This week, we have a particularly exciting wine on the tasting bar.
Yes: we are generally excited about all of the wines that we choose to share with our customers, and yes, we get excited about geeky wines all the time. Nonetheless, we can't wait to share this Vermentino with you!
So, on the list this week is Marauder Vermentino from the Mahoney Ranch Vineyard in Carneros, California. The Mahoney Ranch Vineyard is right behind the Mahoney Family home, and the 45 acres of vineyard were specifically selected to focus on a little experiment of Francis Mahoney's: planting 16 different clones of Pinot Noir to cultivate and see which ones do best. For the sake of science, art, experimentation, and whim, Mahoney also planed 2 clones of Chardonnay. For the sake of being rebelliously unique in the region, and because he likes it, Mahoney also planted 6 acres of Vermentino. Why not, right?
Now, as I mentioned, Francis Mahoney, from the outset, has had a goal of finding the very best suited clone or clones of Burgundian Pinot Noir to produce excellent Pinot from Carneros. To that end, he abides by some core practices:
Water Less: dry farming, or as close to dry farming as environmentally possible, promotes a natural path to vine regulation and vigor, optimizing fruit yields
Cover It Up: cover crops, such as oats, vetch, and winter peas planted alongside mustard provide organic matter and soil structure that promote root growth; they also provide a cozy habitat for beneficial insects and birds that in turn create a natural control against vine pests.
Commit No Evil: no weed is evil; herbicide use of any kind is prohibited
Use The Slow Hand: tending vines by hand is a family tradition and integral to growing fruit of the highest quality
Be Cool: optimal fruit health is best preserved by picking early in the morning, assuring the fruit comes in cool prior to hand-sorting and destemming
Yep. We love this guy!
Ok, so, we have a regionally rare grape (Vermentino in California, that is), masterfully tended vines, and a grower completely obsessed with Pinot Noir... who will make the Vermentino?
Enter the second character in our narrative: Kirk Venge, Winemaker.
Farming and Winemaking are in Kirk's blood: “When I was growing up, working in the vineyard and winery gave me a wonderful sense of partnership in my family's way of life; it was hard work, but I loved it.”
After growing up on his family's Oakville Estate vineyard, Venge earned a Viticulture and Enology degree at UC Davis, and set out working for Mumm in Napa. After Mumm, and post-grad work in New Zealand, Kirk returned to take the reigns at the family vineyard and kicked off Venge Family Reserve Wines in 2003. Since expanding and creating his very own label, Venge Vineyards, Kirk has starred as the consulting winemaker for Beau Vigne, Hunnicutt, Macauley Vineyard, Bacio Divino, JAX, B Cellars, Trespass, 11:11 Wines, Entrepreneur Wines, Renteria Wines, and Mahoney. Woah.
Venge was intruiged by Mahoney's planting of Vermentino, and his reluctance to work it into wine. Kirk's talent and skill as a winemaker have long been clearly reflected by his philosophy of making wine “in the vineyard.” “Understanding the terroir of a specific vineyard and the hidden potential of that site is imperative to the quality of wine that can be made.” The ridgeline Vermentino vines are planted running east to west, catching plenty of sunshine and the elevation of the hillside allows cooler temperatures to strictly regulate ripening, and the vines were planted and managed under Mahoney's strict code. Venge just had to try it!
And we are so very glad that he did!
At just 225 cases produced, unfiltered, unfined, just as nature intended, this bottle is a gorgeous blend of melon, stone fruits, terroir-specific minerality, and soft acidic structure. Be sure to stop by this weekend to try (and score) another very small-production, artfully hand-grown and hand-made wine from your friendly neighborhood Wine Pirates. We can't wait to share it with you!