Burgundy Mirage in California

Desmond Echavarrie

Welcome to The Somm Set. Each month we’ll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves!

This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Desmond Echavarrie, Master Sommelier.  

This week from Desmond Echavarrie:

Since the 1860’s when the first “suitcase” cuttings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were extracted from the Grand Crus of Burgundy and relocated in a rugged land called California, wine obsessed Francophiles have made great efforts to recreate the elegance and nobility of the great growths of these grapes’ ancestral home.

Today most wine critics and sommeliers agree that California wines cannot and will never replicate nor usurp the beguiling appeal of Burgundy. However, some regions and more specifically producers within the state have been successful at creating wines that bear an alluring resemblance to the vibrant gems from the Cote D’Or.

Multiple years of inclement weather and the perpetually rising demand have given rise to unprecedented scarcity for Burgundy and prices for the most sought-after wines often increase daily. Suffice it to say many of these wines are now sadly out of reach for those just starting on their wine journey.

In my travels and tastings as a sommelier I have encountered a few extraordinarily balanced examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from California that have quenched my insatiable thirst for Burgundy if only for a fleeting moment. I’m delighted to share a few of them with you.

Rhys Vineyards – Santa Cruz Mountains

For the last 20 years Rhys has been the standard bearer for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Having spent time with vintner Kevin Harvey, I can attest these vines are an absolute obsession for him. Their high-elevation estate vineyards boast some of the most expressive results for Burgundian varieties anywhere on the planet. The combination of diverse geology and cool coastal climate bring about extremely layered and complex wines that retain tremendous acidity and balance. These wines are substantial in their structure and will easily age for a decade or more.

Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2016
Rhys Skyline Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains 2016

Racines – Santa Barbara

Sometimes in life, you can capture lightning in a bottle. “Racines is a collaboration between two classic houses from France, led by vignerons Étienne de Montille and Brian Sieve of Burgundy and Rodolphe Péters of Champagne. The team came together to join their individual experiences in hand-crafting wines of purity and transparency to create a range of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the cool climate of the Sta. Rita Hills in California.” The results from this unlikely endeavor present the greatest virtues of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as conduits of place and time.

Racines Bentrock Vineyard Chardonnay 2018
Racines Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018

Check out the wines below!


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Benchmark Wine Group

445 Devlin Road
Napa, CA 94558

Phone: 707.255.3500
Fax: 707.255.3503
SMS: 707.200.4049


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