When I was first introduced to Onward Wines, I was intrigued by the thought of three wines made from Malvasia Blanca, as I thought of how to approach a piece on unique wines for weekend brunching. I love Malvasia, and there is really none to speak of in the US – save this little patch of land in Contra Costa County.
Further investigation in to Faith Armstrong Foster’s wines, however, revealed wines that are expressive of terroir in its purist form, quality, uniqueness, and a sense of place in every glass.
Onward 2015 Pétillant Naturel, Malvasia Bianca, Capp Inn Ranch, Suisun Valley
Beginning with the beguiling Pétillant Naturel, made from Malvasia Bianca, the Onward selections express freshness that can often get lost in the shuffle. Pet-Nat, a fun, rustic take on sparkling wine, captures bubbles the old fashioned way. Bottling these wines before primary fermentation occurs, without the addition of a dosage or yeast, Malvasia Blanca makes a natural muse for this style.
With nutty Marzipan, hazlenut and lychee notes, complemented with Asian pear and honey, the Pet Nat holds peaches and brioche, with ah hint of ripe tuscan melon. There is a natural salinity coming fro the Malvasia, and a pinch of citrus zest to keep it fresh.
This Pét-Nat is floral and fruity, but refreshingly bone-dry. The opening aromatics are like sticking your nose in a fermentation vat, with yeasty brioche notes and lively youthful freshness. To follow are notes of night blooming jasmine, citrus blossom, melon rind, warm Kaffir lime scones with preserved lemon…and a refreshing hint of sea air….and did I mention soft tiny delicate bubbles!
Onward 2014 Malvasia Bianca, Capp Inn Ranch, Suisun Valley
Onward 2013 Pinot Noir, Hawkeye Ranch, Redwood Valley
The often forgotten Redwood Valley, deep in the forests of Mendocino County, is an interesting growing region. With cooler than average temperatures, dense Redwood groves and chilly damp fog, it’s a challenging place to grow any wine – let alone pinot noir. But grow it does, and this example is a beautiful expression of cool climate pinot noir.
Pale and clear, wild strawberries are front and center with bright hibiscus and Queen Anne cherries. Juicy pomegranate and rhubarb are rounded out with lingering methol and forest floor notes.
Onward 2014 Carignane, Casa Roja Vineyard, Contra Costa County
i love Carignane. It is one of those lost grapes of California, and was, at one point, a huge part of the old Italian field blends that helped to solidify the commercial wine industry in the state. Often overlooked, Contra Costa is a prime growing area for Carignane as well as Zinfandel.
This inky dark wine jumps out of the glass with acid and spice notes, with rich blackberry notes. The palate is juicy plum flesh, boysenberries, zesty hibiscus and fresh cranberry over a layer of black berry cobbler. The rich blue and black fruit and tempered by brilliant acidity that keeps you wanting more. You can just see the sneak attack by the field blend friends Mourvedre and Malvasia Nero hiding in there.
Onward doesn’t have a tasting room, but you can usually find Faith cruising around Napa or parts north seeking exceptional fruit. The wines are available online and and select retailers and are priced beween $20 (Malvasia) and $40 (Pinot Noir) roughly.
A very special thank yuo to Charles Communications and Onward Wines for a wonder lives tasting, and these amazing wines! I will definitely be adding these to my regular rotation of enjoyment.
For more of Faith’s wines, check out Farmstrong, hand crafted blends.