Trini Amador III and his wife Lisa are accidental vintners.
Their winemaking odyssey began when they caught their son, Trini Amador IV, making wine in their garage when he was just 15 years old. One thing led to another, and today their Gracianna Winery in Healdsburg is a family affair.
The Amadors, along with assistant winemaker Christina Lopez, are behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Gracianna, 2016 Kiwi’s Blend, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.6%, at $28. This is a grassy sauvignon blanc with tangy fruit and a citrusy finish. It’s bright and lively, with crisp acid, and it’s edgy.
Trini Amador III said they’ve come a long way since his son’s first attempt.
“The wine was not very good,” he said. “In fact, Lisa said the best thing about his first vintage was that it poured well. We told him that if he was serious about making wine we would buy him some professional equipment, but there was a catch. He needed to get an internship.
As the story goes, a few months later their son asked them to buy $2,000 worth of equipment and their initial response was no. But Amador IV argued he had a job, an internship at Healdsburg’s Williams Selyem, and so it began, their winemaking adventure. Today Lopez plays a big role as assistant winemaker, and she works nonstop by traveling to the southern hemisphere working in Australia and New Zealand in the off-season.
Amador said producing sauvignon blanc is a good fit for Gracianna. “We sell the sauvignon blanc quickly so it’s easy for us to replenish it year to year,” he said.
“The fruit comes in and we are able to craft a delicious new vintage and have it ready for spring. Because of our size we are nimble. Because of our reputation, we’re able to source world class fruit and then bring that vintage to life.”
The vintner said the most challenging part of making sauvignon blanc is it can be off-putting for some people.
“Sometimes folks don’t appreciate the wine because its intense flavors can sometimes overwhelm subtle dishes,” he said. “But with fish and oysters and other soft flavors sauvignon blanc actually can create a vortex of mingled flavors that are in excess of the parts.”
Ahe strength of the Gracianna brand is their family approach to winemaking, Amador said.
“Gracianna has four generations in Sonoma County now and our longevity allows us to have a wonderful relationship with our growers,” he said. ‘The growers enjoy the attention to detail that every Gracianna wine exhibits.”
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Olema, 2014 Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.2% alcohol, $15. ★★★★
This is a balanced chardonnay, a yin yang of rich and crisp. Aromas of apple and pineapple. On the palate, notes of apple, caramel and the quench of lemon. Lingering finish. An incredible value for the quality.
Smith-Madrone, 2014 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 14.3%, $32. ★★★★1/2: This is a gorgeous chardonnay, lush yet crisp, a commingling of delicious flavors. Aromas and flavors of pear, apple and mineral. Bright acidity. Supple mouth-feel. Striking.
Bucher, 2015 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.4%, $30. ★★★★: A layered chardonnay that’s lively with notes of apple, pineapple and mango. Rich tropical flavors are coupled with bright acidity to craft a balanced chardonnay. Finishes crisp. Bravo.
J. Lohr, 2015 Riverstone, Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay, 13.5%, $15. ★★★1/2: A pretty chardonnay with a range of flavors -- Meyer lemon, peach, honey and apricot. Toasty finish. A touch sweet, but not off-putting. Solid.
Edna Valley Vineyard, 2014 Central Coast Chardonnay, 13%, $15. ★★★1/2: A solid chardonnay for the budget-minded. Tasty notes of toast, apple and apricot. Nice acidity keeps the rich flavors in check. Nice crisp finish. Smart.