August 9, 2016
The tale behind this wine dates back to my first California trip with Daniel Brunier. You may recognize him as the owner and winemaker of Domaine Vieux Télégraphe, the Châteauneuf du Pape that many refer to as the most legendary wine of the southern Rhône. Daniel and I travel together frequently and he loves America and things American, including the wines of California.
During a trip 15 years ago we spent a day traveling through the Central Valley. Daniel was amazed at the endless sea of vineyards, and was especially taken by what was obviously a significant amount of old vines. ‘You should find some old vineyards planted to historical southern Rhône varieties,’ he said, ‘And I’ll help you make a traditional Rhône-style wine from them.’
The search took several years, but it paid off when in 2007 Tadeo found a block of 130 year-old Carignan vines in Oakley. We had already discovered some Grenache from Borden Ranch, along with Mourvèdre from Sonoma County and Syrah from Santa Lucia Highlands. All four wines were made as separate varietals at our Sage Canyon winery, but when blended together we knew we had something special.
The whole was far greater than the sum of its parts.
One drawback, however, was that we had no opportunity to label the finished wine as a variety, or even as a regional blend, coming as it did from four separate regions in northern California. Instead we opted to name it after the location of our winery which is in the Sage Canyon area of the Napa Valley.
After more than a decade of work, several trials, a few errors, and even a little bit of heartbreak, we’ve honed our techniques to produce this wine which seems to have captured the imagination of most who taste it.
The wine is a blend of four wines, each produced using the traditional Rhône process of ‘Pigeage’ where all of the grapes are crushed by foot, not by machine. Each wine ferments separately, and when complete we drain and press the tank, rack the new wine to used 60-gallon French oak barrels, then let the wine age on the lees for a year before blending.
We then bottle, unfined and unfiltered. The finished wine is complex and old-worldly, a blend of 45% Carignan (vines are 140 years-old), 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah. There’s earth and mineral along with some wildly exotic fruit, and an attractive soft finish. We’ve regularly heard it referred to as the best example of an old-world blend made today in California. We think it’s at least that.
2015 Sage Canyon Red – $26/bottle