(NOTE This is a copy of the article posted in The Hartford Examiner which ceased publishing in 2015)
By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin
While gold-seekers struck it rich in the streams of California’s Sierra Nevada foothills in 1849, another lesser-known mother lode took root in the rich volcanic soil by many of the hopeful miners who arrived from Europe – when they planted the grapes that began winemaking to quench their thirst.
Although gold mining started tapering off in the late 19th-century and ended in 1958, ancestors of the early miners are still growing grapes and making wine. Joining them are newcomers from around the world who are passionate about making premium wines in the spring-summer Mediterranean climate of central California.
A recent cruise on the MSC Divina (Mediterranean Shipping Company) out of Miami featured an optional interactive wine blending class that is always hosted by a wine expert with an average of 10 years’ experience in the business. It seemed to us that becoming proficient at blending wine would be a long-term process, but an unquenchable curiosity led us to sign-up. It turned out to be not only lots of fun but an invaluable learning experience.
The wine expert, Corrine Moore, is the hands-on owner of the award-winning Wine Tree Farm Winery in Amador County, California. She proved to be a masterful blender as well as a patient teacher with warmth and wit. In the entertainment department, she’s a really class act. She does these gigs between harvests and prepping for the next growing season to share her skill and passion as a teacher for the Blend Craft organization, creators of Winemakers Experience at sea. This is a perfect blend of a luxury cruise holiday and imbibing the best of premium wines.
Small groups (up to 20 enthusiasts) are set up with wine glasses, blending instruments and printed materials to keep track of each participant’s ‘likes’ along the way. You’ll start by tasting a variety of wines, and learn the unique characteristics of each one which is essential in the craft of blending wine. Next, you’ll have enough wine samples, information, guidance and time to blend your own bottle.
There is no test or grading given by the teacher in this delightful class. You quickly learn that the only taste buds that really count are your own. The wine you blend onboard is then bottled and given a personalized label that is included in the price of the class.
Corrine also provides wine-blending classes at her vineyard. The schedule is listed on her Website. The current price is $45 per person, with discounts for two or more. The classes last for approximately 90-minutes and include a bottle of your uniquely personalized wine blend. After the blending class, you will get chance to taste the rest of Wine Tree Farm Winery’s premium blends and her delicious Port dessert wine.
This is no ordinary vineyard. It’s now all-solar and off-the-grid, which was designed and built by her son, Nic, an accredited solar electrician. This achievement alone is worth a look-see at this small, family enterprise. Corrine says, “Making wine off grid can be challenging. We have to do things that other wineries don’t; we seldom use pumps, and always use gravity to transfer wines from vessel to vessel, for racking and pressing the grapes. Not using pumps is known to be better for the resulting wine—and our winery guests seem to agree!” There is a small picnic area so take along a picnic to round your visit to this beautiful vineyard.
During a trip to find ideal land for a vineyard, her 5-year son, Nic, yelled out – “Look, Mom, Wine Trees!” The name stuck, and Nick is still involved with helping his Mom realize her dream. Corrine and her dad bought the property in 1993. By 2002, six of the forty acres had been planted: three acres of Syrah and one and a half acres each of Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Corrine also has such a fair-priced wine club we just had to say why: For $30 per shipment (plus tax and shipping) club members receive 2 bottles of the latest releases twice a year – fall and spring – 30% discount on re-orders of wine club selections, 20% discount on any wines, merchandise and events, advance notice of new releases and offerings at the discounted club price. If you visit the winery, you can pick up your order to save on shipping costs, and enjoy a sampling of the other premium vintages that made with her grapes. The 2014 spring release is now available: 2010 Corinne Mourvèdre and Wine Tree SyrGreMour, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Initially Corrine he did all the farming, but in 2006, she added a vineyard consultant, Carol Laubach of Lauzere Vineyard Management, who is still on the job. They decided the Rhône blend SyrGreMour was so special they couldn’t call it a ‘table wine.” The next release was a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre and called it GreMour. And in 2012, they introduced the Corinne brand of single varietals of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre to complete the Wine Tree Farm’s family of wines.
Although we had tasted her outstanding Syrah at sea, we wanted to do a taste test of the spring release choices. We bought and had them shipped to us on the East coast. The bottles arrived quickly and in perfect condition. Two wine aficionados joined us for a tasting that included a variety of small bites to get protein on the tongues – a secret that will fully reveal the unique characteristics of each wine. After the ritual swirl, sniff (3 times) and sip, four non-wine snobs agreed that the two vintages would be a delightful addition to their wine cellars – if they didn’t open them up immediately and add them to their cache of every day choice wines.
Corrine is among the modern immigrants to California’s Gold Rush Country to purse the mother lode
of the new kind: winemaking. In 1983, she arrived in the San Francisco’s Bay Area from South Africa, where she archived success as an equestrienne in show jumping and Eventing disciplines. Her other passions were wine and the winemaking process. At first she working as an executive in High Tech but intended to eventually have a horse ranch to breed thoroughbreds and a hobby vineyard. Today she owns an award-winning commercial vineyard and said, “Her 2 well-bred thoroughbred are leading the life of luxury!
Visit www.winetreefarm.com to find out more about Corrine, Nic, and their unique winery. And, when making travel plans for California, be sure to include this lovely county in your plans.