Thursday, July 7, 2016

So South, My Friends, Go South! Part 3: Testarossa - Three Single Vineyard Wines from Organic Vines

Shame on me for taking so many years to finally head to the South Bay and explore some wineries that have been on my "to visit list" for such a long time. But I was redeemed this past Saturday, when, fortuitously, I escaped the wine country hordes ascending on Napa and Sonoma and instead headed South to Saratoga and Los Gatos, covering two wineries with organic vines and one historic vineyard in the span of one very easy, traffic free day.

My third stop was at Testarossa, a 20,000 case winery in Los Gatos, housed in the 1888 building that was formerly the Novitiate Winery, an historic winery run by monks making altar wine. The winery has been occupied by Testarossa since the late 1990s.

It's not every winery that puts out the welcome mat with a cross or two.

Today the historic structure houses Testarossa Winery, a winery that owns no estate vines, but sources grapes, primarily for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, from more than 15 vineyards along the Central Coast.

This historic property first became a winery in 1888.

Displays in the entry hall give visitors a good look at the original views of the property, when the land around it had not yet been built on.

I was interested in tasting the three wines Testarossa makes from organic vines. Two of the three come from the Brosseau Vineyard owned by Testarossa winemaker Bill Brosseau's family, which is located in the Chalone AVA, a remote windy area (near Pinnacles National Monument) famous for its limestone and granite soils.

Winemakers treasure it for its minerality and for its resemblance to the French soils, especially in Burgundy. Burgundy wine freak and genius winemaker Josh Jensen, founder of Calera, was smitten with similar soils in San Benito County.

Brosseau's grapes are sought after by California's creme de la creme of terroirist winemakers, a list that includes Wine Gap, Donkey and Goat and Copain.

So I was looking forward to seeing what Brousseau did with his own vineyard fruit at his day job as winemaker at Testarossa.

The takeaway: nothing is subtle - yet. And his motto is not "live for today." These are age worthy wines, designed to be cellared and then savored.
The 2014 Brosseau Chardonnay, grown on the Chalone vineyard's
limestone and granite soils, was full in youthful flavors.
I look forward to giving it a few years to age.
The 2014 Brousseau Vineyard Pinot Noir was a preview of
what's to come. This wine will be released in Oct. It's a big,
burly Pinot at this stage of its life and made for laying down.
(If you drink it in the next year or two, decant it first.)
I'll look forward to seeing it soften over time in the
bottle, although the tannins are already pretty well integrated.
Winemaker Bill Brosseau clearly had something many years
down the line in mind when he made this wine. 
My favorite wine was the 2014 La Encantada Pinot Noir, from
a Sta. Rita Hills vineyard established and formerly
owned by Richard Sanford, of Alma Rosa, who famously
pioneered Pinot Noir in the region. This was a delicate, drink
now Pinot, which just got 94 pts. from my pals over
at Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wines - and
deservedly so.

Aside from the wines, one of the nicest aspects of Testarossa are the picnicking area
(bring your own or buy a few sundries inside) and the onsite outdoor wine bar (pictured here) with food.
It's cool, green and, on weekends, features live (mellow) music - the perfect place to
lounge the day away in an unhurried atmosphere. So much more relaxed than Napa, where
food cannot be served (or even brought in, in most cases, due to county restrictions) and where
big crowds and high turnover rates make this slow pace a rarity. Go south, my friends, go south!

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