wine reviews, wine events, and all things wine related
I’ve been having a hard time with Chardonnay lately. I’ve been finding them too overworked: either over-oaked or incorporating too much malolactic fermentation — in the worst cases both. I don’t like to start off a post with a negative, but you have to understand where I’m coming from. The Chardonnay’s of late have left me wondering — what does Chardonnay actually taste like? What is its entity? What is its innate nature? Ok, I’ll go there…where is its soul?
I found it. Here. With this wine. This is the Chardonnay I’ve been looking for. This is the pretty much the Chardonnay I want to always be in my cellar.
After experiencing the van der Kamp Pinot Noir I was excited to try J. Cage’s expression of the same varietal from a different vineyard. In conversing with proprietor Roger Beery, he said, “Single vineyards should be the lead singer..not the winemaker.” True, very true. A good winemaker lets the vineyard tell the story. And it’s amazing tasting the two so close together how one can taste, not a winemaking style, but the disparate style of two different pieces of Sonoma. “Let these outstanding vineyards and winegrowers have a voice,” Beery said. And so they do.
I feel like I’ve been presenting a lot of rosés lately. I guess it’s the season for it. And what I’m discovering as I taste through all these rosés is that, in the right hands, rosé is not a drink for a season, but can be as timeless as even the finest reds. Of course the French figured this out long ago, and California, we seem to be headed in the right direction.
Conch Beery, winemaker and cellar master for J. Cage Cellars says “As a winemaker, it is my duty to create wines that are true to place, true to the soil, true to the climate, and true to the spirit of the growers. My goal is to translate the magic of each vineyard into every glass of wine.” And it’s evident he gives just as much care and attention to his rosé as he does with any other of his single vineyard, single varietal wines.
I knew this wine was going to be high class the moment I read the vineyard name. As J.Cage Cellars proprietor Roger Beery says, van der Kamp Vineyards is a coveted piece of land amongst winemakers. Sitting at 1,400 feet of elevation along the north-facing, eastern slope of the Sonoma Mountains, the Pinot Noir that grows here enjoys ample sunshine, but cool temperatures. That, along with the loam and volcanic soils, give the grapes a unique vivaciousness, the wines intense in aromas and flavors. The van der Kamps farm their vines biodynamically. And if you’re of two minds about what that means in regards to tasting, I can say from experience that when biodynamics are in place, wines speak of place.
I am a skeptical Sauvignon Blanc drinker. When done well (to my palate), the varietal offers flavors of fruits and florals, herbs, and minerality. The mouthfeel should be crisp and refreshing, yes, but also provide a bit of texture, body, and weight. Some of this is dependent on the clone use; a lot of it is based on the terroir; but ultimately the finesse, the seamless flow from the tip of the tongue through to the back of the palate, up into the nasal and down toward the core — that is crafted by the winemaker.
Since this is my first post about J. Cage Cellars, a winery I hadn’t heard about until proprietor Roger Beery contacted me, I’d like to include a little bit of background about who they are and what they’re about…