Old world style wines

Wanting to impress my winery-spoiled sister visiting from Napa, we ventured over to Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery in San Martin, where the most heavenly expression of Rhone style wine is made.

We were greeted by Kim and Todd Engelhardt, the friendly winemakers. Like many winery owners, they split the duties. Todd farms, while Kim takes care of the business end and they both make the wine.

Specializing in all Rhone varietals, their five acres comprise two vineyards. The white vineyard includes: viognier, marsanne, roussanne, grenache blanc and picpoul blanc. The red vineyard contains grenache noir, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault.

We sampled a vertical tasting of their two, proprietary white blends, called Lion’s Share.

The 2013 Lion’s Share ($23), a blend of four grapes with 50 percent viognier, is an aromatic pleasure with a creamy mouthfeel and a long finish.

In contrast to the 2013, the 2014 Lion’s Share ($24) is a blend of five grapes. The extra varietal in the 2014 is picpoul (meaning lip-stinger in French) and the viognier is reduced to 25 percent. The picpoul grape, tart and acidic, provides a nice balance to the viognier fruit. This younger wine is bright and citrusy—a delightful little gem.

Lion Ranch wines are made in the Old World, European style. The grapes are harvested before they become overly ripe, before the sugar content gets too high, leading to more elegant, lower alcohol wines, hovering around 14 percent.

Duly impressed, we’ll both be back soon.

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