Another Winning Winemaker Dinner for Tessier!
While Tessier has already squeezed out several successful winemaker dinners, that didn’t mean we were any less excited about Monday night’s offering at Hopscotch, an “upscale diner serving seasonally inspired cocktails and regional American food with Japanese sensibility in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.” Tempted by the cocktail menu, the crowd was in high spirits as the seatings began. And who doesn’t love a wine list that begins with the mantra “I will not drink bad wine”?
For the amuse, we enjoyed a spoonful of Hamachi poke, its sharp brininess emphasized by the crunch of green onion. It paired well with the crispness of the bubbly, the Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace, one of my go-to choices for a reasonably priced sparkling rosé.
With appetites whetted, we eagerly tucked into the grilled Corvina seabass and mountain yam brandade croquette. The flavor of the fish was subtle, with just a bit of salty skin still attached, and the potatoes were deliciously crusty. Their partner, the 2012 Tessier Saralee’s Vineyard Viognier, provided nice contrast with its beautiful floral and citrus notes, supported by stone fruits. It went especially well with the gremolata made with yuzu, an East Asian citrus similar to a grapefruit.
The next course was chicken liver mousse with pickled strawberries and frisee. Be still, my heart! The mousse was smooth perfection on toast, its earthy undertones and slight smokiness a fine match for the 2012 Tessier Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir with its cranberry, herbal notes and vibrant minerality. By the way, if you’ve never had pickled strawberries, as I hadn’t until this dinner, you are missing out. Fresh and tangy, they were also a nice match with the wine’s acidity.
And then there was duck confit. Oh, what a glorious duck it was, with several of my dining companions proclaiming it the best they’d ever had. Crispy on the outside, amazingly tender meat and served with chicory risotto with just the right amount of bite. The 2011 Tessier Saralee’s Reserve Pinot Noir certainly held its own, though, with its bright cherry, nutmeg, and hint of smoke. Moans of happiness could be heard across the dining room. Or maybe that was just me…
Somehow, there was still room for dessert. When presented with the flourless chocolate torte, it was almost too lovely to eat. But we somehow managed to scrape our plates, enjoying the decadent chocolate, maple ice cream, and candied pecans. Paired with the 2012 Tessier Fenaughty Vineyard Grenache, I wasn’t sure what to expect. (Typically, a dessert wine needs to be as sweet as or sweeter than the dessert.) However, the notes of walnut, vanilla crème, and cola made for a unique combination with our last course.
Another great evening with Tessier, everyone left happy and full…and eager for the next installment!
My heart is heavy from the news of Saralee McClelland Kunde’s passing this past Sunday. I first met her and her team at Lost Canyon Winery in 2006. A couple years later, when Lost Canyon was sold and I decided to make my own wine, I nervously drove up to ask if she would sell grapes to a small, not-yet-existent winery like Tessier. Even though she was the queen of Russian River Valley grapes, she was friendly and straightforward when she agreed to sell me my first three tons of Pinot Noir. With that, Tessier Winery was born! We worked with her up until the vineyard was sold, through the 2012 harvest.
Each year Saralee and her entire crew hosted a luncheon at her house, usually in January or February, where she invited all those who had bought Saralee’s fruit the past harvest. Each attendee brought a sample of the wine they made from that harvest, which meant it was only about four months in to the life of the wine. These were not finished products, rather, they were young and flawed.
The list of all the varietals and wineries that made them was long, sometimes coming in at over 50 wines. However, Saralee had the orchestration of the event down to an art: five wine glasses at each setting, and her team pouring the appropriate wine into the numbered glass. When ready, each representative stood and spoke about the harvest, the wines, statistics, and whatever else they wanted to share.
The lunch provided a nice chance to visit with Saralee after the circus of the harvest season. It also presented us an opportunity to meet other notable winemakers. Her buyers ran the gamut, from big names like Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Williams Selyem to small fries like me. Yet we were all treated with the same respect. I learned so much over the six times I attended, gaining perspective and confidence each year. I will always be grateful for the experience.
One of my other favorite memories of Saralee was talking to her on the phone to coordinate picks and talk grapes and visiting the vineyards with her. Each conversation was filled with her energy and passion for Russian River Valley grapes.
I am so glad I had the pleasure of connecting and working with her. I will treasure all of the Saralee’s Vineyard wines I have made, as her legacy will live on through the wine and what she taught me about viticulture. Let’s raise a glass to Saralee and the mark she made in the wine world!
Tessier Winery: A Woman’s Touch with Pinot Noir
Kristie Tacey was initially on a career path in biotechnology and in 2000 worked on the Human Genome Project. While living in the San Francisco Bay area, she developed at interest in wine and winemaking. After working as an assistant winemaker at the former Lost Canyon Winery in Oakland and later as part of the winemaking team at JC Cellars, she started her own label in 2009. She now is a Certified Specialist in Wine (CSW) and is an accomplished winemaker exhibiting a touch with Pinot Noir.
The name, Tessier, is the original French version of Kristie’s last name, Tacey. The Tessier label depicts a photograph through a microscope of yeasts budding which is a clever depiction since yeasts are the work horses in winemaking. The winery’s tag line is “Science as Art.”
I was impressed by both the 2010 and 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, and the 2012 offerings march in step. In 2012, Kristie added a Santa Cruz Mountains bottling. She also crafts a Russian River Valley Viognier from Saralee’s Vineyard and a Rosé of Grenache from Fenaughty Vineyard in the El Dorado area. A Morelli Lane Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley was added in 2013.
Tessier wines are available through the winery’s website at www.tessierwinery.com, with limited retail and restaurant distribution in the San Francisco Bay area. Tasting is by appointment. Kristie often pours the wines at Cuvée Wine Cellars in San Carlos (visit the website for dates).
14.2% alc., 60 cases, $37. Winemaker’s note: she also picked the grapes which led to several bee stings and a deeper appreciation for those who pick grapes on a regular basis! Pommard 4 and Dijon 115 clones. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. Very appealing nose with bright aromas of black cherry sprinkled with herbs and flowers, pomegranate, and almond. Soft in the mouth with the tasty essence of fresh black cherries, accented with notes of pomegranate juice, raspberry and smoky oak. The tannins are firm but balanced, the wine is fresh and generous, and the graceful finish has impressive length. The typical bright Santa Cruz Mountains acidity contributes verve to the wine. Needs a little more time for the oak to integrate, but hard to turn down now. Score: 91
14.1% alc., 150 cases, $37. Last vintage due to sale of the vineyard. Aged in 38% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Intense aromas of black cherry pie glaze, baking spices and sandalwood. The nose continued to pump out aromas over an hour sampling period. Juicy and crisp on the palate with bright Bing cherry flavor augmented with riffs of spice and cola. Comforting finesse and persistence without weight. A gorgeous wine that displays all the best features of Russian River Valley fruit without the overbearing fruit concentration that detracts from many bottlings from this area. Score: 94
We want to sincerely thank everyone who joined us at Tessier’s 4th Annual Release Party this past Sunday. It was a full house, and we all enjoyed the festive atmosphere of American Oak and the delectable appetizers. Plus, we were overjoyed by the positive feedback about our new wines. What a merry way to spend the afternoon—connecting with old friends and making new ones. Thank you all for your constant support!
2013 harvest came in like a tornado…fierce and fast! We began by bottling several 2012 wines—the Fenaughty Vineyard El Dorado Grenache, Saralee’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir–on the 5th and 6th of September.
We set our alarms for the wee hours of the following Saturday morning to make the trek to El Dorado to pick the 2013 Grenache. In our third year getting fruit from this vineyard, this was by far the earliest pick. We harvested at the end of October in 2011, at the end of September in 2012, and then this year the first week of September. Looks to be a trend.
When Ron Mansfield (grower and all-around-super-cool guy) greeted us at dawn, we were also met by the sight and smell of the smoke from the Yosemite fires. He told us that this was the first time he could see sign of the fires from his vineyard but gave his assurance they had not affected the grapes. This year’s Grenache crop is composed of smaller, more intense berries with less bunches. It promises to make the move into an amazing wine. As for our own journey, we hauled the fruit back to the winery, processed, foot stomped and put it into the cold room for a four-day cold soak. After two days, we bled off some of the juice to make a rosé, which should be divine. Imagine aromas of strawberry, raspberry and vanilla cream.
One week later, we harvested from a new vineyard, Saveria, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in the Corralitos area. Normally, the pick time there occurs in late September, but we picked on the 14th of the month. Working with Prudy Foxx, “the queen of Pinot Noir” in the Santa Cruz Mountains was a pleasure, and the Pinot Noir looked and tasted great. We went with three clones: 667 (which is spicy), 777 (earthy) and a little of the 115 (light and floral). The pick took a long time, not uncommon from our experience with Santa Cruz Mountains fruit, but we eventually got it to the winery, processed and moved it into the cold room to do a four-day cold soak.
The final harvest was four days later in the Russian River Valley with Dutton Ranch’s Morelli Lane Pinot Noir. Not surprisingly, this fruit came in slightly earlier than normal. However, as if harvest wasn’t hard enough, we had to be at the vineyard at 3:00 am for a night pick! We left the Bay Area at 1:30 am and arrived in complete darkness to make our way towards the bright lights of the vineyard and staging area. Seeing them lit up against the black sky was a pretty surreal experience. We purchased clone 115 and Martini from this vineyard and had the fruit back to the winery at 7:30 am for set up and processing. As with the other vineyards, we put the fruit in the cold room for a cold soak to intensify the color. One day later, we took off some of the juice from these bins to make a Pinot Noir rosé, another first for Tessier, which will be bottled in the spring and released thereafter.
All of these wines will soon be resting in their appropriate barrels and making their transformation into beautiful babies. 2013 looks like it will be a fantastic vintage and we can’t wait to share the results with you.
Kristie Tacey’s passion for Pinot Noir will branch out with two new vineyards this year. The first is Dutton Ranch: Morelli Lane. (Lost Canyon Winery fans may recall this was a flagship Pinot Noir vineyard for the Oakland winery.) Located in the southwestern section of Russian River Valley, the Green Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County. The fog and Goldridge soil impart a distinctive flavor profile on grapes grown there. Second up? The Saveria Vineyard and the opportunity to work with Prudy Foxx, a viticulture consultant in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She handpicked a vineyard in Corralitos, at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, which is another idyllic spot for Pinot Noir. This particular vineyard will mirror a lovely reflection of Tessier’s reserved and elegant winemaking style. We are also delighted to continue our partnership with Ron Mansfield, who meticulously grows the Fenaughty Grenache in El Dorado.
You’ve probably heard about good things and how they must come to an end. It is with great sadness that we share the news that the 2012 vintage will be the last time for Tessier making Saralee’s Vineyard wines. We will no longer be able to purchase the Pinot Noir and Viognier grapes, as the Kunde family sold to the Jackson family earlier this year. However, Saralee will always hold a special place in Kristie’s heart. Back in 2009, Saralee sold Tessier three tons of grapes from Trenton Station, clone 37, to make our very first vintage. The next year Tessier expanded to produce a blend of Trenton Station and Saralee Vineyards to make the extremely popular Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, along with our first Reserve Saralee’s Vineyard, clone 115. In 2011, the lineup was Saralee’s Vineyard and another Reserve, this one selected from the two best barrels from Saralee’s Vineyard, clone 115, which happens to be Kristie’s favorite. 2012 was the first and only year for a gorgeous Viognier from Saralee’s Vineyard. We will certainly miss getting grapes from this quality vineyard, as well as working with the Kunde family who provided Kristie with much encouragement and guidance. Most of these wines may be gone, but they leave behind barrels of beautiful memories.
Tessier will be featured at a winemaker dinner at Toast in Oakland next Tuesday, June 25th. This four-course meal, paired with five wines will highlight our newly released Viognier and Rosé of Grenache, as well as, our Grenache and Pinot Noirs. Toast recently remodeled their dining area, so come check out their new digs and our new releases. Besides, you’ll find this a tasty way to support local business! Please make your reservation for anytime that evening by calling Toast or going to their website. Be sure to let them know you will be participating in the Tessier wine dinner. The dinner is $70, not including tax and gratuity. Flights of Tessier wines will also be available this evening.
We look forward to raising a glass—and fork—with you soon!
Spring is in the air! The rain cooperated for all our cellar work that needed to get done this week. We were busy pre-filtering the wines prior to bottling on Wednesday — special shout out to Matt Smith for doing this for us. Then, on Thursday, we hand bottled 26 cases of Russian River Valley Viognier along with 13 cases of El Dorado Rosé of Grenache. Both of these are a first for Tessier. Kristie feels very proud of her new white and rosé wines. We hope that you will enjoy them too! Special thanks to Cuvée Wine Cellars, who let us use their equipment and labor to get the work done. Also, special thanks to Melanie Hartman for lending a hand on labeling these new wines. Tessier plans to release these wines in early April.