Winemaker Steven Urberg
When you are the winemaker for an iconic sparkling brand, and you have a vision for making a luxury still wine brand, that dream often doesn’t come to fruition. Unless: i) the sparkling wines come from Gloria Ferrer (the original sparkling wine house in Sonoma Carneros): ii) you have the backing of Freixenet USA: and (iii) you have a tremendous vision based on specific vineyard blocks in Carneros.
Not only did winemaker Steven Urberg do that, but he also produced two new brand new vintages this summer for Gloria Ferrer. He made it clear that the Gloria Ferrer wines that we were trying were very separate in terms of identity of the new boutique still wines we would be sampling at the luncheon.
We tried the latest release of the non-vintage Gloria Ferrer Brut Rose and Urberg talked about the increasing adoption of sparkling wines in the United States of sparkling due to prosecco adoption. It was a blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay. I tasted notes of black cherry, crème brulee, ripe berry and citrus. Fermented for 6 months before blending, the wine was in bottle for five and a half years before disgorgement. This was delicious with stone fruit, apple, honey, vanilla, crème brulee and black cherry.
We then moved to the new luxury wine brand WineVane, a homage to the wine that contributes to the unique character of the wines of Western Carneros named from the wine patterns and microclimate of Carneros. Their two vineyard sites are known for the steepest, rockiest and thinnest soils with diverse microclimates, allow for slower ripening, intense flavor development and high levels of acidity in the grapes.
Urberg was very pragmatic in his approach to balance, “No chef ever wants to beat a steak into submission. Wine is the same – it’s all about texture and balance.”
We tried two estate wines with very different characteristics. Our first was the 2015 Chardonnay, which tasted of buttered popcorn, lemon, pineapple, white stone fruit and had a little nuttiness and a lot of creaminess.
The second, my favorite, was the 2014 WindVane Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir, a blend of Pinot Noir from vineyard blocks from the east facing 335-acres of estate vineyards located in Carneros. Only 100 cases of the WindVane Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir have been produced and Texas unfortunately will not be receiving the shipments. This is an elegant, nuanced, black cherry, earthy, bottle of deliciousness.