I had the privilege to attend the 19th annual Calaveras Winegrape Alliance President’s Wine Weekend (http://calaveraswines.org/). The event is hosted in the boutique downtown main street in the town of Murphys. The weather was absolutely perfect and the streets of this quaint downtown were packed with a diverse crowd, commemorative wine glasses in hand. Smiles, bare skin, and wine buzzes were abundant on this unusually warm February weekend that celebrated a marriage of holidays, Valentines and Presidents’ Day. 22 wineries participated and it was an awesome event to attend. Mark your calendars now to celebrate the 20th annual event next year.
Tasting some of Calaveras County’s finest wines, my palate was opened to another world of California wines right in the heart of “Gold Country.” Grape growing and the production of wine in Calaveras County reach back to the mid 1800s, born to the desire of miners from France, Germany, and Italy whom craved this lovely beverage. The gold miners’ demand for wine produced vineyards cascading up through the hillsides. The Sierra Foothills rivaled Napa and Sonoma in sheer size and volume of wine growing. The entry of prohibition, the wine industry in the Sierras all but vanished. It took many decades to infuse it back to life. Some of the pioneers of the “re-birth” of the wine industry in Calaveras, were Stevenot(http://www.stevenotwinery.com/), Milliaire(http://www.milliairewinery.com/), and Chispa (now Black Sheep winery (http://www.blacksheepwinery.com/)).
The last decade in Calaveras can be compared to the “Gold Rush” of the mid 1800s, only this time, the discovery is quality wines. There are many great wineries in the area but I am profiling Hatcher Winery (http://www.hatcherwinery.com/) as my gold nugget discovery. Owner and winemaker, Matthew Hatcher, produces a wide variety of wines with high quality fruit and matched artfully with the right oak barrels. His brother Sewell assists him in the business and together they yield some of the finest wines I have had the pleasure of trying from the Sierra Foothills.
Matt Hatcher harvests a relatively small production but an abundance of varietals to experience. I have never met a grape I didn’t like but when it comes to wines- whole different story. I have a discerning palate for finer wines that can be savored. Wine is meant to be enjoyed and It is obvious that Matt takes the utmost care from the grape to bottle. One by one, I enjoyed every single vintage Matt poured for us. There are only a handful of winemakers in California that can produce such an amazing portfolio of wines and Matt is making a name for himself as one of those.
The following wines were available for tasting:
2012 Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Viognier, 2010 Beckmen Zinfandel, 2010 Barbera, 2009 Mouvedre, 2009 Sewell Blend, 2008 Petit Verdot, 2009 Petite Sirah, as well as a couple dessert wine offerings.
The lineup caught my attention as each vintage was well balanced, full flavored, and showed each grape at its’ finest. I was pleasantly surprised by Matt’s wine making ability and quality of fruit apparent in each tasting. Hatcher wines benefit from oxygen exposure, a sure sign of quality wine.
- 2010 Barbera- dark and deep in color, aromas of ripe summer berries and fruit, jammy flavors of raspberries, toasted oak, all spice, with a light linger of cassis and dark fruit. A Calaveras classic varietal aged in American oak, A great wine to stock up at $25. Great wine to sip on with brie and french bread. I give it 92 #CMKpts
- 2009 Sewell- Rhone style blend consisting of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, with the final 30% being made up of Cinsault, Petite Sirah, and Mouvedre. A big nose of red fruit, blackberry, currant, and freshly bloomed roses. The Syrah takes the lead with blackberries and strawberries balanced with toasted oak. It flows through with light flavors of tobacco and baking spices. A great blend that can be savored with a variety of hard cheeses, meats , and dishes. At $24, you can’t go wrong purchasing a few of these. I give it 90 #CMKpts
- 2009 Petite Sirah- Nothing petite about this lush, big wine. Dark purple in color, aromas of rich dark chocolate, heavy toasted oak, nice acidity, balanced with ripe dark fruits. This wine is a must have. While tasting great now with proper decanting, this vintage will only improve over the next 4 or 5 year. Serve with a big barbecue steak. 92 #CMKpts
Cameron Marc Kossen
CMKWine.com Twitter: @CMKWine