Winemakers who made the winning wines of Tri-Valley Conservancy's (TVC) Livermore Uncorked for 2019 offered some highlights of their process.
Brent Amos, who took the coveted trophy for Best of Show for his 2018 Las Positas Verdelho, said, “I am excited that the Verdelho won this award. I took a risk in grafting over to it (since there is no record of it being planted here before), and am happy that that risk is paying off.” He’s worked with the varietal since 2006, while at Fenestra, where he met grower, Ron Silva, in Lodi. Silva suggested they give his latest Portuguese white varietal a spin. Amos thinks the 2006 Fenestra Verdelho won Best of California at the State Fair.
In 2013, when Amos left Fenestra to work for Las Positas Vineyards, he says,“My first assignment was to re-create the 20-acre vineyard. For many years, I had wanted Verdelho to be planted in Livermore, so now was my chance to make it happen. 2017 was the first crop, but the heat wave early in the season meant we had to drop about 90% of the fruit from the white blocks, 2018 is the first varietal bottling of our Estate Verdelho. It is 100% Verdelho: about 5% was barrel fermented in 2 year old acacia wood, and spent only 1 month in barrel, while the rest was fermented in stainless steel.”
Amos also took Gold for the Albarino, which he barrel fermented about 10% of in a neutral French Puncheon, with the rest in stainless steel.
Meredith Sarboraria worked on the Best Red of Show, as well as on two Best of Class winners for Crooked Vine/Stony Ridge
Said Sarboraria, "I was very happy with how Stony Ridge and Crooked Vine did in the competition. The current winemaker, Chris Sorenson, and I both had our hands in making those wines and I think he did a great job finishing them. I was there for three harvests: 2015-2017, so I made all the 2015 reds and whites, all the 2016 whites, and shared duties with Chris for all the rest.”
Although she’s not sure who came up with the original Trifecta blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petite Sirah), she thinks it's “a brilliant combination. The Cab Sauv gives it the tannic structure and earthy notes, the Syrah fleshes it out and gives it big berry fruit, and the PS adds depth and body.”
Chris Sorensen, present winemaker for CV/SR, had this to add: “Meredith did a wonderful job getting the 2016s started. The Trifecta blend has been produced here since 2007, and has always been that awesome trio of wines, but in different percentages. The 2016 ended up being 57% Petite Sirah, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Syrah. I went with Petite Sirah being the more dominant grape on this vintage to help break it away from the Cabernet.
The 2016 Petite Sirah was picked in early October and aged in mostly neutral oak barrels. The main tweak on the final blend was a small amount (about 2.5%) of dry Malvasia Bianca to add some aromatics.
The 2017 Pinot Noir is a fun one as Livermore is not exactly well known in the world of Pinot Noir. This was picked much earlier than all of the other reds and was aged in 50% new and 50% one-year-used French oak, and at final blending, we added in about 5% Cabernet franc to bring up some of the more earthy characteristics. This was also a very small lot of just 50 cases.”
Aaron Luna, Fenestra Winemaker and GM, took Best of Class for the 2017 Fenestra Chardonnay and Best Rosé for the Garré Rosato di Sangiovese. He’s been consulting with Garré since early 2016, and began by bottling their 2014s and 2015s.
Luna says that Garré wines are made mostly from the estate with the exception of a few occasional fun projects, including a 2018 Russian River Pinot. As for the Rosé Class win, Luna says, “Sangiovese has a lot of potential in Livermore because of its ability to retain natural acidity. The Rosato di Sangiovese is made in a traditional rosé method. It's easy to grow most varieties of wine grapes in Livermore, but I think that what makes some stand apart from others is that natural retention of acidity. I see some delicious potential for Super Tuscan style blends here.”
Of the BOC winning 2017 Fenestra Chardonnay, Luna says it was a blend from two vineyards, Del Arroyo and Collier Canyon. He says the Silver-winning 2018 Fenestra Sauvignon Blanc was their second year of sourcing grapes from Donovan vineyards.
Collin Cranor of Nottingham Cellars also sourced Sauv Blanc from the Donovan Vineyard for his BOC winning wine this year. “Lean and clean for SB is our way. We pick at night.
The Gold medal winning “Henry” Syrah, Cranor comes from Hayes Ranch.
Winemaker Larry Dino of Cuda Ridge made two BOC winners this year, including the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve in the Over $40 Cabernet Sauvignon category. Says Dino, “Our Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is a selection of the best of our barrels aged for 30 months in French oak, with 50% new. This blend contains a large (15%) percent of Petit Verdot and small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from two vineyards in Livermore, Galles Vineyard and Thompson Ranch, both from the east side of Livermore. As for the BOC winning 2016 Petit Verdot, Dino says, “This is 100% Smith Ranch Petit Verdot from Wente’s vineyard on the western side of Livermore Valley on Wetmore Road. From tasting lots of Petit Verdot from California, and around the globe, I believe the Smith Ranch vineyard is a World-Class Petit Verdot vineyard."
According to winemaker, Julian Halasz, the BOC winning Darcie Kent 2015 Stone Patch Cabernet Franc, was carefully processed in a small open top tank and fermented on skin for 12 days.
The Gold medal winning Darcie Kent 2015 Madden Vineyard “Big Petite” was aged for 16 months in a combination of American and French oak barrels.
Ruby Hill/Rubino winemaker, Jesse Plautz made the Gold medal winning 2016 Mirage blend. About the Mirage, Plautz notes, “The Mirage is a bit unique. We blend up something special to release to the club every year, just for something fun and different."
Of the Bronze-winning Salute in the same category, Plautz says, “It's basically just a Zin heavy blend that's meant to be easy to drink and a good value, so it tends to get Zin, Barbera, Merlot, Petite Sirah, and sometimes some Petit Verdot and Sangiovese."