In the course of walking this vineyard to determine ripeness for our Red Grenache, we discovered a section quite low in color from which we decided to make a rosé. While the initial idea was an early release wine full of strawberries, we reckoned without the austerity which the Santa Cruz Mountains soils impart, so that we ended up with a wine of great richness and depth but also aromatically quite closed. While waiting for it to open up, the wine also underwent a spontaneous malolactic, causing us to scratch our heads as to its best use. Our intrepid Assistant Winemaker Mike Faulk, in a flash of brilliance, suggested we make a methode champenoise sparkling wine. What a wonderful result! The nose appears both youthful and well-aged at the same time. Fresh aromas of honeydew melon and (finally!) strawberry are joined by rich yeastiness one would ascribe to many years on the yeast. Because the base wines of the Champagne district of France are always very high in acidity, the tradition there is to mitigate the acidity with sugar. In fact, the traditional Champagne styles Sec, Demi-sec, and Doux range from 6 to 12% sugar. Even today’s modern Brut wines are generally 1.5% R.S. or so. But here in California we can take advantage of our lower acidities by bottling a “Brut Zero” with no masking sugar at all, permitting the flavors and innate richness of the wine to come forward, followed by a finish of unparalleled length and complexity. I had the privilege of pouring this wine at the reception of my recent wedding, attended by many winemakers who attested that this is one of the best sparkling wines they had ever encoutered.
This wine’s story is quite unique. When the movie Sideways created an insane demand for California’s very limited supply of Pinot Noir, we went looking into previously unimagined sources such as the hard press “taille” from sparkling wine production. In 2008 we processed hard press Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, Anderson Valley and Marin County and produced this blend. We found an aromatically neutral teinturier named Rubired in a Lodi vineyard and used it to supply the color and structure to support these aromatics.
Those of you who loved the Diamond Ridge Vineyards Aspects blend will adore this blend of 81% Merlot and 19% Cabernet Franc. Diamond Ridge Vineyards is located at the southeast corner of Clear Lake in Lake County. One of the best sites in California for these two varieties. The Merlot is unlike any other in the State, and resembles more the wines of Pomerol, with dense structure, lush mouthfeel and a rich core of fruit. The site's high altitude dispels any herbaceous character in either variety and imparts firm tannic framing to the Cabernet Franc and an aggressive spiciness which perfectly complements the softer Merlot. The result is a complex mixture of bright red fruit aromas: grenadine, white cherry and black raspberry which are well preserved by the lake effect which cools the vineyard each afternoon. Droughty herbs that surround the site impart “air-oir” -- sage and bay laurel elements which are apparent in the nose. The volcanic soil imparts a racy mineral energy to the palate and gives the wine a prolonged aging trajectory. After 51 months in neutral cooperage, the wine remains fresh and purple, and will repay extensive further cellaring. Delicious now or in two decades. Recommended with rosemary lamb, wild mushrooms or ratatouille.