If you know me, you know I'm a fan of far-flung, off-the-beaten path places wherever they may be in the great state of California. I absolutely adore the Santa Cruz/Monterey/San Benito County areas for their wines, the geographic ruggedness, and the natural beauty everywhere you look. It's an historic growing region in California, if it doesn't have the same cachet that Napa or Sonoma might have at first blush. It's also just close enough from San Francisco that I convince myself every time that driving down to meet with the producers to pick up the wines myself is the right idea, and I'm never upset about it.
For white this month we're teaming up with Ryan Stirm of Stirm Wine Company (based in Watsonville/Aromas) on a 2022 San Benito County Chardonnay. Ryan was named a Winemaker to Watch by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2017, and is known for his love of old vines, the Riesling grape in particular, and a hands-off winemaking approach that is at once old and new-school. He works with organic fruit, ferments natively, and intervenes minimally.
Ryan teeters into natty categorization at times and certainly has some unsulphered bottlings to his name, but he's also not afraid to add a touch of sulphur to ensure a wine endures and expresses as it should. [Disclaimer: I believe this is an extremely correct and reasonable approach to natural-ish wines] I went down to taste both Albariño and Chardonnay, hoping I would be more taken with the Albariño because it's a lovely, lesser found grape and I haven't released one since my very first release in 2016. I found that the Albariño wasn't quite ready yet, but was enamored by this Chardonnay. It shows plenty of the expected characteristics of a young wine (bright fruit, ripping acid) but has more texture, body, and a longer finish than you'd expect from something so young. This wine was aged entirely in neutral oak, and gives me a very old-world feel. This Chardonnay is stellar on its own, but will also go splendidly with creamy pastas, fresh white fish, or a big winter green salad with goat cheese. I hope you enjoy it.
For red, we found a real gem. In wine, there are certain sites that I'll see consistently popping up in the releases of producers I admire. Alder Springs is steadily on that list, and counts Kistler, Arnot-Roberts, Dirty & Rowdy, Pax Mahle, Bedrock, Rhys, Flowers, and Cruse Wine Company among its roster of clients. Alder Springs is a massive (6,000 acre ranch) in the remote Northern Mendocino town of Laytonville. Proprietor Stuart Bewley bought the property in 1990, and since has planted over FORTY grape varietals across 140 acres in thoughtfully chosen sites around the ranch. Over 5,000 acres of the property are evergreen forests, which sequester some 65,000 tons per year in carbon, resulting in a nice carbon offset business for Mr. Bewley.
We are pleased to work with Ed Donovan of Boonville Road Wines for the first time, on his 2017 Alder Springs Counoise bottling. Counoise is another obscure grape, originally from the Northern Rhône and scarcely planted around California. I think of it a bit like a rustic Pinot Noir, giving me the same smooth tannins and red fruit but with a bit more spice and a touch of acid. This wine is a real treat, and also a small personal victory for me to be releasing something from this vineyard I've crushed on through the years.
For those who have made it this far (thank you) and who have been enjoying our artist collaborations, fear not! The first half of this month was a bit swallowed up by replacing some unexpectedly massive damages in shipping to wines we sent out over the holidays due to extreme cold, and I wasn't able to line up an artist this month. We aim to keep working on these collaborations, and our normal labels still look pretty sweet.