A Tale of Two Elizabeths and Bee Hunter Wine

Reception
Photo by Sommelier Christpher Sawyer (http://sawyersomm.com/)

As luck would have it, it was a very cold night for the kickoff reception and dinner at the 13th Annual Anderson Valley Aromatic White Wine Festival hosted by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. However, it was under the warmth of a heater, accompanied by delicious wine and food, where the two Elizabeths, one from Philo and one from Napa, would first meet and discuss the magic of their name, which comes from the Hebrew word, elīsheba`, meaning God is my oath.

Philo Elizabeth
The next day, Napa Elizabeth entered the festival’s grand tasting, and before her very eyes stood Philo Elizabeth (also known as Alisa or Ali Nemo) and her partner, winemaker André DuVigneaud (Andy), who beckoned her to taste two of the rieslings from Bee Hunter Wine, their winemaking project featuring a range of whites, a rosé, and reds from the hidden gem vineyards of Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. Like a bee is always hunting for the perfect garden, Bee Hunter, a word from Boonville’s own language dialect, Boontling, is always searching for lesser-known, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyards from which to source their grapes.

Boont Berry
Napa Elizabeth’s mission: to find the festival’s perfect pairing for their 2015 Wiley Vineyard Riesling ($24), whose slight effervescence gave it a unique Pét-Nat or cider quality. She buzzed around the room (pun intended), stumbling up on the small plates prepared and served by Boont Berry Farm Store, which featured locally sourced foods like smoked salmon, turkey, avocado, mushroom, sweet onion, and cranberry. The winner: the plate that Andy fondly called “deconstructed Thanksgiving”, featuring the turkey, onions, mushroom, and cranberry cream cheese spread. Better grab this wine for your Thanksgiving table before it is gone.

Yorkville Highlands
The two Elizabeths would reunite that evening at Bee Hunter’s pop-up tasting at Aquarelle Catering & Events in Boonville. Napa Elizabeth tasted through their available portfolio and could not get enough, so returned once again the next day to discover that not only is Andy a winemaker, but he is a chef, making his own brisket sliders and BBQ tacos, surprising those who ventured in to taste. He made a special-order plate for Napa Elizabeth that fit her wellness lifestyle. The wine pairing: Bee Hunter’s take on Bordeaux, the Yorkville Highlands blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot ($48), which showed off its higher-terrain terroir in unison with the rich, fatty brisket.

Pinot Noirs Together
Napa Elizabeth was sad to depart Boonville, but Philo Elizabeth said that she and Andy would be in Napa soon, the following Thursday, in fact, and the two reunited for a wine club pickup at Mumm Napa. As they said goodbye, Philo Elizabeth handed Napa Elizabeth two open samples, the 2014 Bee Hunter Mendocino Pinot Noir ($48) and the 2014 Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60). She returned home to taste with her cat, Einstein, by her side, and spoke to Philo Elizabeth and Andy via telephone the next day to get the rest of the story.

As always, your palate may vary.

Mendocino
2014 Bee Hunter Mendocino Pinot Noir
With grapes sourced from three vineyards in Mendocino County – Wiley, Docker, and Oppenlander – this wine is aged 20 months in a mix of 20-25% new, tighter grain, French oak barrels, and the remainder used one to four vintages. This oak regime, longer extraction time, and a blend of vineyard sources renders this wine very fruit forward and aromatic, a delight for even the most sensitive wine drinkers. A light garnet color in the glass, this wine shows juicy, sweet berry fruit like black cherry on the front of the palate, finishing with a tart berry mélange of redcurrant and cranberry with a backdrop of black tea.

Oppenlander

2014 Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir
Made the same as the previous wine, but sourced from one vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, located just north of Anderson Valley and east of the coast, but close enough to enjoy the cool, foggy coastal influence, this pinot noir is the dark and brooding sibling to the Mendocino. A medium garnet in the glass, this wine is creamier, more weighty on the palate, and reveals an intense, brambly fruit profile of blackberry, blackcurrant, and black raspberry. The zingy acidity and spice are notable, the latter of which reminded me of my favorite cinnamon tea. If you spend any time with Philo Elizabeth and Andy, you may hear this wine referred to as “Guns & Kittens”, a throwback to their first vintage meeting with the growers in their 1860-era farmhouse and its plethora of vineyard kittens and 30 long guns, which precariously found themselves together in a closet during this fateful visit. The following year, one of the vineyard kittens, Baxter, found a home with Philo Elizabeth and Andy, joining family members Cleo and Puff.

Thankfully for us, this is only the beautiful beginning of the tale of two Elizabeths and Bee Hunter Wine. Visit their website, where you can purchase wine, learn about their Bee Hunter Brand Ambassadorship program, book a tasting event, or become a Bee Hunter club member yourself. Stay tuned and always bee huntin’.

Cheers!
Napa Elizabeth

 

 

Ackerman Family Vineyards

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I am sure that during my commutes around the city of Napa, I have passed the Ackerman Heritage House at 608 Randolph Street before, the hospitality and tasting home of Ackerman Family Vineyards. However, on this rainy February day, nothing was more inviting as my co-workers and I entered by way of a back door.

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A Moment with Viticulturist, Vintner, and Winemaker David Parrish

David Parrish TR
Do you know the name David Parrish? If not, you should. This third generation viticulturist, vintner, and winemaker of Parrish Family Vineyard in the Paso Robles AVA of California is truly a Renaissance man of the wine industry, having patented groundbreaking trellis designs in his early days as a student at UC-Davis and while holding key viticulturist roles during his early career in the Napa Valley. He has been a wine grape grower since 1995 and a winemaker since 2004. I had the honor of asking Parrish ten questions and in his own words, he describes what inspires him to do it all from vineyard to bottle.

Do you remember which wine during that fateful sunset evening inspired you to pursue winemaking? How did it inspire you?

It was probably a Cabernet Sauvignon that had me daydreaming about sipping and swirling my own wine one day. Viticulture has been in my blood since the time my grandfather started growing grapes in Atascadero, before Prohibition and the Great Depression. Seventy years later, I decided to take my grandfather’s passion a step further opening my own winery. I had no idea the love affair it would become. I began producing our boutique wine in 2004 and opened a tasting room in 2011. Today, we are busy building a new winery and tasting room which will open in early 2018. It just keeps getting better.

What transpired during the time between your work with Napa producers to your new venture in Paso Robles? Did you work with producers in other areas of California, the United States, and/or internationally?

I graduated from U.C. Davis in 1974 and started a vineyard trellising company which I’m still involved with today. I was fortunate to meet a group of Napa growers who wanted to make Napa a world-class wine growing region and one of my professors, Dr. Kliewer, convinced me to accept their invite to work with them. I moved to Napa and started working with Robert Mondavi and Bob Steinhauer of Beringer Vineyards. After a few months, I was working with most of the wineries in the Napa area on their trellises. I currently hold two dozen patents for trellis design and have worked with partners all over the world.

But, my heart always wanted to come home to the Central Coast and grow my own grapes. I planted 40 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon on our Creston, California ranch in 1995 and in 2004 made the first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon; in 2011 the tasting room opened in downtown Paso Robles. In 2013 and 2014 we planted 80 acres in our Templeton Vineyard and 30 acres in our Adelaida Vineyard; which will be the location of the new winery. We will always be a boutique, family-run winery and are thankful so many people have supported us and our wines which has allowed us to grow.

Why did you choose Paso Robles to make wine? Was there a reason besides living there?

Other than my grandfather’s roots, I wanted to return to the Central Coast because of the people. I spent a lot of time in Napa and know the beautiful fruit that can be developed there but, I wanted to work with family-owned wineries just like the one I wanted to build. I think there is something magical that happens when winemakers live on the land they love and are able to truly give it the daily attention and care it demands. I was glad that I was right about that instinct because the more our partner wineries develop, the more we all lean on and support each other. It’s uncommon and it’s characteristically Central Coast.

What is your favorite varietal grape to grow? Is it also your favorite to make? If not, please share why.

We grow great grapes, but my passion has always been Cabernet Sauvignon with its round, full-body and elegant finish. Recently, our Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon was rated 94 points by Wine Enthusiast. I call it a problem child with its wild temper that can be matured into a lovely and complex expression.

What grape is the most challenging to grow in Paso Robles? Why?

See above

What varietal wines do you currently make? Any new prospects on the horizon?

Estate Grenache Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay/Viognier blend, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, two Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah blends, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and an Estate Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon

Do you have any formal winemaking education?

I graduated from U.C. Davis in 1974 with a degree majoring in biology with a chemistry/math minor and completed several courses in winemaking. I’ve found the best way to learn anything is to simply study and experience as much as you can.

Is your family also involved in the business?

This has always been a family business to us, dating back from my grandfather. Today, my wife, daughter and son-in-law are all involved in the day-to-day operations of the winery; even the dogs have a job.

What do you love about Paso Robles as a place to live, grow grapes, and make wine?

The best part about Paso Robles is the people. Hands down. I’m a member of the Paso Robles CAB Collective which is an organization that brings wineries together on behalf of the entire region. We work together to help promote each other and to solve any issues in our vineyards, with our grapes, basically anything that comes up. We rely on each other for the betterment of all. It’s an amazing thing.

Is winemaking everything you thought it would be? Why?

It’s so much harder and also so much more rewarding. I knew vines from my trellis work, but being a winemaker is a completely different experience. Caring for and knowing about the fruit is consuming. I’m lucky my family is also involved so we can share the highs and lows together. It takes a lot of work, but the rewards are so great. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Robert Biale Vineyards

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Robert Biale Vineyards

Not long ago, I had lunch with Maggie Pramuk Mazotti, daughter of the co-founder of Robert Biale Vineyards. Being a recent transplant to Napa, I had heard of Biale, but really did not know their story. After our lunch, I returned to work and suggested we schedule a staff tasting there.

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Lightning Wines

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Tasting with Lightning Wines

Three years ago, I reviewed the movie American Wine Story, a documentary that follows the story of Oregon’s Brooks family (Brooks Wines) as well as others in the United States who have decided to leave their secure careers to follow their passion for winemaking. Such is the story of former Texas natives and owners, Randy and Brooke Hester, who decided to take their own leap of faith to create Lightning Wines.

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