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. 2017 will be 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!
2016 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS CHARDONNAY
14.2% Alcohol by Volume
After a low temperature fermentation, for preservation of primary fruit characteristics, this wine was aged in a combination of new and once-used French oak. It is 100% malolactically fermented, and aged on the lees with regular batonnage before being fined, and only minimally filtered in order to preserve the flavors from each of these processes.
The result is a rich, golden wine evocative of traditional Burgundian-style Chardonnay, with ripe fruit flavors including pineapple and apricot. The sur lie aging adds a subtle creaminess, while the French oak lends it a delicate smoothness and the slightest aroma of marshmallow and vanilla.
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.
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.
2014 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.
2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
13.5% Alcohol by Volume
Less than 200 cases were produced of our Estate Cabernet in 2014. It was aged in new French oak barrels for just over two years and then bottle aged for several months before release. We released it a little younger than we typically do with our estate wines (we were sold out of everything!), so don't hesitate to lay this one down for a few months- or years!
This wine is bursting with blackberry, currant and plum complemented by ripe, bold tannins that create a decadent mouthfeel and long finish. It has a faint spicy, clove aroma complemented by a chocolatey texture. Though we expect it to peak around 2021, that doesn't mean we don't love it now! Especially with the right pairing. Plus it will sell out long before then, so you have to plan ahead!
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.
We are currently sold out of Merlot. We expect the 2016 to be released in mid 2019.
"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.
2016 SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS PINOT NOIR
12.7% Alcohol by Volume
With less than seventy-five cases produced, this wine is as rare as it is wonderful. After a cool fermentation, it spent eighteen 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.
Subtle aromas of cloves, brown spice and vanilla precede flavors of cranberry, strawberry and raspberry followed by a slight slate-like minerality, 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 out very favorite vineyards. Our first was in the first year of our bond, in 2005, and our second was in 2010 and won a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle competition. Our third, and current, release, is a 2015, and we have a 2016 in the works- so happily we won't be waiting another five years for the next release!
2015 DRY CREEK VALLEY
13.5% Alcohol by Volume
We were so excited to make our third vintage of this wonderful Syrah that we made two! After fermentation, the grapes were split into French and American oak barrels. The wines were bottled after two years. 75 cases of the American oak Syrah were produced, along with 25 cases of the Reserve: the batch matured in French oak. The latter will only be available to wine club members.
American Oak: A perfumed nose of violets, raspberries, and vanilla is followed by a richly tannic palate, full of pepper, cherry, and a faint savory, cured meat character.
French Oak (Reserve): Smoky aromas of cured meat, vanilla, browned butter, and baked cherries. Oh what a difference a barrel can make! Silky palate of cherry and black plum with a peppery lingering finish.
Equally good with a salty Dubliner or Cheddar as with a nutty Manchego or an intense Gouda. We love to bring out the savory spiciness of this wine with grilled meats or blackening seasoning, but we have to admit that sometimes the bottle doesn't last long enough to be served with dinner. Only 100 cases total, so don't wait on this wine.
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 BLANCS
12.5% Alcohol by Volume
This is also méthode champenoise, but 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.
2016 SAN FRANCISCO BAY PINOT GRIS 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.