Wednesday, September 30, 2015

More Wines of Danger

As covered in a previous article, Wines of Danger is a group of small family operated wineries who are spreading their wines in this often dangerous pursuit of their passion to make great wine.  Can they achieve success both from a winemaking aspect as well as a business aspect?  After talking to several of these wineries, this reporter believes that this group of winemakers is making a good start.

At the Wines of Danger tasting at the Mission Rock Resort last week, I met 22 hardworking individuals who have set their goals in achieving their dream as a winemaker.   They are also showing the world more about their wines and their passion.  Whether it is the varieties they choose, the appellations, winery name, wine brand name, promotion, or the right representative, each of these winemakers are taking the steps towards making their wines stand out!

Big Sur Vineyards
Most people in the Bay Area have visited the Big Sur area and are amazed by the beauty of this place.  Images appear in your mind of redwood forests, steep seaside cliffs, pounding surf, soaring condors and winding road hugging the coast.    Such images are what drew owner Lenora Carey and her family from San Francisco to Big Sur via Santa Lucia Highlands.  In Santa Lucia Highlands they started with a small grove of olive trees and essential oil garden of lavender and citrus with which them made soaps.  Loving their land they started planting grapes including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on their land.  Winemaking began as a hobby but, like many, this hobby grew into a passion.  By 2011 they hired Ryan Kobza as their winemaker and Big Sur Vineyards was born.  Today they live in Big Sur and commute to their tasting room in Carmel.  Each day they are still amazed of the beauty along this commute and have incorporated it into their labels.  These wines definite stand out on the shelf.  The 2013 Big Sur Red Blend includes Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah with nice aromas and flavors of dark berries, earthiness, and a touch of chocolate and vanilla.  The 2013 Pinot Noir from Monterey has nice silky tannins tied to aromas and flavors of strawberry and red cherry with a note of earthiness and vanilla.

Bruce Devlin of Three Clicks Wines
One of the first questions asked of Three Clicks is, “What is the meaning of the name?”  Harry Allen Smith, a famous journalist and humorist in the thirties was the first American to legally consume alcohol after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment ending Prohibition.  He claimed to have bribed a telegraph operator to send a “three-click” advance warning just before sending out the message that Prohibition had been repealed.  With this notice, he was able to take that first legal drink.  The name Three Clicks Wine was named as an honor of his ingenuity.  Bruce and Danielle Devlin are heavily involved in the wine industry with Bruce the winemaker at Ballentine and Danielle the winemaker at St. Clement across the street.  In addition Bruce is also the winemaker for Stars & Freckles Wines.  About 10 years after they both started as winemakers in Napa Valley they decide to start their own venture with Three Clicks Wine.  They wanted to make the best wine possible from some of the premium vineyards in Napa.  They also decided that they are “giving tradition a new twist” in that all of their wines will have screw cap closures.  The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc has a nice combination of aromas and flavors including tropical fruit and citrus and floral.  The 2013 Petite Sirah is a dark wine with velvety tannins, blackberries, black currants, blueberries and notes of brown spices and vanilla.

Nicole Walsh of Ser Winery
Ser is Spanish for “To Be” meaning to have an intrinsic quality, expressing identity or origin.  Owner/Winemaker Nicole Walsh wants her wines to express the variety and the terroir of their birth place.  Nicole was born in Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Horticulture with an emphasis on Viticulture and Enology.  She worked for wineries in Michigan and New Zealand and in 2001 started working with Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon Vineyard where she is the vineyard manager for the San Juan Bautista vineyard and winemaker at his Santa Cruz winery.  Picking up marketing knowledge from Randall Grahm, Pinot Noir winemaking experience in New Zealand and grower contacts in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Nicole took that step towards her next goal by forming her own wine brand, Ser.  Nicole states that, “I am dedicated to preserving this trueness of varietal character and allowing the wine to express where it comes from.”   The 2014 Coastview Vineyard Chardonnay comes from the 2300 foot vineyard high in the Gabilan Mountain Range overlooking Salinas Valley.  This wine truly reflects the aromas and flavors of the grape with peach, apricot and plum and a nice minerality.  The 2014 Rockhollow Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé is a dry old-world style Rosé with flavors of pomegranate and strawberry and a nice minerality.

Onesta Wines
Onesta in Italian means truth, honesty and virtue.  Owner/winemaker Jillian Johnson believes strongly in capturing the truth and honesty of each vintage.  She started college at UC Davis in neurobiology but after a course in winemaking she switched to major in Viticulture and Enology.  She interned at Bonny Doon and worked for three years in the Southern Hemisphere for harvest season in Australia and South Africa.  She now works full time as an Enologist and Technical Sales Rep for Laffort, supplying Enology tools to wineries.  In 2012 she took that next step opening Onesta Wines.  Her wines are from Lodi, sourcing from some of the premium vineyards for her unique wines.  She discovered the great Cinsault grapes from the Bechthold Vineyards and Viognier from Bokisch Ranch.  The 2013 Bokisch Ranch Viognier is a beautiful Rhone style white wine with aromas and flavors of orange blossom, floral perfumes and excellent acidity with a nice tartness leading to a light fresh finish.  The 2013 Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault Rosé is a special wine, bone-dry and an abundance of fruit including strawberry and blood orange with a touch of earthiness that you might not expect in a Rosé.

Waxwing Wine Cellars
Waxwing is the creation and one-man operation with Scott Sisemore in charge.  Scott has over 20 years of experience in Northern California winemaking working at Ravenswood, Rosenblum and others, most recently at Pelligrini Family Vineyards.  In 2006 he left his commercial winemaking job to stay home with his newborn son.  This was his chance to develop hand-crafted ultra-small-lot wines and he established Waxwing Wine Cellars.  He focuses on Pinot and Syrah, mostly from the Sonoma Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains.  His winery is in an industrial building in Belmont and he spends many nights and mornings during harvest season bring grapes down to his winery.  The 2013 Spring Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Petaluma Gap in Sonoma Coast has a nice dark color and aromas and flavors of red cherry, red raspberry and plum with a nice note of spices and earthiness.  The 2014 Tondre Grapefield Riesling from Santa Lucia Highlands has great acidity and minerality with the aromas and flavors of citrus and stone fruit.

For more information:  Wines of Danger

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