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Stylized image of Valdigue bottle

Valdiguie: California’s Secret Weapon Variety

Some, if not most, of you, are likely familiar with the grape formerly known as “Napa Gamay”, or as it is known today, Valdiguie. If you are one of those who is not, we would like to present you with one of our favorite affordable grapes. For the rest of you, a reminder that it exists, and has a place on your dinner table, especially as summer kicks in. Valdiguie occupies a space between actual Gamay and some of the more experimental red/white blends that have become more and more prevalent as winemakers continue to experiment. It’s serious enough to be the absolute perfect Thanksgiving wine (though we’re probably the only ones thinking about that now!), yet fresh and light enough to accompany you in the backyard on a warm summer evening, and with low enough alcohol that one bottle will likely not be enough.

A little background on the grape itself: Valdiguie was first grown in the Languedoc-Rousillon. It typically went by the pseudonym of Gros Auxerrois and is thought to first have been propagated in the late 1800s. Brought to California sometime after and before rules and regulations could prove its origin, the grape was thought to be Gamay from Beaujolais. This confusion lasted up until 1980 when genetic testing revealed it to be a completely different grape altogether. Even still it took until 1999 for the name “Napa Gamay” to be outlawed on the labels of Valdiguie bottles. Valdiguie typically expresses itself with dark color, low alcohol, light to medium body, and bright black, red, and blue fruit. Today we feature a selection that spans the entire spectrum of what the grape is capable of. Notes are from our very own Paul Olson.

Folk Machine Redwood Valley Valdiguie 2022 - $21.99
“Winemaker Kenny Likitprakong has been providing us with absolutely crushable Valdiguie since the shop opened. Year in and year out it is a wine that we look forward to as the weather warms up and we start to want red wine that, ideally with some time in the fridge, is refreshing and goes with nearly all springtime/summer dishes. Clocking in at 11% alcohol, Folk Machine’s Valdiguie is the lightest and brightest of today’s Valdiguie offerings, with the highest toned vibrant blackberry and blueberry fruit. Someone who has been working with Valdiguie for nearly 20 years now, Kenny leans into the unabashed crushability of the grape, without trying to overcomplicate the varietal.” - Paul Olson

Outward Wines Paso Robles Valdiguie Shell Creek Vineyard 2022 - $25.99
“I love when a certain wine reaffirms a belief that I have carried for years. The Shell Creek Valdiguie from Outward immediately reaffirmed my belief that more people need to be drinking high-quality Valdiguie. Sporting all the fresh, strawberry, blackberry, crunchy rhubarb, and watermelon Jolly Rancher that one comes to expect from Valdiguie, but with a second earthy, leathery, and slightly dusty layer that adds depth and complexity. At 11.9% alcohol, winemakers Natalie Siddique and Ryan Pace have made a Valdiguie that retains supreme drinkability, which I believe is a must for the varietal. A welcome addition to any Thanksgiving dinner table, or any picnic over the coming months.” - Paul Olson

Birdhorse Suisun Valley Valdiguie 2022 - $36.99
”Now for a different expression. A bigger, rounder version of Valdiguie that, at 14.2% alcohol, is the big boy of the lineup. Winemakers Corinne Rich and Katie Rouse (assistant winemakers at Scribe and Bedrock respectively) have been absolutely crushing it with grapes atypical to California such as Arneis and Verdelho, so it comes as no surprise that they would handle a varietal such as Valdiguie so well. Here is what they have to say about the wine: “The Suisun Valley sits just south and east of the famous Napa Valley, at the base of the Vaca Mountain Range. Back Road Vineyard, where our Valdiguié lives, sits at the north end of the valley on Brentwood clay-loam soils, part of the large alluvial fan the valley rests on. Planted in the 1980s, these 40-year-old vines are farmed organically and produce bodacious bunches of juicy, red grapes. All the berries; blueberry, raspberry, snozzberry.”- Paul Olson

Broc Cellars Sparkling Valdiguie 2023 - $32.99
“I’m sure Broc Cellars needs no introduction, as we have featured them many times before, but I do not think we have featured this specific wine in quite a while. The first bottling of the sparkling Valdiguie that Broc has done since 2020, this may be the best bottling of it that they have done. The Valdiguié saw a gentle foot stomp after it was brought in and directly pressed into stainless steel pressurized tanks to capture the bubbles naturally from fermentation. The finished wine is a beautiful and eye-catching ruby pink that shines in the glass and on the palate with refreshingly soft bubbles. Blackberry, strawberry, candied orange peel, and extreme drinkability at a perfect 11.5% alcohol.” - Paul Olson


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