A Nearly Extinct Grape Makes a Bold Comeback

roxypicklogoGiven my Greek heritage, and also the fact that it was Orthodox Greek Easter (on May 1), I figured that this was as good an occasion as any to open a Greek wine. In case you are wondering if cats have an ethnic background, the answer is “Yes.” I am Greek because the woman with whom I live is Greek. It’s that simple.

A grape that is considered to produce one of the most aromatic white varietals of Greece, Malagouzia (pronounced: Mah lah gou zya’) results in wines that are anything but shy. Case in point is the 2012 Alpha Estate AXIA Malagouzia,  from the Turtles subregion of the Amyndeon plateau of Greece. The ecosystem of the vineyard is called Turtles and is an ancient nesting area for the local turtle species that is preserved and protected. Hmm. Watching a turtle walk around must be as exciting as watching me go about my day…pretty uneventful. Seriously though, you wouldn’t know it by looking at me but I am an animal-rights activist and wildlife conservationist, just like the woman with whom I live. Okay, back to the wine.

Light yellow with a green tinge, the aromas of this 100 percent Malagouzia leap from the glass and range from jasmine and honeysuckle, mint and rosemary, white peach and citrus to green apple and green melon, apricot, and tropical fruits to warm brioche.

Malagouiza 2012

Photo by Cynthia Bournellis

Dry, full-bodied and complex, the 2012 vintage expresses luscious flavors of creamy custard, lemon zest, citrus, clove and nutmeg, and dried herbs—all wrapped in medium-plus, solid acidity. Warm spices, flint, wet stone and herbaceous notes create a long, lingering, sublime finish. Despite some earlier reviews that suggested consuming this vintage by 2015, the 2012 was nowhere on its way out—or I wouldn’t be writing about it. In fact, dry Malagouzia is known to age in bottle beyond four years.

A once almost extinct grape, Malagouzia originated in the region of Nafpaktos in western Greece, and in the early 1980s was recognized by winemaker Vangelis Gerovassiliou for the potential it had for producing great, complex wines. Today, many wineries in Greece harvest this grape to produce 100 percent Malagouzia, or to use it in a blend, giving this indigenous grape a second life. Malagouzia is grown in a number of regions in Greece, including the Peloponnese, Central Greece and Greek Macedonia.

Now normally I would have prepared a fine Greek meal to complement the wine, but I had celebrated Easter dinner earlier that day and just wanted to experience this varietal on its own. If, however, you want a food-pairing suggestion, then try the 2012 vintage (if you can find it) or a current dry vintage with grilled white fish; a traditional Greek salad (cucumber, red onion, tomato, green bell pepper, feta cheese and Kalamata olives tossed in red wine vinegar, olive oil and oregano); dolmades (Greek stuffed grape leaves); and spanakopita (Greek spinach pie)—all of which highlight the wine’s herbaceous character and crisp acidity.

Koulourakia (top) and Kourambiethes (bottom). Photo by Cynthia Bournellis

But in honor of the occasion, I nibbled on Greek Easter pastries—koulourakia and kourambiethes—my Yaya Helen and I made using an old family recipe.

Hronia Polla (happy [post] Easter)! 

Roxy’s yaya (grandmother) Helen. Photo by Dan Murphy

Alpha Estate is located in northwestern Greece in the Amyndeon, Florina region. For further information, email: info@alpha-estate.com

 

Posted in Roxy's Pick | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasting Room Etiquette, Part 3—The Tasting Room Table Has Turned

Me behind the tasting bar at SCMV_fall 2013_cropped_a

In my first two installments on tasting room etiquette, One and Two, I wrote about customer do’s and don’ts. Well, etiquette goes both ways. This post is for tasting room hosts, although anyone can benefit.

Take Your Stinkin’ Paws Off Me You Damn Dirty Ape! gorilla public domainOkay, calm down. This is a famous line from the original 1968 movie Planet of the Apes. Actor Charlton Heston plays U.S. astronaut Taylor (aka Bright Eyes) who forcefully speaks up when being yanked from a suspended net by a gorilla. I don’t think that tasting room hosts are damn, dirty apes. They are very nice people who work very hard, often for minimal compensation. By this analogy I mean, please don’t grab my glass away from me to pour my wine, unless absolutely necessary. If you can’t reach it, I’ll bring it closer to you. Proper wine service requires that hosts pour the wine without touching the glass. 

Lip Service 101. My glass is for my lips only, not for the neck of the wine bottle. In other words, please don’t let the neck touch the lip of the glass when pouring. Doing so can spread germs. Think about it: Your hands and fingers touch the neck of the bottle when removing the foil and cork, or when handling bottles in general. If your hands are not clean—and they should be—you could transfer germs to the bottle, and ultimately the glass. When the neck touches one glass, it touches them all.

cork public domainThis One Just Blows My Cork. Now and then wine will dribble down the neck of the bottle after being poured. It takes skill to avoid this, whether using pour spouts or not, so that’s what towels are for. Nonetheless, don’t use the lip of the glass to scrape off excess wine. I bit my tongue the first time this happened to me. My tasting room host said that she was “helping out her son for the day…and didn’t know much about wine.” After each pour, she scraped. So, before each new pour, I turned my glass around to a virgin position on the bowl, as well as wiped down the rim of the bowl with a napkin. I didn’t want to create a possible awkward moment by pointing out her faux pas, and thus let it go. I will never be silent again. If a bit of wine dribbles down the neck of bottle, wipe it off with a towel until you become proficient at pouring. (Note to wineries: Please don’t put inexperienced hosts behind the bar, unless they are in training and are under the supervision of an experienced professional.)

Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting. Tasting rooms can get very busy. I get that. But it’s up to the tasting room manager to staff appropriately. Even so, regardless of how many hosts are working on any given day, it’s important that they acknowledge customers when they walk in, at least within the first five seconds. If you can’t serve new guests right away, greet them and let them know that you’ll be with them shortly. Most customers will understand. They just want to know that they are welcomed. I once waited 30 seconds (Yes, I watched the clock) before being greeted. While this was unacceptable, I “tested” the staff by continuing to wait. Some staffers looked at me but no one verbally or physically acknowledged me. So I left and they lost a potential sale.

Pushy, Pushy. Sometimes customers visit a tasting room because they are interested in a pushingspecific varietal and don’t want to do the entire flight. I once had a host INSIST that I try the winery’s chocolate sparkling wine. Really? I hate judging a wine without trying it, but I just couldn’t take this seriously. I kindly declined, but she kept INSISTING. She also INSISTED that I try the sparkling with chocolate and pushed a plate of bittersweet my way. I wanted to tell her to “get off my back,” but just couldn’t squash her enthusiasm for the product. Furthermore, my friends—with their morbid curiosity—tried the “pairing” just to indulge our host. So, I caved. The sparkling was god awful. I spit it in the dump bucket—I just couldn’t get myself to swallow it. And, I ate the chocolate only to mask that nasty flavor residing on my palate. The host asked me what I thought, her doe eyes beaming with anticipation. To avoid being brutally honest, I simply told her that I’m just not a fan of off-dry wine and thanked her for her hospitality.

Lesson here: Respect the customers’ wishes. But, if you want to further engage them in conversation, politely ask what it is about the varietal they are denying that they don’t like. If your wine doesn’t match their preconceived notion, then you could give them more information and maybe they’ll change their mind and try the wine. If not, let it go. 

wine wordSpeak the Lingo. One of my biggest pet peeves is being served by hosts who have not been properly trained in some of the basics. I understand that it will take someone new to the wine industry to get up to speed. But, if you can’t speak the basic wine lingo, get a wine dictionary—there’s tons of wine-related resource books on the market. Case in point: A sweet, yet ill-informed, host at a tasting room I visited told me that the winery had a new winemaker who changed the “recipe” of the wines. Winemakers don’t use recipes; winemakers have winemaking “styles.” Simple examples: Oaky, buttery Chardonnay versus stainless-steel fermented Chardonnay. This time I spoke up by politely correcting her. She just giggled. Whatever.

This Wine Smells Like Man’s Best Friend! Wine education is a life-long process, so I wet dog public domaindon’t expect tasting room personnel to get bogged down in the minutia of it all, unless I ask. I do, however, expect them to know when a wine is corked. Corked wine is a flaw (wine flaws differ from faults) and is caused by cork taint. One chief cause of this is the presence of the chemical compounds 2,4,6-trichloransiole, or TCA.

TCA production is a complicated process. In general, TCA is produced when airborne fungi come in contact with the cork and transferred to the wine. Corked aromas include dank, moldy basement; wet dog; and wet newspaper. Sometimes the presence of TCA is extremely subtle; other times it smacks you in the face. Some people have higher thresholds than others when it comes to recognizing TCA. If you detect the slightest bit of an off aroma, get a second opinion from one of your tasting room colleagues. If you are working alone, play it safe and just open another bottle and leave the suspect wine for the winemaker to inspect.

Wine pouring 101: Before you open the tasting room, test the wines by looking at the color, smelling the wines, tasting them, and spitting them out.

only you public domainOh, It’s Only You. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been “snubbed” by tasting room staff after learning that I’m industry. Most wineries will comp tasting room fees for industry colleagues. This practice isn’t law, it’s just a courtesy. Not all wineries partake, and that’s okay. But if yours does, please treat me with the same respect you’d treat a non-industry customer. Us industry folk can be one of your best ambassadors—if we like your wines and, more important, your hospitality. Bear with me please as an example is in order.

Of all the responses I’ve received over the years, this one—so far—takes the cake: I approached the register of a winery whose tasting room was designed to charge the tasting fee first before handing customers their glass and advancing them to the tasting bar. I approached the register, was greeted fairly quickly, and asked if I had “checked in.” I looked around to make sure that I wasn’t at a hotel, having never been asked this question before at a tasting room. Then the host (who by the way was the tasting room manager) asked me if I was a wine club member. Now that’s a legitimate question because wine club members taste for free. I said “no” and asked if they “take industry” (industry-speak for “comp the fee”). Here was her response (and this is no exaggeration): She curled her upper lip and donned a frown before saying “oh” in a tone of disappointment.

Ok, so you can imagine my inference. She may have just as well said: “Oh, it’s an industry person who wants to taste for free and has no intention of buying wine.” I mean what am I? Chopped liver? No, I’m a customer—and a wine ambassador—remember?

My gut reaction was to jokingly say, “Sorry to disappoint you.” But once again (as in etiquette #3 above), I curbed the urge to verbally purge. (I really need to work on this.) Anyway, she finally said, “Yes, we comp industry, but only with a business card.” I kindly gave her my card and after taking notice, she changed her tune and praised the heck out of our Pinot Noirs. I may not have spoken up but our wines sure did. Touché!

P.S. In case you are wondering, I didn’t buy any wine—not because I’m a freeloading industry person. I didn’t buy wine because 1) the price-quality relationship of was not equal (that’s a topic for a future post). And 2) even more important, the hospitality, with the exception of one individual, was subpar.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Regal Rosé Fit for Any Occasion

roxypicklogoIf you think December is too cold for drinking Rosé, think again. Dry Rosés go with any season and with any meal. It’s the perfect wine for pairing with goat cheese, salmon, baked ham, cranberry sauce, yams, deli meats, Asian food, sweet and sour dishes, and even white fish.

One of my favorite Rosés is Chateau de Trinquevedel Tavel. The current vintage is 2014, but I’m still lapping up the 2013, given that this is one Rosé that benefits from aging. When consumed during the first two years, this wine displays fruity, fresh character—bursts of deep red berries and raspberry—which mirrors the palate. With longer aging, aromas evolve into a bouquet of dried and stewed fruits. tavel2011_web-2

Strong acidity delivers a solid Rosé from year to year. Deep Salmon in color, the 2014 is Grenache-dominant, with Cinsault, Clairette, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Bourboulenc. Wines from the Tavel Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée in the southern Rhône wine region of France have been favorites among kings, novelists and popes—I sense something regal happening here. No wonder I love it!

Clean, fresh, fruity and bright, Tavel from Chateau de Trinquevedel is an elegant Rosé that will add a touch of elegance to your Christmas dinner.

Posted in Roxy's Pick | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skinner Vineyards & Winery Puts the “Aah” in Syrah—and in So Much More

Me behind the tasting bar at SCMV_fall 2013_cropped_aBased on a recommendation, I found myself driving along windy roads through the Sierra Foothills with my friend Cathy in search of a winery called Skinner Vineyards & Winery in California’s El Dorado County. We weren’t sure what to expect (neither of us had been to the Fair Play AVA). But, sometimes the unknown makes the journey worth taking.

Our jaws dropped as we rounded that final bend toward the hilltop estate. At 2,600 feet, the view of the Sierra Foothills was breathtaking—so much that we took our time getting to the tasting room, oohing an aahing our way around the landscaped grounds. Three-thousand square feet of outdoor terraces provide room for tasting and seating, along with a wood-fire pizza oven and three fireplaces. A spring wagon and a wine press, both from the 1860s, add rustic charm. skinner vineyards_lawn seating

We arrived on a Monday and were the only guests there. The quietness was Zen-like, and the sound of water trickling from a decorative pond gave me pause. So I relaxed in one of the cushy chairs on the upper outdoor deck, where I pondered life while gazing at the nearly dormant old Grenache vine adjacent to the pond.

The Skinner property captivates your visual senses, and even calms your soul, but, it is the wine that is oh so satisfying—think, velvety tannins.

Skinner pond and stairs

From the upper patio, visitors may relax by the pond/tiny stream or descend the wooden stairs to the lower grounds.

Skinner specializes in varietals patterned after Rhone wines. Three wines in particular got my attention, with the 2012 Dry Diggings forever etched on my mind. This wine is always a Syrah-based blend: the 2012 is 33 percent Syrah, with Grenache, Mourvédre, Petite Sirah and Counoise (Counoise is a black-skinned grape that adds a peppery note and good acidity to a red blend). This full-bodied wine fills the senses with aromas of meat, plum, and blackberry with hints of tar, anise, black pepper and dried flowers. The palate has bright acidity.

Unlike the Diggings Syrah-based blend, the Eighteen Sixty-One blend is Grenache-driven. The 2012 vintage—which includes Mourvédre, Counoise, Syrah and Viognier—has aromas of raspberry and dark cherry. Notes of clove, nutmeg and vanilla dance on top of earthy notes of forest floor, dried herbs and pipe tobacco. A touch of minerality and fresh acidity complement the finish.

From left to right: 2012 Eighteen Sixty-One, 2012 Estate Grenache, and 2012 Dry Diggings (photo by Cynthia Bournellis

Left to right: 2012 Eighteen Sixty-One, 2012 Estate Grenache, 2012 Dry Diggings (photo by Cynthia Bournellis

The Estate Grenache is one of the five varietals planted at the original J. Skinner Winery in the 1860s. The 2012 vintage is 100 percent Grenache produced from three different clones, which result in a complex wine with deep character. This Grenache wants to be seen and heard: ruby-red with aromas of dark cherry, raspberry and sage. The palate is similar but with rich flavors of plum, surrounded by modest tannin and good acidity—all leading to a lingering finish of mineral and holiday spice. This is my type of Grenache: bold and chewy.

Skinner Vineyards & Winery
530.620.2220
http://skinnervineyards.com/

All other photos courtesy of Cathy Bentley

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Branciforte Creek Vineyard: Complex, Elegant Pinot Noir—from the Vineyard to the Glass

Me behind the tasting bar at SCMV_fall 2013_cropped_aThe Early Days
There’s a vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains that dates back to the mid-1800s. It is known today as Branciforte Creek Vineyard, and is part of one of the oldest continuously operated grape-growing regions in California—a 300-acre site originally called Rancho San Andres, in what is now the Vine Hill District, above the city of Scott’s Valley.*

The region was established in 1863. According to a manuscript written by Robert Jarvis Sr., as told to him by his late father George Millen Jarvis, George bought cuttings from France and planted them in his vineyard. Around 1865 George’s brother, John Jarvis, arrived from Oregon and bought a ranch across Blackman Gulch to the east of Vine Hill and developed a vineyard. He built a road to connect with Branciforte Road. That road is Jarvis Road. (By 1868, the Jarvis brothers’ plantings comprised 90 percent of the 300 acres.)

Jarvis Vineyard during the 1908s. (Photo by Jeff Emery)

Jarvis Vineyard during the 1980s. (Photo by Jeff Emery)

Branciforte Creek Vineyard is located on Jarvis Road, just one mile from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s historic Estate, formerly called “Jarvis Vineyard.”

Fast-Forward to 1988: A New Generation of Farmers
As noted, Branciforte Creek Vineyard sits on a site that had produced grapes continuously since 1863. However, it had become fallow over time but was reclaimed in the late 1980s by Dave “Woody” Wood and his wife Jennifer.

The Pinot Noir that had been produced by Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard impressed Woody so much that he decided to breathe life back into this once fallow land. So, he broke ground in 1988, planting both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on St. George rootstock, a hefty rootstock that does well in this vineyard’s sandy soil, which has very little nutrients. Later, Woody grafted the Chardonnay to Pinot Noir. From this vineyard, Jeff Emery co-produced his first vintage of Branciforte Creek Pinot in 1991, when at the time he was assistant winemaker to then Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard owner-winemaker Ken Burnap.

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

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

Farming, however, was not in Woody’s blood, so from 1992 to 2002 he contracted the tending of the vines to local winemaker David Bruce and Bruce’s then vineyard manager Greg Stokes. Emery didn’t make wine again from that vineyard until 2003—after he purchased Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard (the name, equipment, and inventory) from Burnap, who retired.

In 2007, Emery took over the viticulture activities at Branciforte Creek Vineyard. When it was first planted, the vineyard was established on a vertical trellis system for cordon pruning but was changed over to cane pruning to ensure better fruit set, as Pinot Noir tends to be apical-dominant—the shoots grow upward to get more light, and thus undergo photosynthesis. Emery explains the advantage of cane-pruned vines: “Cane pruning lets you leave behind a cane each year with one to two bud spurs for the next year. So you get all the fruit off this one cane.”

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)

The vine rows run east and west and thus get the morning sun, which moves over the vines during the day, finally setting on the west side of the vineyard, welcoming the cool nights. The downhill side of the vineyard (which is 750 feet in elevation) faces somewhat south and experiences more shading, which varies throughout the summer. Emery calls this section the “banana belt” because it gets warm but not scathingly hot, and the fog comes in but doesn’t linger forever. “In a normal summer, there’s a seven- to ten-day cycle where there’s a good balance of sun and fog,” says Emery.

This balance is perfect for the vines, which need the cooler nights to maintain their acid. Since acid slowly goes away as fruit ripens—day after day, week after week—Emery is careful, not to “burn out acid,” as he puts it, in disproportion to sugar development by ensuring that the grapes are not overripe at harvest time. “I don’t like a strawberry soda pop [type of] Pinot,” he adds.

Early morning at Branciforte Creek Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Photo by Ken Swegles)

Early morning at Branciforte Creek Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Photo by Ken Swegles)

A No-Fuss Approach to Viticulture
Emery and his crew farm Branciforte Creek Vineyard somewhat modestly. Vineyard maintenance consists of mechanical weed control (mower and weed eater). Herbicides are not used—instead, native vegetation is left to grow during the season, and a good amount of wild mustard provides the vines enough nitrogen.

Powdery mildew, a fungus indicative to the Santa Cruz Mountains, is more common and is controlled via the spraying of sulfur early in the season. Fortunately, 2014 was good weatherwise—not much mildew was present, so spraying was minimal. Emery stays on top of mildew control, given his long history of working vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “The text book interval is overkill,” he says. “A lot of it [viticulture] just comes down to budget.”

Eutypa is another disease that sometimes affects the vines. Caused by the fungus Eutypa Lata, Eutypa produces cankers that appear typically on one arm of the vine, moving toward the roots and ultimately killing the plant. As a result, some replanting has taken place.

Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir vine succumbs to a gopher. (Photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir vine succumbs to a gopher. (Photo by Cynthia Bournellis)

The vineyard is pretty much spared when it comes to bacterial disease. For example, Pierce’s Disease is not an issue, since the property is not located near a riparian zone.
Pests of the vertebrate kind include birds, which eat the berries but are not a major threat since netting is used. Gophers, however, are more of a nuisance, but their numbers are small.

There are some issues with insects such as mealy bugs, which the ants eat because they live off of the honey dew that the bugs secrete. To combat mealy bugs, the crew applies natural orange oil to the vines, which suffocates the critters.

A Vineyard that Delivers, Time and Time Again
Branciforte Creek is unique in its ability to bear fruit that produces a wine whose character is consistently exceptional year-over-year, with interesting complexity. One exceptional vintage was 2007. “It has lots of spicy and floral complexities,” says Emery, comparing it to 2004, which he says was a much hotter year, resulting in a more fruit-forward wine without as many savory complexities.

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)

This depth of complexity, says Emery, has everything to do with the Pommard clone—in which the vineyard is planted—and the site, which he insists trumps the viticulture. “This clone is very distinct when it comes to white pepper, savory spice and a floral, perfume character.”

The soil too greatly influences the wine. The upper block of the vineyard (which is 800 feet in elevation) is basically a sandbox, in which pests such as Phylloxera—a tiny aphid-like insect—cannot live. In a cooler climate such as the Santa Cruz Mountains, the soil benefits the vineyard by draining well and retaining heat. Because of this, the vines can produce a highly aromatic wine. One sniff of the Branciforte Creek wine is all it takes to understand this aspect of the terroir. However, this block requires irrigating two to three times more than the lower section where the soil consists of sandy loam and clay. The combined soil types here impart a muscular character to this Pinot Noir—this is not a wimpy wine.

A Sense of “Place” in Your Glass
To describe Branciforte Creek Vineyard as nothing more than just 4 acres of Pinot Noir would be, well, an insult. There’s a Zen-like quality to the place that can be experienced during early morning harvest when the fog lingers over the vineyard, caressing the vines. Dew clings to the grape clusters, puffs of dust rise gently with each step through the rows, the air is brisk and the silence is hauntingly beautiful.

B40Creek labelThe wine too will haunt you, as its garrigue permeates your soul. Redwood, bay leaf, sage, thyme and fennel surround more delicate, deep round notes of lavender, perfume, dark cherry and rhubarb. Savory spice, dried leaves and damp earth dance among these layers, which are enveloped in noticeable acidity. (For more on the wine, read The Composition and the Creek: Listen, Sip and, by All Means, Weep)

This vineyard has low yields—due in part to the nature of the Pommard clone—and represents what Emery says is “the best of ‘old school’ Pinot Noir, before all of those cola- cherry-focused ‘modern’ clones became so popular.”

Branciforte Creek Vineyard is one that shows off the best attributes of what the Santa Cruz Mountains offers in terms of complexity in Pinot Noir. Adds Emery: “An excellent combination of clone and site, this vineyard celebrates the non-fruity elements in Pinot that make it a fascinating variety.”

* “Late Harvest: Wine History of the Santa Cruz Mountains,” The Late Harvest Project, Michael, et al., Santa Cruz, Calif., 1983.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who Wouldn’t Like Dried Grass

Forgive me followers but it has been five months since my last post. Much has happened during this time. Most important was the passing of Roxy, my kitty girlfriend and companion of 21 years. Roxy passed away during the Thanksgiving holiday. We were together a long time and the silence in my home and in my life was unbearable—so much so that I didn’t have the desire to write. And while I still mourn her, my creative juices have once again begun to flow.Roxy pic for Dr Hamilton

Roxy is on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge frolicking, no doubt, with her feline brothers Rusty and Vincent. And while she is not here physically, she is spiritually. It is through her spirit that I will keep her column Roxy’s Pick going, bringing you her favorite wine and wine-related topics—speaking in her sassy voice that is unique only to her.

So to my sweet kitty girl I just want to say, thank you for being my best friend, my girlfriend, my little girl of 21 years. You gave me much love, joy, and laughter. You taught me patience, forgiveness, trust, and unconditional love. I love you Roxy, and I raise a toast to you!

Roxy had just completed writing her next Pick when her little body decided that it was time for a catnap—a final catnap. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it. She would want you to.

Featured Image -- 1291My senses peaked when I caught a whiff of dried grass that wafted from the 2012 Grechetto Grecante. From Arnaldo-Caprai, this 100 percent Grechetto is delicious. A white wine produced from grapes grown in the Colli Martani DOC in the Italian region of Umbria, the 2012 Grechetto hits you with intense floral notes, stone fruit, and melon. And, did I mention dried grass? One of my favs, that pungent aroma, which brings back memories of my kittyhood, is surrounded by subtle minerality. Great to sip on or pair with seafood, veal, or poultry dishes, this wine with its bright yellow and green tinge is a must-have—if not with a main meal grecante INTERA 2012then as an aperitif, while laying in the tall grass of course.

Posted in Roxy's Pick | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bald Mountain Vineyard: The Ultimate Sandbox

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 Bonny Doon, California, 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.

???????????????????????????????

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

Posted in Roxy's Pick | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment