The meaning of the words Inner Sanctum means “a private or secret place to which few other people are admitted”. While a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to step into the Inner Sanctum with some trepidation. The phrase Inner Sanctum conjures up all kinds of thoughts. This winery was new to me, so I peeked in the doorway and what did I behold? A small boutique winery with more ribbons than Secretariat! I was met with extreme friendliness by the staff, especially Rick Watts, General Manager. Their labels on the wine bottles were spectacular and further into the story, you can see them as well hear about the wines. The “Inner Sanctum” turned out not to be scary at all.
What I learned is that Pete and Karen Mariano-Luckhardt, founders and owners, set out to make some distinguished wines in Jamestown in Tuolumne County. Their goal was to bring to market many Spanish varietals – both known in the US and those unknown by most. The formed Inner Sanctum in 2010 and have never looked back. In fact they have even opened a second tasting room in Columbia, just outside Sonora. At this facility they have a floral & wares store and do weddings around a rustic barn. One of their quotes which is on the brochures and bantered about is “The only thing we take seriously are the wines, everything else is about having fun and enjoying good wine”. Obviously this is a great motto and they run their business accordingly.
My favorite wine of the tasting was the 2017 Verdejo from Tuolumne grapes. This wine called Mateo the Matador won Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January 2019. This is a unique wine, with low levels of fruit and little sweetness. What stands out is the acidity of lime, grapefruit and hints of minerality. So little is planted in the US it is hard to even construct acreage with just a few vineyards in the Sierra foothills, Lodi and Clarksburg. Two days later I paired this with some fresh calamari appetizer and fresh scallops that made a wonderful meal at the Copper Grill.
Another one of their award winning wine is the 2015 Chardonnay called Dwell in Joy. Here a mild and rounded Chardonnay made via “old school” with barrel aging was powerful and graceful. Hues of light yellow and gold glisten in the glass. Currently they are offering the 2018 from El Dorado and is aged 8 months in the barrel. The 2017 version of Dwell in Joy won Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January 2019. It is currently being offered and poured at the tasting rooms.
These two wines, Torro 6, a Reserve Tempranillo, and La Mera Dona “Boss Lady”, Tempranillo, provided some unique characteristics and tastes are my number two and three picks at Inner Sanctum. A previous version (2014) won Double Gold and Best in Class at the San Francisco Chronicle in 2017. The La Mera Dona just won Silver this year at San Francisco Chronicle.
Not to be swayed by the gorgeous art work on the bottles, it was only a precursor of what was to follow. These labels as “art” hang in the Jamestown tasting room wall. In other words, the lovely labels were not hiding any “poor wine” but just the opposite. Zack at Utilitarian Graphics along with Pete & Karen have created mesmerizing and unique labels for their wines. Their wine typically sells out with only 2,000 cases being produced. So if you want to take advantage of some award winning wines, get to one of the two tasting rooms quickly.
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