Jill Mott’s California Wine Suggestions

There’s a LOT of California wine out there… At last count, 17 million gallons per year (2017)! Everything from the mass produced to the conventional but romantic… Then there are the niche producers of artisanal, natural, indie wine – those winemakers that have gone out of their way to source organic/sustainable fruit not just because it’s cool but because it’s the right thing to do. These same wineries have gone one step further by fermenting these grapes via native yeasts and opted to not put any junk in their must/wine besides a minute amount of sulphur at bottling, if at all. Here are a handful of our country’s finest, truly natural suspects.


Here comes possibly the most thirst quenching, complex organic Zin you’ve tasted in a long time. Purity is bringing to life, wines that rave and waft of their Sierra Foothills origins. This bottling is partially foot trodden, partially whole cluster and left to ferment naturally. The fermentation was long and slow (NINE MONTHS!), taking place primarily in French oak, then bottled with zero sulfur additions. This wine drinks bold yet somewhat lean, with lovely aromatics from the whole clusters coupled with a firm texture due to its time in oak. Drink this subtle, serious side of Zin in all its schisty, earthy, foresty “purity.” No pun intended… Well, sort of. *Only at Henry & Son + Bar Brava


From one of Cali’s best natural wine makers comes this gem of a rosé/orange wine made from the Trousseau Gris grape. Trousseau Gris is similar to Pinot Grigio in that the skins are actually pinkish/greyish when fully ripe (TRUTH! Pinot Grigio IS NOT WHITE! WHOA!). Thus, when the grapes come into the cellar and a maceration takes place (juice mingling with grape skins just like a red wine), the juice/wine actually turns a pinkish/orangish color. This wine has spent six months on the skins giving it much beautiful texture and richness of flavor – perfect for roasted/braised proteins including beef. The aromas are strikingly beautiful: carnations, dried black cherries, wet earth, fresh plantains and squash; an autumnal wine par excellence.


Along with Chris Brockway (above), Arnot Roberts forged the natural wine scene years before it was the hipster thing to drink. They’ve been making low suphur, native yeast, low-intervention wines that showcase individual vineyards for many vintages and this wine is no exception. Very few will argue that Gamay’s spiritual home is Beaujolais in eastern France, however you’ll taste this wine and note… “Cali flair, French soul.” The grapes are grown to a soil that basically mimics the famed soil that is pink granite that freckles Beaujolais, but here we are, IN THE HEART OF EL DORADO, CALIFORNIA! AR knew that similar vinification practices to those of the Beaujolais could make an wholeheartedly vivid depiction of many attributes of French wines with a profile that is noticeably Cali thus they employed whole cluster fermentation in old French oak with minimal sulphur. The resulting wine is pure, lovely, elegant and astonishingly restrained, meant to be consumed now or aged up to six years. Fruits here are of the red variety (red currants, bing cherries and fresh gojis) with a texture only pink granite could lend. A showstopper!


Originally aired Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 on the Morning Show with Emily Reese

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