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September 2020

  • “New Releases from MacRostie Winery Reviewed”

    Modern Wine

    September 2020
    By Tim Teichgraeber

    “MacRostie Winery has emerged as one of the real stars of the Sonoma Coast in the last decade, producing elegant, bright, and flavorful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that still seems to be improving year over year. Founder Steve MacRostie Winery deserves plenty of credit – he’s always done a great job of managing his winery – but hiring winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen was certainly one of his greatest coups, because under her watch the wines have evolved into a focused, bright, complex style that only a few dozen labels (Peay and Drew come to mind) have mastered.  MacRostie Winery also switched from corks to screwcap closures some years ago, a move that has clearly added freshness and reliability to the wines.”

    2017 MacRostie Thale’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 94 Points
    “This translucent red has bright violet, cherry and raspberry aromas with hints of oolong tea and anise. It’s silky and lithe on the palate, juicy and sprightly like a Burgundy, but where a Burgundy would have a bit more earthiness, this Pinot is all sunny cool-climate California fruit finishing with just a hint of toast and caramel. This is a hard wine to put down. You could age it for a few years, but why bother. It’s ready now”

    2017 MacRostie Dutton Ranch Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 93 Points
    “In the last 6 or 7 years, this Sonoma Coast Chardonnay has emerged as a consistent personal favorite of mine, and at $25 a bottle, it’s one of the best values in California Chardonnay. What’s so great about this wine is how it balances a sleek, bright winemaking style with the sunny intensity of California fruit. It opens with luscious pineapple and lemon curd flavors and finishes bright and tangy with just a hint of French oak”

  • “California’s Next Generation Lead Women Winemakers And The Promise That Accompanies Their Success”

    Grape Collective 

    September 18, 2020
    By Lucia Albino Gilbert and John C. Gilbert

    “Our oft-cited 2011 study reported that only 10% of California wineries had a woman in their lead winemaker position. Our 2020 follow-up study indicated a modest but significant increase to 14% over the past nine years.1

    The career paths of women who moved into lead winemaker positions since our 2011 study, whom we call California’s Next Generation Lead Women Winemakers, illuminate important patterns of underlying change. These patterns hold promise in leveling the ‘playing field’ for California’s women winemakers.

    For this article, we identified sixteen ‘Next Generation’ women winemakers whose career paths illustrate one of three patterns. Two of the three reflect increased opportunity within what has been a traditionally male-dominated field:

    • The first lead woman winemaker appointed following mentorship by a senior male winemaker at the same winery, and 
    • The first woman winemaker hired into a lead winemaker position at a prominent winery.

    A reaffirming third pattern was also identified among their career paths:

    • Women winemakers who own their wineries or who work as independent consulting winemakers while also developing their own label.

    First Lead Woman Winemaker Appointed at a Well-Known Winery Following Mentorship by a Senior Male Winemaker at the Same Winery

    Although not everyone needs a mentor to be ‘successful,’ mentors are known to be important to career development. Mentors help their mentees develop a vision for themselves, learn important skills and knowledge, and gain self-confidence.

    Important illustrative examples come from the career paths of two pioneering women winemakers—MaryAnn Graf, California’s first lead women winemaker, appointed winemaker at Simi Winery in Healdsburg in 1973, and Jill Davis, at the time California’s youngest lead woman winemaker when appointed at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma in 1983 at age 27. Both were mentored by the esteemed André Tchelistcheff after his retirement from Beaulieu Vineyard in 1973. They described his mentorship as an intensive and supportive experience and central to their career success.

    Six of our Next Generation lead winemakers were mentored by a prominent senior male winemaker. Unlike Graf and Davis, however, these winemakers were mentored by a long-time male winemaker for a position at that same winery. It is not unusual for winemakers to continue in their role for many years, especially at family-owned wineries, and to seek exceptional young talent in filling positions that can help secure the winery’s future. Implicit gender bias, however, may make it more difficult for women to successfully compete for these positions. That these successful long-time winemakers at prominent wineries, all men, identified, hired, and then entered into a mentoring relationship with highly qualified young women destined to be appointed as the next winemaker represents an important shift in a male-dominated industry.

    The six winemakers are presented in order of when each winery was established to provide some context for the winery’s history, the mentoring, and the winemaker’s appointment.

    Heidi Bridenhagen, MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Healdsburg, Sonoma County. 

    Founded in 1987 by Thale and Steve MacRostie, with Steve as its first winemaker, Heidi Bridenhagen became its third winemaker in 2013.

    Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Heidi loved the outdoors, math, and science. She earned a B.S. degree in Biochemistry from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 2006 and then spent time traveling through wine regions in Eastern and Western Europe. She knew on her return that she wanted to pursue a career that combined her scientific expertise and creative skills.

    Following a number of harvest and lab experiences in California and New Zealand, Heidi joined MacRostie in 2011, ironically the same day the MacRostie’s sold it. Not knowing what this would mean for her career path, her interview experience with Steve, who later became her mentor, was reassuring. According to Heidi, ‘We spent a few minutes discussing my qualifications, why I thought MacRostie would be a good fit, etc., and then he said, ‘It sounds like you are more than qualified for the job, but who are you and what do you like to do in your free time?’ We ended up talking for over an hour. . . It made me realize that this would be more than just a job, but a family where I could grow in my career.’

    In December 2013, the winemaker at the time decided to leave. Heidi laid out her 1-, 3-, and 5-year plans for the winery and became the next winemaker at the age of 27! She continues to work closely with Steve.

    A dynamic and gifted winemaker, Heidi consistently receives high scores and accolades for her wines. She does as many as 130 small fermentations each vintage from which to craft the winery’s noted Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

    Brief Summary

    These six young winemakers have in common their mentoring relationships with long-time winemakers who recognized and nurtured their talents and abilities, and in one case, even following a change in ownership. The wineries themselves are among California’s long-established wineries in Napa and Sonoma, with all dating back to at least 1987.”

  • 2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – ★★★★: Highly recommended

    The Press Democrat

    September 1, 2020
    By Peg Melnik

    2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – ★★★★: Highly recommended

    “A refreshing rosé with bright fruit coupled with crisp acidity. Notes of cherry, strawberry and mineral. Great balance. Nice length.”

  • “Premium Pinot, Summer Cocktails, Tools… And Virtual Vacations”

    PG Rated

    August 24, 2020
    By Peter Gianotti

    “The focus here is on some remarkable Californians from the 2017 vintage. They range from the light-and medium-bodied to full. At all price points, they’re worth the investment.

    The 2017 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, plummy and intricate, makes no demands and arrives with ripe fruit flavor.”

  • “The 65 Best Summer Whites, Rosés and Sparklers”

    Honest Cooking

    August 4, 2020
    By Kalle Bergman

    “Although you may soon begin to feel the temperature drop slightly where you live, we refuse to give in to fall just yet. As far as we are concerned here at Honest Cooking, summer doesn’t end until sometime in October – and we’ll still be sipping chilled rosés, whites and sparklers for more than another month (actually we drink them all year round, but don’t tell anyone).

    But regardless if you’re like us, I’m sure we agree that it’s important to end on a high note. Drink the best summer wines now, because frankly – 2020 does need a little pick me up.

    So with that, we took it upon ourselves to drink our way through hundreds of summer wines of various types, styles and grapes – and we’ve compiled what we think is THE ULTIMATE list of the Best Summer Wines of 2020 that you should be drinking over the next couple of months.

    2017 MacRostie Dutton Ranch Chardonnay Russian River Valley

    Winemaker’s Notes: With a pale gold color and subtle yet complex aromas of peach and cinnamon this wine shows the exquisite nature of Dutton Ranch Chardonnay. The soft and rich entry underscores the juicy tropical flavors, with a beam of elegant natural acidity adding to a long, refreshing finish.”

  • 2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – 94 Points

    Epoch Times

    August 12, 2020
    By Robert Whitley

    2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – 94 Points 

     “Bursting with notes of strawberry and cherry, this is a crowd-pleasing dry rosé that just goes on and on. MacRostie is famous for its chardonnay and pinot noir, but now it seems rosé is getting in on that class act.”

  • 2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay

    Wine Review Online

    August 25, 2020
    By Rich Cook

    MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay 2018 ($36)

    Here is another winner from winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen that hits my crisp-and-creamy Chardonnay spec head-on. Less than ten percent new oak and partial malolactic fermentation hold the acidic edge that makes the variety pop, letting the lemon and melon fruit profile sing brightly. This is my kind of sipping Chardonnay for warm weather. It’s just a touch softer than 2017, but it works very well.

  • 2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 93 Points

    Wine Review Online

    August 18, 2020
    By Marguerite Thomas

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 93 Points 

    “Year after year MacRostie Chardonnay is always outstanding and the 2018 vintage is no exception — in fact better than ever in some ways. There is plenty of ripe, rich fruit here but in no way is it overstated. Instead, the fruit is a team player, neatly tag-teaming with the subtle spice of oak and the freshness that acidity brings to the blend.”  

  • Tripadvisor 2020 Travelers’ Choice Winner

    Tripadvisor

    August 2020

    Congratulations MacRostie Winery and Vineyards on being a Travelers’ Choice Winner. Each year, we comb through reviews, ratings, and saves from travelers everywhere, and use that info to award the very best.

  • Wine Advocate – California, Sonoma County

    Wine Advocate

    By Erin Brooks
    August 13, 2020

    2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 91 Points: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines

    “The 2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay has leesy Bosc pears and white peaches with notes of gunflint and honey-nut notions. It’s light to medium-bodied with a good core of peachy fruit, bright freshness and a long, clean finish. 992 cases produced.”

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 90 Points: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines

    “Pale ruby, the 2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir offers blackberries, cranberries and rhubarb with notes of woodsmoke, black tea leaves and earth. The palate is light-bodied, soft and juicy with a good core of fruit and a satisfying finish. 4,181 cases produced.”

    “USA, California: Sonoma County 2018 Vintage” 

    “2018 in Sonoma has been hailed as a spectacular vintage, and for many top wineries it is. But this is not a great vintage across the board—if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. The 2018 vintage carried the potential for near-perfect wines, but it also carried the potential for mediocrity. The 2018 vintage provided, undisputedly, the opportunity to make world-class wines. It was also replete with hidden dangers—both natural and manmade—that resulted in more than a few washed out, dilute, flavorless wines, from unfamiliar and familiar names alike.

    2018: The Good News 

    2018 was an unusually long, cool growing season, and there are many gorgeous wines to choose from. Regional character is clear across appellations, particularly for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There were no heat events to stunt growth or erase regional character, and both varieties are pure and precise in this vintage. The extended growing season allowed for winemakers to harvest at leisure, and many properties expertly captured a perfect picture of ripeness. Cooler nights maintained very bright acidity across varieties, and in general, the best wines of 2018 are lifted, layered, energetic and dynamic, with incredible movement and texture in the mouth. The best Chardonnays are silky, with precise and mineral entries, broad and layered mid-palates and long, linear finishes. Pinot Noirs are incredibly pure and nuanced, with high-toned, ethereal aromatics, replete with the layers of fruit, earth, spice and bitterness that make for the best examples of this grape. Later-ripening varieties show very finely grained tannic structures and Goldilocks ripeness rather than simple fruit or power. The best 2018s are tight right now but will age very well in bottle, as cooler nights resulted in incredibly vibrant acidity across varieties, and the best wines have plenty of fruit to carry the wines in the cellar. With time in bottle, the best 2018s will gain nuance and depth.

    A Bumper Crop of Unripe Grapes  

    For the last several years, California has led the charge of the ‘new normal’ with a string of very warm, very dry years. To set the stage for 2018, it’s important to understand the past several years in California. Beginning in 2012, growers faced increasing challenges with drought and extreme heat events, capped by the devastating Labor Day heat wave of 2017. Readers will recall that temperatures reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, and that the extreme heat lasted for several days. To top things off, early October brought wildfires that ripped through Sonoma, destroying vineyards and bringing the issue of smoke taint to the forefront. Mother Nature did ease some suffering with the arrival of heavy rains during the winter of 2017/2018, officially ending the years’ long drought. Many parts of Sonoma also experienced rainstorms in late spring, adding to mildew pressure. 

    After the late spring rains, the season returned to normal, and fruit set was perfect across the region. At veraison, growers began to notice large crop loads—by all accounts, 2018 was a massive bumper crop, as ample winter and spring rain plus perfect fruit set combined to result in incredible vine vigor and up to seven or eight tons per acre of fruit in some cases. Most notably, there was not an increase in the number of clusters but rather unexpected increases in berry size that crept up after veraison and the first thinning passes. Berries continued to swell up in size during the season, distorting the picture revealed by cluster counts at veraison. In many cases, final yields were up over 30% from what was predicted at lag phase. 

    Six years of drought taught winemakers and growers in California to hold their breath for the inevitable heat waves in August and over Labor Day weekend, but they never came. Instead, it cooled considerably. Many growers reported steady temperatures in the 70s and 80s (Fahrenheit) for the remainder of the season. Nights were especially chilly, and fierce wind on the Sonoma Coast slowed ripening. All across Sonoma County, vines loaded with crop in anticipation of a warm year struggled to ripen. Viticulture is always a gamble, and cooler vintages present a different set of challenges. A polar opposite vintage from 2017 and the first cool vintage in six years surely caught people off guard: growing degree days in 2017 far surpass those accumulated in 2018. Donum winemaker Dan Fishman says, ‘2018 was a little bit like 2012—if you weren’t paying attention, it could turn mediocre because there was nothing to force your hand. A vintage like that can lead to a lot of okay wines.’

    Controlling yields was critical for success in 2018. ‘The big news this year was the crop size, following the end of the drought,’ Paul Hobbs said. ‘We had tremendous rain, and the vines were ready to go. They were in hyper-fertile productive mode. On average, we dropped at least a year’s worth of fruit on the ground, and we still went over yield by 5% to 10%. That’s essentially saying we had two vintages in one in 2018, if we had harvested all the fruit. We couldn’t believe the berry and cluster weights we were seeing. We did four yield thinnings, so it was a horribly expensive year for us, because of all those passes.’ Some winemakers opted out of late-season thinnings, feeling it was too little, too late. This may have been true in some instances, but in general, the best wines in 2018 are from properties that kept a tight watch on their vineyards and continually adjusted crop load to the cooler season. Those who did little or no thinning at all were left with a bumper crop of unripe grapes, and there were still grapes hanging on vines as I drove around the valley in late October and early November. ‘People didn’t thin,’ says Hobbs. ‘It blew my mind. We thinned to the point where the ground was literally covered in grapes, but no one around us was doing that.’ Kistler winemaker Jason Kesner agrees that controlling yields was critical for quality in 2018. ‘I remember looking at other vineyards that are normally picked a week or two after ours that still had fruit on the vine three weeks later. You can only ask so much of a grapevine. There is something about setting vine balance early in the year so your vines can do all the work on their own. Crop load is the biggest factor for dilute wines in 2018—if people are honest about how much tonnage they brought in!’

    Economic and logistical factors also played a role in quality potential. The heavy crop load in 2018 was a relief for many who had lost significant portions of their production in 2017. Expecting a warm year, it would be tempting to hang some extra crop—winemakers need inventory and growers need to get paid. A big crop also results in a myriad of logistical problems in the winery: not enough tanks for fermenting, not enough space for storage, not enough barrels for aging, etc. Labor has been scarce in recent years, and finding enough labor for such a large harvest was also a challenge. Romantic as winemaking is from the outside, at the end of the day, it’s a business. Economic and logistical challenges, rather than quality, drove winemaking decisions in many cases this vintage. ‘2018 could have been a logistical nightmare for winemakers,’ notes Kosta Browne winemaker Julien Howsepian. ‘Not enough capacity to take in fruit at the right time, fermenting in any container you can find, etc. That constrains a winemaker’s ability do things in a way they might have anticipated from the onset. It’s almost like the vintage took control of them, even if the fruit was really good. A great vintage doesn’t mean the wines will become great.’

    Keeping yields in check was the biggest factor for potential quality, and many top growers and winemakers reported having to make up to five extra passes through the vineyards throughout the season once it became clear that the crop was much larger than initially anticipated. Not every property can afford to send crews out to make the extra thinning passes critical for success in 2018, and not everyone could round up a crew with the shortage of labor. 

    Heavy yields and well below average summertime temperatures combined this year to produce many washed-out, dilute, hollow and flavorless wines—Burgundian varieties were especially affected. ‘If you’re carrying too much fruit, it shows with dilute, washed out wines,’ says Arista winemaker Matt Courtney. ‘Over-cropping sticks out like a sore thumb with those Burgundian varieties.’ There are plenty of Pinot Noirs that lack color, aroma and flavor. Many Chardonnays are neutral in character and have very tangy acidities without much fruit support. Later-ripening varieties can be quite soft or feel over-extracted and manipulated, as if saignée rather than viticulture was used to concentrate the wines made from unripe grapes. The least successful wines this year are inherently boring and will not age, despite their high acidities—there’s just no fruit to carry them forward.

    Noteworthy Producers

    Some producers made potential ‘career’ wines in 2018, and the lineup of wines from Kistler and Dumol are the best I have ever tasted. Although I have only tried one 2018 from Occidental, I suspect Steve Kistler’s 2018s will be some of the most exciting of the vintage, due to their unique character and terroir expression—these are detailed, pure, crystalline Pinot Noirs. There are some incredibly promising wines from Jesse Katz’s Aperture—the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley is very compelling. Hirsch excelled in this cooler vintage, and the wines are crystalline, pure and singular in character. As always, Paul Hobbs has crafted a gorgeous lineup of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that continued to improve after four or five days of being open. 

  • 2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – 94 Points

    Wine Review Online

    by Rich Cook
    August 2020

    2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley

    “Bursting with notes of strawberry and cherry, this is a crowd-pleasing dry Rosé that just goes on and on. MacRostie is famous for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but now it seems Rosé is getting in on that class act.”

  • Wine With…Pork Chops Dijonnaise

    Wine Review Online

    by Marguerite Thomas
    August 2020

    “The Wines:  It is somehow satisfying to feature a dish every once in awhile that partners beautifully with a variety of wines, and Pork Chops Dijonnais is one of those recipes.  The wines that did not fare well here were, first, a big, tannic, oaky red that overwhelmed the soft, creamy sauce. A tart Sauvignon Blanc didn’t fare well either. I’ve liked this type of refreshing white wine with other dishes, but in this case, its relatively high acidity got screechy in the company of the comparatively rich, mellow mustard sauce. But these three paired up very nicely:

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay  

    Like the Chappellet Pinot Noir, this luscious Chardonnay is lithe and versatile. Its creamy texture, zesty fruit flavors and minerality all wrap deliciously around the taste and texture of the racy sauce.”

  • 2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – 92 Points

    Wine Review Online

    by Rich Cook
    August 2020

    2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley

    “The parade of exceptional Pinot Noir Rosé wines crossing my desk continues with this offering from a favorite producer of mine. It gets right to a lively mix of citrus, peach, and strawberry, and leaves those notes dancing on the palate in an extended fashion. The pigmentation was provided by a 50/50 combination of direct-to-press and saignée maceration methods, performed on fruit largely sourced from Thale’s Vineyard. This delivers the goods, and does so in high style.” 

  • The Press Democrat – MacRostie Rosé is a ‘Tasty Alternative’

    The Press Democrat

    by Peg Melnik
    August 4, 2020

    “Tasty Alternatives”

    2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – ★★★★: Highly recommended

    “Layered notes of grapefruit, orange rind, and spice. Crisp acidity. Nice length. Lovely.”

  • Wine & Spirits Year’s Best California Chardonnays

    Wine & Spirits Magazine

    October Issue

    92 | MacRostie 2018 Russian River Valley Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay $46 (not yet released)

    91 | MacRostie 2017 Sonoma Coast The Key Chardonnay $65

    91 | MacRostie 2018 Russian River Valley Kent Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay $46 (not yet released)

    91 | MacRostie 2018 Sonoma Coast The Key Chardonnay $65 (not yet released)