Carneros, North Coast, California
GRAPE: Saint Laurent
What a delightful and rare specimen is the red grape that is both highly aromatic and deeply dark in color; at once black, velvety and plush and yet floral as all get out. Saint Laurent personifies just that perplexing and quenching grape, and is appropriately named for the patron Saint of chefs. It’s the best of both worlds of Pinot and Syrah, red sour cherry fruit with all the lofty purple flowers, and enough soulful color and tannin to mean business.
WINEMAKER: Maura + Charley Johnson = March Wines, a husband and wife collaboration of two winemakers who make Napa wines by day, and their own wines by the seat of their pants. They started March with love in their hearts (literally) and also with a desire to express their love for lighter-bodied complex wines, that are as affordable as they are fun to drink! The first and only planting of St. Laurent in all of California was planted almost 20 years ago in 2001, after Dale Ricci fell in love with the grape while traveling in Austria. His vineyard is located in the cool Carneros (sparkling) region of Sonoma, where Saint Laurent has an amazing opportunity to spread its wings and express all the effusive aromatics and deep saturated darkness of the variety. March also makes a playful pink from this, the only Saint Laurent in California, for now.
TASTING NOTES: Blackberry compote oozing in a just-baked pastry, fresh berry delight with a warm cup of black Assam tea. The aromatics are super alluring, sometimes sweet, sometimes sour cherry with pomegranate concentrate; the wine is thoughtful and bright with long acidity and aromatic rose water and bergamot through the finish.
A SEVEN PERCENT STORY – BAY AREA RULE BREAKERS
Most of the world’s wine regions are like a green map showing where watersheds flow, where valleys catch cooling breezes and reflected sunlight from the rivers below. Floating along Germany’s Rhine River or the Danube in Austria, one can see how the precipitous vines nearly hold the rocky banks up, and how those rocks build up wines with a dizzyingly deep terroir structure. In California, where most rivers are ephemeral and dry up in the golden months of the summer, our best wine regions often rely on the Pacific Ocean and its omnipresent, often brutal, frigid wind and fog.
Where Austrian and German vines reach for the slightest sun and warmth in the steepest climes, here in California the sun abounds, and it is the cold hard love of the Pacific that tames wild fruit and lofty alcohol to let the vines express their subtlety and their inner mineral. While there are still precious few examples to point to, this month’s Californer-Austrian güdness is an inspiration for the füture of German+Austrian grapes on our shores.