Sun 16 Oct 2011
If you know anything about Renaissance, located near the town of Oregon House, north of Sacramento in the North Yuba area of the Sierra Foothills, you’ll know that the use of the word “rarities” means that these wines are rare indeed, since the winery usually makes only a few hundred cases, and certainly fewer than a thousand, of most of the wines it produces.
Winemaker Gideon Beinstock is uncompromising in his avoidance of new oak barrels and in advocating a strictly “less-is-more” attitude in the cellar, and the result tends to be wines that may be understated but are decisively authentic and expressive.
Take the Renaissance Carte d’Or Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009, Sierra Foothills, a blend of 60 percent sauvignon blanc and 40 percent semillon, fermented in stainless steel and aged 6 months in “neutral French puncheons,” that is, very large, often-used oak barrels. Now we all know what a sauvignon blanc-semillon blend should be like, right? Grapefruit! Lime peel! Green bean! Fig! Grass ‘n’ herbs! Not this glittering shaft of spare elegance. The color is medium straw-gold with a slight green tint; aromas of quince and quinine, roasted lemon and almond skin, teas both green and orange pekoe devolve to a wisp of spiced pear. This is quite dry and sleek, unemphatic in its serene balance yet crisp and lively with almost crystalline acidity; a touch of fig and leafiness, yes, but mostly this is citrus and stone-fruit and a texture riskily poised between taut and talc. I tried the wine, recorked it, stuck it in the fridge and served it with dinner; the clean camellia-tinged floral element was in high gear. LL pronounced it beautiful. 13.2 percent alcohol. Production was — sorry! — 58 cases. Drink through 2013. Excellent. About $20 and definitely Worth a Phone Call. How can they sell such a wine so inexpensively?
I’m sorry to say that Beinstock produced even less of his Renaissance Rosé 2010, Sierra Foothills. Made from 100 percent syrah grapes and, unusually for a rosé, aged four months in neutral French oak barrels, the wine displays the classic pale onion skin hue of a Provençal rosé. The bouquet offers notes of dried strawberries and peaches, a touch of apple, hints of woodsy spice, orange rind and watermelon. These qualities are consistent in the mouth, where the wine is delicate, subtle and supple, though after a few minutes in the glass it gains a bit of weight, becoming more ripe, a little fleshy. Overall, though, this rosé is an elegant and evanescent tissue of grace and charm — spare, deliberate, exquisite. 12.6 percent alcohol. Production? Well, 23 cases don’t go very far; again, this is a matter of calling the winery and seeing if they’ll send a few bottles. Drink through 2013. Excellent. About $18.
These were samples for review.