The Sandy Soil of Bald Mountain Vineyard Makes Life for Phylloxera Dull, Dull, Dull

roxypicklogoHigh atop the Santa Cruz Mountains there’s a vineyard that thrives in nothing but near-100-percent sandy soil. That vineyard is Bald Mountain, and is owned and farmed by Jim Beauregard of Beauregard Vineyards.

Located a few miles from the winery’s tasting room in Boony Doon, Bald Mountain Vineyard was planted by Jim in 1990. Today, the Estate vineyard consists of 33 acres of Chardonnay and 7 acres of Pinot Noir. The 40-acre site sits at an elevation of 920 to 1,050 feet on a southwest-facing slope in the Ben Lomond Mountain Appellation, a tiny AVA in the Santa Cruz Mountains region that sports a cool climate. It is this climate—which is influenced by the Monterey Bay and white sandy soil of the AVA—that enables the grapes to achieve optimum phenolic ripeness, resulting in balanced, flavorful wines with noticeable minerals and racy acidity.

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Ryan Beauregard (left) and Jim Beauregard (right). (photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

On a recent group outing, hosted by winemaker Ryan Beauregard and his father Jim, I (and a number of other cool cats) was treated to glass after glass of the 2012 Chardonnay from this vineyard, while walking among the vines, learning about the site. The soils here, known as the Zayante Series, contain more than 90 percent sand particles, and thus drain rapidly. These soils are mainly unsuitable for most crops, but a conversion of this habitat some time ago made it possible for the planting of vineyards, which can tolerate the well-drained soils.

Chardonnay block

Bald Mountain Chardonnay block. (photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

While most vineyards are planted with vines that have been grafted onto phylloxera-resistant American rootstock, the vines at Bald Mountain were not—they were planted on their own roots. You see, phylloxera—that pesky root louse responsible for the Great French Wine Blight of the mid-19th century—does not do well in sandy soil.

Speaking of which, I have a bit of arthritis and thus welcomed the rather warm October day while stretched out on the vineyard floor, basking in the warmth of this unique sand. On occasion, however, I had to dodge Bacchus, the family German Shepherd, who tirelessly tried to coax me into playing fetch. Seriously…fetch? Did he not notice the difference in our species?

Bacchus 2

Bacchus resting in the sandy soil of Bald Mountain Vineyard. (photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

To see a map of the Ben Lomond AVA, click here.

Beauregard Vineyards tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Their address is 10 Pine Flat Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831-425-7777,
Tastingroom@beauregardvineyards.com

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Coterie Cellars: Where the Wines Are Inspired by the Vineyards

Kyle with his wines pic 2

Kyle Loudon, Coterie Cellars winemaker, takes a queue from Mother Nature when making his small-lot Rhône and Pinot Noir wines. (Photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

As a contributing writer to WineFoodExplorer.com, I sat down with husband-and-wife team Kyle and Shala Loudon, owners of Coterie Cellars, to talk about the passion and inspiration behind their Rhône and Pinot Noir Varietals.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

Read more at: http://bit.ly/1pOtH55

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The Hawk that Led Me to the Crow

There are times in one’s life when wine tasting just has to wait. Take today, for example. I was on my way out the door to attend a wine-tasting event when the phone rang. I let the machine answer to see who it was. When I heard my dad’s voice, I picked up the receiver in the event that it was an emergency.

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George, the hawk spotter. (Photo by Cynthia Bournellis, 2014)

An emergency it turned out to be. “Hey Cindy,” my dad said excitedly. “You’ve got to come over and see what I have in the backyard underneath your Pippin tree!” He’d come across an injured hawk and wanted me to come rescue it. He knew I used to volunteer at a local wildlife rehab center and figured I’d take the hawk there—if I could catch him.

I grabbed my cat carrier, some gardening gloves and a towel and raced over to my parent’s house. There it was, a red-tailed hawk in all of its feathered beauty, just beneath my Pippin tree like my dad said. My father, who’s 90 keep in mind, said he tried to catch the hawk but couldn’t because it kept skirting away.

I tentatively approached the bird of prey, but it stumbled backward, flapping its wings. It obviously was in some sort of distress, but its wings did not seem broken. And, its legs looked fine. Just as I was about to throw a towel over the hawk, it flew up and rest upon the top of the fence. I tried to coax it down so that it wouldn’t go over the fence and into the neighbor’s backyard where a couple of dogs lived. The hawk allowed me to get close enough to touch it, but before I could grab the bird, it flew on top of my father’s shed, and from there launched into a tall pine tree in an adjacent backyard.

red_tailed_hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk. (Photo is in the public domain courtesy of Mark Bohn-U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

While resting on a limb, a number of adult mockingbirds began dive-bombing the hawk. I assumed that the hawk was near a nest of baby mockingbirds. The adults pecked at the hawk’s wings until it flew from the tree and out of sight. I went to the house where the tree resided and asked the homeowner if I could check her backyard. She said she had seen the hawk earlier that day and had called animal control, which came out but failed to retrieve the bird. According to the homeowner, the hawk had been in the neighborhood for a couple of days.

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Black crow. (Photo courtesy of http://www.publicdomainpictures.net)

We searched her yard some more but found nothing. So I walked down the street hoping to find that the hawk had landed somewhere in plain view—still nothing. As I searched, I noticed a black crow hobbling on the grass. Its left leg was broken, and it was having difficulty getting flight. I slowly approached the bird and threw the towel over it. I gently lay the crow in the cat carrier, and as I removed my hands, our eyes met. The crow’s eyes were black as coal as it stared at me, quiet as could be. I can’t imagine how frightened it must have been, not knowing what its fate would be. But, I spoke softly to the beautiful creature, reassuring him (or her) that everything would be okay and he’d be up and around in no time. Hopefully, he sensed reassurance in the soft sound of my voice. The crow lay quiet until we reached the wildlife center, where I knew he’d be in good hands.

While I may not have saved the hawk—hopefully it’s not injured and was just having an “off” morning—I did rescue another keystone species. So, all in all it was a good start to my day. I think a glass of wine is now in order.

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1940’s Hollywood Glamour Captured in a Classy Chilean Wine

roxypicklogoSometimes the traditional tags used to describe wine—tar, damp earth, lavender, blackberry and white pepper for reds; peach, passion fruit, lemongrass and wet stones for whites—just won’t do. Sometimes a good old analogy is needed to get the mind, and the palate, stirring.

I find that celebrities—human and non-human—are a great source of creative expression when describing a wine. For me that celebrity (or should I say, movie star) is American actress Lauren Bacall. And the wine: 2008 Gê (Gê is the Greek word for “earth”), from Emiliana Organic Vineyards, Colchagua Vallede, Chile.

Source: Banfi Vintners, 2014

Source: Banfi Vintners, 2014

Before I tell you what it is about this wine that evokes images of a star known for her husky voice and sultry looks, let me say that I first looked to my own kind. There are so many famous felines, including Felix the Cat, the animated cartoon character created during the silent film era; the Pink Panther—the character not the diamond—of the series of comedy films featuring Inspector Jacques Clouseau; Duchess the Cat, the elegant feline from the animated Disney movie The Aristocrats; and even the regal lioness Elsa, star of the 1961 motion picture Born Free. All embodied at least one trait that I could attribute to the wine. But, as much as I love these fine-furry friends, neither of them made the cut.

For some reason this wine screams to me “Lauren Bacall.” So I’ll go with my instincts, as I’m wired to do. Bacall is one in a million, a memorable film star who will withstand the ages. And like Bacall, the 2008 Gê is one in a million, and definitely age-worthy.

A young Lauren Bacall. Her sultry looks are mesmerizing.  (This photo is in the public domain.)

A young Lauren Bacall. Her sultry looks are mesmerizing.
(This photo is in the public domain.)

A blend of organic and biodynamic grapes—Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon—this wine speaks volumes just like Bacall. Both are deep and mysterious yet approachable, complex yet balanced, elegant yet structured, feminine yet bold, sophisticated yet gutsy, soft-spoken in a throaty sort of way yet heard.

I adore this wine, as much as I adore Bacall. With an ample body, the 2008 Gê has a soft mouthfeel and is well proportioned. Everything you want in a wine is there: earth, spice, fruit, minerals, flowers, tannins, acid and more.

On the surface, the wine is a beauty, just like Bacall. A gorgeous deep violet color catches the eye. An alluring, sultry nose holds your attention for quite some time, despite the high percentage of alcohol (15 percent). Surprisingly, the alcohol is not obnoxious but instead is rather warm and inviting. What follows are aromas of juicy purple berries, candied dark fruit and dark red flowers, as well as hints of tobacco and graphite. The longer I breathe-in the wine’s aromas, the more mesmerized I become. It’s as if I’m being seduced by Bacall herself.

Supportive acid and silky tannin envelop flavors of blackberry, dark plum and black pepper. Hints of mineral and bitter greens complete the long, smooth finish.

Emiliana Organic Vineyards recommends cellaring the 2008 Gê for 15 years, and pairing it with venison, boar or other wild game. Sounds like a plan, being the carnivore that I am. To do the wine further justice, I’ll enjoy it while watching a classic Bacall movie, her first.

Viñedos Emiliana S.A.
WTC Building
Avenida Nueva Tajamar 481 Of. 905, South Tower
Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
Phone: +56 2 2 353 9130
http://www.emiliana.cl/

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Mount Eden Expands with Domain Eden and Silicon Valley Bank Financing

ImageImageMount Eden Vineyards, a 40-acre estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Saratoga, Calif., has a history shrouded in mystique nearly as thick as the fog that occasionally surrounds its vineyards. It is this mystique and—more important—the minimalistic, unwavering winemaking and viticultural practices of owner, winemaker-grower Jeffrey Patterson that have given rise to what wine critics call some of the most elegant, balanced and sophisticated California wines.

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Mount Eden Estate vineyard overlooking the Santa Clara Valley. (photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

As a contributor to Practical Winery & Vineyard, I sat down with Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson, owners of Mount Eden Vineyards, to learn how they are cultivating the future of one of the most premier wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

Copyright © Wines & Vines

Read more at: http://bit.ly/1j575oD

 

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The Composition and the “Creek”: Listen, Sip and, by all Means, Weep

tear drop croppedThere are things in life that are so beautiful they make me weep. Two in particular are Adagio for Strings, a composition by the late Samuel Barber; and Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir, a voluptuous wine made by Jeff Emery, proprietor-winemaker, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard.

Before I explain what it is about this composition and this varietal that bring me to my knees, I have to say a few words about their creators, both of whom found their passions early in life. Barber attempted to write his first opera at the innocent age of 10; Emery began a winemaking apprenticeship shortly before reaching the legal age of adulthood.

Samuel Barber (Photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944) U.S. Library of Congress

Samuel Barber. (Photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944; U.S. Library of Congress)

 

Jeff Emery samples grapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

Jeff Emery samples grapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each went on to produce unpretentious “works of art.” The late music critic Olin Downes wrote, “Adagio for Strings is honest music, by an honest musician.” I can say from personal experience that, regardless of vintage, Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir (l lovingly call it “the Creek”) is honest wine, by an honest winemaker, who, like Barber, has a passion for music. I do not know if Barber knew anything about wine (I would like to believe he did), but he certainly knew how to manipulate the senses with a piece so delicately powerful that it is considered by many to be the most popular orchestral work of the 20th century.

B-Flat, consisting of the pitches B♭, C, D♭, E♭, F, G♭, and A♭ (Artur Jan Fijalkowski)

B-Flat, consists of the pitches B♭, C, D♭, E♭, F, G♭, and A♭. (Artur Jan Fijalkowski)

Adagio for Strings begins softly, like sexual foreplay, shifting and heightening as the melody suspends slowly upward. It is like being led blindfold down an erotic path by a sensuous, illicit lover—you just don’t know what’s around the corner. After a two-beat hesitation of the violins, cellos and basses follow, encircling you tighter in tense melodies and beautiful harmonies.

The music undulates, taking you from one emotion to the next, until culminating multiple times into significant climaxes—with the final one so powerful it pierces the soul. A long pause follows, and just when you think the concerto is about to end, the opening theme comes forward before softly fading away on a dominant chord that leaves you wanting for more. Adagio for Strings has a haunting finesse, just like the Creek.

Pinot Noir cluster, Branciforte Creek Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains. (Photo by Ken Swegles)

Pinot Noir cluster, Branciforte Creek Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains. (Photo by Ken Swegles)

Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir is Adagio for Strings in varietal form. While Adagio envelops the auditory senses, the Creek seduces the olfactory senses. The wine’s aroma is seductive and intoxicating: like a slow, soft, wet, steamy kiss bathed in lavender and rose petal, cola berry, dark cherry, and rhubarb pie—all of which ascend from the glass on angelic wings of perfume.

2010 Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir. (Photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

 

Elegant and sophisticated, Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir is just as subtle as Adagio for Strings in the way that it manipulates those who experience it. Round, soft and sexy, the Creek caresses your palate with the “hands” of a skillful, tantalizing lover. Intriguing flavors and aromas of cedar and fennel move classically among the layers of deep red fruits, flowers, exotic spices and damp earth.

The unabashed pleasure one derives from the Creek does not stop after the first glass. This elegant Pinot Noir comes forward even more with some time in a decanter, or in-bottle the next day—revealing further nuances that not only arouse the senses, but also culminate in a supple and memorable long, warm finish reminiscent of being adrift in the afterglow of sex. The ultimate tempter, Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir is too delicious and beautiful to experience just once. Besides, you would not want your forbidden lover to ravish you only one time, would you? Like Adagio, the Creek leaves you wanting for more.

A vineyard worker (far left) serenades dormant Pinot Noir vines at Branciforte Creek Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Photo by Ken Swegles)

Listening to Adagio for Strings while sipping Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir is a spellbinding experience filled with sensual flirtation, erotic foreplay, unadulterated passion and sheer ecstasy that will make you sigh with contentment and—above all—weep.

Adagio for Strings musical score. (New York Philharmonic)

Adagio for Strings musical score.
(New York Philharmonic)

 

 

 

 

Olin Downes once noted that “[with this piece], Barber achieved something as perfect in mass and detail as his craftsmanship permits.” For Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings may be a lifetime of music expressed in a concerto. For Jeff Emery, well, you would have to ask him. But I believe that Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir is a lifetime of winemaking expressed in a varietal.

 

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August Briggs 2005 Napa Valley Syrah—A Wine Worth Waiting For

RoxypicklogoI bought this wine seven years ago and opened it last month for Open That Bottle Day Night. I feared that I may have kept it too long. Where’s the fruit, I mused? A heady aroma with a whiff of barnyard overtook my nose (and you know how sensitive my nose can be).

Strong tannins, loads of black pepper, earth and tar dominated my palate, masking any signs of fruit. The finish was slightly bitter. Fortunately, I have a patient nature, so I decided to let the wine breath. I waited, and waited and waited some more. After 20 minutes in the glass, the fruit was still fighting to emerge. So I put the cork back in the bottle and called it night.

“Patience” is the operative word with this opaque wine, the inkiest Syrah I’ve ever encountered. This wine is shy—it needs at least 24 hours to express itself. Had I not been blessed with patience, I may have missed out on an exceptional Syrah.

Meow! Oh what a difference a day makes. The next evening, the wine decided to speak to me. Luscious aroma of blackberry pie enveloped my senses. Not to be mistook for jammy—instead, think brambleberries soaked in a rich, thick, gooey balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with sugar to tame any tartness.

Let’s not forget the tannins, pepper, tar and earth—they were still obvious but had the graciousness to let the fruit shine. The finish—albeit a bit short—was warm and spicy, leaving my palate tingling. With firm acidity, this complex, well-structured Syrah kept on giving through Day 3.August Briggs 2005 Syrah 1

2005 August Briggs Page-Nord Vineyard, Napa Valley Syrah. It’s worth noting the Brix (28.5) and alcohol (15.1%).

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