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Wine of the week: Crux, 2018 Catie’s Corner Vineyard, Russian River Valley Grenache Blanc

This week’s blind tasting

Crux, 2018 Catie’s Corner Vineyard, Russian River Valley Grenache Blanc, 13.1%, $30, 4.5 stars. Citrusy aromas, with gorgeous stone fruit on the palate. Notes of peaches and nectarine, buoyed by crisp acidity. Vibrant and refreshing. Nice length. Striking.

Balletto 2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris, 13.9%, $20, 4 stars. Stone fruit meets citrus with this lovely pinot gris. Meyer lemon and peach give way to zesty lime on the palate. Bright and lively. Finishes crisp. Striking.

Carol Shelton, 2019 Paso Robles Coquille Blanc White Wine, 13.9%, $25, 4 stars. Aromas of honeysuckle, with ripe stone fruit flavors. Notes of peach, pear and almond. Juicy and lovely.

Keller Estate, 2018 La Cruz Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County Pinot Gris, 13.9%, $35, 4 stars. Aromas of peach, pear and a hint of honeysuckle follow through to the palate. Lingering finish. Impressive.

Estancia 2018 California Pinot Grigio, $12, 3.5 stars. A zesty white with aromas and flavors of green apple, grapefruit and honeysuckle. Crisp and clean, with a citrusy finish. A steal for the price.

The vintners of Crux Winery say they’ve been able to adjust to Mother Nature’s unpredictable ways — that is, before she plagued Wine Country with smoke taint last year.

“We’ve worked around road closures and home evacuations due to fires,” said Steve Gower, Crux co-vintner and winemaker. “But the impact of smoke in 2020 was a completely different challenge and largely out of our control. A return to semi-normalcy seems almost too much to hope for. Winemaking is all about fruit quality, so we hope the other side of the pandemic and wildfires brings healthy vineyard crews and smoke-free grapes.”

Gower is behind our wine of the week winner — the Crux, 2018 Catie’s Corner Vineyard, Russian River Valley Grenache Blanc. It has citrusy aromas and gorgeous stone fruit on the palate. The grenache blanc has notes of peaches and nectarine, buoyed by crisp acidity. Vibrant and refreshing, it’s striking.

Other tasty exotic whites include Balletto 2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris, $20; Carol Shelton, 2019 Paso Robles Coquille Blanc White Wine, $25; Keller Estate, 2018 La Cruz Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County Pinot Gris, $35, and Estancia 2018 California Pinot Grigio, $12.

As for the grenache blanc, Gower said the house style he was shooting for is bone-dry.

“We like to showcase the mineral character and then try not to make any other impact,” he said. “We love the fruit profile of grenache blanc and the natural acidity that a site well-suited for the varietal provides.”

The grenache blanc for this bottling hails from a tiny, 1.58-acre block in Catie’s Corner Vineyard planted by the esteemed late grower Saralee Kunde, Gower explained.

“It’s the only grenache blanc I know of in the Russian River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area),” he said. “It’s very well-suited to this vineyard site, and the grapes are incredibly happy.”

A fascination with fine wine, Gower explained, drew his co-vintner Brian Callahan to live in Sonoma County.

“Our homes and vineyards are in the Middle Reach of the Russian River Valley, just south of Healdsburg,” he said. “It’s the perfect location for growing Rhone varietals. We randomly ended up as neighbors with a common interest in drinking and producing wine. It started in the garage and grew from there.”

Gower, 53, earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon Institute of Technology in 1990. Before entering the wine industry, he worked in business development and engineering in the medical device industry.

Crux in Geyserville produces roughly 1,200 cases each year and ships its wines to 40 states.

“We have complete creative control over our wines and grow about 20% of the grapes we use,” Gower said. “Our growers are long-term relationships with a focus on high quality. A tasting with Crux is with one or both of the owners.”

Crux, the winemaker said, is well-qualified for making less mainstream wines like grenache blanc.

“This wine sees no oak, no fining, no filtration,” Gower said. “Our winery is set up for small-lot, low-production wines such as this one. We know when to not mess up a beautiful thing.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week’s blind tasting

Crux, 2018 Catie’s Corner Vineyard, Russian River Valley Grenache Blanc, 13.1%, $30, 4.5 stars. Citrusy aromas, with gorgeous stone fruit on the palate. Notes of peaches and nectarine, buoyed by crisp acidity. Vibrant and refreshing. Nice length. Striking.

Balletto 2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris, 13.9%, $20, 4 stars. Stone fruit meets citrus with this lovely pinot gris. Meyer lemon and peach give way to zesty lime on the palate. Bright and lively. Finishes crisp. Striking.

Carol Shelton, 2019 Paso Robles Coquille Blanc White Wine, 13.9%, $25, 4 stars. Aromas of honeysuckle, with ripe stone fruit flavors. Notes of peach, pear and almond. Juicy and lovely.

Keller Estate, 2018 La Cruz Vineyard, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County Pinot Gris, 13.9%, $35, 4 stars. Aromas of peach, pear and a hint of honeysuckle follow through to the palate. Lingering finish. Impressive.

Estancia 2018 California Pinot Grigio, $12, 3.5 stars. A zesty white with aromas and flavors of green apple, grapefruit and honeysuckle. Crisp and clean, with a citrusy finish. A steal for the price.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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