“Two decades ago, the red wines of the southern Rhône Valley of France, reached a pinnacle of success in the U.S. that other fine wines can only dream of. In a wine-making equivalent of ‘The Perfect Storm’, wines of Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Sablet and Châteauneuf du Pape became the darlings of the wine trade, and distribution of them throughout the U.S. reached an all-time high. Robert Parker went so far as to refer to them as the most exciting wines of the time. In short, great-tasting wine met up with larger than normal harvests, and modest pricing was commonplace. American wine lovers were ready for something new, and the red wines from the southern Rhône, produced as they are from Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Syrah, are unique, with flavors that are welcomed by everyday wine drinkers.
Several French producers, whose wines I sold at the time, encouraged me and our winemaker Tadeo Borchardt to make wine from these under-appreciated varieties associated with the southern Rhône, and we began to do so beginning in the late 1990’s. Within a few years we had developed relationships with a handful of California growers, with family vineyards scattered around the state, and we became increasingly proficient in our work with the wines. In 2008, we created a blend from four of the individual wines and called it Sage Canyon Red, after the location of our winery, in the Sage Canyon region of Napa Valley. We found ourselves receiving advice from a number of French producers with whom I worked, and with their further encouragement, we began to introduce more traditional winemaking processes, like 100% stem retention, whole cluster fermentation, oak-aging for one year in small, used barrels, and bottling with neither fining nor filtration. Each vintage seemed more rewarding than the last.
Our 2018 Sage Canyon Red has a finished blend of 50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, and 5% Syrah. Each lot of wine was fermented naturally using native, wild yeast, and the grapes were all crushed by foot so as to not break the stems left in the fermenting must. The finished wine is bright and flavorful, with a fascinating combination of mineral and earthiness. The Carignan fruit is stylish, incorporating elements of wild cherry, plum and black fig, while the Grenache and Mourvèdre add exotic aromas of wild herbs and lavender. It’s a wine for the ages, and you’ll enjoy watching it age over the next decade or two.” —Bruce Neyers