Roots to Wine Promotes Yolo/Solano Terroir

Winery group holds first Fresh Press Weekend

by Jon Tourney
Putah Creek Winery partners Diego Barison and Jessica Chin Foo get ready to demonstrate pressing Teroldego grapes using an old basket press during the Fresh Press Weekend organized by Roots to Wine members.
Winters, Calif.—Roots to Wine, a nonprofit marketing and educational organization with 10 member wineries in northwest Yolo and northeast Solano counties, is dedicated to promoting the region’s locally grown grapes and terroir as well as encouraging tourists to experience the area’s rich agricultural heritage. The organization held its first Fresh Press Weekend passport event Oct. 12-13, with eight member wineries holding open houses for visitors to taste wines, observe winemaking operations and sample fresh-pressed juice and wine.

Roots to Wine (R2W) was started in 2010 by founding members Corinne Martinez, co-owner of Berryessa Gap Vineyards in Winters and Pam Welch, co-owner of Capay Valley Vineyards in Brooks, Calif. As Welch explained, “The Clarksburg area had an organization focused on its appellation in eastern Yolo County, but we needed a way to promote the wineries in the rest of Yolo County near Davis, Winters, the Capay Valley and Dunnigan Hills.” R2W also includes members near the county line in neighboring Solano County, which is easily accessible along a wine route through the region.

Roots to Wine spokesperson Jessica Chin Foo, managing partner of R2W member Putah Creek Winery in Davis, said, “It’s important for people to know that we are locally owned wineries using local grapes, and part of our mission is to promote tourism and education about our ‘roots,’ which means explaining the Yolo region terroir.” Alluding to increased consumer interest in local food and wine production—and nearby Sacramento promoting itself as the “farm to fork capital”—Chin Foo said, “We’re farmers. We value the land and value local products. Yolo County has been involved in agriculture a long time; people are acknowledging that again, and it’s cool now.” R2W also includes affiliate members interested in promoting tourism and other agricultural operations and events.

Citing another benefit of R2W, Welch said, “It’s also been helpful for our member businesses in getting to know each other better, and we have better cooperation between wineries in sharing equipment, supplies and knowledge to help each other out when needed.”

The region’s vineyards produce common varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, but many growers and wineries have found the region’s climate and soils to be well-suited to Rhone, Spanish and Italian varieties. The region is becoming known for red varieties such as Tempranillo, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Barbera as well as white varieties including Viognier, Verdelho, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Albarino, Fiano and Greco de Tufo.

First edition of Fresh Press
R2W’s goal is to have two association events per year, one in spring and one in fall to showcase members and their products. A spring event earlier this year was focused on wine and food pairing and included local art. Chin Foo said, “For our first edition of Fresh Press we wanted to do something more than just wine tasting, so we incorporated an educational component in conjunction with the crush to allow visitors to taste freshly pressed and fermenting juice and tour wineries in operation.”

Fresh Press, promoted as “a colorful, slightly messy, sometimes sticky weekend of entertaining and educational wine experiences,” lived up to its billing as visitors had the opportunity to see, smell, taste and feel fresh juice and wine in the early stages of processing. R2W president Martinez said, “The concept of Fresh Press is a real journey in the wine history of our region through an initiation of wine pressing.” Berryessa Gap Vineyards demonstrated the pressing of Barbera must, transferred from plastic fermentation bins into stainless steel basket presses, followed by the pressed wine being pumped into stainless steel tanks.

Berryessa Gap is co-owned by Martinez with her brother, Dan Martinez, and Santiago Moreno, who are also partners in Martinez Orchards Inc., which grows fruit and nut crops and is a commercial nursery for grapevine rootstocks. Berryessa Gap owns and manages 75 acres of vineyards. The winery’s first vintage was 2002, produced by founding partner and winemaker Mike Anderson, a research viticulturist in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at nearby UC Davis. Anderson continues as a consultant, and Nicole Salengo is the full-time winemaker. The winery produces 4,000 cases annually of Albarino, Verdelho, Chardonnay, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Durif, Tempranillo, Barbera, Zinfandel and Malbec.

Putah Creek Winery on the south side of Davis offered samples of fermenting juice from half-ton bins and pressed recently harvested Teroldego with an older hand-operated basket press. The winery is near a 40-acre vineyard owned by Gene and Cathy Glaeser, who supply grapes to the winery from their vineyard and an adjacent 18-acre block they manage. Gene Glaeser, also a sales representative for Novavine grapevine nursery of Sonoma, Calif., founded the winery in 2004 on the now dry North Fork of Putah Creek. The winery currently produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat.

Earlier this year, Glaeser sold the winery operation to a six-person partnership that includes Diego Barison, Glaeser’s co-worker at Novavine who is Putah Creek’s operations and production manager. The winery’s managing partner Jessica Chin Foo is also part of the new ownership. Barison, a native of Piedmont, Italy, where his family operates vineyards and a grapevine nursery, is a grapevine clones and Italian varieties expert. He is sourcing Italian varieties from another Yolo County vineyard and planting new varieties and clones to add more Italian cultivars to Putah Creek’s lineup, which will include Barbera, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Teroldego, Dolcetto, Fiano and Moscato. Barison’s brother, Umberto, visited from Italy to assist with Putah Creek’s 2013 crush.

Putah Creek is leasing space in downtown Davis to open a tasting room, possibly before the end of 2013, to give the winery regular hours in a more accessible location for consumers to try and buy wines. Barison plans to offer wine education with opportunities to compare wines from different clones of the same variety. Current production is 1,500 cases per year with plans to eventually increase production to 6,000 cases per year.

Capay Valley Vineyards poured current releases in the picnic area at its tasting room near Brooks, Calif. Welch and husband Tom Frederick planted their 25-acre vineyard in 1998 and now produce 3,500 cases per year. Wines produced are Syrah, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Viognier and sparkling Viognier. For Fresh Press they offered a sample of the 2013 cuvee of the sparkling Viognier, after primary fermentation but before going through the secondary fermentation for sparkling wine. Capay Valley shared their location for Fresh Press with nearby Simas Family Vineyard, which farms a nearby six-acre vineyard planted to Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Marsanne, Roussane, Grenache Blanc and Viognier to produce both varietal wines and red and white Rhone blends.

Also in the Capay Valley, Seka Hills Wines, produced by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation who operate Cache Creek Casino and Resort, were poured for Fresh Press on an outdoor patio at the Yocha Dehe Golf Course. The tribe’s vineyards produce Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, and are part of a larger farming operation that produces fruits and vegetables along with olives for Seka Hills olive oils that were also available to taste. Seka Hills recently built a state-of-the-art mill to press and produce olive oil. The tribe plans to open a tasting room for the wines and olive oils on the mill property sometime in mid-2014.

Other R2W wineries participating in Fresh Press Weekend were Julie LePla Winery in Vacaville, Calif., Turkovich Family Wines in Winters, Calif., and Route 3 Wines near Woodland. The remaining R2W member wineries are Casey Flat Ranch in Guinda, Calif., and Crew Wine Co. of Zamora, Calif.

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