Yolo County produces high-quality wines at very affordable prices. Perhaps that’s not news to you, but it was to me.
I should know better.
During my love affair with wine, I’ve always focused on the major wine regions in California (especially Napa and Sonoma, but also Amador, the Central Coast, and Mendocino). I’ve neglected the wines in my own backyard.
If I’m completely honest, I have to admit I’ve been kind of a snob.
No longer. Thanks to the Roots to Wine event that took place recently in Winters, Calif., I discovered that Yolo County, where I live, is home to high-quality and affordable wines. And now I’m happy to share this “news” with you.
The 2nd annual “Wine & Art in the Park" event, which took place on May 12, 2012, featured wines by local wineries Berryessa Gap Vineyards, Capay Valley Vineyards, Casey Flat Ranch, Crew Wine Company, Julie LePla Winery, Putah Creek Winery, Route 3 Wines, Séka Hills, Simas Family Winery, and Turkovich Family Wines.
Bringing Recognition to a Little-Known Region with Quality Wines
These wineries are all members of Roots to Wine, an association with the purpose of promoting “wine grape growers and wine producers with production in the five designated adjacent areas along the western edge of Yolo County and the northwest corner of Solano County.” According to a 2011 press release, “The formation of this group [is] designed to bring recognition to the region for its quality wine.” I’m here to confirm that it’s succeeding.
(Note: Rominger West Winery in Davis, Calif., is also a member of Roots to Wine, but sadly the winery shut its doors earlier this month.)
The biggest name in the group is Crew Wine Company, which markets its wines under four labels: Matchbook, Mossback, Sawbuck, and Chasing Venus. The owners, John and Lane Giguiere, have been growing wine grapes and producing wines for over 30 years. They started the once nationally recognized winery R.H. Phillips, with its popular Toasted Head label. R.H. Phillips went public in 1995 and was eventually acquired by Vincor International in 2000. The Giguieres started Crew Wine Company in 2005 and then established the Matchbook label. I was told by Lane Giguiere that the winery now produces 75,000 cases per year. Not bad for a local Yolo County winery in the little known Dunnigan Hills AVA.
I was quite pleased with the lineup of wines that John and Lane were pouring at the event. One in particular that surprised me was the Chasing Venus sauvignon blanc. This wine is produced by the Giguieres in New Zealand with help from the winemaker at Kim Crawford, another outstanding producer of NZ wines. The Chasing Venus sauvignon blanc has that great New Zealand character: striking floral quality with bracing acidity; truly a delight.
Okay, so Chasing Venus is not exactly a local wine, but it is owned locally. And that’s good enough for me.
At the event, I met winemakers and reps from several wineries and tasted some excellent Yolo wines, which were also quite reasonably priced. The first wines I tasted at the event were from Putah Creek Winery in Davis, poured by assistant winemaker and sales manager, Nicole Salengo (in photo with Chris from Turkovich). I knew right away that I had been ignoring Yolo wines for much too long.
I’ve already written about Route 3 albariño, and I’ll have more to say about this winery at some point; I’m looking forward to tasting their syrah and merlot.
I was particularly impressed by Turkovich Family Wines, which I hope to write more about in a future post. I was especially intrigued by their Rhone-style GSM wines (grenache, syrah, and mourvedre). There’s much more to say about these wines in the future.
If you live in Sacramento, Solano County, or Yolo County, and you’re into the whole eat local scene, you owe it to yourself to join the drink local movement too. (All right, I made that up. But who knows? Maybe there is a drink local movement out there.) In any event, check out these wineries. I'm willing to bet that, like me, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the quality, variety, and price.