What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 19
2021 Monarch Challenge North Coast Rosé
In 2016, Carlo Mondavi — yes, grandson of Robert Mondavi — created the Monarch Challenge to bring attention to the plight of the beautiful Monarch butterfly, whose population has been devastated since the advent of Roundup.
Every year since then, he and his brother Dante have produced a limited rosé through their RAEN Winery in Sebastopol to bring attention to this environmental calamity befalling this invaluable pollinator, and to inspire other like-minded vintners to do the same.
I had a chance to try a sample of this year’s 2021 Monarch Challenge North Coast Rosé ($30), sales of which will benefit the conservation organization, the Xerces Society, and Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sick or orphaned wildlife.
Produced from RAEN Pinot Noir grapes and old-vine Grenache, all farmed organically, this pale salmon wine is an exuberant expression of strawberries and raspberries, with a hint of guava. It is crisp, tangy, and laced with minerality. It’s pure deliciousness.
It’s a wine to sip not only for pure pleasure any time of day, but to do a planet good — now and into the future. Find it available on the Monarch Challenge site, where you can opt to purchase it with a packet of milkweed seeds to plant in your garden. The wine is also available at PlumpJack, and through Gary’s Wine & Marketplace.
Cheers: To get an idea of how seriously this winery takes its responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, just consider that RAEN stands for “Research in Agriculture and Enology Naturally.” What’s more, Carlo Mondavi is also chief farming officer for Monarch Tractor, which bills itself as the world’s first all-electric, driver-optional, smart tractor. No doubt his legendary grandfather would be doubly proud.
2019 Crescere Ritchie Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
This is one deceptive bottle. Dark and muscular looking with broad not sloping shoulders, it looks for all the world like it should hold a long-aging Cabernet Sauvignon. Even its label is hefty in thickness, like that of a very expensive business card.
And yet, what’s inside this bottle is the 2019 Crescere Ritchie Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($60). Yes, a white wine.
Joe Reynoso comes from an extended family that grew up picking crops in the Central Valley, but never thought about farming or growing grapes until he spied a remote 500-acres estate in Sonoma that he and wife Elena ended up purchasing in 1994.
After 20 years of supplying grapes to other winemakers, they decided to try their hand at making their own with the help of celebrated winemaker Philippe Melka. Together, they created Crescere wines, named for the Italian word “to grow.”
The first thing you’ll notice is that this Sauvignon Blanc is more substantial in body than, say, a New Zealand one. Fermented in 32 percent new French oak barrels and stainless steel drums, there’s also a subtle toastiness and hint of vanilla, making it drink almost like a racier Chardonnay. Only this is Sauvignon Blanc through and through with flavors of zingy grapefruit, lime and lemon, along with wildflowers and cantaloupe.
It’s a Sauvignon Blanc that’s sure to expand your horizons. Find it on the Crescere site, as well as at Scoperta!
Cheers: Why the unusual bottle? Because unlike many Sauvignon Blancs that are designed to be enjoyed right away or within the year purchased, this one can be aged. The darker, heavier glass thus protects this white wine from light exposure just as it does for red wines. It’s all the more reason to pick up two bottles — one to open now, and the other to tuck away to uncork a couple years from now.
2019 The Vice Pinot Noir Rosé
If there’s a wine that screams out to be paired with summer grilled salmon, it’s this 2019 The Vice Pinot Noir Rosé ($25), of which I received a sample.
This small batch Napa Valley wine brand sources Pinot Noir grapes from a biodynamic Carneros vineyard for this particular wine.
Pale pink and slightly viscous on the palate, it boasts a burst of lilac along with strawberries and rhubarb on the palate. Yet it is not in-your-face fruity. Instead, notes of wet stone and black tea, as well as lively acidity are at the forefront of this tangy, dry wine. It scored 90 points from Wine Spectator and 87 points from Wine Enthusiast.
Cheers: Trivia fans take note — The Vice was founded by Moroccan-born Malek Amrani, a sommelier and triathlete, who managed to travel to 42 countries before turning 30.