Bodega Rancho is one of those precious little California wine labels that you just want to squeeze and cradle in your hands and hold on to for your own. From its bucolic little tasting room in Occidental, arguably the cutest little town in Northern California, to its beautiful rustically-designed label, it seems to have maxed-out in the cuteness category. Plus, as an added bonus to pique my interest, they are farming grapes on the edge of their ability to ripen.
I heard about Bodega Rancho from one of Lily-Elaine Hawk’s tweets if not for which I may have never happened across it. My wife and I happened to be heading for Bodega Bay the following weekend and we were able to make a short side trip to Occidental to Bodega Rancho’s little tasting room that they share with a winery called Boheme. The wineries are owned by brothers Kurt and Derek Beitler. Derek and Kurt both make their wine over in Napa at Caymus where they have some familial connections. Chris manages the vineyards and makes the wine for the Boheme label and Derek manages and makes the wine for the Bodega Rancho label. All the wines are well made and stylistically cool climate.
According to the Beitlers, the Que Syrah vineyard is possibly the coolest-climate vineyard in all of California, check out my Tripline map to see how close it is to the coast. The Northern California fog blankets the vineyard in the morning and then eventually yields to sun in the afternoon. Ripening grapes here is a challenge that requires a lot of foliage trimming so that the grapes reach maximum sun exposure.
The wine: The Que Syrah Syrah has some textbook cool-climate aromas of black olive, minerality and bright berry aromas. There’s a hint of baking spices and vanilla on the nose which probably has to do with the oak treatment, and has the undesired effect of masking the fruit a bit. The palate is bright with a large amount of acidity. But the finish on this wine is what really gives it away as a seriously cool-climate Syrah. The acidity is acutely bright, so much so that it makes me think this wine could stand to sit for a few years to calm down a bit. Full disclosure: I love it, but I could see a consumer who is used to softer wines being a little shocked at this finish. This ain’t no Merlot. It’s got a serious lift of acidity that makes me think of less-than-ripe blackberries.
As you can tell, I loved this wine but in a perfect world I would have actually liked to taste how this wine would have been with a bit less new oak. It was made in 100% French Oak (30% new) and I wonder if it would have developed more of a classically French style with neutral oak. Those baking spices that I got on the nose might dissipate a bit to allow the fruit to really sing. That being said, I’m no winemaker and my guess is that the Beitler’s thought this wine needed the oak to soften it a bit. All in all, this is a special wine and certainly a winery to watch in California.
And, if you ever need a dose of perfectly pastoral Northern California, get to Occidental, and stop in to taste at their Cellar Door tasting room. You too will covet the experience.