Ah, retirement. What retirement? We’ve been busy with a time-consuming consulting project. Which is now over. Which means we’ll try to catch up on our writing. Starting right now.
July 30 was the Stanford Art and Wine Stroll 2016. Wineries must have a Stanford connection, usually at least one alumnus. The event is held around the Cantor Arts Center and the new Anderson Collection. Guests are invited to stroll the galleries. Caveat: no wine in the museums. You can stroll or taste wine, just not at the same time.
Without further ado, we present our results. Best newcomer: Caldera Cuvee and owner Sammy Papert. Biggest surprise: the venerable Wente Winery is now making pinot noir and chardonnay sourced from the Arroyo Grande AVA. Best bargain: MacLeod 2012 Sonoma Valley Estate Zinfandel ($28). Read on for details.
Stanford alumnus Sammy Papert is fortunate to live in Cambria, about 10 miles south of Hearst Castle on the central coast. If you’ve never visited this lovely town, add it to your life bucket list. Until recently, Sammy made one wine every year, a Bordeaux-style blend called – surprise – Caldera Cuvee. (In 2011 he added a merlot to the lineup.)
The 2010 vintage ($79) is marvelous stuff. And we’re not cab fans, either. My notes say, “tasty.” Sammy only makes a little over 100 cases per year, so get yours while you can.
Caldera Cuvee is made from grapes growing in a collapsed volcanic cone. We’ll have an article about the unique terroir coming soon.
Anyone who has drunk California wine has consumed at least one bottle of Wente wine. Located in the Livermore Valley, Wente remains family owned and operated. They count five Stanford alums among their team. And, year in and year out, Wente wines have always been respectable with the occasional outstanding bottling.
Things are changing. The new “small lot” program features limited bottlings, with only wine club members guaranteed an allocation. Also new: sourcing from a non-Livermore Valley vineyard. Wente has acquired the Riva Ranch Vineyard in the almost-new Arroyo Seco AVA.
Wente’s 2015 Livermore Valley “small lot” chardonnay ($28) is oak-free. The palate features an unusual caramel flavor with nice citrus. Clear and bright with medium intensity exhibiting aromas of lemon zest, pear, and nectarine alongside citrus blossom.
The 2013 Charles Wetmore Estate Livermore Valley cabernet sauvignon ($30) is pretty good, for a cab. Very little of the objectionable features. Beautiful floral aromatics with hints of tobacco are followed by flavors of ripe black cherry and dark plum with undertones of leather, coffee and spice. Rich, yet approachable tannins lead to a long, smooth finish
Then came two from the newly-acquired Riva Ranch vineyard. The 2014 Riva Ranch Vineyard, Arroyo Seco AVA chardonnay ($22) features tropical fruit, acidity and creamy notes of butter, vanilla, and toasty oak from barrel aging, this chardonnay has a rich, full mouth-feel and a balanced, long finish. Too much oak for our taste, but otherwise excellent. And the 2014 Riva Ranch Vineyard, Arroyo Seco AVA pinot noir ($30) starts with black cherry, cranberry, and crisp red apples with notes of black tea, baking spices and coriander. Elegant and balanced with lively acidity with supple tannins and a long, smooth finish. The first bargain of the evening.
MacLeod Family Vineyard
[pullquote]Dry, lean, poor soil. Uplifted and eroded bench-like terrace block covered with 80-100` Glen Ellen formation, unsorted alluvial debris, stream rounded cobbles, sand and clay lenses. Top soil about 18 – 22”.[/pullquote]
From the MacLeod website fact sheet →
These folks have been around since 1974. The vineyard began as a retirement project for George and Greta. The MacLeod clan (or “association” as they like to call themselves) still run a family operation. Today there are 24 family members, with a new arrival heralding the fourth generation of MacLeods. George (1943, MS, 1947) and Greta (1947) are both Stanford alumni. The most recent attendee is Laura Wolfson Keller (MBA, 2012).
MacLeod’s 2015 Sonoma Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($22) has just a hint of grass on the nose, robust aromas and flavors of green apple, grapefruit and a hint of green pepper. The influence of the cooler summer and dominance of fruit harvested from the shady side of the vine shows in the flavors of green apple, pineapple.
Their 2012 Sonoma Valley Estate Zinfandel ($28) is a major bargain. Just a hint of zin spice on the finish. Blackberry, black cherry and pepper flavors are nicely balanced with layers of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and coffee.
We met Ed Muns at the 2015 event. We rated his pinot best in show that year. This year, Ed wins the award for best syrah. His 2012 estate syrah ($25) is “pretty darn good” according to my notes. Aromas of roses and red raspberries lead to flavors of brambleberry and more raspberries. Outstanding.
Renteria Family Wines
New to us, Renteria offers a number of pinot noirs. For Stanford they were pouring their 2012 Griffin’s Lair Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($40). This is pretty good, but – surprise – it still needs a few years bottle time to fully mature. Delicate on the palate, yet has a medium body that finishes with a fresh, crisp acidity. A well integrated bouquet gives off aromas of farmers-market fresh plums and florally violets. Tannins and oak on the palate will improve this wine with age. Buy and hold until 2020.
Like many other vintners, owner Oscar Renteria took over the family’s vineyard management business. The company currently manages 1,500 acres in the North Bay. In 1997 they released their first vintage under their own label. Current production is about 2,000 cases per year. Give these folks a try – you won’t regret it.
We are concerned. There seemed to be a smaller crowd this year than last. We hope this won’t be the final Stroll! If you’re a Stanford alum and live in the Bay Area, try to make it to this event in 2017. See you there!