The Tasting Panel magazine

January/February 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 34 of 120

32  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2015 C uriosity kills cats, but galvanizes adventurous sommeliers. We love wines that go off beaten paths, but for good reason. This describes the sensibility of one of California's newest, most talented indie winemaker/owners: John Lockwood of Enfield Wine Co. After just three vintages (2011 through 2013), working out of Failla Wines' facility in Napa Valley, Lockwood has forged a reputation for wines that could be described as iconoclastic, if not for low-key temperament of Lockwood himself. This past October, Lockwood drove Scott Turnbull, Wine Director of Napa Valley's Solage Calistoga Resort, and me into the less-travelled regions east of Napa Valley to graphically demonstrate what he's been up to. The first place Lockwood showed us was Heron Lake Vineyard, perched on a rocky crest in the Wild Horse Valley AVA, 1,200 to 1,400 feet above sea level. "Heron Lake is the reason I'm in the wine industry," Lockwood explained. "Its owner, David Mahaffey, was my first employer, and the vineyard is like no other. It's above the fog line, so grapes get plenty of sun. But we're just five, six miles from San Pablo Bay, which puts it in a cooler climate zone than the rest of Napa Valley. Because there's almost no topsoil, the vines really struggle to put out more than a ton and a half [of grapes per acre], and the Chardonnay clusters are the tiniest you'll ever see." In the vineyard, Lockwood poured us his 2011 and 2012 Enfield Heron Lake Chardonnays: the 2011, an aggressive combination of acidic sharpness and pal- pable minerality, enhancing fleshy, fragrant stone fruit qualities; the 2012, similar in sharpness and stoniness, plus a Meursault-like hazelnut tone. Turnbull says, "I really like John's hands-off approach to winemaking, and the acidity he gets in his wines is so refreshing—it's rare to find California Chardonnay held together with so much acid and minerality, plus unusual notes like lemon curd and chamomile." Lockwood, in fact, embraces pure native-yeast fermentation and is not afraid to pick early to couch natural acids and mineral sensations in lower alcohol (13.3% at the highest). "Philosophically, I let each fermentation follow its own path," he tells us—music to the ears of wine buyers who prefer vineyard rather than "varietal fruit" definition. Descending down from Heron Lake Vineyard, Mr. Lockwood drove us into the little adjoining, bowl-shaped Napa Valley sub-AVA of Coombsville to show us Haynes Vineyard, where he sources Syrah planted on the site of an ancient riverbed, replete with chunky cobblestones mixed into granitic/volcanic loam. Of the 2010 and 2012 bottlings of Enfield Haynes Vineyard Syrah we tasted between the vines, Mr. Turnbull was partial to the 2010, lauding its "lush dark fruit, blueberry preserves, plums, black pepper and frankincense smoke, and tannins reminiscent of powdered graphite, Bing cherry, sugar plum and minerals." I was amazed by the wild, almost Cornas-like meatiness of both vintages, tucked into unheard-of (for California) sub-13% alcohols. One hundred percent native-yeast/whole-cluster fermentation, foot-treading, minimal new oak: Lockwood whispers the litany of many other contemporary- style winemakers. Still for him, everything begins and ends with prioritizing places, rather than making statements or meeting market expectations. "I choose all my vineyards by site rather than grape," says Lockwood. "I never intended to produce Chardonnay or Syrah, but it's the vineyards that were too special to pass up." How can a curious sommelier resist? Just What a Sommelier Wants ENFIELD'S VINEYARD-FOCUSED WINES PUT TERROIR BEFORE TECHNIQUE story and photos by Randy Caparoso Scott Turnbull, Wine Director of Napa Valley's Solage Calistoga Resort (left), with Enfield's John Lockwood at a Syrah plot at Haynes Vineyard in the Coombsville AVA. The Enfield Haynes Vineyard Syrah on-site, showing the vineyard's stones. Lockwood employs minimal new oak for his Enfield Heron Lake Vineyard Chardonnay.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - January/February 2015