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Meridith May, SOMM Journal
ANDIS WINES’ LORENZO MUSLIA MUSES ON ITS NEWEST RELEASE, CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE, AND WHY WINES FROM THE SIERRA FOOTHILLS CAN BE A CHALLENGING SELL
It was 2014 when I left Italy and ventured into a “New World.”
To say I was culture-shocked at the start is an understatement. I went from walking out of my apartment in Florence and simply asking for an espresso to driving for 2 miles to engage in a three-minute interrogation with a barista: “What size, 16-ounce or 8-ounce? How many shots do you want? Do you need room for cream?”
Dinnertime used to be at 9 p.m., but now that’s bedtime. I used to make five stops at local grocery stores on the way home, and now everything is delivered to my doorstep.
But if I had to pick the thing that shocked me most, it was unquestionably the wines. I grew up drinking Old World wines that were the perfect complement to food; they weren’t better or worse than those from California, just a different style.
In 2015, I joined Andis Wines in the Sierra Foothills. My ultimate goal was to use those memories to close the bridge between what I used to drink and what we’re able to make here. It’s not easy, and it never will be, but we’ve gotten closer and closer year after year as we continue to pursue perfection.
I have visited locales in over 35 states over the past several years, from northern Michigan and Houston to Honolulu and Richmond, Virginia. I’ve ventured into hundreds of restaurants and wine bars with the purpose of selling Andis Wines, and it has been a journey! Almost every time I sat down with a potential buyer or exchanged a phone call or email, it seemed as though there was a preconceived perception of our wine, and it made me feel like I had something to prove. I wondered, “Why are people so skeptical and scared to try our wines from this region?”
It took me years to understand that the answer was in the history of what we used to be. We were “cursed by the knowledge” they had about our region, and the only way to break that spell was to make extraordinary wines. Opinions are hard to change in a short time, but it can be done.
So here it is the result of our dedication to five years of vineyard research to thwart the curse and equip people with new knowledge of the beautifully balanced, high-quality wines emerging from the Sierra Foothills. Painted Fields Curse of Knowledge is not just another red blend from another winery—it contains the authentic fruit of our labor.
Made in partnership with Philippe Melka and Maayan Koschitzky, two industry heavyweights, the wine is our first Bordeaux-style red blend; it comprises 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 18% Malbec, and 7% Merlot and aged 18 months in 20% new French oak barrels to create the perfect harmony between fruit and oak.
Andis Wines 2019 Painted Fields Curse of Knowledge, Sierra Foothills ($25)
A powerhouse wine that effortlessly releases red and blue fruit into a stream of violets and mountain brush. Fine acidity leans into an inner meatiness that keeps it as fresh as it is bold and complex. Floral and fruit aromatics persist through the finish.
93 points —Meridith May, SOMM Journal
When visiting Andis Wines, do you notice the white boxes sitting on poles positioned throughout the vineyards? Part of our sustainability program involves using birds of prey to control the rodent population. As you walk through the vineyards, you will notice small holes in the ground, typically caused by gophers and voles. Voles will eat roots and bark and can be harmful to grape vines, and controlling their populating is critical as a pair can produce 100 baby voles in a year. As you view the Andis Estate Vineyard, you will see owl boxes, those white boxes perched on tall poles. Owls will find these boxes, create a nest, usually in winter and early spring, and have their young. All four boxes on the property have been used. A family of owls can hunt as much as 3000 voles a year. By May, the baby owls are gone, and the boxes remain empty until the following year. Eating so many voles, gophers, and even rabbits create quite a mess with bones stacking up, so we must clean the boxes out after harvest in preparation for the next season.
Janis Akuna, Vintner
Grapevine flowering arrives in late spring, two months or so after bud break. Grapevine flowers are not the most dramatic or beautiful, but they do have a wonderful fragrance. Grape flowers need average daily temperatures between 59-68 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is during this stage of a grape’s lifecycle that pollination and fertilization occur. For fertilization to occur, grape flowers do not need bees for pollination. Grapevines have what is called a perfect flower, meaning they are self-pollinating flowers.
There is a window when the flowers are in full bloom. It is at this point that they are extremely vulnerable. Any adverse climatic condition can mean losing the potential crop. Rain, wind or cold temperatures can result in shatter. The term shatter means the cluster grows without the ideal tight shape, resulting in grape berries differing in size or even missing all together. While this variation does not affect the quality of the grapes, it definitely affects their quantity.
Fruit set follows bloom immediately. Fruit set is defined as the time when fertilized flowers develop into a grape. Once the fruit set is done, we start to get a good idea of our crop for the season. Right now, we are looking good.
It's that time of the year when I regularly start walking the vineyards. Our Estate vineyard has 19 blocks with 9 varietals. Inspecting the vineyard block by block, it is fascinating to see how each variety comes to life each year. This year, the vines started showing little hints of green a week or so ago with each block showing bud break at different times. Some varietals, like Grenache, are the first to bud out, but then takes its time developing. Others, like Sauvignon Blanc and Barbera, are middle of the pack but once they bud out, it is a sprint, and they are done quickly. Others, like Zinfandel, bud out later. On the Estate, we have 6 blocks of Zinfandel, and it's interesting to see the effects elevation and soil depth have on the vines. Six blocks of Zinfandel all budding out at different times!
I will continue to keep you posted on our Estate vineyard development throughout the year. We will also schedule tours so you can see for yourself what is going on in the vineyards.
-Mark Fowler, Winemaker
Old World vs. New World: Sémillon
A shadowy figure Sémillon cuts; DOES IT EVEN EXIST?! It’s a mysterious grape that knows how to blend in. And it sports disguise names—perhaps it is a spy! But reporting to whom?
No, Sémillon has an identity all its own that strikes me as a secret love child of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. It has that lanolin lick that gives it weight reminiscent of Chenin Blanc, and is likewise prone to botrytis, but can be herby and lemony and have striking acidity that calls to mind Sauvignon Blanc. Or is it just that it gets blended with Sauvignon Blanc, so we get confused? To add to the ball of confusion, given age, Sémillon gets those fun toasty and honeyed notes.
It has its idiosyncrasies, and yet it hides.
It takes cover behind the names Bordeaux and Sauternes . It masks itself in blends, botrytis, and oak…maybe Sémillon (also sometimes spelled without the accent over the e) WANTS to remain under the radar. Well, I’m blowing its cover. Sorry, Sémi, your time has come. Now take off your baggy wool sweater and strut your stuff.
I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to objectify it; it’s just more people should seek it out. This is my opinion, but you’re welcome to borrow it.
True, some of the most famed Sémillon-based wines are Sauternes, that lusciously sweet and ethereal nectar that gets its kick from noble rot. Those are another story. One I should write soon, probably.
But today I am looking at the dry Sémillon-based wines of the world.
Sémillon is mysterious in roots as it is in personality. It is similar to Sauvignon Blanc genetically, but they don’t seem to have a parent-child relationship. Its origins may be in Bordeaux’s Left Bank, or even the Entre-Deux-Mer, but confoundingly enough, it might be named for local pronunciation of St-Émilion, despite the fact that Semillon isn’t really cultivated there. But that is just a rumor.
I confess I likely tasted some of these far earlier than they would show best—although I’ve been told that during the first few years, they can be be great, then shut down until they are maybe 7. At least this is the lore of Hunter Valley.
Speaking of, shower wine pick? I’m going with the Andis Old Vines. Old vines because I like a wine from a vine with experience if it's gonna see me naked.
2019 Andis Wines Bill Dillian Old Vine Semillon
Andis is a perennial favorite of mine. Out of undersung Amador they also make a Barbera that makes my heartstrings go pling. But I’ll stick with the Semillon review right now. This Semillon would be a daytime robe. It is comforting, with plush apples and honey notes and the body of silk but its medium weight silk you want to wrap yourself in. But the acidity is acute, so you can get some work done while wearing it. It’s actually a robe that can translate from work-from-home robe to home dance party when the day is over and you are ready for fun robe, as it ends with flowery notes that invite you to party.