One of my favorite things about what I do is the people I meet, especially the winemakers and vineyard owners. And as sure as the azaleas bloom, spring brings winemakers to Savannah in droves. They are here because of the High Museum Wine Show and Auction, the major East Coast wine shows and, generally to spread the word about their wines.
In the past 10 days, I’ve met three young wine professionals. Here, in nutshell form, are their stories.
Katherine Derby Raymond is the sixth generation of the Corkrum family to grow wheat on the rolling hills of Washington State. That impressive family heritage added a branch with the addition of wine grapes in 1993 – and today Spring Valley Vineyard produces several small batch wines that epitomize the best of Washington’s winemaking scene.
Glacial deposits created interesting soil mixes in the region and in this very plot specific vineyard. I was most impressed with Uriah, a Merlot blend with splashes of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
Jasmine Hirsch is her father’s daughter – spinning the stories he’s told her and weaving them with her own youthful enthusiasm and amazingly refined wine palate. She’s part ambassador, part circuit preacher – and all about the restrained, elegant wines of Sonoma County Hirsch Vineyards.
Here, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and straddling the San Andreas Fault, the soils vary as wildly as a crazy quilt. From blocks as small as two–tenths of an acre to nearly three aces, Hirsch coaxes intensely focused site–specific grapes into bottles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Hirsch Chardonnay stands boldly away from oaky, buttery expressions of California Chardonnay we too often anticipate. It’s bright, brimming with minerality and acidity.
Hirsch Pinot Noir is truly a mirror of its terroir. In these wines, the fruit does the talking, without embellishment from brash blending grapes or over-oaking.
Ronald Du Preez came from South Africa to intern at Sonoma County’s Jordan Winery. An epiphany occurred when he tasted the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon – and Du Preez remained at Jordan, where he has been assistant winemaker for 11 years.
Like our other young wine professional, Du Preez is passionate, almost geeky, about what he does. While he can certainly rattle off technical jargon, he’s realizes the proof is in the tasting.
Jordan also seeks very precise plots for its grape choices – then handles those grapes with kid gloves. The Chardonnay – another example of minerality and lip–smacking acid – basks all growing season under shrouds of fog until late morning.
These back stories – and the enthusiasm and passion of this new generation – are what excites me about the wine industry. It will be quite an adventure to follow them into their careers.