The SOMM Journal

August / September 2017

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Page 121 of 148

{ }  121 Opening Reception at House Family Vineyards The 73-acre site of our opening night reception overlooks Saratoga and the entirety of Silicon Valley and is planted to Bordeaux varieties and Chardonnay on 24-degree slopes, at elevations just above 700 feet. The House Family Vineyards estate bottlings—notably a sinewy, herby 2012 Merlot and lemony, minerally, Old World–style 2013 Chardonnay—are direct reflections of these steep, east-facing slopes. The House property also sits near the center of the area historically known as California's Chaine d'Or—a "golden chain" of mountaintop vineyards stretch - ing from Woodside to Los Gatos. It is here that Paul Masson, in the 1890s, first produced his award winning "Champagne" from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir cuttings imported from Burgundy. On a neighboring hilltop in the 1940s, the legendary Martin Ray threw down a gauntlet of pure, uncut Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays unlike any before their time. Further north along the Chaine d'Or, in 1885, Dr. Osea Perrone terraced the limestone slopes at the top of Monte Bello Ridge near Cupertino to plant Cabernet Sauvignon. In the lower hills of Woodside, in 1883, Emmett Rixford established La Questa Vineyard in precise proportion to that of his model, Château Margaux. In the 1940s, Martin Ray culled La Questa Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings to establish his Mount Eden property, and amazingly, two postage- sized blocks of Rixford's original 1880s vines still exist, now bottled as Woodside Vineyards' La Questa Cabernet Sauvignon. Further south on the mountain slopes along Summit Road, David Moulton's Burrell School Vineyards was named for Lyman Burrell, who, in 1853, established one of the first vineyards in Santa Cruz Mountains. At the reception, Moulton poured a nervy, savory, herby 2012 Burrell School Estate Reserve Merlot that seems to epitomize the region's deep, unrepentantly austere approach to Bordeaux varietals. In a similar vein, the 2012 Martella Sauvignon Blanc may be the steeliest, most gleefully lip- stinging wine you will find outside Sancerre. Among several razor-sharp, acid-driven Pinot Noirs shown by noted sommelier- turned-winemaker Mark Bright, the 2014 Partage Lester Vineyard Pinot Noir stood out for its glorious amalgamation of cherry, strawberry and scrubby earth tones. Still another Santa Cruz Mountains miracle: the tautly wound, silken 2014 Thomas Fogarty Walker's Vineyard Nebbiolo, crackling with bay laurel, cherry, rose petal and asphalt. Then there was the 2008 Kathryn Kennedy Contra la Marea: A brilliantly spicy, meaty, luscious blend of Tempranillo, Touriga, Garnacha, Monastrell, Graciano and Malbec, organically grown on the lower slopes of Saratoga. At House Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association Executive Director Megan Metz (left) leads sommeliers. Day 1 Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays and Rhônes Big Basin Vineyards. The morning of our first full day star ted at Big Basin Vineyards, surrounded by the 18,000- acre Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Owner/grower Bradley Brown talked about how he originally aimed for big styles of Syrah, Grenache and Roussanne. But as he got to know his mountain proper ty, Big Basin wines evolved into leaner, more acid-driven, less oak-influ - enced styles, losing little in the way of intensity and sensor y manifestations of this densely wooded appellation. Brown demonstrated this progression with a field tasting. First, a silken, airy, red fruit–driven 2013 Big Basin Grizzly Grenache, followed by a barrel sample of amphora-fermented 2015 Grenache, bristling with cracked pepper–laced Big Basin Rattlesnake Rock Syrah. Big Basin's Bradley Brown.

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