The term garagiste entered the wine lexicon about 10 or 15 years ago, mostly because of some enterprising small producers in Bordeaux who were bucking the tradition and winemaking styles of the large established Chateaux. Since these winemakers rose to prominence, with a little help from Robert Parker, the term has gone from an originally derogatory or at least disdainful label to one that is useful for describing all manner of small winemakers around the world, some of whom actually do make wine in their garages.
While certainly not the first to make wine in a garage John and Mike Tierney might be credited with helping to "perfect the art form" in California as it were. Originally known as the Taft Street Garage Winery, what is now a thriving family winemaking business in Forestville, California, started as two student brothers experimenting in their garage in between classes and research at UC Berkeley. Inspired by a local business that helped home winemakers source grapes, John and Mike and a few friends gradually got more and more serious, to the point at which, in the late 1970's they were producing about 1000 gallons of wine each year with a loyal following of both wine drinkers as well as volunteer workers.
The winery eventually became so popular that an irate neighbor turned them in to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms in an attempt to get them arrested for illegally liquor manufacturing. The participation of several families in the winemaking process helped the brothers skirt around the regulatory limit of 200 gallons per year per family, but the winery had reached a crucial point and the Tierney brothers were faced with a choice. Without quite knowing what they were getting into, but knowing that they loved what they were doing, the brothers moved the operation to Forestville, dropped the "Garage" from their name, and never looked back.
Today, 24 years later, Mike Tierney and Mike Martini (who was one of the co-founders of the winery back in the Seventies) still manage Taft Street Winery. They produce a large portfolio of wines from Sonoma County including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, as well as this Chardonnay.
This wine is a blend of two undisclosed vineyards in the Russian River Valley appellation. It was partially barrel fermented and partially steel tank fermented, and only a portion of the wine went through secondary, malolactic fermentation. After fermentation the wine was aged in oak (66% French, 34% American) for six months before bottling. 2256 cases made.
A medium gold color in the glass, this wine has a soothing nose of buttercream, lemons, and Nivea (or cold cream). In the mouth it has a nice balance with good acid and primary flavors of lemon zest, minerals, a bit of melon, and a bit of butterscotch. The wine is not too creamy, nor too oaky, and finishes nicely. If this is the direction that California Chardonnay is heading in the 21st century, I'm going to be drinking a lot more of it.
This is a nice all around food wine thanks to the restraint on the secondary fermentation, and would pair nicely with grilled calamari with arugula.
Overall Score: 8.5/9
How Much?: $12
This wine is available for sale online.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
Warm Up: Tannins I'll Drink to That: Winemaker Andy Erickson Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 17, 2016 Vinography Images: Bright Emerald Warm Up: Hermitage I'll Drink to That: Winemaker Jean-Louis Chave World's Greatest Sommelier Success Stories Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 4/17/16 I'll Drink to That: Christian Seely of AXA Millésimes A Rescued Vintage: 2013 Burgundy Highlights from La Paulée
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune