A Visit With MattRorick (3/27/12)
I discovered MattRorick's ForlornHope wines w/ his Ribolla at last July's FriuliFest. He's a winemaker who is very
passionate about obscure/off-beat varietals...wines that are a "forlorn hope". He makes some very interesting wines
and all that I have tasted thus far made a strong impression on me. He makes his wines at the TenbrinkWnry facility
in the SuisunVlly of SolanoCnty. Not exactly a prestigious growing area, but the rent is priced right.
I had a free day on Tuesday, so asked Matt if I could do a visit. We tried most all his wines that are in barrel.
Because we were mostly talking, the notes are not very detailed.
1. F-H Torrontes 2011: Lovely floral aromatics; lean/tart/tangy minerally/floral flavor; not the coarsness
or the earthiness of most SA versions. From SilvaspoonsVnyd/Lodi.
2. F-H Verdelho 2011: Still fermenting slightly. Bit cloudy & lightly gassy. Very attractive aromatics of
floral/peach blossoms w/ good minerality; tart/crisp/zippy floral notes w/ some stony/earthy mineral undertones
and slight tangy/metallic aftertaste. DeWittVnyd/Amador.
3. F-H CheninBlanc 2011: This is Matt's first effort w/ CB. From MendoCnty grapes. Quite flowery/fruity
aromatics w/ slight earthiness. Light/tart floral/fruity/spicy light earthy flavor. A pretty/zippy/bright CB.
Made w/ little skin contact.
4. F-H RibollaGialla 2011: From GeorgeVare's Napa vnyd. Strong fruity/spicy somewhat peppery nose; bigger/
rounder/lusher fairly tart somewhat peppery/spicy flavor w/ slight earthiness. Quite a nice Ribolla.
5. F-H Gewurztraminer RRV 2011: Made w/ skin contact. Lovely perfumed quite spicy GWT aromatics; dry bit austere
very spicy/GWT/floral bit hair oil rather Alsatian flavor w/ slight earthiness; maybe like an AltoAdige Traminer.
6. F-H Tokai Friuliano 2011: Harvested at 18Brix. Slight flowery/spicy rather earthy/mineral/chalky nose; very
tart/lean/austere dry slight floral rather mineral/earthy flavor.
7. F-H Alvarelho 2010: Strong grapey/spicy/cinammon slight earthy quite fragrant/lush nose; bit earthy/dusty
rather grapey/lush quite spicy/cinammon/aromatic flavor w/ fair tannins. From SilvaspoonsVnyd/Lodi
8. F-H Miraflores MilAmours (Portugese varieties) 2010: Some earthy rather fragrant/spicy/briary/grapey slight
licorice/pungent fairly perfumed nose; softer spicy/fragrant/grapey slight Port-like/chocolaty/briary bit earthy
flavor. A bit like some of the Duouro dry reds but more restrained & balanced.
9. F-H PetiteSirah TenbrinkVnyd 2010: > 15%. Very strong ripe/chocolaty some peppery/earthy nose; fairly soft
rather rich/ripe bit chocolaty/blackberry light peppery/earthy fairly tannic flavor; good aromatics and not as oafish
as many Calif PS's.
10. F-H PetiteSirah TenbrinkVnyd 2011: 23.5 Brix, 11.9%. Strong perfumed/aromatic/blackberry/licorice bit more
earthy/peppery nose; bit tarter/leaner rather perfumed/blackberry/peppery/spicy/PS fairly tannic flavor; lovely
aromatics and will be a great PS.
11. F-H StLaurent RicciVnyd/Carneros 2011: From a tiny 15 gal barrel. Fairly perfumed classic earthy StLaurent
some spicy/cinammon nose; rather rich/structured somewhat earthy bit grapey/chocolaty/spicy flavor. Last harvest,
someone snuck into RicciVnyd and made off w/ nearly all the StLaurent crop. Since the theives obviously can't market
a StLaurent, they probably thought they were getting some primo Carneros Pinot. Now they're probably wondering like
hell why their Pinot doesn't smell/taste like Carneros Pinot. "Damn....we ain't gonna steal those crappy Ricci Pinot
grapes this year!!!" Whatta shame...this is probably the 2'nd best StLaurent ever made in the world. The F-H '10
probably being the greatest one.
12. F-H Barbara Amador 2011: From AnnKramer's ShakeRidgeVnyd near SutterCreek (not ShenandoahVlly). About 13.6%.
Whole cluster fermentation. Quite spicy/aromatic berry/peppery light earthy/meaty/sausage varietally correct Barbera
nose; very tart/acid spicy/peppery/berry/meaty light earthy flavor; one of the most authentic Barbera d'Asti Barberas
I've had from Calif. Almost salty on the palate from the acid. Quite bracing & needs food.
13. F-H Albarino Madeira 2010: This is a new project for Matt. He took a barrel of the Silvaspoons Albarino
and fortified it and is leaving it outside subject to the vagaries of the weather. Seems pretty close to dry.
The alcohol was pretty dominant on the nose at this point. Clearly a project for the long haul. I, of course, have
followed it from the very start.
And a wee BloodyPulpit:
1. I discovered MattRorick's F-H wines when he cropped up on an e-mail list as we were organizing last July's
FriuliFest. Queried Jill about him, took a look at his WebSite (ForLornHopeWines.com), and was immediately sucked
in by what he was doing. Ordered a mixed case and they came last Fall. My group was equally impressed.
Matt makes his wine at the TenbrinkWnry in SuisunVlly of SolanoCnty. Same facility that's used by AbeSchoener's
ScholiumProject. He uses some skin contact in making his whites, but they don't strike me as eccentric as some
of Abe's wines can be.
I'm pretty impressed by Matt's wines across the board. The whites have a lot of acidity and a strong minerality
to them....not the tutti-frutti character of some Calif whites. The reds are pretty big/rich wines, but not particularly
alcoholic and show good balance to them w/o being strident. I particularly like what he does w/ the Tenbrink PS.
I've tasted a number of SuisunVlly reds over the yrs and had not been impressed. They often seemed to have a sort
of soft/soupy character that I didn't find very compelling. His '06 MrT'sVnyd PS was a real eye-opener for me. I
described it as the closest thing to a young Ridge YorkCreek '71 that I'd yet tasted...high praise indeed. The
just-released '07 version seemed nearly of that stature. To my mind, SuisunVlly is no longer a growing area to blow
After we'd tasted thru the wines and did the Madeira, I retreated to my car and pulled out a btl of the Guisti
Viscola to share w/ Matt. The cherry wine from TheMarche made w/ cherries & LaCrima di Morra d'Alba. An absolutely
delicious wine that I love very much. Matt seemed quite impressed with it. Like me, he questioned the 12.5% on the
label, so sent a sample off to be tested. Came back that it measure out at...12.7%. So the label was right. So...
who knows....maybe sometime down the road there will be a SuisunVlly Viscola. Talk about a "forlorn hope".