Thursday, August 2, 2012

Table & Goblet Newsletter August 3, 2012

Carneros Creek Winery

Before Pinot Noir became the Box Office hit, this tough to grow grape was receiving steadfast attention from Francis Mahoney.

Armed with the enthusiasm of a 25-year-old and confidence in California’s potential to make world-class wines, Francis Mahoney set out in 1971 with bride, Kathy, to grow Pinot Noir and make wines that would rival red Burgundies. Undaunted by Pinot Noir’s reputation as a difficult grape to grow and vinify, Francis accepted the challenge.

Francis researched the elements linked with great French Pinot Noirs, noting that the Burgundians were captivated by the concept of terrior, the combined influence of climate and place on a wine. Francis found an area similar to Burgundy in Los Carneros, the appellation that lies across the southernmost portions of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Often obscured by fog and swept by breezes from San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Carneros offered cool year-round temperatures ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Francis planted Pinot Noir and began 30 years of clonal trials to better understand some of the hundreds of clonal variations of the variety. In 1972, he built a small, functional winery and set about using his best tool, a palate honed in the cellars of Burgundy during his tenure as a wine importer, at Connoisseur Wine Imports in San Francisco.

When the Mahoneys purchased their land in Carneros, which means ram in Spanish, the land was mainly comprised with orchards and sheep herds. Under his direction, Carneros Creek and the U.C. Davis school of Enology and Viticulture conducted the first research focused on improving California Pinot Noir clones in separate small lots and then blending these clonal selections in different ways, he could create several styles of Pinot Noir all of which were stylistically unique representatives of the varietal. With over 160 acres planted to this one variety, the next step was to build a state-of–the-art winery to bring out the best from each clone. The combination of the most modern technology and viticultural research along with a reverence for Old World methods insures the success of Carneros Creek as a leading producer of New World Pinot Noir.

      Over the next 10 years, Francis became the leader in Pinot Noir development in the area and soon Los Carneros earned the status of AVA, American Viticultural Area. Carneros Creek gained a reputation of possessing wines that rivaled the greatest wineries in France. Mr. Mahoney continued to purchase lands and plant vineyards with clonal varieties that were well suited for the region.

In 1998, investors helped turn Carneros Creek Winery into a destination spot and expanded the facility. Francis found himself becoming more of a winemaker and was losing focus on what got him to where he was and that was farming. Ken Foster was hired as winemaker and Francis continued to work the vineyards and do clonal research along with Ken.

At this time, Michael Mondavi was looking for an actual winery to produce his brands of wine: I’m, Oberon, and Hangtime, which were all being made at other facilities. Therefore, in 2004, Mondavi purchased the Carneros Creek brand and some of the acreage surrounding the winery.

To this day Francis continues to farm the lands around the winery, which he still owns, and uses the winery to make his own wines under the Mahoney Vineyards label.

The two wines we are tasting this month are from the Fleur de California portfolio. Although Francis Mahoney does not own the wines, he has a history and involvement with the wines that put them in a class of their own. Ken Foster is the winemaker for both wines and he carries the flag for Mahoney while using the fruit developed in the Carneros AVA.

The Pinot Noir Rose is made in a crisp, dry style that is designed to accompany food. The Fleur Rose combines the typical Carneros Pinot Noir floral and fruit aromas with a mouthful of fresh strawberry and honeysuckle. The wine has a fresh mouth-watering finish that cleanses the palate. This delightful wine reminds us that even though the wine is light in color, it can retain all the character and beauty of its varietal. Pair this wine with seafood, salads, cheeses, white-sauced pastas, and your favorite light-medium fare.

      Our Petite Sirah is fabricated from an extremely low yielding vintage, making this wine highly concentrated with flavor. This wine is dense with intense aromas of blueberries, peppercorn and nutmeg. Dark in color, once in the mouth, it explodes in flavors of blackberries, vanilla, spice and a hint of black pepper. This is a nice quaffing wine that finishes smooth yet bright and is best served with barbecued pork ribs, teriyaki beef dishes or any type of wild game.

2011 Fleur de California

Pinot Noir Rose

North Coast, California

Alcohol: 13.05%

Harvest date: Sept. 15- 17, 2010

No barrel aging

Cold fermentation 55-60 F

Suggested retail: $15.99 750ml

Club price: $14.99 750ml

2008 Fleur de California

Petite Sirah

North Coast, California

Alcohol: 13.8%

Harvest date: Sept. 30 – Oct. 18, 2008

12 months French Oak barrel aging

Fermentation at 80-90 F

Suggested retail: $15.99 750ml

Club price: $14.99 750ml

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