Our Chardonnay grapes come from a small vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains where the soil, slope, and sea breeze contribute to a complex flavor profile. All vintages 2013 and earlier were made from the prized Corton-Charlemagne clone, cultivated in only one place in California. This clone is known for it's deep golden color, and rich mouth feel. 2014-2017 are made from a new clone from the same vineyard, as all the Corton-Charlemagne vines were torn up after the 2013 harvest due to a virus. The 2017 Reserve is our first vintage from the replanted Corton-Charlemagne vines, also known as the Mount Eden Clone.
Our Chardonnay is usually made in small batches such that one sells out just as the next is released, meaning that usually only one is available for sale at any given time. However, we almost always have one on our weekend tasting list, so stop by and give it a try!
2017 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS CHARDONNAY
13.6% Alcohol by Volume
Different strains of yeast and malolactic bacteria were used for this Chardonnay than we have used historically, resulting in a lighter bodied, more fruit forward wine. These characteristics were enhanced by nine months in mostly used oak, with light lees stirring. Minimal fining and filtration.
This wine has a smooth, creamy texture, without the oak and butter notes that our other Reserve Chardonnay is known for. Instead, the emphasis is on the lightly spicy anise aroma, and pear flesh and brioche characteristics on the palate.
This Chardonnay is light and smooth enough to pair with white fish or crab dishes, but also bold enough for broiled salmon or roasted chicken, and pairs delightfully with a variety of mild cheeses. We recommend serving cool but not cold for best expression of flavor. If you don't have a wine cooler, take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.
2017 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS CHARDONNAY
12.1% Alcohol by Volume
This is the first vintage of our Mount Eden clone Chardonnay after the vineyard was replanted. It was fermented in mostly new french oak, and then aged on the lees for nine months in the same barrels. It underwent malolactic fermentation for a rich creamy texture, and was minimally processed before bottling.
The result is a rich, golden wine evocative of traditional Burgundian-style Chardonnay, with ripe fruit flavors including melon and apricot, along with a bright lemongrass note. The sur lie aging adds a subtle creaminess, while the French oak lends it a delicate smoothness and the slightest aroma of caramel hard candy.
Pistachio-encrusted salmon is our go-to for this wine, though we’ve been told dried apricots stuffed with goat cheese make a pairing that can’t be beaten. This is an intense wine, that we like better a little warmer. We recommend only refrigerating 20 minutes before serving.
When we first decided to plant vines, we had our soil and climate analyzed to find the perfect grape variety for our vineyard. As it turned out, the unique combination of rocky soils and bay-influenced weather is ideal for the closely related Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc varieties, both of which are well known for their contribution to the classic blends of Bordeaux. And while we could plant other varieties, why bother? It would just take away vineyard space from the Cabernet, and the results wouldn't be as good.
Our Cabernet Franc is planted in the northernmost corner of the vineyard in the highest elevation and poorest soils. From that adversity comes a small yield of exceptional grapes, showing time and time again that character develops from challenge.
2015 Livermore Valley Cabernet Franc
13.3% Alcohol by Volume
Although historically used as a blending grape to soften and add its signature spicy aroma to other grape varieties, we have kept Cabernet Franc as the sole grape in this wine. While we have long made single variety Cabernet Franc, this is our first from Livermore Valley, but not our last. It spent just over two years in French oak.
This wine is a textbook Cabernet Franc, with rich aromas of baked strawberry, vanilla, white and black pepper, and a little savory roasted bell pepper mixed in. It has a silky feel now, and if it is anything like our estate Cabernet Francs (and we think it is!), will continue to evolve for many years with a slowly lengthening soft, smoky finish.
Enjoy this wine with grilled beef or salmon, mushrooms, olives or smoked ham. Rosemary-centric roast pork emphasizes the earthiness in the wine and contrasts the strawberry nose, or it makes a simple and fun pairing with a nutty Asiago or Manchego.
When we first decided to plant vines, we had our soil and climate analyzed to find the perfect grape variety for our vineyard. As it turned out, the unique combinaton of rocky soils and bay-influenced weather is ideal for the closely related Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc varieties, both of which are well known for their contribution to the classic blends of Bordeaux. And while we could plant other varieties, why bother? It would just take away vineyard space from the Cabernet, and the results wouldn't be as good.
We actually have two separate vineyards in the East Bay Hills; one of which is visible from the winery and is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the other of which, known as the Cinq Chevaux block, is about a half mile further up the hill and is planted with only Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes from these two blocks have been blended, kept separate, aged the same, or treated differently depending on the year and the grand plans of Mark, our winemaker.
2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
13.4% Alcohol by Volume
Less than 75 cases were produced of our Estate Cabernet in 2015. It was aged in new French oak barrels for just over two years and then bottle aged for several months before release. Spring storms reduced our yield far below average, so if you like this vintage, make sure to stock up while it lasts.
This wine is bursting with black cherry and baked raspberry highlighted by a bright blood orange note. It has a faint spicy, clove aroma complemented by a chocolatey texture. Ripe, bold tannins create a decadent mouthfeel and long finish. Though we expect it to peak around 2022, that doesn't mean we don't love it now! Especially with the right pairing.
This is a hearty wine that deserves a hearty pairing. Try it with braised short ribs or beef tenderloin (especially with a fruit-based sauce, like blackberry!) if you're looking for a full, rich meal that's sure to impress. Or, if you're on the hunt for simpler fare; meatballs, sharp cheddar or aged Gouda make excellent matches.
A unique combination of factors exist in this hillside vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains that allows for the production of award-winning Merlot wines year after year. The perfect blend of sun exposure and ocean influence create a long growing season where the fruit ripens slowly with an excellent balance of acid and sugar. The resulting wines are consistently rich in flavor with good acidity and deep color.
2016 Santa cruz mountains Merlot
12.4% Alcohol by Volume
This is the first Merlot we’ve released in a couple years, after not getting grapes in 2015 as a result of spring storms. It was aged in American oak for two years, giving it a rich vanilla aroma. It was then laid down for six months in the bottle before release.
Everyone has that friend that "won't drink Merlot". Well, cover up the label and pour them a glass of this. Rich with ripe cherry, raspberry, blueberry, and a chocolately finish, this wine is much more than a stereotype. A subtle fruit and a friendly texture make it approachable and delicious now, but for a more smoky, layered offering with notes of tobacco and earth, try it in a few more years. This is not your mama's Merlot.
Lamb brings out the depth and earthiness of this wine, while the fruit forward palate and silky mouth feel make a rich pairing with cream-based sauces. Classic cheese pairings include Camembert, Gruyere and Pecorino Toscano.
"Montage" is a Big Dog Vineyards proprietary name we use for our red blends. Our vineyard was originally planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with the intention of possibly blending the two, but we ended up liking both so much separately that we never tried a blend, until 2011 that is. When all was said and done after the 2011 harvest, there was only enough Cabernet Franc to fill 40% of a barrel, and thus was born the first Montage, a 60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend.
Since then, we have experimented with a few different blends, staying in the Bordeaux grape family. Each year is a little different, according to what nature gives us, and what we think tastes best.
We are currently sold out of Montage. The next release will be a 2016 vintage, available in late 2019.
It is said that top quality Pinot Noir only grows in special pockets on the earth where particular combinations of soil and climate coax magic from this delicate grape. The Santa Cruz Mountains contain such a place, and this mountain vineyard garners top awards each year.
Our very first vintage of Pinot Noir was 2013, for which we used a blend of two different clones, Dijon and Pommard. Since then we have experimented with different blends of the Dijon, Martini, and Pommard clones.
2017 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS PINOT NOIR
& RESERVE PINOT NOIR
12.6% Alcohol by Volume
With less than 100 cases produced of each, these wines are as rare as they are wonderful. After a cool fermentation, they both spent sixteen months in a combination of new and used French oak to enhance notes of vanilla and spice, but also allow the crisp fruit to shine through. The only difference in these two wines is the clone, which are Dijon and Pommard (Reserve) respectively.
The Dijon clone has a floral hibiscus aroma with an herbaceous, strawberry rhubarb character. A soft palate is driven by a bright cranberry acidity that leaves the mouth watering for another taste.
The Pommard (which is the Reserve) has a slightly fuller, strawberry jam texture, with a spicy clove and vanilla character giving an overall effect similar to a holiday pastry.
You've probably already guessed from our description that we love this wine with Thanksgiving food! It is a sublime pairing for turkey, pumpkin, cranberry sauce, you name it! But you don't have to wait until November to enjoy it, try it with your favorite roast poultry recipe, or next time you're grilling portabellas.
We have only sporadically produced Syrah, in years when we have been able to get grapes from our very favorite vineyards. Our first was in the first year of our bond, 2005, and our second was in 2010 and won a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle competition. After our third release (a 2015), we decided maybe we shouldn’t wait five years between each vintage and made a 2016 and will hopefully be making them more frequently going forward.
Our Zinfandel grapes are sourced from a small, family-owned vineyard located in the acclaimed Templeton Gap sub-appellation of Paso Robles. The head-trained forty-five year old vines are now cultivated by third generation growers, and are strictly dry-farmed. This results in a smaller, but more intense, crop.
2016 PASO ROBLES ZINFANDEL
14.7% Alcohol by Volume
We are excited to present a new vintage from this exceptional vineyard. After a partial carbonic maceration, this wine underwent a high temperature fermentation using natural yeasts for maximum extraction and expression of terroir. Almost two years of barrel maturation was split between neutral oak and new Appalachian oak.
This wine has a beautifully deep ruby color matched by bold aromas of black cherry and chai tea. The style of fermentation gives this wine a characteristic intensity of red fruit and baking spices. Its aftertaste and texture is reminiscent of dark chocolate, inviting another taste.
For a simple and elegant combination, try this wine with aged gruyere. Though some red wines can make tomato based sauces bitter, this is our go-to for sipping with marinara or pizza, while burgers, barbecue, and char-grilled veggies play on the spicy, warm notes. If you’re looking for something sweet, try it with dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Weird AND delicious.
BLANC DE NOIRS
12.0% Alcohol by Volume
This is a méthode champenoise sparkling wine, meaning that it is made the same way as Champagne, with a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. It is made from 100% Pinot Noir, a red grape, but pressed quickly and lightly after harvest to yield a very light colored juice. Hence the name Blanc de Noirs, meaning a "white" wine from "black" grapes.
Though it is a light colored wine, there is an added level of dimension from the red grapes in the form of a red apple skin aroma, and a spicy, almost nutmeg, finish. The palate has the crisp acidity of a gala apple, and a marzipan creaminess indicating time spent on the lees during the traditional second fermentation.
Soft and nutty cheeses are an easy and delicious pairing, as is caviar and blini. Honestly, though, we just can't resist pairing sparkling wines with fried foods! Croquettes bring out the spiciness in this wine, while fried mushrooms play on the earthy notes of the Pinot Noir.
BLANC DE BLANCS
12.5% Alcohol by Volume
This is wine is also methode champenoise, from 100% Chardonnay, a white grape, hence Blanc de Blancs: meaning a "white" wine from "white" grapes. It spent an extended period on the lees before disgorgement, lending a yeasty note, creamy texture, and very fine bubbles.
Chardonnay makes a very different sparkling wine than does Pinot Noir. This wine is lemony, with a crisp apple/pear freshness, and a creamy custardy texture. Depending on how you like your sparkling wine, this one can be laid down to age long term, and will become nuttier and more buttery with age.
The real question is, what can't you pair with this wine? Triple cream cheese is a no-brainer, but if you're really looking for a treat, there is nothing like a glass of this sparkling stunner with a plate of freshly fried chicken and buttermilk waffles. Serve with maple syrup, honey mustard, or scallion gravy. Thank me later.
Vin Doux Naturels
"Vin Doux Naturel" means naturally sweet wine, and refers to a fortified wine whose sweetness comes from the sugar in the grapes. Similar to the way Port is produced, we make our dessert wine by stopping the fermentation halfway through by adding grape spirits. This preserves some of the unfermented sugar from the grapes, and combines it with a heightened alcohol from the brandy. We then barrel age for a few years, allowing for complete integration of the brandy, and introducing new flavors like coffee and hazelnut.
2014 ALEXANDER VALLEY
VIN DOUX NATUREL
20.0% Alcohol by Volume
We have made several versions of dessert wine from the Cabernet Franc from our own vineyards, so when we managed to get our hands on some Cabernet Franc from Alexander Valley, we decided to give it a try in this style as well. It was fortified with neutral grape spirit, and aged about two years in French oak before bottling.
Close your eyes and you might think you had walked into a pastry shop. Aromas of baked strawberry, cream, and chocolate waft out of this glass, and are matched by a Neapolitan creaminess on the palate and a jammy strawberry finish.
Nothing beats chocolate ganache cake with this wine, but if you're looking for something a little less traditional, you can mix it with a little balsamic for a fantastic reduction sauce that can top anything from New York cheesecake to pork chops. Or, try a sweet and salty combination of blue cheese, pretzels, or popcorn for the perfect movie night snack.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY
VIN DOUX NATUREL
20.0% Alcohol by Volume
This wine first came to be when a neighbor asked us to make wine for him, but the grapes were just a few days past perfectly ripe... so what to do with the heightened sugar? We made dessert wine! We fell in love with the honeyed nuttiness of this version of Pinot Gris and set about to perfect it in the following years. It was bottled after about a year and a half in oak.
It's easy to be so busy smelling this wine, you forget to drink it. It is bursting with honeysuckle, orange blossom, white peach, and apricot. The texture is rich and honey like, balanced with a clean green pear acidity. It finishes with a faint hazelnut note that lasts long after the wine is gone.
This wine makes a divine summer afternoon aperitif served with watermelon, feta, and basil salad. Or as a snack with dried apricots and roasted almonds. Enjoy it like the Portuguese drink white Port, with ice and a lime twist, or with soda and lemon. This is a wine that shines no matter how it's served.