Alex Holman, winemaker for Notre Vue Estate

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Alex Holman from Notre Vue Estate Winery and Vineyard is our guest today on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. The last time Alex Holman was on California Wine Country was October 28, 2020, almost a year ago. Here is that podcast episode.

Before we visit with Alex Holman, Mike Martini from Taft Street Wines has brought some delicious fresh grape juice, specifically the juice of the 2021 Hopkins River Ranch Chardonnay, which they have just pressed over the last few days. He will bring some more in, from time to time, as it gradually becomes wine. By tasting the juice along the way, you can learn about what winemakers do every year.

As we often do, we open the show with a bottle from Dan Berger’s extensive personal wine cellar. This week it turns out to be a bust. This 2016 Rosé has been stored at 55 degrees the whole time but today he noticed the color was really shot. And it’s terrible. The nose is abominable. When you see an old Rosé, if you don’t pay attention to the vintage, you can get a bad bottle. It should never be sold. Alex Holman explains how he makes Rosé, and it’s not like this. Later they will taste one of his Rosés.

The first wine that Alex Holman has brought to taste is a Chardonnay. It’s a clone of Chardonnay called Chardonnay Musqué, that has a lot of terpenes that are reminiscent of Muscat, Gewurtstraminer and Riesling. It is very floral and aromatic There is no new oak on it, you might call it Chablis style.

The last time Alex was on the show one year ago, Dan took the half empty bottle home and 24 hours later the wine was better. This is a 2020, one of the rare 2020s that actually survived. He processed their normal 80 tons but only used about 16, the rest was discarded. Dan says the secondary characteristics have not developed yet. This won’t be released for several months. Dan thinks this wine won’t reach its peak for another two years, given the way Alan controls the acid in the vineyard.

Notre Vue winery is on land that was part of the early Vallejo Ranch lands so grapes have been planted there since the 1800s. But Doug Knoll and Dave Koonsgaard started the vineyard in the 1970s and Balverne was one of the first publicly traded wine companies. The Notre Vue winery has been making wine since 2010, prior to that they were just selling grapes. They grow 500-600 tons and he keeps “the best 100 tons” and sells the rest. The current owners have planted about half of the vines and the property includes 350 acres of forever-wild open space. Wine club members can hike and bike on the property. Their wine club actually grew during the pandemic because local people needed a place to get away.

All the information is available at Notre Vue dot com. They have a lot of space, so they won’t be full up. Dan Berger says it’s a beautiful property and really worth a visit. They are located in North Windsor. They do tastings Thursday through Monday from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm.

Alex Holman tells about being a Fresno State grad in Chemistry and one of his mentors in Chemistry is Barry Gump, who also taught at Santa Rosa JC. He is at Florida International University now. After he got into wine, he want back to school for an Enology degree that included hands-on wine production.

Dan Berger describes the Chardonnay as “stunning” as he has some in the glass and it is warming up. It’s already great and you can tell how much better it’s going to get.

Next they taste the 2020 Rosé which will be released in October. It’s GSM, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre which are co-fermented. They make a sparkling Rosé, a still Rosé and a red blend. It’s different from year to year depending on the crops. Even the bottle is unique, made of French glass, designed by Renée Stein, one of the co-owners.

Speaking of the Rosé, Dan Berger says it is really stylish. There is zero sugar. The acidity is perfectly balanced, tart with a mid-palette freshness because of the fruit. The fact that they are co-fermented (meaning all fermented together, not separately then blended) is what gives it extra flavors, compared to fermenting each one separately and then blending them. Rosés, like this, generally don’t get any benefit from aging.

Alex Holman has also brought a Zinfandel which he also co-fermented with Grenache and Mourvedre. It is 79% Zinfandel, 9% Petit Syrah, 8% Mourvedre and 4% Grenache. The Petit Syrah was blended in “at the bench” i.e. the workbench, and not co-fermented like the others. He bottles this Zin in a Burgundy bottle, because he makes it more like a Pinot Noir.

Notre Vue Estate will be hosting a blind tasting and dinner with Dr. Hoby Wedler, who has been on this show and its companion show Brew Ha Ha many times. He has been blind since birth, has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from UC Davis and is a well-known consultant on flavors and perception. Two of these wines, the Zin and the Malbec, will be part of that dinner. The Super-Sensory Trio Experience, Sat. Sept. 18, from 5 to 9 pm.

The last wine they taste is his 2019 Malbec. He makes all five Bordeaux varieties. If Napa owns Cabernet, Alex thinks Sonoma County should own Malbec. Dan Berger likes that the oak is held back and the fruit is the primary flavor. The delicious component is in the aftertaste. Everything he does in his winemaking style is to get delicacy, not heavy flavors. He likes Malbec and Merlot more than Cab.

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