Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Testa Vineyards Launches Second Organically Grown Wine - a Rose - Just in Time for Summer

Is it hot enough for you? All around the Bay Area temperatures have climbed sharply into the 80s, and a nice cold summer wine is definitely in season. Testa Vineyards' brand new Rose (of carignane), released this weekend at A Taste of Redwood Valley, is the perfect antidote to a heat wave.

The wine sells for $18 a bottle with a ten percent case discount.

The photo on the label is of Maria Testa Martinson's Aunt Rose,
now 95, who's lived to see the family vineyard and winery,
first started in 1912, restored to life by Maria.
Crisp, light and refreshing, the wine is the second organically grown wine from this heritage winery, part of a next gen Italian heritage renaissance in Mendocino County, that inlcudes Chiarito Vineyards in Talmage (which grows not only Zin but some rare southern Italian varietals - [its wines are practicing but not certified organic]) and Testa in Calpella.

(Nearby organic Barra has been in the winery business since the late 90s making popular varietals; bustling Graziano winery's Enotria brand [not organic] makes some Italian varietals not commonly grown in California including Arneis and Nebbiolo. But that's another story...)

But John Chiarito and Maria Testa Martinson represent a new generation of revivers - each with a passion for dry farmed, Italian heritage grapes.

Testa's rose is made from head-pruned, dry farmed carignane on the 25 acre property
(on the east side of 101 near the Calpella exit) (just south of Barra Vineyards.)
The original Testa Vineyards was started in 1912 - yes, 1912 - and continued to make wine right through Prohibition in the basement of the family house now next to Highway 101. "We had raids right down here in the basement," says Maria.

Maria Testa Martinson, of Testa Vineyards, in the original cellar
Maria grows the blending grapes for Testa's Black wine - black being the traditional, old timey name for a red wine among the Italian immigrants in the region - on the dry farmed estate property. Although it's named in a heritage way, Maria's Black is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, which she grows organically at her other vineyard a mile and a half down the road.

"My goal with the Black is to vary it year to year until we get just the right blend," she said. The most recent vintage - 2010 (her first legal crush) is made of 89% cabernet sauvignon, 8% carignane and 3% petite syrah.

Maria made some wine from Charbono grapes on the family property in 2004 for her aunt Rose's 90th birthday - and the response was positive. Seven years later, with the release of her first Rose, she's making her first wine made exclusively from the organically grown, old Italian varietals.

Hundreds of people stopped by over the weekend to try the wines and enjoy the old-timey atmosphere, music and great food at Testa during A Taste of Redwood Valley.

While other Italian vineyards (that still grow organically) dot the state - Madonna Estate in Carneros  and Barra in Calpella come to mind - if you want to see Italian grandmothers serving up polenta, and eat BBQ, drink wine, and see the Italian heritage culture in action, there was no better place than Testa's weekend fest.
Italian grandmothers dished it up at A Taste of Redwood Valley, with polenta, tomato sauce, and BBQ
Featured here is Maria's great auntie Lee Testa, a second generation Testa
A photo display of the family's winemaking heritage
Testa's Black wine harks back to the days when Italian red wine was called Black
Picturesque old farm equipment by the head pruned dry farmed vineyard
Chocolate - take your pick of brownies or truffles - and old timey music filled the barn

BBQ among the vines, Testa style

You can tour Testa by appointment.

Testa Vineyards wines are available at local stores in the Ukiah area as well as online. They also offer a Testa White (which is not organically sourced) in addition to the organically grown Black and Rose.

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