What do you get when a historically famous sparkling wine company tries their hand at releasing the still wines that go into their sparkling wines? Enter WindVane which is the brainchild of Steven Urberg who is the long-time winemaker for Gloria Ferrer.
Sparkling wines are typically produced from grapes which are more neutral in aromas, higher in acidity (to promote aging), and expressive of terroir (that wonderful French concept that denotes a sense of place). Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are two of the most commonly used grapes in sparkling wines (and Champagne) and Gloria Ferrer has exclusively used these in their sparkling wines.
After 20 years of walking Gloria Ferrer’s vineyards, Steven was continually fascinated by the grapes that came from the windiest, steepest plot with the thinnest soils. These grapes had the highest acidity, the purest character, and the greatest flavor expression so he decided to make them into still wines. Thus WindVane was born which is the new luxury brand of Freixenet USA portfolio, Gloria Ferrer’s parent company.
The first release of these wines occurred last fall and they will be launched into the Chicago market starting in July. I was fortunate enough to get to a preview tasting of them and I was thoroughly impressed.
We tried the 2014 WindVane Reserve Pinot Noir, the 2015 WindVane Carneros Pinot Noir, and the 2015 WindVane Carneros Chardonnay as well as two other fantastic sparklers from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards - the NV Brut Rosé and the 2010 Anniversary Cuvée.
The vineyards for Gloria Ferrer and WindVane wines are located on the western edge of Carneros where the wind and fog from the Petaluma Gap are funneled directly into the estate. This creates a long, slow ripening season for the grapes with considerable diurnal temperature shifts. All of this contributes to great freshness, crisp acidity, and concentrated flavors in the wines. Below are my thoughts on the new WindVane releases:
The 2014 WindVane Reserve Pinot Noir ($80) tastes of blackberry, forest floor, savory herbs, and lavender with a lingering spicy finish. Lively acidity adds to the fine structure and medium to full body. 9 months in 40% new French oak is subtle and well-integrated into the background.
The 2015 WindVane Carneros Pinot Noir ($45) is a beautiful ruby in color with vibrant aromas of black cherry, cedar, brambly raspberry, and tea leaf. Bright acidity provides a firm backbone to the earthy notes and velvety finish.
The 2015 WindVane Carneros Chardonnay ($40) is one that would appeal to either lovers of oak or non-oaked styles. This wine has a lush, full body rich in pineapple, apricot, and citrus flavors with a faint touch of toast from 9 months in 20% new French oak. A vivid mineral note on the finish and the characteristic crisp acidity from its windswept vineyard keeps the wine lively and refreshing.