Yes they make killer wines in Contra Costa County

Yes they make killer wines in Contra Costa County

Wine country snobbiness is easy to fall victim to when you live in or close to Napa Valley or Sonoma County. Sure, the wines from there are mostly very well made and some of them are among the best in the world. But the excellence of Napa and Sonoma wines in no way cast a shadow on the rest of the wine regions in Northern California.

List of California A.V.A.’s – courtesy of California Association of Winegrape Growers

Through the connective power of social media – in this case, Instagram – I had the opportunity to meet with a relatively new winemaker who is making great wines from one of the newer California A.V.A’s – Lamorinda. Many Bay Area residents are familiar with “Lamorinda” as a geographic point of reference for the three communities of Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda. Possibly surprising to many, they grow grapes there.

Lamorinda AVA – courtesy of the Lamorinda Wine Growers Association

This winery, St. Romedius Wine, is the passionate pursuit of the husband and wife team of Robert and Milli Pintacsi who are making their wine in true garagiste style. Working out of a cooperative space with shared equipment, they are making some really interesting wines that reflect their respect for terroir and varietal. Robert was gracious enough to taste not only his bottled wines with me but allow me to sample recent vintages directly from the barrel.

At this time, St. Romedius has three wines in production, one white and two red. The white wine – scheduled to be released in two weeks and available for pre-order for only $18.00 – is a unique field blend of Muscat Canelli (25%) and Grenache Blanc (75%). The Muscat comes from Lamorinda while the Grenache Blanc comes from El Dorado County. Robert’s approach to winemaking is minimalist/non-interventionist for sure, and this wine is a perfect example of his approach: fermented with indigenous yeast; neutral oak barrels used; aged on lees for 6 months; bottled with no fining or filtering. This wine also pays homage to Robert’s Hungarian heritage and will be reminiscent of the types of dry wines made there.

The two red wine that I tried – both in bottle and barrel – are excellent wines. The first, from the 2016 harvest, is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel. Grapes are grown, harvested and fermented together rather than being blended together after fermentation as typically occurs with red blends. I found this wine to be nicely structured with plenty of acidity and tannins to balance out the fruit. In true small winery style, only 3 barrels were produced. Available for $29.00.

The second red wine – which is the very first one that Robert produced – is an unusual non-vintage red wine. Also a field blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, this wine is produced from grapes harvested in 2015 and 2016. This non-vintage red blend would pair nicely with many foods but I can also imagine it pairing nicely with a good book or some weekend binge-watching on Netflix between meals. Only two barrels produced. Available for $31.00.

As much as I love my Napa and Sonoma wines and wineries, I also really enjoy fighting the potential for wine snobbiness by trying wines from regions that might make the average wine consumer say “where the hell is that?” We have our pre-order in on the white blend and threw in a couple of non-vintage red blends into our order and I look forward to seeing what Robert and St. Romedius come up with in the future.

Irene Ingersoll

April 22, 2019

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