Explorer Pack #9: California – Unusual Suspects

While California boasts over 140 American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) and dozens of grape varietals, too often the wine industry’s focus falls on the Napa Valley and it’s star cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon. The California wine industry remains relatively young with arguably a 50-70 year history of producing significant quantities of fine wine. Many of the best sites are yet to be fully developed and it remains to be seen which varietals are the best matches for these special vineyards. With sunshine, warmth and a vast diversity of soils and winemaking philosophies to choose from, California is just beginning to display its full potential for viticulture.

Explorer pack #9 seeks to expand our appreciation of some of the lesser known growing zones and the best of the more obscure varietals planted in the Golden State. The wines are in stock and your 6pk awaits at $150 per set. 

2018 Sidebar Kerner

Mokelumne River

This richly textured white is the creation of Napa Valley vintner David Ramey. While his main focus is on producing Cabernet and Chardonnay from the most famous of North Coast vineyards, Ramey has this “sidebar” project for rare grapes planted in relatively unknown vineyards. The Mokelumne River site is located in the heart of the inland Lodi AVA and is home to a number of unusual cultivars including Kerner, a Northern Italian native. Spicy, floral and subtly honeyed, this is a beautifully aromatic white. 

2019 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay

Sta Rita Hills

The Sta. Rita Hills AVA was created in 2001 and enjoys a moderately warm climate and cooling breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean. Chardonnay thrives in the Sta. Rita Hills and Brewer Clifton fashions this textbook example from multiple vineyard sites throughout the area. Richly textured and tropically fruited, the wine possesses measured oak treatment. 

2019 Edmunds St John Rosé “Bone Jolly”

El Dorado County

100% Gamay from two single vineyards in El Dorado County, Edmunds St John has been producing Bone Jolly for nearly 15 vintages. The 20 year-old vines are planted in granite of varying degrees of decomposition. Edmunds St John has long employed Southern Rhone varietals for their wines, but discovered they preferred the extra snap of Gamay for this Rosé.

2019 Tensley Syrah

Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara yields dense, deeply fruited Syrah with noticeable pepper and spice. Tensley has been producing wine in Santa Barbara since 1998 and is now considered one of the best Syrah bottlers in the zone. The “Santa Barbara County” cuvee consists of fruit culled from several parcels and has the ability to develop in bottle for several years. The 2019 is rich and ripe with  a round texture and just enough finishing acidity..

2018 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles

The eastern side of Paso Robles is home to some of the ripest and most brash examples of California Cabernet. The Justin Estate was founded in Paso in 1981 and produces a number of Bordeaux inspired reds. Here we find less Cabernet aromas of graphite and cedar and more exuberant, nearly peachy red fruit characteristics.

2018 Dry Creek Zinfandel “Old Vine”

Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County

Zinfandel’s reputation as a heritage varietal in California is well earned, its existence in the state’s vineyards dating back to the mid 1800’s. Dry Creek Valley is located in the northwest corner of Sonoma with Lake Sonoma providing a much needed source of irrigation waters. Zinfandel vines enjoy a long life span and Dry Creek Vineyard’s old vine example is sourced from plants of up to 100 years of age.