Thursday, February 14, 2013

Acacia Vineyard – Mustard Season in Carneros, California

After driving through the 30 miles of the Napa Valley (from Carneros to Calistoga), taking pictures of the vineyards most heavily populated with mustard flower vineyards along the way and visiting Hetiz Cellar, I headed back south to Los Carneros to do some wine tasting at Acacia Vineyard. The winery is located in the back roads of Carneros, just two miles from San Francisco’s San Pablo Bay which provides a cool climate with summer fog needed for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Acacia was founded in 1979 by Michael Richmond. Then in 1986 the winery was sold to the Chalone Wine Group which was then acquired by Diageo Chateaux & Estates.[1] Since the 1990s, Acacia’s annual production has been around 55,000 cases, with the majority being Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and around 1,000 cases of sparkling wine. Acacia also produces an economy priced “fruit bomb” line called Caviste Wines which you can find at World Market for about $10.

The winery is built with a utilitarian architecture. While it isn’t very esthetically pleasing it seems very efficient for winemaking. The tasting room is small but the facility has garage-like roll up doors that provide convenient access to surrounding 42-acres of the Marina Vineyard. In fact, immediately behind the tasting room is the barrel room and in the adjacent room are the towering fermentation tanks, destemmers and various other types of wine-making equipment. So, if you’re not bellied up to the simple tasting bar or standing at oak barrel being used as a table you’ll more than likely sample their wines in the production area. They also have one small outdoor seating area in the parking lot.

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

My first sample was the 2010 Winery Lake Estate Chardonnay. All grapes were whole cluster-pressed and barrel-fermented for 10 months and aged Sur-lie.  On the nose I picked up subtle notes of lemon curd, pears, apples, and a hint of butter. On the palate it is very crisp with medium ++ acidity, medium body, it is well balanced with a very long finish. If you don’t like the stereotypical California oaky Chards and find the stainless-steel Chardonnays to be too austere, this this wine is for you and it is reasonably priced at $35 a bottle.

The second pour was the 2010 Russian River Chardonnay. This wine is barrel fermented and aged Sur-lie. After 14 months in barrel, the wine was first cold stabilized, then sterile filtered and bottled. The profile of this wine is significantly different from the previous Chardonnay with more tropical fruits, melon, coconut, a hint of marshmallow and popcorn on the nose. On the palate it has more body, and has a fuller, rounder mouth-feel with medium + weight. It has a medium length finish and while it has noticeable California styled oak-influence and butteryness, it isn’t over the top. Another really nice wine, this one sells for $45 a bottle.

 Lone Tree Vineyard

The third sample and first red was the 2010 Winery Lake Estate Pinot Noir. This wine is made from a blend of four clones; the Swan clone, the Hanzel clone, the Mt. Eden clone, and the Pommard clone. This wine displays a classic Carneros profile with notes of strawberries, raspberries, and a hint of spice. On the palate it has medium + acidity, medium tannins and a medium length. A nice wine for $49 but there are many like it on the market for $30-$35.

The fourth wine was the 2009 Redding Ranch Pinot Noir, Marin County. On the nose this wine displays a hint of smoke, bacon fat and a potpourri floral bouquet with a hint of spice. It reminds me of a spicy Christmas candle. On the palate it has medium tannins, medium + acidity and a prolonged finish. This was my favorite in the line-up, and although it was about $20 more than I wanted to pay I brought one home for $65.

The fifth wine was the 2009 Barrel Select Pinot Noir. Only 200 cases of this wine were produced and it represents what the winemaker believes to be the best of barrels. It is similar to the previous wine with more smoke and more intense fruit and spice, but it isn’t as floral. I think the Redding Ranch Pinot had better balance and this one cost $4 more at $69 a bottle.

 Marina Vineyard overlooking the San Pablo Bay

I then tasted two Syrahs which were not on the menu but were on the current release list.

The first was the 2007 Scott Ranch Syrah. The vineyard is a mountain-slope site in the Sonoma Coast appellation. This wine is inky-dark with aromas of blackberries, licorice, and intense black pepper. On the palate it has tight gripping tannins and is full bodied with an unusual amount of sediment and what may have been tartaric crystals in the bottom of my glass. This wine was listed at $45 a bottle but on-line it sells for $27 a bottle.

The second was the 2008 Kick Ranch Syrah, a vineyard located on an exposed south-facing slope of Spring Mountain above St. Helena. A blend of 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier, on the nose this wine has aromas of blackberries, violets, and a hint of black pepper. On the palate it is softer and more well balanced than the previous wine with softer tannins, more fruit a hint of sweetness and a well-balanced medium length finish. This wine was listed at $45 a bottle but on-line it sells for $27 a bottle.

 To visit or for more information:

Acacia Vineyard

2750 Las Amigas Road

Napa, CA 94559

Phone: (707) 226-9991 ext. 2

1-877-226-1700 ext 2 (toll free)