I had entertained the idea of starting a home vineyard on a family property within eyesight of downtown for several years. I had hesitated because I was not certain which cultivars would do well at the site.
A blend of 50% Montepulciano, 25% Aglianico and 25% Sangiovese, the first two from Suisun Valley. Mikael Wargin fermented the three varieties as separate lots using different yeast strains. He then blended and aged them a total of 8 months in 20% new Hungarian oak. This wine opened with aromas of pepper and jammy briary red fruit. Initially present dill dissipated fairly quickly. In the mouth, cherry flavors were backed by hibiscus and oak notes. Supple smooth tannins, good acids, punctuated this well-balanced upper medium-bodied wine. The finish offered briary fruit and some heat. On the second day, the wine settled into aromas of black cherry, licorice notes and hints of hibiscus. Cherry flavors and hibiscus and oak notes persisted unchanged. A plush texture, supple, slight, dusty but finely grained, tannins led into a slightly drying finish focused around cherry and ending in some warmth. This wine was a pleasant companion to the mushroom pizza and went surprisingly well with the blackened salmon. (15% ABV, 2 bottles tasted, production volume unavailable)
Grown in Carneros and blended with about 10% Sangiovese, started with aromas of pepper, a mélange of oak and dill with briary, jammy fruit. Lighter in the mouth, the flavors were dominated by oak. The wine finished with light red fruit and some heat. On the second day, the wine fleshed out and displayed spicy, licorice notes above all. In the mouth, black cherry flavors were most distinct. Medium bodied the wine had good acids and supple, fine, slightly drying tannins. It was an unobtrusive food companion and did not compete with the mushroom pizza or the blackened salmon. (13.7% ABV, 2 bottles tasted, production volume unavailable)
This Central Valley Montepulciano with a small amount of Petite Sirah or Merlot—depending on the year—is whole cluster fermented in open top fermenters with frequent punchdowns and extended maceration. It offers aromas of macerated ripe strawberry with piney, dill notes and maple leaf hints. In the mouth, it is lighter bodied, sleek, with slight tannins, a silky texture and jolly rancher-like strawberry candy flavors. The finish is creamy, but a bit hollow. Overnight, it takes on dried rose petal and vague cherry aromas and floral hints in the mouth. This forward, mature-styled wine is an unobtrusive food companion with good acids and does not compete with food flavors. (14% ABV, 1 bottle tasted, 256 cases made)
The 2008 Witch Creek Montepulciano was more ungainly. Aromas of dill, at first, were followed by briary, vaguely herbal notes. In the mouth, brine dominated with meaty flavors coming before light strawberry. Structurally, this wine was light, creamy and thinner than the ’07. Strawberry persisted into the finish. On the second day, aromas of wild sage became more defined and were accompanied by a distinct salty aroma. In the mouth, it was much brinier than the 07, with light black fruit and an almost peppery character. Overnight, this wine medium-boded wine had become fuller, smooth and unique in its saltiness. Game, blackberry and brininess lingered on the finish. This wine definitely overpowered the pizza, needing pure, rare red protein. It overpowered the blackened salmon. (13.3% ABV, 1 bottle tasted, 150 case made)
The 2007 Witch Creek Montepulciano offered ripe, fleshy strawberry aromas, a piney note, and a hint of dill. In the mouth, it was savory, gamey and briny with strawberry flavors playing a well-placed second fiddle. It was lush, rich and full bodied with supple tannins. The finish was drying and meaty with strawberry and some heat (14.3 % ABV). Overnight its aromas exhibited light cured game, fleshy strawberry and a hint of wild herbs (dill?). In the mouth, slight game was accompanied by fleshy strawberry, an unmistakable but proportionate and tamer brininess. The texture was softer, velvet like. Medium-boded, with good balance, it had some heat. It almost overpowered the mushroom pizza (because of the briny character), and needed unembellished red meat protein. It was also a bit awkward with the blackened salmon. (1 bottle tasted)
The Seven Artisans 2009 Montepulciano was grown in the upper Suisun Valley by winemaker Jeff Miller who takes a straightforward, no fuss, no muss approach to clean, solid winemaking. Jeff believes that his Montepulciano does best without any oak treatment. This wine started with aromas of strawberry, toast and spice (licorice) notes and vague leather hints. A mix of cherry and strawberry predominated in the mouth. Supple, smooth tannins, some heat, lighter body, and more restrained acids made up the structure of this wine. The finish seemed dominated by heat and clear fruit was a bit hard to find. On the second day, fleshy strawberry and licorice were joined by a hint of raspberry and floral notes. In the mouth, fleshy strawberry took on a slightly sweet note. The wine also became creamier and richer and the tannins were fine and supple. The wine maintained a good balance. The finish was fairly persistent, with bright ripe strawberry and a bit of heat. The wine was a pleasant companion to the mushroom pizza, with which it did not compete. It also went well with the blackened salmon. (ABV not available, 2 bottles tasted, 400 cases made)