2021 Extradimensional Wine Co. Yeah!, Close Encounters, Skin Fermented Orange Wine, Brosseau Vineyard, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
California “Orange Wines” have come of age and found a small and enthusiastic niche, with some versions really reaching new heights of quality and balance, one of those is this brilliant Close Encounters Brosseau Vineyard skin fermented organic blend of 40% Chenin Blanc, 40% Chardonnay, 8% Viognier, 6% Roussanne and 6% Marsanne from the chalky soils of Chalone in the Gabilan Mountains Ranch by Hardy Wallace of Sonoma’s excitingly unique Extradimensional Wine Co. Yeah! Winery. This wine glows rose gold pinkish in the glass and has plenty of stony and light floral aromas that leads to a slightly phenolic and exotic palate of dried pineapple, earthy muskmelon, apricot, preserved lemon, quince and apple fruits, along with oyster shell, crystalized ginger, brown butter, saline infused wet rock, verbena, sea shore and honeysuckle. The textural quality, zesty acidity and fine tannins make this Close Encounters very intriguing and reminds me of some of my favorite Italian versions from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which lies in Italy’s far Northeast close to the Slovenian border, like the wines made by Benjamin Zidarich and Sandi Skerk. That said, Wallace has made this Close Encounters very much his own, especially with the choice of grapes used, which give a bit more fruit density and a tropical note. Some of the hipster Orange Wine offerings can be kombucha funky, or ultra savory, this one doesn’t go there, but obviously it won’t excite the mainstream wine drinker, though it makes no apology about that either. I highly recommend checking out the Extradimensional Wine Co. Yeah! wines and following Hardy on social media, he has a larger than life personality and charm that shines through in his wines.

Winemaker Hardy Wallace macerated these grapes on the skins with classic foot trodding and native yeast fermentation, allowing good flavor extraction and some grip, with a lengthy skin contact, measured in weeks, not hours and matured it in neutral barrels for a few months. The Brosseau Vineyard, in Monterey’s Chalone appellation is farmed all organic and is set on a complex mix of the region’s famous limestone, as well as some decomposed granite, and some volcanic material, it’s an area that always delivers a terroir influence, even in a wine such as this one. The 2021 Close Encounters, which I first tasted with Hardy at his Extradimensional Wine Co. Yeah! tasting room in downtown Sonoma, just off the historic square, is a dry and intense wine that will appeal to a wider audience than you’d think and not as funky as you’d expect, it makes for a nice companion with, as Hardy suggests, Paella and or Jambalaya dishes. The wine finished at 13% natural alcohol and perfectly captured the ripe elements of grapes, while also retaining good tart and fresh acidity, hitting a nice sweet spot. Hardy says the flavors of the 2021 Close Encounters are incredibly playful on top of a canvas of serious substance, which is what I found too. Going on he adds that this wine is where wilderness meets a fantasy metropolis. Explaining the name, Wallace notes that this orange wine is written in a beautiful, yet unknown language that was made to communicate with extraterrestrial life. I don’t always gravitate to “Orange Wine” but there’s a few exceptions that really impress me and this is a really fun example that would be one of my go to California versions. I admit to being a fan of this winery, especially the latest set of reds, with their outstanding old vine Carignane, Mourvédre, Hardy’s favorite grape, and Grenache offerings really hitting the spot for me.
($55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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