E Wine of the Week, Bruce Cochran

More trends in blends

Hello Everyone,
This month we continue our look at current trends in winemaking, such as blending wines from different grape varieties, different vineyards or different regions. This week we’ll discuss a winery that uses grapes from different vineyards from within one famous valley to achieve a complexity of flavors that’s similar to the subtleties used by chefs.

Read about upcoming “After Work Wine Tastings” in Fayetteville and Little Rock in James Cripps’ “Wine Junkie Report” at my website, brucecochran.com

Try a new wine this week!


Santa Maria Valley
Last week we talked about how a Sonoma Valley winery is blending local grapes with those from vineyards in other parts of California to achieve complexity of flavors and textures. This week we’ll look at a Santa Maria Valley winery that’s blending grapes from three different vineyards in the same valley, and how each makes its own unique contribution.

Santa Maria Valley is one of California’s coolest wine regions, yet also has one of the longest growing seasons in the world. The well-drained soils are directly connected to cool Pacific Ocean breezes and fog funneled to the vineyards by east-west running mountain ranges. This maritime climate maintains an average temperature of 64 degrees in the town of Santa Maria. The cool climate produces wines with exceptionally high natural acidity and intense flavors.

Ken Volk, who came to winemaking fame at his Wild Horse Winery near Paso Robles, purchased the original Byron Winery in Santa Maria from Robert Mondavi. Now renamed Kenneth Volk Vineyards, it came with a 12-acre estate vineyard, four of which are planted to ungrafted chardonnay grapes, very rare in California.

Sierra Madre Vineyard’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes it one of California’s coldest vineyards, yet it still has an exceptionally long growing season. The shallow soils there control plant vigor, creating low yields and intensity of flavor in the fruit.

Bien Nacido Vineyard is Santa Maria Valley’s best known vineyard. It was first established in the year 1837 when the area was under Spanish rule. Today it totals around 2,000 acres and many winemakers use its grapes.

Located near the end of the east-west mountain range, Bien Nacido Vineyards is a maritime-influenced desert, with morning fog cover and cool afternoon breezes from the Pacific Ocean. The vineyard is prized for cool, slow ripening grapes, with longer hangtime on the vines. This means more flavor, mature fruit acids and richly textured wines. The grapes are sold to customers by charging a flat rate for their area or rows, so the winemakers can crop their vines to volume they desire, in contrast to other vineyards, which sell by the ton.

Ken Volk’s Chardonnay “Santa Maria Cuvee” 2005 is a blend of these three neighboring yet unique vineyards, Estate, Sierra Madre and Bien Nacido. According to the winery, it exhibits “pear, apple, and citrus fruits…supported by bright acidity and supple mouthfeel.” Rich, yet lively, I think it’s a chardonnay for people who may have forgotten why they loved chardonnay in the first place. It retails for around $25 per bottle.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards blends three chardonnay vineyards
into one rich, vibrant, delicious “cuvee”.

Categories: Legacy Archive