Edible Monterey Bay

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Grape Escapes: Lester’s New Sparkling Wine Project

April 2, 2021 – Lester Estate Wines just released its 2017 Sparkling Brut, the culmination of a three-year passion project of owner Patty Lester and sparkling winemaker Dan Person. Made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this wine is the essence of apples, in its aromas, its flavors and its site history. Where the Deer Park Vineyard sits today used to be an apple orchard. In fact, the whole area used to be an apple orchard. One whiff of this wine takes you back to a time where driving down Pleasant Valley Road must have been one overwhelming experience of tree after tree, laden with ripening apples, maturing like the Keat’s poem, in the autumn sun. You can still get a sense of this by driving along Watsonville Road, and on Pleasant Valley, where there remain a few pockets of orchards, generally interrupted by vines. 

A recent study found that apples and other fruits may help to stimulate the production of new brain cells, which could have implications for learning and memory. The results of the work in cultured cells and in mice indicated that quercetin, together with other compounds found in apples, may act in synergy to promote neurogenesis and possibly aid brain function, when given in high concentrations. Another reason to eat, or in this case, drink your apples?

This Brut greets you with aromas of apple streusel cake, with a distinct note of cinnamon, brown sugar, toasted walnuts and melted butter. At first sip, the relative crispness and softness of several apple varieties reveal themselves. Softness of Macintosh, crispness of Granny Smith, density of the latter. A bit of candied orange peel, a hint of sweet brioche toast. 

A nuttiness also shows up on the palate, along with golden raisins, as if you’re eating a classic apple turnover. My Mom always made them with nuts and raisins. Not a light and dainty wine, this is pretty robust, with nutmeg and cinnamon giving it heft. This Brut is nothing like the 2018 Sparkling rose of Pinot Noir, also made by Dan Person, which is wild with strawberries, hyacinth and gardenia. It’s good to have choices. These would be perfect for your Easter feast. 

Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Club Announces April Offerings

The Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association has assembled a nifty way to enjoy the fruits of the AVA.Recently, I sampled the wines from the Classic Collection options February shipment: see Savvy Sips, below. The three different April offerings have just been announced. The Classic Collection, includes Alfaro Trout Gulch Chardonnay, Maison Aerion Cabernet Sauvignon (Woodside, Chaine d’Or Vineyard), Bargetto Regan Vineyard Pinot Noir and Saison Coast Grade Pinot Noir. The April Mountain Bordeaux Collection includes Domaine Eden

Cabernet Sauvignon, House Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Ridge Estate

Cabernet Sauvignon and Dorcich Family Vineyards “Monte Bello”

Cabernet Sauvignon. In the Pinot Noir Collection, you’ll find Big Basin Vineyards

Alfaro Family Vineyard Pinot Noir, Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir, Lester Estate Wines “Mercurio” Pinot Noir and Waxwing Dearheart Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Savvy Sips

From the Winter edition of the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Club, Classic Collection, came these four.

2018 Sante Arcangeli Family Wines “Integrato” Pinot Noir: 

To create this “party in a bottle,” a project he started in 2014 and officially named “Integrato” in 2016, John Benedetti sourced from three sub-areas in the region (they could eventually become their own official sub-AVAs). Four vineyards are included in the blend, including Hall, Herr, Lester, Delardi and Split Rail. Hall Vineyard is at the top of Montevina Road above Los Gatos at 2000ft elevation and is all Pommard clone. Dalardi Vineyard is on Stetson Road, off Old San Jose-Soquel, with Swan and 667. Herr vineyard is way up past Loma Prieta winery and is all Mt Eden clone. From Lester Family vineyard came 2A, 115 and Martini. Talk about a party!

This heady mix of clones resulted in a wine that is not only classic SCM Pinot, but a brilliant beverage that will appeal to a broad range of palates. That’s code for “you will want to drink it all day.” Floral and raspberry tea-scented, it rocks with tart cranberry, sweet raspberry, cherry lemonade and sarsaparilla. And yet, there’s an alluring savory element that lends it nicely to everything from grilled salmon to fried clams to pulled pork. Benedetti says the blend changes every year. In 2019, it’s all Santa Lucía Highlands. In 2020, it’s non-existent, thanks to the crazy fires.

2015 Fogarty Winery Nelson Family Vineyard Pinot Noir: Winemaker Nathan Kandler says this vineyard on Summit Road, adjacent to Burrell School Vineyards, produces a big wine that tends to be rather brawny in its youth. It’s still trying out for the football team, after a stint playing rugby by Australian rules. Made solely of clone 115, with 33% whole cluster, this is one for lovers of powerful Pinots, exhibiting deep complexity. It’s tightly wound with endless layers of interest, from blueberry pie and boysenberry to pomegranate fruit leather, dried cranberries, porcini mushrooms, dried orange peel, pine and sage. This sunny above the fog vineyard is surrounded by a pine and redwood forest, lending it a distinct coniferous edge. An intriguing splash of grapefruit freshens up the mighty tannins that are just starting to soften. Give this one some air and don’t be afraid to cellar it for a decade.

2018 Ridge Monte Bello Estate Chardonnay:

For the past 15 years, this has been my favorite wine from longtime Ridge Winemaker, Eric Baugher, who recently moved on to a high-end Cabernet project in Napa (Merus). Barrel-fermented with indigenous yeast and aged sur lees for 15 months, this shows off strong notes of barrel smoke, lychee, grilled pineapple, poached pear in ginger brandy and toasted coconut. Apple galette with lemon crème fraiche is complemented by crumb-topped apricot bars with toasted walnuts. The classic lively mountain acidity, kissed by Meyer lemon, buoys the sleek oily texture to a fine and satisfying finish. 

2016 Eden Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon:

Not to be confused with Mount Eden Winery, which is set farther up the road from this stunning property owned by John Couch of Apple fame, Eden Estate Vineyard is planted in a sunny spot shared with an apple orchard. When Couch’s ex, who was besotted by horses, departed, he turned the enormous equestrian barn into a winery and barrel room. The wines are made by Bill Brosseau, longtime winemaker at Testarossa, who used lots of nice French oak from coopers like Seguin MoreauTaransaud, Nadalie and Demptos, to give this chocolatey, cassis-laden wine an opulent framework. Exquisite aromas of sandalwood, blackberry and sage envelop lovely acid and beautifully resolved tannins in the handsome, winsome wine, with a satiny forever finish.

About the author

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Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.