It’s always interesting when you discover a winery in your own backyard. It wasn’t until I was doing research about San Francisco South Bay Rhone producers for a recent article that I came across Jeff Fadness of La Vie Dansante. What’s even more remarkable is that in tasting through his wines (and I must admit tasting through neighboring winery and exclusively white Rhone producer Lion Ranch as well), he put my fear and stereotype of Rhone white blends to rest.
Yes, I know there are some iconic California Rhone producers who craft, what many call, beautiful and balanced white blends. In fact, Fadness credits the expression of his white blend to the Esprit de Tablas Creek by Tablas Creek. Even so, I have to credit Fadness himself for creating a blend of white varietals in which the sum of those varietals expresses even better than the separate components.
Russian wine: I’ve never quite thought about it. But Big Cork Vineyards is into big ideas — and not just with their bodacious reds. As I’ve mentioned before, Maryland’s climate is actually quite a cold one, especially when compared to the vineyards in my native California. This opens up their little wine country up to a whole host of grapes that are virtually untapped here on the west side. So, how about a taste of SK77-53, SK77-10-69, and XIV 186 my friends?
According to Henry Matthes, owner and proprietor of Matthes Vineyards, this Rhône-style blend is a bit of an anomaly. His intention is to always focus on Grenache Blanc, using just enough Marsanne to give the wine some backbone and structure. But due to a difficult growing season in 2014 in which much of the Marsanne failed, Henry and his vineyard team ended up grafting Grenache Blanc onto much of the Marsanne rootstock. Somehow, as Henry says, “The remaining Marsanne grew with unexpected vigor, yielding a huge crop of perfect fruit.” And so it is that he was able to create, for his portfolio, this unique white blend. “A serendipitous event for sure,” he adds.
When it comes to white wines, Cellars 33 is all about Grenache Blanc sourced from California’s Lodi AVA. When asked about this Rhône-style white blend, which includes a significant amount of Viognier and a trace amount of PicPoul, John Fones (owner and winemaker of Cellars 33) said that it’s simply a chance to create a “different expression” of the varietal he’s come to love. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the name, just remember “The Betty” is a white wine.
So cheers to everyone’s favorite Golden Girl…