“He retraces the steps of those that came before him
Balancing the yoke of six generations
Honoring the past, visions of the future.”
I wrote those words nearly three years ago in reference to the Bundschu family, but they could have easily applied to either of my visits yesterday. Although the experiences themselves could not have been more different, they had one thing in common: a desire to honor and showcase the history of the land, to create a sense of place in a glass.
My first stop was Scribe Winery. Sitting atop Arrowhead hill, the unassuming building makes you question whether you are at the right place or if you’ve arrived at someone’s home. It was a question which continued through the tasting. Greeted with warmth and ease, we were invited to choose a picnic table. Our host, Dane Gaffney, met us with a bottle, glasses, and a wealth of information.
The property once belonged to the Dresel Brothers, their emblem is on the label, and they honor the German heritage with plantings of Riesling and Sylvaner. These grapes are estate grown and they have plantings of Pinot but currently purchase both Pinot and Chardonnay from the Carneros region, Cabernet and Syrah from Atlas Peak in Napa.
We began with the 2012 Riesling, II. Above White Serpentine. A chapter title on a wine? Well, the place is called, “Scribe,” remember? The titles indicate the vintage and variety and each bottle is numbered. Perhaps hosts should be referred to as Librarians?
The wine was lovely. Lemon, great acid, a touch of yeast. They ferment in concrete eggs. Porous like wood, neutral like steel, the containers allow for a gentle process. Subtle fruit, this wine would be great alone as an aperitif or paired in any number of ways.
With each change of wine, Dane brought a change of glassware, an attention to detail I don’t always see, but always appreciate. The Chardonnay V. (The Gold in These Hills will be Jewels Enough for Me) is unoaked with no malolactic. Again, the fruit was well-integrated with great acid. Coupled with a board of carrots and strawberries from the garden, a local cheese, and almonds, it really shined.
It is hard for a Pinot Noir to stand out here. The grape, while varied in style, is prevalent here and with good reason. Scribe chose to age the wine for only six months in neutral oak and two months in bottle. It maintains its bright red fruit with hints of violet and eucalyptus. The finish is long and complex. We left with two bottles of both the Pinot and the Chard.
Their winemaker has worked with Cabernet Sauvignon enough to know how to make an incredible one. Layered and delicious, but not heavy. Great fruit and gentle tannins, the wine continues to develop on the palate.
If I’ve had a more pleasant tasting experience, I can’t recall it. From the moment we stepped on property, I felt at ease. No elbowing at the bar, no waiting, just pure hospitality. Their commitment to allowing the grapes speak for themselves, is a way of honoring the land. The reclaimed wood and vintage labels honor the past. The fresh approach to the whole experience speaks of a bright future for those at Scribe.
Later in the evening, I had the pleasure of accompanying Alana Gentry, Girl with a Glass, to the industry event at Buena Vista Winery. The winery, founded in 1857, has the distinction of being California’s first premium winery. Recently purchased by Jean-Charles Boisset, the winery has undergone a fantastic renovation to restore the original beauty and bring in a fresh energy to carry it in to the future.
The hosts, dressed in period costumes, warmly welcomed us with a glass of JCB bubbles. And where better to enjoy it than the Bubbly room? Opulent, decadent, and yet cozy. I could have easily stayed in this room and sipped the night away, but there was more to see and more to taste.
They’ve restored the caves to allow for Private Reserve Tastings. As a nod to Boisset’s Burgundian roots, he has reintroduced barrel tastings in the cave. You can have the opportunity to create your own blend and buy a bottle or a case. Each room held epicurean delights and seemed full of life, or should I say “joie de vivre”.
Boisset is committed to honoring the history of the winery and the art of winemaking. He is equally committed to promoting the future of California wine. Whether enjoying a picnic under the magnificent trees or taking a historical tour of the grounds, one gets a sense of all that has come before and all that is sure to come.
The party was impeccably planned, but the highlight of the evening for me was simply the company. After wandering the grounds and sampling the wines, Alana and I decided to step away. With nibbles and a bit of Pinot Noir we headed up to the loft to chat. It reminded me that whether you are at an elaborate party or sitting at a picnic table, in Sonoma or in Austin, it is the people who you are with that make the time special. We should always honor the past, look to the future, but not forget to enjoy the present and the people you are with, here and now.