The day after visiting Montolivia Vineyards in Chicago Park and Avanguardia Wines in Nevada City I headed over to the town of Lincoln on my way back to the S.F. Bay Area. The town is located in Placer County and it was named in honor of Charles Lincoln Wilson, one of the organizers and directors of the California Central Railroad. It seems like it is WAY out in the boonies but it is also a growing wine country.
One of its youngest wineries is Wise Villa Winery, founded by proprietor and winemaker Dr. Grover C. Lee, who is assisted by Kevin Luther the associate winemaker and manager. Dr. Lee first gained interest in winemaking while attending school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. As his passion for wine grew he began studying winemaking and made his own wine in the early 1990’s at local winery Cante Ao Vinho using grapes from a small vineyard he planted at his home in Granite Bay. Around this time he joined the Sacramento Home Winemakers club, where he continued to hone his winemaking craft while learning from local winemakers. He also took extension courses from UC Davis in Viticulture & Enology, expanding his technical knowledge of winemaking. This winemaking knowledge was laid upon the foundation of his extensive background in the sciences, including chemistry and biology, obtained during the pursuit of his doctorate in clinical pharmacy. In 2006 Dr. Lee planted his first vines on the Wise Villa Estate, and in 2011 celebrated the opening of his tasting room with the release of his 2009 vintage, the first from his estate grapes.
While visiting I was served by two very hospital young ladies and was able to interact with Dr. Lee while sampling the following wines:
My first wine was the 2011 “Sur Lies” Chardonnay. On the nose I picked up butterscotch, caramel, baked apples and almonds. On the palate the nose is repeated with harmonious notes of baked apples and spice, it is medium bodied, with medium acidity and a fairly long finish. This wine is reasonably priced at $29.27 a bottle. ($29.27 seems to be a common price for their wines, I’m not sure why they chose such an odd number. Usually wines sell for round numbers like $28 or $29)
The second pour was the 2011 “California Style” Chardonnay. This wine is exactly what you’d expect from the title. Whole big buttery Chards were a fad a while back they seemed to have fallen out of favor and so most wineries have backed off this style and use more neutral oak and less malolactic fermentation. But, if you like the BIG buttery, oaky style this wine is for you! On the nose I picked up buttered popcorn, marshmallows, vanilla, marzipan, and toasty oak. On the palate it is full bodied with a lingering finish. This wine sells for $29.27 a bottle.
The third wine was the “Midnight Delight,” a blend of Chardonnay and Muscat. This wine exudes aromas of orange blossoms, honey, canned peaches and tropical notes. On the palate it is medium (+) bodied with medium acidity and a prolonged finish. This wine sells for… you guessed it… $29.27 a bottle.
The fourth sample of wine was the 2011 Torrontes. This is the first time I have visited a winery that produces this Argentinian varietal. I have tasted about a dozen or so from Argentina and none of them impressed me. So, this wine was a very pleasant surprise! The bouquet on this wine is BIG with intense aromas of orange blossoms, tangerines, and grapefruit. On the palate the wine is medium-light bodied, it has crisp acidity and a prolonged finish. I bought two bottles of this wine which sells for $29.27 each.
The fifth pour of wine was the 2011 Pinot Noir “Blanc de Noir.” This is a rosé wine made from estate grown Pinot Noir grapes. I was really surprised to find a winery that is growing Pinot Noir this far inland. Most California Pinots and grown within 30 miles of the Pacific Ocean. They are also producing a red Pinot Noir from the same grapes but it is still in the barrels (been there for 2 years!) so I am really curious as to how it will turn out. There are some Pinot Noirs produced in the central valley but must of them lose the subtle nuances that the varietal can deliver and turn out to be just basic dark table wine with drab plum notes. So, hopefully the wine will turn out well. This is a rosé wine is really quite nice, it is peach in color with notes of watermelon, cherries, strawberries and oranges. On the palate it is slightly sweet, light bodied with medium (+) acidity and a lingering finish. A really nice summer wine, this wine sells for $29.27 a bottle and I brought one home.
The first red and sixth wine was the 2010 Merlot. This wine is more Cabernet-like with pronounced aromas of black cherries, currants and spice. On the palate it has medium (+) tannins and acidity; it is well-structured and well balanced. If you know anybody who says they don’t like Merlot but they like Cab Sauv, give them a glass of this wine but don’t tell them what it is. They’ll be surprised. This wine sells for $29.27 a bottle.
The seventh wine was the 2010 Cabernet Franc. I wasn’t real fond of this wine. On the nose is has upfront green bell pepper notes followed by tart cherries and blueberries. Some people may like that in a Cabernet Franc as it is very common. But it isn’t for me. On the palate it is fairly soft with a medium weight body and medium acidity. This wine sells for $29.27 a bottle.
The eighth wine was the 2009 “Wisdom of Wise”, a proprietary blend of 35% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot, and 17% Petit Syrah. On the nose this wine has pronounced aromas of blackberries, dark chocolate, new leather, oak and a touch of vanilla. I think the Petit Syrah gives the nose a bit more “oomph!” that what you might expect from a Meritage-like wine. On the palate it has Medium (+) body, medium tannins and acidity and a fairly long finish. This wine sells for $29.27 a bottle.
The ninth wine was the 2010 Tempranillo, which was my favorite red wine in the line-up. Keep in mind, that I am only TASTING the wine and then spitting it out. If I was DRINKING the wine by this time they’d all taste great and be my favorite! This wine has an explosive nose of Bing cherries, black licorice, a hint of earthiness, vanilla and spice. On the palate it is medium bodied with supple refined tannins and a medium (+) length finish. This wine sells for… (drum roll please)… $29.27 a bottle… and I brought one home.
The tenth wine was the 2010 Syrah. This wine displays aromas of blackberry jam, dark chocolate, anise and dark plums. The wine is fruit forward with medium body, medium tannins and a medium (+) length finish. This wine sells for $29.27 a bottle
The eleventh wine was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is somewhat muted but it may need more time to open up. After MUCH swirling I was able to pick up subtle notes of black currants, hints of bell pepper, and herb tea. On the palate it has medium (+) tannins and medium acidity with a medium length finish. This wine was the most expensive in the line-up as it sells for $33.47 a bottle.
My final wine was the “Eclipe”- a traditional Port-style wine made from Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. On the nose it has aromas of blackberry sorbet and dark chocolate but NO dried fruits that you typically find in Port wines. On the palate it has a lot of complexity with additional notes of cola and vanilla. This wine sells for $24 for a 350 ml. bottle.
Overall, I was more impressed with the white wines than the red, but I did like the Tempranillo enough to bring a bottle home.
To visit or more information:
Wise Villa Winery
4100 Wise Road
Lincoln, CA 95648
2217 Plaza Drive, Rocklin, CA 95765