Sunce Winery is a family-run business through and through. Husband and wife team Frane and Janae Franicevic have been working together for 26 vintages. With his winemaking abilities, her marketing skills, and their dual passion for turning great grapes into great wine, Sunce Winery receives consistent accolades year after year. While three out of four acres in their estate vineyard (called Zora after one of their three daughters) is planted to Pinot Noir, the family sources 39 different varietals from throughout California to create a full portfolio of wine offerings. In 2013 the family turned to the Russian River Valley — home to some of the oldest and boldest Zinfandel grapes. (more…)
Raeburn is a name you’ll see on the shelves of your local grocer — but did you know that the name Raeburn comes from an Olde English word meaning “the river where one goes to drink?” And so I think it is fitting that this Pinot Noir represents the Russian River Valley in my Pinot Noir style spectrum. Characterized by its cool, maritime climate that’s funneled in through the Petaluma Gap from the Pacific Ocean, the Russian River is an idyllic place for picky Pinot. The AVA is also home to some unique soil types, including the Goldridge Soil (volcanic rich soil), Sebastapol Soil (clay rich soil), as well as alluvial soils along the benchland — meaning the Russian River, itself, can have an interesting range of Pinot Noirs.
Lester and Linda Schwartz discovered their love of wine in their native homeland of Cape Town, South Africa. A lawyer and an artist, respectively, the couple found themselves living in California, and it wasn’t long before Lester got the itch to build himself a countryside home reminiscent of his roots. So they purchased a plot of naked land along the craggy cliffs of the Pacific Ocean in what would eventually become the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. The couple custom-built their own home, featuring traditional South African architecture; just a few years later they planted their first grapevine rootstocks and saw near immediate success. Alongside legendary winemaker Jeff Pisoni, today Lester and Linda craft beautiful Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and — as a nod to their heritage — Pinotage. (Fun fact: Lester and Linda were the first private grape growers to import Pinotage vine cuttings.)
I like Balletto wines. I like that they are easily accessible in every sense of the word. They’re available at most local shops; they’re affordable; and they’re (most importantly) fun and easy wines to drink. I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything by Balletto — and they have the added perk of still being a family-run business who sources their grapes from their own estate vineyards. So of course after enjoying their classic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay offerings, I was most eager to give their sparkling brut rosé a go in conjunction with my holiday sparkling wine series.
I don’t often write about sparkling wines because I feel like they live in a world all their own. But when I popped the cork on this J Cuvée 20 Brut, I seemed to have entered the realm in which they live. Beautifully light and refreshing, yet profoundly complex and structured. A sip of this sparkle simultaneously released me and engaged me. Cheers to that.