Miraflores Winery was founded in 1998 by Dr. Victor Alvarez, a native Columbian whose familial background in cattle and dairy farming was a catalyst for him to start his own winery. Though he’s pursued a successful medical career, his passion lies in the vineyard, and in 1998 he planted his first vines of Syrah and Zinfandel in California’s El Dorado County. Today, the estate boasts 45 acres planted to vines with 16 different grape varieties on the 252 acre property. Alvarez has hands-on involvement both in the vineyard and in the winery, but gives full credit to his winemaker Marco Capelli and the rest of the winemaking team for the success of his passion project.
Holly and Tom Cooper fell in love with the Rhône Valley and Rhône wines over their first bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape as a married couple during their honeymoon in France. Many years later, Holly had the romantic notion to live on a hill in the country, and the couple moved to the Sierra Foothills, taking up residency on Tom’s family’s cattle ranch. Here, in the Pleasant Valley region of the El Dorado AVA, where the Mediterranean climate mimics that of their beloved Rhône Valley, Tom was able to fulfill his romantic notion of owning a vineyard. In 1998 the couple planted their first 15 acres of Syrah, celebrating their first harvest in 2000. Since that time, the family-owned vineyard and winery has expanded to include Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah, Cinsaut, Picpoul, Mourvedre, Roussanne,Viognier, and Carignane. The 2015 Carignane is the winery’s first single-varietal bottling of this somewhat “obscure” varietal.
Like much of California’s wine history, the founding “wine-fathers” of the Sierra Foothills date back to the Gold Rush days. California’s Gold Rush originated in El Dorado County when James Marshall discovered the firsts glimmery nuggets at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. Along with the rush of Americans, Europeans,too, flocked to the area seeking their fortune in gold. Those immigrants brought with them their love and knowledge of grape growing and wine production and by 1870, El Dorado was one of the largest wine producing regions in California.
Narrow Gate is a small, family owned and operated boutique winery located just outside of Placerville in California’s Pleasant Valley in El Dorado County, run by husband-and-wife team Frank (the viticulturist and winemaker) and Teena Hildebrand (co-owner and winery chef). Not only are the duo hands-on winemakers, practice biodynamic farming, and love food and wine pairing (almost) as much as I do — but for these two, running a winery is a work of faith and passion. Teena and Frank both left a lucrative careers in the fashion industry to pursue, what they believe, is a much higher calling.
“It was our newfound faith in Christ that drove us to pursue His plan for our life instead of the world’s – that, in a nut shell, is the Narrow Gate: choosing God’s plan instead of the world’s.” –Teena Hildebrand
When I first connected with Lubanzi, this is the wine that most intrigued me. With a vast array of Rhône wines available to me here in California (and, it seems, that number is increasing based on this year’s Rhône Ranger event), I was quite eager to taste what a South African expression of this French tradition would taste like. Unlike where California’s Rhône grape varieties are planted, there’s not much similar between the soil and the climate between South Africa’s Western Cape and the French Rhône Valley. Though most texts will tell you that this western pocket of Africa does “enjoy a Mediterranean climate,” I would go ahead and edit that to “a Mediterranean-like” climate, as the combination of ocean, dessert, and mountainscape, creates quite a unique terroir situation and, thus, interesting Rhône interpretations.