I’ve followed winemaker Janu Goelz for quite some time—admittedly mostly on social media. What I immediately recognized was a young woman passionate about building her brand and business. Located on the outskirts of San Jose in Gilroy, California, Alara Cellars is one of a handful of boutique wineries in the Santa Clara Valley. Most folks forget about this piece of California wine country, and I love how she embraces it, pouring her wines at both local Silicon Valley hangouts and, now, at regional shows and competitions.
Oh how her brand has grown into such a success.
After interviewing her for a feature in our magazine, I finally got to meet her a few weeks ago at my company’s annual Bottle Bash party during the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. She is just as friendly and delightful as her wines suggest. So I feel privileged to review one of her wines here on my humble little website.
I reviewed the Shafer Vineyards 2015 TD-9 last year and enjoyed it so much, I had to do a vintage update. One of the things I love (besides the taste) is the story behind the name.
At 50 years old, John Shafer left his business shoes and commuter trains behind in Chicago, trading them in for a pair of boots and a TD-9 tractor. Without a green thumb to speak of, he picked up his family and purchased his first piece of Napa Valley property. On that property were old sheds and ancient farming equipment — among them an International Harvester tractor from the 1950s. One of his first challenges was learning how to drive the rickety old beast — but he loved every moment of it.
I can very much relate to this story: shifting gears, changing trajectory — that’s really what life is all about isn’t it. And when you find success in that new direction, so much the better. So cheers to you, John, and the Napa Valley legend you created by making that decision.
Emeritus is a new winery for me, but has a 10-year Sonoma-based history. Emeritus was founded in 1999 by Brice Curtrer Jones after he purchased the 115-acre parcel named for previous owners, Don and Marcia Hallberg. The land was planted as an apple orchard, but Curtrer knew the value of the land in terms of grapegrowing and saw the potential for beautiful Pinot Noir.
Hallberg Ranch is located in the cool, Green Valley region of the Russian River Valley—an AVA that, in my opinion is an up-and-coming one, and one that is producing some of Sonoma’s most interesting Pinot Noir as of late.
This is a continuation of my short series (trilogy?) of Hahn Family Wines’ Lucienne portfolio, stemming from my first, more-personal write-up featuring the Lucienne Smith Vineyard Pinot Noir. Unlike Doctor’s Vineyard, I’m not as familiar with Lone Oak Vineyard, even though I had tasted from this vineyard during my time at the Hahn Winery. According to the winery, the146-acre certified sustainable Lone Oak Vineyard is at the northern-most end of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Cooled by ocean breezes from the Monterey Bay, the morning fog lingers until afternoon winds pick up, resulting in a long, cool growing season. The vineyard is situated on east-facing slopes with elevations ranging between 180 and 500 feet, and well-draining ancient alluvial soils.
Last week I posted a rather personal anecdote about Hahn’s Lucienne Smith Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is another from that same label, this one hailing from Doctor’s Vineyard—a vineyard I’ve become quite acquainted with in my tasting around the Santa Lucia Highlands. During my time at Hahn Family Winery, we dove deep into what differentiates their various vineyards. The Doctor’s Vineyard isn’t the highest nor the lowest elevated of the estate vineyards, but is right in the center of the SLH AVA. Thus, it receives a bit more sunlight than other portions. And wider vine row spacing (11 feet by 7 feet) means these Pinot Noir grapes get quite a bit of sun exposure after the morning Monterey fog blows off. So what exactly does that all taste like?