Déjà vu. That was my first thought as I first set eyes on Stonestreet winemaker, Lisa Valtenbergs. It's like I felt as though I had met her once before. As was later pointer out, I had indeed met her while working at the wine shop a number of years ago. Even back then I was a big fan of Stonestreet wines.
On this occasion, I had the opportunity to not only re-meet (no, that's not something fast food burger joints do) but to rekindle (and no, not the ebook reader) my relationship with Lisa and with Stonestreet.
When I found out the Stonestreet winemaker was coming to town I took to the internet to renew and re-enlighten (what's all this "re" stuff?) my knowledge of the winery and their wines. I always like to bone up on things before I get personally involved.
Should you not be aware, Stonestreet was started by the famed Jess "Stonestreet" Jackson of Kendall-Jackson winery fame. Started in 1995 the Jackson family acts as stewards of the land, caring for a 5,500 acre mountain estate that towers high above the Alexander Valley in the Mayacamas Mountain Range. Ranging 400ft to 2,400ft in elevation, the estate showcases a dramatic array of mesoclimates on peaks, valleys and ledges. The geological diversity of the mountain, which contains more soil types than all of France, confers a strong mineral characteristic in the fruit, while the challenges of farming at elevation produce smaller, more concentrated berry clusters. (So you know, most that came directly from their website. I couldn't have said it any better). So this doesn't turn into too much of a history lesson, I would encourage you to watch their video.
Let's move on to the real star of the tasting; Lisa! Joining Stonestreet in 2008, Lisa was the Assistant Winemaker. In 2014 she took over the role of Head Winemaker. All of the wines we were tasting this evening were either 2014 or 2015, so all wines created under her tutelage, but as she pointed out, she was still instrumental in the previous vintages. Click here for Lisa's Bio.
Unassuming and friendly, I knew that the wines would present similar characteristics. (Not sure I've ever heard someone use those monikers for wine, BUT). Combining her personality with higher elevation and sloping vineyards, it's hard to imagine anything but great wines. As a quick aside, in the video you may have seen a picker reaching over his head to pick the grapes. I asked Lisa about that thinking that they trellised the vines higher like that for some reason relating to vine growth or sun exposure. That's what happens when you "think" you know things. Her answer was that due to the sloping vineyards over the years natural erosion has, in essence, lowered the landscape to create more rootstock exposure. The other explanation, and I am trying to be as PC as I can be (that's tough for an old guy like me), is that some of the pickers can be fairly short in stature, vertically challenged, if you will. Talk about over-thinking.
I asked Lisa what part of her job does she look forward to the most. After brief thought, she said that harvest was one of the best times of the year. Being out among the vines and evaluating the progression of the harvest. Another benefit of harvest she commented on was that when she's out in the vineyards her time tends to be her own. Fewer interruptions and requests for her time. I can only imagine how peaceful and contemplative that must be.
Okay, so let's move on. Finally! The first three wines are from their Estate line of wines (all their wines are Estate grown). First up was the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. With 30% of the juice undergoing 6 months of aging in neutral foudre (much larger than barrels), and if you're a steady reader, that style of Sauv Blanc is just my cup of tea (wait, we're talking about wine not some hot beverage, right). Loved it! Click here for tech sheet.
Next up was their 2015 Chardonnay. Beautiful and lush with just the right amount of French Oak influence (11 months in oak with 39% being new oak), balanced and bright acidity and minerality to make this a great food wine. Wonderful! Click here for tech sheet. Staying with the Chardonnay theme, we moved on to the wine I remembered from my wine shop days; the 2014 Chardonnay Upper Barn Vineyard. One of the many great single vineyards wines they produce. The wine has received outstanding acclaim year after year and 2014 was no different. 96 Points from Wine Advocate, and I can attest to the results. A high elevation (1,800 foot) vineyard and using a little over 50% new French Oak for aging, a scrumptious wine for many years to come. With only 939 cases produced, this may be a little difficult to find. Outstanding! Click here for tech sheet.
Now we move on to the Cabernets. For 2014, the Estate Cab was just what I was expecting as I had talked to Lisa about her blending and development of this wine. Nice dark fruit with nice tannins and ending with a slight spice note, the wine delivers. Click here for tech sheet. Finally, one of their Single Vineyard Cabs. The 2014 Rockfall. 100% Cabernet with 21 months French Oak aging using 52% new oak. Richer and more full-bodied than the estate cab, the wine exhibited more nuances and lovely integration. It finished with spice notes and a long finish. Like the Upper Barn Chardonnay, only 949 cases were produced. Excellent! Click here for tech sheet.
The tasting over, at least for me, I said my goodbyes but not before telling Lisa how wonderful all the wines were that evening. As for availability, the Estate wines should be readily available either in store or they can be ordered through your preferred wine shop. The Single Vineyards may take a little more hunting, but if you can't find them, click here for the winery website and see if they might be available directly.