For those of us living in Texas who may not be from here but still love everything about our adopted Texas roots, we have a saying, “we’re not from here, but we got here as quick as we could.”
Many wines with worldly heritage can say the same thing about their beloved American wineries. From California to Oregon to Washington, Texas, New York and every state in between great wines are being made by producers from all over the world, each finding the perfect place in America to produce exceptional wines.
Each and every wine produced has a great story. I shared a few of these stories with the ladies of “The Broadcast. A little bit more about each winery we discussed is below. Keep these stories in mind when you open your favorite wine tonight and celebrate the heritage behind the bottle.
Gloria Ferrer Va De Vi Sparkling Brut Cuvee $25, Spain – Gloria Ferrer started with a solid backing at their Carneros, Sonoma winery. Spain’s sparkling Ferrer family, owners of Freixenet and Segura Viudas, visited California in the early 1930’s hoping to buy land to establish an American winery like their Spanish one. Sadly, Pedro Ferrer passed away shortly after his visit in the Spanish Civil War, putting a halt to their California dream. In 1982, Jose Ferrer fulfilled his father’s dream by creating the California winery producing high quality, traditional method sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and named it after his wife, Gloria. Much like their Spanish wineries, many of the people who are a part of the work in Sonoma have been there from the start, hand farming the 300+ acres of vineyards since the 1980’s. The Va de Vi is a blend of 89% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay, 3% Muscat with a refreshing and well rounded profile. Aged 18 months on the yeasts the sparkler melds fresh fruit with toasted spice for a harmonious, elegant sparkler.
Merryvale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $75, Switzerland – The history of Merryvale dates back to pre-prohibition days as Sunny St. Helena Winery was the home of some of the earliest winemaking in Napa Valley, including the first production facility Robert and Peter Mondavi worked in with their father. In the 1980’s, after many ownership changes Bill Harlan and partners purchased the facility, bringing Jack Schlatter in shortly thereafter to assist with growing their export business. A native of Switzerland, the love of great wine drew Schlatter to Napa Valley, but initially only on the business side. By 1996 he and his family purchased the winery outright and soon changed the name to Merryvale with the sole goal to produce the very best wine. As Jack said, “there is no other place like it in the world and quality is Merryvale’s life insurance.” Jack’s son Rene, a division one tennis start at Trinity University in San Antonio (among other things) worked his way up the winery ladder starting in 1995 to become President and CEO in 2008. Since then, he and his lovely wife, Laurence whose family is a 5th generation wine producer in Switzerland, have elevated the wines of Merryvale and sister winery, Starmont, to become some of the most respected in the world. St Helena, home of the Merryvale Estate, produces some of the richest, yet also most elegant wines in Napa. Black fruit, tobacco and spice filled with hints of dark chocolate and mocha on the end, Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon is always a special wine.
Grgich Hills Merlot $40, Croatia – Mike Grgich had several stops along the way before he finally arrived in America from his native Croatia. Leaving his homeland when Communism took over, the enology and viticulture student migrated to West Germany to study on a United Nation’s fellowship, eventually immigrating to Vancouver, BC and finally earning an American Visa when he was hired at Souverain Cellars in 1958. Working with some of the finest minds in wine in Napa at the time, including André Tchelistcheff, Robert Mondavi and eventually joining Chateau Montelena in 1972 as winemaker, making the 1973 Montelena Chardonnay that won the Paris Tasting of 1976. 1977 Grgich Hills Winery breaks ground in the heart of Rutherford, producing classic Bordeaux red and white varities, as well as their celebrated Carneros Chardonnay. Grgich Hills Merlot comes from a cooler part of the valley, giving the wine a Right Bank style balancing ripe berry, licorice, plum & spice notes.
Brandlin Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon $60, Switzerland – “Small Fire” in the swiss language, the Brandlin family settled in California in the 1870’s, coming over to America during the gold rush and settling on their Mount Veeder estate, planting vineyards in the extremely rugged terrine in the early 1920’s. Now almost 100 years later the quality of the hand farmed vineyards is exceptional. The Brandlin family sold their 170 acre ranch, of which only 38 are able to be planted, to Swiss family owned Cuvaison in 1998 knowing they would maintain their land, caring for it by hand and being good stewards as the Brandlin family had been. Farmed sustainably and planted with Bordeaux varieties and a touch of old vine Zin, the wine from the estate is highly concentrated and robust with layers of blackberry, black cherry, tobacco, espresso and spice.
Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir $65, France – The Dundee Hills, Oregon estate was established in the late 1980s in what is considered to be the best area of Willamette Valley for producing earthy, Burgundian style Pinot Noir. But the Drouhin roots go back a century when Joseph Drouhin moved from Chablis to Beaune, Burgundy founded Maison Joseph Drouhin in 1880. Third generation Drouhin, Robert Drouhin, recognized the potential of Oregon after tastings and visits through the 1960’s and 1970’s eventually leading to the development of their winery in 1988 with Robert’s daughter, Veronique, at the helm as winemaker with her brother, Philippe in charge of viticulture. Elegant, refined and delicate, Domaine Drouhin’s wine express both Veronique’s graceful style as well as the quality of the fruit from the volcanic, Jory soils of Dundee. Laurene is named for Veronique’s oldest daughter and produced exclusively from their estate fruit. Filled with earthy, forest floor notes balanced with ripe berry, sweet spice and woody herbs, the layered wine expresses some of the best of Drouhin and the best of Willamette.