Old Gehricke Road, near the town of Sonoma, is simply a strip of asphalt between two vineyards, but for kids like August Sebastiani, who grew up minutes away, it was a dusty adventurous playground while growing up.
Sebastiani, now a fourth generation vintner in the iconic family, celebrates his childhood roots and continues the evolution of the business as an negotiant through the introduction of Gehricke Wines, a new premium label that sources quality grapes much closer to home.
Under his 3 Badge Beverage Corporation, August Sebastiani, son of Don and great grandson of founder Samuele, has launched lines of premium spirits, craft beers and wines, but Gehricke is uniquely farmed and produced locally.
The sustainability of such an effort relies on expertise to manage the viticulture practices and envision the future in the vineyard through bottling.
Once vineyard partnerships were established, consulting winemaker Alex Beloz was hired to oversee the production and push the fruit to its maximum potential. Beloz brings years of experience producing wines in Sonoma County, many at MacRostie Winery.
Although all grapes are sourced within the county, he has his hands full dealing with very diverse terroir: the cool west and warm east Russian River Valley, foggy Carneros, northeast Knight’s Valley and the varying microclimates of the Sonoma Coast appellation.
On a warm afternoon, under a tent adjacent to Gehricke Road, surrounded by vineyards, we tasted the current releases paired with lunch selections by Chef Ari Weiswasser, owner/chef of Glen Ellen Star, a restaurant that I frequent for their farm-to-table menu, especially the wood roasted vegetables.
Before lunch, Alex was pouring the single-vineyard, “copper label” reserve chardonnay from the known Chalk Hill Vineyard in Windsor. Each of the diverse microclimates within the chardonnay blocks alone make the fruit desirable, especially for wines created in the Burgundian style.
Paired with the 2016 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($32), the first course was a Lebanese fattoush salad with dungeness crab and green garlic pull-apart rolls, one of Glen Ellen Star’s signature breads.
Aged 20 months in French oak, one-third new, the wine delivers expressive fruit flavors and, in Beloz’s style, has a fresh acidity, not overly oaked. The 2015 Los Carneros Pinot Noir ($32) and 2016 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) releases were nicely paired with a wagyu beef ribeye bordelaise, spring vegetables and fava beans for our second course.
Sourced from three vineyards within the appellation, the pinot noir, with ratings in the nineties, balanced rich cherry with spice flavors and was long on the finish.
Beloz prefers to retain a small percentage of the grapes whole cluster to augment, not dominate the character of the wine. A first vintage, the 2016 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Bavarian Lion Vineyard, north of Calistoga. The volcanic soils of the vineyard sit at a higher elevation, far enough inland not to be impacted by the Pacific Ocean.
For complexity, Beloz adds malbec and a pinch of petite verdot to enhance flavor intensity and the rich mouthfeel. With 90+ratings from both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines, the Knights Valley Cab is an exceptional value.
Pairing the 2015 Russian River Valley Zinfandel ($30) with a dessert plate of baked sourdough, toasted walnuts, blue cheese and preserves complimented its jammy fruit and spice flavors.
The grapes are sourced from the Ponzo Vineyard in the warmer, northeast section of the Russian River appellation, near Healdsburg. Beloz adds 10% petite sirah to enhance the dark fruit flavors and deepen the color.
August Sebastiani understands the evolution of his family’s historic winery, from bulk wine to more premium labels. He also realizes that the wine industry has carefully groomed the palates of a young generation, eager for something good, new and original. To that end, Sebastiani envisions a physical location in Sonoma for people to come and taste all of his brands.
In the short term, he and Alex are focused on adding a petite sirah and building the Gehricke portfolio in a way the honors the memory of the land that neighbors that old road.