Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Single Vineyard Wines

What is the importance of Single Vineyard Wines?

One of the fundamental truths of the wine world that has taken root (pardon the expression) is that place does indeed matter. Like cheese, coffee and many agricultural products; that which comes from one place does not taste like a cousin from somewhere else. In viticulture, this is known as terroir, the unique combination of variables that merge to form a specific site. Sunlight, exposure, soil types, even factors like wind direction come into play to give a vineyard its voice. And just as you can recognize a friend or relative’s voice without actually seeing them speak, so it goes with grapevines. In the best instances, and with a bit of experience, you can taste a wine’s birthplace in the glass.

In probably its most extreme form, Burgundy is the queen of geography and place. Over hundreds of years, parcels have been broken down and broken down again, each time resulting in smaller designations and blocks based on unique vineyard characteristics. For example, while 10 different winemakers working with Echezeaux fruit may have different techniques and strategies resulting in 10 different wines, they should all fundamentally taste like Echezeaux. California is no different (don’t let the French tell you otherwise).  

We recently had the good fortune of attending a tasting at Robert Mondavi winery showcasing wines from the historic To Kalon vineyard in Oakville. Our winemaking team here at Bounty Hunter works with To Kalon fruit – along with Paul Hobbs, Tor Kenward, Alpha-Omega, Robert Mondavi, Opus One and Far Niente, among others. 

Though the vineyard is largely split between the Mondavi portion and Andy Beckstoffer’s blocks, only a narrow country lane separates the two. The vineyard doesn’t know it’s split. As such, while the five wines showcased had different personalities, it was clear that they were siblings. What they shared in common was more pronounced than what they didn’t. Such is the magic of place.

We undertook our Waypoint project some years ago as an homage to place. When choosing a vineyard site to make wine from we will not sign a contract unless the property has consistently demonstrated a commonality across the producers buying its fruit. It’s not a marketing ploy… these are places with history farmed with exacting care by some of the best in the business.
Tierra Buena has been under vine on Spring Mountain since the late 1800’s, a formidable track record anywhere. Oakville Ranch claims some of Napa’s most expensive fruit for the very real reason that people recognize its inherent quality and will pay for it. Somerston is basically a mini-valley unto itself, a sweeping property of more than 1,200 acres with personality to spare. Lee Hudson’s Chardonnay grapes are some of California’s most coveted, a testament to the land and Lee’s farming standards.

We believe that our Waypoint single-vineyard selections can truly stand among Napa’s finest. And having a great winemaker in Tim Milos (hello, Parker 100-point club!) doesn’t hurt either. We chose these sites with the distinct purpose of controlling everything from bud break to farming and letting the wine speak to the place it was born and raised.  

There is a lot of romance in the wine industry around the concept of Single Vineyard designate wines.  But there’s also a lot of science and history to back it up.  If you haven’t had a chance to try our Waypoint series of Cabernets, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Zinfandel, we think you’ll find them as excellent representations of their home vineyards (and often at a fraction of the price compared to their single vineyard siblings.)

We’d also love to know what your favorite Single Vineyard wines from other producers are in the comments section below. 

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