“The reward for a daytrip to Sierra Foothill wineries is intense flavorful wines from passionate winemakers” ~ Barbara Keck
|Andrea & Jacques Mercier|
Not every winemaker has the advantage of bringing the world’s “best practices” to his winemaking. Jacques Mercier of Solune Winegrowers has done that, thanks to an extensive background as a trained sommelier and an esteemed wine judge. From tasting and judging wines around the world – Spain, the Douro, Mendoza, Switzerland, France – he’s gathered wisdom from observation and from other wine judges who are winemakers. The result: award winning wines from his own vineyard and winery.
At 2600 foot elevations where many of his vines grow, he knows that every little valley has its own microclimate. Initially, Jacques planted 24 varieties and at the end of his first decade, he has 11 reliable varieties.
Jacques’ winemaking style is very hands-on. He has an East Coast palate, and fine tunes every wine he makes. “I pay careful attention to the acidity,” he says. “I think that a lot of California wine is too flabby. I make careful decisions about when to harvest; I pick my grapes to give my wines a smooth yet rich quality.”
What to taste? Last season when I was tasting at Solune, I had a wonderful Port. I don’t see it for sale on their website now, but ask about it. Try these:
The 2008 Barbera, Sierra Foothills, has intense red berry flavors and aromas, great balance, silky texture, long finish, and this vintage is unoaked, with a hint of smokiness due to the 2008 forest fires. $25 the bottle.
The 2007 Fleur de Lune, Sierra Foothills, is an off-dry blend that combines Muscat Blanc, Orange Muscat and Gewurztraminer. I like the touch of sweetness, which Jacques notes is perfectly balanced by a vibrant acidity, providing a refreshing finish. $20 the bottle.
The 2006 Cinq Etoiles, Sierra Foothills, is a classic five-varietal Bordeaux blend. The website has a great description: Cabernet Sauvignon leads the flavor profile with black currant and plum, Petit Verdot adds color and structure, and the Merlot smooths the texture and brings spicy flavors and a hint of tobacco leaf. Cabernet Franc brightens the nose with a whiff of flowers and the Malbec helps to fill the mid-palate with a fruity lushness. $20 the bottle.