Celebrity ownership of wineries is nothing new. The late partnership of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt own the powerhouse rosé house Chateau Miravel in Provence. Francis Ford Coppola owns the eponymous Coppola Winery and Rubicon Estate in California, and race-car driver Jeff Gordon owns Jeff Gordon Wines in Napa Valley, and lest we forget, Virginia’s largest winery, Trump Winery of Charlottesville.
Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews band is not a neophyte to the wine-making business, with 17 years of experience at his Blenheim Vineyards near Charlottesville. In 2011, Dave Matthews created a line of wine with Constellation Wines U.S. and named the project after a 1998 song by his band, “The Dreaming Tree."
We recently met with Sean McKenzie, winemaker for Dreaming Tree and native New Zealander, who came to this project via New Zealand winery Brancott, and Simi Winery of Sonoma County.
Sean said Dreaming Tree has implemented several environmentally-conscious practices in manufacturing their wines. Extensive use of solar panels for electric power, lighter weight bottles, and recycled paper labels are backed by more than $1 million in charitable donations to environmental organizations over the last six years.
In keeping with the raging popularity of California red blends, The Dreaming Tree Crush California 2014 ($18) is a mellow, merlot-dominated blend with moderate alcohol. It was the first entry for the brand. Crush is very soft and round in the mouth with good fruit and a touch of residual sugar (9.5g/L), although not as much as some other very popular red blends, which can feature 12-15 g/L.
Red blends, and especially Dreaming Tree Crush, are perfect for new wine drinkers often offended by high acidity, aggressive tannins, and high alcohol wines.
The Dreaming Tree Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2016 ($18) was a very interesting sauvignon blanc, with tropical fruit and citrus nose and flavors. Soft and smooth in the mouth, the wine finishes with bright, palette-cleansing acidity. Sean credited the quality of this wine to aggressive canopy management, which exposes the grape clusters to the summer sun, and the significant diurnal temperatures differences in the various vineyard sites.
The Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon California 2014 ($18) is the result of an almost perfect 2014 growing season. A blend of 78 percent cabernet sauvignon and four classic Bordeaux varietals, this wine is majority North Coast vineyards. A good amount of complexity with black cherry and berry scents and flavors in a perfectly matched oak robe. Serve this wine with grilled meats this summer.
Photo Courtesy of Dreaming Tree Wines
Sean said that Dave Matthews is involved in the final approval of all of the wines. However, Sean stressed that the final approval of all of the Dreaming Tree wines lies with Dave Matthews’s mother. Who knew?
LOCAL RESTAURANTS AWARDED
Four Annapolis-area restaurants were given Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence" for their extensive wine lists.
The magazine said the wine lists are given to those restaurants that "typically offer at least 90 selections, features a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style."
The award was given to 2,335 restaurants across the world.
The recognized restaurants were Grapes Wine Bar, Lewnes' Steak Restaurant, and Ruth's Chris Steak Restaurant in Annapolis and Odenton. Anyone who has been to these restaurants know they justly deserve the recognition.
Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2014 ($30). A great value in the premium chardonnay market, this delightful wine is more than a pretty label. It has exotic tropical fruit aromas, lush mango, and ripe peach flavors and a good dose of spice and butterscotch. It is hard to stop at one glass.
Patz & Hall Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 ($60). We truly loved this Mendocino chardonnay for its balance. There isn't this lush, palate-coating creaminess that we find off-putting, but instead good acidity to provide a crisp landing. This is an elegant food wine to match with Dover sole, grouper, striped bass, and the like. Generous apple and peach notes with bursting aromas and long finish.
Justin Isosceles 2014 ($72). The flagship wine of this producer, Isosceles has proven to be a wine for cellaring. Deep, complex with dark berry aromas and cherry, red currant flavors, this Bordeaux-style blend is a knockout. Cabernet franc and merlot make up about a quarter of the blend.
Dolin "The Blue Note" Malibu Coast 2012 ($45). It's nearly impossible not to like this delicious, opulent and hedonistic blend of merlot (44 percent), cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Structured like a wine from St. Emillion, it is unfined and unfiltered to preserve the pure plum and cassis fruit flavors. Beautiful aromas of violets with hints of leather and pepper.
Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($35). Using grapes grown at a higher elevation in Alexander Valley, this excellent sauvignon blanc has herbal and lemon bouquet followed by grapefruit and lemon flavors with balanced acidity.
Miner Gary's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($55). Forward cherry and strawberry flavors, opulent and plush on the palate, with a hint of clove.
Donelan Two Brothers Pinot Noir 2013 ($55). The light color in this wine is deceiving because it is anything but light. Forward black cherry fruit with a wild raspberry bouquet, a hint of spice, and an earthy quality that pairs nicely with a velvet texture.