Intoxicate Diary Day 4: Mellowood and Yorba
We woke up to a cold and rainy morning, grabbed a hot coffee, then got into Grandfather's car to head to Fair Play in the Sierra Foothills for our first winery tour today.
Fair Play, which was awarded AVA status in 2001, is about 140 miles northeast of San Francisco and it took us almost 3 hours to drive there. Situated high in the Sierra Foothills, most of the vines there are planted at 2000–3000ft above sea level, where lots of sunshine and a long growing season typically produce grapes with ripe, bright fruit flavors and balanced acidity. These, in turn, create highly aromatic wines.
As we drove and ascended into the foothills, the outside temperature dropped steeply so that by the time we arrived -- after a much-needed nap along the way! -- it was absolutely freezing. Our first winery stop: Mellowood Vineyard.
Upon arrival at Mellowood, we met the Owner, Ms. Linda Neal, who also owns Tierra Roja, our super-premium Cabernet Sauvignon label from the Oakville appellation of Napa Valley.
From Linda, we learned that she bought the land on Mellowood Drive in September 2000, first planted vines there in 2002, and then produced her first wines from those vineyards with the 2008 vintage.
While at Mellowood, we also met John Kraemer, a member of the family that owns one of our other partner wineries, Yorba, which was to be our next visit. John and his family had come to join us for lunch with Linda, which we were excited about since it would be our first full winery lunch ever!
Due to the rain, we did not have the chance to walk around the beautiful vineyard property, but Linda gave us an introduction and tasting of her wines, before leading us to the second floor for our lunch.
Our lunch was created by Mellowood's winery chef, Mr. Geofuni, and specifically designed for pairing with Linda's wines.
Duck breast with sliced apple in Italian dessert wine sauce
Mushroom bread with cream sauce and mushroom salad with olive oil, truffle oil and sliced parmesan cheese
Braised short ribs in Mellowood Syrah -- this is the BEST Short Ribs I've ever had! They were sautéed in vegetable stock, then chicken stock, Syrah, rosemary and other herbs were added and it was braised overnight. (Actually, the preparation is more complicated :P )
Even though we couldn't do our vineyard tour, we had a very good time in Mellowood Vineyard!
After we finished at Mellowood, John led us on a rainy drive to Yorba, which was further south in Amador County. It was less than an hour to get there, and we learned from Grandfather along the way, that Amador had numerous gold mines including the very first: the Sutter Mine. Most of these closed in the late 19th-20th century.
In terms of its wine-growing history, Amador has long been known for Zinfandel and Barbera, but it also has other grapes like Rhone varietals, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo. We've featured several of these at CV.
We've now arrived at our second destination for the day: Yorba!:
The Kraemer family farming history under the Yorba brand goes back to 1769, and when they started an orange-growing business in 1913, they continued to use that name. So when they launched their own wine label almost 10 years ago, it only made sense to maintain that tradition.
Today, we were thrilled to meet one of the most respected viticulturists in California: Ann Kraemer, who is a very friendly and passionate person. After years of experience managing vineyards for several prestigious Napa wineries, she and her family acquired the stunning, high-elevation Shake Ridge property in 2003, and she immediately began designing and developing the vineyards. Today, her 46-acres of vines produce fruit that is highly sought after by several highly-acclaimed winemakers from Napa and beyond. Due to the red rocky soils and great fluctuation of day to night temperatures, wines from the property show off deep and dark-hued colors and intense favors and aromas.
After a quick introduction about Yorba Winery and Shake Ridge Vineyard, the rain thankfully stopped so that Ann could give us a very educational lesson on vine pruning.
There are two main pruning techniques used by most vignerons: "Spur Pruning" and "Cane Pruning", and today, we had the chance to try our hand at the latter.
Once a vine reaches two years old, it will generate many more fruiting canes than desired for quality grape production. Thus, to control that growth and concentrate the vine's support on specific canes/grapes, we have to prune the canes before the arrival of Spring. At the same time, in order to ensure ideal sunshine coverage, we have to prune in different directions so the grapes are properly exposed and protected during the growing season.
After about an hour of pruning lessons, the rain returned so we headed to the other side of the vineyard to meet the family members and begin tasting some of the wonderful Yorba wines.
11 members of the Kraemer family were there to greet us, including Ann's father who was a respected orange grower and even exported his fruit to Asia. I learned that the oranges I enjoyed in my youth were actually grown by him so it was certainly an honor to meet him! Mr. Kraemer shared with us much more about the family's history, including the meanings of the symbols on the Yorba label. Ask me any time and I'll be happy to tell you more!
We had a warm and wonderful time with the Kraemer family and enjoyed tasting their wines paired with some cheese and ham.
After finishing our last winery visit for the day, we headed even higher into the Sierra Foothills looking for snow, and finally, we found it!
A fantastic day in yet another unique California wine region!
2009 Zinfandel Fair Play
Elegant style focused. Offering a strawberry and cranberry aroma in this ripe, soft Zin
2009 Syrah Fair Play
Aroma of pronounced black cassis, black pepper.
Firm tannin and long finish. Very good for pairing with duck and lamb.
2008 Tierra Roja
Garnet color. Bold, intense and complex. Very pronounced aroma of baked cassis.
Sweet and spicy on finish, mouth watering acidity and firm tannin.
2007 Zinfandel Amador
High intensity aroma of black cassis, plum. Soft tannin with a hint of sweet spicy.
2007 Syrah Amador
Dense, rich, powerful style. Packs a lot of black currant, cassis flavor with a soft tannin and hint of sweet spicy.
2008 Tempranillo Amador
Bold, Red fruit character with soft tannin
Mineral and oaky on palate.
2010 3rd Generation Amador (76% Zinfandel)
Floral and structured wine.
Red cherry, strawberry character and have a good sharp finish.
CV Blog Post
"Wine of the Month": Cass Flying Nymph! #constantcontact http://t.co/g7Oc4GJE6c
Although we have made our shares of mistakes on social media, nothing compares to this! http://t.co/w7idqOqXkb