Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 California wineries you've most likely never tasted before.

I've spent the majority of 2011 out in Sonoma County with multiple outings in other California wine regions and industry events (oh and that EPIC trip to France last Spring too!).   So much wine, so little time has never been so true to life.  We all know (those who follow this blog) how big the world of wine is and can seem, but it's often bigger for small producers who are fighting their life away to make good wine for the people!  

So in the spirit of The 12 Days of Christmas, here's one for the "little guys", buy direct from their websites, send a private message to them via their Twitter accounts, post how much you want to drink their wines on Facebook. Word of Mouth after you sip can literally move mounds of wines for these small-batch (but growing) producers:

1. Hamel Wines  
Syrah & Pinot Noirs. Dear Kevin Hamel is a long-time winemaker known for his elegantly crafted Dry Creek and Russian River wines. He has a library of Syrah and Pinot's from 2001, truly works of art in each bottle.  Quickest way to reach Kevin is via Twitter @hamelwines to order direct from the winemaker (and wine shipper) himself!  

I was romanced by these wines while following the adventures of my friend Hardy over on The Dirty South Wine Blog all summer long.   Shake Ridge Vineyards of Amador County is truly a day dream for me at this point, but am very motivated to head over & see the beauty created by Ann Kraemer in the near future.  I personally haven't tried all of the Yorba offerings, but thus far their 2008 Barbera has won me over and of course Hardy's review of the 2007 Yorba Syrah "....DANG!  Focus, minerality, acid, and a slow motion karate chop of truth. "  is a sure bet when buying Yorba Wines.

You may have been fortunate enough to taste their Floodgate Vineyard Gewurztraminer while dining at San Francisco's legendary La Folie. I met the winemaking duo a few summers ago while visiting Healdsburg and have been a big fan of theirs ever since.  An amazing amount of endless hours in the vineyards, cellars and marketing gigs. They've also opened a downtown Healdsburg tasting room "The Garagiste" for you to visit anytime and relax with a glass of Cartograph wine (they also share his space with the very lovable Stark Wines) and enjoy the 24/7 labor of love!

4. Denier-Handal Vineyards
So here's one for all you BIG RED wine drinking fanatics...the Handal family has been near and dear to me for many years and so have their Dry Creek and Alexander Valley Wines. Dick Handal owns the vineyards and with the super-power team of Ulysses Valdez and Peter Wellington, his rich and complex Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and "Car Port" wines are a knockout.  The best way to buy these are straight from The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg that is owned by Dick's daughter Doralice.

Yes, I've written about lovely Angela Osborne's A Tribute to Grace Grenache a few times on the blog already, but each vintage she creates continues to impress.  The wine is as beautiful as her mantra "I chose to name my label after two of my favorite things: my Grandmother Grace, and my most beloved attribute. My winemaking intention is to capture this spirit, and stay as close to nature as humanly possible. The trio is completed by the grape itself, which to me encapsulates grace." The 2009 is the current offering - order direct from Angela on the website.

I've most likely spent more time overlooking the vines, tasting in their cave and walking the vineyards of this piece of heaven tucked off of Dry Creek Road more than any other vineyard all year long. Thankfully!  The estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Tuscan style "Girasole" can be found on the smallest and best wine lists in the Bay Area.  Jason Enos has a real vision for the winery and is well on his way to creating the most intriguing portfolio of wines on the West Coast.  Best to email the website direct for their small production releases. * I consult with these guys but they have no idea I was writing this piece.

Owner and winemaker Kevin Kelley is the man who put LIOCO and The NPA Wines on the wine-map along with his teeny-tiny less than 300 case a year Salinia production.  I struggle each weekend to just leave my Salinia bottles alone in the cellar, they love to age and boy it's a FANTASTIC occasion everytime I pull a cork.  His cool climate syrah is my favorite to date, but can't say anything but greatness is in each bottle of his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay's as well.  Contact the winery direct or stop by next time you are crusing through Santa Rosa, it's a quick stop off of HWY 101.

Owners Andy and Shannon Pestoni over in Napa are making some outstanding Lake County wines for all of us to enjoy.  Nope, the wines DO NOT taste like jelly or jam on toast, they pay homage to Italian immigrants who used classic jelly jars as their wine glasses back in the day.  I've flipped out over their 2010 Rose of Zinfandel and their 2009 Lake County Zin as well.  They've got Barbera on the release calendar later next spring. No hesitation here that this tiny winery will continue to grow in popularity, classic wines for classy folks I'd say.   I'm certainly keeping my eye on them, good people. Order direct from their website please.  

Also mentioned them in previous posts this year. I first met owners Jon and Barbara while walking their dogs on the famous Olivet Lane Vineyard in the Russian River Region.  John's love for making wines that are enjoyable to all absolutely show in each bottle. A gentle hand in the cellar, John also makes his rounds to visit his beloved markets outside of NorCal and drives their online resources and tasting room as well.  Their Russian River Chardonnay steals the show for me - order anytime by clicking on their website or stopping by the winery (Bonus: they are located next to Salinia & The NPA too!). 

Vine Star Red, Dry Stack Grenache, Vine Star White, Carbonic Carignane are NO BRAINERS & confess that I just can't keep them in stock at my house very long. Buy as much as you can (or can't afford) of Broc wines.  There's something magical about these and Chris Brockway is the man behind it all.  From Grape to Glass, he works it from North Mendocino to hours South of the San Francisco Bay then crushes, blends and SHAZZAMS away at his "Urban"winery in the East Bay. Purchase directly from the Broc website, easy peasy.

11. Nico Wines
When winemaker Kevin Rogers isn't running around telling Olive Trees what to do for his Merchants and Millers Olive Oil Co. thankfully he's making some smoking Italian Varietals from Cali vineyards.  I was shocked when at first sip of his Dolcetto and you'll be happy to track down bottles of Nico too.  He's hard to reach but worth the effort - send him a message on the Nico Wines facebook page to purchase, pretty sure The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg also carries the wine you can order as well.  Kevin's YouTube Tasting, he's on fire! : )

Big Fan of this Winery - going on a decade now at least.  Russian River Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a smidgen of Zinfandel produced.  It's all in the family at Porter-Bass winery, vineyards & farm I should say.  I get lost in organic dreams each time I visit.  Sign up for their mailing list to learn about their gorgeous wine-dinners in the vineyards and buy direct...such special wines and special folks making them.  No gimmicks, all good wines for those who support the small guys. 

Happy Holidays and Cheers to Supporting Small Wine Producers! - TexaCali Ali


Coach Sil said...

Great review of a dozen gem wineries that fly below the radar, but who make outstanding wines. Nice work Texacali Ali!! Sil Coccia

Do Bianchi said...

I love Broc. We feature them on the list at Sotto in Los Angeles... :)