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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Tag Archives: Julie Johnson

Tres Sabores ¿Porqué no?

United States (California)

zinfandel (76%), cabernet sauvignon (12%), petite sirah, petit verdot

Tres Sabores ¿Porqué no? 2007

If this colourful wine has a reputation for being the life of a party it’s because it likes to play with the senses and be perfectly charming at the same time. Deep and rich in the glass, but not brawny. This unusual varietal combination is packed with flavour and very drinkable. Youthful, and a bit exotic. Black fruit, spices, tobacco, chocolate. A pleasant tannic touch. One cork popped leads easily to another.  ¿Porqué no?  $

I think of it as a bit of a melting pot of a wine. Our celebratory wine for the reelection of Obama. Bravo. ¡Bravo.

Tres Sabores translates to “three flavours.” Three tastes. Three components (according to their website) of good winemaking – the terroir, the vine, the artisan. When Tres Sabores was in its formative years, three winemakers were hired, given their own section of zinfandel vines, and the complete freedom to do with it what they will. The result – three cuvées, three bottlings, three different wine drinking experiences.

The owner behind this experiment was Julie Johnson. That was 1999 and Johnson, once a public health nurse in the Napa Valley, had decided to make her own strong foray in the business of making wine. Years before she had co-founded Frog’s Leap Winery with her first husband and a third partner. But this was a move well beyond that. By 2003 she was wine-making herself, learning lots, and very much enjoying the experience.

Suddenly disaster struck. In the fall of 2005 a huge fire in Vallejo destroyed a wine storage facility used by 95 wineries and many private collectors. Tres Sabores lost 2000 cases. It was a devastating blow, but one from which Johnson emerged with renewed vigour. (What little she salvaged from the fire she made into a meat marinade and glaze which she sold as Fire Roasted Zinfadel Sauce!)

Johnson knows the value of her vineyards. Set on the western side of the Napa Valley near the top of the Rutherford Bench, a “sweet spot”, to use her words, for her red grape varietals. The ranch style property has been long certified organic (likely one of the first in Napa), and not only for its five hectares of grapes, but also for olives, pomegranates, lamb and guinea fowl. Visitors consistently report the generous welcome they receive, in a family-friendly atmosphere that remind them of the Napa of the 1970s.

It’s reassuring that such places still exist, given that Napa seems all about big business these days. ¡Bravo.


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