It’s been a while since I’ve filmed one of these. Yes, it’s been an interesting time during Covid. But, there will be more coming. In any case, a few minutes on the Redwood Valley AVA, a spot that even the most serious wine drinkers probably haven’t heard of.
Hi all Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Hope everybody’s doing well hope everyone’s surviving covet et cetera. I hope everyone’s wearing their mask!
So I haven’t done one of these in a while so bear with me. So I ran into a bottle the other day and it’s a 2017 Sangiovese which you know obviously I mean if you drink any amount of wine you’ve run into it it’s a traditional Italian grape but it’s not the winery that interested me it was Redwood Valley, Mendocino.
As far as location and even for those of us within the trade Redwood Valley is kind of so Redwood Valley before we go any further is kind of a smaller AVA in the upper regions of the the Ukiah Valley and there’s maybe 400 acres or so of vineyards only so i actually had to look up because i’ve never seen a sangio come out of there before.
It’s the kind of place, Redwood Valley that is known for Zinfandel and it’s known for zinfandel in large part because you know there’s a few kind of bigger names in the field that have sourced grapes from there even if they’re not from there themselves (here’s where I should have mentioned Rosenblum at first, but didn’t so I’ll add it here)
So you go to the northern part of the Ukiah Valley and Mendocino you almost hit Lake Mendocino and you’re kind of in this we call it a valley in this valley but the actual Redwood Valley ava is about 200 feet higher in elevation than surrounding vineyards and surrounding AVA’s.
Now it’s interesting because that’s the part of the California coastline where we get we have a kind of mountain range that runs and cuts the coast off in Mendocino County from almost the entire rest of the state as opposed to like here in the bay area where you have like 10 or 15 miles (I should add that that same 10-15 mile stretch also exists in Sonoma County, which is why the famed Russian River Valley is so much warmer than the Redwood Valley AVA happens to be)
Ok, so in the Redwood Valley, the mountain range is almost right along the coastline and what that happens is it diverts the fog in large part down into san francisco through the Golden Gate Strait. A bit of California history if you’re interested, the Golden Gate Bridge is named after that strait.
Ok, back to the AVA and the wine. There is a small hole in the mountains and that’s kind of where the Redwood Valley sits um so it’s colder during the day it is foggy as all can be but because it’s a little bit higher vines still dry out and have access to sunlight.
It’s kind of that ease of administration ease of growing that has made the Redwood Valley still exist quite frankly you know after prohibition Mendocino didn’t see any new plantings for a long time and really we’re only talking about regions that were discovered kind of in the last you know 20 or 30 years.
Overall you really can find you know scarcely any writing about Redwood Valley until really the early 2010 or even 2011 and so you know why are these vineyards still there and why would you still have Sangiovese?
I mentioned that there’s 400 acres of fruit there’s only four acres of Sangio left there’s maybe 40 acres of zinfandel you know if you look at the big three in California it’s Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot. That’s about fifty percent of the plantings but there’s also twelve percent in redwood valley that is planted to Petite Sirah or Durif depending on which way you like to go with the naming convention.
Really the Sangiovese and the Petite Sirah to me really are there for the same reason in that because this is an easy region to farm there was no reason to ever take them out. They were profitable and they were really dry farmed and organically farmed not because vintners were making that choice in the 60s and 70s and 80s they were dry farmed and organic because they were left alone and really the leaving alone of grapes is something that we’ve started to do now but at the same time that was something that they did then because quite honestly they weren’t producing any cash
So that’s kind of the Redwood Valley, let’s see what else so I mentioned that there was larger names that have kind of made the valley kind of exist still and have brought in new investment it wouldn’t be being very fair if I didn’t mention Rosenblum by name I know shauna at Rock Wall a little bit (I should have mentioned that Rosenblum was sold to a conglomerate and the family that started it, opened Rock Wall Wine Co, albeit with a next generation winemaker) and but really when he built Rosenblum it was on Zinfandel and what happened with that was that he needed Zinfandel in all the places and all the vineyards that he could find it and it’s kind of interesting because there is a small winemaking community in Oakland where Rosenblum was well in Alameda.
Alameda is a small kind of island that attaches to Oakland on this east bay side of the bay and a lot of the wineries that have kind of come of age in the last decade or two in the east bay have followed that same kind of format where they’re an urban winery and they’re sourcing all of their fruit.
JC Cellers is a great example on a wine that i’ve shipped on numerous
Occasions and then so you know Rosenblum really brought this kind of urban wine making community from the east bay up into the Redwood Valley AVA.
These east bay wineries have sourced fruit and they’ve sourced a lot of wine that has been priced at $40 or $50 which in this part of Mendocino was just unheard of before Rosenblum did it so yeah um so there’s kind of i think the interesting thing of the California wine industry is that there’s a number of these kind of small plantings of fruit and vineyards that you can run into at times and you know four acres of Sangiovese is basically nothing!
So it’s kind of fun to find one every so often and it’s fun to look out for when it’s your winelover so once again Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.
I hope everyone’s doing as well as could be expected during a pandemic