The SOMM Journal

August / September 2017

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Page 105 of 148

{ }  105 acidity, salinity and banana-tropical nature show off a sweetness of fruit in a wine that is simultaneously bone dry. "The soils of Edna Valley and the influence of the Pacific deliver classic Albariño brininess," Niven points out. Other white grapes under the Tangent label include Pinot Gris, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Under a different label—Zocker— comes Niven Family's Grüner Veltliner, with 12 acres planted of this Austrian grape. Zocker is German for gambler—"and we did take a gamble on this variety," notes Niven. "We were crazy enough to plant it here, but sure enough, its flavor character - istics scream Old World." The white pepper and grapefruit spice—and a touch of sweet pea—add to the iconic lime notes in the current 2015 vintage. "We accidentally discovered that Zocker was once pitted against 60 other Grüners," Niven says. "Grüners from Austria, Germany, Oregon, Alto Adige, New Zealand—and ours—were tasted by a panel of judges over a series of four tastings in Vienna, Zurich, London and Dublin. We placed fourth, ahead of some of the great - est producers of this varietal in the world." Winemaker Christian Roguenant, a native of Bourgogne, has been crafting wines for the Niven family for 18 years. His Old World handprint shows off ripe, rich fruit, minerality and acidity freshness. Edna Valley's long growing season, maritime climate and volcanic soils lend a common thread to all the estate wines: energy. "In Edna Valley, Chardonnay is queen, and Pinot Noir is king," insists Niven, referring to the varietals produced under the Baileyana label and the best-known grape varieties associated with the region. "Baileyana is the Ivy League big brother and sister to the Tangent, True Myth and Zocker labels," he adds. Baileyana 2015 Firepeak Chardonnay exhibits great weight, with lanolin and buttered papaya notes. With no ML but plenty of lees stirring, a sweet oak persists. Baileyana 2015 Firepeak Pinot Noir, just released, is bright with fresh cherry and hints of savory mountain brush. While the Niven family has achieved leg - endary status for its pioneering work in Edna Valley, they created another label that draws on fruit from the valley and beyond: True Myth. "We went back to our roots and in the early '90s success of Edna Valley Chardonnay," Niven explains. "Our single-vineyard True Myth Chardonnay from Paragon Vineyard shows big tropical character with a citrus edge." However, for True Myth, the Niven family also looks north to Paso Robles, where Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in four of the region's sub-AVA districts truly shine under the Niven family touch. Meanwhile, it's the almost endless poten - tial of Paragon Vineyard that led to the diversity of cool-climate grapes that thrive on the family ranch. "The magic is where we're standing," Williams says proudly. "We've traveled the world and tasted the best of cool-climate wines, but I have been farming land in Edna Valley for over a decade, and I am still amazed and thrilled how well our grapes thrive. They have found their New World home here." PHOTO: JEREMY BALL The Tangent Albariño is from cuttings taken from Spain's Rías Baixas region. The Niven family looks north to Paso Robles for fruit for the True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon. The Zocker Grüner Veltliner holds its own against the world's best examples of this varietal. Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are "the Ivy League big brother and sister" to the other wines in the Niven Family Estates portfolio, says John Niven.

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