2018 Brick & Mortar Vin Clair
Region: Yountville AVA < Napa Valley < California
Grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming; multiple alluvial bands of both sedimentary soils and clays along with volcanic outcrops; made like a Champagne base wine, with Chard and Pinot picked on the same day and pressed together, settled via gravity, then co-fermented in neutral barrels; bottled unfined/unfiltered with <10ppm So2; 11.5% ABV; 195 cases
Winemaker: Matt + Alexis Iaconis
We’ve been searching long and hard for a Napa wine that checks all of the Rock Juice boxes. Here it is: Brick & Mortar, a tiny project started in 2011 by a young couple, Matt and Alexis Iaconis. Matt, a native Californian, went to UC Davis to play football and study Atmospheric Science (he wanted to be an astronaut). But an intro course on winemaking changed everything for him. After college, he worked at wineries here and abroad, eventually working with the Antinori family in Napa Valley – a connection that enabled him to get the organic fruit he needed to make his own wine. The grapes for this wine come from the Block House Vineyard (originally planted in 1836), one of the oldest in Napa Valley. With its close proximity to the bay, Block House is a relatively cool growing site, usually blanketed with cold wet fog until early afternoon, allowing sufficient hang time for phenolic ripeness while maintaining freshness and acidity.
We love the Vin Clair, a blend of Pinot (macerated white) and Chardonnay, an unusual combo the couple stumbled upon when they tasted the Pinot Noir and felt it might be a bit astringent on its own, then played with Chardonnay to round it out. It’s a stunning wine, bringing the best of both grapes. You mostly feel the Pinot in the texture and a kiss of tannin, as well as in the distinct red berry notes. But it is the Chardonnay that shines brightest, with explosive lemon, nectarine and green apple flavors and intense acidity. So much character and depth in a tight, low ABV (11.5%) package. Napa, I take it back, you are capable of producing clean wines with elegance and restraint. More like this please!