Yorkville Cellars may seem a bit of a secret. Indeed, the Yorkville Highlands AVA itself is a bit of a hidden gem, found squeezed between Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley AVA and Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley AVA. Only one percent of Yorkville’s 40,000 acres is planted to vines, but amongst that one percent are 21 different grape varieties. Yorkville Cellars is one of the 25 wineries found in this mountainous region and the only one growing all eight main Bordeaux grapes and producing them as varietal wine. Who likes Cab Franc?
When I spoke with Ed Wallo about tasting his wines, I noticed that he has a tendency toward the unusual — 100% bottlings of odd varietals; orange wine; and sparkling…Malbec??? I rarely drink Malbec as it is, so the prospect of tasting a sparkling Malbec intrigued and excited me. The classically rustic red wine is known to pair with bold flavors (Steak and chimichurri anyone?), yet sparkling wines and rosés are usually paired with lighter fare. (Where’s my cheese board?). Well, I did both. So let’s see what a sparkling Malbec tastes like and what kind of food it likes best.
Symphony — No it’s not the name of a blend. This is a grape varietal. It is one of the several cross-clonal hybrid grape creations by University of California, Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo. He’s known for quite a few, including Ruby Cabernet (cross-breed Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignane) and Emerald Riesling (cross-breed Moscadelle and Riesling). Gaining in popularity is the Symphony grape, a hybrid of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris.
Developed by Olmo in 1948, it took him nearly 40 years to perfect the clone, and it wasn’t released for commercial use until 1984. He developed the white grape to withstand the downright hot climate of California’s Central Valley, however today it seems to thrive best in cooler temps, with most plantings found in either Lodi or the Sierra Foothills. But their’s one woman brave enough to take the plantings to her even higher, cooler climate AVA of Yorkville Highlands. And in so-doing, she’s crafted a beautifully floral-forward wine that’s unlike any other. It must be the work of the wine queen herself — Theodora Lee aka “Theo-patra.”
This was my first experience with a rosé of Petite Sirah, and I’m so glad that it’s with Queen Theo-patra herself. Theodora describes this delicate take on a robust wine as “elegant,” “curvy,” and “feminine.” While I do agree, I can’t help but add that this curvaceous lady has a bit of a tom-boy streak. As beautiful as she is, she’s ready to get rough and tumble. Can you handle a woman with strength? Grab a glass and find out.
Theodora Lee, winemaker and proprietor of Theopolis Vineyards is one talented lady. Though she founded her winery in 2003, I’ve only just recently been able to taste what this hidden gem has to offer — and I can’t boast enough about the wine’s I’ve tried. Pinot Noirs from Mendocino are already a favorite of mine — I’ve had quite a few exquisite ones from Anderson Valley. (Try FourSight) But the nuances the Yorkville Highlands provides this malleable varietal are in a league of their own. And Theodora knows how to work with those nuances, creating a delicate — and dare I say feminine — beauty in the bottle.