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Day December 5, 2012

Tasting the Soil: Clay Mauritson’s Passion for Loam and Cabernet

Meeting Clay Mauritson

Clay Mauritson

Clay Mauritson began making wine under the Mauritson label, the first winemaker in six generations of vineyard farmers, in 1998. For the first years, Mauritson focused only on making Zinfandel with fruit from Dry Creek Valley. When the fruit from the Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile overlap came online in 2001 he began making the family’s first Rockpile Zin. In 2002, he expanded to include Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2003, Petite Sirah. As a result, the Mauritson label focuses on doing their best single vineyard Zinfandel, and a wines from a range of Bordeaux varieties.

In talking to Mauritson about the foundations of his winemaking, he says, first and foremost it’s Zinfandel. The grape was the first to show him the intricacies, and challenges of winemaking. “It is such a difficult grape to grow, and such a difficult wine to make, I have such appreciation for it.” After the grape, his passion is inspired by Rockpile, his family’s homestead area, at the top of Dry Creek Valley. In 2012, the Mauritson label will include 6 to 7 single vineyard Zinfandels from the family property. As he explains, “when you have so many different soils, single vineyard wines had better taste different.” Appreciation for the quality of the soil enriches Mauritson’s passion for wine.

Though Mauritson’s primary focus in is the winemaking, he has a deep respect for the vineyard and the soils that offer its foundation. “We have this amazing piece of ground, and we’re just celebrating the diversity of our sites.” The Mauritson family grows vines in 17 different registered soil types. In discovering the rich soil variation of his family’s property, Mauritson became interested in exploring the effect of soil on the final wine. So, he developed the Loam series.

Tasting the Soil: Cabernet Sauvignon, Loam Single Soil Wines

The Loam series focuses entirely on Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown on identical rootstock, the same clone, and vinified the same way. The one variation occurs in soil type. In zeroing in on the plantings that fit the requirements, Clay identified five soil types–Suther, Clough, Positas, Josephine, and Cole. Three of the wines in the series–Suther, Clough, and Positas–are made from a few rows grown only in the one soil type. The fourth wine, Loam, is made from a blend of wine from each of the five soils.

click on comic to enlarge

The Loam series includes clean, well-integrated presentation, and a nice balance of grip and movement in each wine. There is also a distinctive offering between the soil types, that I was thrilled to try. We were able to taste three vintages of both the Suther and Positas, and the current release of 2009 for each of the four wines.

My personal favorite was the 2009 Clough, it presents a well-focused wine with great acidity. The Positas offers a bigger flavor presentation, and not quite as much juiciness in the mouth as the Clough, but the three vintages show a nice progression of age. Suther showed the greatest consistency across vintages, and the 2006 and 2007 were both impressively young, with the flavors still tightly centered. The 2009 Loam brings together a nice offering of the volcanic dust patina found on Suther, with the richness of Positas. The “bigger shoulders” of Positas and Loam were the most popular with the wine club members present.

More on Mauriston Zinfandel will appear later in the series on Dry Creek Valley when I look specifically at different Zins from the AVA.

***
Thank you to Clay and Carrie Mauritson for including me in the Loam tasting. I very much enjoyed the evening.

Thank you to Ashley Mauritson.

***

Part 1: The History of Dry Creek, Lake Sonoma, and Rockpile: Meeting the Mauritson Family: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/12/03/the-history-of-dry-creek-valley-lake-sonoma-and-rockpile-meeting-the-mauritson-family/

Part 2: Visiting the Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile AVAs Overlap: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/12/04/visiting-the-dry-creek-valley-rockpile-avas-overlap-the-mauritson-family-vineyards/

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