Naturally Elegant wines from the Delta
Contra Costa County is a land of sand, blazing sun and howling winds.
Even with these extreme conditions, early settlers knew that this was a great spot to plant vines. Most of the countless vineyards they planted are long gone, covered by tract homes and subdivisions or removed to make way for the massive engineering project that created the modern Delta and water infrastructure of California.
But some tenacious vines and landowners hung on and now the county has more hundred year old vines than almost anywhere else.
Fortunately for all of us, the likes of Tegan Passelagcua and Morgan Peterson started to shine a light on the region.
Though the area was under the radar at the time, these two along with some other intrepid types saw potential in the centenarian vines and phylloxera free soils. That potential has now grown into the ability to produce some of the state's most intriguing, balanced and terroir driven wines.
Some of these wines now grace the lists of the nation's best restaurants.
Growing up in southern Germany, Julian and Sebastian Erggelet were raised on the virtues of age-worthy Riesling. After separate academic and professional careers, they soon followed their passions to France, Switzerland, Australia and Spain in pursuit of making expressive, terroir-driven wines.
In 2014, Julian and Sebastian embarked on a journey to California. They started by working with the likes of Ovid and Seven Stones, then Martin Estate and Hannah Nicole Winery.
Soon they were venturing out to craft their own wines in Contra Costa County. Attracted by those very old vines, the unique soil and climate of the Delta, they were convinced that this was the spot where they could make the wines they dreamed of.
They knew that in order to do this they would need exceptional fruit. All the Malvasia is currently sourced from the CCOF-certified Checchini Family Vineyard in Knightsen. This is where Julian's wife Ali was born and her family has farmed there for several generations.
Carignane and Zinfandel are both picked in Oakley, from fourth generation farming legend Tom Del Barba's fine sand vineyards. Specifically, their grapes come from a center block of his hundred year old vines.
Lastly, the Mataro is sourced just down the road from a highly regarded, century-old, 5 acre block owned by Tom's dad, Fred Del Barba.
The brothers farm or help farm all of the plots they work with.
Their meticulous farming is coupled with low intervention but intentional wine-making, which allows Julian and Sebastian to showcase their adopted homes’ world class terroir.
Their wines are delicious, exceptional and unique, light on their feet but with structure and acidity that point to ancient vines. It's clear that Julian and Sebastian are destined for wine-world super stardom.
So take the same advice we did, and get in on these before the word gets out. We see tight allocations in their future.
Picked in two passes, this dry malaysia showcases just how complex and delicious this grape is when grown in the right spot and farmed the right way. At first intense aromas of fresh lichi jump out of the glass that is then joined by ilme, pine tip, beeswax, sage, rosemary, ginger, rainier cherry. The palate has a juicy quality that is supported by lots of crisp mineral-tinged acidity and just the hint of tannins from some short skin contact. Luckily it only clocks in at about 12%ABV because this is hard to put down.
Mataro (Mourvedre) is southern Mediterranean superstar producing some of Southern Europe's most compelling wines. This bottle shares a lot more with these wines than the often ink black and overly tannic examples we tend to produce in California. Probably this has to do with the very old vines this comes from at the Del Barba Vineyard. This retains the grapes balck peppery spice but with fruit that is bright with floral undertones of red roses, orange zest, sage, blackberry, raspberry, and black plum. This is a bottle in search of a BBQ.
Again from the legendary Del Barba vineyard in Contra Costa this is made partially from very old vines as well as some of Del Barba’s “young” vines which are about 35 years old. Dry farmed on deep sand the resulting wines are lightweight yet intensely fruity with brambly raspberry and blackberry, chocolate, and a touch of dried herbs. A fine balance of being fruit driven, while showing restrained alcohol and velvety tannins.