Saturday, January 31, 2015

Why did I enjoy the Blizzard of 2015? the answer is five words: Shannon Ridge and High Valley Wines by Philip S. Kampe



                                        Look for the sheep at Shannon Ridge ....



               
           The 'Blizzard of 2015' wines from Lake County, California



Why did I enjoy the Blizzard of 2015?  The Answer: I had ample time to sample the wines from California’s Shannon Ridge and High Valley Vineyards by Philip S. Kampe

It’s been snowing since I woke up at 6am this morning. They call it the ‘Blizzard of 2015’. I live in the Berkshire mountains, in the great, but somewhat, deflated state of Massachusetts. There is enough snow to bury a magnum. More is on the way, maybe enough to bury a jeroboam.

Anyway, today is the perfect day to sample wine. Driving is restricted because of the states highway ban. Everyone is housebound unless winter sports are your thing.

So, what am I to do for breakfast? Should I start with a bowl of cereal, make an egg and have orange juice? I don’t think so.

What I chose to do was quite simple.

I created my day’s meal by filling a large oval platter with a variety of cheeses, one goat, one sheep and one cow. I added Italian and Spanish olives, marcona almonds, water crackers, dried figs and a dozen slices of prosciutto and salami to the mix.

I am now ready for today’s challenge.

The challenge is to sample wines from Lake County, Napa’s northern neighbor. I just returned from a family vacation in California with a suitcase full of wines from Lake County, California, including two sustainable Shannon Ridge wines, 2011 Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 Home Ranch/Two Bud Block Zinfandel and three wines from High Valley (owned by Shannon Ridge), 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Barbara and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Owner Clay Shannon and his wife, Maragarita, are committed to preserving their land for not only wine, but nature and wildlife. Of the 2,165 acres owned by the Shannon family, 65% of the land has been used as a wildlife preserve. The remaining 35% of the Home Ranch has been converted to vineyards. The Shannon’s practice sustainable farming by using a herd of over 1000 sheep to maintain the cycle of the land. Our border collie, Maggie McGee, would have loved to have lived on the Shannons’ property.

The history of Shannon Ridge dates back to the 80’s when the couple grew grapes for others. As time passed, they wanted to see if their grapes could stand on their own. They stopped sourcing the grapes and began making wine in the mid-90’s.

Today, the couples wine empire has grown with the purchase of several parcels, including High Valley Vineyards in April, 2012. The Shannon’s wines highlight the Lake County characteristics.

Now, to the wine….
Since High Valley was a recent purchase and I had three bottles of their first two years of vintage, I was eager to sample the wines.

The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) was outstanding if you like acidity and minerality.  The wine was well-balanced, with highlights of citrus, specifically, limes, lemons and grapefruit. The flavors suggest its use not only as a food wine, but, as an aperitif.
                                              

          


                                                                    

The other spectrum of Lake County is that the area can produce both outstanding white wines as well as red wines. Two wonderful examples are the High Valley 2012 Barbara and Cabernet Sauvignon ($15). Both wines, in different applications highlight dark and red fruit, vanilla and a sense that chocolate and mocha are in your palate.

The old standby wines that have been part of my life for years are the Shannon Ridge, Home Ranch, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

2011 Home Ranch Shannon Ridge Zinfandel ($30) is a very complex, well-balanced, silky wine that focuses the palate on blackberry jam, leather, tobacco and chocolate. The lingering finish has a toasty vanilla quality that dominates your palate. This wine is a great value.

2011 Home Ranch Shannon Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) is made in the classic style using oak barrels. It’s obvious blackberry, vanilla, dark cherry and tobacco profile make this wine a favorite of mine. It pairs favorably with heavy, rich foods. At 14.9% alcohol and rather young, decanting the wine an hour or more before serving will only help its flavors to amplify.

Drinking the wines of Clay and Margarita Shannon, while watching the snow fall in Massachusetts, makes winter one of my favorite seasons. Why not join me with a glass of Shannon Ridge or High Valley wines?



                                       


                                                                                  




Philip S. Kampe














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