Dolan’s wines feature ‘Sauvignon Blanc’, ‘Chardonnay’, ‘Pinot Noir’, ‘Zinfandel’, and ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ grapes from his vineyard and other local family farmers. Each variety is cultivated according to its specific habits and needs. Needless to say, this takes a wise and deep relationship between the grapevines and the viticulturist.
That same deep relationship exists between the vines of Renaissance Vineyards and Winery in Oregon House, California, and viticulturist and winemaker Gideon Beinstock. Renaissance wines are unusual in many ways, none more so than in their terroir. His Bordeaux and Rhône varieties struggle in thin soils that overlay the granite ridges of these Sierra Nevada foothills, and you can taste the rock and dust and sheer will to live that the vines express. The vineyards are 100 percent organic. The wines are not fat and fruity, but resolute and lean, aged for up to 4 years in old oak barrels and released up to 12 years after the vintage. After a glass or two, you’ll always recognize a Renaissance wine.
“Every intervention reduces terroir,” Beinstock says. The most dramatic interventions are pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, but also conventional fertilizers, and even too much water that pumps up the fruit, increasing yields but diluting flavors. “Even starting fermentations with outside yeast obstructs the development of terroir. So I use whatever yeast naturally colonizes the grape skins in the vineyard.”
Dolan and Beinstock agree: To find the holy grail of terroir, promote health in the vineyards and let the vines dig it out for themselves.
Paul Dolan Vineyards, Paul Dolan, winemaker: Mendocino Wine Co., 501 Parducci Rd., Ukiah, CA 95482, 800-362-9463 (website visitors can join Dolan's Wine Club or order a range of wines if the customer's state has a reciprocal shipping agreement for wine with California).
Renaissance Vineyard and Winery, Gideon Beinstock, winemaker: 12585 Rices Crossing Rd., Oregon House, CA 95962, 800-655-3277 (wines can be purchased online if the customer's state has a reciprocal shipping agreement for wine with California).