Mar 19, 2014

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3 Wineries With Interesting Twists

In the world of wine and winemaking, too many wineries sound exactly the same. Sure, they respect the vineyard and the fruit that it produces, after all wine is produced in the vineyard right? They’re also family oriented and happy to pass their winery down to the next generation-but how do you tell a winery apart from its competitors when its marketing message sounds exactly the same?

Here’s a few wineries doing things differently:

Donkey and Goat, Berkeley California: Donkey and Goat is important within the huge California wine industry for one simply reason, an ardent vision to create all natural wine. Of course, many people have realized at this point that in the food world, all natural doesn’t technically mean anything since the FDA doesn’t regulate the term, but for Donkey and Goat it really does mean something. First, the winery doesn’t use sulfur unless in an emergency. They also take a number of other more natural methods to making wine. They don’t use machines to crush grapes, they use their feet. Instead of using commercial yeasts (which can tell a winemaker exactly when fermentation should conclude) they allow yeasts which are naturally present on grape skins to control fermentation, which forces them to monitor their wine much more closely than other wineries. Add it all up and you have one of the most natural wineries anywhere.

2 Shepherds: Winemaker William Allen has had one of the more interesting runs into making wine out of a shared facility in Sonoma. Originally the writer of the outstanding wine blog named Simple Hedonisms, Allen has always been a proponent for Rhone varietals and lower alcohol wines. At 2 Shepherds, he takes those two to their logical extremes. Choosing the coolest climate vineyard sites in Sonoma, these are wines that are critical as well as consumer successes, largely because of the combination of Allen’s force of personality, but also because of how that personality comes through his wine. These achieve the French sense of terroir, while still offering something interesting and unique. I appreciate Allen’s offeirngs because they’re different, wine and have a viewpoint that’s part of a new wave of California wine.

Vin Roc, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley): Vinroc is both the usual story, as well as one whcih is unique. The owner and winemaker made his fortune elsewhere, then started plowing it into his wine venture. The property is an estate winery meaning that the grapes are grown and the wine is made on site, but the owners have developed an extensive cave system to help his outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon get made. Of course, this is an article about things that are different in wine, so here’s what’s different, you might have noticed the location of the winery. Yes, it is in Napa Valley, but the winery sits at 1,500 feet of elevation in a relatively untouched section of Napa known as Atlas Peak. People whom started wineries a generation ago would have always bought land in Rutherford or elsewhere on the valley floor, but that’s changing as land prices have continued to skyrocket and generally become unavailable. Of course, plenty of people prefer the wines made in the mountains anyway (and of course, the views are better).

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By Mark Aselstine

Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, a wine club based in San Francisco that does some things differently. Instead of waiting for wine to be delivered to his office to taste, he spends time in wine country, making relationships and developing contacts in order to deliver simply better wine to his customers.

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