Calaveras County has long been known for its jumping frogs, caves and caverns, and the awe inspiring redwoods at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, but that’s not all. A stroll through Calaveras Wine Country this month under abundant sunny skies led me to talented yet humble winemakers and their impressive liquid treasures. Here are a few of my favorites:
Lavender Ridge 2008 Rousanne: Stone fruit and crushed pebbles in the nose lead to a lusciously round, full bodied wine with juicy white peach and deep minerality taking center stage. Mouthwatering acidity; beautiful texture, delicious!
Lavender Ridge 2008 Grenache Rose: This delightfully fragrant dry rose boasts fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors and a subtle hint of cinnamon spice. Refreshing and easy to quaff with lovely acidity to back up the pretty fruit; a charming aperitif.
Hatcher 2008 Pinot Grigio: Fresh lemon-y aromatics lead to crisp pear and invigorating lime peel on the palate. Cool and thirst quenching with bright acidity; a nice summer sipper.
Hatcher 2008 Sauvignon Blanc: Lovely citrus aromas persist and carry through generously on the palate, accenting tasty ripe melon flavors. Uplifting and well balanced with impressive, bracing acidity.
Muir’s Legacy 2006 Chardonnay: Aged in neutral French oak, this Chardonnay from vineyards in Napa Valley expresses Burgundian characteristics to the hilt. Subtle fruit notes of melon and apple marry nicely with the focused acidity and delicate oak integration.
Frog’s Tooth 2008 Marsanne: Gorgeous floral notes lead to just-ripe tree fruits and minerality that tantalizes the taste buds delightfully. Lovely texture with zippy acidity and a lasting finish.
Frog’s Tooth 2008 Fume Blanc: Gentle, captivating oak in the nose integrates perfectly with juicy crisp green apple and a dash of citrus bursting gloriously on the palate.
Milliare Winery 2007 Gewurztraminer: Exquisite florality greets the nose; chock full of white flowers and roses. Enchanting from start to finish with a pleasing combination of summer fruits and a hint of spice.
Lavender Ridge 2006 Alicante Bouschet: Alluring dark berry aromatics welcome you into the glass of this deeply hued unique grape with red juice. Approachable and elegant on the palate with rich blackberry and spice blending harmoniously through the lengthy finish. Aged in French oak, this wine is beautifully structured with round, supple tannins.
Lavender Ridge 2006 Mourvedre: Full of fresh berries in the nose followed by a silky smooth entry, this Mourvedre shows off a burst of wild boysenberries and cherries, skillfully integrated oak and a nice dollop of spice on mid palate. Balanced and complex with a lingering, memorable finish.
Lavender Ridge 2006 Syrah: Intoxicating aromas lead you to a juicy mouthful of dark, delicious black plums and black cherries alongside the characteristic earthy, meaty, spicy components of Syrah. Powerful and age-worthy with plenty of depth; spot on varietally correct and simply irresistible.
Lavender Ridge 2006 Grenache: Dripping with chocolate covered raspberry and strawberry fruit on the nose and carrying through scrumptiously on the palate, this stunning Grenache from 25 year old vines really hits the mark. Well crafted with velvety tannins and a lip-smacking finish.
Newsome-Harlow 2007 Big John Vineyard Zinfandel: Gobs of dense fruit on the nose grabs your attention, and leads to a mouthful of yummy concentrated dark berry and plum notes cloaked in black pepper spice, cinnamon and vanilla on the palate. Plenty of complexity and length, too.
Newsome-Harlow 2007 The Donner Party Zinfandel: Generous spice wrapped around fresh ripened plums and berries rise from the glass and stay focused and intriguing on the palate. Beautiful purity of fruit and intensely structured without being over the top. Nice oak integration and a noticeably persistent finish add to its charm.
Newsome-Harlow 2007 Petite Sirah: This varietal is full of power, structure and tannins, and this is a good example of how well it can be crafted. Hugely structured with violet and berry aromas that lead to layers of concentrated blackberry, cassis, licorice and spice. Approachable now and should continue to age impressively through the years with its muscular tannins.
Milliare 2006 Clockspring Zinfandel: Super fruity aromas of jammy black and red fruits dominate the nose and meld seamlessly with mixed pepper spices on mid palate. Balanced and clean with a punch of ripe juicy berries on the satisfying finish.
Milliare 2005 Ghirardelli Zinfandel: Baked berry pie and spice capture the nose and lead to layers of blackberry, black cherry and cocoa notes delectably unraveling on the palate. This elegant Zinfandel is made from old vines planted on rolling hills in western Calaveras County.
Chiarella 2007 Zinfandel: From 90 year old vines, this Zinfandel offers the essence of strawberry jam on the nose. The palate showcases pleasing warm berry compote flavors with baking spices and caramel notes, and ends with a tantalizing hint of tobacco.
Chiarella 2007 Syrah: Aromas of vanilla, mocha and roasted coffee beans waft from the glass and lead to a mouthful of earthy, vanilla scented dark berry flavors on mid palate. Meaty and full bodied with a touch of astringency on the finish.
Laraine Winery 2006 Sangiovese: An elegant Sangiovese, this wine expresses red fruit aromatics. At first sip the palate is coated with a lush richness of fresh cherries, wild berries, strawberries and a touch of earth surrounded by an abundance of fragrant herbs and spices. A nice level of acidity balances the sumptuous fruit.
Broll Mountain Vineyards 2006 Petite Sirah: This distinctive Petite Sirah boasts inviting aromas of dark blackberries and spice that lead to delicious layers of black cherry, blackberry and plum flavors entwined with anise and black pepper notes exploding on the palate. A complex and powerfully built wine with firm tannins to go the distance.
Vina Moda 2007 Clarissa’s Cuvee: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Syrah conveys brooding aromas of red and black fruits that open up generously as it crosses your lips. The juicy berry and clove spiciness of the Zinfandel fruit round out the earthy, meaty Syrah components and focused cassis notes of the Cabernet Sauvignon, and all combine favorably to create a cornucopia of palate pleasing layers of flavors.
Vina Moda 2006 Clockspring Zinfandel: This old vine Zinfandel from grapes grown in Amador County opens with floral notes and opulent jammy fruit, and the richness flourishes through the finish. A dash of vanilla and hint of coconut suggests American oak aging.
Zucca Mountain Vineyards 2007 Cooper Ranches Barbera: Enticing aromatics lead you into the glass and bring to light a delightful blending of new world and old with the earthy components joining hands seductively with juicy wild berry fruit. The dusty earthy notes carry through to the appealing finish.
If you’re ready for a sunny summer break, leap on over to Calaveras to enjoy nature’s wonders and a sip or two of YOUR favorite palate pleasers.