It’s been two decades since MacRostie founded his winery and vineyards, and since the release of his highly touted 1987 Carneros Chardonnay. In a sense, MacRostie was an original pioneer, cheerleader and advocate for Carneros grapes and the wines derived from them. And while Carneros now is considered a first-class California wine appellation, friends and family must have thought Steve MacRostie had gone loco when he first began planting prime rootstock on a rocky, windswept hill known as Wildcat Mountain. It’s just north of San Pablo Bay and Highway 37, between Carneros and the Sonoma coast.
Sure, it sounds crazy to attempt to grow wine grapes in rugged volcanic highlands. But MacRostie knew a little something about a grape’s struggle for survival. You see, when grapevines must scuffle, skirmish and tussle in rough soil and nearly constant wind gusts, they can wind up producing highly concentrated fruit, albeit in small quantities. This actually makes an ideal environment for growing hearty, cool-climate grapes like Chardonnay. And indeed, MacRostie is well-known for his elegant, lush, cool-climate house style of Chardonnay. MacRostie Carneros Chardonnay 2005 ($20) is yellowish-gold with lovely buttery vanilla and oak aromas. But don’t get the notion that this is an over-the-top oak-bomb California Chard. Winemaker Kevin Holt’s 2005 Chardonnay is beautifully balanced, with creamy vanilla flavors and even a hint of banana and pineapple. It’s a rich, clean Chardonnay that you’d be hard-pressed to top for $20.
Following the success of MacRostie’s Chardonnays, he began producing a handful of cool-climate red wines: Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah. And, with the 2006 vintage, he even has a Rosé on his list. At present, though, only MacRostie Pinot Noir (along with Chardonnay) is available here in Utah. Lucky for us, it’s a stunning example of what Carneros Pinot Noir can be.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the Pinot process at MacRostie, which involves open-top fermenters, a cold soak, controlled warm fermentation, gentle punchdowns and pumpovers, etc. But I will tell you that the MacRostie Carneros Pinot Noir 2005 ($27) I tasted this month was really impressive. It’s a plush, velvety, full-bodied Pinot with luscious ripe fruit and just a suggestion of vanilla on the finish. I couldn’t quite get enough of this handsome Pinot Noir with a simple Sunday night veal stew at home.
Sips: The wine list at Fratelli Ristorante in Sandy (see Dining) isn’t overwhelming, but it’s well thought-out, offering a nice tour of Italy, including Prosecco, Spumante, Pinot Grigio, Soave, Gavi, Orvieto, Sangiovese, Valpolicella, Brunello, Barber, Chianti, Barolo, Nebbiolo and more. However, during a wine-tasting lunch with a couple of local wine brokers at Fratelli, I was introduced to two very enjoyable Italian wines that haven’t made it onto the Fratelli wine list yet. It’s well worth your while to seek out the fruit-bomb Morgante Nero D’Avola 2005 ($16), a Sicilian red that even Robert Parker digs. Also, Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2006 ($14) from the Alto Adige region of Italy is nicely acidic with hints of pear and would work well with Fratelli’s linguine and clams.