© by Sheral Schowe
If you were to guess where the largest single vineyard existed in the world, would you think of Napa Valley? Bordeaux? Maybe Spain, where there is more land under vine than in any country in the world? It is actually in Monterey, California. Not the town, but part of the agricultural lands originally owned by Mission San Antonio de Padua, nestled between the Chalone Mountains and Santa Lucia Highlands, called San Bernabe.
San Bernabe has become a viticultural monument of sorts, in its attraction to vineyard managers from around the world, for the study of an incredibly wide variety of soils, microclimates, and grape growing techniques. The property is so massive in size, a guide is an absolute requirement or the unsuspecting visitor could be swallowed up in an endless maze of vines. The vineyard is divided up into separate lots of grapes for individualized grape growing techniques. Many wines are created from these properties. One of the labels is Monterra. My favorite two varietal wines from Monterra are the Syrah and the Chardonnay.
Monterra Chardonnay is made with modern and traditional Burgundian-style techniques. The grapes are picked fully ripe for the most intense flavors which lean on the pineapple and tropical side. The wine goes through malolactic fermentation for additional flavors and texture, then aged in oak barrels for eight to twelve months before blending.]
The Syrah is fermented on the grape skins for six to seven weeks. This is a labor-intensive, Bordeaux technique used to extract the maximum amount of color and flavor, increasing the complexity and texture of the wine. The grapes from separate lots are kept in separate barrels, of French and American oak, and aged for twelve months. The best lots of wines are blended together for beautifully complex wine with concentrated, bold fruit flavors.
It would seem that all of this fuss and attention to detail would equate to a higher priced wine. In reality, Monterra wines are one of the best bargains in the market. Both the Chardonnay and the Syrah are available for $7.95 in Utah. I chose both of these wines for Community Nursing Services annual fundraising black-tie dinner on April 16. Fifty-seven tables of ten were treated to each of these wines. They were selected not only for their value, but for their food-pairing qualities. In addition to the intense fruit in each of these wines, there is also a fair amount of acid in the finish, which makes them much more food-friendly than other "bargain" selections.
April 17, 2001