The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2015

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28  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2015 OVER THE TABLE O n a recent trip to San Luis Obispo (SLO Wine Country) and its two adjoin- ing AVAs—Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande—I learned that, while the region's vineyards have much to gain from their proximity to the ocean, the greatest advantage, according to local winemakers, is under foot. At a tasting hosted by Coby Parker-Garcia of Claiborne & Churchill Vintners and Christian Roguenant of Niven Family Wine Estates, conversation honed in on the region's cache of diverse soils, crushed, mixed and spread over millennia by the San Andreas Fault. "We have four main soil types," explained Roguenant, "And you'll have layers of each of these soils within the vineyards." Those soils are Diablo Series clay and iron deposits, great for Pinot Noir, says Roguenant, because the richness of the soil, while sandstone/serpentine and white soil Monterey shale gravel composes the rest. "All this place was under the ocean at one point," Roguenant reminded us. Tangent 2014 Albariño, Edna Valley ($17) Leaves are pulled off the canopy to allow for some sun exposure, which diminishes the malic acid in the grapes—a practice learned from Bordeaux producers working with Sauvignon Blanc. Bright salinity, banana notes, orange blossoms and honeyed character, along with candied peach and pear. Claiborne & Churchill 2013 Dry Riesling, Edna Valley ($22) SIP-certified estate vineyards planted to clone 49 on Diablo clay soils and Pismo sand. The wine has good weight and offers pretty honeysuckle and magnolia floral character, grapey and petrol notes and stone fruit. Clesi 2013 Pinot Grigio, Arroyo Grande ($20) Full-bodied, slightly smoky and herbaceous, Parmesan cheese rind in the nose leads to bright melon and a bracing saline, seashell character on the palate. by Jonathan Cristaldi The Greenoughs' 1880 Zinfandel Vines I n 1974, Bill Greenough bought Rancho Saucelito, an old property in California's Arroyo Grande Valley, right around the time the Sanford & Benedict vineyard was being planted. On his property, now called Saucelito Canyon, was an old Zinfandel vineyard planted in 1880 by the rancher who owned the land—the vines were shrouded in poison oak, but still producing fruit after nearly a century. Greenough nursed them back to life and has been dry-farming the vineyard ever since. In 2009, his son, Tom, took over the winemak- ing responsibilities. Marine influence trickles into the coastal canyons, flanked by the Santa Lucia Mountains, and soils on the Greenough's property are all sandy diatomaceous earth—all uplifted sea terrace, loaded with shark's teeth and oyster shells. "Under a microscope, it's billions of tiny perfect sea-shelled animals, and phylloxera hates it because it's so scratchy," said Nancy, Bill's wife. "We took cuttings from the original 1880 vines and planted those around the property. Our Saucelito Canyon clone is planted in the U.C. Davis Heritage Vineyard," boasted Tom as he poured the Saucelito Canyon 2012 "1880" Zinfandel. "For Zin, I try to pick it at flavor ripeness because the fruit will show more and won't be overpowered by alcohol. We aim to harvest at 23 Brix. If we get to 24 Brix, we might water down a bit." As for the wine, it's a lighter, more ethereal expression of Zinfandel, gorgeously floral, finely textured and seam- less. The fruit character is refined and mineral nuances extend an already generous finish. Tastings in San Luis Obispo Wine Country PHOTO: JONATHAN CRISTALDI PHOTO: JONATHAN CRISTALDI Christian Roguenant, Winemaker, Niven Family Wine Estates. PHOTO: JONATHAN CRISTALDI PHOTO: JONATHAN CRISTALDI Bill Greenough looking out over his Zinfandel vines, which were planted in 1880. Diverse SLO Soils in Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande

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