Fetzer celebrates 50 years with new wines

Fetzer Vineyards in Mendocino County is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and recently held a media day at its Hopland headquarters to announce some new sustainability initiatives and introduce a new wine brand. There were also opportunities to taste a number of wines from the Fetzer and Bonterra portfolios, as well as some sister brands. For a rundown I wrote for Wines & Vines about the media event, “Cultivating Change,” click here. For notes on some of the wines, read on.

The new brand is called Fringe Collective, and the first wines are scheduled to be released in October. The aim is to source grapes from marginal sites, where the vines really struggle. Production of each wine will be small, just a few hundred cases.

The 2016 Seafall Chardonnay ($40) is from Heintz Vineyard, in the western part of the Sonoma Coast AVA. It’s rich and fleshy, with flavors of lemon curd and ginger, supported by vibrant acidity. However, I did find it just a touch too high in alcohol (the stated content is 14.5 percent).

The 2016 Rockbound Pinot Noir ($60), from old blocks at Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley, is a very pretty wine, with strawberry and cherry flavors, a hint of violets, and nice freshness.

Next up will be a cab from Coombsville in the Napa Valley. It’s bottled, but we didn’t taste it.

There were also some really interesting wines from the Bonterra portfolio, which features wines made from organically and biodynamically farmed grapes. The 2017 Bonterra Young Red ($16) is a fun, exuberant wine that should be served with a bit of a chill. It’s made from juice that’s pressed from grapes used for the rosé, with some malbec blended in to adjust the color. A gulpable wine for warm weather.

The 2016 Bonterra Elysian Collection Merlot ($25) comes from the winery’s home vineyard, known as McNab Ranch. It offers lively black cherry and spice, with nice richness and concentration. Winemaker Jeff Cichocki says this version was a barrel selection, but it might become a selection of the best vineyard blocks in the future. “We already know what blocks we like,” he said.

Also excellent were two top-end Bonterra wines, the 2014 The McNab ($50) and the 2013 The Butler ($50). The former is a cab-based blend from the biodynamically farmed McNab Ranch that’s lively, structured and concentrated, with black cherry fruit, a hint of anise and some oak spice. It’s not made every year; they skipped the 2015 vintage, for example. The latter is a syrah-based blend from the Butler Ranch Vineyard, which is at 2,200-foot elevation and surrounded by woodlands. It’s structured yet approachable, with roasted strawberry, a hint of bay leaf, a slight floral note and nice freshness. The wine shows its woodsy location.