Traveling To Wine Regions While Staying in Place. Today, Lavender Ridge Vineyard in Murphys, California (in the Sierra Foothills).
The Winemaker & Owners
Here we have Rich and Siri Gilpin who started the business in 2000, planted a vineyard in 2003 and started selling wine on Main Street in Murphys in 2005. The first years, when there was only 3 wineries on Main Street as opposed to twenty-eight or so today, so they were one of the first. Rich grew up on the San Francisco peninsula and Siri in Winnetka, Illinois. Rich study enology and viticulture at UC Davis and was fortunate enough to also work in “an experimental field” passing his classrooms knowledge thru his toiling hands in the field to making wine. The best of both a priori knowledge and a posteriori knowledge – theory and practical experience. One of his first jobs finishing at UC Davis was in Sonoma. Siri, after leaving Winnetka, Illinois, attended and graduated UC Santa Barbara with a BA in Sociology. She then pursued doctorate studies in Marriage and Family Counseling at Sonoma State University. It was there where she met Rich, who got the job working as an Assistant Winemaker in 1993. Later, they spent 10 years in El Dorado County at Wind Walker but always wanted to move to Calaveras County where Rich had spent some time at a family property. In 2000 they purchased the property and within three years had it planted with vines. Those vines provided their first estate release in 2006. The tasting room on Main Street opened in 2005 with wines from grapes gathering from various vineyards. Today they get 70% of the fruit from Calaveras County and the remainder mostly from the Sierra Foothills. The name Lavender Ridge, came from some health challenges of their children and the positive effect that Lavender (and other herbs) played in strengthening their immune systems, ultimately helping them get well.
The Tasting Room
They run a rather unique tasting room as it is truly three businesses in one. First is obviously the rustic tasting room for walk in traffic. Here is where you can simply walk in and taste typically six of their current wine releases. In the back, is their Rhone Room where you can make reservations to small groups or several individuals up to 20 people. Here they are focused on presenting Rhone varietals. Their second tasting room Coppermine features Bordeaux varietals. (Click on https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/06/27/coppermine-winery/ ). The second thing you notice is the Artisan Cheese Market they display in the walk-in tasting room. They also have an entire wall decorated with items for sale including local artisan soaps from the iconic and sought after Copper Soap Works (https://coppersoapworks.com). The third aspect of the business is their profound use of pairing their wines with artisan cheese. During the year they hold many events focused on the two. Topics of the ones coming include: Romance of France, Sheep Chevre, Best of Cheddars, etc. These are held via reservations and presented by Judy Creighton a certified cheese professional and Erin Nagle. Usually four wines and cheeses are available to compare and contrast.
The Wine Offerings
So in discussing Rich’s winemaking capabilities, the first question was his style or what he is trying to provide via his wine making skills. His answer was simply perfect, he wants to show the expression of the varietals. He does not do blends or add 5% or 10% of this or that to present a preconceived notion of how a varietal should look like by “artificially adding a darker varietal”. Simple and truthful. To this end he uses only natural native yeasts so as not to upset the expression. To quote Rich this makes his wines “fruit forward and easy to drink”. He does work to balance acidity and tannins to make his wines rounder and fuller flavored. Having tasted two of his “prized wines”, his Grenache is done in “concrete eggs” for minerality and keeping the lees naturally moving, and his Mourvèdre they both were “light colored”. Having to dismiss any preconceived ideas of coloring, the floral aroma of both were “other worldly” wonderful. He mentioned some consumers come in and summarily dismiss his wines due to the “lighter coloring”. Just a thought that if they provided blacked out tasting glasses he would sell out in half the time! By the way, his wines generally sell out despite the “lighter coloring” with such aromas and tastes.
Tonight’s Wine –2016 Roussanne
It was powerful with floral aromatics, with hints of peaches, pears and with a rich and silky smooth mouthful texture almost creamy. Roussanne most times is blended with the Marsanne varietal but in this case it was 100% Roussanne. This retails for $28. Roussanne brings more acidity, elegance and aromatic complexities to the wine. His 2016 Roussanne won Double Gold at the 2018 Sierra Foothills Wine Competition. His 2016 and subsequent releases are now a standard fixture in the wine cellar!
The Wine Pairing
Tonight was a fresh Petrale sole dish. Cooked in butter with seasonings consisting of purple onion, Himalayan sea salt, pepper corns, capers, lemon, garlic and a dash of ginger. Then topped with crushed Pistachio nuts. Served with a fresh California artichoke. The flavors conjoined with the wine, made a fabulous meal.