A community of ducks is called a raft. A raft is also a pleasant place to float away your cares on a warm summer day. But for now, we’ll focus on a different raft…this one is a small winery in California that you definitely want to know more about. Welcome to the last of our 4 part series. Introducing Raft Wines’ Antonella.
Wine of the Week: 2019 Raft Wines Antonella, Weed Farms, Dry Creek Valley, CA
Duck farmer Jennifer Reichardt founded Raft Wines in 2016. When she decided to make her own wines, the typical grapes of Northern California were not on the menu. Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and even Zinfandel tend to be expensive. Still, there are plenty of delicious alternatives out there for a scrappy start-up.
Better yet, it can be even more rewarding to create success from obscure grapes.
Raft’s most popular wine is its , made from a red Rhône varietal that found a happy home in California. Reichardt also makes wines from other popular and abundant Rhône varietals. In fact, I recently reviewed a rosé made from Grenache and a white from Viognier. Reichardt calls these Rhône grapes “a dream to work with because they blend so well.” One thing’s for sure, she is “up for anything”. Now, let’s learn more about some fun Italian varietals she is experimenting with.
Raft Wines Antonella is a bright, delicate red made from a blend of Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella – grapes native to Northern Italy. Reichardt describes it as “a field blend that I pick and ferment together. We don’t know the exact percentages. The actual blend changes slightly every year, pending flowering and the Spring rains.”
What is a red wine field blend?
Doesn’t it sound a bit romantic? The term field blend takes us to the vineyard, where many say good wine is really made. Often, in smaller vineyards (especially in the old world) you’ll find rows of vines that may look the same.
But at closer inspection, they are not. In places like Bordeaux or Burgundy different grapes are grown and handled individually. In less regulated regions, you may find a random mix of varieties growing side by side. They are then harvested and fermented together. The exact blend, as Reichardt mentioned, can vary year to year. Making a field blended wine can be a great adventure. It definitely requires attention and love from the winemaker. Maybe it is a bit romantic.
No matter the varietal, Reichardt sources fruit that is sustainably farmed, and affordable. She sources from either certified organic, or at least practicing organic growers. One is even biodynamic. Her commitment to sustainability extends into the winemaking process as well. Fermentation starts with native yeasts. Then, no fining, no filtering, and when oak is used, it is neutral barrels.
The grapes for Raft Wines Antonella come from Weed Farm near Healdsburg in the Dry Creek Valley AVA. Weed Farm’s vineyard is only 5 acres, 3.5 of those are planted with Syrah. The remaining 1.5 acres grow an assortment of Northern Italian varietals. This is not unusual in this area.
In the early part of the 20th century, Italian farmers settled in the region. Although they grew the grapes common to the Dry Creek Valley, they also brought some vines from home. These were often planted together in small patches grown for home consumption. You’ll also find individual plots of the Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Barbera. These and other Italian-style wines are making a resurgence in Sonoma County.
My review of the 2019 Raft Wines Antonella
Raft Wines Antonella is a tantalizing translucent cherry red – so clear you might mistake it for a deep-hued rosé. Don’t worry if you “accidentally” served it chilled though! It’s actually quite refreshing (and delicious) that way. That bright red cherry comes through on the palate, along with frutta di bosco (Italian for wild berries).
As for the aroma, think of a stroll through a field of Mediterranean herbs while snacking on those wild berries. This is a juicy, medium-bodied wine. Soft tannins and a touch of cranberry-like bitterness provide the finish.
Recently, we had a bit of a chilly snap where I live. I took the opportunity to cook up some day-long braised short ribs with creamy polenta. It was redolent with those Mediterranean herbs. And it was a perfect pairing with my the 2019 Antonella.
But now summer is upon us, and Antonella is the perfect red wine to take you through these sultry days. It makes a great aperitif with a charcuterie platter. Even better with steak or chops off the grill, or with Allie Ketcham’s Chicken Paillard.
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