Ernest Vineyards “The Aviator” Aligoté 2018

Bennett Valley, Sonoma County
$39 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $35)

Who is Ernest? He was an entrepreneur, a risk-taker, and a role model for his grandson Todd Gottula, who founded Ernest Vineyards with his wife, Erin Brooks, back in 2012. Today, the “Ernest” in their name stands for more than one man. It is about their integrity in the fruit they use and the people they know. It is about restraint, and about how ego drives nothing they do.

Todd and Erin are not only co-founders and co-owners of the winery; they touch every single aspect of the business. Just about the only thing the couple doesn’t do is make the wine – they leave that to winemaker Joseph Ryan. A byproduct of all this hands-on leadership is an acute personal connection to the people behind the brand. Both Erin and Todd hail from agricultural families and they believe in relationships with small farmers. Ernest works with 15 different farmers overall.

Winemaker Joseph Ryan was born in Omaha, Nebraska and spent time between the city and the small farming town of Underwood, across the Missouri River in Iowa. Wine was “not so much” part of his life growing up and it wasn’t until he travelled the country as an actor and started a two-year acting program in NYC that he met Lee Campbell, the well known sommelier and natural wine advocate, and took an interest in wine.

Aligoté is a white grape used to make very Burgundian-style dry white wines. The 2018 Aligoté is sourced from the 18-acre Henry David Vineyard in Sonoma County’s Bennett Valley appellation. This small block of Aligoté, less than one acre, is one of three in existence in CA. “The Aviator” is bright pale-yellow in color with expressions of unripe fruits, sour apples, lemon blossom, and morning dew. Vibrant and energetic on the palate, with tingling lemony acidity and fresh, lean texture.

With its lean, minerally flavors and palate-cleansing acidity, Aligoté does wonderfully alongside fish dishes, soup, salads, and gooey cow’s milk cheeses.

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – May 2021

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