Welcome to Wine Wednesday!
The first Wednesday of every month will be dedicated to a wine centric post, where I’ll cover anything related to wine. Wine is a very vast and complex subject with only 230 people in the world holding the title of *Master Sommelier. No, I am not one of those people, but that’s not to say I cannot be educated on the subject. I spent 2 years working in the wine industry in tasting rooms and on the corporate/events side of things. Being surrounded by so many wine knowledgeable people, I learned a lot in a professional setting. In the world of wine, two years is a drop in the ocean and I have a lot yet to learn, but I also have a lot to share. My two biggest takeaways from my expanding education with wine are: 1. you will never know it all because it changes every year; 2. you’ll never know what you do and don’t like until you try it. In the world of wine R&D stands for Research & Drinking. Lucky for me, I am still surrounded by wine. The picture above was taken during a morning run not too far from my home. You can still see the grapes – most likely Cabernet Sauvignon – still hanging from the vine. They have turned a deep, dark, purple color but as they are still on the vine they aren’t quite ready yet. It won’t surprise me next week if I run by to see workers in the field pulling in the harvest. Harvest here in Napa started in mid-August this year and it goes on record as one of our earliest harvests to date. Napa, however, is not the only place in this great state to grow wine grapes. In fact, wine grapes are grown almost everywhere here. The wine that is produced will taste different based upon the terroir (local environmental characteristics) and upon the winemaker. For a weekend adventure we headed east to go to apple picking and ended up in Placerville, CA, where we stumbled upon this little gem tucked away in El Dorado County.
This is Boeger Winery, established in 1972, it was the first winery in the Eldorado AVA after prohibition was abolished. It’s quite a remarkable (and popular) spot with a history much longer than its 43 years. The estate where Boeger now resides and the tradition of making wine began over 100 years earlier with the establishment of the Fossati-Lombardo Winery in 1860. A time far before California wines were recognized outside of the state. Nearly 100 wineries established in the area with a primary focus of feeding the thirst of the gold miners.According to the plaque outside this building, this is where Giovani Lombardo made wine. In the living room on the upper floor, grapes were crushed and then fed through chutes into fermentation tanks on the lower level. This was a time when the miners would bring their jugs with them and fill up from the local winemaker. No fancy bottling equipment necessary. As the gold mining boom turned to bust, many wineries lost their patrons and closed their doors. Prohibition came next and in it’s wake, not even Fossati-Lombardo could survive as just a winery.
Fast forward to 1972, when Greg and Sue Boeger purchased the property. Greg, grandson of the founder of Nichelini Wines in Napa, saw something unique in this terroir. With 5 different soil types, multiple micro-climates, a 2,200′ range in altitude, and perfect grape growing weather, Greg knew this property had the potential to do something big. And it did. They grow over 15 different varietals on the property and have a surprisingly long list of available wines in their tasting room. It is still very much a family run establishment. With Greg in the fields as the Vineyard Manager, his son Jason has stepped into the role of Winemaker and his daughter Lexi has taken over the Marketing side of the business.
The day we visited, there were 4 whites and 8 reds on their main tasting list and an additional 5 wines on their reserve list. With the help of our wonderful host Amanda, James and I both selected to try the reserve list which came with these engraved Bordeaux glasses. In fact, these glasses are the reason we chose that tasting. The shape of the glass can change the way you smell the wine, which can change the way the wine tastes. I was grateful for the option and knew my tasting experience would be greatly enhanced by this glass, in place of their standard tasting glasses.
I started with the 2014 Chardonnay, which I found to be surprisingly acidic for a chardonnay. The acid in wine is the component that makes your mouth water. It keeps a wine from tasting too sweet or too creamy and helps create balance. I am used to slightly oaky, slightly creamy chardonnay, so this was a welcome change. I can only imagine how well this would pair with salmon in a lemon butter sauce in about 2 years time. The aging should drop the acid a bit, resulting in a wine that could still cut through the fatty, creaminess of the sauce while balancing out the flavors of the dish.
Next on the list was the 2012 Pinot Noir, a CA State Fair Best in Class. This wine was bold and intense with some underlying subtleties that are still waiting for their invitation to the show. There were definitely some fruity notes, but I was getting much more leather and earth, which are not really my preferred style. This is a wine I would love to revisit in a year’s time.
The 2011 Barbera was up next. It was delicious. Barbera is a fairly new varietal for me, but it’s not a new grape. It’s the third most planted grape in Italy, behind Sangiovese and Montepulciano. Barbera is a very approachable wine, with low tannins (those things that dry your mouth out) and a higher acidity. If you haven’t tried a Barbera yet, I would definitely recommend this one. With a pizza.
Next I ventured into Zinfandel territory. Zinfandel is my favorite type of grape – not White Zin – a dark red Zin. Most California Zinfandels tend to be fruit forward, almost jammy, with a higher alcohol content, balanced acidity and low tannins. My palate loves this type of wine for sipping or pairing with any sweetly sauced foods – think tomato based sauces like spaghetti, pizza, barbecue – or slightly spicy foods that can benefit from the sweet – like Thai or Indian cuisines. I find it quite versatile. I tasted the 2013 Walkers, the 2013 Estate and the 2014 Walkers. They were all very good, but I was blown away by the 2014 Walkers. It’s still a young wine, it’s been in the bottle for a mere 6 weeks, but the potential for an amazing Zin is definitely there. We walked away with two bottles of it and now are tasked with giving it time to age a bit. I’m thinking we will revisit it around Thanksgiving and again at Christmas – if I can find the patience.
Before leaving, we took a walk to check out the picnic area beneath the redwood trees and to see the original house close up. The first thing I spotted was this sign. I love the sense of humor about it and knowing that both dogs and children are welcome on the property. Many tasting rooms in Napa ban them both all together, which can make it difficult to make a day of it. Next time we visit, we will bring along a picnic and Tuck, grab a bottle and while away the afternoon beneath the trees.
Taking a closer look into the lower level of the original house, this is what I found. A quaint, cozy, rustic, private tasting room. Above, you can see a picture of the Fossati-Lombardo family in what looks like the late 1800s standing in front of the building. The stone walls are original and two feet thick, which would have gone a long way towards keeping the wine cool while fermenting during those hot summer days. Below, you can see an immaculately kept bar area, perfect for a private tasting, a small reception or a private dinner. It’s not at all what I expected.
The last piece of history before heading home was this classic 1930s Chevy Flatbed. It’s obviously not in use, but it just fits this scenery so well. It was a gorgeous day for wine tasting.
Thank you all for joining me for the first Wine Wednesday! I hope you learned something and that I didn’t get too technical. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer in the comment section below or through direct email.
In preparation for the next one, I have a few of questions for you. What’s your biggest challenge when choosing a wine? What’s your favorite wine (varietal or brand) and why? Is there a winery in Napa or Sonoma that you have been dying to get an inside look at without actually coming to visit?
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*A note on Master Sommeliers: They have an amazingly vast knowledge of every wine growing region in the world. If you want more information on the education and testing that goes into being a Master Sommelier, I would highly recommend watching the documentary SOMM.*