Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wine memories are especially sweet when you discover a winner while on vacation. Once home you might hunt down that wine, relishing the chance to savor it once more and relive a special part of your vacation experience.
We discovered such a wine a few years back at the Ahwahnee, the historic hotel right smack in the middle of Yosemite Valley. Wanting something truly special and memorable after a great hike, we chose an exotic-sounding Petite Sirah by Jeff Runquist, a producer unknown to us at the time.
Runquist was winemaker at J. Lohr winery before setting out on his own. We shoulda known as their Cabernet Sauvignon has long been a favorite house wine.
Grapes for Runquist's varietal Sangiovese, Barbera and Z, the winery's flagship Zinfandel flourish in Amador County, the heart of Gold Rush country. Runquist also sources grapes for Pinot Noir from Carneros, Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles and Petite Sirah from an island in the Sacramento River delta.
We were hooked by the Petite's deep color, powerful aromatics and bold flavors bursting with smoky, rich black fruits. When we told our friends at LA Wine Company about our find, they told us how much they liked Runquist's Barbera. The hunt was on.
Since that Yosemite visit, we've tried many other Runquist wines — they don't disappoint. Wine critics share our enthusiasm, attested by the gold rush of medals racked up by their expanding wine portfolio. Runquist wines will always be special and worth seeking out anytime we venture into a wine shop with a deep collection of California gems. Can't wait to find their Primitivo.
On a visit to Yosemite last month, we were saddened to find no trace of Runquist's Petite Sirah on the Ahwahnee's wine list. Sure, we saw some great wines but not the powerhouse etched in our memories. As though in consolation, the wine list had progressive elements with descriptions of key varietals to help Yosemite's peripatetic diners pair wines to the majestic dining room's food. Progress, we suppose.
Let us know about wines you discover this summer on vacation. Will it be a racy Vermentino on a romantic terrace off the coast of Sardegna or an unlikely gem from your favorite So Cal getaway? Hold on to hope as you attempt to track down your finds – after all, we're in wine-happy California. You just might find that glorious wine in an unexpected place and revisit a special time with every sip.