Vine & Dine

River Run Vintners

wine glassIt’s time to start thinking about which wines will take center stage at our holidays—be it to serve with dinner or to give as a gift. I highly recommend this delightful wine I came across recently: River Run’s Carignane 2012 ($25).

Sometimes known as the “forgotten grape,” Carignane wine is not always easy to find, even though this grape variety is one of the most widely planted in the world. But expert winemaker and winery owner J.P. Pawloski is making some really beautiful Carignane, from a vineyard on the San Andreas Fault south of Hollister.

“Dry farmed, the vineyard is a mixture of granite and limestone which brings the ideal acid and pH values to the wine, and produces the most flavorful Carignanes I’ve ever tasted,” Pawloski says, and I would agree with him on that. What we have in this Carignane is a moderate-bodied wine with a delicate spicy bouquet, ample body and light tannins, which can be enjoyed with a wide variety of foods. Think turkey, meats and salmon. But sipping it solo is also an ideal way to simply enjoy a well-made wine and all its nuances.

Pawloski also makes Zinfandel, Syrah, a delicious late-harvest Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Merlot, and a blend of several different varietals which he calls Cote d’Aromas—all available now. This adventurous vintner also makes Négrette, another of those hard-to-find “forgotten grapes” which turns into a deep-purple nectar with a silky mouthfeel and deep tannin structure. I also tried Pawloski’s 2012 Tempranillo recently, which was also very impressive, but I think he’s sold out of it.

Started in 1978, this family-operated winery has built up a fine reputation, and produced an abundance of award-winning wines over the years. River Run wines are available in many local markets and restaurants. I recently had a glass of their superb 2010 Viognier at the Hollins House, and Pawloski sells this wine at his tasting room for only $15.

The winery is well worth a visit, but it’s open only a couple of times a year. Fortunately, there’s a Winter Open House coming up on Nov. 15 and 16. Contact the winery for more information. River Run Vintners, 65 Rogge Lane, Watsonville, 726-3112.

Passport Days

Passport Day comes around every three months, and the next one is Saturday, Nov. 15. It’s the day when you can visit participating wineries belonging to the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA) and taste for free—providing you have a Passport, which will cost you $45 and can be purchased at any winery. Passport Day takes place on the third Saturday of January, April, July and November. Of course, you can still visit various wineries if you are not participating in Passport, and simply pay the tasting fee at each winery. Info: 685-8464, or or [email protected]

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