As winemaker for Freixenet USA’s Gloria Ferrer, Steven Urberg has years of success under his belt. Recognitions and accolades aside, embarking on a new wine project can be like starting over. However, for Steven embarking on his new project, WindVane, is like revisiting old friends.
“I’ve been working in these vineyards for twenty years and the wine is in my bones,” says Steven Urberg. “The ocean wind that blows in through the Petaluma Gap is what makes Carneros such a great terroir for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. When we talk about terroir, people usually think of soil but wind here is just as important to the character of the wines and I wanted to celebrate that.”
Steven began working harvest at Gloria Ferrer in 1996. In 2001, he returned as a full-time member of the winemaking team. With a scientific background, Steven has a keen understanding of the western Carneros terroir and how it manifests in the grapes. WindVane wines are crafted from grapes grown on the windiest, steepest, and rockiest areas of the 335 acres of estate vineyards. The mountains provide altitude, shallow rocky soil, and shade from the intense afternoon sun, while funneling the intense ocean breezes directly into the vineyards. These conditions produce grapes with intense character.
WindVane is not a side-project to Steven’s work as winemaker at Gloria Ferrer. The wines have a separate identity are made with the utmost intention. According to Steven, “Crafting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is an exercise in balance. WindVane was created to explore this balance.” He hopes you will find WindVane wines to be expressive in both elegance and power.
I had the pleasure to have lunch with Steven in Dallas a few months ago and taste the new WindVane vintages. I was impressed with the depth, texture, and expression of the wines. Here are my notes on the three wines I enjoyed:
2015 WindVane Estate Chardonnay Carneros USA ($40): Medium lemon with gold hues; medium+ aromas baked apples, peaches, crème brulee, lemon curd, pineapple, baking spice, butterscotch, buttered toast, and cedar notes; lively palate with layers of flavors and textures, lots of spice with a hint of whipped honey and fruit, medium+ acidity adds depth and balanced in this full body wine, judiciously oaked for maximum enjoyment, long finish. I am hard to please when it comes to California Chardonnays; this wine was impressive.
2015 WindVane Estate Pinot Noir Carneros USA ($45): Medium+ ruby; Medium aromas of black cherries, blackberries, tea, damp underbrush, and baking spice notes; light on the palate with nice length, silky, meets palate initially with fruit notes quickly followed by dusty earth and black pepper, medium acidity and tannins, medium finish; allowing a few years of age on this wine will be quite rewarding.
2014 WindVane Estate Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros USA ($80): Medium ruby, medium aromas of black cherry, blackberry, currants, black tea, black pepper, dried rose petals, baking spices, black currant leaves; elegant yet bold, attention grabbing but not in your face, if you like bigger Pinot Noirs this is your wine, if you prefer a bolder red such as Cabernet this is also your wine, medium+ body, medium+ acidity and tannins, great structure, well-balanced, drinkable now but with age it will continue to integrate into a stellar wine…its on its way.
I encourage you to visit WindVane’s web site to learn more about the winery and order yourself some of these lovely wines.