For oenophile couples like us, there are certain wines that feel like family members.
La Clarine Farm first came into our lives back in 2009 in New York when Tracie was traveling with me and the French band. An open bottle of Hank Beckmeyer’s Syrah had been sitting in a good friend’s lower Manhattan apartment for nearly two weeks. When we all tasted it together, it blew our minds and our palates with its freshness and its vibrant, electric fruit.
Ever since that day, La Clarine Farm has been one of our favorites (and we played a packed show at the Mercury Lounge that night, the one time Tracie saw us play in the city).
It was a thrill for me to finally meet and taste yesterday with Hank (in the top photo) at his winery in California’s Fair Play AVA, a stone’s throw from the El Dorado Trail.
His wines and winery will be one of those profiled in the 2019 edition of the Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of California (I’m the guide’s coordinating editor for North America).
Great wines and the lovely guy you’d imagine is behind them.
My itinerary yesterday also took me up to the North Yuba AVA where growers pointed me to one of the most remarkable vineyards I’ve ever seen: 300 acres planted to now abandoned vine in the heart of weed country.
Cannabis is the main industry here, I’ve been told. Dinner at a smokehouse bar in Auburn last night led to a conversation with a dude who told me he works “up the hill,” a euphemism, he said, used by employees of the massive cannabis crop here.
But the strange, otherworldly vines I toured seem to have an endless supply of delicious fruit for a handful of thoughtful winemakers. They, a bear, and a cadre of deer are the only ones left in this forgotten wine country.
The story of this now derelict but still bountiful estate has yet to be properly told.
Those are Pinot Noir grapes in the photo above, btw, ready to be foot-crushed.
Writing in a hurry this early morning as another day of touring and tastings unfolds.
But I also have to give a shout-out to Grass Valley, one of the many tourist spots here in Gold Country.
The village was bustling with locals and tourists and nearly every store front was occupied by a shop, café, or restaurant. At least two vinyl records were also spotted.
Yesterday was the first day of my trip. Following another day here in the Sierra Foothils, I’ll be heading to Napa and Sonoma for more tastings and discovery.
Thanks for following along… more good stuff to come.
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