The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2013

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SAN FRAN INSIDER Seeing is believing when Mark and daughter Angelina Mondavi demonstrate their skill at dowsing and winemaking with The Divining Rod. Family Affairs CALIFORNIA WINEMAKING THRIVES ON FAMILIAL TIES by Deborah Parker Wong PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG A PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG Charlie Wagner II before harvest. The Mer Soleil winemaker forgoes growing a harvest beard and opts for a harvest haircut instead. A sublime Mer Soleil 2005 Chardonnay was Charlie Wagner II's second vintage for the winery. s of last count, most of California's 3,579 wineries are family-owned businesses, and it's safe to say that the future of the industry lies in the hands of next-generation winegrowers and vintners who have some big shoes to fill. Families come in all shapes and sizes which makes them one of the most appealing aspects of the industry—it's a family affair. Charlie Wagner II lives in San Francisco's Marina District, which puts him at the halfway point between Caymus, the family's Napa Valley winery, and Mer Soleil in the Santa Lucia Highlands, where Wagner has been in charge of production since 2004. During a recent tasting at our office, Wagner poured older barrel-fermented vintages of Mer Soleil and the unoaked 2012 Silver ($25) to demonstrate the profound evolution of the wines. A deep gold 2005 revealed honeysuckle and truffle, pure, creamy lemon and ripe pear fruit with persistent acidity and mineral length while the newly-released Silver, which spends up to six months in concrete, was lean and pure with density from dry extract and a liquid-mineral quality. Wagner honed his winegrowing skills at Caymus, where unique hinged trellises create optimal conditions for high-density vines. "We're not prisoners to the canopy architecture," he says. "At Caymus we can shade and expose fruit as needed." Fourth-generation winemaker Angelina Mondavi inherited more than a familiar surname from her father, Marc Mondavi, whose skill as a professional dowser, or water witch, has led more than one winery to a vital source. Father and daughter put their craft to the test locating a water main during a tasting of their new releases of The Diving Rod held at Dixie in San Francisco's Presidio. Mondavi, who learned the art of dowsing years ago from a girlfriend's father, has the uncanny ability to ask his rods yes or no questions about the water source he's attempting to locate. Their Diving Rod 2010 Santa Lucia Chardonnay ($18) is unoaked and shows tropical fruit, ripe citrus and plenty of dry extract while an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers black tea and meaty, spicy black cherry fruit ($20). When the Newsom and Getty clans teamed up to open the PlumpJack wine store twenty years ago, few would have predicted the 15 different businesses the company operates today. Their newest venture, Odette Estate in Napa's Stag's Leap District is still undergoing LEEDcertified construction, but the tasting room is welcoming visitors and pouring their Adaptation label, Napa Valley–appellated Chardonnay ($32) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($42), with wines from the estate scheduled for release in 2015. Odette becomes the third winery in the company's California Lt. Governor the portfolio which includes Honorable Gavin Newsom, PlumpJack Winery in founder (left), sister Hilary Oakville and Cade Estate, Newsom, President, and cousin an organically-farmed, Jeremy Scherer, Executive Vice LEED certified property President, are principals of the in Howell Mountain. PlumpJack Group. 30  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2013 TP1113_001-33.indd 30 10/24/13 8:47 AM

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