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Flowing in Gratitude for 2013: Time to take a break

Moments from 2013 in Photos

It’s overwhelming to look back through the mass of photos, and stack of wine interview/tasting notebooks I developed in the 2013 calendar year. I can’t say clearly enough how grateful I am.

I went through the photos I’ve taken, and picked a few images to highlight moments from the year. It reminded me how important it is to look back just for a sense of perspective. I didn’t realize how much I’d done until I took the time to consider it.

Here are a few photos. It was hard to choose.

Lagier Meredith

Visiting with Carole Meredith and Stephen Lagier of Lagier-Meredith, aka SCIENTIST LEGEND and SYRAH MASTER (I’m realizing I should send them capes)

Santa Barbara, Pence Ranch

Touring the Sta Rita Hills as part of two weeks devoted to Santa Barbara County wine, here one of the dogs of Pence Ranch.

The Southern Ocean, Australia

Standing in front of the Southern Ocean while traveling Victoria, Australia

Napa Valley Marathon

Watching my brother-in-law run the Napa Valley Marathon. So proud of him.

Old Vines with Morgan Twain Peterson and Carla Rzewszewski

Visiting the iconic, old vine, elevation Monte Rosso Vineyard with Morgan Twain-Peterson and Carla Rzeszewski

Smith-Madrone

the aftermath of an excellent afternoon with Smith-Madrone

7 Percent Tasting

Ryan Glaab, Hardy Wallace, and Pax Mahle before the 7 Percent Solution Tasting

Santa Cruz Mountains

Spending time in the Santa Cruz Mountains, here with the gang at Fogarty Vineyards

Wine Label for Between Five Bells

My label for the Australian wine, Between Five Bells H-Cote Blend, shown here as it wraps the bottle–It was even selected as “Beautiful Thing for the Week” by Australia’s Wine Business Magazine. Custom wall pieces of my drawings also went up in the new wine room of the Villandry Restaurant in London, and in multiple homes and tasting rooms in the United States, and I got to illustrate for a few different magazines and wine programs, including Serious Eats, and Le Metro.

Lodi w Tegan Passalacqua

Visiting Lodi over several trips in both Summer and Fall, here in the Peninsula of Mokelumne River AVA with Tegan Passalacqua

Ron Silva, Lodi

Spending time in people’s homes sharing wine, heritage, and interviews, here with Ron Silva as he prepares Portuguese food for dinner, Alta Mesa AVA

The Perlegos Brothers, Lodi

Exploring old vine vineyards with the Perlegos brothers, Clements Hills AVA

Hank Beckmeyer, Sierra Foothills

Meeting the goats at La Clarine Farm with Hank Beckmeyer

Chris Pittenger and Hardy Wallace, Sierra Foothills

Touring through various El Dorado Vineyards with Chris Pittenger and Hardy Wallace

Willamette Valley, Remy and Lisa

Visiting with dear friends in Willamette Valley, Oregon, here Remy Drabkin and Lisa Shara Hall

50th Wedding Anniversary

Celebrating my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary

Evan Frazier

Tasting through the complete history of winemaking from newer labels of California, here Evan Frazier of Ferdinand

Matthew Rorick

Keeping up with ongoing stories in Napa wine, here Matthew Rorick harvesting his St Laurent from Carneros

Languedoc

Tasting and Touring the Languedoc, lunch floating the canal du Midi from Carcassonne

Valdobbiadene

Visiting Valdobbiadene, and the hills of the Prosecco DOCG, here with Silvia, Primo, and Annalisa Franco of Nino Franco

Venice

Traveling Northern Italy with friends, here with Jeremy Parzen in Venice

Chile

Tasting and Driving through Chilean wine from Santiago, the Holy Virgin at the top of San Cristobal Hill

Argentina

Studying and Touring Wines of Mendoza, Argentina along the foot of the Andes

***

I have so much to write still. My stack of notebooks from the last year is over 10 inches high. This month still I have a number of illustrations and wall pieces, plus a couple of labels to do, and freelance articles to write, along with tastings and interviews with winemakers. My plate is full. I am so grateful. I am also tired.

To celebrate I’ve decided to take the rest of the year off from posting on this blog. I’ll be catching up on tons of work off blog. Also, it’s time to rejuvenate through the dark month, and come back in the new year refreshed and excited again for work.

Looking forward to seeing you here just after the new year. In the meantime, feel free to email me, as always, or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

Enjoy a wonderful remainder of December, and the holidays. Thankful with all my heart.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

 

Dreaming Argentina: Photos from Buenos Aires

Walking through Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires glows with color. Huge swaths of town celebrate an off-white, silvery hue of European influenced architecture. Mixed into the cityscape are neighborhoods and buildings bursting with vibrancy.

The famous Casa Rosada in the Plaza de Mayo, known internationally for Evita‘s influence and speeches from its porch side while serving as the country’s House of Government, offers one such example. Near the water the neighborhood La Boca celebrates a wealth of multi-toned buildings believed to be colored originally with paints taken from boat preparations left over at port.

Off-and-on over the next while I’ll be looking at wine in Argentina, as tasting and interviews have continued since return to the States last month. When traveling Argentine wine most of our time was spent in Mendoza. However, we also had a day in the country’s largest city.

Following are photos from Buenos Aires, focusing mainly on a walk through La Boca. I love finding my way into portraits.

Casa Rosada

outside the Casa Rosada

Plaza de Mayo

visiting the Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo

the Plaza de Mayo

Photos of La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca

I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful afternoon.

Cheers!

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Zombie Walk Mendoza Argentina: Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Zombie Walk Mendoza Argentina

Walking through downtown Mendoza with a hot wind pouring over us, I turned back towards the hotel in a slight daze. Reaching Plaza Independencia in the center of town, I expected to cross without incident and return to the hotel. Within a few steps, however, I was greeted by laughing zombies. Then more of them. Very quickly I was confronted with two feelings simultaneously — a visceral need to leave the park urgently, and an intellectual curiosity to stay long enough to figure out why I was surrounded by people covered in rotting flesh.

It turns out I had walked into the pre-stages of Mendoza, Argentina’s annual Zombie Walk, a phenomenon that began in the year 2000 as a flash mob in Milwaukee, and was successful enough to launch worldwide events occurring annually since. Mendoza has carried now a four year annual tradition.

World records have been set repeatedly, with zombie numbers growing. The original largest started at 894 zombies walking in 2006 across Pittsburgh. The following year Toronto drew 1100 zombies. England hosted more than 1200 in 2008. The current World Record for largest Zombie gathering, as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records, gives the Twin Cities 8027 zombies in November 2012. Santiago, Chile has actually had a 12,000 person zombie walk, and Buenos Aires 25,000 but neither was officially recorded to allow for World Records.

Considering the simultaneous revulsion and fascination I felt at the early scene preparing for the walk, I’m glad I had to leave and meet living people before the festivities took off. Eventually I discovered in the midst of the park there was a woman putting makeup on people, covering them in blood, and disguising even young children brought to her by their parents.

It turned out I was the only one in our group to happen my way into the zombie festivities. Here are photos of people preparing for the affair.

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Zombie Walk Mendoza 2013

Happy Halloween, Everyone! I hope you enjoy!

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Walking through Downtown Mendoza, Argentina

Traveling from Chile to Argentina

We flew from Santiago to Mendoza over the Andes. Both countries told stories of the road poorly tended by the other neighbor. In the States, we’d heard the whole thing was hairy. So we flew.

Most of the people in the three rows surrounding me on the plane clearly would have starved refusing to eat human flesh. In the fourth row back there was one man I was certain would have quickly eaten us all. Looking down at the snow covered mountains, I was clear I’d be one of the people to hike out. I’m from Alaska. It would be required. People in the States emailed me to ask, what was your plan in case you crashed?

the Andes

crossing the Andes

There are many more wines from Chile to write about but I’ll come back to those with more time.

Walking Downtown Mendoza

We had an afternoon to explore Mendoza on our own. Any time alone on press trips is a god send, even when the group of people is easy to get along with it’s an experience to have time in silence. In the midst of a ten day trip, it feels even more rare. I decided to walk alone in silence looking for photos of people, and the streets in downtown.

Here are pictures of downtown Mendoza, Argentina, a town hugged up against the Andes, on the Western side of the country. Though most of our stay was comfortable, that afternoon a hot wind blew in making the city humid and sticky.

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

This photo is one of my favorites. There was such a connection of the mother and boy walking together through town bringing home their flowers at the end of the work day.

Mendoza

I’m grateful I caught this moment — a priest so focused on where ever it is he’s going. It was such a surprise to catch it, and yet so easy, just another moment of someone walking through town.

Mendoza

This photo is another favorite. This man was sitting in silence on his own in the middle of the city non-descript. He struck me as handsome and restful, so I asked if I could take his picture. In less than a moment he lit up bashful and pleased that I wanted to take his photo, asking if he could take mine instead–all communicated across few words and a language barrier. His composure went from almost invisible to lit up radiant, and all I could do was smile in return. It’s moments like this I treasure — something so simple that can shift the feeling of an entire day.

***

Cheers!

Missing Mendoza.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

The Cold Coastal Region of Leyda, Chile

Visiting Leyda on a Freezing Fog Day

We’d been warm earlier that same afternoon just 45 minutes drive inland in Casablanca but the coast surrounded us with afternoon fog. Arriving in the first vineyards planted in Leyda Valley, we were welcomed with intense cold and humidity, results of the Humboldt Current that stretches along the Chilean coast bringing cold up from Antarctica. Winegrowing is new to the region. The oldest vines less than 15 years old, and considered one of the important recent innovations of the country’s quality wine.

Leyda

Prior to 1998, no vines grew in the Leyda Valley, 80 minutes drive Northwest from Santiago. A small village surrounded by pasture land rested in the region that had once been a rest stop on a vacationers’ train ride. In 1998, the Viña Leyda team identified the area as home for potential cool climate viticulture and began extensive soil studies, followed by planting.

Leyda

In 2001, the same team filed paperwork for a new designation, the Leyda Valley zone of San Antonio Valley. The Leyda DO was born within the coastal region of Aconcagua. Since, the sector has proven home to quality wine production unique to the country and other producers have joined Viña Leyda. Though the majority of vines through the area are still young, the quality of wines showing proves already pleasing while also promising, offering some of the finest cool climate viticulture in Chile. As vines age, quality should deepen. Leyda is an area to seek wines from now, while also keeping an eye on.

Leyda

looking towards the indiscernible coast–on a clear day it’s visible

Viña Leyda has primarily established Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay through the region, with small plots of Riesling and Syrah also growing. What began as an 80 hectare project has expanded to 230 hectares today. The plantings stand at 180 m/590 ft in elevation, receiving cool night temperatures, heavy morning fog, and afternoon ocean breezes.

Leyda

Water concerns in growing regions are a common theme in Chile. To establish the Leyda project, petitions were filed to divert water from the Maipo River through an 8 kilometer pipeline. In bringing water for the vineyards, running water was also established for the nearby village of Leyda for the first time. The Viña Leyda team is in the process of working with the village on further development projects.

Leyda

Winemaker Viviana Navarrete explains that each small block of their 230 hectares are vinified separately. The commitment of the overall project is to learn a new region thoroughly, and in so doing generate the finest quality the place has to offer. Towards those ends, ferments are done in small lots tracked to vineyard sections. Such information is returned too to future vineyard planning. All vineyard work is hand done.

Leyda

Vineyard manager, Tomas Rivera, brought us far into the vineyard to showcase one of the regions gifts–the soil. As he explained, the team sees their Leyda site as offering three terroirs in one — the site is very close to the ocean, it contains a predominance of alluvial soils, and incorporates lots of rocks and stones. With the proximity to the ocean frost does not impact the area. With the intense fog, ripening occurs slowly allowing integration of characteristics in the fruit.

Looking into the hole, Tomas shows us three levels of soil — in the top 20 cm/7.8 in, the ground is predominately sandy loam; the mid-zone holds more rocks while also more clay and decomposed fertile soil; below 80 cm/31.5 in granitic soils, alluvial rocks appear. Limestone also bands through portions of the vineyard. The granite offers great tension to the core of the wine, the limestone intensifying length. The clay in the mid-zone means even during long periods without rain, roots are able to absorb water.

The wines of Viña Leyda, across a range of styles, share a stimulating mineral focus, with almost sinewy structure and vibrant flavors. The Pinots are nice quality, and enjoyable, but my favorite rested in the single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs, which show a complexity and interest rarely discussed in what can be an under appreciated grape.

More on the wines of Viña Leyda in a future post.

***

Thank you to Viviana Navarrete, Leandro Remedi, and Tomas Rivera.

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

The Frost Effect in Casablanca: Visiting Terra Noble

Visiting the Casablanca Vineyards of Terra Noble

The region of Casablanca, Chile hosts the variables for quality cool climate viticulture, with Sauvignon Blanc in the region particularly celebrated. The area also grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and small plantings of Riesling, and Pinot Blanc.

Casablanca

The water situation of Casablanca limits vineyard growth through the area. As it was explained to us, purchasing land is not difficult, but getting water to service it is. Without its own river, Casablanca must rely on water brought in and stored in reservoir, then partitioned between producers. Casablanca also sits removed enough from the Andes to not benefit from snow melt. In any particular year, the area tends towards less than 230 mm rainfall, occurring entirely in Autumn and Winter. With the growth of Santiago, a little more than an hour south, water has become an even scarcer commodity.

 

Casablanca

Last month’s frost devastated the region with all vineyards affected. Frost burns exposed vine shoots, so that any early harvesting plants are more likely to be impacted than others. To address such concern, producers prune Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to encourage later bud break. However, September’s frost occurred late enough for the region’s Chardonnay and Pinot to be impacted. Sauvignon Blanc in the area budded after the frost and so appears okay, however, plants are a month behind their normal growth cycle. This means frost could become a concern again towards the end of the season if maturity comes slowly.

Casablanca

Traditionally frost impacts lower areas with cold air pooling in the bottom of ground swales. During these times vineyard managers can turn on large fans that mix warmer air from above with the cool ground coverage, or can utilize a water misting system that freezes a coating over the plant effectively sealing the inner plant from harm. The recent frost was devastating for two reasons. Firstly, the cold air bank was over 22 m/72 ft high, surpassing the height of the fans so that mixing air amounted to cold with cold. Secondly, the frost cycle lasted more than a week ensuring that those relying on the misting system ran out of water before the end of the cold.

Casablanca

That said, producers in Casablanca are hoping for quality fruit on the vines still able to produce. The region offers a unique dry granulated earth composite of granite and clay with red top soils banded through. The effect is lower vigor as well as a dusty mineral finish on the wines, especially pretty on Pinot Noir.

Casablanca

Terra Noble grows their cool climate vines in the coldest portion of Casablanca, Algarrobo. They also grow wine to the south in Colchagua Valley, with a unique Carmenere terroir project (more on that in a future post). Casablanca suits their cool climate varieties as the valley opens to morning fog, followed by midday shine, and an afternoon wind that drops temperatures quickly. The combination of daily light affect with the cooling climate lends a sinewy structure to the vibrant flavor of the wines. (More on the wines of Terra Noble in a future post.)

Casablanca

***

To read Grape Friend’s write up on the Terra Noble visit: http://grapefriend.com/2013/10/16/a-radiohead-kind-of-vineyard/

Thank you to Francisco Matte, Gonzalo Badilla, Juan Carlos Castro, and Oscar (my apologies for not having your last name).

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

The Steep Slopes of Apalta, Colchagua Valley

Riding the Mountains of Apalta in a WWII Mercedes

Our second day in Chile, we drove a few hours south of Santiago to the Colchagua Valley in order to tour the steep sloped sub-region of Apalta (160 km/99 mi). The area is largely protected forests, with a limit of only 6 wineries allowed to grow up the hillsides. No further vineyard development is allowed.

The tour through Apalta included a couple hours on mountain roads in the back of a WWII-era Mercedes truck. The region stands along a transverse range, mountains that reach East-West between Chile’s coastal and Andes mountains. The Apalta Valley, then, grows in an elevated mid-zone that carries the diurnal shift of an Andes influence, with the cooling winds of the ocean reach.

WWII era Mercedes Truck

Apalta’s climate suits red wine grapes, with few whites planted in the area. The zone hosts various clay loams, differing in color by mineral content. These producers in Chile tend to develop their plantings based on extensive soil studies, with varieties matching mineral and water demands. The red soils in Apalta include a wealth of iron over granite. Yellow soils are higher in silica. The brown soils include more organic materials.

Climbing the slopes of Apalta

Vina Vintisquero began making wine in 2000. Apalta hosts the winery’s premium wines.

Sergio Hormazábal,

Sergio Hormazabal, one of the winemakers of Vina Ventisquero, in charge of the wineries red wine making, as well as its Root: 1 brand, guided our trip.

Alyssa Vitrano

Alyssa Vitrano looking out as we climb the Valley

Looking into the Apalta Valley

looking up the Valley after the first climb

Cabernet on a steep slope of Apalta

terraced Cabernet Sauvignon plantings

Apalta Valley

Apalta Valley

looking down Valley from the highest point of the vineyards

Apalta Valley

Sergio explaining vine development in Apalta

Sergio Hormazabal explaining structural development of the vine

Apalta Valley

Carmenere in Apalta Valley

Carmenere’s young leaves show copper, and the shoots copper and green vertical stripes, two of the vines definitive characteristics.

After our vineyard slope tour we ventured to the top of the Cabernet Sauvignon terraced vineyard to taste through the Vina Ventisquero portfolio.

Sergio preparing us for a Vina Ventisquero tasting

Sergio Hormazabal preparing us for the tasting. We tasted through multiple tiers and vintages of Vina Ventisquero wines.

Some of Vina Ventisquero wines, Root 1, crazy good value

Vina Ventisquero includes a value focused wine of four varietals, the Root: 1 collection. The quality for price here blows all kinds of stuff out of the water–juicy, clean fruit, varietal expression throughout, with a classic (sinewy+juicy flavorful) Chilean expression–more on that to come.

***

Thank you to Sergio Hormazabal.

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, and David Greenberg.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

An Afternoon in Santiago, Chile: Mercado Centrale, and San Cristobal

Arriving in Chile

Our first day in Chile includes time in Santiago. The first stop the Mercado Centrale for a walk through the seafood market. The Chilean coast, 6435 km/3999 mi, hugs the Humboldt current bringing cold waters North from Antarctica. The result is a wealth of fresh meat seafood celebrated for its high quality.

The Mercado Centrale  Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

Mercado Centrale fish market

 

Lunch at La Joya del Pacifico

After walking through the market we sat down in the center for lunch with the jewel of the Pacific, La Joya del Pacifico, seafood and Pisco Sours. The Mercado Centrale building stands at 147 years old.

Mercado Centrale fish market

Alfredo Bartholomaus

Our guide for the trip, Alfredo Bartholomaus, originates in Southern Chile. He has been in wine for over 35 years and was once named by Robert Parker as “the premier importer of South American wines.”

San Cristobal Hill

A park on the edge of Santiago includes San Cristobal Hill. The top hosts the Virgin Mary, a weekly Sunday pilgrimage hike for locals. The slopes below the Virgin include cremorial burial chambers, and prayer sanctuaries. At the base of the Virgin is a small chapel where mass is held once a month. Turning back out from Mary showcases views of the city.

Approaching the Virgin

A memorial for San Cristobal

Jesus and Mother Mary

Mother Mary

Inside the Prayer Chapel

Santiago

The tallest tower in South America, Santiago

***

Thank you to Alfred Bartholomaus. Thank you to Marilyn Krieger and David Greenberg.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

Visiting Preston of Dry Creek Vineyards and Farm

Touring Preston Vineyards and Farm

Lou Preston

In 1973, after studying viticulture and oenology for a year at UC Davis, Lou Preston, and his wife Susan, moved to a small parcel with Dry Creek running through. The experience would place them in the middle of a community of Italian families multiple generations into life in the region.

What is now known as Dry Creek Valley became home to a push of Italian and Swiss Immigrants in the 1800s. The region developed a vibrant agricultural community growing some grapes, but more readily prunes, apricots, apples, grains, pears, walnuts, berries, and beans–essentially all the crops that enjoy warmer weather and help a community in relative isolation thrive. Wine’s mono-culture seen today did not thoroughly take root until the 1980s.

The effect of the Preston’s move from the Central Valley to Dry Creek was to put in direct contrast the more industrial style farming taught at Davis with the family driven agricultural of his Italian-immigrant neighbors. Preston explains that it is thinking back to the families he became a part of that inspires him. “What captures my imagination is the old way of doing things, in grapes and farming in general.” Today, Preston of Dry Creek brings together diversity farming carrying a focus on sustainability with enough of the right technology to simplify the labor. Over time the size of that original small parcel has expanded to 125 acres.

Jesus Arzate

Moving onto the original property, the Prestons inherited a mix of prune trees, and old vine zinfandel. That first harvest the family harvested the prunes, then pulled the trees and began planting more vines. By 1978, Preston brought in farm and vineyard manager Jesus Arzate, who has been developing the sites sustainable and organic program ever since. Arzate works not only with the vines, but the plants throughout the property, as well as the animals.

Together, Arzate and Preston have worked to increase native plant vegetation (as a support too of the helpful bug and bee populations), develop olive and citrus groves, apple orchards, and work to restore the creek bed through planting native trees along the creek side. The effect of rebuilding the creekside has been to increase the soil density thanks to winter deposits from flooding, and help improve the spawning habitat for trout.

The Preston Altar, the compost pile

One of Preston Vineyards more recent projects has been the development of their own compost. All of the grape and olive pommace, tree pruning, garden and animal waste are recycled through their compost and then recirculated back through the property. Preston refers to the project as exciting, describing it as “managing the spirit of a place” through the preservation and recirculation of the land’s microorganisms. Our first stop in the visit was the compost pile. As we drove away he referred to it as “the farm’s altar.”

Giuseppe

Once grape harvest is complete the property’s sheep and chickens are introduced into the vineyards to help assist with natural fertilization and pest control. To keep the animals safe and more readily managed, Giuseppe lives with the herd.

Giuseppe and his ewes

When I moved closer to the ewes to take their picture, Giuseppe moved between me and the sheep. Good dog.

Giuseppe's chickens

the Preston Farm chickens

Matt Norelli

Matt Norelli has been with Preston Vineyards for over 20 years, officially becoming winemaker in 2000. As a result, Norelli has helped oversee at least two significant changes in the Preston project.

Preston Vineyards was one of the few places with a tasting room open in the mid-1980s. As ubiquitous as the concept is today, at the time it was uncommon to walk into an open tasting room alongside a winery. In 1996, Preston built their current tasting room adjacent to the winery building, and the baking and farm store areas of the property.

What is more unusual is that in stepping into his role as head winemaker, Norelli also helped cut the wine production to less than a third of its peak. In doing so he assisted in the Preston shift from wine to a more diversified farm. At exactly the same time, Norelli clarified the recognizable Preston Vineyards style with a focus on clean fruit expression touched by an interest in earthiness.Rotating crops

In touring the Preston Vineyards Farm, Lou highlights various ways in which farming practices focus on the sustainable health of the property. Intentionally shifting ground crops is one such example. This bare plot contained Sauvignon Blanc that had severely declined in productivity. The piece will rest and then be replanted with a grain crop for the bakery program. Baker Lindsay Challoner has been experimenting with heritage grains for bread. The cleared parcel gives the opportunity to grow a greater range of grains to play with further.

Rebecca Bozzelli

Farmer Rebecca Bozzelli develops the Preston gardens rotating crops by season. We asked her to discuss further the importance of crop rotation. As she explains, in gardening it is important to rotate crops for the health of the soils, and so too the health of the food produced. By rotating crops with different root depths, the nutrients are allowed to develop or deplete at differing levels. In changing out plant types, plant-specific pests have little chance to increase in size and so are less likely to become firmly established in a garden. Soil-borne diseases tend to occur with various plant families (like tomatoes and potatoes with soil blight) but die off after 5 to 6 years. So, by planting by family, then waiting the 5 to 6 years before replanting the family in that same spot soil-borne issues can be avoided too.

Lou in the cabbage and kale

Lou walking through the cabbage and kale. Rebecca has just started experimenting with use of the biodynamic treatments. She hasn’t used them before but so far she can report that the resulting leafy greens are HUGE. I saw ‘em. They’re HUGE.

Zin hill

Much of the Preston Vineyards property is on the flats along Dry Creek but they also own a hillside area on the Western slope that they refer to as Zin hill because of the 100+ Zinfandel vineyard that had grown there through the 1980s. The vines currently growing here are from cuttings of those original vines. Part of the hill they are currently allowing to rest. To the right you can see some of their olive trees, interplanted with citrus fruits.

The Preston Tasting Room

The Preston Vineyards’ tasting room offers not only their wine to sample or buy, but also samples of their olive oil, and various books that they’ve found useful for their farm philosophy.

The Preston Farm Store

Next to the tasting room, Preston Vineyards also showcases a farm store where their own produce, breads, and farm eggs are available for purchase.

Preston Community Activities

Rebecca Bozzelli has also helped develop a community focus in the gardening, including a “U-Pick” pumpkin patch happening now next to the tasting room and farm store. The pumpkin patch is one example of Preston’s expanding its focus on community engagement.

Lunch wines

At the end of the 1970s, Preston became the first to plant Syrah in Sonoma County, and among the first of the new adopters of the Rhone variety in California. There were sparse plantings of the grape in California in the late 1800s (with the oldest still existing vines found in Mendocino), but no new plantings were made again until the 70s. Today, Preston’s Rhone program has expanded to include a wealth of red grapes, as well as white. The wines are available both as classic, clean blends, or as single varietals in the tasting room.

Zinfandel was already established on the site when the Prestons purchased it, and they have continued to grow vines taken as cuttings from the historic vines. They have since also expanded into a refreshing, clean with greenery notes, and good acidity expression of Sauvignon Blanc, one of their signature wines.

Barrel tasting

Norelli let us sample some of the 2012 and 2013s. Incredibly, the 2013 crop was even larger than the 2012. 2012 also marks the start of a new experiment in making no sulfur, whole cluster Syrah. The 2012 example right now shows beautifully integrated with fresh blue-and-purple fruit and flower, Italian sausage, and nice earthiness. In 2013 he mixed in 10% viognier, offering a brighter lift in the flavor presentation. It’s too soon to tell how this wine will come together but it has nice components and strong structure that show promise. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a bottle of the 2012 when it’s ready.

***

Thank you to Lou Preston. Thank you to Jesus Arzate, Rebecca Bozzelli, Matt Norelli, Lindsay Challoner. Thank you to Ken Blair.

Thank you to Michelle McCue, and Anne Alderete. Thank you to Jameson Fink.

I had a great time.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Touring Dry Creek Valley with Jameson Fink

Dry Creek Valley

Drink Zin, sign at Preston Vineyards tasting room

At the Northern edge of Sonoma County, the Dry Creek Valley appellation reaches from the late 1800s Italian-Swiss Colony multi-culture farming communities into the more wine focused plantings of today. The regions warm day time temperatures meant it did well for growing grapes in the post-Prohibition push for wine. It’s cool nighttime temperatures mean it also has the structural range to support quality wine today.

Today, the Dry Creek appellation carries a central theme of quality Zinfandels. The Valley can be understood through four quadrants with varying growing conditions and fruit characteristics. However, the area’s Zins still share commonalities when compared to those made in other areas of California. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels tend towards berry fruits with more raspberry-to-blackberry in the Southern Valley, and blackberry-to-black plum further North. The area offers rich flavors without need for over extraction, black pepper, some earthiness, and good acidity and structure. There is, of course, variation in winemaking style by producer.

Historical vineyards dot the area with vines floating around 100 years in age mixed through with Carignane, and, in some cases, also heritage whites. Dry Creek Valley can also support beautiful examples of Rhone wines, with some of the first contemporary adopters of Syrah in California planted in the Valley near Cloverdale in the 1970s. Producers also do well with Rhone whites, and Sauvignon Blanc has proven a signature grape for the Valley.

Touring with Jameson Fink

Jameson Fink

Jameson Fink standing in front of Quivira Vineyards

This week I got to spend two days touring Dry Creek Vineyard with Jameson Fink. He’s a friend of mine that lives in Seattle, and blogs (and podcasts!) about food and wine. Here’s a link to his site: http://jamesonfink.com/

We’ve been talking for a while about doing a wine trip together and so jumped at the chance to join up for part of his time in Dry Creek. Later I’ll be doing write-ups on some of the visits. Jameson will be posting more on his blog too. In the meantime, here are some photos of the visits we did together.

Visiting Ridge Lytton Springs with John Olney

Ridge Lytton Springs

Ridge Lytton Springs

Winemaker John Olney

Ridge Lytton Springs Winemaker John Olney

John and Jameson

John and Jameson talking old vines standing in old vine Zinfandel

Petite Sirah coming in

Petite Sirah coming in at Ridge Lytton Springs

Aging Zinfandel

Aging Zinfandel in American Oak, Ridge Lytton Springs

Lytton Springs vertical

Three vintages of Ridge Lytton Springs (one of my favorites of theirs–it ages really well)

1997 Monte Bello

Finishing with a bonus: Ridge 1997 Monte Bello

Visiting Mazzocco Winery

Entrance to Mazzocco Winery

The entrance to Mazzocco Winery, Dry Creek Valley

View of Dry Creek

View of Lytton Springs Road from Mazzocco Winery

Tasting at Mazzocco with Rob Izzo

Talking Vineyard designates with Rob Izzo, Mazzocco Winery

Jameson and Rob

Jameson talking Zinfandel with Rob

Visiting Quivira

Jameson and Andrew at Quivira

I wasn’t able to stay for the visit at Quivira but before going in to taste wines in the tasting room I was able to get this shot of Jameson and Andrew Fegelman in the Quivira garden. I love this.

Touring Preston Vineyards and Farm

Lou Preston

Lou Preston introducing his farm

Giuseppe and his sheep

Giuseppe and his ewes (they go into the vineyard in Fall time along with the chickens)

Matt Norelli

Winemaker Matt Norelli talking about apple cider in the apple orchard

Rebecca in the winter garden

Gardener Rebecca Bozelli walking through the just planted winter garden

Jameson and the Preston farm team

Jameson with the Preston farm team, from left: Rebecca, Ken, Jesus, Lou, Matt

Jameson talking vineyards with Jesus and Lou

talking vineyards with Vineyard Manager Jesus Arzate, and Lou

farm food lunch

getting ready for lunch with farm foods

lunch wine

lunch with some Preston wines

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Tomorrow I’ll post more on the Preston Vineyard & Farm.

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Check out Jameson’s overview of the region here: http://jamesonfink.com/dry-creek-valley-wines-and-vineyards-provide-9-noteworthy-finds/

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Thank you to John Olney, Rob Izzo, Andrew Fegelman, Lou Preston, Jesus Arzate, Matt Norelli, Ken Blair, Rebecca Bozelli, Lindsay Challoner.

Thank you to Michelle McCue and Anne Alderete. Thank you to Jameson Fink.

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