High Quality and Low Production Sonoma Cab

Today’s Story: Little Boat

Little Boat is a very small winery in Sonoma, California, however there isn’t much information about them that I could find. They did come onto my radar last year though, when I happened to meet proprietor José Ignacio Cuenca at a Los Angeles restaurant and we struck up a friendly conversation and discussed his wines. I also had the pleasure of meeting his son Mateo, who created the artwork on the Little Boat labels. Little Boat is a group effort, and José works with winegrower Brad Alper, winemaker William Knuttel, Mike Miller, and the Treyzon family. They also receive help from sommeliers Harley Carbery, Phillip Dunn, Lucas Payá, and Robert Smith MS. Little Boat produces a range of wines including most notably a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There is also a rosé and very limited quantities of a reserve Pinot Noir. Placement of these wines is highly selective, and they are generally found in high-end hotels and restaurants or highly curated and boutique wine stores.

I very recently wrote about the 2018 Little Boat Pinot Noir, so please feel free to check out those tasting notes if you haven’t already!

Today’s Wine: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% ABV

The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color. I let this open up for about an hour, though for being so young it was fairly friendly right out of the gates. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, redcurrant, red plum, sweet tobacco, dried earth, dried green herbs, chocolate, vanilla, and cedar. There’s some heat there too from the alcohol. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of redcurrant, black cherry, black raspberry, blueberry, tobacco, coffee grounds, milk chocolate, vanilla, and baking spice. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, high alcohol, and a medium (+) finish.

Price: $40. This offers very solid value, though for me it fits into the camp of high-quality people pleaser. The fruit is slightly jammy, though there is some complexity here that’s intriguing. You can certainly notice the oak as well, so while not my preferred style I think many consumers would enjoy this.

A Journey for the Mind and Palate

Today’s Story: Jolie-Laide

Established by Scott Schultz, Jolie-Laide is a small, boutique winery crafting wines in Forestville, California. Jolie-Laide is a French term of endearment for something unconventionally beautiful that translates to “pretty-ugly,” and Scott decided to use it in naming his winery following experiences in the restaurant business. When he worked at Bouchon in Yountville, Scott realized that the majority of people didn’t seem to explore the wine list but rather stick to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon. He thought this was a travesty of sorts, given the wonderful varieties including Gamay, Valdiguié, Vermentino, or Trousseau Gris. Eventually Scott transitioned out of the restaurant business and found himself working alongside Pax Mahle, a wildly skilled winemaker in his own right. One year, Pax allowed Scott to make a wine of his own using 1-2 tons of fruit and he decided to use none other than Trousseau Gris because of how fascinating of a variety it is to him. Alas, Jolie-Laide was born and continues to produce magnificent and wildly fun wines today.

When it comes to sourcing his fruit, Scott works with farmers he has known for years who largely follow organic practices and work incredibly unique sites. After harvest, all of the Jolie-Laide red fruit is foot crushed and left whole cluster with some of the varieties (like Gamay) seeing carbonic maceration. Thanks to Scott’s selection of incredible sites, he can be pretty hands-off during the rest of the winemaking process and let the terroir and fruit speak for itself. Jolie-Laide lets their wines ferment naturally and, instead of using temperature control, says “we stick things in the sun if we need to get them warm” (source). Furthermore, Scott adds little SO2 when necessary in part because his wines tend to be bottled young to both preserve freshness in the fruit and provide barrels for the following year’s harvest.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache

100% Grenache; 12.8% ABV

The 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache is pale ruby/garnet in color and moderately transparent. I drank this over 4.5 hours (don’t ask me how I restrained myself) and it is remarkable how drastically this picked up weight over time. The nose showcases aromas of candied strawberry, juicy raspberry, black cherry, red licorice, sweet tobacco, granite, oregano, and cinnamon. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of muddled strawberry, tart red raspberry, candied plum, anise, tobacco, dark leather, crushed rock, green herbs, and peppery spice. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. While this started off thin and falling off by mid-palate, my patience was handsomely, handsomely rewarded.

Price: $38. Buy it. All I can say is if you can find this bottle close to the price, it is supremely worth the adventure. If you do though, and haven’t taken heed of my commentary above, I implore you once again to give this air. Pair with braised pork, wild boar, or smoked charcuterie.