The Location – Mendocino County
Mendocino County, California – part of the North Coast, which includes the four counties north of San Francisco: Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake. This ultra-premium growing area that Yorkville Cellars calls home produces just 12% of California’s wine.
The Vineyard – Rennie Organic Vineyard
The soils in the Yorkville Highlands viticultural area (AVA) are rocky hill soils characterized by gravel and old brittle rock. These generally thin soils found on the high benches and land troughs are in stark contrast to the loamy clay soils found in the in the two viticultural areas we look out over: Alexander Valley and Anderson Valley. Our Rennie Organic Vineyard sits at about 1,000 ft elevation with southern exposure. Planted in 1990, we’ve spent the last two decades watching its rocky soils be the perfect environment for some of our beloved Bordeaux varietals.
The Varietal – Malbec
In the late 80s, like virtually all wine drinkers in the U.S., we had never tasted a Malbec. When we planted it, we planned on using it as a blending grape in a Bordeaux wine. We waited patiently for the vines to mature in the vineyard before harvesting our first crop, only to wait again for the wine to mature in-barrel. We finally tasted our own Rennie Vineyard Malbec seven years later. Stunned by its uniqueness, we decided to produce the Malbec and the other Noble Reds as single varietals. Fascinated by its singularity, Malbec quickly became a favorite. Our 2015 Malbec table wine is our 21st consecutive vintage.
We now have three clones of Malbec in our vineyard: FPS #9 (COT clone 180 from France), #595 EV (originated in Cahors), and FPS #4 Bordeaux, each annually certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
The Results – “Malbec 4 Ways”
We had never heard of Sweet Malbec, but in 2006, inspired by the luscious juice we tasted while regularly checking Brix during each harvest, we conceived the idea to produce one. Our experiment quickly grabbed the attention of our customers, wine critics, and wine judges, garnering two double-gold medals in consecutive productions. In 2011, we produced our inaugural Sparkling Malbec Brut Rosé, which sold out in four months. This year, we launched our first Vin D’une Nuit Malbec Rosé, which was awarded 94 pts./Gold Medal at the North Coast Wine Challenge!
What started as an exploration of one component of the traditional Bordeaux blend has taken us on a 21-year journey that will undoubtedly continue to grow and evolve. Experience all four Malbecs for yourself at Yorkville Cellars.
Fri. Nov 9th thru Sun. 11th | “Malbec 4 Ways”
Where else can you find this but Yorkville? Taste our Sparkling Malbec Brut Rose', Malbec table wine, Sweet Malbec, and Rose' of Malbec; all from our certified organic vineyard, during the 2018 Mendocino Mushroom Festival. Served with tasty and tantalizing mushroom-themed appetizers and desserts. No reservation necessary; complimentary to all club members and their guests.
Blind Taste Bordeaux-Style Wines in Our Tasting Room Game
So you’ve been drinking wine for some time now. You’ve done a few tastings and you think you know the drill, but what would you say if we changed the rules?
Instead of being presented with a wine first and tasting it second, we’re letting you taste the wine before its identity is revealed. We love this tasting format for its nontraditional approach, but we love it even more for the opportunity it gives you, the wine taster!
Blind tastings aren’t just for sommelier hopefuls; they can be just as helpful for a novice wine drinker as they can for a wine aficionado. For the average wine drinker, blind tastings help remove any preconceived notions about what varietals are better than others (see: The Sideways Effect), and allow you to experience a wine through your own lens and interpretation.
That’s the magic of our beloved tasting room game, Name that Varietal. Here’s the setup: you’re presented with 6 unique wines and a list of the varietals they could be. You taste your way through the line-up, making notes on their characteristics, your opinions, and which varietals you think they might be. At the end of the game, the truth is revealed and your paper is graded. And more often than not, you’ll be surprised at which varietals take your top vote.
So what’s on the menu? You’ll taste each of the six Noble Red grape varietals that originated in the Bordeaux region of France: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Malbec, Petit Verdot. Each grape is quite similar and genetically part of the same family, yet each contributes in unique ways to the complexity of a Bordeaux blend wine. The Noble Reds are a hallmark of the Yorkville Cellars wine experience, bringing a piece of Bordeaux right to California.
Ready for an example?
Let’s imagine you’re tasting the first wine in the line-up. When you peer at the wine in the glass, you’re seeing a lighter shade of red, almost a ruby red. Aromas of spiced earth, dried herbs, cocoa powder, and bright red fruit jump out of the glass. Once you take a sip and swirl it around your palate, you're noticing the wine is medium-bodied with slightly gritty yet mild tannins and medium acidity, and you’re tasting flavors of strawberry, green pepper, red plum, and chili pepper. The finish is long and luscious. You’re thinking about possibly eating a steak with this wine, but it would pair just as well with a chicken or turkey dish on account of the subtle tannic structure. So the big question: Which Noble Red is in front of you?
See! It’s much harder than you think!
The Noble Red we’re describing here is Cabernet Franc.
Now it’s your turn! If you’re ready to put your taste buds to the test, join us in the tasting room every day of the week, 11 AM - 6 PM. We can’t wait to see how your answers stack up!
Tales from the Past and a Taste of the Future
Reigning over 12th century England during the legends of Robin Hood, the era of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and the height of the Crusades was King Richard I. While he serves as a symbol of unparalleled bravery, Richard the Lion-Heart also had an affinity for wine, as it paired perfectly with the heat of battle. He liked wine so much in fact, that he gave sovereignty to the town of Saint-Émilion in Bordeaux on the promise that they would taste every barrel of wine before sending the best to his troops. And it was during this time that the Noble Red grapes were planted in Bordeaux: Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carménère, and Cabernet Franc, the ancestor of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Flash forward several centuries. The descendants of those same grapes – the Noble Reds that filled the goblets of men dripping in chainmail and readied them for war on sinewy horses – are now rooted in the highland soil here at Yorkville Cellars. And just like Richard I’s comrades in Bordeaux, we taste each one after 21 months of aging, preparing them to meld into a bold Noble Red blend rightfully crowned as our “Richard the Lion-Heart.”
A handsome concoction of deep, vibrant berries, our Richard the Lion-Heart has been winning awards and recognition since we first released it back in 1995. And after all these years of careful creation – 23 to be exact – it’s become clear to us that this Noble Red blend is special because it goes beyond just our 23 years and stretches in both directions of time. Down to the very last molecule, the wine shares a bond with the Middle Ages, but it also has the power to connect us forward – a power you can literally taste in the Richard the Lion-Heart Futures.
Futures are a special tradition in winemaking, because they’re wines you purchase while they're aging in barrels before they’ve been bottled. And whether you’re acquiring futures to commemorate a special year, to collect a favorite wine at its very first opportunity and best price, or to invest in its coming value, futures are an amazing peek into a young vintage. At Yorkville Cellars, we offer futures of the Richard the Lion-Heart, our very own liquid time travel.
Join us on July 21st and 22nd for Anderson Valley’s 6th Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend. In our tasting room, we’ll be featuring barrels of the 2016 Richard the Lion-Heart future and its six Noble Red components. Come taste with us, experience the sensation of history in a glass, and be the first to acquire this remarkable vintage. Thoroughly modern pulled pork sliders and tri-tip sandwiches will enhance your experience!
For wine club members your tasting at Yorkville Cellars will be complimentary, but you can get your event tickets including seventeen other wineries: linked here.
Let's Define Organic
Organic (n.) - relating to or derived from living matter. Certainly a buzzword these days, organic evokes an innovative or trendy connotation. Yet, these basic techniques are actually a return to the traditions of the past. Founder, Edward Wallo, says, “This is not new, or rocket science. It’s merely winegrowing the way it was done for some 7,900 years before petrochemicals came into the picture.”
Yorkville Cellars has been a CCOF certified organic grower for 32 years and was among the first vineyards in the state to be certified. The goal of organic farming? Creating healthy, living soils that produce healthy vines and therefore healthy crops over time. There are a few main facets of this practice.
- Use only natural fertilizers - Ones that contain a spectrum of necessary nutrients rather than concentrated fertilizers, which supercharge certain nutrients more than others. Think about it this way… If you only ate three foods every day, what vitamins and minerals would you be missing?
- Avoid harmful chemicals - The basic truth is there are good bugs and bad bugs. Many commonly used pest controls also kill the good bugs - the ones that pollinate the crops, eat the bad bugs and contribute to the overall health of the vineyards. Farms that do use chemicals often do so to consistently grow the same crops each year on the same piece of land.
- Take care of the dirt - Not only does healthy soil yield vibrant, complex grapes, healthy soil is key to producing delectable vintages year after year. By planting cover crops like fava beans, winter peas, and oats after harvest, the soil’s nutrients are restored and prepared for the next growing season.
Bring in the Sheep
Growing organically and without herbicides, weed control is expensive, time-consuming, and challenging. That’s where these guys pictured up above come in. Uniquely qualified for the job, we love hosting the sheep for six months out of the year. Each winter, our neighbor Kevin (raised as a sheepherder in Wales), runs his sheep to our vineyards to munch on the tall early spring grass! We appreciate their free fertilizer and so do the vines. These "assistant winemakers" are a big part of organic farming.
With two main vineyards on the estate, each farmed organically, we are currently tending to 30 acres. Randle Hill Vineyard sits behind the tasting room and yields Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, while our Rennie Vineyard runs along Highways 128 in front of the tasting room and is planted to all six of the main red grapes originating in Bordeaux, France: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Carmenère, and Petit Verdot. These are otherwise called, “The Noble Reds.” Dating back to 1986, we’ve cultivated vineyards that yield incredible fruit; in large part, this stems directly from our farming practices. We are proud recipients of the prestigious “Masters of Organic” Award.
So the big question… Why does organic matter?
Aside from the sustainability component of organic farming, which is a driving factor in our decision to farm this way for many years now, the truth is in the wine itself. How exciting, how rewarding it is to taste a vintage that is not only flavorful, complex, and aromatic, but one that can only really be described as vibrant and alive.
Ready to put our word to the test? Stop by our tasting room any day between 11 AM - 6 PM. We’d love to talk more about what makes our vineyards and our wines noteworthy.