Monday, July 24, 2017

Lion Ranch

Kim Engelhardt and Kathleen
Santa Clara County has around 450 acres of white wine grapes planted, with most of them concentrated in a few large vineyards around the Pacheco Pass area. Those vines are pretty much all Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer, destined for large producers. All over the valley small vineyards grow a dozen different varieties; from old vine Muscat, White Riesling, Semillon and Palomino to brand new plantings of Chenin Blanc - around a dozen different grapes make up the last 10%.

Thanks to the efforts of Robert Haas of Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles many of the more obscure Rhône varieties such as Grenache Blanc and Picpoul are now available in California, and an increasing number of producers are focusing on these grapes, which seem particularly well suited to the valley's climate.

Kim and Todd Engelhardt fell in love with the white wines of the Rhône, and particularly the Viognier of Condrieu, on a trip to France in 2009. They purchased a property close to Lion's Peak in Morgan Hill, Kim joined local producer Sarah's Vineyard as an apprentice and together they began the process of planting a vineyard and planning a winery.

The Engelhardts planted Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Picpoul on 5 acres in 2011; two years later they acquired a second property and planted another 5 acres, this time with red grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Counoise.

The tasting room opened in 2015 in the gardens of the second property. All the wines including the reds are bottled under screw cap and carry the Santa Clara Valley appellation.

2014 Estate Grenache Blanc
Light and floral nose, tangy, crisp and citrus. A great food wine. $28

2014 Estate Viognier
The nose was a little light for a Viognier, but it was a very hot day. On the palate there's great spicy fruit, particularly lychee. $23

2014 Lion's Share
A blend of their five white grapes with a floral, honeysuckle nose and a fat, creamy palate with some mineral notes. $24

2016 Lioness, Grenache Rosé.
Sweet, cotton candy nose, bright acidity. Not cold stabilized, so the bottle contains quite lot of harmless tartrate crystals. A perfect summer wine; we bought a bottle and drank it as we picnicked on various cheeses and fresh bread - it was an ideal pairing. $24

2015 Two Lions
60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. There's a bright berry/cherry nose  and a smooth, fruity palate with notes of raspberry. $36

Lion Ranch Vineyards & Winery
645 W San Martin Ave, San Martin, CA 95046
(408) 713-8501