Monday, November 2, 2009

MoniClaire Vineyards - a family-run boutique winery in Dry Creek Valley

MoniClaire Vineyards is a family affair in Dry Creek Valley. Peter and Mary Beth Smiderle are dedicated to producing the rich full bodied wines you expect from this area in Sonoma County. Family is important in the history and future of this winery. Peter’s grandfather was a winemaker in Italy and Peter learned the art of grape growing and winemaking at the side of his father, an accomplished winemaker in Southern California. And Peter and Mary Beth’s young daughters, Monica and Claire, (namesakes of MoniClaire Vineyards) already have shown an interest in this family affair.

The Smiderle’s started by planting some Chardonnay grapes in their backyard in Los Gatos Hills in 1986. With this taste of hands-on winemaking, they began their search for property in one of California’s premier grape growing regions. They were lucky to find property along Lytton Springs Road in Dry Creek Valley.

This boutique winery produces only a few hundred cases of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc each year. This writer had the opportunity to taste both the 2005 and 2006 Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.

Moniclaire 2005 Zinfandel has an intense bouquet exploding in raspberry, blueberry and plum aromas. On the palate these same flavors are a delight with the added joy of rich baker’s chocolate. These are all aromas and flavors that are indicative of the terroir of the Lytton Springs bench.

The 2006 Zinfandel is a big, bold wine with powerful flavors of blackberries and plum and a smoky chocolate with a hint of vanilla and toast. These flavors are a meal in itself and a joy to partake. It has the tannins, structure and acidity to allow it to age for many years as additional flavors unfold.

Petite Sirah could never be considered a petite mild-mannered wine and with the Petite Sirah from MoniClaire you get what you expect from this great varietal. The 2005 Petite Sirah has a deep dark purple color that entices you with check out the bouquet of blueberry, violets, olive and blackberry with hints of oak. This Petite Sirah is amazing in that this full bodied, rich, complex wine is not overbearing in tannins, but rather, it is very approachable and tasty. This is the style that will make you a Petite Sirah lover.

The 2006 Petite Sirah has the same dark purple color of its older sister. It has a bit more earthy quality than the 2005 vintage but continues to be well balanced with a blend of blackberry, blueberry and violets with a good quantity of cocoa and vanilla. Again the tannins, while a bit sharper than the older vintage are still approachable and will provide the components necessary for this wine to age well. This wine is drinkable now and over the next 6-9 years.

MoniClaire has tasting by appointment and its wine is available at various locations around the Bay Area. They will be pouring on November 4, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at UNWINED in San Jose where they will be pairing three Petite Sirah vintages, 2005, 2006 and 2007 with Claudia’s hand-made chocolates. The strong chocolaty component of the MoniClaire Petite Sirah should go great with these fine chocolates!

For more info: MoniClaire Vineyards

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