the story when were sitting across the dining room table from each other that they had these couple blocks that weren't working well for a couple of reasons that no one could've suggested or thought of before. They grafted over to gernache. This is not out for general consumption with critics. Antonio [inaudible 03:52] scored it 93 points for $40. It's just incredible. That's the short version.
Secondly, I have a bottle here from Alta Colina. I've talked about Maggie and Bob and the folks of the Tomin family, and have done Ulticleana in the past too. Ulticleana's a little bit different. For Anthony and Canero, he's sourcing grapes, and I think he owns a small vineyard of his own. He's growing at this point. Ulticleana took a different perspective and a different path. They had a little bit more money behind them, of course. They've purchased this large vineyard block, and it's on the great side of West Paso. If you were to try to buy it today, you probably couldn't anymore because they've profiled Paso in the 8 or 9 years that they've been there has come up so much. Bravo to them for both planting the vineyards and the grapes for a while. Starting a small personal label. You used to go to a tasting room, and you used to drive into another winery, and then they were on the side that, of the tasting room that could seat four people. It's a really great experience.
Now, they have a taste, shout it tasting room on the hill, so to speak. You meander up the hill, and then you can look down across part of the valley there. It's a Tessla charging station. You can tell that you found a winery that knows what they're doing. Ulticleana started, and had an assistant wine maker who I know pretty well. Jeff Cohn from JC Cellars. He really has helped form there style. Anything from Kinero buys some grapes from Ulticleana, and you hear that repeatedly. Ulticleana is thought of by folks in the industry as one of the truly great vineyards in Paso. They're also large enough that where they can sell it to a lot of people. I will tell you that I know for sure that if I owned a 200 acre vineyard, I would be happy selling 180 acres. If I was keeping 20, I don't know if it's 20 that they keep, but it's something along those lines. If I was keeping 20, I would be keeping either the best 20, or pretty damn close to the best 20.
Alta Colina makes some incredible wine. I mentioned Robert Parker earlier. He is one of the ones who is the first ones, much to his credit by the way, being on the Ulticleana band wagon. I think the first year that they released, he gave them multiple 90 point scores across the board. Spectator, literally every critic, everyone who tries these wines loves them.
This is a GSM. I mentioned that I might be slightly obsessed with gernache earlier. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. That's the classic thing in Paso. It might be what they're known most for. Sera might grow the best, but it might be GSM that really takes them to the next level as far as the quality of production. Yeah, Ulticleana. This is a 93 point wine from Parker. We shipped it for our reserve members, and it's something that I've had multiple people tell me "Hey, that was really really good." I think that's at that $50 price point, pretty incredible stuff.
That's a short intro for a couple things that are going on in Paso Robos. There's literally dozens of other examples of really really great wineries that are outside of the general consciousness down there. Terry Hoage, a good example, ex-professional football player making great wine. Of course you have the Saxsum and Turley folks who are floating around, and there's many others. In any case, this is Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope you enjoyed a short intro to Paso. I think the two things that really stand out to my mind are the wines are really great. That's first, and foremost, most important. Second, they are probably under priced, at least $15 or $20 per bottle when you compare to Napa and Sonoma. That's because they don't have a really true huge natural market within, where our wine maker could go for a day trip and sell 15 or 20 cases of wine whenever they need to. That keeps prices down. It keeps them out of the normal distribution cycles, and if your somebody who really likes fine wine, and you like supporting smaller, local, family run wineries, Paso is a great place to look.
Again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Hope you're having a good week.
Every once in a while, it's fun to taste something we have no intention of shipping. In this case, it's a Cotes Du Rhone blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Those who know me, also know that I love small local businesses. This bottle came from a small local grocery store (well, no meat, so I guess it is technically a produce market) which I felt compelled to buy after my preschooler needed to use the bathroom, which in essence is for their employees-hardly something they had to let us use. I wanted to buy something with a bit more margin than the peaches and scones that comprise our usual order.
Hi Guys. Mark Aselstine here with Uncorked Ventures. First we're digging out a little bit here. I was in Walla Walla last week to taste through some Washington wines and to source some wine for upcoming wine club shipments. Much of that won't be in the next month or two, it'll be a few months down the road. Being based outside of San Francisco, we tend to try to put together groups of wines and then ship down all at once as opposed to shipping a handful of cases from a few different wineries. Quite honestly it's more cost effective and it leads to better wine for all of our members.
Today I wanted to spend a couple of minutes talking about something that I don't do very often which is a French wine. This is a Chemin des Papes. You'll have to excuse, my French is not great. That's probably one of the ... Part of the backlash from growing up in Southern California where Spanish you hear almost exclusively when it comes to foreign languages and my Spanish isn't bad. My French is terrible. Chemin des Papes it's what's referred to as a Cotes du Rhone. When we hear Rhone, that's really clear, that's the Rhone Valley in France. People don't give the Rhone very much credit. When it comes to casual wine drinkers, when you think of France you think of Bordeaux first, you think of Burgundy second and some folks will think of Champagne region, too.
The Rhone Valley is actually the oldest wine growing region in France. The [Venetians 00:01:30] reportedly brought grape cuttings and started to grow wild vines there in the 12th Century. Much like California, it wasn't until the Catholic Church started to move in in great numbers and if you know the history of the Catholic Church at all, not to bore you, but the long story short is for a while the Pope was actually based in France as opposed to Vatican City in Italy or Rome. That's when cultivation of grapes really took off. That's when we see wide scale plantings of stuff in the Rhone Valley. That's really the 18th Century.
The Rhone is known for two things. First it's a warm growing region and south towards the Mediterranean sea. This is Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre. On the white side you see Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne. The one thing you will notice, not a lot of household names. A lot of people know about Syrah and recognize Syrah and then they think to themselves very quickly, "I don't like Syrah." One of the things we try to do is sometimes try something at random. This Chemin des Papes is made in, quite frankly, huge quantities. I picked it up for about 10 bucks at a local, I'd call it a grocery store but that oversells it. We have a local, a couple of blocks down from the house, produce market. They sell no meat inside but produce is great and they have a small wine and beer selection that's almost exclusively international. This is in wide scale distribution throughout not only the United States but I think they go out to something along the line of 50 countries or so. Certainly all over Europe and then most of Asia and then North America as well.
What this is is 60 per cent Grenache, 40 per cent Syrah. It's fairly typical for the region. It's a really nice wine though. It's nice if you're looking for a solid house wine at a really affordable price. Chemin des Papes should be literally everywhere in your local market. Wine store may or may not have it. I'd bet you that the small to go grocery stores carry it. I thought it was interesting and I thought it was also interesting to get to talk a little bit about the Rhone Valley here in this space, which we don't get to do quite often enough. Like I said, people don't give Syrah very much credit but if you find Syrah to be too dark, too dense, or you say, "I think I prefer a cab," which is most of the United States to be honest with you. Something that's a higher percentage Grenache rather than Syrah is probably something that's going to fit the bill a little bit better.
The Chemin des Papes, reportedly they make something along the lines of 2 million cases of this. It's quite clearly everywhere. This is a really good value at 10 bucks and I certainly wouldn't [bahoo 00:04:02] buying another bottle or two along the way. It's a nice intro to French wine and when people talk about French style versus California style, this bottle, I think, does a good job of doing it. I think really often on the California side of things you tend to have these big over ripe things at the $10 price point. France, the tend to have a lighter hand and it's also because it's simply a little bit cooler there. Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope you've enjoyed this short intro to the Rhone Valley of France and the Chemin des Papes Cotes du Rhone 10 bucks locally for wherever you sit and in any case have a good week. We certainly are. Thanks.
Ok, so let’s start with the elephant in the room. Yup, it’s a Lake County winery and yes, two of our monthly wine clubs are receiving the wine this month....it isn't likely the two that you expect though. But, before you start thinking this is a new project, or someone trying to make a go of it in unfamiliar territory, it’s owned by the Venge family.
If you drink a ton of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, or you find the history of wine and California wine in peculiar interesting, Nils Venge needs absolutely no introduction. He is famous in the industry for having the first 100 point Napa Valley wine according to Robert Parker and his other property, Saddleback Cellars has helped to continually grow the Oakville AVA to where it is today, behind perhaps only Rutherford in the pantheon of new world Cabernet Sauvignon.
We have a bit of a personal connection with Nils son Kirk, who attended UC Davis (like almost every other would be winemaker who grew up in the industry) along with my sister in law. Kirk makes highly acclaimed wines at B Cellars, which we’ve worked with in the past, as well as at Renteria Vineyards and his family's namesake project, Venge Vineyards (ok, so there’s 3 or 4 others at any given time, but I won’t bore you with the details, he’s good and knows anyone who is anyone in the industry). I also appreciate that while so many new winemakers and new wine projects have headed toward Pinot Noir, or obscure growing regions and colder conditions, the Venge’s seem happy to make these fruit forward and almost jammy wines….you know, the stuff that put California on the proverbial wine map in the first place. There’s still room for that and although this might not be my preferred style, it is summer and summer brings plenty of BBQ and time outside, which seems to fit exactly what’s being offered here.
I think you’ll be more interested, instead of a family history lesson of the Venge’s, to hear a bit about Lake County though. If you’ve been a wine club member since last Christmas, give or take you’ve received a Lake County wine or two along the way, newer members likely are seeing the AVA for the first time.
I’ve talked at length about how as prices continue to increase, wineries are forced to move increasingly to the prolifery of great growing regions. Napa and Sonoma sit right next to one and other, with Carneros and the city of San Francisco to the south. The only room for growth in the region generally referred to as the “North Coast” is to the north. Sure there's some room out east, but the only temperate regions are pretty much Berkeley and Oakland, other than that....it gets pretty darn hot in Contra Costa County, pretty quickly as you get away from the Bay. Thus, most wineries and winemakers look north for less expensive vineyard space and that's why you find Mendocino wines gaining ground, Anderson Valley and of course Lake County. As you drive up highway 29 through Napa Valley and especially once you hit Calistoga, you see signs for it, Lake County 50 miles...give or take.
Lake County is appropriately named, for Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California. It also boasts more volcanic soil than other regions of the state because of the existence of a now dormant volcano.
Wineries of the region are largely clustered around Clear Lake, where nighttime temperatures fall precipitously giving winemakers that nice combination of acidity as well as fruit forwardness….after all, California continues to be damn hot and Clear Lake is inland.
What’s in your glass is also grown at altitude. That might be the least understood aspect of fine wine by the general public. We’re accustomed to hearing the word valley when it comes to great wine growing regions. Napa, the Rhone, Dry Creek, Barossa, Hunter, Willamette, etc etc. What we don’t talk about as much are the regions that are warmer and that winemakers use altitude to gain some extra moisture in the air, as well as some extra wind, which both help keep berry sizes smaller. Those smaller berry sizes help to give fruit the complexity that we all want, even in warmer climates where some of that complexity can be lost by idea conditions. Arizona and New Mexico have been pretty successful with the setup and we’re seeing an increasing number of warmer regions try to plant wine grapes at altitude to buffer some of those incredibly warm temperatures. Having grown up in Southern California I can attest that deserts, even coastal deserts get hot during the day, but during the summer they can be pretty darn cold at night. Thus the reason so many tourists end up walking around with those ever present “San Diego Lifeguard” hoodies every summer.
Lake County has seen its profile rise due to projects like this one and winemakers, especially those Napa folks that want a bit of land are being pushed increasingly north as the lower valley develops quickly. Downtown Napa was once little more than a home to a few streets around the river, a courthouse and a whole lot of empty storefronts. The action was in the upper valley. Things have changed a bit though, as San Francisco has become even more expensive and tourist dollars have continued to flow, developers have noticed and the lower Napa Valley has become increasingly up market in terms of accommodations, restaurants and yes, as you might expect, real estate prices.
The cheapest parts of Napa these days sit to the extreme north, far enough to not be convenient from a time or traffic standpoint for those who want a second home in wine country.
That’s helped the rise of Lake County as more winemakers live in Calistoga and even further afield, an hour’s drive up the 29 to Clear Lake doesn’t seem to bad, especially in comparison with the snarls of traffic that exist to the south.
With more attention winemakers and vineyard managers have been able to find plots around Clear Lake with their preferred make up. There’s much debate on the point by the way, if grapes should be slightly below the fog line, right at the fog line (which sits, reportedly at about 750 feet above sea level) or lastly, if the grapes should just be at the highest altitude possible.
The Venge’s have opted for the final choice here and 2500 feet in elevation, a generation ago was considered a fool’s errand. Books have been written about the chase for elevated vineyards (The Vineyard at the End of the World is a personal favorite about a South American vineyard at 10k feet above sea level, they’re trying for Pinot Noir)
Lastly, a short word about Zinfandel. There’s been a lot of debate about the genetics of Zin and where it came from originally. UC Davis, as with most things in California wine, is at the forefront of the research into grape genetics. They’re actually completing something along the lines of a grape genome in fact. So Zinfandel is usually compared to Primitivo, the Italian grape that seems oh so similar to so many people. California vineyard owners swear that Zin is the ancestor to Primitivo. Italians of course, think the inverse is true. As it turns out, there’s a Croatian grape that is the long lost relative of both of them. As an aside, most of the international varieties that we enjoy today.
Here’s the more interesting part of the Zinfandel story though-mainly that the genetics are still being written. There’s a grape that brings a lot of history into question. It’s also Croatian and is called Plavac Mali. Plavac Mali is generally thought of as the child of the original Zinfandel vines in Croatia and another native variety in a region that has given rise to any number of wine grapes that are now household names. There’s some new research though that shows that Zin from California likely contributed to the planting. Researchers didn’t previously believe that vines had gone back and forth between the two continents in the 17th century, but the exact way that Zin was born in California is now being debated some once again.
I think it’s an interesting question to ponder, maybe too serious for a wine newsletter, but Zin was definitely a part of California viticulture since the early 1800’s. That 200+ year period gave it plenty of time to genetically adapt to the climate of the Golden State and that’s why many Sommelier’s will tell you, it’s pretty easy to pick apart the differences in flavor profiles between Zinfandel and Primitivo. Those years also gave rise to the idea of a field blend which is unique to California. Zinfandel and other dark skinned grapes have largely been allowed to grow as they may within vineyards and genetic material seems to pass relatively freely between vines. Enough in fact that certain vineyards throughout the state are not called Zinfandel or Petite Sirah any longer, but simply field blend vineyards since the genetics no longer match either grape perfectly. The grapes are harvested at once and then fermented together, usually in and old world style of open top containers. It’s something to look out for, especially if you enjoy this fleshy, acidic Zinfandel that I hope makes you think, this would have been something good to drink after a day of mining for gold in the hot California sun.
Thank you for your continued membership. I hope you’re enjoying the wine!
Let’s spend a minute on Bardessono, if you haven’t been a wine club member for a year or so, this is certainly a new name. The pedigree is pretty clear, Bardessono is one of the larger vineyards in Yountville, which if you aren’t familiar, is the home to more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than any other city in the world. It’s a walkable destination in Napa Valley, where one can have breakfast at Bouchon bakery, lunch at Ad Hoc and dinner, if one is lucky enough to fall into a reservation at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. Bardessono sells grapes to a few folks interested in what is a relatively unheard of Napa AVA designation: Yountville and they make about 200 cases of their own.
This wine is the result of a 3rd generation farmer, thinking that maybe, instead of focusing on the property itself, he’s try his hand as more of a winemaker. Then he decided to fully devote himself to the high end eco friendly 55 room inn on the property-so it ends up in your shipment instead of a wine list around the country.
About 2 barrels, 55 cases of this wine were made.
Tom Bardessono won’t tell us where in the Knight’s Valley this wine came from.
Let’s go back to Tom. 3rd generation farmer. Trained winemaker. Assistant winemaker at Miner Family Wines by day-home winemaker (if you can call an estate I’m estimate at being worth 30M+ just that) by night. If you Google Bardessono, you’ll find that the first result is the luxury inn and spa, about 55 guest rooms and running close to $1k per night. It’s an exclusive place and one of the best locations in Napa Valley from which to be based.
Suggested retail price for the wine that Tom makes from his estate vineyard is $75. Knight’s Valley is a better known AVA within Napa, so you’re likely looking at something similiar. Ok, probably more.
To give you some idea on the Knight’s Valley AVA. It sits to the west of Chalk Hill in Napa and to the east of Alexander Valley. It’s technically Sonoma and according to many, home to the Sonoma Cabernet industry. Although if you consider fruit only as good as its neighbors, then having Chalk Hill and Alexander for neighbors isn’t so bad right?
There’s about 30 growers in the region. It’s an interesting spot to visit and it reminds me so much more of the Willamette Valley of Oregon rather than Napa Valley simply because as you drive through the region, you’re as likely to run into an apple orchard (after all this is Sonoma, home to the Gravenstein apple) as you are grape vine after grape vine. Usually when we see growers come into some grapes from a different region, they’ve done something along the lines of either a trade (grapes for grapes) which is my best guess here, or they’re bartering grapes for something else, perhaps consulting winemaking.
In any case, we have a classically trained winemaker-something that you’re going to find is common in this shipment…..as well as an absolute top rate growing region.
You might be wondering where the name comes from and unlike the Medieval military connotation that you might be considering, it’s named after Thomas Knight who bought much of the original Spanish land grant back in the 1800’s after making a name for himself at the Bear Flag Revolt in Sonoma Square. Sonoma still has the original barracks and some interesting historical facts about the state’s time as a Republic (one story that gets so much less attention than the time Texas spent, which is interesting I think). That’s been one of the surprising things to me after living almost my entire life in Southern California, spending 5 years on the Central Coast (let’s be clear, from Santa Cruz south to Ventura is the central coast...give or take, yes it’s different) and now living in the Bay Area….people take this whole California Republic thing seriously. Not Texas seriously, but t-shirts and stuff.
There’s some real history here for both the state, as well as grape vines, which Knight planted shortly after purchasing the land, along with peaches, apples and wheat. He really did bring grapes to what is Sonoma’s most easternmost point and the warmest growing climate in one of America’s fastest growing wine regions.
Sonoma’s made a name for itself with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but much like Santa Barbara, the region is capable of growing Bordeaux varietals in its warmer regions even if most of the general wine drinking public, doesn’t appreciate that fact. There’s plenty of wineries bucking the trend of course and although I’ve talked about Knight’s Valley and other regions as warmer regions, they aren’t as warm as Napa Valley, there’s a greater amount of acidity inherent in these wines. I think part of the issue is a marketing one, more so than anything else. Who is the quality leader in deep and dark red wine from Sonoma? If I asked about Pinot Noir, we’d all have our individual favorites, be it Anthill Farms, Littorai, Williams Selyem, Kosta Browne or any number of newer producers like Cartograph & Thralls….but for Bordeaux blends, or straight Cabernet? Verite gets HUGE scores in most vintages, but the average buyer at a wine shop hasn’t ever seen a bottle. Rodney Strong and some of the single vineyard Kendall Jackson stuff get great scores, but the huge production levels and wide availability on the lower end cloud a ton of people’s perception of the high end (Mondavi suffers from the same bias, their To Kalon single vineyard Cabernet is still among the best wines produced in any single vintage).
Part of the issue is also that Knight’s Valley is among the 5 original Sonoma sub AVA’s and most of the growers in the region (during my conversations at least) are fiercely loyal to the wider Sonoma designation. They don’t as of yet have a single trade group for their wines, which are really quite different than many of their neighbors.
I'm going to bet that we see some of this change over the coming years. Knight's Valley deserves more attention and while the Napa folks move even more increasingly toward straight Cabernet Sauvignon, there's an opportunity for others to fill in a hole with blends and yes, even some higher acidity Cabernet.
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