Unlike many of his colleagues, Joe Davis, the founder and winemaker of Arcadian Winery, does not come from a long line of winemakers. On the contrary, his people were Monterey fisherman—with first-hand accounts of John Steinbeck’s peccadilloes, no less! But he was not destined for the family business.
It takes guts to grow premium wine grapes—plus a sizable amount of cash, a love of farming, and the fortitude to deal with the ongoing challenges, both environmental and political, of producing a great glass of wine. Frost may not be the biggest of a grower’s concerns, but it has become a vexing problem here in California’s Russian River Valley, where the rights of farmers sometimes go head to head with the rights of fish.
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 13th annual Rhône Rangers Grand Tasting in San Francisco, featuring over 500 wines from more than 100 wineries. Rhône Rangers has grown from the original 13 producers to include 200 wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Michigan, and Virginia. In order to join, a winery must produce at least one Rhône-style wine, comprising a minimum of 75% of one or more of the 22 Rhône grape varieties approved in the Cotes-du-Rhône. Probably the best known of these are syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, and the white threesome of viognier, roussanne, and marsanne.
The first white wine from Cornerstone Cellars, this single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is the color of pale straw or the delicate liquid of honeysuckle sparkling in the first morning light. Bright and citrusy on the nose, with aromatics of pear, tropical fruits and gooseberry; it’s more Loire Valley Old World than New World pipi du chat. It opens up to a warm pleasant nuttiness. Once in the mouth, there is a luscious creaminess I don't usually associate with Sauvignon Blanc; smooth on the tongue and seductive on the palate, without sacrificing bright citrus, red grapefruit and a zesty acidity. Balanced and sophisticated, the lingering finish offers firm minerality. Read more on Another Wine Blog.
Merlot sometimes gets a very bad rap, but more examples like this would redeem it. Blended with Cabernet Franc, this one reminded me of a good Right Bank Bordeaux. Deep, bright ruby colored, with aromas of blackberry, vanilla and blueberry that carry over onto the palate along with a hint of rhubarb, this is a merlot with some muscle that also highlights this subtle grape. Read more at Another Wine Blog.
he most open and evolved of Twomey's 2008 Pinot Noirs, this Russian River Valley ruby red beauty surprises with sunny orange peel on the nose opening up to ripe cherries. Soft with a zing on the front of the palate, opening up to berries and balanced acidity. Finish with a soft yet zingy finish. A perfect balance of yin and yang. Sister winery of Napa Valley's Silver Oak, Twomey Cellars is located in Calistoga. Read more at Another Wine Blog.
This is not a wine for the delicate or unsuspecting. Raspberry, mocha, unsweetened chocolate and wax are all rolled up on the end of a wooden stave, which somebody is about to sneak up behind you with and beat you over the head. That might be the 15.5% alcohol at work. Pairing recommendations? None. Drink this as a snack.
Elegant and sophisticated, this wine takes a bit of coaxing to open up. Patience rewards with a nose of luscious ripe plums and dark berries with a sassafras twist. The color is a vivid shade of red. Supple on the palate, warm musk complements the deep fruit, with a tingle of cola on the end. Hints of rose petals taper to a lingering finish. A more detailed review about this wine and the winery is available here on Another Wine Blog.