Who: Reeve Wines
Reeve is a new project of Noah and Kelly Dorrance, who are part owners of Banshee in Healdsburg. Banshee has experienced phenomenal growth since opening in 2009 and now sells over 80,000 cases a year (WOW!!!). At the new family project, named after their son Reeve, they never plan to grow above a 3,000 case capacity.
Where: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
4551 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg CA 95448
Tastings by Appointment Only, Thursday to Monday
$15 per person fee, 5 wines tasted
The Dorrances purchased an estate on the north side of Dry Creek Road in mid 2016. Formerly the home of Kachina Vineyards, they did a quick renovation and opened in November 2016. The estate has a few acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, and they plan to expand with a few more varietals.
Wine: Pinot, Rose, Riesling
As mentioned above, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the estate varieties, and they purchased some barrels of it from the former owners. This wine has been released as their first Native Anthem. It is lighter in body and tannin than a traditional California Cab, and has little spice to it.
Reeve's 2015 Petrichor Vineyard Syrah was not noteworthy for me. It was fruit forward, but without the cool climate Syrah characteristics of either olive, bacon, or pepper that I enjoy.
The highlights of the tasting were the Rose, Riesling, and Pinor Noir. The 2016 Rose of Pinot Noir is fruity, but nice and dry. It'll be a knockout on a hot summer day.
The 2015 McFadden Vineyard Riesling, which I had had previously, is an all-star. It is one of my new favorite CA Rieslings. It's incredibly aromatic with citrus zest, green apple, white peach, and petrol notes. The acidity is strong and it's completely dry. Sam, who guided our tasting, told us this has been selling like hotcakes, and I see why.
I was likewise impressed with the 2015 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Coming from Dorrance's experience with Banshee, it's no surprise the Pinot is well-made. I'm a tough critic of Pinot, since it's not my preferred varietal and the fact that the market is flooded with mediocre Pinots. This one is a nice balance between fruit and savory flavors, without the cherry-cola-ness of so many Pinots from this region.
Reeve will be expanding as they evolve in the next few vintages, with Sangiovese on deck for the next release.
Why: Quality Wine and an Exciting New Entry
Reeve represents an exciting new step for a well-known Sonoma County vintner. This is a passion project aside from their commercially popular Banshee brand, and you can understand that upon visiting. The focus on smaller production and diverse varietals will continue to yield some excellent wines. The estate itself is tucked far enough off Dry Creek Road to seem remote. It's a simple, small facility, but one with plenty of outdoor space and pleasant views. Sam is a delightful host, and each tasting comes with a local charcuterie board. Despite my opinion that the Cab and Syrah need some improvement, I have no doubt that it will happen over future vintages. The other wines are worth buying by the case!
Who: Jaffurs Wine Cellars
Aerospace accountant Craig Jaffurs started making wine in 1989, with the first release of his eponymous wine in 1994. Jaffurs has cemented his place as a Syrah guru, but also produces other lovely wines. In 2016, he initiated his retirement process by selling to winemaker Dan Green. Luckily, Jaffurs will ensure a smooth transition and remain involved in company oversight.
Where: Santa Barbara, CA
Jaffurs Wine Cellars is located only 8 blocks from the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. This is a true urban winery, housed in a small facility without much signage. When we arrived, they were wrapping up crush activities for the day. A tasting table is set up in the wine production room and we got to speak with the assistant winemaker and cellar hands as they were going about their work.
Wine: Syrah and Other Rhone Varietals
Jaffurs specializes in Rhone varietals, and they are core members of the Rhone Rangers organization. They bottle 8 Syrahs (mostly single-vineyard), along with Grenache Blanc and Rouge, Viognier, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, and Petit Sirah.
Why: Big Syrahs
The 2012 Larner Vineyard Syrah was one of the favorite wines I tasted all year. This is a BIG Syrah: deep color, ripe fruit, high alcohol, and lots of complexity. I'm not partial to warm or cool climate styles of Syrah; I like both if made well. And this Larner Vineyard bottling is awesome. All of the Syrahs we tasted were excellent, but this was my favorite and the purchase to take home.
I also really, really enjoyed the 2012 Grenache. Again, it is a big fruity wine with high alcohol, as Grenache can tend to be. But it also has some nice floral and savory notes that balance it out, along with decent tannins, perhaps due to the 1/3 whole cluster inclusion at maceration. I brought this wine home for my Florida New Year's Eve 2017 tasting event. It was a big hit.