I met Jason DiFrancesco almost three years ago at the SF Rhone Rangers event. I met him, quite frankly, how I meet many winemakers at these kinds of grand tastings — his table was, at the time, the lease crowded. At an event filled with Rhone varietals and Rhone blends, it can be really hard to stand out — especially among big name brands from Paso Robles, where Jason sources his grapes. But alas, his wines did stand out and because of his wines and our lively conversation, he and I became friends. So, I am pleased to present to you the latest Leverage Wines release…
As I mentioned in my post about the Imagery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the “mission statement” — if you will — of Imagery is “California wine with a twist.” In the case of the Cab, there was a splash of Petite Sirah in the mix — and yet the wine was completely open palate, ready to drink straight out of the bottle. I was pleasantly surprised. But for some reason, there was something holding me back about opening the Chardonnay. There’s a misconception about Chardonnay, that it’s an easy to grow and easy to make wine. Not so. Although it can grow in various regions, there are actually ideal conditions for the white grape. And the resulting wines, well, that’s utterly in the hands of the winemaker — it really is like their play-doh. (Read more about Chardonnay here.) So, I guess my hesitation was — what was this twist and was it going to be an overworked Chardonnay? Nope, not so. Imagery Estate keeps both the wine and the Benziger reputation crisp and clean….
Imagery Estate Winery was a new one for me. It’s the “sister” winery to the well-known Benziger Family Winery — but I’m going to go ahead and call it the “daughter” winery because, as I understand it, it’s Joe’s daughter Jamie who’s at the helm of the Imagery winemaking. What the two craft together is California wine with a twist: traditional varietals with “something unexpected, something out of the ordinary, something very Imagery.” So who’s ready for a little Cab-adventure?
Benziger has a long-standing family reputation in Sonoma. The family made the migration to California’s northern wine country when it was still had its “wild west” status and together groomed the land to make some top quality wines. Since 2000, all four of Benziger’s estate vineyards have been officially certified Biodynamic, meaning they’ve eliminated the use of all synthetic materials, encourage biodiversity in the field, and nurture a closed nutrient system. The effects? Well let’s have a taste and see, shall we?
I wandered into the Siduri tasting room on a cold, rainy day in Healdsburg purely for the atmosphere. Comfy couches, warm lighting, it was the perfect ambiance I was looking for. As further luck would have it, I just happened to be the only customer, so the two tasting room staff members were more than happy to give me a bit of one-on-one attention as we all tasted through the winery’s current line up.
A tasting at Siduri is a study in Pinot Noir — because that’s all they make. They’ll start you with the open-textured and elegant offerings from the Willamette and slowly walk south, through all the major winemaking regions of California. The last stop will be Santa Barbara County’s Sta. Rita Hills AVA — and though they source from several vineyards in the area, I found the 2014 Pinot Noir from John Sebastiano Vineyard the most unique Pinot in my entire tasting that day.