2020 Jolie-Laide, Gamay Noir, Barsotti Vineyard, El Dorado County.
As noted here, Jolie-Laide and winemaker Scott Schultz who based in Sebastopol, does a super nice collection of small batch naturally crafted wines, including his wonderful efforts with Syrah and this beautifully fresh dark magenta/ruby colored Barsotti Vineyard Gamay Noir with the grapes coming from this high elevation site giving both depth and vibrancy. To highlight the purity and quality of the grapes, Schultz did a fermentation started with carbonic maceration and whole cluster, which brought out an exceptional profile of Fluerie like flavors with a heightened floral and mineral tone, it shows juicy strawberry, wild plum and tangy cherry fruits, wild sage, minty herbs, a hint of walnut, crushed lilacs and flinty stones. After being removed from the sealed tank, the whole fermented bunches, stems included, were foot stomped and the juice and skins allowed to finish fermenting and was aged in neutral barrels, which also gave the wine a bit more grip or tannin, crunch and savory tones. The foothills give this wine its depth, deeper color and ripe flavors, but the natural acidity keeps things wonderfully balanced and there’s a very low alcohol feel here and just about 12%, making it an easy wine to quaff and enjoy with food, much like its cousins from Brouilly, Morgon and Fleuire. I’ve enjoyed many wines from Jolie-Laide and I was thrilled to see in the SF Chronicle recently that they are finally getting their own purpose built winery and will be moving in before harvest of 2023, it’s exciting times for this small winery and a great time to join their mailing list, for wines such as this one.

This Jolie-Laide displays all the best of Cru Beaujolais and marries it to a sense of California’s pioneering spirit, reminding me of Steve Edmunds, as I’ve said before in Gamay reviews, who might be the first in California to do a serious true Gamay Noir under his Edmonds St. John label in the 1990s. Prior to that must California Gamay was in fact not Gamay at all, but another grape called Valdiguié, from the southwest of France and is sometimes called “Napa Gamay”. Steve Edmonds and Ron Mansfield took the great risk of planting the first known true Gamay Noir in the state, high up in the Sierra Foothills where they found some granite and quartz soils, all of which paid off eventually as Gamay finally got the love it deserves, with Jolie-Laide doing one of the better examples, as seen here. Schultz does some other beauties, like his New Jemrose Vineyard Grenache and the Northern California red blend, uniquely composed of some very rare varieties, with about 44% Trousseau Noir, 22% Gamay, 18% Valdiguié, 13% Cabernet Pfeffer and 3% Poulsard typically. All of these components fermented separately, partially carbonic for brightness and all whole cluster, which as he says, adds to the complexity here and delivers spicy aromatics. Plus, there’s a new bottling of Gamay for 2022 from, what he calls, an exciting vineyard, Rancho Coda, in Sonoma County of heightened (cool) exposure to the elements and complex soils, and I look forward to trying it! Last year Jolie-Laide added a single varietal Freisa, the rare Piedmonte red grape, that I really liked, to the lineup and I see they are adding a Mondeuse, the main red grape of the Savoie region of France too, so there’s a lot distinctly different stuff, usually from organic vineyards, some new and some almost forgotten, and lesser known grapes to explore here!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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