Christie Kiley on September 14, 2015 0 Comments It is easy to love a wine with a good story behind it–a story which romances you and inspires. For most of those in the winemaking industry, this is a story of romance. However, the reality of it is not what many of us see in the movies. Sure, rolling hillsides and mountainscapes of vineyards might make the story line. But it is not all about scenery and vineyard-side lunches in the sun with a glass of wine and the perfect picnic. Those who choose to make winemaking their lot in life have a close relationship with Mother Nature and it is not always bright sunshine which brings the wine of life flowing into our glasses and onto our tables. It is about learning to live with her and even learning from her. It is about being in harmony with Mother Nature and making the best of what she blesses you with. Stonestreet Wines of Sonoma For generations, vine-growers have planted vineyards high in the mountains. These were some of the few crops which could survive in such conditions while the lower, fertile valleys could be used for food crops. Those days have long since passed, but the prospect of wineries planting their vineyards in higher elevations and in poor soils has not changed. Stonestreet Estate is no exception to this tradition. Their vineyards sit between 400 and 2,400 feet above sea level in the Mayacama Mountain Range, high above the famed Alexander Valley in ancient volcanic soils. The elevation makes for a variety of climates from plot to plot with maritime influences from the Bay area just some 30 miles away. To make use of the varying terrain, the vineyards have been planted on each and every face possible, including ridges, valleys and peaks. The estate makes up 5,100 acres, but only 900 are planted with 235 different blocks. Their vineyards have been recognized as the most extensive and largest mountain vineyards in the world. When it comes to growing practices–including when and how the vines are harvested–the vineyard team of Stonestreet takes a different approach for each of their plots. Each season, the team makes sure to walk the vineyards plot by plot. Each varietal is tasted and tested for their individual character and maturity level to know when each is ready to be picked. This sort of management is a complex and arduous, but the results are worth the effort. About the Winemaker As women seem to have long since smashed through that glass-ceiling in the wine industry, I thought I’d spend some time telling you about the notable winemaker of Stonestreet, Lisa Valtenberg. Lisa was a born natural when it came to sensory sensitivity, having an acute awareness of smells even as a young girl. It was a friend of her mother who advised her to put this gift to good use. This is what encouraged Lisa to go on to study wine. She studied at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and later on went to study abroad at the University of Adelaide for international wine marketing. In 2000, Lisa experienced her first harvest back in Paso Robles, California, and then went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a minor in Viticulture in 2001. Lisa’s attraction to work with Stonestreet was mainly due to the diversity of their viticulture and the appealing challenge the mountain estate promised. Lisa, being a person who always seemed to be outdoors, found that working with this winery combined her love of viticulture with her desire to be in a unique environment. The Wines of Stonestreet The mountainside vineyards grow a variety of grapes; Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. It is their location, climate and soils which really make for some noteworthy mountain wine. The Chardonnay that I have reviewed for you this week comes from Stonestreet’s Estate wines and is a blend from their premier vineyards. Though it is 100% Chardonnay, the blend is from special plots of Chardonnay grapes that the vineyard team has recognized for their best representation of their entire estate. This wine’s vines live about 1,800 feet above sea level. The vines are all over twenty years of age and grow facing southwest. Once the grapes have been hand-selected, they are 100% barrel-fermented with their native yeasts. Aging is later carried out in 47% new French oak for ten months. The 2012 Stonestreet Estate Chardonnay is sure to enhance your autumn Chardonnay collection. This wine is on the brighter side and showcases the minerality picked up from the Bay breezes. These breezes enhance the citrus elements in the wine, including mandarin, lemon zest and candied orange peel with stone fruit. The finish is nothing short of lovely with a mouthwatering finish that’ll have you craving another sip. It will make a nice pairing for a weekend lunch of pork with fresh herbs and new potatoes or with a seasonal salad of roasted butternut squash, apples, shallots and arugula with a maple-cider vinaigrette.