Andrew, one of the lucky few of us who found his life’s calling in the wine business even before he was old enough to buy wine legally, tells me he’s on a mission “to make better wines every year of my life.” With access once again to “estate vineyards,” where he will have more control over the viticulture and day-to-day management, as well as a larger facility for practicing his craft, I have no doubt he will continue to achieve that goal.
Two stars of my Holiday Champagne Buyers Guide this year–Serge Mathieu and Chartogne-Taillet–are grower-producers whose wines express a sense of place. Both are also terrific values amongst my most highly rated Champagnes this year.
My intense and delightful immersion with the extended Mondavi family—i.e., nearly all the descendants of Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, including the children and most of the grandchildren of both Robert and Peter Mondavi, Sr.—commenced this past Friday with a late afternoon visit to the Continuum vineyard on Pritchard Hill followed by a Thanksgiving themed dinner at the newly finished winery there.
Ernst and Guillaume have at least a few things in common. They’re the same age–34. Both are drawn as much to farming and viticulture as they are to making wine. Both have “day jobs” at large wineries and make only small quantities of wine under their own labels as a side project. Both impress one as very grounded, and quite serious about their work. Nonetheless, the two are also undeniably charismatic. Ernst has even been the subject of a couple of mini-documentaries to date. Both also have a penchant for wearing shorts.
I find it especially delightful to visit a very old vineyard. The gnarly old vines in these vineyards, which can live to be well over 100 years old, often develop large weathered holes in the middle of the trunk that make you wonder how the vine still produces fruit given that it appears to be hollow. These kinds of vineyards have special stories to tell. They also produce incredible wine.
In sum, it appears evident that Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict’s instincts regarding planting in a cooler site like this portion of the Santa Ynez Valley certainly paid off. They also appear to have been fortunate in getting a good selection of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Karl Wente as the base for their vineyard. They also lucked into benefiting from the Santa Rita Hills’s soils, which seem to have a special affinity for Pinot Noir.
In the week we celebrate Valentine’s Day it seems only fitting for a wine blog to acknowledge that the key ingredient in many of the world’s most extraordinary wines is love.