Alta Orsa Pinot Noir 2019

Slusser Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
$38 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $34.25)

Alta Orsa is the vision and labor of winemaker Martin Bernal-Hafner, Roger Peng, and Ricardo Garcia. As a small team, they strive to create unique, small-batch wines with a sense of place, a connection to the land, and minimal intervention winemaking techniques.

Martin, a native of Columbia, traveled to the Rhône Valley in 2007 for a winery apprenticeship and immersed himself in terroir-driven winemaking. There he discovered his passion and his lifelong craft. He later traveled to Argentina where he worked for Paul Hobbs in Mendoza, and then at Paul Hobbs Winery in Sebastopol, California. His seven years under Hobbs gave him unparalleled experience in all aspects of wine production and winery management.

In early 2019, Martin and Roger teamed up to create Alta Orsa wines with the goal of crafting elegant and balanced wines reflecting their own values. Their goal is to highlight the unique character of their estate vineyard, as well as other North Coast appellation vineyards. Martin’s philosophy is born from respect for the land – allowing each site to speak for itself, taking a minimalist approach in the cellar, and focusing on the vineyard. As a vigneron, Martin’s goal is to capture the essence of the terroir; as a winemaker, his goal is to craft truly distinctive and unique wines.

The Alta Orsa Pinot Noir from Slusser Vineyard in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley displays aromatic notes of clove, nutmeg, fresh cranberries, fraise-des-bois, and forest floor. The light palate holds a firm frame of fine-grained tannins and perfumed flavors of dark cherry cola and white pepper, through the long complex finish. Alcohol 14.10%

Pinot Noir is exceptionally versatile – pair it with duck, chicken, pork, or mushroom dishes. Or, if you’re a Pinot fan like me, just savor a glass and enjoy the lovely acidity and ripe red fruit flavors.

Todd Wheeler – February 2022

V. Vineyards “Audace” Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Sonoma County
$125 (Wine Club Reorder: $105)

Gina and Steve Viets purchased their Sonoma home to give their children more room to roam and to escape foggy San Francisco. Little did they know, but their passion for seeking the perfect bottle of Cabernet, along with their interest in farming, was about to converge. They discovered that the land was once a vineyard in the late 1800’s, inspiring them to establish V. Vineyards dedicated to single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Gina and Steve met Winemaker Jean Hoefliger. Their collective passion for the classic style Bordeaux wines, along with Jean’s knowledge and training, instantly made sense. Jean studied winemaking and viticulture at the Swiss federal school of Changins in his native Switzerland. Jean traveled the world working in the renowned wine regions of South Africa and Bordeaux, France before arriving in Napa Valley.

Jean’s winemaking philosophy is centered around taste. From the vine, through to the bottle, Jean believes a wine’s character should fully represent the unique terroir and personality of the vineyard.

V. Vineyards produces under 500 cases per year of artisan wines stemming from hand-tended vines, perfectly aged before release.

The 2016 Audace Cabernet Sauvignon is dark, almost coal-black with touches of mahogany. On the nose: black pepper, saffron, oregano & thyme. Touches of strawberry, cherry yogurt, cedar, paprika, graphite, and banana pie. On the palate: velvety evolving on fresh plum, pomegranate lingering on cherry liqueur, Herbs de Provence.

93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot 100% Barrel Fermented • 21 days on Skins
Barrel Regime: 16 months • 100% French Oak • 80% New Alcohol: 14.5%

Stringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Napa Valley
$75 (Wine Club Reorder: $61)

As a high schooler from Wisconsin, Casey Stringer traveled with his parents to California to visit colleges in the Bay Area. During a gap intheir schedule, they wound up in Napa Valley, a place that they had
all certainly heard about but knew little about. Taken with Napa’s laid-back lifestyle, vineyard-filled landscapes, and excellent wines, Casey knew his path in life.

Casey went to college in California – at Santa Barbara to study photography. Landing a job as a cellar hand at a local winery, he soon realized he wanted to spend his time in the cellar and vineyards and not in photography school. Through the years he worked at Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa, Archery Summit in Oregon. Moving to New Zealand, he gained a formal winemaking education and worked at wineries in Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay. Upon returning to California, Casey worked in the cellar at the esteemed Santa Ynez cult winery, Jonata.

While visiting family in Wisconsin, he met a girl, and decided to stay and get married. While this seemed like a detour in his winemaking journey, the wine bug was still firmly planted. Casey began shipping premium West coast fruit to Wisconsin and making what was arguably Wisconsin’s best-ever wine produced in a garage, but that wasn’t a sustainable business model. Casey and his young family eventually relocated to California, where Casey makes wine in Napa and Sonoma.

The wine consists of a mix of valley floor and mountain vineyard sites, making this a great representation of Napa Cabernet. Each vineyard was picked by hand then fully destemmed, meticulously sorted, and moved to a combination of closed-top stainless tanks and new 60-gallon French oak barrels for fermentation. Specific barrels from each lot were tasted and then designated for Napa Valley Cabernet bottling. Each of the wines stayed on its skins for an average of 21 days before being gently pressed at dryness. After 13 months of aging separately, the barrels were blended and then returned to barrel for an additional 6 months before being bottled unfiltered and unfined. 450 cases produced.

Amy Ryan – January 2022

DRNK “Orange Wine” Pinot Gris 2020

Bennett Valley, Sonoma County
$32 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $28)

DRNK Winery was founded by partner and winemaker Ryan Kunde in 2012 with his wife Katie, and her parents Dale and Nancy Dougherty. DRNK represents the family’s initials – Dale, Ryan, Nancy, Katie. DRNK represents the collective joy of working and being together. DRNK hosts tastings and cellars their wines in their own 300-foot long cave atop Laguna Ridge, one of only four wine caves in the Russian River Valley.

Ryan, a fifth-generation winemaker, is guided by a philosophy that blends an understanding of the land and tradition with evolving science and data that allows for precision winemaking. He is passionate about discovering new vineyard sites and specific meso-effects within each vineyard block, and takes great pride in showcasing the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s vineyards.

If you haven’t heard about “orange wines,” (also known as amber wine or skin-contact wine) they are becoming more and more common, perhaps even “trendy” lately. No, they aren’t made from oranges. The name comes from the result of leaving the skins of white wine grapes to ferment with the juice instead of removing them – essentially making white wine in the same manner as red wine. This takes a white wine and leaves it a bit orange in color and with a more complex mouthfeel.

DRNK’s unfiltered Pinot Gris ‘Orange Wine’ saw an average of 60-hour whole-cluster skin contact prior to pressing. The resulting wine is a light-catching coppery-tangerine color, with aromas of orange peel, caramel, and vegemite with a savory, mouthwatering, steely finish. Swirling coastal breezes help this wine retain its refreshing natural acidity and exotic savory flavors.

Orange wines are very food friendly and pair well with lamb and savory dishes, such as chicken and roast pork. Try a hard sheep cheese such as Manchego, or even a salty feta. For you non-meat eaters, we suggest pairing with eggplant or roasted cauliflower. Cheers!

Ilaria Chardonnay 2019

Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
$32 (Wine Club Reorder: $28)

Ilaria is owned by Anna and Mario Monticelli, both graduates of UC Davis and both have worked with renowned Napa winemaker Philippe Melka on different projects. Anna was previously assistant winemaker at Seavey and Bryant Family and is the winemaker at Piña, where she also makes Ilaria.

Mario was born into the industry – his father emigrated to the US from Italy and worked for over 50 years at Gallo. Mario was assistant winemaker to Philippe Melka for several projects before becoming the winemaker at Quixote and later Trinchero. He is currently a consulting winemaker for a number of vintners.

The 2019 growing season began about two weeks earlier than usual.
The Russian River Valley experienced some rain during flowering,
followed by cool temperatures that allowed the grapes to mature
gradually. Fruit ripened at lower sugars, thanks to the extended, cool growing season, and produced Chardonnay full of flavor, fresh acidity, and balance.

“The 2019 Ilaria Russian River Valley Chardonnay showcases gorgeous aromas of pear, ripe melon, juicy peach, guava, and passion fruit. Exquisite layers of spring flowers, marzipan, crème brûlée, beeswax, and sea spray continue to unfold on the seductive complex nose. This wine exhibits extraordinary textural finesse. The saline notes and vibrant acidity balance the luxurious creaminess on the palate. This savory multi-faceted wine ends with a decadent and compelling finish.” 92 points – Jeb Dunnuck

Enjoy with a variety of young cheeses, prosciutto, and melon. For heartier dishes, pair with fresh Dungeness crab, grilled chicken with fruit salsa, or pork chops with capers and Meyer lemon.

Amy Ryan – January 2022