Region: Sonoma County, California, US
Composition: 100% Tempranillo
Background: Today is, in essence, the first birthday of Wine Blogging Wednesday, and for this one year anniversary, Lenn challenged us to find (and drink) wine from the closest winery to our house. This took some consideration... did I want to go by closest winery office, vineyard, tasting room, winemaking facility or something completely different? I ended up, after some debate, going with winemaking facility since that seemed most honest to me. I had a feeling I knew where the closest place that actually made wine would be, but I did some Googling to make sure there wasn't anything sneaky that was closer, and then I was good to go.
Fritz Maytag is famous for a lot of things, but York Creek Vineyards is probably not at the top of that list unless you are a wine lover. His family is the family to bring you not only Maytag washing machines, but also Maytag Blue cheese (not that he has ever had much to do with those personally). He is the man behind Anchor Brewing Company (makers of fine beer, rye whiskey, and gin) and singlehandedly brought the microbrew to power in the United States. Or at least made "microbrew" a household word. He is also quietly making wine (and making olive oil even more quietly than that), something I heard about years ago, but never got around to investigating. Which is stupid since I live less than a mile from Anchor Brewing and York Creek Vineyards.
Maytag got involved in the booze business in the mid 1960's, when he was a grad student at Stanford. He was a fan of the local Anchor Steam beer, and when he heard in 1965 that the company was in trouble and about to go under, he bought half of it for a few thousand dollars. Three years later, he bought the other half, even though he knew nothing about brewing beer, and had to figure it out as he went along. The company limped along until 1971, when he launched a reformulated Anchor Steam beer, which became an immediate hit and was so popular Maytag couldn't keep up with demand by the mid 70s.
About the same time he bought Anchor Steam, Maytag (along with his ex-roommate and friend, Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards) tried to set up an effort to improve Chilean wine and agriculture, but that failed (even though Chilean winemaking is in full force now and it seems that they were just ahead of their time). Maytag also bought 700 acres of land closer to home, near York Creek between Napa and Sonoma, and planted vineyards on about 100 of those acres. For years he sold the grapes grown on the land to other wineries (such as Ridge), but he always secretly harbored a desire to make his own wine.
So he started to do just that in the early 1990s (with the help of Cathy Corison of Corison Winery), first using equipment and space where he could get it, then building a little winery of his own in 2000. He started out making only three wines, and, while he makes more than those three different wines now, he makes only small lots and is very much about the process of winemaking, learning about the individual grapes, and experimentation. This Tempranillo is grown for the winery's Port project (something I would also like to get my hands on) and is one of the wines Maytag says he made "just to see".
(Randomly, the label reminds me of the Anchor Brewing Christmas label (also tree-themed) and the 24 trees represented are each varieties of tree found on the York Creek property.)
Notes: This is one intense wine. It's a thick burgundy-black in the glass with a slightly pink rim. The nose is filled with cocoa and tobacco leaves, along with spice and red berry. It's smooth, generous, and mouthfilling, with good acids, a lot of black fruit, and a spicy, smoky finish. There's more spice than tannin in the mouth on the finish. I like it a lot, but I do have a thing for Tempranillo. This is a nice example; inky but kind of friendly.