2017 Casino Mine Ranch Vermentino – A Beautiful Alternative to Sauvignon Blanc

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The Winery

Jim & Rich Merryman grew up on this Amador property in California on weekends and vacations with their parents. The property was originally their Great Aunt Simone’s which she bought it in 1936 and was convinced “gold was still in the hills”. She and her workers dug mines in the hillside anxiously wanting to strike gold, as she had previously done so successfully in Alaska. It was a big gamble but no gold was found. Thus the name Casino Mine Ranch. Over the years Jim & Rich purchased the property from their parents (who inherited it from Simone).

This 60 acre site currently has 14 acres planted. While not striking gold, they did find an underground creek, which by today’s standard is almost as valuable as gold. This underground creek runs directly below their planted vineyard.

Now as fate would have it, Casino Mine Ranch was a hillside property with the abandoned mining caves, when Rich invited his friend Andy Erickson to visit. They spent many weekends shooting skeet and apparently imbibing in Bud Light. During one weekend, Rich suggested he would plant grapes, if Andy agreed to be the winemaker. Fast forward 11 years and Rich had planted Teroldego, Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvèdre and Vermentino varietals on the property. He then got ahold of Andy, who today is one of the top 5 winemakers in Napa with a resume of making wines for Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Staglin Family Vineyards, and Mayacamas Vineyards. These are recognized as the elite pedigree of wines that Napa has to offer. Andy, true to his word, is the Consulting winemaker and Jessica Tarpy Shasheen is the winemaker under Andy’s direction. They make their wine at a custom crush house in Napa so both Andy & Jessica can be hands-on without driving to Amador County.

The Wine

Pulled this bottle out of the cellar for tonight’s dinner. This was by far the best Vermentino I have tasted out of the Sierra foothills!  Half the world production of Vermentino comes from Sardinia, Italy.  This was fermented in stainless steel but dimensions of citrus (lemon/honeysuckle) and tropical flavors of mango, sweet lemon and grapefruit were outstanding. On the eyes a light yellow straw coloring and light bodied might get one to think this may be wimpy. No way!  On the nose pink grapefruit, pear and various citrus zests came rushing to beckon the first sip. When on the palate, lemon, mango and grapefruit were the overarching characteristics. The finish was a bit abrupt with a nutty (almond) and a slight bitterness. This bitterness is due to the high levels of phenols in Vermentino. Yet refreshing, crisp and a wonderfully sharp wine. At $26 a bottle this is a unique alternative to Sauvignon Blanc for a change up!

The Food and Wine Pairing

Tonight’s meal was with our informal “Wine & Dine Group” at Vine18 at the Copper Valley Golf Club. A special of sesame crusted Mahi Mahi, rice, wasabi ginger coleslaw with pickled ginger and Calabrian sweet chili sauce. Perhaps one of the best special dishes served over the last five years!! The flavors combined with the wine provide a mouth filling and delightful experience.

That was my last bottle in the cellar and I will be picking up a few more next time in Amador County.







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