in the Yakima Valley, we wanted to catch up with Barbara Glover who heads up
Wine Yakima Valley. She had put together
an amazing tour for many of us in the Wine Media for the conference held in
Walla Walla in Oct 2018. The tour gave
us an in depth look at this region and was the reason we decided we needed to
return to learn more.
a couple of morning interviews and Barbara was kind enough to squeeze us in
last minute. Now…where to meet? Barbara made a call and set us up to meet at
Stems in Yakima.
Stems is a wine & gift shop, so we had a backdrop of shelves of bottles of Yakima Valley wines for our interview with Barbara.
who runs this shop was generous in letting us use the space and we had great
conversations on the area. We found a
couple of bottles that we were not able to find elsewhere to take along with
are in Yakima, this is a great place to pick up a bottle and gain some valuable
information from Brad on the area! It’s
also a pretty great spot to pick up gifts for fellow wine lovers!
met Co Dinn on the first evening in Yakima.
As the party was winding down, and the table emptying out, he came to my
end of the table and introduced himself.
We spoke for quite awhile in the shadows, my shot of the wine I tasted
with him, with attest to that.
been a winemaker in Washington for over 20 years. A UC Davis master’s grad, he worked in Napa
and then came to Washington in 1996.
Since then he has worked with vineyards all over the state to make his
spent 12 years working with Côte Bonneville before diving into his own label Co
Dinn Cellars, where he makes wines of the Yakima Valley and is devoted to learning
everything about this areas soils and climates.
His knowledge is expansive as you will see as he speaks with us.
that Co had spent time working with Côte Bonneville. The Côte Bonneville estate vineyard is Du
Brul Vineyard. It was planted by Hugh
and Kathy Shiels back in 1992 with the winery founded in 2001. Kerry Shiels, daughter of Hugh and Kathy and
the current winemaker at Côte Bonneville joined us for this conversation.
mention that Co was devoted to learning about the climates of the area. Yes, that was plural climates. When you talk about DuBrul vineyard, they
have multiple microclimates within their 45 acre site.
“In distance measured by hundreds of feet or less, we observe different growing conditions and tailor our farming practices to provide for the individual needs of the vine.
Quote courtesy the Cote Bonneville website https://www.cotebonneville.com/vineyard
is recognized as one of the top in the state.
Part 1 – Overview and comparisons
Part 1 below, we begin with Barbara Glover, the Executive Director of Wine
Yakima Valley giving us an overview of the Yakima Valley AVA, it’s sub AVA’s
and some of the surrounding area. She then
turns it over to Co Dinn. Co gives us a little perspective on the size of the
wine region here compared to other regions. He and Kerry move on to a
comparison of Washington to Burgundy and then moving on to talk about the soils
and geology within this region.
Part 2 – Soil overview and Union Gap to DuBrul Vineyard
continues with details on the soils and top soils. They don’t have clay here, the soils here are
gravel or sand. As they don’t have clay,
they don’t have phylloxera. They are
also in a rain shadow. We zoom in and
begin our flyover where Kerry details some of the vineyards that we will be
driving by shortly on our way first to Elephant Mountain and then on to Walla
Kerry mentions the world class vineyard research happening here in the Yakima Valley. She also tells us about the Red Willow Vineyard. They focus on Syrah here and have a replica of the Chapel at Hermitage on the hill at the vineyard. They also are looking deeply into the nuances of the different microclimates of the vines on different sides of their hill. Red Willow is a vineyard and at least 18 wineries source fruit from this iconic vineyard. Our flyover takes us from Union Gap on the western end of the valley discussing areas and vineyards as we travel east. We get to DuBrul Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills AVA, where Kerry takes over speaking of their vineyard.
Kerry gives us a great quote from Bob Betz, Master of Wine
grape would be red if it could. Every
grape would be cabernet if it could, and the best cabernet in the state of
Washington is DuBrul Vineyard merlot.”
Part 3 – DuBrul to Red Mountain
In Part 3 Co continues us east from DuBrul
ending in Red Mountain. This hill is an
extension of Rattlesnake Ridge. Red
Mountain provides excellent structure and tannins and is used often in
blends. This is a southwest facing
slope, not an entire mountain. It is one
of the warmest grape growing region in the state, so the cabernet grown there
always ripens fully.
a little time for questions which got into climate change. Kerry says the hillsides
help to protect them according to most projections, but they are working on water
management. (She goes into some great
details on why this is so)
were clinking, wines were being poured, great conversations were happening, the
weather was perfect and Flavor Camp was about to begin.
Wine Yakima Valley treated those of us who attended the WBC Pre Conference tour to 2 incredible days exploring the Yakima Valley. (You can catch our overview here). This first evening was spent at Owen Roe Winery. We managed an impromptu winery tour with Co-Owner David O’Reilly and now we were on to Flavor Camp.
Yakima Valley is an agricultural region and in addition to grapes for wine,
they also produce apples for cider and hops for beer. We were treated to an in-depth look at these
with Flavor Camp.
will get to hear about the Cider and Hops also, but we are about wine here,
Tour with David O’Reilly
We are at the Owen Roe Union Gap Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. As we climb into the back of the all-terrain vehicle with about a dozen wine writers, David explained that we are about as far West in the Yakima Valley as you can go.
“From east to west there is not a big temperature difference.” David tells us, but Walla Walla, where we would be going the following day, was at 30 degrees the night before, where as Yakima was at 40. The cold air rushes down the valley.
For a bit of perspective, take a look at this Wine map of Washington State, Courtesy of Washingtonwine.org you can see Yakima about at center east/west in the state, with the cascades to the west, compared to Walla Walla to the east.
Here on this map of the Yakima Valley courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org you can see the Union Gap Vineyard all the way west.
This tour would take us through 3 of the distinct soil types on the vineyard and we would taste the flavor profile from each.
Missoula Flood Loess and Bordeaux varieties
We drove up the hill and stepped out at the top, into soft loose dusty soil that immediately covered my shoes. As people walked, little puffs of dust erupted in their footsteps. “Loose soil” is your clue here. This is loess.
David pulls out his altimeter app to check the altitude (we all scrambled to find this app). We were standing at 1199 feet.
Remember those Missoula Floods?
Now it’s time to talk a little soil history. If you read our piece on Montinore, you may have some of this history! If not, you can find it here, where Rudy Marchesi explains the Missoula Floods.
This property sits at the convergence of Glacial Lake Missoula. We would pass the Wallula Gap tomorrow as we headed to Walla Walla. This is where the Ice dam backed up the water, eventually lifting and flooding the valley, creating the Columbia River Gorge and impacting the land and soil all the way into Oregon.
The water here in Yakima came up to about 1150 feet, so the soil we were standing on was above the glacial flood. The soil here are silts (really fine). David pointed out the hillside where you could see the sub soils of basalt and ancient rock that are about 22 million years old.
Soils here on top are shallow making it good for Bordeaux varieties. At the top of the hill where we are standing, they grow their Cabernet Sauvignon. This is clone 47, David tells us, a clone with small berries, this wine retains it’s fruit and has beautiful acid. We are tasting the 2014 bordeaux Blend with is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Malbec blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon from this vineyard block.
In the summers, up here, the sun is up at 6 am and the soils tend to stay warm overnight. They have less of a diurnal (day to night temperature) shift then Red Mountain. Photosynthesis is maximized when the soil is warm so the grapes here ripen earlier and the wine is less tannic and more textural.
We strolled down the hill, creating little dust storms and ending at the block of Cabernet Franc.
Elevation, terroir and matching varieties
David explained the planting method. The soils that are most shallow are planted to the latest ripening grape varieties (cabernet sauvignon), the deeper soils toward the bottom of the hill are planted to merlot, which has big clusters that ripen early. Here in the middle is where the cab franc grows, ripening later than merlot and before the cabernet sauvignon.
Cabernet Franc at Owen Roe
Franc is a favorite of mine and of David’s it seemed. He spoke of this ancient grape, father to
cabernet sauvignon and how it likes cooler temperatures. In hotter years it gets finicky. This end of the Yakima Valley is about 4
degrees cooler than other sites in the valley during the day, but it stays
warmer at night. This gives the cabernet
franc “gorgeous texture and keeps that perfume in the grape”.
taste the 2015 Cabernet Franc. This year
was warmer and the cabernet franc was finicky.
They had to pluck out the green berries by hand from the bunches. The first major heat will shut photosynthesis
down. The 2014 by comparison was very
Bordeaux in style and was chunky and tannic.
Irrigation in the Yakima Valley
We noticed the irrigation drip. Washington is extremely dry and they must irrigate here to keep the vineyard growing. The water here comes from wells from the Ellensberg Formation Aquifer. Due to the soil type, it tends to be slightly acidic. The soils are basic and low in nitrogen so this is one of the nutrients they will add in the winery. (We talk about that in our winery tour)
In so many wine regions we are trained to think of irrigation as bad and dry farming is good. That would be to stress the vines and keep those roots digging deep. Here, with the lack of rain fall, it is necessary.
The region gets only 7 to 8 inches of precipitation each year, and the definition of a true desert is anything less than 10.
The cherries in the valley, David tells us, use 10 times the amount of water as the vines here.
Into the glacial soils & Rhône varieties
Further down the hill we get into the glacial soils where you find calcium carbonate, the white substance we had seen above. These glacial silts have a little deeper soil and give you rock and minerality, the wines are finer than if they were grown in loess & deeper soils, that present as more aromatic and textural.The Oldest soil type here is the Ellensburg Formation, which is old Columbia Riverbed. This predates the Yakima River & the basalt activity. These are actually “anti-clines” that formed through earth movement. The upthrust that we were standing on at this point was at almost 1200 feet. This is not glacial. Anything lower than this was not upthrust, it was just washed away.
is found in high elevations. In Walla
Walla the famous Rocks AVA is all on riverbeds at the Valley Floor.
makes this great for Grenache is that Grenache is cold sensitive, so you want
it high in the vineyard so the cold air rushes down. Sounds counter intuitive, it’s at one of the
highest elevations & yet it ripens early.
Okay…all this talk about soils and wine, are you thirsty now? Search out a bottle of Washington wine, Owen Roe if you can find it, and enjoy our video tour with David O’Reilly.
Washington Tasting room
Open Daily from 11-4 in the Yakima Valley, they do require reservations for more than 8 guests.
They also offer Barrel Room Tastings on the weekends started each day at noon. You can reserve this for a fee on their reservation page. It includes a tour, private tasting, an expanded flight and a cheese and charcuterie platter.
The Union Gap Vineyard and tasting room can be found at 309 Gangl Rd in Wapato WA 98951. 509-877-0454
Oregon Tasting Room
Again open daily from 11-4 their tasting room off Hwy 219 outside of Newberg requires reservations for more than 6 guests. You can bring snacks, or contact them ahead of time and they can have a snack plate ready.
Here they have a Cellar Table Experience that you can reserve to do a more private tasting geared toward your palate. Contact them ahead of time to set this up.
The Willamette Valley tasting room is located at 2761 E 9th St. Newberg OR 97132. 503-538-7778
More to come!
Watch for more on Yakima Valley Wine, coming out soon!
Day 8 of our 12 Days of Wine found us doing a late night pairing. We met Leah Jørgensen of Leah Jørgensen Cellars this summer and had a wonderful conversation with her about her wines and so many other things. You can find all that info here.
One of the unique wines that she makes is a Blanc de Cabernet Franc. She had run into one of these in the Loire Valley and decided to make one from Oregon.
Tasting notes: A most unusual white wine that first comes across as quirky, but then mellows into a truly distinctive beauty. Offers aromas of lemon, rosemary,beeswax and gradually gives way to deeper fruit aromas as it is exposed to air— ripe nectarine, blood orange and honey. There is even a note that recalls lilacs. Ultra-smooth texture and medium body, with some minerality on the finish. A wine with a lot of grace. Drink young. Recommended for: Summer sipping on the back patio. With food, I’d aim for roasted chicken or cedar-planked salmon.
Opening a bottle – What is Blanc de Cabernet Franc Like? May 11, 2016
While it wasn’t summer, we wanted to enjoy this bottle young.
I had to work, but when I returned at almost midnight, Michael had a feast set with a cedar-planked salmon in maple and spices, rosemary bread with goat cheese, and a fruit and cheese plate complete with two goat cheeses, one honeyed, the other herbed, gouda, grapes, prosciutto, blood orange slices and some of that lovely gooey haymarket goat cheese.
This wine is really fascinating. You put your nose in the glass and you get tart citrus and pith. It was blood orangey, but after tasting my blood oranges, it was a little more tart, drifting toward pink grapefruit. And then you get peppers, green, but not bell. It really is that a roasted pickled poblano pepper. On the back there was a bit of salinity, and there is that touch of tannins.
This is a wine that starts like a white and ends like a red with a lingering finish.
Maybe it’s just channeling the Loire Valley traditions, but I found that this wine went spectacularly with all the goat cheeses most especially the honeyed goat cheese. With the gouda? Not so much. With the salmon it was great, holding it’s own against the heavy spices on the salmon, the wood, with the maple helping to round and soften each bite.
On the 7th day…well we rested! Eating Pizza and Sucking Glass with Maloof Wines.
Eat pizza, suck glass.
The Mantra from RossandBee at Maloof Wines
We have been cooking a lot lately, and these 12 Days of Wine are keeping us busy. Today on the 7th day of Wine, we rest. We pick up a white pizza, make a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie, thanks to the recommendation of Ross & Bee of Maloof Wines.
This wine is a blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling, they consider it their version of a rosé.
“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé. This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine. So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration. Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling. And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”
Ross Maloof at the 2018 Uncommon Wine Festival
So what to pair? On the Maloof site they suggest”
Serve chilled or at cellar temp with white za pies or with a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusak movie. Ours is Grosse Point Blank.
From the Maloof website http://rossandbee.com/wines/
We pulled out the “Where Ya PJ’s at” and donned our PJ’s for pizza popcorn and wine (no lounging in your underwear here). We could enjoy the tree, the lights, a movie and rest a bit.
This was quick, easy, and just the right size to pair with our bowl of popcorn. We ordered the “White Top” signature pizza, which is white cream sauce with mozzarella, applewood bacon, chopped garlic, oregano and fresh arugula, which they add at the end after it has baked for all of 3 minutes in the high heat pizza oven, while I watch.
Trust me there was plenty of garlic! (they people making the pizza are generous with toppings and always check to be sure if they’ve added enough or if you want more!)
We popped up some buttered popcorn to go with the ‘za, popped the bottle of “Where Ya PJ’s At?” and curled up on the couch with a movie.
The Where Ya PJ’s At? is coppery in the glass from that pinot gris with skin contact. The pinot gris gives it a rich nose also. There is a bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle (which I kinda like). The flavors are rich and the bit of effervescence tickles your tongue and your taste buds.
We actually watched Sofia Coppolas “Marie Antoinette”and the wine channeled that everyday luxury kind of feel for me. It was a day of lounging about, enjoying tasty bits and wine, like lounging at court. Overall the food and wine pairing was perfect. The movie…hmmm. (maybe we should have gone with a Cusack film)
Want to find a bottle of this stuff? Well, they don’t yet ship, but if you are in one of the lucky areas where their wines can be found… here’s the list.
Perhaps there is a bit of the 90 cases of this wine that they made, left out there in the universe. You can hope!
Maybe you should drop by and see them?
If you want to visit them…drop a note from the website where you can join the Maloof Tang Clan
We got in a van not knowing how long the drive might be. I suppose I could have looked at a map, but I’m not sure that would have helped. We actually ended up in Oregon. Walla Walla AVA is a border AVA with part of the AVA in Washington and part in Oregon.
We were headed to Cadaretta’s Glasshouse on their Southwind Vineyard for dinner. We arrived as the sun was setting to amazing views. We were greeted with a glass of wine and trays of passed hors d’oeuvres. The food and wine were lovely, but that view…
Sunset through the lens of the 2016 Cadaretta SBS (Sauvignon Blanc Semillon) from the Columbia Valley
The North Slope at Cadaretta’s Southwind Vineyard. These are the Glasshouse blocks of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon
Cadaretta Glass house and tent at sunset with the tent that kept us warm from the Southern winds at the top of this beautiful site.
The name comes from the name of the schooner that carried the Anderson & Middleton lumber products to market in the early 20th century. The family has a history in Washington having been in lumber on the coast since 1898. That’s 120 years in business in WA this year, which is no small feat. The timber company was based on the coast in Aberdeen WA (of Nirvana fame).
Getting into Grapes
Issues came up with the decline of old growth and the family, always looking to preserve the land, closed their mill. In the 70’s issues with the spotted owl came up and many companies went out of business. The family bought property in California’s central valley and started growing table grapes. This led them to Paso Robles where they have been growers of wine grapes at their Red Cedar Vineyard for 30 years.
They started Clayhouse wines in Paso Robles. Their roots were in Washington though, and they returned to purchase this piece of property in the Walla Walla AVA.
Back to the ship
The Cadaretta carried lumber to San Francisco and LA. Kris’ father used to ride on the ship as a kid on it’s journeys. During WWII the ship was requisitioned by the Government. Family lore tell the tale that on the final trip as the Cadaretta the ship was followed down the coast by a Japanese submarine. The ship was later renamed Southwind, which is where this particular vineyard derives its name.
This vineyard sits just west of Milton-Freewater on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA. L’Ecole, Doubleback and Sleight of Hand also have vineyards nearby. The view and the company are impressive, but what makes this place special for wine is the soil.
Soil at Southwind Vineyard
Most of the soil in the surrounding area is loess (blown dust) from the Columbia and Missoula Floods and you find that in the soils on the Northern slope. Those are the relatively young 15 million year old soils. On the South slope you find fractured basalt soils. These are ancient soils. They were just behind the tent we were sitting in. You find them only on steep hillsides above 1250.
When they bought the property they spent 2 years digging test plots. After soil analysis they planted 1 acre test plots. Digging into the basalt is difficult, time consuming and expensive. The vines have to work harder and dig deeper, but the characteristic they were getting in the wines from this soil made it worth it.
They have been working on this for 8 years and only 2 years ago release the first of the Southwind wines. Kris said that as a timber family they have a saying…
“It takes 40 years to grow a tree, we have patience.”
They wanted to get it right. They find Syrah and Malbec do best in this soil. There are few other vineyard grown in fractured basalt. These Southwind wines are pretty rare also with just 50 cases of each released.
Sustainability is common sense
The family comes from timber and it was always just common sense to take care of the land. It’s no different with the vineyard. Being salmon safe and sustainable isn’t something they advertise, they just do it. They have falconers from Paso that they used in the vineyard there who come in to help keep the vermin down, as well as owl boxes on the property. They use arugula for cover crop and have a bee keeper who comes in with the bees. It just makes sense to be sustainable.
With that idea in mind, they also didn’t see the need for a big showy winery. Instead they worked with Norm McKibben and JF Pellet and created Artifex in Walla Walla which is a custom crush facility for small lot, high end wines. The name comes from a Latin term meaning “Made skillfully” and it is a state of the art facility. The facility houses multiple wineries and they are customers to themselves.
So they had determined that they didn’t need an extravagant tasting room, but her brother still wanted a place to entertain. The view here from the vineyard was stunning and he wanted to create a place to enjoy that view. He had seen a building at the Santa Rosa Airport and honed in on the idea of a glass house with garage doors to open to the view. The timber is recycled, of course. To keep this a “special” place they limit it to just a few events. We were lucky to be one of those few events.
Our tables in the tent, protected from the wind at Cadaretta.
The menu for our dinner at the Glasshouse by Olive Catering in Walla Walla
Wild Canadian Arctic Char with Yukon potato emulsion, chanterelle mushrooms and plum relish by Olive Catering at the Dinner at Cardaretta’s Glasshouse
Over the course of the evening, Kris spoke to us between courses and we enjoyed dinner from Olive Catering in Walla Walla to compliment the wines.
The 2014 Cadaretta, Windthrow
This wine was paired with Wild Canadian Arctic Char with Yukon potato emulsion, chanterelle mushrooms and plum relish.
The Windthrow is a Columbia Valley Rhone Style Blend (76% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) sourced from Stonetree, Southwind and Monetta’s Vineyards. Aged 22 month in 50% Hungarian Oak, 40% New French Oak and 10% Neutral French Oak. Unfined they made just 259 cases.
The 2015 Cadaretta, Southwind Malbec
Paired with maple braised lamb shank with black truffle risotto, foraged mushrooms and dates.
The Southwind Malbec is a Walla Walla Valley wine specifically from the Southwind Vineyard. 2015 was a warm vintage with an early bud break. This was a wine that opened in the glass.
The 2014 Cadaretta, Springboard
Our dessert pairing of petite fours & truffles.
The Springboard is a Columbia Valley wine and is a Bordeaux style blend of 81% Cab Sav, 10% Malbec and 9% Petit Verdot sourced from Obelisco, Southwind, Red Mountain and Alder Ridge Vineyards. It is aged in 60% new french oak with the remainder in more neutral oak. Only 249 cases of this wine were made.
The evening was beautiful, the hosting was warm and the wines were truly stunning. Getting to speak with Kris and being so warmly welcomed to the place that is so special to their family was a wonderful experience.
You can taste them at their tasting room in Downtown Walla Walla at 315 E. Main Street Thursday through Sunday. Visit there website here for details.
Syrah. You know it. You have heard it called Shiraz and made into lush giant styles from Australia. Maybe you have had it in a GSM, that Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Chances are you have even tried it as a single variety wine, perhaps a French wine from Chateauneuf du Pape. It’s not the nation’s top variety sitting behind the Cabernet Sauvignon & Chardonnay that made Napa what it is. Syrah however is extraordinarily expressive. In Ballard Canyon it is the most widely grown grape. Much of that happened by accident. Growers didn’t plant Syrah because they heard about someone else planting it, it was just simply the right grape to plant in this soil and this climate. Then it thrived. Syrah composes more than half of the planted vineyard acres in the Ballard Canyon AVA, so it’s no wonder that they chose this variety as their Champion as they tell the world about Ballard Canyon.
Recently while we were in Santa Barbara, Michael Larner took the time to show us the Syrah in the Larner Vineyard, explain how they chose their clones and the future of Syrah at Larner Vineyard.
Of the 33 acres of vineyards at Larner, 23 acres are planted in Syrah. When they began planning in the late 90’s there was only so much information on this variety available at the time. They searched for the top three clones of Syrah from France, Australia and California and then laid out their 11 blocks. They also created an experimental block with clones that they were interested in but didn’t want to commit to a full 2 or 3 acres. There are 6 different rows of an experimental selection of clones. These rows can then be looked at from a purely viticultural perspective. This gives Michael the opportunity to see how the different clones work and decide if he might want to use them in the future. The property is 130 acres and they have another 30 acres that they will eventually plant with grapes, so this block has become their training ground for grapes.
In addition they will be doing some Massale Selection in an area of the property. This is a process of pulling canes when the sap has started to move back into them and then planting them to let them root. They will then allow these vines to go to seed and start propagating off the seeds. They do that a couple of times to speed the acclimation process of these vines that are all still relatively new (by Old World Standards) to California.
There are enough rows in the experimental block to harvest grapes and separately ferment, but you would be fermenting in 5 gallon lots. Michael used to sell these to small home winemakers who were very excited that Larner would sell as little as ¼ ton of grapes, but now they harvest all of these together and co-ferment them for the estate wines.
Ironically the experimental block has become their Cru. This spot has about 7 feet of sand and is probably the worst soil on the site. Even the weeds don’t like this spot. Surprisingly it has been beneficial, forcing these vines that would normally be vigorous to not overproduce. Almost every cluster here is picture perfect, making it the place for beautiful shots of Syrah grapes and vines.
At a recent event we had the opportunity to taste Syrahs from 7 of the Vineyards in Ballard Canyon. The styles vary dependent on the winemaker and the site, but there is an underlying similarity from the AVA that cannot be dismissed. In Michael’s words “You know you have a good vineyard when the vineyard speaks louder than the winemaker.” This is the case with the Ballard Canyon AVA. The underlying similarities in these wines shine through past the voices of the winemakers. The next bottling of the Larner Syrah will be in the new Ballard Canyon bottles. (Stolpman has a beautiful post and photo about the new bottles.) These bottles are reserved for Ballard Canyon AVA Estate Syrahs and have the Ballard Canyon embossed on the neck of the bottle. Watch for these, the new voice of Syrah will be coming from Ballard Canyon.
Larner Vineyard & Winery has a Tasting room in Los Olivos attached to the Los Olivos General Store. They are open Thursday to Monday from 11am to 5pm.
We had the opportunity to speak one on one with Michael Larner of Larner Vineyards and Winery in Ballard Canyon, out at the vineyard. This beautiful property is at the Southern end of the new Ballard Canyon AVA.
In this Video Michael talks about the formation and the plans for the new Ballard Canyon AVA.
The AVA was established in October of 2013 and covers just 7,800 acres, sitting in the very center of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Planted primarily with Rhone Varieties with scatterings of some Bordeaux and Italian varieties. There area 600 planted acres of vineyard in Ballard Canyon and at least ½ of the planted vineyards are of Syrah.
The catalyst for the forming of the AVA came in 2010 when Ballard Canyon hosted a group of 100 sommeliers from Sommelier Journal. In a side by side tasting of the wines of Ballard Canyon there were nuances of minerality, clarity of fruit, structure and tannins that ran through all of the wines. Of course each had it’s signature from the winemaker, but side by side the similarities rang through loudly. This was a case where the vineyards were speaking louder than the winemakers. The sommeliers in the Q & A following the tasting asked why they were not an AVA? And so it began. This is a tight knit group of vineyards. There are only 15 vineyards in the AVA and they were focused. They brought in Wes Hagen, who had already written 2 AVA proposals. With a focus of purpose the AVA was established in 3 years.
Once established they returned to the idea of clarity of purpose. As I mentioned, over ½ of the vineyards planted are in Syrah. Much of this happened without the Vineyards speaking to each other. This grape grows well here and it became their Champion. As they move forward they have a special Rhone style bottle with “Ballard Canyon” in the glass on the neck that can be used only for Estate wines and only for Syrah. In this way they can focus on getting the word out about the new AVA with a focus on this variety.
Don’t get me wrong, the other Rhone Varieties that are grown here are spectacular they have Grenache and Mourvedre that will knock your socks off, but you should first and foremost taste their Syrah.