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CLUB DIRT MAY 2018

Posted by Chris LaBranche on

Staying in the Golden State, we’ll be exploring another exciting producer making fiercely unique wines in northern Mendocino County. As with many of our favorite California winemaking projects, Onward Wines is in effect a négociant project, in which the winemaker is purchasing grapes from trusted growers and in turn making the wine herself. Where this can be a bit of a dirty word in France, often in cases such as this, winemaker Faith Armstrong-Foster works with growers like the Johnson Family, who have tended sites such as Hawkeye Ranch in the Redwood valley for generations. It’s from this storied vineyard site from which both of this month’s selections are sourced.

ONWARD REDWOOD VALLEY PINOT NOIR HAWKEYE RANCH

Vintage: 2014

Grape: Pinot Noir

Place: Mendocino, California, USA

Soil: Pinole Gravelly Loam

Price: $39.99

Chief among the most important growing conditions for complex expressions of Pinot Noir is a long growing season, which allows grapes ample time to reach full ripeness and maturity. Crucial to this is distinct diurnal temperature change, or the contrast of warm, sunny days and notably cooler evenings. From Burgundy to Santa Barbara County this is a hallmark of all great Pinot Noir terroirs. In the Redwood Valley, at the northern extreme of Mendocino County, the vineyards sit several hundred feet higher in elevation than the surrounding areas, making this an excellent home for the Pinot Noir vines that produce the estate’s Hawkeye vineyard bottling.

HOW TO: 

Onward’s Hawkeye Pinot is sourced from 50 year-old vines planted with the now-rare Martini clone of Pinot. The dominant soil type in the Johnson’s vineyard is Pinole Gravelly Loam, which is particularly well-draining, forcing the vine to dig deep for its nutrient-base. The result is smaller, more intensely concentrated fruit. Once in the winery, the Hawkeye Pinot is completely de-stemmed and fermented solely with indigenous yeasts. It is aged in French oak, only 20% of which is new. With no desire to rush things along, Armstrong-Foster allows it to age in barrel for 12 month before bottling. It is then aged for another 12 months in bottle before release.

 


ONWARD REDWOOD VALLEY CARIGNANE HAWKEYE RANCH

Vintage: 2014

Grape: Carignan

Place: Mendocino, California, USA

Soil: Pinole Gravelly Loam

Price: $29.99

The humble Carignan is rarely afforded the luxury of expressing itself in unadulterated form. Even in regions where it reigns supreme like France’s southwesterly Corbières appellation, you’ll still find Grenache, Cinsault, and sometimes Mourvèdre making an appearance in the blending process. Originally from Catalonia (where it’s known as Cariñena), it is most commonly found today in southern France and Sardinia. Carignan is naturally high-yielding, yet requires relatively warm growing conditions and generally must be picked by hand. The very best expressions, like Onward’s Hawkeye, come from very old vines which naturally produce at a very low yield due to their advanced age, yielding fewer but more intensely flavored and perfumed berries. This lends complexity to the resulting wine.

HOW TO:

Here again, from the very same vineyard site as the Hawkeye Pinot, we have organic 80- year old vines that have been dry-farmed for generations, a relative rarity in California. It is fermented with partial whole clusters and aged completely in old French oak barrels, allowing the fruit to slowly oxygenate without taking on perceptible flavor from the wood. A wine of ample fruit, silky tannins, and delicate herbaceousness, Onward’s Hawkeye Carignan treads the line between elegance and rusticity. Expect notes of juicy red cherry and cranberry alongside herbal tinges of thyme and mint. Try with roast chicken or vegetable tagine.


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