Saturday, October 31, 2009

California Women Winemakers, Part 3

As seen in the two previous editions of this article, California Women Winemakers have successfully made their mark on the wine industry in California. As with all winemakers, the women contingent has come into this profession by a variety of methods, some via the professional training at UC Davis and others via their “on-the-job” training using their own initiative making their distinct mark on winemaking in California.

Winemaker Anna Monticelli of Esca Winery earned her degree from UC Davis and then headed off to Bordeaux, France for her first harvest in 2000. During her undergraduate years she spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris and took summer courses in Rome and Cracow. Upon her return to California she was Assistant Winemaker at Seavey Vineyard and then Assistant Winemaker for cult cabernet winery, Bryant Family Vineyard, before moving on to the top Winemaker position at Pina Napa Valley. Wine is important in her family with her position at Pina and her husband, Mario, working as the Winemaker of Trinchero Napa Reserve.

During their spare time, Anna and Mario formed Esca Wines of Napa Valley. “Esca”, Italian for Allurement, is an expression of their winemaking style. They believe life is to be enjoyed on a daily basis and a civilized life is enjoying fine food and great wine with good friends around the dinner table. The Esca 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is elegant and focused. The nose reveals blackberry, blueberry and currant flavors with underlying floral tones. The hints of tobacco, leather and coffee combined with the long finish makes this an elegant wine by itself or with food. The tannins are surprisingly smooth. In addition to the Napa Valley Cabernet, this wine includes 8% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. It goes well with prime rib or lamb chops.

Alexia Johnson of Monte Verde Vineyards in Morgan Hill was born and raised in Spain and developed a taste for Spanish varietals at an early age. Alexia Johnson and her husband Todd were avid home winemakers. They started with 300 Merlot vines planted in 2000; growing to a hobby in 2003; and on to a passion in 2006 as they continued planting over 1300 vines, adding Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo; and culminating as a award-winning bonded winery in 2008. The first release was only a little over a year ago and they only produce 300 cases per year. Yet, they already are winning awards for their wines. Not too bad for a backyard (albeit big backyard) operation! Alexia continued her education in winemaking via the Wine Production for Distance Learners from UC Davis Extension.

The Monte Verde 2007 Merlot from Villa Palma Vineyards in Santa Clara Valley is a dark medium bodied wine is bursting with dark cherry and blackberry flavors with medium levels of tannin and a touch of spice, including clove and cinnamon. It is a very versatile wine that can be paired with a range of foods including flank steak, roast chicken or even a bacon cheeseburger. As you can expect for a winery this size, every wine is truly hand-crafted. The grapes are specially selected and fermented in small lots based on vineyard designation. Only French oak is use, producing wines with balance and great quality.

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