I dedicate this post to my partner in wine crime, without whom this site and my very career as a wine writer wouldn’t exist. I wasn’t always a writer — believe it or not, I wasn’t always a wine lover. But one thing he and I had in common right from the beginning of our relationship was the joy we both found in the kitchen. That joy increased exponentially when we started cooking together. I may have been the first in the relationship to ask, “What wine would pair with this?” but it’s only through both our inquisitive minds and insatiable curiosity about all things cuisine, that I’ve gotten as far as I have.
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.
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
Oh how I love discovering boutique wineries. There’s just something special about the personalities behind them — and I, inevitably, feel a certain camaraderie even if our only communication is through wine.
Odonata is owned and operated by winemaker Dennis Hoey. He has a lifetime worth of experience in the wine industry working with vintners big and small throughout California. In 2005 he started his own label, Odonata, and as of 2014 he’s focused, full time on his boutique winery, located in the Salinas and Santa Cruz area. He is a winemaker who sources his grapes predominantly from the Central Coast region, but is looking forward to planting his own 2 acre estate vineyard this year.
Mmmm I do love a good Syrah. The thing about it, though, is that it’s an absolute chameleon grape, absorbing the most minute details of its surrounding soils. Northern Cali kid that I am, I’m most familiar with the more savory, and all-around tighter Syrah of the gravely-turfed, cool climate Sonoma Coast. Though I’ve ventured as far as Paso Robles in my Syrah sips (a region that seems to be a French-Cali hybrid), the 2013 Nagy Wines Syrah is my first from Santa Barbara County. It seems that this chameleon grape has absorbed the sweet summer sun of SoCal.