Second Annual Wine From Here Fair – April 14th, 2024

Second Annual Wine From Here Fair – April 14th, 2024

I attended the Wine From Here Fair in Richmond, California in mid-April and wrote a report for the Grape-Nutz.com website. An abbreviated version of the report is below – there are lots more photos plus tasting impressions from 22 wineries here: Second Annual Wine From Here Fair – April 14th, 2024

Report on the second annual Wine From Here Fair, held on the afternoon of Sunday April 14th, 2024 at Subject to Change Wine Co. in Richmond, California. The event website describes it as “a celebration of American natural wine; a gathering of makers, growers, and fermenters of wines and ciders who are doing pioneering and visionary work in agriculture and in the cellar.” Wine From Here had its debut in 2023, and is co-organized by Stagiaire Wine and Subject to Change Wine Co.

General Impressions
About 45 producers and were on hand to pour wines at Wine From Here. Most make their wine in the Bay Area, from Sonoma to Santa Cruz counties, with a number East Bay urban vintners pouring. There was a good turnout from the Sierra Foothills, a few from other parts of California, and a handful from other states. Vintners set up their wines on top of upright barrels inside of the Subject to Change facility, and although it was a bit crowded and noisy for much of the afternoon, it generally worked well. Check-in was quick, spit cups were provided (always a plus), water and dump stations were located throughout the tasting area, and food was available in an outdoor space that opened up to the winery. Overall this was a well-run event, and there was an informal but high-energy vibe throughout the afternoon.

I’d asked Brent Mayeaux of Stagiaire Wine, one of the event organizers, what the criteria was for producers to pour, as I’ve experienced different criteria at various natural wine tastings I’ve attended over the years. Brent responded that they wanted producers whose fruit comes from vineyards that practice organic, and preferably regenerative, farming. He also mentioned “natural-leaning” winemaking – native yeast, no enzymes or nutrients, no fining or filtering, with some sulfur additions ok though kept on the low side. Many of the wines at the tasting – though by no means all of them – fall under the “zero-zero” category of natural wines, with no added sulfur at all, though some naturally-occurring sulfites are present in all wine.

The tasting impressions below cover 22 producers, nearly all of those whose wines I tasted at Wine From Here. It should be noted that the wines listed in my notes below are by no means the only ones I tasted nor the only ones I liked, but I felt that these were the most noteworthy wines I tried. Producers ranged from fairly well-established ones to newer and little-known wineries. Though I didn’t make it to any of the producers from outside of California, I tasted wines made in California from fruit grown in both Oregon and Nevada. The tasting featured a few ciders but with a couple of exceptions (which were grape/apple co-ferments or blends) I passed on those in order to stay more focused on wine.

Overall favorite producers included Florèz, Iruai, La Clarine Farm, Margins, and Ruth Lewandowski, all with very impressive overall wine lineups. I should also note Slamdance Koöperatieve in this group though they had only a single wine to taste. Others that I felt were just a notch below included Ashanta, Caleb Leisure, Clos Saron, Ellsworth, Frenchtown Farms, Maison des Plaisances, North American Press, and Stagiaire.

I had a lot of fun at the Wine From Here tasting. On the whole, the wines poured there were on the more edgy end of the natural wine spectrum than at some other natural wine tastings I’ve attended, so it was no big surprise that there was a wider variance in my perception between wines I liked and those I didn’t. It was a good lesson in seeing how zero-zero wines can work extremely well in some cases but not in others, sometimes from the same producer. But it was well worth the experience in tasting the wines from this diverse group of vintners, and the best of their wines were very good indeed, as indicated by my sizable list of favorites. It’s certainly an event worth attending for anyone interested in American natural wines.

Favorites
Whites and Rosés
Ellsworth 2022 Skin-contact Chardonnay
Florèz 2023 “Shangra-li Mendo Savvy B”
Iruai 2023 “Road Opener” Savagnin Rose Musqué
La Clarine Farm 2022 “Rosé Alors”
Margins 2023 Paicines Ranch Assyrtiko
Ruth Lewandowski 2023 “Anos”

Reds
Ashanta 2022 “Methuselah”
Caleb Leisure 2021 “Other Hand”
Clos Saron 1999 “Once Upon A Time” Cabernet Sauvignon
Florèz 2022 “Monsieur Mysterieux”
Frenchtown Farms 2023 “Quail Run” Cinsault-Counoise
Iruai 2022 “Blood + Flowers” Syrah
La Clarine Farm 2022 “Return of the Son of Funky Drummer”
La Onda 2021 “Tinto Americano”
Maison des Plaisances 2023 “280 Project”
Margins 2023 Paicines Ranch Grenache
Old World Winery 2022 “Ecstatic Consciousness”
Ruth Lewandowski 2022 “Boaz”
Slamdance Koöperatieve 2021 “Native Wine of California”
Stagiaire 2022 “Consistency in Chaos”

Others of Note
Ashanta 2022 “Mermejita”
Caleb Leisure 2022 “I Got It Bad”
Clos Saron 2020 “Kind of Blue”
Ellsworth 2021 Cabernet/Merlot Red Table Wine
Etteilla 2022 “Tibbar” Pinot Noir
Florèz 2022 “Noble Oble”
Frenchtown Farms 2023 “Cecelia” Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé
Glassmaker 2022 Sangiovese
La Clarine Farm 2022 Amber
Populis 2022 “Wabi-Sabi”
Mad Marvlus NV “Makari”
Margins 2023 Siletto Vineyard Counoise
North American Press 2022 “The Mentor”
Purity 2022 “Peace Love Happiness”
Ruth Lewandowski 2023 “Cuvée Zero” Rosé
Stagiaire 2021 “Let’s Get Fizzical”
Zumo 2021 “Palm Fronds”

Selected Tasting Impressions
I’m posting selected tasting impressions here from just some of the producers whose wines I tasted at the Wine From Here event – notes on 22 producers are in the full Grape-Nutz.com report. The producers below are some of those whose lineup of wines poured at the event impressed me the most.

Florèz Wines
Owner/winemaker James Jelks makes his wines in Watsonville and works largely with fruit from the Santa Cruz Mountains but also sources from other old organically-farmed vineyards. A favorite was the 2023 “Shangra-li Mendo Savvy B” Sauvignon Blanc, made with a little skin contact. With aromas of citrus and tropical fruit, fresh herbs, and a floral note, this showed great purity of fruit and a vibrant texture. The 2022 “Noble Oble” Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir featured earthy and herbal black cherry fruit with fine acidity and structure. Another highlight was the 2022 “Monsieur Mysterieux” Cabernet Pfeffer from Gimelli Vineyard in Cienega Valley, aged for about 16 months in neutral oak. With peppery and earthy plum and darker berry fruit and a grippy tannic finish, this could use additional bottle age but has lots of promise.

Iruai
Owner/winemaker Chad Hinds farms vineyards and makes his wine in far northern California, and gets some of his fruit from southern Oregon. The 2023 “Road Opener” Savagnin Rose Musqué (the grape variety is another name for Gewüztraminer) came from a vineyard in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley and was skin-fermented. This had bright floral and stone fruit aromas with medium weight and a nice texture. I also enjoyed the 2022 “Blood + Flowers” Syrah sourced from Applegate Valley in southern Oregon and fermented entirely with whole clusters. Showing a meaty, savory character along with dark berry fruit plus earth and iron undertones, with medium-full body and firm tannins – this should be worth cellaring for further development.

La Clarine Farm
From El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills, La Clarine Farm produces a number of distinctive varietals and blends from fruit grown in their area. Proprietors Hank Beckmeyer & Caroline Hoël poured their wines at the tasting. The 2022 “Rosé Alors” is 74% Mourvèdre along with Grenache and Counoise, all whole-cluster pressed – this had intense floral and stone fruit aromas with a lively texture and finish. The 2022 Amber, made with about 1/3 direct-pressed Petit Manseng and 2/3 skin-fermented Grenache Blanc, featured citrus, tropical fruit, and orangepeel notes with a slightly chalky texture. I also enjoyed the 2022 “Return of the Son of Funky Drummer” Grenache/Mourvèdre – the original “Funky Drummer” was from 2017. This was super savory, with dried herb notes along red fruit and earth, medium-bodied with firm but approachable tannins – nice now but worth cellaring too.

Margins Wine
Owner/winemaker Megan Bell launched her label in 2016, after working in wineries and vineyards in California, Oregon, New Zealand and the Loire Valley. She makes her wines in southern Santa Cruz County. I enjoyed the bright citrus and herb notes of the whole-cluster pressed 2023 Paicines Ranch Assyrtiko, which also showed an intriguing saline component. The 2023 Siletto Vineyard Counoise displayed intense floral and red fruit aromas with fine acidity and a lively finish. Fermented with destemmed fruit and aged in neutral oak (also as with the Counoise), the 2023 Paicines Ranch Grenache had a very savory aromatic profile plus red fruit and spice, with medium weight and great texture.

Ruth Lewandowski
Proprietor Evan Lewandowski sources much of the fruit for his wines from Mendocino County, and he makes his wines in Healdsburg. The 2023 “Anos” from Fox Hill Vineyard in Mendocino County combines Friulano, Trebbiano, and Montepulciano – three “ano” varieties. With floral strawberry and stone fruit aromas, it had a bright mouthfeel and finish. The 2023 “Cuvée Zero” Rosé – mostly Tinto Roriz, Souzão, and Touriga Nacional plus a little Sauvignon Blanc – had bright red fruit, herb, and earth notes with fine acidity and a lively texture. I also enjoyed the 2022 “Boaz” co-ferment of mostly Carignan and Grenache from Testa Vineyard in Mendocino, which displayed an earthy and somewhat rustic character with red fruit and pepper and a grippy tannic finish.

Slamdance Koöperatieve
Owner/winemaker Daniel Callan makes his wine in the Tin City complex just south of Paso Robles. He poured only one wine at the tasting but it was a standout, the 2021 “Native Wine of California” Red Blend. This mainly combines pre-Prohibition California varieties used in many older field blends (though in this case, they’re from separate vineyards) – mostly Valdiguié, Cinsault, and Négrette, along with others including Trousseau, Cabernet Pfeffer, and Orange Muscat. The wine featured bright red fruit with savory herbal notes, spice, and a lively mouthfeel and finish – nice now and should develop with some cellaring.

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Great write up Ken, it was fun walking around with you. I really enjoyed most of the producers pouring and also thought it was a well run event.

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