Colorado has a worldwide reputation for fine festivals, especially those centered on wine and food. One of the newest is Slow Food Nations, recently dubbed by Forbes as one of the country’s best festivals for serious foodies. To prepare for that Denver festival July 19-21, I suggest drinking some Slow Wine. Here are recommendations from the Slow Wine Guide that I have tasted recently.
Beckmen Vineyards (Tom and Judy, with sons Steve and Jeff) has been crafting exceptional wines in Santa Barbara County since 1994. Their Purisma Mountain Vineyard, planted to mostly Rhône varieties, along with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, is Demeter Certified biodynamic. I recently tasted the 2017 Cuvee Le Bec ($25), a delightful Rhone-style wine of surprising complexity, and the refreshing 2018 Purisima Mountain Grenache Rosé ($25).
Josh Jensen was an early pioneer of pinot noir in California when he founded Calera on the remote Mount Harlan east of Monterey Bay in 1975. Influenced by Burgundian sensibilities, his formula is cool-climate vineyards with limestone soil and high-quality pinot noir clones. The resulting wines show high-toned fruit with a lifted structure and fine tannins. Three I tasted recently — 2016 De Villiers Vineyard ($65), 2016 Reed Vineyard ($75) and 2016 Jensen Vineyard ($95) — are emblematic with bright red berries, earthy, spicy accents in layers of complexity.
Emeritus Vineyards is a pinot noir specialist established in 1999 by Brice Cutrer Jones, originator of the wildly popular Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay. The winery produces wines from estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. The benefits of sustainable and organic farming practices — no irrigation, no insecticides, cover crops, sheep for weed control and fertilization — show in these wines I tasted recently: 2016 Hallberg Ranch ($44, elegant and enticing), 2016 Wesley’s Reserve ($75, rich and flavorful) and 2015 Pinot Hill ($75, refined and bracing).
Long Meadow Ranch started in 1989 when Ted and Laddie Hall began to restore a neglected farm in the Mayacamas Mountains. It is now a full-circle organic system committed (with the help of their son, Chris) to sustainable, responsibly farmed vineyards along with olives, bees, organic gardens, cattle, chickens and horses. The operation is a welcome contrast to the monoculture that dominates in Napa Valley. The winery is solar powered. The wines (also from estate vineyards in Rutherford and Anderson Valley) reflect a commitment to balance and food friendly elegance. I recently enjoyed the 2017 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($22), 2015 Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($40), 2016 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($40) and 2015 Napa Valley Merlot ($35).
After two decades working at many prestigious wineries in France, Australia and California, David Ramey (with his wife, Carla) established Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996. Along the way, he has become recognized as one of California’s finest producers of chardonnay. He sources fruit from prime vineyards and has been an exemplar of classic Burgundian techniques (particularly careful use of native yeast, oak barrel and malolactic fermentation), supplemented with modern methods where appropriate. The resulting wines balance vibrant fruit with rich textures, succulent acidity and structured yet silky elegance. He also makes several Bordeaux-style wines, pinot noir and syrah. Recently, I was blown away by the 2015 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay ($65) and 2016 Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay ($42).