‘E’ Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
Climate, volcanic soil contribute to wine quality
One of the best ways I know to find bargains is to look right next door to a famous place. Sometimes you find good wines whose prices haven’t been inflated by fame. This timeless strategy can lead to new discoveries in the seemingly limitless world of wine.
My next Little Rock Dine Around Series dinner will be April 7 at Loca Luna. Purchase your seats online at brucecochran.com. Just click the “LR Dine Around Series” button to see the menu and wine list and to purchase your seats. Please remember, it’s not a reservation, you’re buying a seat (though we do have a 48-hour cancellation policy). By confirming to a restaurant the exact number of seats, we get a great price — a lot less than trying to recreate the menu and wine list individually. It’s like getting the wine for wholesale!
“My Favorite Thrift Store” at 109 N. Van Buren St. in Little Rock, is offering one lucky winner an evening for four at the Capital Bar and Grill. Raffle tickets are on sale for $10 until Monday. The dinner includes wine pairings designed in concert with Chef Travis McConnell. The actual value of the dinner totals more than $300.
The proceeds benefit Our House, an 80-bed shelter that provides the working homeless (families and individuals) with safe, clean, comfortable housing; food; free child care; education; and job training in order that they may return to independence and lead productive lives. Our House serves over 45,000 meals per year, and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Wines From Wildhurst Vineyards
Before Prohibition, Lake County, north of Napa Valley, was one of California’s most highly acclaimed growing areas. The first vineyards there were planted after the Civil War, and by the turn of the century Lake County had 36 wineries and over 7,000 acres of vineyards. Only in the past generation or so has this legacy been reclaimed. The success of Lake County’s vineyards is due largely to its landscape, which has two defining features:
<FFFC> Clear Lake: The largest natural body of fresh water in the state of California,r Lake has a moderating influence on the local climate. During the day, the cool, moist air on its surface moves up the hillside valleys, then back down at night, stabilizing the climate. This gives surrounding vineyards the benefits of a “coastal” influence.
<FFFC> Mount Konocti: Napa vineyards attribute some of their quality to the volcanic soils from Mount St. Helena, at the valley’s northern end. This thin, porous, mineral-laded topsoil means good drainage for the vines and concentrated flavors in the grapes. Poor soil stresses vines, causing them to produce intensely flavored fruit. With Mount Konocti, also an extinct volcano, Lake County has the same type of soil from the same volcanic activity.
Lake County sits at a relatively high altitude, which is good for sustainable vineyards. Few pests can tolerate the climate. This elevation means cooler winter temperatures and a growing season that begins later than in other California wine regions. The elevation also allows rapid cooling in the evening. Day ening temperature swings tend to be good for vineyards. For one thing, they allow something of a rest period for the hardworking vines. And according to locals, Lake County has the cleanest air in California. Wine styles in Lake County are similar to those in cooler parts of Napa Valley, where overripe grapes are not a problem. This contributes to a clean balanced style.
Recently, I found a Lake County winery that I liked enough to add it to my own small portfolio of wineries. Wildhurst Vineyards has been in Lake County for 30 years, growing grapes along the slopes of Mt. Konocti near Clear Lake. The cabernet sauvignon has a very dark color, with good depth and purity of flavor. They retail locally for around $15 a bottle.
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