Julietta Winery was a cute little surprise during my last adventure into the tiny Clarksburg AVA of Yolo County. The little shack of a venue seems a mirage amongst the vast fields of farmland. Indeed, outside of the Sugar Mill — which boasts several wineries sharing one crush pad — there seems to be a distinct lack of stand-alone wineries. But, as with most boutique experiences, that just means when you walk in, you’re greeted by Julie and her husband and treated like part of the Clarksburg community — even if you are just passing through.
The Cooper family has been farming in Amador County since 1919, when “Grandpa Cooper” left his San Francisco medical practice to tend a walnut orchard. Not until current owner Dick Cooper graduated from UC Davis in the 1970s did the Coopers consider grafting grapevines. But they wanted to think outside the Zinfandel box. Friend Darrell Corti, of Sacramento’s famed Corti Brothers grocery store, gave the Coopers a tip. “Mr. Corti pulled his pocketbook out, retrieved a $1 bill and wrote ‘Barbera’ and ‘Nebbiolo’ on it,” remembers Dick Cooper. With no Nebbiolo to be found, the Coopers turned to neighbor Cary Gott of Montevina Winery, who was willing to sell a bit of Barbera rootstock.
Today, Barbera is Cooper Vineyards’s’ flagship wine, the one that customers flock to the tasting room to buy in bulk.
No, it’s not a Pinot Grigio. Grillo is a white wine grape indigenous to the Sicilian wine region. Though its exact evolution is unknown, it’s believed to be the cross-bred child of Catarratto (one of the most widely planted white wine grapes in Sicily) and Zibibbo (a Muscat grape variety originating from Alexandria, Sicily). The grape’s claim to fame is its ability to withstand warm temperatures and drought — perfect for the hot-blooded climate known to the Sicilian terrain (and people). Grillo is sturdy enough to hang on the vine well past a traditional harvest time, making it the perfect candidate for concentrated, high-alcoholic dessert-style wines (most classically, Marsala).
Interesting factoid: the Italian word grillo literally translates to the English word “cricket.” And that is where the Donfugata Sur Sur 2016 Grillo begins…
We all know the story. Former SF Giants baseball teammates Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts have teamed up once again — this time in the vineyard field. Alongside winemaker, Rolando Herrera from Mi Sueño Winery and Herrera Wines, Red Stitch serves up some classically-styled Napa Cabs. Their latest game-changer is their somewhat recent addition of Santa Lucia Highland vineyards, Soberanes and Sierra Mar, to craft what, to my palate, are two completely polar opposite Pinots.
This is another total impulse-buy success story. I was at TJ’s, perusing the wine aisle, and realized for all its awesome reputation, I’ve never actually tasted anything from Freemark Abbey. It was a bit of a risk: not only was I trying a new winery, but I was testing them out on a varietal I’m not super keen on, nor too familiar with. But like I said, impulse-buy success story.