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Moving it forward: Wine innovations you can really taste

One of La Follette’s most interesting new wines, Sangiacomo Chardonnay, nicely built!
One of La Follette’s most interesting new wines, Sangiacomo Chardonnay, nicely built!
T. Peiffer

Like many other products offered to us these days, wine is “changed up” from time to time and that keeps things very interesting. Although wine innovations may go at a slower pace than gadgets like smart phones, winemakers do tend to break out now and then.

A recent example of such an innovator is Greg LaFollette. After helping out numerous winemakers over the years, Greg and his partners have recently decided to put together a lineup of their own under a label bearing his name.

Relying on extensive expertise with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, he has started with an excellent base of prime vineyard partners, plus winemaking know-how, and pushed it up a notch. Of course, the proof is always in the tasting and that takes time. But you have to start somewhere and Greg is now on the path to expand his distribution across the country.

One of the most striking of his wines is their Sangiacomo Chardonnay. Not only does it come from a unique California terrior (the Petaluma Gap), but he has applied a few leading edge winemaking techniques to add to its character.

At first it begins with an almost sweetly floral bouquet reminiscent of a Viognier. But this is soon joined by lemon grass, an earthy volcanic depth, followed by a tinge of smoke. Many will find it quite entertaining to enjoy a Chardonnay without the expected green apple blast!

The feeling on the palate is just as much fun with a refined earthy interest followed by a delicately balanced acidity. The finish tends to go slightly buttery and a little of the distant smoke, like that in the bouquet, tends to linger. This makes Greg’s creation an excellent candidate for a blind tasting; stump the panel.

Of course he has done wonderful things with his Pinot Noirs as well. One of the more notable is the Van Der Kamp. Its fruit originates on the higher slopes of Sonoma Mountain and sports a captivating bouquet of goose berries and dried cherries. Just when the berry aromas begin to soften, a wonderful toasty character sets in, kind of like graham cracker and fresh whole grain toast, nothing harsh in this one.

By design, these wines are totally different from each other, even between the various Chards and Pinots in the initial lineup. A visit to their tasting room would be the best plan at this point, but they do sell them online. You will be guaranteed an interesting experience that will shake up what you think you know about wine, just a tad.

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