I was inspired this month for the club by Jason; a dear friend who has joined the Crocodile team. He has brought a lot of fun and laughter to Crocodile, but most importantly, a ton of knowledge about not only wine in general, but the making of wine. In fact, he will be taking over the winemakng at my families vineyard, so soon we will be drinking a fun white zinfandel, which was just harvested yesterday Morning.
Anyway……long story short, Jason was living with Mike Lucia, who is a winemaker whom I met back in the day when he was making win out of his garage, so the coincidence of us both having such a valued relationship with him, we thought it only right to give a shout out to this amazing winemaker.
Rootdown was started by winemaker/owner Mike Lucia in 2014 initially as a rose-focused brand but has since grown to produce rose, white, and red. Mike got his start in wine at a very early age growing up in Healdsburg in Sonoma. After working for producers such as Ridge and earning a viticulture degree from Fresno State, Mike became the assistant winemaker at Copain in 2010. He oversaw the Tous Ensemble program and oversaw most aspects of day to day winemaking. Upon Copain’s sale to Kendall Jackson, Mike is now able to fully focus on Rootdown. Considered one of the most talented young winemakers in California, Rootdown is a label to watch.
I hope you enjoy my most current selections from his wonderful lineup.
ROSE OF SANGIOVESE
100% PINOT GRIS
WHO IS JANE? A RETIRED VINEYARD HOBBYIST WHO SPENDS HER TIME NURSING THIS ORGANIC “PROJECT”, A 2-ACRE VINEYARD EMPHASIZING BIODIVERSITY NEAR THE BASE OF DUNCAN PEAK IN HOPLAND. FORMED IN ALLUVIUM FROM MIXED SOURCES.
WE HAND HARVEST THE GRAPES AND THEN DELIVER THEM TO THE PRESS RIGHT AWAY. FROM HERE, WE SQUEEZE THE GRAPES WITH A LOT OF PRESSURE WHICH IS COUNTER INTUITIVE. ONE THINKS GENTLE IS THE NORM BUT WE LIKE THE TEXTURE FROM THE SKINS AT THE END OF THE CYCLE. THE PRESSED JUICE IS TRANSFERRED TO A STAINLESS STEEL TANK TO SETTLE BEFORE RACKING INTO ANOTHER TANK, LEAVING ONLY THE LIGHTEST, FLUFFY CLEAN LEES BEHIND. FERMENTATION BEGINS SPONTANEOUSLY AND THEN THE WINE EVENTUALLY MOVES TO NEUTRAL BARRELS TO FINISH FERMENTING. ONCE FERMENTATION IS COMPLETE, THE WINE RACKS BACK INTO TANK TO KEEP THE ALCOHOL DOWN, MAINTAIN THE WINE’S NATURAL AROMAS, AND HOLD IT IN A PLACE OF REDUCTION FOR PALATE TEXTURE. THE WINE IS COLD-STABILIZED (TO 33 DEGREES 33 DAYS BEFORE GOING INTO BOTTLE – MIKE’S RULE OF 33!), STERILE-FILTERED, AND THEN BOTTLED WITH LESS THAN 10 PPM OF FREE SULFUR TO MAINTAIN THE INHERENT PERSONALITY OF THE VINEYARD.
CHENIN BLANC, HERINGER VINEYARD
PLANTED IN 1997 BY THE HERINGER FAMILY, THIS VINEYARD RUNS ALONGSIDE THE DELTA IN CLARKSBURG. THE SYCAMORE SOIL SERIES IS A MEMBER OF THE FINE-SILTY CLAY FAMILY; THAT IS, MOSTLY CLAY UP TOP, THEN LOAM, FOLLOWED BY FINE SANDY CALCAREOUS SOIL IN THE ROOT ZONE.
AFTER THE FRUIT CAME IN, I TRANSFERRED THE WHOLE CLUSTERS TO BINS WHICH I FILLED WITH CO2 AND ALLOWED TO MARINATE FOR 5 DAYS UNTIL CARBONIC FERMENTATION BEGAN TO SET IN. NEXT, I PRESSED THE WHOLE CLUSTERS FOR A WHOLE PRESS CYCLE. THE WINE SETTLED IN TANK BEFORE TRANSFERRING TO BARREL FOR A NATIVE YEAST FERMENTATION.
THE DIRECTION OF THIS CHENIN ZIG-ZAGS ACROSS THE TONGUE WITH MANDARIN PEEL AND A SENSE OF SLATE. JUICY AND SAVORY TANNINS FROM THE CARBONIC SOAK, DRAWS THE WEIGHT OF THIS WINE FORWARD. FULL TEXTURE AND VERVE MASHED UP IN ONE BOTTLE!
TROUSSEAU CARBONIC, 2017
THIS TROUSSEAU SINGS ON THE NOSE WITH WILD GREEN STRAWBERRY, DELICATE VIOLET, AND FRESH SOFT HERBS STRAIGHT FROM A BRIGHT SUMMER GARDEN. THE PALATE CIRCLES AROUND POLISHED FRUIT: WATERMELON, CRAN-APPLE, RED CURRANT, BLACK CHERRY, AND TART RASPBERRY WITH LINGERING DRIED PLUM. ALL THE WHILE NOTES OF CRUNCHY PICKLES OFFSET SILKY ROSE PETALS AND DUSTY BLACK LICORICE.
ST. AMANT WAS PLANTED IN 1972 TO UNGRAFTED ZINFANDEL. LATER THAT DECADE, A SECTION OF THIS ZINFANDEL WAS GRAFTED OVER TO FIVE PORTUGUESE VARIETIES AFTER THE OWNERS BECAME INTERESTED IN PORT-STYLE WINES. BASTARDO (NÉE TROUSSEAU), ONE OF THE FEW PORTUGUESE VARIETIES UC DAVIS HAD AT THE TIME, WAS ST. AMANT’S FIRST PORTUGUESE CROP IN 1981. AFTER A SPELL WITH PHYLLOXERA, THEY REPLANTED THEIR PORT VARIETIES ON PHYLLOXERA-RESISTANT ROOTSTOCK.
I FILL SMALL TANKS WITH WHOLE GRAPE CLUSTERS (WHICH WERE HARVESTED IN HALF-TON MACROBINS) AND PUMP IN CO2. THE GRAPE CLUSTERS REMAIN INTACT, COMPLETELY UNDER CO2 FOR SIX WEEKS WITH NO INTERVENTION. THIS TANK IS COMPLETELY SEALED WITH ONLY THE BOTTOM VALVE CRACKED SO WHEN PRESSURE BUILDS, LIQUID ESCAPES, NOT GAS……….FULL CARBONIC. THE OTHER THIRTY PERCENT OF THE GRAPES WERE DESTEMMED AFTER HARVEST AND FERMENTED IN A NEUTRAL OAK TANK WITH DAILY PUMP-OVERS UNTIL DRY. I BLENDED THE OAK-FERMENTED, DE-STEMMED WINE WITH THE OTHER 70% AFTER IT FINISHED FERMENTATION 6 WEEKS LATER.