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We have yet to focus our attention on Mendocino County exclusively but Saturday we will remedy our oversight. Specifically, we will visit two wineries; one in the Potter Valley that goes by the unlikely name of Naughty Boy and the other from the Ridgewood Ranch, former home of Seabiscuit. No surprise, the latter winery is named Seabiscuit Ranch.
In the late 90’s Jim and Emjay Scott planted the Naughty Boy Vineyards to Pinot Noir grapes and are currently producing nearly 500 cases a year. The winery was featured in an article in Savor Wine Country magazine to introduce the Potter Valley appellation through which flow the East Fork headwaters of the Russian River. Seabiscuit Ranch vineyards are located on a southern portion of the original Ridgewood Ranch located just 20 miles from the Mendocino coastline. It was here that the legendary Seabiscuit was retired in 1940 shortly after climaxing his career by setting the track record at Santa Anita.
2006 Naughty Boy Chardonnay, Potter Valley
The source of Naughty Boy Chardonnay comes from a small vineyard owned and farmed by Larry and Danny Thornton in the Potter Valley appellation. Here at the Russian River’s headwaters are excellent growing conditions of ancient mineral-rich soils coupled with warm days and extremely cold nights that ultimately instill in the wine complex flavors of fruit and spice. Winemaker Greg Graziano uses the traditional Burgundian method of barrel fermenting in French oak to handcraft this lush Chardonnay
2006 Seabiscuit Ranch Chardonnay, Mendocino
The grapes for this wine came exclusively from a terraced hillside vineyard along Reeves Canyon, part of the original Ridgewood Ranch, Seabiscuit’s retirement home. Its gravelly soils and proximity to cooling influence of winds and fog that intrude off the Pacific Ocean make a distinctive style of fruit that defines the Chardonnay. Delightfully crisp, and rich, this wine was fermented in small American oak barrels for ten months, following malolactic fermentation. The secondary fermentation provided a buttery elegance to complement the clean ripe fruit flavors of green apples and pears.
2006 Naughty Boy Dolcetto, Potter Valley
The Dolcetto grape of Piedmont, Italy is translated as the “little sweet one” which may be a euphemism for its more commonly acidic and austere imported bottlings. Seldom seen in Calif., a 5 year old, 3 acre planting in Talmage yielded this 1st bottling by Greg Graziano, also well versed in Italian varietals It is medium bodied with a spicy, lush perfume and features red plum and cherry intermingled with sweet herbal and Zinfandel-like pepper notes. Dolcetto is an excellent wine for Italian food pairings. Only 178 cases were produced.
2005 Naughty Boy Pinot Noir, Potter Valley
Although the attempt is made by wine maker Greg Graziano to recreate the Burgundian style, this Pinot simply can’t help reflecting the lush fruit for which California is famous. This wine received a 4-star rating from the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa: “Spicy and vibrant, Earthy with aromas and flavors of rose petal, dry cherry, strawberry and herbs. Fresh acidity.”
2005 Seabiscuit Ranch Merlot, Mendocino
The wine is smooth and inviting in the fruit-forward style showing plums, cherries and blackberries. Red fruit flavors predominate, balanced with good acidity and a soft mouth-filling silky finish. It was aged for sixteen months in small oak barrels after a small amount of Cabernet (16%) was blended-in to provide ripe fruit flavor complexity.
2004 Seabiscuit Ranch Trifecta, Mendocino
This “meritage” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc shows soft tannins in a rich, fruit forward style with a gentile cloaking of spicy oak. The wine has a deep purple color, concentrated ripe fruit aromas and flavors, and a medium to robust body. It has soft tannins and is ideal for drinking now, yet will benefit from further bottle aging.