March 30, 2021, 8:05PM
Updated 1 hour ago
For many, vermentino is a mysterious white wine because so little of this varietal is grown in California. And this rarity is what makes it such an exotic pick for Easter.
A compelling incarnation of this varietal is our wine of the week winner — the Bella Grace Vineyards, 2020 Amador County Vermentino, 12.3%, $27. It’s buoyed by bright acidity, and it has aromas and flavors of stone fruit — peach and tangy apricot. With a note of mineral in the mix, this vermentino finishes crisp. It’s spot on.
“Vermentino is so refreshing and delicious,” said co-vintner and winemaker Michael Havill. “It will hold up with the range of foods and flavors on Easter. Pair it with jelly beans during the Easter egg hunt or ham during your main meal. Or drink it by itself with friends and family.”
Vermentino is a white grape that hails from the western Mediterranean; strongholds include Italy, France and the neighboring islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
“Most wine lovers don’t know about how good it is,” Havill said. “It has robust flavors that you don’t generally find in a white wine. We often call it the white wine for red wine lovers.”
Other tasty Easter whites include: Argyle, 2017 Willamette Valley Reserve Chardonnay, 13.5%, $35 (now rolling over into the 2018 vintage); Dry Creek Vineyard, 2020 Dry Creek Valley sauvignon blanc, 13.5%, $16; Pfendler, 2019 Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.2%, $45, and Bonterra, 2019 California Chardonnay, 13.7%, $14.
As for the winning vermentino, Havill said she’s painstakingly careful with it from the vineyard to the cellar.
“We grow the grapes and control everything about the wine we make,” she said. “More importantly, we love the wine.”
After spending more than two decades as a managing partner of New York Insurance company in Walnut Creek, Havill expected to retire in the Sierra Foothills with husband, Charlie, when they bought a vineyard there in 2006.
“The industry bug caught us, and our wine volumes and sales have grown quickly over the past 15 years,” she said. “I’m a ’60s college dropout. My instincts and relationships with others who are smarter than me have always produced good results.”
Havill, 73, said she continues to be resilient, and perhaps it comes from having a first name typically reserved for men.
“When I was growing up in the 1940s, my mother and grandmother listened to a detective show on the radio, and the heroine was a woman named Michael,” Havill said. “They thought it was a good, strong name for a woman because these two were very strong and very liberated for that era.”
Havill, the heroine of Bella Grace Vineyards, has no intention of retiring anytime soon. She said she’ll bottle vermentino, the winery’s signature white, for years to come.
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5310.
Wine, The Press Democrat
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