January is over, and you know what that means? Time for the wet weather. Ian Fleming put the following words in James Bond’s mouth in the very first Bond novel: “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made.” Casino Royale, 1953.
So, in keeping with Mr. Bond/Fleming’s ideology (as well as his penchant for run on sentences) we welcome the wet part of a new year, the end of resolutions, and a slew of new products hitting the market. In the business of wine and spirits, the year a product is made, is not necessarily the year it is released. Which can sometimes be confusing when looking at a “new product.” To help clear up some of the confusion, I offer an amalgamation of some of the new stuff being offered by your Marin County affiliated producers. Enjoy in moderation, just like James Bond. Oh, and welcome back!
2014 Skywalker Vineyards Marin County Estate Sommità Sparkling, $100
Sommità is Italian for “summit” and the grapes for this Marin County méthode champenoise estate sparkler come from the summit vineyards on the Skywalker Ranch, an 8½ square mile combination of properties located on Lucas Valley Road. Crisply effervescent with hints of stone fruit, citrus and strawberry, this delicately potent wine does honor to its 57 percent Marin County pinot noir and 43 percent Marin County chardonnay. The “skywalker” angel on the label is a fitting testament to the estate from which it’s from. And oh, what an estate it is! Very low production (200 cases) and the exceptional bottling does bring a price to bear, or angel, as the case may be. More info at: Skywalker Vineyards.
2018 McEvoy Ranch Marin County “Real Prince Domino” Refosco, $35
The story goes that Real Prince Domino was the name of Nan McEvoy’s (yes, the San Francisco Chronicle McEvoys) father’s prize-winning Hereford bull. What better way to honor that bull than with red wine that goes well with beef? Refosco is an Italian family of varietals that originally hails from the Friuli-Venezia Giuilia region in Northeastern Italy. If fully ripened Italian refosco can be bitter and tannic. But exposed to California terroir, in particular Marin County terroir, this organically grown version becomes a laid back, modestly tannic, brightly acidic wine that displays fresh lush fruit. More Côtes du Rhône than Amarone in style, and as such, it is recommended to be served slightly chilled. Oh, the humanity! Exceptionally low production (60 cases) but exquisitely beautiful. Although one does wonder what RPD might think of the whole thing, one does. Rumor has it, he was delicious. More info at: McEvoy Ranch.
Hanson of Sonoma Double Barrel whiskey, $100
The process of multiple barreling American whiskey is all the rage right now. But it is nothing new, just ask the Scots or the Japanese who have been perfecting the art for well over 100 years. Sometimes America is so far behind the curve it appears as if we are ahead of it. The Hanson family (tasting room in Sausalito) has been making and marketing organic vodka now for about 6 years, but due to the peculiarities of making whiskey, their malt whiskey (begun a year later) is only now ready for market. Aged for four years, first in used bourbon barrels (which along with the malt disqualifies it from being bourbon, as well as from being a “straight malt”) and then finished in sherry wine casks (like Macallan Scotch) it is then bottled at 100 proof. Hanson double barrel is both big and bold, while still being smooth as silk. An American whiskey that honors both the Scots and the Japanese? Maybe we truly are ahead of the game after all. More info at: Hanson of Sonoma
Batiste Ecoiste Reserve Rhum, $39.99
“Soon come,” as they say in the Islands. In Batiste’s case, specifically Marie Galante island in the French West Indies. With hints of turbinado sugar, hot toffee, caramel, and rye whiskey, Batiste reserve rhum is big, rich, boozy and assertive, much like Hemingway in his prime. And why not? Modern rum begins and ends with Hemingway and Batiste writes it’s one true sentence in this newest amber colored liquid ambrosia. The brainchild of Marinite Tristan Mermin, Batiste is made in the Caribbean from free run juice (ergo the rhum, and not rum, which is made from molasses) using “eco-positive methods” before being aged in Napa in used rye whiskey barrels. Very, very low production, and very soon to be released (it will probably sell out quickly, so get on the waiting list!) Batiste Ecoiste is 90 proof and potent. Get it when it you can. More info at: Batiste Rhum