Ehret Family Winery, Knights Valley
Blending is much like marriage, ideally there are partners who bring out the best in each other. Creating a great blend is what all vintners strive for, especially in places like California where blends are often king. With less restrictive blending laws than their Old World counterparts, California vintners have the artistic freedom to produce wonderful blends. There are a million different directions to go to create the wine you want each year, and the Bellarina is a great Meritage blend from Knights Valley. If you don’t know much about Knights Valley, you’re not alone. It’s a very small appellation in Sonoma that separates the Napa Valley from Alexander Valley and the rest of Sonoma, areas more familiar to most. Knights Valley doesn’t have direct influence from the Pacific Ocean and is not as warm as the Napa Valley which makes it an ideal location for Bordeaux grapes. While Cabernet is the most widely planted, it’s not surprising that Merlot and Cabernet Franc may actually fare better in Knights Valley. Both have thinner skins than Cabernet and can do better in slightly cooler environments. So why the viticultural lesson? Because winemaking is, in essence, farming and science. Ideally the farming does most of the work, and the science puts the finishing touch. The French call it terroir: the essence of specific location. You want to drink a wine and know where it came from.
Bellarina has a firm sense of place. It is a great marriage of Cab Franc and Merlot. The Cab Franc portion has prominent vegetal notes, with leather, tobacco, pepper and black currant. Merlot brings to the pairing the fruit component- red berries, plum, and dark cherry. A classic case of fruit meets vegetable, like throwing some blueberries into a green salad. Perfect balance. The Cab Franc and the Merlot bring out the best in each other. This wine can be enjoyed alone. It doesn’t need a big steak but will complement pork, lamb or other meat dishes will, and will be fantastic in a few years. In 2015, when you’re staring at those dancing pigs on the label in your cellar (shout-out to a clever wine name), you’ll thank me as you pull the bottle, twist off the top, and enjoy a bit of Sonoma terroir.
Caitlin is an oenophile and sommelier based on the East Coast (though in her mind, she splits her time between her imaginary vineyards in Sonoma and Bordeaux). Caitlin has had the pleasure to spend many years working in restaurants with some great wine lists, and learning from wonderful wine and food professionals. Above all, she has a great respect and love for a great pairing, the industry, the creators, and the grapes! Cheers!