Spotlight on Unusual California White Wine: Forlorn Hope “Que Sandade” Sierra Foothills Verdelho 2012

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photoIt is the felt life. The deeper roots we place reach their measure on instances of resonant kinship. It is the understanding that we can touch something fundamental by bypassing pomp and expectation. It is the commitment to do more by observing, learning.

From Portugal to California

Verdelho, a Portuguese grape, does not have an obvious home in the Sierra Foothills of California. It is traditionally a grape of Madeira, occasionally found in the Douro, and not often associated with fine dry wine, though I suspect not because of lack of potential (some figure it is the same as the great and underrated Spanish white grape Godello). But find its way to California it did and, eventually, Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope decided to make a kick ass wine out of it.

Rorick is a listener. The approach at Forlorn Hope is not dogmatic, though Rorick does not use cultured yeasts and likes minimal sulphur. Otherwise, Rorick observes. Each wine is made differently as best suits its ‘nature’ as Rorick put it. The problem with summing up great wine-making into general principles is that, well, great wine-making is in the details and nuances. And the Forlorn Hope wines are all about nuance becoming felt experience. These are emotional wines.

The Sierra Foothills and Varietal Obscurity

The Sierra Foothills lies about 3 hours inland from the Pacific coast, east of Sacramento. The region doesn’t have a reputation for excitement or quality, but within it lie a number of particularly fascinating vineyard sites with lesser known grapes. Its lack of popularity has allowed some pretty neat old-vine plantings to survive. And, the price per ton is much, much lower than most of the rest of quality California.

The Verdelho grapes for this wine come from Amador County (one of eight situated in the Sierra Foothills), and, in particular, from two vineyards. First, the DeWitt vineyard provides 50% of the grapes from its granite soils. Second, the Vista Luna vineyard completes the wine from its gravelly loam and quartz soils.

If you read Alder Yarrow’s comprehensive piece on Matthew Rorick on Vinography you will get a snese of the breadth of wines made by Rorick, mostly from obscure varieties. But it was the Verdelho that got it all started while Rorick was working as assitant wine-maker at Miura and wine-maker at Elizabeth Spencer. He couldn’t convince his employers to take a risk on the grape, so he started his own project. That became Forlorn Hope.

A Felt Wine

Pouring green, the wine was nothing at all what I expected (I was waiting for a high acid, lean wine). Rather, it offered a luscious nose with peach and nectarine cream and candied orange. A full bodied lush texture on the palate was not flabby due to the higher acids on the palate, though they are not that noticeable with so much fruit. This is a very pleasurable wine. It is a felt wine. I need not analyze it, it is meant to be experience, particularly with sweeter Asian foods. I chose Oyakodon. It felt right.

Very Good+ and highly recommended value
$20 at K&L, San Francisco


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