Founded in 1912 by Gaetano and Maria Testa, Italian immigrants from the town of Gallarate, northwest of Milano, Testa Vineyards is farmed by the current (4th generation and ridiculously lovely) Maria and her husband Rusty Martinsen. Maria's great great grandparents cleared their newly purchased land in Calpella, CA with the help of draft horses and the occasional dynamite stick, planted their vineyards and the rest is history. Just over one hundred years later, it's still the humbly amazing spot I imagine it must have been.
Highway 101 dissected the home ranch during the 60's and "Uncle Charlie's Block" was officially delineated from the rest of the property. The soil from the Yokayo series, well-drained sandy loam derived from parental sedimentary rock. Organic growing practices, old vines (between 65 and 80 years old), and "dry" farming (no irrigation), it is this roughly one-acre portion of the ranch that I am lucky enough to haul away and bottle as "Boaz."
Although Carignan isn't the most widely known of wine grapes, it happens to be one of the most widely planted throughout Mediterranean Europe. Regions like Priorat in Spain and the Languedoc-Rousillon of France are home to oceans of Carignan (or Cariñena, depending), however, the grape is typically utilized as a blending variety and rarely seen bottled as a single varietal.
Balance is crucial with Carignan and is difficult to come by. Age of vines is a critical factor, due the young vines' tendency to set a very large crop. Depth, concentration and intrigue come along only after years and years in the ground. Characteristically higher acidity, rustic, somewhat chunky tannin and general burliness can be difficult to tame. So I went down the road of fermenting the beautiful Testa fruit whole cluster, ie, no destemming. This lends a brighter, higher-toned aromatic profile, a mellowing of acidity and an all-around more delicate side to what might otherwise be a very muscular wine. Don't allow me to misrepresent the wine...it IS a big wine. Concentrated, with intense structure, it's just very well balanced by fresh acidity, florality and bright berry tones. It's a manly wine that's comfortably in touch with its feminine side.
Very little intervention in the cellar took place. No inoculations of any sort, no acid, no tannin, no water, no nada save for a touch of sulfur just after malolactic conversion. Unfined and unfiltered.
Those with a penchant for all things cassoulet...this is your wine. Seared duck with huckleberry gastrique also comes immediately to mind. Lamb tagine wouldn't be far off. Think rich and rustic and you'll be fine. Or just drink it on its own but be ready, one glass begs for another. (www.ruthlewandowskiwines.com/boaz)
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