To continue my Winter Wines segment, today I’d like to talk about two wines that would be a great present, wrapped up in a gift basket. Both of them come from an awesome producer in Lake County’s High Valley sub appellation. Serenity, a white blend blossoming with fruit and flowers, and Eruption, an intense and powerful Rhone style red, offer something of a yin and yang balance that make them perfect for gifting as a pair. That said, these wines are great on their own and both are worth investigating further.
High Valley is an appellation unlike any other. Although it was only officially made an AVA in 2005, it was originally home to some of California’s first grapevines, a limited few of which are still in existence today. Located on the eastern side of Lake County, the valley follows a west-east running mountain range formed by the volcano that gives Brassfield’s red blend its name. The elevation here averages around 2,800 feet, with the coolest conditions being found on the lower valley floor and slightly warmer climes in the sun-soaked mountain slopes.
Brassfield, founded in 1998, does an excellent job of representing the appellation. They are proud of their growing regions and craft their wines exclusively from estate vineyards. They control every aspect of the winemaking process, and work to capture the uniqueness of the fruit and the land in every bottle, always staying true and close to what nature provides.
Wine #1: Brassfield 2006 High Valley “Serenity”
Our first wine comes from estate grown vines on the cool climate valley floor. The blend consists of a somewhat unusual combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, and Semillon. In addition to the unique terroir and varietal selection, this wine further packs on the complexity by aging eight months on its lees.
The aroma of this wine is very complex, full of tart citrus, tropical fruit, and floral tones. Lemon juice, volcanic stone, green melon, white peach, and pumelo show at the core. A combination of rose petals and pumice show with a spin in the glass.
The palate opens very lightly sweet, with white peach, lemon pulp and limestone showing at once. A strong floral tone, something vaguely like lychee, and a custard-like quality make up the main palate, with green pineapple, orange rind, and sandstone showing on the finish. This is an interesting wine, with tons of complexity and an excellently fresh, spritzy acidity that balances perfectly with its almost creamy core. A very well executed wine, with great depth and delivery.
Worth Buying. 90 points.
Wine #2: Brassfield 2005 High Valley “Eruption”
Sourcing its fruit from a vineyard along the high elevation slopes of an extinct volcano, our second wine is an example of the other side of High Valley. The slightly warmer conditions on the hillsides provide excellent growing conditions for the Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, and Petite Sirah that make up this wine’s blend. Following fermentation “Eruption” is aged for 16 months in a variety of oak barrels.
Just as the name leads you to expect, on the nose there are notes of dark volcanic stone, charred herbs, and scorched blackberry bush. Black currant, black team a hint of licorice, and some graphite make up the core aromas.
The palate opens with a nice balance of ripeness and a soft bitterness. It’s rustic and almost reminiscent of amaro, with dried cranberries, driftwood, and coffee grounds appearing early on. Volcanic stone, clove, black pepper, and a faintly coppery, almost smoky minerality show through strongly. There is clearly a sense of place to this wine, and it shows a good amount of complexity. This is an enjoyable wine, but the sheer mass of its minerality tends to dwarf and flatten its fruit a bit, making it a wine that may take a few sips to appreciate. That said, for the terroir elements alone, it’s worth the extra effort and…
Worth Trying. 86 points.
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The Grapevine: Have you ever had a High Valley wine? What did you think?