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Randall Murray: A California family comes through with classic pinot noir, chardonnay
Randall Murray
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column publishes monthly.

With climate change inexorably warming the planet, the bad joke in California wine country is that in 30 years the Napa Valley will be in Mendocino County many miles to the north. But until that happens, let me tell you about a pair of wines from Mendocino’s famed Anderson Valley.

Long Meadow Ranch, whose central presence is in Napa Valley, has vineyards in Mendocino producing cooler-climate wines – pinot noir and chardonnay.

I recently sampled the 2015 pinot noir and 2016 chardonnay and was most impressed with the overall quality and drinkability.

The ranch dates back to a 640-acre land grant given by then-President Ulysses S. Grant to a Civil War veteran. The ranch produced grapes, apples, olives and hay, which went to local markets.

During Prohibition the ranch shut down and Long Meadow Ranch went into disrepair. Ted and Laddie Hall bought the neglected property in the late 1980s and invested substantial funds and sweat equity to bring it back to life.

Wine of the Month

Colome Torrontes 2018

The wine: Fruity but dry white table wine.

The grapes: 100% torrontes.

The source: Upper Calchaqui Valleys, Argentina.

The verdict: If someone had blindfolded me and passed a glass of this wine under my nose, I probably would have guessed “Gewurztraminer.” Why? This wonderful white carries the same fragrance of roses with a hint of spice in the mouth as does Gewurz. But there is a lot more to like about this South American offering. Torrontes is Argentina’s signature white grape. There are varying styles to torrontes wines, but I really like this one’s structure. It comes from the second highest vineyards in the world — only some in Tibet are at a higher elevation. That kind of exposure helps these grapes develop aromatics and flavors not found in lower elevation vineyards, giving new meaning to getting high on wine. I can see this one with soft, creamy poultry or seafood dishes.

The price: About $17.

Today the ranch has a presence in three counties and, in addition to producing first-quality wines, also is known for its premium olive oils and a much acclaimed restaurant, Farmstead. Ted, Laddie and son Chris still run the place.

Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2015

This is classic pinot noir, reminiscent of the great wines of Burgundy. There’s an earthiness that runs through it, with tight fruit aromas and flavors. As with most American pinot noirs this one is deeper red than most Burgundies. Long Meadow Ranch wines are relatively low in alcohol, which makes them great choices to serve with food. I get the sense that this one will age well for many years, giving the full tannins a chance to mellow. But if you lack the patience to wait, it’s a fine sip right now. Price: about $43.

Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2016

This green-gold lovely is just wonderful! The color is textbook for good chard. So is the strong suggestion of a crisp, green apple in the mouth. This is not a Burgundian-style wine; it’s classic California, but minus the distractions of the tropical fruit smells and tastes of too many wines of lesser quality.

You’ll love the fullness of the wine in the mouth and the hint of butter in the finish, which lingers. This one, too, shows indications it will get better with a few more years in bottle. Price: about $43.

The Hall family recently purchased the iconic Stony Hill Vineyards in Napa Valley from the family of its founders Fred and Eleanor McCrea. That assures a long and deep dedication to producing top-shelf chardonnays.

And about my previous column

OK, y’all, time for a clarification. At the end of last month’s column I said farewell to my 35-year tenure of teaching university-level wine education programs, most recently with Brenau University’s Learning and Leisure Institute.

I have offered wine classes at BULLI for more than 10 years, and recently decided to close that chapter in my wine life. Unfortunately, some folks out there misread that and determined I was pulling the plug on my monthly wine column in The Times.

Fat chance!

First, I still have a lot to say about wine, how it’s viewed and how folks really should embrace it and discard the myths and mystique that make too many people nervous. Second, my editor at The Times has forbidden me, with threats of physical retribution, from ending my Times column.

And since (1) I had no intention of casting off from The Times, and (2) I am fundamentally cowardly when it comes to physical threats, my column will continue to appear on the first Wednesday of the month. I like doing this, and I enjoy hearing from you. I encourage readers to send wine questions my way. My email address is at the end of this and every column.

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