This small family-owned vineyard and winery is the pride and joy of Mario and Linda Clough. It’s a hands-on working operation: many days you’ll see Mario himself driving the tractor, which he’s done since the first vines were planted in 1999.
Lucchesi (pronounced loo kay see) lucked out when they identified a bright young winemaker and hired her almost three years ago. Kristen Vartan gained experience not only in California wineries (Robert Mondavi, Oakville; Frank Family, Calistoga) but in New Zealand too, where she earned her degree in enology and viticulture. Kristen is fervent about her craft, and the wines reflect that. She is committed to making world-class wines with personality that exhibit regional characteristics unique to Sierra Foothill fruit.
“Although not well recognized, there is great potential for the wines up in the foothills,” she said. “Our vineyard at 2600 feet is pretty high up. But mountain grown fruit is more concentrated because the vine has to struggle to thrive and produce. So I work with grapes where the flavors are very well developed; this climate really ripens the fruit to that ideal that winemakers pray for. And the grapes are happy here. They have beautiful views.”
You’ll find that Lucchesi wines are tasty and unique, and they benefit from Kristen’s non-interventionist winemaking philosophy to let the grapes and terroir express themselves.
You too can sample wines while looking at a view that goes forever…
2007 Chardonnay, a vineyard-designate wine with all fruit from the View Forever vineyard, won a double-gold award at the San Francisco Chronicle competition. Only 450 cases were produced. The creamy flavor is due in part to the fermentation in 30% new oak barrels. Aroma of peaches, apple, a touch of hazelnut, finishes with a hint of caramel. 14.4 % alcohol. $21/bottle.
The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc contains fruit was sourced from Lucchesi vineyards and also Penn Valley vineyards. The wine was crafted to retain all of its vibrant fruit characteristics. On the palate, it is clean, crisp, with not too much citrus. A hint of herbs, maybe some tarragon? Only 294 cases; fermented in stainless steel, a great summertime wine. 14.3% alcohol. $16/bottle.
The 2006 Cabernet Franc is made entirely of fruit from View Forever vineyard. A fairly rich wine, fruit-forward, with heavy yet supple tannins from aging in 30% new French oak barrels. A bit of merlot softens the tannin. It is very food friendly (think barbeque, short ribs!), with a pleasant long finish. Only 278 cases produced. 14.8% alcohol. $24/bottle.
The 2006 Syrah will be a fast seller, as it won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. Only 342 cases produced, all from Sierra Foothills grapes. It was co-fermented with 5% Viognier in small lots, matured in 35% new French oak barrels for 16 months. Tastes of black cherries, a bit of spice but not too black-peppery. Very food friendly with a firm tannin and long finish! 14.9 % alcohol $23/bottle.
The winery at 19698 View Forever Lane, Grass Valley, is generally open by appointment only. Call 530 273 1596. The wine club holds several events there during the year (5-course lunches on the lawns near View Forever Vineyard, open air star-lit movie nights to see Bottleshock and other fun wine-related films). If you are anxious to taste the wines immediately, go to the tasting room at 167 Mill Street in Grass Valley; it is open daily from 11 til late. 530 274 2164. You can also directly purchase wines at the website: http://www.lucchesivineyards.com/.
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© 2009 Barbara Keck
For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in July 2009.