• Santa Cruz Maverick: 2020 Madson Wines

    Santa Cruz Maverick: 2020 Madson Wines

    I met Cole Thomas at a 2019 tasting event highlighting the next wave of Santa Cruz winemakers. Coincidentally, I was in town that weekend to work on a story about four other young winemakers in the region for the San Francisco Chronicle. I've been following Cole's exciting project, Madson Wines, ever since.

    The Santa Cruz Mountains are one of California's top sites for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the western side of the region having a front-row seat to the Pacific's coastal winds and morning fog. Cole says he is always looking for Chardonnay, though that's easier said than done. Most vineyards here are allotted to Pinot Noir and consist of a few acres at most, vying with the mountainous landscape, redwoods, and forest. Regardless, Madson produces compelling, spice-driven Pinot Noirs that remind me of driving through the Santa Cruz Mountains with the windows rolled down.

    Cole has built his career here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After earning a degree in environmental studies at U.C. Santa Cruz, he worked in vegetable farming and landscaping before landing a job at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, where he met viticulturist Ken Swegles. They launched Madson together in 2018 and solely farm using organic and regenerative practices.

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    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Provence White Diamond: 2020 Chateau Roquefort

    Provence White Diamond: 2020 Chateau Roquefort

    Petit Salé from Chateau Roquefort is the best value white wine from Southern France that you're likely to overlook, though I highly encourage you to play it cooler (and less pretentiously) than I did when having it for the first time.

    Unlike Bandol, the brisk, high-altitude setting here cannot fully ripen Mourvèdre, but it's perfect for macerated white wines. A blend of Clairette and Vermentino, Petit Salé builds on ripe, unctuous white peach and briny citrus flavors, finishing with a persistent salty inflection. This microclimate on limestone and clay soils proved to me that a Southern French white can deliver all of the mouth-watering salinity as Chablis and Riesling while still capturing its orchard fruit characteristics.

    Villeneuve returned home in 1995 after spending time producing Burgundy's Grand Cru Clos de Tart for Mommessin. He use both organic and biodynamic farming practices. Also, this is the same distributor behind other small but mighty vignerons who you may have heard of, like Jerome Prevost, Cedric Bouchard, and Soldera.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Sancerre Royalty: 2019 Domaine Vacheron

    Sancerre Royalty: 2019 Domaine Vacheron

    A visit to the eastern Loire in May 2016 was a great awakening to the potential and diversity within Sancerre. Styles of winemaking differ nearly as much as the change in soil throughout the region, from flint to marl and Kimmeridgian limestone. But when the tours concluded, it was Vacheron's duo of sites that stuck with me.

    Vacheron's epic south-facing slopes of old vines immediately felt special when we hit the rocky terrain. In a marginal climate, where every last ray of sunlight counts, these Sauvignon Blancs have a generous cut and rigor. They develop faint notes of honey, ginger, and orchard fruit while maintaining a disciplined frame and finish with loads of crushed rocks and salinity.

    Not a lot of vignerons farm organically in Sancerre, as the weather can be brutal and uncooperative. Less than ten producers are certified organic including Vacheron (since 2000). In the cellar, they've transitioned to larger vessels such as foudre to ensure the wines are taut and structured, as temperatures in the region continue to climb. The wines ferment spontaneously with native yeasts, and the lunar cycle dictates when bottling occurs. No fining or filtering!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Delectable Dijon: 2019 Domaine de la Cras

    Delectable Dijon: 2019 Domaine de la Cras

    In the hills above Dijon, you can find one of Burgundy's greatest inception stories. It is a fresh departure from a domaine's normal evolution, but the wines in bottle are the most thrilling element from Marc Soyard. In a short time, Domaine de la Cras has gone from obscure to having a cult following.

    Five years ago, the city of Dijon purchased a vineyard just outside its limits, and they essentially held a casting call to find a winemaker for the property. The criteria were: The winemaker must be young, have no family vineyard holdings, farm organically, and open the domaine for educational tours. Rent for the land would be paid to the city in 2,000 bottles.

    Marc Soyard, originally from nearby Jura, was chosen. Soyard does not come from a family of vignerons but previously worked for Vosne-Romanée's esteemed Domaine Bizot, known for its rigorous vineyard work, minuscule sulfur regimen, and whole-cluster fermentation.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • California Icon: 2017 Matthiasson Phoenix Cabernet

    California Icon: 2017 Matthiasson Phoenix Cabernet

    “If one person stands to rewrite the trajectory of California wine—in Napa's luxurious heart, no less—it is Steve Matthiasson.” — Jon Bonné, SF Chronicle

    Earlier this month, I made a long-awaited visit to Matthiasson Winery for the first time. Dubbed a leading figure of the New California Wine movement by wine writer Jon Bonné, Steve Matthiasson has been in the business for nearly three decades and is the go-to viticulturist for organic wine growing in California.

    Matthiasson’s Phoenix Vineyard sits on a hillside overlooking Oak Knoll District. The temperatures here are much cooler, and this is the only part of the valley to have ancient marine shale soils. Planted in 1982, the vineyard is a mixture of old heritage Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. One of Steve’s main principles in winegrowing is balance, which directly translates into the wines: Fresh and aromatic red-berry fruit, fine-knit tannins and structure, and beautiful acidity.

    Phoenix Vineyard also marked a new chapter for the Matthiassons. Steve started farming this vineyard in 2017 when the elderly owners could no longer manage it themselves. After 14 years of making wine at other wineries, Steve and his wife, Jill, purchased the property, which also included a winery. All wine production happens here on site, and the former owners were granted a lifelong home to enjoy retirement.

    2017 was a devastating vintage for Napa Valley, as the region was hit hard by wildfires. Luckily, Phoenix Vineyard was harvested and finished fermentation before the wildfires struck. The fruit is fermented at low temperatures in small tanks, with punch-downs done by hand, followed by aging in 30% new French oak for 20 months.

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    Posted by Sydney Love