Fun South African White Blend Offering Very High Quality

Today’s Story: Mullineux Wines

Mullineux Wines is a family owned and operated winery established in 2007 by husband and wife Chris and Andrea Mullineux. Situated in the Swartland wine region of South Africa, Mullineux sources fruit from trusted growers while growing some of their own vines in the Roundstone Farm property they own. Chris and Andrea are dedicated primary to Syrah, though they also grow and source Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Viognier. While all of these varieties grow quite well in the Swartland wine region, they also allude to both Chris’ and Andrea’s experiences working harvests in the Rhône Valley and other parts of France prior to establishing their namesake venture.

In the vineyards, Mullineux follows a minimally invasive philosophy which is aided by South Africa’s climate and weather being not very conducive to viruses and diseases. Their winemaking philosophy in the cellar is also centered in minimally invasive techniques, based largely in the desire to produce wines that express a true sense of place. Andrea does not add any yeasts, acids, enzymes, or other chemicals to the wines during fermentation and she practices gentle extraction given the structure naturally provided by the terroir. Following primary fermentation, the wines are pressed directly into French oak barrels of varying new percentages based on site and wine where they complete malolactic fermentation and aging. The wines are not racked unless necessary, and are bottled only when deemed ready without fining or filtration and minimal SO2 adds.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Old Vines White

65% Chenin Blanc, 13% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Clairette Blanche, 2% Semillon; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Old Vines White is pale to medium gold in color. Given some time in the glass, the nose blossoms into aromas of pronounced intensity with notes of yellow peach, pear, lime zest, green apple, lemon pith, quince, chamomile, white lily, crushed gravel, beeswax, mild smoke, and toasted brioche. The flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the palate showcasing notes of peach, tangerine, mango, kiwi, honeydew melon, honeysuckle, rose water, beeswax, saline, wet river stone, and dried green herbs. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. Very good quality, though I wished the finish lingered slightly longer.

Price: $30. I think this offers pretty decent value, thanks largely to its balance, complexity, and intensity. While the finish could be longer to really knock this out of the park, it’s still a very good quality wine and drinks very well.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Complex and Fun Experimental White Blend

Today’s Story: Ovid Napa Valley

Ovid Napa Valley is a “cult” winery established in 2000 by husband and wife Mark Nelson and Dana Johnson, and 2005 was their inaugural vintage. Situated at 1,400 feet elevation on secluded Pritchard Hill, Ovid consists of a 15 acre vineyard planted largely to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, though it includes plots of Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Syrah as well. Ovid practices organic viticulture and the vineyard is broken into one-acre blocks with various rootstocks and clones to allow for an experimental philosophy of winemaking. They recently cleared more acreage to expand their vineyard holdings as well. Winemaker Austin Peterson has been with Ovid since 2006, and he enjoys utilizing both traditional and cutting edge winemaking techniques to produce wines with a sense of place. The Ovid winery utilizes gravity flow to minimize handling of the wines, and fermentation is accomplished using native and non-native yeasts before the wines age and transfer to bottle unfined and unfiltered.

Ovid remains steadfast in their support of sustainable practices in the vineyards and the winery, keeping bees, using cover crops, and utilizing their own compost to avoid inhibiting natural biodiversity. They also placed owl boxes, bluebird boxes, and an insectary garden on the property to facilitate a more natural form of pest control. Ovid even maintains a fruit and nut orchard where they grow cherries, plums, pluots, peaches, pomegranates, and persimmons which are then allocated to Napa restaurants including The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood (which unfortunately burned down in 2020). The winery itself is powered by solar energy and built of wood, stone, and concrete which blends effortlessly into the mountainous surroundings.

In terms of production, Ovid crafts four main wines which include their signature Ovid Napa Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant), Hexameter (Cabernet Franc dominant), Loc. Cit. (100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the best plots only in the best vintages), and Syrah. As special as the main Ovid wines are, they also release highly limited quantities of Experiment bottlings which change vintage to vintage to showcase the unique blends, varieties, winemaking styles, and terroir Peterson has to play with. Total production is said to be between 1,000 and 1,200 cases per vintage, with roughly 85% of that going direct to customers on the membership list.

To learn more about Ovid and their wines, view pictures of the beautiful winery, or find the source for much of today’s information above, visit the Ovid website here. I also previously wrote about Ovid when I reviewed the 2015 Hexameter.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Experiment No. W3.6

36.27% Sauvignon Blanc, 20.82% Grenache Blanc, 19.28% Albariño, 9.26% Viognier, 7.86% Roussanne, 6.51% Vermentino; 14.3% ABV

The 2016 Experiment No. W3.6 is pale yellow in color. Its aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon zest, honeydew melon, Asian pear, mango, lemongrass, white lily, wet stone, and a touch of wax. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, and the palate offers up notes of yellow apple, pear, lemon and lime zest, mango, grapefruit, honeysuckle, grass, beeswax, and stony mineral. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This is a very good and fun wine.

Price: $110. Pricing here is a bit high in terms of value perspective, as this is very expensive for a Napa Valley white wine. Nonetheless, I love these Ovid Experiment bottlings as they show a fun side of winemaking while this one is complex, well-balanced, and downright quaffable. I think rarity of these wines plays an effect on the price but if you have the chance to try one I wouldn’t turn it down.

Tasty New Bottling From Ridge

Today’s Story: Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards, a historic California winery, found its beginnings near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in 1885. Osea Perrone, an Italian doctor in San Francisco, bought 180 acres and constructed the winery into three levels of the mountain using native limestone. He produced the first vintage under the Monte Bello Winery label in 1892, however later as Prohibition crippled the wine industry the facilities were abandoned.

Once Prohibition ended (thankfully), a man by the name of William Short purchased the winery and replanted several parcels to Cabernet Sauvignon in the late 1940s. The breakthrough came, however, in 1959 when the winery changed hands again to Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, and Howard Ziedler and the partnership produced a quarter-barrel of “Estate” Cabernet. One of the greatest Cali Cabs at the time, this Monte Bello wine inspired Dave Bennion to leave Stanford Research Institute (where all partners worked) to focus on winemaking full-time.

As winemaking ramped up at Ridge, I would be remiss not to mention their Zinfandel, first made in 1964 from vines further down the mountain. In 1966, they produced their first Geyserville Zin that many of you should be able to find at your local wine store. By 1968, the winery was approaching 3,000 cases of annual production and had grown from 15 to 45 acres following an acquisition of the original Monte Bello terraces. Ridge demonstrated a quality and character in the upper echelon of California wines, with their 1971 Cab ultimately entered into the Paris Tasting of 1976.

As further background on Ridge, I’d like the opportunity to discuss their winemaking practices as well. Calling their style “pre-industrial,” Ridge shies away from chemicals and additives prevalent in the industry nowadays. They ferment their wines only with natural yeast, do not use commercial enzymes or nutrients to affect color, flavor, or tannin in the wines, and are certified organic. Further, one of my favorite features of a bottle of Ridge is the back label that tells the winemaking process and lists ingredients, which is not common.

Ridge is somewhat of a staple producer for me, so I’ve reviewed a number of their wines previously. If you missed my prior notes and are interested in exploring my thoughts on other bottlings in the portfolio, feel free to check out the 2016 Estate Chardonnay, 2018 Adelaida Vineyard Roussanne, 2012 Lytton Springs, 2012 Geyserville Vineyard, and 2015 Syrah/Grenache/Mataro.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Grenache Blanc

75% Grenache Blanc, 15% Picpoul, 10% Roussanne; 14% ABV

The 2018 Grenache Blanc is pale yellow in color. This is still rather young, but given about 30 minutes to open up in the glass it blossoms. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, golden pear, honeysuckle, almond, a hint of vanilla, and a touch of buttercream. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of lemon zest, ripe pear, white peach, saline mineral, mild toffee, honey, and toasted bread. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Fairly big of a Grenache Blanc, but this is downright delicious.

Price: $30. I think this offers very solid value, which seems to be the case with a number of wines from Ridge. This is their first vintage of the Grenache Blanc bottling, and I will certainly revisit it in a couple more years and continue to check these out in future vintages.