“Orange is the new white,” says Yorkville Cellars Founder Ed Walla. Indeed, it does seem that orange wine is making some kind of comeback — like bell bottoms and puff jackets in the 1990s (but, let’s face it, less tacky). If you think orange wine is new, here’s an anecdote from Ed:
“The practice has a long history in winemaking dating back thousands of years to the Eurasian wine producing countries of Armenia and Georgia. In recent years the practice has been adopted by Italian winemakers, initially in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region, while there is also production in Slovenia, Croatia, France, Germany, New Zealand, and California. Orange wines were not uncommon in Italy in the 1950s and 1960s, but gradually became obscure as technically correct and fresh white wines came to dominate the market.”
“Technically correct,” eh? Long live the rebel I say! And if you read my review of the Yorkville Cellars 2015 Semillon, you know that Semillon is one of (if not my absolute) favorite white wine grape. So you can imagine my excitement about this tasting.
I discovered Semillon in Australia (and, yes, if you ever meet me, I do pronounce it “wrong”), where it seemed to be served in abundance — at every restaurant, wine bar, and shop. I fell in love with the grape honestly thinking we didn’t have it here in the States. With less that 1,000 acres of Semillon planted in California, and with most of that being blended into other varietals (usually to act as a “softener” to more fruit-forward white wines like Sauvignon Blanc), it’s no wonder I had that impression.
Suffice it to say that when I finally discovered that I can get 100% Semillon in my hometown, I’ve been snatching up tastes, glasses, and bottles anywhere I can get it. Now the American version, wherever you get it, is vastly different than that produced by my friends down under. But this expression from Yorkville Cellars is everything I’d expect from what could very well be my favorite white grape — smoothed textured, delicate acidity, a balance of fruit and earth. And, as Yorkville Cellars Founder and Grower Ed Wallo says, “Semillon is notable as being one of the few white varietals that is very ageable; so your choice: enjoy it now or let it develop a bit more and include it in a special occasion.”
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.
The minute you think Iron Horse, you immediately think sparkling wine. Tell someone that’s what you’re sipping, and they know you’ve got quality bubbles in the glass. But the winery is more than a big Napa name: they give back to the community — in this case the ocean community. Four dollars of every bottle of Iron Horse Vineyards 2014 Ocean Reserve goes toward the National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative, establishing marine protected areas and supporting sustainable fishing practices around the globe.
I hope this isn’t untoward — but I did pair this wine with a (sustainable) fish dish!