Wait; is this a “Wine Tasting Tell All” or “Meet the Winemaker” column?
Technically, it’s both! As the second installment of my recent industry tastings I attended, I decided to make this edition about the winemakers or owners I meet while there. It’s not a complete list; just a couple that I felt a special connection towards. In both cases, they heralded early on in the tasting as I was still drinking white wines first. Sometime I’ll have to write a blog about a recent article stating that many are now drinking the red wines first and ending with whites. Has to do with the higher acidity and all, but saving that for later.
As I mentioned in my first article, running into Randy Lewis being my first winemaker/owner, I then set about to once again circumnavigate the larger hall for interesting wines. As before, I never got the entire way around the hall before I saw a familiar name, Freeman Vineyard and Winery. Knowing their quality from both the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley, I had no other option but to stop. Behind the table was a pleasant woman who I later learned was Akiko Freeman. While listed as the winemaker, being married to the proprietor, Ken Freeman, made me think of the saying; “Behind every great man, is an even better woman.” I may have used some artistic license and changed the original saying, but you get the idea.
Her love of the wine made with her own hands was obvious from the start. I was mesmerized as she spoke. I mentioned I was sampling whites at the moment. Bingo, she happened to have one; the 2016 Freeman Ryo-Fu Chardonnay. Ryo-fu is Japanese for “cool breeze,” a fitting name for a wine coming from primarily the Heintz Ranch area and Keefer Ranch (both most recognizable names) of the Russian River Valley. One sip and I was transported into my world of beautiful chardonnayland (that’s made up). Fermented and aged 15 months sur lies in French oak with only 14% new oak, gave the wine a silky texture on top of its formidable frame. Cellaring this small production wine, only 806 cases, will be befitting for this wine over the next 5 to 7 years but feel free to enjoy it now. For technical notes, click here.
My next stop, or maybe as I was hauled over to, was the table with wines from the Miner Family Winery. I say hauled as my distributor friend wanted me to try a particular wine from Miner Family Winery and he hauled (no let’s say gently persuaded) me over to the table). I am so glad he did. Along with four wines from the winery, there was the man himself, Dave Miner! How could I not like this guy? A Chicago native returning to his roots. This next part is important; I’m still on white wines and the one I’m told to try is their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley. Those that know Miner, you know that their flagship wine is the Oracle. For those not as all-knowing, it is appropriate to mention that I’m not talking about some deity or prophet. Although one might argue that the wine rises to that level!
Back to the Sauv Blanc. My usual SSSS* and I’m getting this stone fruit and nice herbal scents, followed by a palate of similar qualities. I sense a little something else so I ask Dave if the wine sees any oak treatment. No, all Stainless Steel. Ah, but then I take another step and ask if the wine uses any whole clusters in the making of the wine. Another Bingo! I knew I caught a little woodsy component to the wine, and as we all know, or at least me, I love a little oak. This will be a great wine for the Summer, whenever it happens to show up! For the technically astute, click here for the notes.
As with both of these highlighted wineries, there were other wines at each table that represented their uniqueness and high quality. It’s only that I wanted to summarize and prioritize the wines for their distinctive traits which allowed me to tell the most interesting stories.
Watch for my next edition to soon follow. Since I’m kinda making up the organization thing as I go along, I’m unable to give you much in the way of what to look for.
*SSSS - Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swallow