From Mon­treal to Santa Ynez — A wine jour­ney

The Signal - - Food & Entertainment - Carl KANOWSKY

Martin Gau­thier, a Que­bec Prov­ince na­tive, was do­ing quite well in Canada in the elec­tric­ity trade. But he was miss­ing some­thing. Cal­i­for­nia was call­ing.

Gau­thier grew up lov­ing Rhone wines, par­tic­u­larly the ones from Con­drieu, which are pre­dom­i­nantly Viog­nier.

Jan­cis Robin­son in “The World At­las of Wine” de­scribes Con­drieu wines fea­tur­ing Viog­nier thusly, “The ex­traor­di­nar­ily heady, rec­og­niz­ably per­fumed…” Robert Parker ex-toled the virtue of Con­drieu in his rat­ing of his fa­vorite from Gui­gal (prob­a­bly the master of this ap­pel­la­tion), writ­ing, “Pro­foundly in­tense with abun­dant notes rem­i­nis­cent of caramelized or­anges, ly­chee nuts, apri­cots, spring flow­ers and a liqueur of wet rocks.”

Dream­ing of recre­at­ing this nir­vana in the New World, Martin went search­ing for the right win­ery in the right lo­ca­tion.

Napa didn’t have the right cli­mate and was too fo­cused on Caber­net. Sonoma is all about Pinot Noir.

So, he set his sights south, ar­riv­ing even­tu­ally at the home of “Lais­sez les bon temps rouler (or, let the good times roll),” known as Rideau. Iris Rideau, a trans­planted Cre­ole, is the first Cre­ole-Amer­i­can wine­maker to own and op­er­ate a win­ery in the United States.

De­spite hav­ing lit­tle knowl­edge or ex­pe­ri­ence in mak­ing wine, Rideau jumped into it when she bought the his­toric El Alamo Pin­tado Adobe in the heart of the Santa Ynez Val­ley in Solvang.

Go­ing con­trary to the ex­ist­ing trends, Rideau planted mainly Rhone va­ri­etals (you know, the stan­dard Syrah, Gre­nache and Mourve­dre) with an in­sight to cul­ti­vate white Rhone grapes, like Viog­nier and Rous­sanne.

Rideau win­ery gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a great place to visit, en­joy some good wine and, gen­er­ally, re­lax to watch the world go by.

But hav­ing been born in 1937, Rideau knew that tran­si­tion was in the air. Cue Gau­thier.

Gau­thier loved what he saw — 5 acres of his beloved Viog­nier, 5 acres of Syrah and acreage of Gre­nache, Mourve­dre and Rous­sanne. And like Rideau, a lack of wine­mak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and mov­ing across the con­ti­nent failed to in­tim­i­date him.

Gau­thier’s ad­ven­ture be­gan in 2016, when he and his bride, Is­abelle, bought the Rideau win­ery. Work­ing with Adri­enne St. John (who had been Rideau’s wine­maker for the two years pre­ced­ing the pur­chase) and Ruben Solorzano, the vine­yard man­ager from Coastal Vine­yard Care As­so­ci­ates, Gau­thier con­tin­ued the em­pha­sis on Rhone va­ri­etals but has added a Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Pinot Noir — among oth­ers.

The stars re­main, un­doubt­edly, the wines whose her­itage hails from Rhone.

Terry and I had the great good for­tune to meet up with Gau­thier re­cently and taste through some of Rideau’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion. (We couldn’t do the en­tire lineup — there’s well over a dozen dif­fer­ent bot­tlings and blends.)

We en­joyed the 2016 Brass­man White (a blend of four Rhone va­ri­etals), the un­ex­pect­edly de­li­cious 2015 La En­can­tada Pinot Noir (a bright, ap­peal­ing bou­quet with a pep­pery fla­vor) and the 2015 Es­tate Syrah (a black­berry, plummy nose with notes of cherry and loam). But three bot­tles al­most stunned us. The 2016 Es­tate Viog­nier was a de­light.

Trop­i­cal aro­mas (par­tic­u­larly ba­nana) and flo­ral, an ap­pro­pri­ate first act to the ex­cel­lent bal­ance and weight the wine dis­played. It was well priced at $39.

Next was the pow­er­ful 2015 Chateau Du­plantier, an out­stand­ing GSM with a touch of Petite Si­rah.

Terry’s notes: Berry, bak­ing spices and white pep­per on the nose, with tastes of plum, berry, cherry, high­lighted by a pep­per fin­ish. I got hit by dark fruit, cof­fee and dark choco­late. At $59, you need to find this.

We con­cluded with the 2016 Rous­sanne.

I like Chardon­nay and Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, but the mar­ket is sat­u­rated with them. Rous­sanne stands apart. It’s a mus­cle-y white blended with class. Rideau’s 2016 Rous­sanne epit­o­mizes this. Stone fruit fra­grance and tastes — this is a very full-bod­ied white that tick­les with hints of casaba melon.

This was my fa­vorite. It was amaz­ing!

So, get out of the Pinot/Cab/Chard rut and try some­thing new. Get over to Rideau – Martin’s giv­ing it a bright fu­ture.

Cour­tesy photo

Martin Gau­thier is a Que­bec Prov­ince na­tive and is the owner of the Rideau Vine­yard in Santa Ynez.

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