Oh Stony Hill — another winery to cross off my bucket list! The original Stony Hill Vineyard, located in Napa’s Spring Mountain AVA, was purchased by Fred and Eleanor McCrea back in the early 1940s. The first vines were planted in 1948 and by 1954 the couple already had a reputation for crafting fine Napa wines. When Fred passed in the late 1970s, assistant winemaker Mike Chelini took the winemaking reigns, and he’s held on tight to those ropes for over 40 years now. The bulk of the business remains in the family, with Fred and Eleanor’s son and daughter-in-law, Peter and Willinda, running the day-to-day operations and with their daughter, Sarah, taking over as president as of 2011.
According to the winery, Fred and Eleanor loved the white wines of Burgundy and would have loved to have planted their entire vineyard to Chardonnay. Well, they didn’t plant the whole vineyard to Chardonnay. But I can say that Fred and Eleanor would be proud that their family does great honor to the fruit that founding couple held in such high esteem.
It’s not often I review foreign wine, so when I do I always like to insert a little bit about the region. This Gris de Gris hails from France’s Languedoc-Roussilon AOC, which spans along the Mediterranean coastline, from the southern border with Spain up toward France’s region of Provence. In total, the AOC has about 700,000 acres planted to vines and is one of the biggest wine-producing regions in the world.
The terrain and climate characteristics are similar to that of the Southern Rhône region (located to the north and slightly west of Languedoc) and Provence (located to the north, arching toward the east along the Mediterranean Ocean.) Thus, the whole of the Languedoc-Roussillon region produces a wide variety of grapes and wine styles — from your classic “Bordeaux” varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc) to your typical Rhône varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Viognier).
There are several appellations and sub-appellations within Languedoc that, for the most part, were originally separated based more on politics than wine-related reasons — though this seems to be changing even as we speak. However, a lot of wines from this area will still simply state “Languedoc” without any other regional or varietal information on the bottle.
On the whole, the Languedoc regions seems to be –what? — undiscovered or under-appreciated? There are quality wines coming from the AOC that are a lot more affordable than some of France’s other notable regions. I guess, for now, let’s not question it, let’s just go with it. And let’s go with it with this Gris de Gris.
Chamisal Vineyard is a winery I’d never heard of until I started this SIP Certified series. According to the winery, Chamisal Vineyard’s 85-acre Chamisal property is the first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley in 1973. Today it’s planted to the California classics, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as Rhone varietals Grenache and Syrah, and a small block of Pinot Gris.
When I received a package filled with SIP Certified wine, I was thrilled to see an Albariño in the mix. As one of my favorite Spanish varietals, I’ve only recently come to taste a few with a California home base. After a recent successful tasting of the Eighty Four Wines 2017 Albariño from Sonoma, I was eager to taste what Edna Valley had to say about the grape variety. Maybe too eager. The Tangent Paragon Vineyard Albariño went straight from box, to chiller, to glass that same day.
As I mentioned in my post about the Imagery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the “mission statement” — if you will — of Imagery is “California wine with a twist.” In the case of the Cab, there was a splash of Petite Sirah in the mix — and yet the wine was completely open palate, ready to drink straight out of the bottle. I was pleasantly surprised. But for some reason, there was something holding me back about opening the Chardonnay. There’s a misconception about Chardonnay, that it’s an easy to grow and easy to make wine. Not so. Although it can grow in various regions, there are actually ideal conditions for the white grape. And the resulting wines, well, that’s utterly in the hands of the winemaker — it really is like their play-doh. (Read more about Chardonnay here.) So, I guess my hesitation was — what was this twist and was it going to be an overworked Chardonnay? Nope, not so. Imagery Estate keeps both the wine and the Benziger reputation crisp and clean….