Pioneers of their regions

Hello, my Dionysian friends,

As Arizona celebrates 100 years of statehood this month, we thought it might be a nice salute to our own pioneer spirit if we offered a tribute to some other pioneers as well. This month’s tasting features the pioneers of their respective wine-making regions, both New World and Old. The wines are delish, and they’re served, as always, with food pairings that bring out the best in the wines, with any luck. If you’d like to join us this Sunday at 3:30 for the tasting, give us a call to hold a spot, and bring twenty-five dollars plus tax and gratuity as well as an appetite for good wine and tasty snacks. You can call us at 326-9363.

2010Tangent Albariño, Edna Valley $15.00

As most food seems to cry out for clean, lively wines with good acid structure, Tangent sets out to find them. Planted by Jack and Catharine Niven in 1973, Paragon Vineyard stands as a testament to both good business acumen and sheer nerve. On a hunch, Jack hired professors from both U.C. Davis and U.C. Fresno to determine unique regions to plant vines on California’s Central Coast. They individually came back to him with glowing reports, and independently of each other recommended the Edna Valley. One would expect that the first commercially planted vineyard in the valley would be modest; logically it would test the academic findings and substantiate the investment. Not Jack. Jack’s gamble paid off; the Edna Valley turned out to be a brilliant place to grow most aromatic white varietals. The vineyard is now 872 acres, consisting of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Albariño, Riesling, Viognier, Grüner Veltliner Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.


2009 Mount Eden “Wolff” Chardonnay, Edna Valley $21.00

Mount Eden’s estate vineyards began to be developed in 1945 by the legendary vintner Martin Ray on a rugged mountaintop in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today, the site consists of 40 acres of low-yielding Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc vines. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were propagated from selections brought to California by French winemaker Paul Masson. Mount Eden is considered to have the longest lineage of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in North America.

2009 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County $21.00

Jim Clendenen graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with High Honors in Pre-Law in 1976. It was during his “junior year abroad” in 1974, while turning 21 in France, that he discovered life beyond tacos. After graduation, a one month stay in both Burgundy and Champagne convinced him to attempt a career in wine rather than continue on to law school.

In 1982, Clendenen decided, along with now ex-partner Adam Tolmach, to start his own winery in leased quarters. Au Bon Climat (which means “a well exposed vineyard”) has grown over its history to over 30,000 cases through careful re-investment from its own production.

The fabled Bien Nacido Vineyard is the primary vineyard source for Au Bon Climat wines. Located at the northern end of California’s Santa Barbara County, the Bien Nacido vineyard produces internationally renowned Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from more than 40 different producers.

2007 Terre di San Leonardo, Vigneti delle Dolomiti $21.00

Once a medieval fief, Tenuta San Leonardo has 20 hectares of vineyards planted with international varietals that were introduced following the phylloxera plague. The varied microclimates of San Leonardo favor these varietals, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc cultivated at the higher elevations and Merlot grown in the low lands of the estate. This is the property at which the cessation of arms treaty was signed to end World War I.


2009 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Rosso, Langhe $23.00

Produced in Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive, Barbaresco is one of the great wines of Piemonte. Cultivated in Piedmont since the 13th century, Nebbiolo plays a principal role in the winemaking culture of the region. While much smaller than the Barolo area, Barbaresco benefits from the influence of the Tanaro river which results in Nebbiolo that ripens earlier and has a lighter character. Produttori del Barbaresco was the first “co-op” to split from the Barolo region, and they founded the Barbaresco region. For a time, Mussolini shut the winery down, but it was revived following World War II.


2009 Qupe “Bien Nacido” Syrah, Santa Maria Valley $35.00

Bien Nacido Vineyards has, over the years, become an iconic American vineyard. Located in the Santa Maria Valley, this historic vineyard has a colorful and storied past. In 1969, the Millers, a fifth generation California farming family, purchased this property. The original adobe remains as one of the few privately maintained adobes in California. In the early 1970’s, it became clear to the Millers that the soils and climate were ideal for growing grapes, and they moved quickly to realize the full potential of the property

Bien Nacido Vineyards is planted primarily to chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot blanc, and syrah. The original plantings came from stock grown by the University of California at Davis and grow on their own rootstock. Bien Nacido also has the distinction of being the first vineyard in California to grow cool climate Syrah.

It is the combination of the “terroir” of Bien Nacido Vineyards, the people who manage it, and the close relationships they have developed with others in the wine industry of the region that makes Bien Nacido Vineyards and the Santa Maria region unique in the wine industry. The vineyard traces its roots back to the year 1837 when a Spanish land grant of some two square leagues was made to Tomas Olivera by Juan Bautista Alvarado, then Gobernador of Alta California. Qupé’s involvement with Bien Nacido dates back to 1986 when 7 acres of riesling were grafted over to syrah exclusively for Qupé. The first crop off of those vines in the X Block was 1987. Over the years Qupé has contracted for more and more fruit from Bien Nacido including more syrah, chardonnay, viognier and roussanne. Most of the acreage are “custom blocks” planted exclusively for Qupé and farmed to our specifications. The majority of the grapes that Qupé gets from Bien Nacido are grown organically or biodynamically. Qupé currently has 62 acres under contract at Bien Nacido.

Bien Nacido is also where the winery is located. In 1989 Bob Lindquist and Jim Clendenen partnered with Bien Nacido to build a production facility at Bien Nacido. Over the years Bob and Jim have expanded the winery to an overall capacity of about 100,000 cases of annual production.

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