Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of this week’s Laurie Love on Wine column, covering Laurie’s Wine of the Week pick and her Wine 101 lesson. Click here for Part 1, with wine news and events.
Welcome to Laurie Love on Wine! I am Laurie Love, a professional wine writer and educator based in Santa Cruz. In this column, I share my wine passion, knowledge, and experience with Lookout readers. Follow me on my wine blog, Laurie Loves Wine, and on Instagram at LaurieLoveOnWine. I love email from readers! Stay in touch: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join me as we journey together through the wonderful world of wine.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Each column, I share a particular wine that I’m enjoying now. The Wine of the Week this week is …
2013 Silver Mountain Vineyards “Alloy” Bordeaux blend, Santa Cruz Mountains ($42)
Elegant, refined, perfectly aged, well-balanced — these are just some of the reasons I love this wine. I had the great fortune to taste this beautiful red wine at two events this month, and each time it stood out from the crowd.
This Alloy is a rich, ruby color with aromas of blackberry, black plum, juniper, graphite, tobacco leaf, floral notes and brown spices. On the palate, even after 10 years, the wine is fruit-driven with firm yet silky tannins. At 13.6% alcohol by volume, this isn’t a hot, cloying fruit bomb; quite the opposite, the wine is very elegant and smooth with good acidity and structure. It’s a wine that pairs wonderfully with roast meats, mushroom dishes, pepper steak, or just sitting by a warm fire. Tasting amazing now, with its tannin, acid and fruit qualities, this wine will easily age for another 15 to 20 years.
Alloy — a reference to a blend of metals — is Silver Mountain Vineyard’s Bordeaux-style red blend. “We make our Bordeaux-blend Alloy every year and have done so since the mid-1990s,” said Jerold O’Brien, Silver Mountain owner and winegrower. The wine is always a blend of four key Bordeaux varietals, with varying percentages each year. The 2013 consists of 42% cabernet sauvignon, 24% cabernet franc, 22% merlot and 12% petit verdot.
Most of the grapes for this vintage were sourced from the historic and iconic Bates Ranch Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, well-known for high-quality Bordeaux varietals. “I’ve been using Bates Ranch primarily for cabernet sauvignon, which is the primary component most of the time [of Alloy]. Also, every other year, from the cabernet batch, we will find two or three barrels that are outstanding and bottle that as a stand-alone cabernet sauvignon. Otherwise it all goes into Alloy. So we only release our cabernet sauvignon every other year. Our primary focus with the cab is on the blend,” explained O’Brien.
Looking toward the future and ever a steward of the land, O’Brien was a pioneer of organic viticulture in the Santa Cruz Mountains, gaining California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) organic certification for his vineyard in 1980 and maintaining that certification ever since. He recently replaced a 2.25-acre block of estate chardonnay with Bordeaux varieties (70% cabernet sauvignon, 15% merlot and 15% cabernet franc). Because of global warming, the microclimate at his vineyard is warmer than it was when he started. “Forty-five years ago, cabernet sauvignon would ripen here only three or four years out of 10. But now it’s warm enough for it to ripen every year. So I planted this block, and it will become my estate Alloy production when the vines start producing in about four years,” said O’Brien.
The 2013 Alloy won three impressive awards at the prestigious and long-running California State Fair Wine Competition in 2022: Double Gold (99 points), Best of California, and Best of Class of Appellation.It doesn’t get much better than that!
Get yours while you still can. “We only have 30 to 40 cases left of the 2013,” said O’Brien. You can purchase this wine directly from Silver Mountain Vineyards at the winery (269 Silver Mountain Dr. in Los Gatos) or at its Westside Santa Cruz tasting room (328D Ingalls St.).
Got wine questions? I’ve got answers. Email me at email@example.com.
Question: I enjoy reading about the food/wine scene in Santa Cruz County. However, I am always in a quandary about which wine to ask for. I prefer sweeter wines instead of the dry, crisp ones. I had a Fogarty [Thomas Fogarty Winery] gewurztraminer at Cafe Sparrow many years ago that I liked quite a bit.
For me, reds seem to have a bite to them. Chardonnay seems to be dry. I hate to order and waste both the wine and money.
What wine suggestions do you have for a wine on the sweeter side that I can order when out with my husband?
Laurie’s reply: Lynda, I will be glad to give you some suggestions. Thomas Fogarty gewurztraminer is a good sweeter-style wine, and having mentioned that you like this one gives me some ideas of what else you might like.
I suggest you look for white wines that are made from a category of grapes we call “aromatic varietals.” These can tend to express more fruit and floral qualities, which have the perception of being sweeter. Some examples of aromatic wine grape varietals are riesling, chenin blanc, torrontès, viognier and sometimes pinot grigio. Look for wines based on these varietals.
Here are a couple of local suggestions: I recently tasted a white wine blend from Sones Cellars called Canción del Mar which is a blend of pinot grigio, chenin blanc, torrontès and viognier. I think you would really enjoy this one. I also recommend Bottle Jack Winery 2022 Viognier. It has a lot of lovely floral notes (honeysuckle, orange blossom) and fruity characteristics (apricot, peach, tropical fruit). Doon to Earth Wines (Aptos Village) tend to express very fruity. Try the Ser 2022 Dry Orange Muscat or the 2021 Le Cigare Blanc. Other suggestions might be German rieslings from the Mosel River region, chenin blanc-based whites from the Vouvray appellation in the Loire Valley, France, and pinot grigio from Italy. I hope you find some wines you enjoy!
WINE 101: Thanksgiving wine pairings
Whether you’re new to wine or a seasoned expert, I hope to offer you something new to learn in the wide and wild world of wine.
After the previous column’s rather academic lesson on fermentation, let’s delve into something more practical and seasonal: what to drink with your Thanksgiving feast. As a world traveler all my life and as a professional sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, and having been awarded the prestigious Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 3 certificate with Distinction, trust me when I tell you I have studied wine pairing extensively for years.
The first thing I want to tell you about wine pairing is this: the best wine to pair with food is the wine you like to drink with it. You can toss out all of those hard-and-fast rules you might have heard in the past (white wine with fish, red wine with meat, for example), and drink what you want with the foods you enjoy. Trust your palate. Trust yourself. You know what you like and what you don’t like. There are no wrong answers.
Suppose you’d like to follow some conventional wine-pairing techniques. I can help you there, too. These techniques and tips have evolved because people who study these things have found over time that they help the wine and food taste better. A few basic tips are:
- The wine should be more acidic than the food.
- The wine should be sweeter than the food (especially true when pairing with desserts).
- The wine should have the same intensity as the food.
- Sweeter wines work best with spicy food.
A traditional Thanksgiving meal with roast turkey and all the delicious fixings (stuffing, gravy, yams, scalloped potatoes, pumpkin pie and so on) can be quite heavy. With heavier fare like this, there are two paths you can take to pairing wine.
First, if your palate wants a little relief and refresh from the rich flavors of the meal, I suggest lighter-bodied fruity wines with good acidity. These wines will cleanse the palate between bites. Chardonnay (leaner style) and pinot noir fit in this category and are wonderful partners to the Thanksgiving feast. Lean, lighter-bodied chardonnay (such as chablis or minimally oaked cool-climate California chardonnay like Madson Wines 2022 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay) brings citrus and apples to the palate, contrasting nicely with the fat content of the meal. Pinot noir, with its red-fruit-dominant qualities (cranberry, pomegranate, raspberry), works like a cranberry sauce on the side to complement the rich food flavors. Lucky for us, the Santa Cruz Mountains, with its cooler climate lending bright acidity to the wines, has many excellent chardonnay and pinot noir wines to choose from. Pick your favorite and enjoy.
If you want to try something other than chardonnay and pinot noir, other lighter-bodied fruity wines with good acidity that would be great with Thanksgiving include wines from gamay (such as Beaujolais, especially wines from Morgon or Fleurie) and grenache (lots of choices here including some great local wines: Big Basin Vineyards 2020 Central Coast Grenache, Bottle Jack Winery 2021 Machado Creek Vineyard Grenache, Birichino Winery 2021 Besson Vineyard Grenache).
The second path you can take is with heavier wines that match the weight of the food. For whites, look for riper, rounder, more buttery chardonnay. Some suggested local bottlings are Storrs Winery 2020 Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay, Sandar & Hem 2021 Mountain Winery Chardonnay and Cooper-Garrod Winery 2021 Gravel Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay. Another suggestion is Rhône white varietals, including roussanne, marsanne and viognier. I recommend Bottle Jack 2022 Viognier. Big Basin Vineyards produces several excellent quality white Rhône blends, and Doon to Earth’s Le Cigare Blanc fills the bill as well.
For reds in this category, think wines that aren’t overly tannic. Many good choices include merlot (Regan Vineyards 2020 Santa Cruz Mountains Merlot is excellent), Rhône red blends (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre from Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, southern Rhône Valley such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and red blends from Australia), zinfandel (Ridge Vineyards makes exceptional zinfandel wines, and I also recommend zinfandel from Amador County and Lodi), barbera (Amador County, El Dorado County and barbera from the Piedmont region of Italy, where that grape originated), sangiovese-based reds (central Italy), and Bordeaux-style red blends.
If all else fails, pop a bottle of bubbly. Sparkling wine goes with anything, plus you can enjoy a glass of it as you’re preparing the meal. I recommend traditional-method sparkling, such as Champagne, crémant, Franciacorta, cava. There are many styles to choose from, but if you can splurge on vintage or rosé Champagne, you’ll find the complex aromas and flavors in these wines match the complexity and festivity of the meal.
WINE EVENT UPDATE: Roberts Ranch Vineyards’ (875 Roberts Rd. in Ben Lomond) Holiday Workshop: Woodland Chandeliers, Wreath, and Wine event has been rescheduled to Saturday, Nov. 25, from 1 to 4 p.m., after postponing the gathering from Nov. 18 due to forecast inclement weather. Details on its website.
Until next time … cheers!
Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.