Some would say 2020 has been a year to forget, I say it’s a year to remember. Remember your family and friends. Remember your colleagues. Remember your fellow Californians and most of all remember we are all human.
When our friends get knocked down, we help them back up. We don’t stand by and watch others suffer. Now is that time when many of our friends need help. One way we can help the wine community is to support them during this tough time of the unknown. With climate change rearing its ugly (and very real) head, the fires throughout California have again wiped out many vineyards and wineries throughout the State. Not only the physical damage of the flames, smoke causes a major concern for many as well. Unfortunately, many vineyards still had grapes on the vine and the fear is that smoke taint has played a major role in destroying the 2020 vintage. So, now more than ever, let’s support our neighbors and friends!
Freemark Abbey’s 2019 vintage of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc comes from 4 different vineyards throughout the valley. St. Helena, Yountville and Oakville fruit are what make up this fresh & vibrant white wine. This Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll notice, has more bright tropical fruit qualities jumping out of the glass like honeydew, lemongrass, peach and apricot. High in acid, making your mouth water, ready for some end of summer salads or a little roasted squash and burrata toast. The wine was mainly kept in Stainless steel tanks to allow for the crisp finish, but also saw neutral French oak which gives the wine a fuller mouthfeel and adds a touch of weight to the wine. A fantastic example of a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
In the oldest winegrowing region in California, among the trees of the Santa Cruz Mountains, lives Big Basin Winery. While the winery was spared by the CZU fire, some vineyards were scorched and the owner, Bradley Brown’s, family home was lost in the devastation.
Big Basin Winery is known for its love of French wines and Bradley considers himself very much a Francophile. When he found the Santa Cruz Mountains and the wineries location, he knew that they could grow some amazing grapes due to the proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the coastal wind that cooled the area at night.
For this weeks pick, I’ve chosen Big Basin’s 2017, Santa Cruz Mountain Syrah. When I first read about the winery after trying their wines, it all made sense. Bradley’s love for French wine and the wines of Chateau Rayas shine through in his expressions of Rhone styled wines. Organic farming of the rich, steep, rocky soils of the Estate Vineyard plays heavily in the final product in the bottle. A Syrah at 13.8% ABV is not common place with the California heat but because of the fog layer and coastal winds of the Santa Cruz Mtns, the grapes are able to ripen and maintain their acid structure all in perfect balance. A bit of estate grown Viognier was also added to the Syrah, in very classic Rhone style, to enhance the florality and complexity of the wine. Spending 11 months in neutral French Oak barrels, the wine is then bottled unfined and unfiltered for our drinking pleasure.
I wanted to showcase these wines side by side to not only showcase 2 regions torn apart by wildfire, but also to present two extraordinary Fall weather wines. In Sacramento, with it dropping down to the 60’s and 70’s one day and then back to the low 90’s the next, it’s always good to have a White and a Red within arms reach! They may not be Pumpkin Spiced, but these wines are definitely something you want to consume every Autumn, if not year round.
Nick Mallon Certified Sommelier