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You've come a long way

Believe it or not, when I tell people that I’m from California I feel embarrassed. Especially when people  know i focus on natural, and California wines are often far from that.  And I have always found that odd, especially when I was wolfing down organic food way before the rest of the world. For as far back as i can remember we (I) have been eating organic food in California, and i do mean as far back as i can remember, and i am pretty damn mature.

So, why in my opinion has California dropped the ball when it comes to wine? I don’t think i want to answer that, but I hear the sounds of coins clattering in the background.  But things are changing, no pun intended. How do i know this? Well for one, i have been found drinking a California wine or two lately , and i avoided them like the plague when i lived there.  And of course we are known to write about this topic these days, and a great movie highlights the natural wine movement in California, Wine From Here.

Catching me drinking a wine from California is still a rare occurrence, but of course where I live doesn’t help the situation any. I posted pictures a few years ago of Donkey and Goat’s wines and now i will do the same for Hank Beckmeyer’s La Clarine Farm.  I have been reading, as many of you have, about him and his wines more and more often. They are impossible for me to get a hold of in Poland or Norway, but thanks to Hank’s emails and  a California shipping address, I have been fortunate enough to get 3 bottles each of his 2009 and 2010 Home Vineyard bottling’s.

Hank runs his farm in Somerset, in the Sierra-Nevada foothills in California, resting up at around 600-700 meters over sea level. I don’t at what elevation Hank’s vineyards grow, but i am sure he will chime in with a response. Somerset? Surely you mean Sonoma right? Nope . Hank and his goats make some damn good wine in Somerset. Rather,  Hank works extremely hard to help nature make her wine. I am not going to go on and on about how Hank does this, if you want to read it from his own words, you can do so here

I have tasted his wines only 2 times. Yes, only twice. I bought six bottles and I have to admit I gave one (2010) away as a wedding gift to close friends of ours because they were worth it. I gave a second bottle (2009) away to Maxime  at the Green Man and French Horn in London (one of the restaurants in the Brawn, Terroir, Soif group) cause I knew he would understand it. That left me with 4.  I drank two, one of which was consumed two days ago and I can tell you that it was the fastest disappearing bottle of the evening and there was even a bottle of La Stoppa among the bunch.

The wine was everything that I really hoped for, and i mean really hoped for. After all, I had guests, they knew I was from California, and most of all, they knew that I really only drank natural wine. The wine stood up to test and was just as refreshing as I had hoped. Fresh fruit, ripe tannins and refreshing acidity. No silky, velvety mouth feel, no warm alcohol and thank god no vanilla! Glog glog wine from California, finally!

All I can say is “California, keep doing what you are doing. You’ve come a long way”


Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, California, El Dorado, natural wine (100% living wine), Somerset

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5 Responses

  1. Nice post! It set me thinking – why are there so few natural wines comng out of California? One would think that there would be a lot more, no? But they all seem to be coming out of France and Italy, and to a lesser extent Spain!

  2. vinosseur says:


    It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself for years. Why the lag in the wine world
    Spain is coming up quickly in the more recent years! I’ve been tasting some great stuff lately from your part of the world Fabio, not to mention your wines!


  3. I hope I get the chance to try the La Clarine wines. They sound great – and rare.

    Here’s a few more US naturals I recently tried that are reinvigorating my excitement for California. I’d love to know what else you’re loving from our west coast.

    Folk Machine makes an exciting extended maceration Chenin Blanc from Monterey. It’s hazy and sawdust yellow and fresh, light, and slightly tannic with cut apple, fresh apricot, peach skins and pits. I was skeptical of an orange wine from California, but this has all the skewed skin funk of an orangey with an almost smooth balance and light tannic bite to give it a fresh cleaning power on the palate.

    Salinia, too, is making trend-busting whites from California. Their Twenty Five Reasons Mendocino pet nat is a hazy slightly saline blast of tangerine skin and grapefruit with bashfully soft bubbles. It makes me want to drink (this) Californian Sauv Blanc again.

    They also make the Saint Marigold: 500ml bottles of Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast with extended skin contact tasting like sous voile after a 5 1/2 year rest in barrel without topping up. Drinks like an Amontillado with a full rich weight, toasted nuts, orange peel and a great minerality lying somewhere between cast iron pans and wet clay.

  4. vinosseur says:

    Hello Neyah!

    Thank you for reading my post and commenting.

    Hank’s wines are certainly rare (that is he makes few bottles) and certainly worth seeking out. If you visit his website you can get on his mailing list to keep posted on his releases which are sold only that way really.

    Regarding other California producers, unfortunately my experience is rather limited. Although California is my “home”, and I lived there most of my life, I left more than 10 years ago, before the natural wine movement began to take hold. I did enjoy some wines from Edmunds St John, Sean Thackrey, and a few others that don’t come to mind now.

    The wines you mention sound quite interesting. where did you find them? Direct at the winery’s, or at a retail shop?

    Thanks for the tips!


  5. Hi Joseph,

    I had them at a retail shop. . .sort of.

    We have great relationships with several wine distributors in Vermont, and when new wines arrive in the state the distributors often show them to us right away so we can evaluate them. The wines I mentioned will be available in Vermont very soon. This was a backroom tasting and a pleasant surprise.

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