By Cindy Rynning- Guest Blogger
One of my favorite endeavors is to discover a wine that’s new to me. Whether it’s from an off-the-beaten-track region, a winery of which I’m not familiar, or a varietal that I haven’t fully explored, the first taste is always an adventure. And recently, I had more than a few memorable tastes of four wines that I received from Scheid Family Wines’ District 7 label, sent as samples.
I was intrigued. The price points were in a budget-friendly range (all around or under $20) and the wines were cultivated in Monterey County, California, a region that’s garnering more recognition for producing wines of high quality. The patriarch of the Scheid family, Al, began his family winery operation in Monterey County in 1972. At first, all of its wine production was sold to other wineries. Now, it has morphed into a vibrant family business offering five distinct labels to the thirsty consumer: Scheid Vineyards, District 7, Metz Road, VDR, and Stokes’ Ghost.
The family is responsible for 11 estate vineyards covering 4,000 acres along a 70-mile stretch of the Salinas Valley, one that boasts a combination of various microclimates and soil composition. With the Gabilan Mountain Range to the east and the Santa Lucia Mountains to the west, grapes cultivated in the Salinas Valley thrive in a cool coast climate due to the influence of the Monterey Bay. Because of the cool-down effect, grapes tend to ripen more evenly and the growing season may last longer (in some vintage years, up to two months) than other wine regions. Grapes with this extra “hang time” develop intense fruit flavors, deep color, and “full varietal expression”.
The name, District 7, refers to an official regional designation. Of the 17 grape crushing districts in California, Monterey County is number 7. All of the estate vineyards are officially certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA), a verification of Scheid Family Wines’ “commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices” with their work to increase the quality of their wines while reducing the use of water, minimizing their carbon footprint, and moving forward with modern strategies to achieve sustainability. I was duly impressed with the palate profile of each wine I tasted.
District 7 2015 Chardonnay ($18) – Chardonnay lovers will relish each sip of this utterly delightful wine. 100% Chardonnay from cool climate estate vineyards boasted aromas of green apples, caramel, and a hint of oak; the wine was aged for 8 months in 30% new French oak. Lively acidity framed notes of tangy tropical fruit such as pineapple, pears, citrus, vanilla, and herbs. Bring on a flavorful salad, a host of appetizers (don’t forget the cheese platter!), or your favorite chicken dish for a more than satisfying pairing.
District 7 2015 Pinot Noir ($20) – Open a bottle of District 7 Pinot Noir and sip what these grapes from Monterey County have to offer. Mesmerizing aromas of strawberries, maraschino cherries, raspberries, and vanilla led to a palate that presented bright acidity and gentle tannic structure. Aged in 30% new French oak for 10 months, I explored flavors of juicy red berries, oak, and mocha. My scrumptious pairing was a roasted duck breast with sauce and a flavorful salad, but this wine will complement vegetarian fare, grilled salmon or pork tenderloin cooked to perfection.
District 7 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) – Two estate vineyards in southern Monterey County were optimal locations for the Cabernet Sauvignon in this wine. The Hames Valley Vineyard is found near the border of San Luis Obispo County and the San Lucas Vineyard is in the San Lucas AVA, a southern area of Monterey County that holds promise for Bordeaux varietals. Vanilla, blackberries, raspberries, and cherry aromas burst from the glass. Just-right acidity and powerful, yet smooth tannins provided a foundation for flavors of ripe fruit and a hint of spice. The finish was rich and broad. 25% of the Cabernet was aged in new American oak and 5% was aged in new Hungarian oak for 12 months. Fire up the grill and serve juicy burgers or make a hearty beef stew for pairing.