Appellations Vol. 25 No. 06

Father’s Day Wines with Special Heritage

Take Dad on a wine adventure for Father’s Day.

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Dad deserves special wine for his big day. From sunny Santa Cruz and Mendocino to Europe and the Middle East, vintners share their best wine and Father’s Day wisdom.

Wine photo credit: Deborah Grossman

Raventós Codorníu Incandesa Brut California

The name Codorníu engenders history as Spain’s oldest producer of wines and Cava. Today 17 wineries comprise the worldwide Raventós Codorníu portfolio.

Why not surprise Dad with Raventós Codorníu’s newest venture, Incandesa Brut sparkling wine? “Sourced with grapes from four California vineyards, Incandesa is our love-letter to California sunshine,” said Mike Jackson, President of Raventós Codorníu North America. Unlike Cava and Prosecco, where bubbles are injected into the base wine in a pressurized tank, Incandesa is made in the same traditional sparkling wine method as Champagne, developing bubbles, flavor, and complexity via a second fermentation in the bottle.

The Incandesa label is covered in figure drawings of smiling faces inspired by the wine’s roots in Barcelona and the Golden State. The happy sentiment spills over to the wine, which is an easy sipper. Comprised of 70 percent Chardonnay and 30 percent Pinot Noir, Incandesa yields an aroma of peaches and stone fruit. The taste is citrus and melon and with a touch of sweetness. Overall, my tasters and I agreed that chilled Incandesa is a refreshing drink for a Father’s Day barbecue with a reasonable price of $25.00.

Mike Jackson Photo credit Raventós Codorníu

Jackson offers these insights on Father’s Day:

Best advice your father gave you
“What you do for one person, be ready to do for all people.”

Best wine advice your father gave you
“My father appreciates a good beer and scotch, so everything I learned about wine has been self-taught.”

Best advice you’ve given your kids

“The one thing I always tell my kids is to take the high road no matter what the situation.”

Obsidian Boon’s Fly Chardonnay 2016 Carneros

Obsidian Wine Co. is not your average Sonoma winery. The owners offer unique wine adventures such as seaplane rides, oyster harvests, or volcano hikes, and they cooper their own barrels in Hungary. Named for the red soil laced with black obsidian from their vineyard on the Mayacaymus Mountains, the winery launched in 2002 with Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and other wines.

Nicholas Molnar is a grape farmer in southern Napa Valley who purchased the Poseidon Vineyard in 1973, a decade before the Carneros AVA was established. Carneros was the first wine region in California to be defined by its climate characteristics rather than political boundaries; the Carneros Wine Alliance now comprises 19 wineries that straddle both Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Molnar’s sons Peter and Arpad, along with Michael Terrien, their enology-degreed partner, own Obsidian. The brothers Molnar also own Kádár Hungary, a cooperage in the Tokaj, Hungary, and partner with Taransaud Cooperage in Cognac.

Obsidian Boon’s Fly Chardonnay is sourced from the top two acres in their Poseidon vineyard. Named for Boon Fly, a colorful character from the early days of the settlement of the Carneros region, this is a full-bodied Chardonnay full of complex flavors featuring stone fruit such as peach and tropical passion fruit, balanced with acidity. With the richer profile, drink Boon Fly this Father’s Day or let it age for another occasion.

Managing partner Arpad Molnar offers this Father’s Day advice:

Best advice your father gave you
“’Watch what I do, not what I say.’ He is now 94 years old and still adventuring.”

Best wine advice your father gave you
“Wine? We had to learn that on our own, as our father was primarily a grape grower. Our father advised not to get into winemaking, but we did it anyway and never looked back.”

Best advice you’ve given your kids
“Think about the long term. Take risks. You only have one spin around the carousel of life.”

Bonny Doon Winery Le Cigar Volant 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains

Speaking of adventurous winemaking, consider Bonny Doon Vineyard. Vintner Randall Grahm purchased a vineyard in the Santa Cruz region and named his winery Bonny Doon after a local neighborhood in the mountainous district. Planning to craft Burgundian wines, Grahm soon realized that the terroir was better suited to Rhône grapes. In 1986 Grahm produced the first vintage of the winery’s flagship brand, Le Cigare Volant, aka The Flying Cigar, in the style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Le Cigare Volant label displays a cigar-shaped spaceship hovering and spreading light over a winery. This science-fiction label hinted at innovations coming from Grahm. Famously known as the first “Rhone Ranger,” Grahm popularized Rhône varietal planting in California. Other innovations include the early adoption of screw caps and identifying ingredients on the back label. After Bonny Doon expanded, Grahm sold off his larger brands such as Big House and focused on unique, smaller lot wines.

Le Cigare Volant is primarily Grenache with Cinsault, Syrah, and a dash of Petite Sirah to enhance the structure. My tasters enjoyed the cherry-influenced, fruity nose and the way the mouthfeel began as a light red but surprised with a deep, satisfying finish. I found the wine paired well with meals from curry to Chinese food.

Photo of Bonny Doon Vineyard owner Randall Grahm 

Grahm is not shy about sharing wisdom:

Best advice your father gave you
“Think Yiddish; talk British.” Yiddish is a language spoken by Jews of central and eastern Europe full of humor and metaphor.

Best wine advice your father gave you about wine
“Don’t waste it.” My father was not particularly interested in wine. When I took him for a vineyard walk, and I reflexively started thinning under-ripe bunches, my father was utterly appalled. His instinct was to pick the thinned clusters and try to re-attach them to the vine.

Best advice you’ve given your daughter
Focus on Burgundy (and Côte-Rôtie). The rest is but a footnote. 

Barkan Classic Merlot- Argaman 2017 Dan, Israel

I am keen on Israeli wines from boutique producer Yatir winery at the southern tip of the Judean Hills. Recently for a Jewish holiday, I sampled a Barkan wine from the largest winery in Israel. Launched in the late 19th century, Barkan boasts a modern, state-of-the-art winery in the Judean lowlands located a half-hour from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

With a history dating 5,000 years ago, Israeli wines are again gaining attention. The majority of the 300 commercial Israeli wineries sell kosher wine with dramatically improved production methods in the last decades. More wines are now exported to the U.S.

Head winemaker Ido Lewinsohn described the Barkan portfolio of wines. “While a large winery, we produce hand-crafted labels such as the Superior and Altitude series in limited quantities. Overall, our goal is to make an international style of wines that are excellent value in different price ranges.”

The Classic tier includes the Barkan Classic Merlot-Argaman red blend, an excellent choice for Father’s Day brunch featuring the dark-hued indigenous grape. The wine was a crowd favorite from our tasting. The fruity nose led to a full mid-palate and smooth finish that was welcome for those who appreciate a not-so-tannic and mouth-drying wine. With low alcohol at 13 percent ABV, the wine matches with food from tapas to brisket. The Barkan Classic range is sold in the U.S. at around $12.00.

Lewinsohn, one of only 100 winemakers of 408 wine professionals, awarded the Masters of Wine certification, offers this Father’s day advice:

Ido Lewinsohn, Barkan Winemaker

Best advice your father gave you.

“My family did not drink much wine and did not cook much. By not teaching me about wine and food, my parents inspired me to fill that gap and learn as much as I can.”

Best advice you’ve given your kids

“When my kids grow up, I will tell them as a producer to make the kind of wine you personally want to drink.”

Luce 2018 Toscana IGT

Vintner Marchesi Lamberto Frescobaldi shared his description of Luce. “This wine is a blend of experiences from the history of the Frescobaldi family producing wine since 1300 and the more contemporary approach from the Mondavis from California. President of the Frescobaldi Toscana wine group, Frescobaldi is also president and sole owner of Tenute Luce in Montalcino.

Frescobaldi studied at UC Davis and met Robert Mondavi. The two men formed a friendship and started the Tenute Luce project in 1993. “Robert’s wife Margrit named the wine,” said Marchesi. “Luce means light in Italian and reflects the sunshine that creates the big, juicy wine.” The label features a sun modeled after a decoration in the family church in Florence.

Before Luce, the region was known for Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sangiovese and the “Super Tuscans” made with international varietals blended with Sangiovese. With his deep understanding of viticulture, Frescobaldi recognized that Montalcino’s clay soils were especially suited to growing Merlot. Luce was the first Tuscan red blend of Merlot and Sangiovese.

After Mondavi sold his winery interests in 2004, Frescobaldi assumed ownership of Luce, purchasing additional vineyards and building a new winery. The blend of 50-50 Merlot-Sangiovese has remained consistent over the years. I found the nose redolent of blackberries with the profile balancing the brightness of Merlot and savory Sangiovese. Frescobaldi described the wine as initially linear but broadening through the palate. “This wine has a long finish with polished tannins—what wine should be. I could eat a burger or spaghetti with tomato sauce with it,” added Frescobaldi.

Marchesi Lamberto Frescobaldi

Frescobaldi’s advice:

Best wine advice from your father
“Never stop chasing quality—reef every detail. We have only one harvest a year, don’t lose any time.”

Best advice you’ve given your kids

“Don’t expect gifts from anyone. Pursue your dreams and have them become true.”

Saracina Old Soul Red Blend, Mendocino

Vintner John Fetzer recognized the potential for Mendocino’s Sun Dial Ranch, purchased the property in 2001, renamed it, and built Saracina winery.

Saracina was purchased in 2018 by Marc Taub of Taub Family Selections. Taub’s company imports wine and owns a portfolio of wineries. But Taub’s heart is in the diverse, rugged landscape of Mendocino. He has continued Fetzer’s passionate preservation of the land, diverse plant and animal life on the Saracina property, from 140-year-old olive trees to beehives.

Fortunately for Saracina, said Taub, “Our lead winemaker Alex MacGregor has a talent for finding hidden gem vineyard sites in Mendocino. In addition, he is meticulous about harvest picking to achieve different levels of texture and complexity while managing alcohol levels in Saracina red wines.”

Most families have a Dad or Grandad who could be called “Old Soul.” The Saracina Old Soul is a Zinfandel-based red blend with a rustic cave entrance on the label. Step inside, take a sip, and you’ll find what MacGregor calls a “sophisticated peasant wine, a true Mendo Blendo.” The wine has black cherry on the nose and a full, dense palate. The long finish is balanced with enough acidity to match many foods, from Wednesday night pizza to short ribs.

Jake and Marc Taub

Marc Taub’s thoughts on Father’s Day:

Best advice from your father
“Love what you do. He stressed the importance of putting incredible time, energy, and hard work into everything we do. But if you have a passion for what you do, it won’t be work.”

Best wine advice from your father
“I respected my father’s palate, and my preferences were shaped by his perspective on balance. For a wine to be great, it must be balanced throughout with a clear beginning, middle, and end.”

Best advice you’ve given your son
“When I first entered the wine business, it was in the volume side, marketing wine at a large commercial scale. I had a love for fine wine, however, and learned all the elements that go into producing something special. I introduced that love to my son, Jake, who gravitated toward this goal.”

Shumi Winery Iberiuli Saperavi Qvevri Red Dry Wine 2017, Country of Georgia

Continuing our adventures with Dad theme, how about taking Dad to the birthplace of winemaking, the country of Georgia? Located north of Turkey and south of Russia and the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas, Georgia has an 8,000-year vinous history with 525 registered grape varieties. The Georgian culture is so attuned with wine that over 100,00 Georgian winemakers and countless families make wine in an area the size of Connecticut.

Though stifled during the years of Soviet rule, the industry is growing at a fast clip with 1,575 wineries—a 400 percent increase in recent years, and annual growth in the U.S. market is 31 percent. Launched in 2001 in Kakheti, the largest and oldest Georgian wine-growing region, Shumi Winery placed a griffin on the Iberiuli labels modeled after the mythical Georgian animal bearer of grapes. Shumi was the first Georgian winery to establish a green harvest, eliminating immature grapes and enhancing quality.

The Iberiuli Saperavi Qvevri wine is a satisfying, single-vineyard red wine made with Saperavi, a top Georgian indigenous grape. The wine won over even my hardcore white wine tasters with the approachable flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, and citrus zest. Though full-bodied, the wine is balanced with only 13 percent ABV. The impact of using traditional qvevri—the clay vessels stored underground, in this case for maceration of grapes on their skins—brings lively aromas and deep flavors. Aging is accomplished in French oak barrels for four months. A bonus: The price in the U.S. is about $20.00.

Father’s Day comments from winemaker Giorgi Khatiashvili:

Best wine advice from your father
“My father was always telling stories and feeding me information about grapes and wine. My favorite saying: ‘Grow vines as you would your own child—do not hold back on care and love, and it will grow up to make you proud.’”

Best advice you’ve given your kids
“Like my father and forefathers, I teach my children to make preserving Georgia’s rich history one of their life goals, as well as to extol the name of Georgian wine.”

Proud Dads and mentors all, these vintners share care for family and grape growing. Their wines may enhance all your summer holidays.

Feature photo is Peter, Dad Nicholas, and Arpad Molnar of Obsidian Wine. Photo credit: Obsidian

1 comment on “Father’s Day Wines with Special Heritage

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