Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Relyea-Wood Vineyards

Noël Relyea and Bill Wood are retired biochemists who own a beautiful property off Monte Bello Road. The property is located half a mile up a narrow dirt track close to the old Montebello school. It is situated on a ridge at around 1900 feet, with an incredible view west across the whole valley. The winery is in an annex separate from the main house, replete with shiny new steel tanks and a crusher/destemmer powered by solar panels on the roof.

In 2005 they worked with with Ron Mosley, the vineyard manager at Cinnabar, to install a picturesque vineyard on a half-acre of hillside behind their home. Unlike many small vineyard owners who have wine produced by sharecrop or custom crush facilities they decided to established their own bonded winery and do everything themselves. After all, as experienced biochemists they were already familiar with the principles.

2008 they saw their first harvest which yielded just 35 cases. To augment the estate fruit they also purchased Syrah from Santa Clara Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sacramento Delta. The latter wines were released in May 2010 and almost instantly sold out. The 2008 estate Cabernet Sauvignon is scheduled to be be released next year.

The couple are also keen astronomers; the winery even has its own observatory dome. In keeping with this the screen-printed bottle designs each incorporate a diagram of a constellation - the Syrah carries Ursa Major, while the estate Cabernet Sauvignon carries Orion - accompanied by a quote from Leonardo da Vinci: The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star.

For 2008 the total production for all three wines was less than 100 cases. For 2009 the winery purchased Cabernet Sauvignon from Mount Veeder in Napa and a neighbouring vineyard as well as the Santa Clara Valley Syrah, so the total production should be around 150-200 cases. The target production for the winery is a scant 200 cases a year; although the winery could theoretically handle more the barrel room is rather tiny, and that's as much as Noël and Bill currently feel comfortable with.

2008 "Summertime" Red Table Wine, California
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the Tamayo Family Vineyard in Brentwood. As the name suggests it's a lighter styled wine, with a dusty, bramble jelly nose. On the palate there's plenty of smooth blackcurrant fruit with some floral notes and just a little oak. Very reasonably priced at $12. Only 32 cases made. 88

2008 Syrah, Mosley Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
The fruit comes from vineyard manager Ron Mosley's own vineyard in Morgan Hill. Primary and malolactic fermentation took place in tanks before being pressed and transferred to the barrel room downstairs, where it rested in new French oak for 11 months. Dark in colour with plum and spice on the nose. Quite intense; concentrated sweet fruit backed by white pepper and plenty of tannin. Perhaps a little riper than I would prefer, but an excellent first effort and very well priced at $30. I plan to revisit this in 6 months or so. Only 14 cases made. 92+

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Camalie Vineyard, Mt. Veeder, barrel sample.
Lots of black fruit - brambles and blackcurrant, without pushing the ripeness the way the 2008 Syrah does. There's good balance; as you'd expect from a barrel sample it finishes a little weakly, but that should develop. I definitely look forward to trying the Santa Cruz Cabernets. 3 barrels made, which should yield around 75 cases. Target price is $30-$40. 92-94