2016 Irene El Dorado Red
Region: El Dorado County < CA
Grapes: 80/20 Mourvedre/Syrah
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming; volcanic soil over decomposed granite; 100% whole cluster fermentation, pump overs/ punch-downs and aged in neutral oak for seven months; bottled unfined/unfiltered with 30ppm added so2; 11.8% ABV; 220 bottles
Winemaker: Brian & Katelynn Jessen
Irene is a 2 year-old bootstrapped project from thirty-something couple Brian + Katelynn Jessen. Bryan, originally from Monterey County, studied wine business and viticulture/enology at Sonoma State at Santa Rose JC, then worked around Italy, New Zealand, and finally as cellarmaster at Copain Wines before starting his own project with wife Katelynn. They both still have day jobs (he sells vine cuttings and rootstock to nurseries, she’s an artist), but their passion is Irene, their own label, named in honor of Brian’s mother, who passed away when he was young. Brian makes the wine at a custom crush facility in Healdsburg, and Katelynn paints the labels. Like most upstart Cali producers, they don’t own vineyards, so the biggest challenge is sourcing good, organic fruit. But somehow they managed to secure Syrah from Fenaughty Vineyard and Mourvèdre from Neighbors Vineyard, both well-regarded, practicing organic, higher-elevation sites northeast of Placerville in El Dorado County, both with that glorious volcanic soil. They pick and bottle earlier for this wine, to bring out the freshness and keep it light. These guys are one of my favorite discoveries of 2017, and this wine is incredible: clean and bright Cali glou glou that tastes of wet earth and vibrant red fruit and baking spice, then opens up to reveal more Violet, floral notes. Pair with roasted squash salad w/ dandelion, bacon + pecans (tested with Suzanne Goin’s recipe!); pasta with mushroom Bolognese sauce, or anything mushroom. Or best of all, a roaring fire and someone to snuggle!