Troon Vineyard may have a 40 year old winemaking history, but they seem to be on the cusp of what’s new and innovative in winemaking. Not out to make the fast, easy sell, they embrace what their little piece of Oregon terroir has to offer — climate and terrain similar to the Old World France and Spain, and yet still uniquely Oregonian. That means their focus is on under-appreciated grapes: Vermentino, Tannat, Malbec, simply because this is what grows best. (Learn more about Troon Vineyard’s Applegate Valley)
As Craig Camp says, “If you want to bring real pleasure to peoples lives, your wines have to have personalities as interesting as the people that drink them.” (You can read more of Craig’s thoughts on Troon Vineyard’s Wine Camp Blog.)
According to Teena Hildebrand, co-owner and winery chef for Narrow Gate Vineyards, the name Dunamis is Greek, sharing the root word for dynamite. It was the couple’s new found faith in Christianity that provoked them to take the leap from the fashion industry to the wine industry. Teena says they first read the word Dunamis in a Greek translation of the New Testament in reference to “God’s miraculous power.” “We needed a lot of ‘Dunamis’ to get our winery doors open back in 2004, as we didn’t come in heavily capitalized or with an inheritance,” says Teena. “We labored ourselves to plant and build.” A labor of love we can now all enjoy.
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
When I first connected with Lubanzi, this is the wine that most intrigued me. With a vast array of Rhône wines available to me here in California (and, it seems, that number is increasing based on this year’s Rhône Ranger event), I was quite eager to taste what a South African expression of this French tradition would taste like. Unlike where California’s Rhône grape varieties are planted, there’s not much similar between the soil and the climate between South Africa’s Western Cape and the French Rhône Valley. Though most texts will tell you that this western pocket of Africa does “enjoy a Mediterranean climate,” I would go ahead and edit that to “a Mediterranean-like” climate, as the combination of ocean, dessert, and mountainscape, creates quite a unique terroir situation and, thus, interesting Rhône interpretations.
I came across Fore Family Vineyards during my last excursion to Lake County. An enjoyable experience at the tasting room’s downtown Kelseyville location, I was intimately hosted by both Jim and Diane Fore. (To be honest, it was 11am on a rainy Saturday morning — no one in their right mind was out wine tasting that day.) I tasted through a full line up of their current releases, but it was this GSM Rhone-style blend that, to me, elegantly displayed what their unique plot of Lake County has to offer.