Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cinnabar Winery - the alchemy of winemaking in Santa Cruz Mountains

In the 14th century, European alchemists believed that with the help of the mineral cinnabar, the derivative of mercury, they could transform ordinary metals into silver and gold. In the 20th a research engineer at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Tom Mudd, founded Cinnabar winery with the belief that the alchemy of winemaking would produce premium handcrafted wines. While the 14th century alchemists were mistaken, the 20th century winemaker proved that the chemistry of winemaking was alive and well in Santa Cruz Mountains.

Tom used his scientific methodology to select vineyards and cuttings that would lead to the quality wine he sought. Twenty-two acres of vineyards were planted in 1984-85 with more added later. Tom had achieved his goal of a premium class winery. Upon his passing in 2007, the vineyards were sold, but Cinnabar continued to produce the same quality wines with grapes from Santa Cruz Mountains plus other distinguished areas including Lodi, Paso Robles, Sonoma, Lake County and Santa Clara Valley. President Suzanne Frontz and Winemaker George Troquato continue their own brand of alchemy in Tom Mudd’s dream, Cinnabar. From their tasting room along Big Basin Way in downtown Saratoga, Cinnabar the team greets visitors while serving a selection of fine wines.

Cinnabar Tasting Room in Saratoga

There is a wide selection of wines available for your pleasure. The 2007 Paso Robles Marsanne has a bright acidity with aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and stone fruit, jasmine, apricot and citrus with a surrounding of spice and earthiness.

The 2007 Cinnabar Mercury Rising is one of their more popular wines. It is a proprietary Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It is loaded with fragrances of black cherry and currants with a nice light toast, vanilla and spice.

The 2004 Cinnabar Lodi Petit Verdot is a silver medal winner of the 2008 Chronicle wine competition. Petit Verdot is not often produced in a single varietal wine, but the alchemy genius of Cinnabar showcases the density and rich texture of this grape that is often used to provide the color and texture of Bordeaux blends. You will detect dark red and black fruit with a touch of candied fruit and earthiness.

Cinnabar Tripartite is a non-vintage wine that is a blend of multiple years of Zinfandel, Teroldego and Valdiguie. These unique grapes provide an interesting complexity. The inky color leads you on to aromas of dark fruits, jammy blackberry, tobacco, anise and cinnamon. The toasted oak flavors wrap around the firm tannins with bright acidity and soft mouthfeel. Teroldego is an Italian varietal has some similarities to Zinfandel, yet with increased acidity and hints of tar and pine. Valdiguie is a French varietal that provides a lightness and easy drinkability.

The 2008 Late Harvest Valdiguie from Paso Robles was a delicious way to end the tasting. This desert wine has delicate aromas of mandarin orange, cranberry and almond. The lush mouthfeel leads to a lasting finish of cherry pie and citrus zest.

When visiting the tasting room, note the relaxed setting of the establishment, with an array of books and gifts. They also often host educational seminars on wine, food pairing and more. The wine shop uses reusable cloth wine tots and brown paper bags in accord to their sustainable standards.

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