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Great Wine You Can't Buy Here


Whitcraft Winery's Melville Vineyard pinot noir is young but beguiling. (Bob Dickey)

A plea to retailers and distributors in the Washington area: If Alyssa Whitcraft phones, take the call.

Whitcraft is a graduate researcher and lecturer at the University of Maryland in College Park, specializing in satellite imagery and geography. In what little spare time she has, she is trying to find representation in the area’s wine stores for her family’s wines.

If you’ve never heard of Whitcraft Winery, that may be because it produces only about 2,000 cases a year, mostly pinot noir, but also some chardonnay, grenache and syrah. They sell most of it to a mailing list through their wine club. Right now, it’s not available in the Washington area (except by online delivery). But it can be, and it should be.

Alyssa’s father, Chris, started the winery in Santa Barbara County in 1985, a year before she was born. He’s now in semi-retirement, leaving the winery operations to his son, Drake. Although Alyssa isn’t joining the family business, she wears it on her sleeve. Well, under her sleeve, actually – in the form of a tattoo of the winery crest and the words, “In Vino Veritas” on her arm.

She describes her father as an unrepentant hippie in the mold of Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat winery fame and says the Whitcraft wines are “romantically rustic.” That’s because the reds are trod by foot to avoid squeezing harsh tannins from the seeds and stems. Indeed, the pinots I tried are seductive in texture and alluring in fruit, with an appealing citrus note. They are not shy in alcohol, yet aside from an initial sensation of heat, the fruit quickly gains balance. Tasting these, it’s easy to see why people get so excited about pinot noir.

The Whitcrafts own no vineyards and source fruit from throughout California, often with long-time contracts with growers. (Though Alyssa mentioned they will be losing access to fruit from Bien Nacido Vineyards.) Here are my notes on five of the Whitcraft pinots. Prices are approximate.

2006 Melville Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, $44.
2-1/2 stars (out of three)
Beguiling aromas, tight and focused fruit. Still young, it needs more age or some fatty food to open it up.

2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Q Block, Santa Maria Valley, $40.
3 stars
Intense black-fruit aromas, firm tannins, a flash of heat from the 14.9 percent alcohol. There’s also spice and intriguing citrus – something new with every sniff or sip.

2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard N Block
, Santa Maria Valley, $40
1-1/2 stars
Chunky and slightly awkward, not yet integrated, though there is really good fruit here.

2006 Morning Dew Ranch, Anderson Valley, $40
2-1/2 stars
Mendocino County fruit lends a spicy character this wine, which really explodes in the glass with some vigorous swirling.

2007 California, $21
2-1/2 stars, GREAT VALUE
A blend of juice from the various single vineyard wines. This is a stunning value, seductive and silky with amazing balance. If you see this on area stores, and I hope you will soon, don’t pass up a chance to buy it.

-- Dave McIntyre

By The Food Section  |  August 26, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Wine  | Tags: Dave McIntyre, wine  
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Comments

Actually, it doesn't even look like they currently ship to the Washington area, as DC, MD or VA are not on their list of possible states. Bummer.

Posted by: pidgey1 | August 26, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The fact that you give 1 1/2 stars to a $40 wine and 2 1/2 stars to a $21 wine raises a question. How is wine priced by the vintner?

Posted by: johntmay | August 26, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

We can't get Hamm's beer or Schweppes' Diet Grap Ginger Ale here, either. Boo frickin' hoo.

Posted by: bs2004 | August 26, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Hi All -

This is Alyssa. I wanted to write that we actually CAN and WILL ship to VA and DC... the website has not yet been corrected from the past (how inconvenient...).
So, go to the link provided above (for the winery website), and check things out. Send emails. We're pretty small and pretty ok folks.

Also... in response to the comment about pricing, I should elaborate. The 2007 California isn't itself a separate wine produced from start to finish... rather, it is a blend of the Melville, the Bien Nacido (Q and N), as well as Morning Dew Ranch. Moreover, it is a different vintage from the others Dave reviewed (2007 vs. 2006), so that could explain the difference in scoring...
More on prices can be seen on the website, as well.

Hope that clears some things up! Thanks for reading :)

Alyssa Whitcraft

Posted by: AlyssaKW | August 26, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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