“This has been such a fun grape to work with and wine to make – so excited that I did,” says Larry Schaffer, owner and winemaker of Tercero Wines. And, in fact, it’s a fun wine to drink, as Larry keeps this seemingly dark horse of a wine vibrant and indicative of the real fruit.
Once again, Larry’s chosen to work with a grape that’s often blended away amongst other varietals, and one that’s no longer easily found within California’s modern wine regions. That may be due, in part, to the fact that it’s not an easy grape to work with, often producing highly tannic and acidic wines. As a result, some vintners choose to let the buds hang a little longer; many will ferment the juice and age the wine in newer oak barrels, softening all of Carignane’s innate harshness. Not so with Larry…
I like prime numbers. A prime number is unbreakable — only divisible by itself and 1. Some may say they don’t play well with others; I say they’re strong enough to stand on their own. I find I have some kind of spiritual connection to prime numbers. We’re weird, we don’t fit into conventional puzzle pieces, a lot of people don’t “get” us, and even more people don’t even know what or who we are. We hide in plain sight and are the answer to “can you tell me which thing is not like the other?”
…I also find that meaningful things happen to me when I am a prime number age…
In 2011 — a prime year — the Russian River Valley experienced unconventional climatic conditions that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have worked. But it did — not for everyone, but for some vintners. And when I tasted the Crux Winery 2011 Zinfandel the first time I visited the boys in their warehouse winery, this was the wine I felt a deep, undeniably emotional connection to.
Like much of California’s wine history, the founding “wine-fathers” of the Sierra Foothills date back to the Gold Rush days. California’s Gold Rush originated in El Dorado County when James Marshall discovered the firsts glimmery nuggets at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. Along with the rush of Americans, Europeans,too, flocked to the area seeking their fortune in gold. Those immigrants brought with them their love and knowledge of grape growing and wine production and by 1870, El Dorado was one of the largest wine producing regions in California.
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
This past weekend I attended the Rhone Ranger’s San Francisco event. Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote winemakers and wineries who focus on Rhône varietals and Rhône-style blends. Each year, the Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting event gathers together a huge number of those wineries to help educate the public on these important grapes, winemaking methods, and of course the wines themselves. While not every year has a theme, it seemed that this year’s theme is the up-and-coming trend of “weird wine,” or “obscure” varietals.
As I’m sure many of you have noticed, I’ve been exploring a few of the lesser-known wine varietals lately (Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault…to name a few). And it’s not just because I have an insatiable, geeky interest in wine, it’s because more and more producers are bringing to light some of those varietals that have been hidden in the dark — as part of the lower percentages of classic and common blends.