This feature is the 2nd of a series, on winemakers and what's ahead for wine in 2019.
Jerold O'Brien of Silver Mountain Vineyards, Los Gatos
From the Summit to Sea, Jerold O'Brien has been crafting
Certified Organic wines for over 38 years.
When convenience was king a few decades ago, Jerold took the high road.
Since the beginning of Silver Mountain Vineyards,
he has been a leader in sustainable vineyard practices.
More important to him—even over selling his wines—is stewardship of the earth.
Jerold attended this year's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento.
In the middle of the big city, his genuine persona and smile shone as he shared with me
about Silver Mountain Winery.
Straddling the Santa Cruz Mountains' Summit, the tasting room, organic vineyards and energy-self-sufficient winemaking site are perched on the ridge. The property offers picnic tables, views, fresh air and nature. It's a calm place to enjoy life, just minutes from the haze of the Silicon Valley.
The "Alloy" is Jerold's signature Bordeaux red wine blend. By far, this is one of my favorite local wines! Comprised of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdo. The Alloy is always made with these four varietals. Only the percentages change each year to suit the flavor profile Jerold's looking for.
Jerold prefers this Bordeaux blend's subtlety and complexity, vs. a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon which, he shared, can be too big and too heavy. With Cabernet being the front runner in the Alloy blend, I think he's brought out the best of this leaner, mountain grown Cab with the supporting varietals.
For In addition to Chardonnay, Jerold makes a Rose' of Pinot Noir (again, one of my local favorites.) It's crafted in the French Saigne'e Method, which naturally increases the blush Rose' color and strengthens its flavor profile. (For more on Saigne'e, see Wine Folly's article.)
All you canine fans will appreciate Silver Mountain Vineyards' (SMV) dog wines, a line of wines named after the winery's four-pawed companions, Oscar and Spencer. Oscar Wild is a Bordeaux Blend and Spencer's Choice is a Pinot Noir Blend.
While Jerold has been making organic wines for decades, now
more and more Californians and other wine fans are looking for healthier wine options.
The beauty of buying wines from your local vintner is that you can ask questions.
Where were the grapes grown? What farming and production practice are put in place?
A dialogue opens the door to finding wines that suit your style, ecological, and health needs.
And just taste darn good.
Here's to your palate and to organic wines!
For the 1st in my Unified Series, see my chat with Barry Jackson of Equinox Wines, Santa Cruz.
This feature is the first in a series, on winemakers and what's ahead for wine in 2019.
The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium is North America's premier wine gathering.
It's three days of sessions, tastings, and an overview of the State of the Industry. (Link.)
Hosted in Sacramento, it's the place for the wine industry to converge and
discover where the wine world is headed in 2019.
I had the pleasure of chatting with three of our Santa Cruz County winemakers.
Each craft their own wines.
Each came with a wealth of experience, yet, also with an open mind to learn more.
Welcome to the first in a series.
Barry Jackson of Equinox Wines, Santa Cruz
Humble crafters make for some of the best products. Barry Jackson crafts some of the finest Champagne-method sparkling wines in California. Champagne is often equated with a high end, luxury lifestyle. But if you passed Barry on the street, his casual jeans, t-shirt, and understated manner would make him approachable to all.
At events, Barry often hangs out with the caterers and waiters. Even though he makes Champagne, he works hard to maintain a sense of reality, respect, and humility with others.
Generous and hospitable, Barry and Jennifer (his wife) often donate and share their wines at local charity events. Barry makes his own line of still wines, as well as a line of Champagne-method sparkling wines. Personally, I think Equinox sparkling wines are among the best in California. Period.
With California's thirst for exceptional Champagne/sparkling wines, Barry's been sought out for his wine making services. But, he shared, he looks for good business partners. People he wants to work with.
Barry crafts sparkling wines for his tasting room in Santa Cruz, as well as for other wineries. One of his clients, Wente Vineyards in Livermore, makes their own wine, then will have Equinox make a Champagne style sparkling wine for them.
In the wine business, there is a small family entity. In the early 80s, Barry made his wine at the Storrs' winery. And with 40 years of relationships in the wine industry, he now finds himself working on projects with the 2nd and 3rd generations of his first winemaker-peers. He shared, "it's an interesting and somewhat emotional, or moving, aspect."
“The wine industry, as a whole, is mostly in California,” shared Barry. “There's really not that many of us.” Barry started his wine career at Paul Mason decades ago, but he can walk into a winery and often know someone. When his daughter announced she was interested in the wine business, Barry said, “Here's a scrub brush.” Every aspect of the business is important. And “the people she meets in college, she will know for 30 years.”
For him, the Unified was a great networking opportunity. He ran into people he knew from Fresno State 40 years ago. It was also a place to for him to look for bottling equipment.
The next in our Unified Series is Jerold O'Brien of Silver Mountain Winery.
So here's to our local winemakers! Cheers,
For more local tasting rooms, visit my Santa Cruz Wineries page.
Cheese, wine, and chocolate are a friendly trio.
With so many delicious wine and food options,
keeping it simple over the Christmas and holiday season is ideal.
Cheese and wine make for a great starter, or dessert course.
Chocolate and wine, especially red wines, are best friends.
Aged, hard cheeses can be served along side wine and chocolate.
Cheese & Wine Pairing tips for the holidays
...and for 2019!
Brie & Bubbles.
Serve Brie with dry Champagne/sparkling wine. The yeast of the Champagne elevates the
musty-ness of the Brie. Expand the flavors with dried Slab apricots.
Try a Santa Cruz Mountain Champagne style wine...Equinox Wines (link)
locally crafts some of the best sparkling wines!
Pinot Noir & Bleu d’Auvergne.
Sharp and creamy, blue cheese is notoriously good sprinkled over grilled steak.
The tangy cheese pairs classically with a dried cranberry, walnut, spinach and bacon salad.
A Pinot Noir with a bit more body elevates these foods.
Go for a flavor explosion and add dates, honey, and dark chocolate.
Try Morgan Winery's Pinot Noirs (link.)
Chardonnay & Comte'.
One of my new favorite cheeses, Comte'
is produced in large wheels, up to 85-100 pounds.
Enjoy hints of stone fruit, toasted nuts, and cream.
Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery offers 3 local Chardonnays to choose from (link.)
Enjoy a Late Harvest Zinfandel (dessert wine) or Port with dark chocolate.
Try Storrs Winery's Late Harvest Zin (link.)
Or tuck into a glass of Merlot with chocolate cake.
Go for a cool weather Monterey County or Santa Cruz Mountains Merlot.
Bargetto Winery's 2016 Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, would be spot on with the cocoa flavors (link.)
Cheeses of Europe
hosted a cheese and wine pairing at the WBC.
Recently my lactose intolerant friend was in Portugal.
Being the gracious guest she is, she ate the local cheese and was fine!
But once back at home, she had difficulty with chain grocery store cheese.
I find that “cleaner” foods (natural, un-mucked foods) work better for our bodies.
Cheeses of Europe served cheeses that were from specific regions,
aged with natural methods, and made with natural, whole ingredients.
Qualities that make for an excellent product.
For recipes and cheese tips, visit Cheeses of Europe.
So find a local cheese producer or look for European cheeses made with all natural ingredients.
You may have success with that...and get back together with cheese!
Pair with Bay Area wines and celebrate the season.
Cheers to your Christmas season and to the love of cheese, wine, and chocolate!
For more flavor profiles, visit my Nose & Palate page and taste away!
Dads, and guys in general, most of you have your own favorites. Your go-to. If you run in the store, you know were to grab your favorite chips, coffee, power-bars, etc. Whatever's your staple, you know were to find it quick, and you want it on hand.
With that idea, a friend of mine was looking for his own house wine. I love sharing tastings at my home with others, so I was surprised when we went to a friend's house and he had a tasting all set up on our arrival. He was looking for a wine he could grab when friends came over, for holidays, or to enjoy with his microwaved left-overs after work. His own go-to wine.
But first, which wine to choose?
Four of us were tasting while the kids played cards. I was one of the lucky ones to taste and throw my two cents into the mix.
The Mission: to Blind taste six wines and help my friend choose a house wine.
1. The wines labels were covered so we couldn't discriminate or taste with our bias. Just taste the wine and evaluate it for what it is. None of this, “I don't like wines from this region.” or “I don't drink Cab.”
2. Choose a wine from California.
3. Find a red wine that would go with a variety of grilled foods and home cooking.
4. It needed to be in the $10 range.
5. The selection included Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and a red blend.
6. Choose a wine to purchase by the case, get the case discount, and have it on stock.
We got down to the business of tasting and commenting. One of the tasters was a Pinot Noir fan and her favorite wine had some of the delicate flavors of a Pinot. Another taster liked Cab. He choose a wine mirroring the deep flavors, kind tannins, and medium acids of a Cab. I liked a wine with hints of spice, black pepper, a bit tart with high tannins.
And the topper, the host blind tasted and was surprised to find that he chose the latest vintage of the wine he'd previously been buying. The matter was settled. He'd keep buying his go-to wine by the case. I won't tell you which wine he chose because that's his story. But each of us had our own favorites and all would have chosen a different wine—our own go-to house wine.
It was an adventure blind tasting six reds—without knowing the varietal, the region, or the winemaker!
It was a chance to taste and decide which wine I liked purely on the basis of, “which wine
would I like to try again." I think drinking wine should be like that in general.
The story and the making of a wine are important, but
so is the simple question of whether you enjoy drinking it.
I know I go on about trying new wines, but sometimes we have our favorites.
Our go-to that just sits right with us. Those are the ones that make for a great house wine.
Here's to you Dads. Thank you for being there for us!
May your Father's Day be filled with your favorites!
For a look at my musings on Moms, please visit, A Toast to Moms.
Bottle Jack Winery is one of the newer tasting rooms to join the Santa Cruz wine scene, but owner John Ritchey has a history of making wines that reads something like a passport. If you could thumb through his background in the wine world, you'd see a year in Maldova with the Peace Corps, an enology degree from Fresno State, wine shop experience in Chicago, time in Europe, and internships at Beauragard and as well as David Bruce wineries.
John's travels reflect in his wine style. Bottle Jack wines tend to be a mix of Rhone, Italian, and Bordeaux styles. While spending a year in Italy, his host family—and the surrounding neighbors—made their own family wine in their backyard as well as grew much of their own produce. That way of life goes beyond farm to table. It's hand-to-table; resulting in everyday interaction with wine and food.
In 2012 John started making his own wine, and in 2014 Bottle Jack opened its large warehouse roll up door. Though just minutes from HWY 17, the tasting room feels casual, restful, and worlds away. All the wine making is done on site: offering views surrounded by oak trees, with picnic tables to enjoy your tastings.
John has a bit of the adventurer in him. His interest is to focus on different varietals, sourcing grapes from Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and the Central Coast. Bottle Jack Wine Club Members had a chance to taste an 100% Teroldego. He went out on a limb purchasing the grapes without having tasted them. The Teroldego grape is originally from Northern Italy, but was purchased locally from a Santa Clara grower (who later sold off the land for housing.)
The result is a dark purple to garnet red wine, medium body. Opaque, but not inky. Tart, dry stone, soft berry jam on the palate, yet not as deep as a Syrah.
Join me at California Wine