Although I frequently rhapsodize about a French, Italian or Oregonian beauty, you know if you read this column regularly that I’m also a big fan of our local wines. I just picked up my third case of Simas Family Vineyards ’09 Capay Red, for example, and last night I savored a glass of the Simas Marsanne with my asparagus and pea shoot fettuccine. Wines that make me smile — as do so many of our backyard (well, close enough) offerings — proliferate. (Lucky for us!)
Last year, I wrote about the relatively new Clarksburg Wine Company and their very interesting chenin blancs. I’m happy to report that this year’s releases, the 2011s, are equally interesting and delightful. Last year, I preferred the straight chenin blanc to the chenin blanc-viognier (85 percent-15 percent) blend but this year I found the former just a little sweet for my taste. The blend is also described by the winemaker as “off-dry” but I think I’d put it on the drier side of “off-dry” or say it’s “dry but lushly fruity.”
Both wines taste of tropical fruit, melon and pear and have crisp citrus finishes. The blend has more mineral and spice notes, another plus for me. With their 12.5 percent alcohol, both are eminently food-friendly, pairing beautifully with spring vegetables, fish and appetizers of all sorts. Both retail for $16 and with their heavy glass bottles and elegant labels would make a lovely gift to introduce someone to the fine wines of our county.
My favorite of the three Clarksburg chenin releases is, as it was last year, the VS — Vouvray style. A very limited-production wine (only 66 cases), it’s made with hand-picked grapes from 35-year-old vines and barrel-aged on lees for nine months. Only 11 percent alcohol, it’s flinty, mineral-driven (more so than the 2010, I think) and nicely acidic. You won’t be surprised to know that it’s also more expensive ($24), but what a fine, complex effort for lovers of dry Vouvray! You can buy all these wines at the Clarksburg Wine Company tasting room at the Old Sugar Mill.
I don’t have a great memory for wine, but my sense is that all three of these are quite different from their 2010 incarnations — a sign that winemakers Andy Gaudy and Stacy Clark don’t over-manipulate, respecting both the terroir and the grape itself.
Also quite new, also local — even more so since the winery’s in Davis itself — the new-release Sundstrom Hill 2012 Viognier is a worthy successor to the fine 2011. Lush with tropical fruit, it finishes, like its predecessor, crisper and more citrusy than most California viogniers. It’s $17 at the winery.
Last year I shrugged off the well-made but way-too-big-for-me (more than 16 percent alcohol) Sundstrom Hill reds. On my last visit — which I made to listen to the wonderful Thursday afternoon music as well as to taste the viognier — Chip Sundstrom suggested that I’d be happily surprised by two of their new reds — a petit syrah and a zin-petit syrah blend. He was right.
Much lower in alcohol (13.8 and 14.3, respectively) than last year’s zins, these wines are also more food-friendly. The petit syrah ($20) has delicious dark fruit and hints of cedar and woods. Chip calls it “light-bodied,” I’d say “medium-bodied”; no matter, it will pair nicely with spring and summer dishes. I’d recommend chilling it in the refrigerator for half an hour before serving — generally a good practice for dinner reds during the seasons when our room temperatures tend to hover above 70 degrees rather than the more-desirable mid-60s.
The red blend is surprisingly dry for a California zin and nicely tannic. Bolder and bigger than the petit syrah, it would be happy with a barbecued steak in addition to spring lamb or pork. It’s $19 at the winery (2744 Del Rio Place), which you really should visit both to taste the wines and to support our local musicians who play there every other Thursday (5 to 7 p.m.) and the first Saturday of the month (1 to 5 p.m.). On Thursday, April 25, Meg Hojak and Brandon May will play, and Saturday, May 4, features the Knockouts.
Another local tidbit: You’ll want to mark your calendar for the semiannual tasting and new release party (for the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Barbera) at Putah Creek Winery, also on Saturday, May 4, from 3 to 6 p.m. As always, there will be food, music and art (including the wonderful, award-winning Emma Luna ceramics) as well as wine. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
You can taste and compare a slate of local wines at the upcoming Belfry fundraiser, which will take place Sunday, May 19, at Monticello (630 G. St) from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. They’ll be offering nine wines — three varietals from three local wineries. Guests can taste all wines from one or more wineries or taste three of the same varietal — or all of the above: $5 for one taste, $25 for six; $35 for nine; or $100 for unlimited tasting and a ride home. A $20 donation will be requested for admission, music, good company and small bites.
The Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal campus ministry for UC Davis, offers all manner of support for UCD students and is the residential program site for eight post-college volunteers who serve in local community service agencies.
Think globally, drink locally.
— Reach Susan Leonardi at [email protected] Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com