So, you want to get to know the trio of Moniker wines by Mendocino Wine Company? Well meet the winemaker.
So, you want to get to know the trio of Moniker wines by Mendocino Wine Company, and you have the opportunity to ask the winemaker himself, Mark Beaman, what these wines are all about. Leave it to me to ask him “who” his wines are. But Beaman has a real relationship with the wines he creates, so without a second’s hesitation, he lobs an agile response.
“We’ll start with the Chardonnay,” he begins. “She would be that lovely, fun, bubbly friend who walks in the room and everybody’s attention goes on her. Very bright, shiny sort of person. Just in a great mood all the time, able to roll with the punches, but also with a level of sophistication that enables her to fit in with any sort of crowd or situation. She’s also able to stand up for herself, and that’s where I think the Viognier comes into the plan.”
Beaman refers to a lush, barrel-fermented Viognier sourced from nearby Hopland that’s blended into the Moniker Chardonnay.
“It adds a little bit of extra nuance, provides more viscosity and more body to the wine, so there’s actually some backbone that goes along with that. White wines typically don’t age that great. I think this one will actually age very well.”
So the Moniker Chardonnay probably works in sales, I think out loud.
“Yeah, that type of personality would lend itself to people wanting to listen. She would be very convincing. Yeah, I could go with that.”
Or a motivational speaker?
“That could be good too,” Beaman concedes. “The acidity is very lively, so there’s a vibrancy. It’s a daytime wine. It’s a sunshine kind of wine, open and cheerful.”
I ask Beaman for the ultimate food pairing with the Moniker Chardonnay. He zooms right in.
“Crème Brulee with a bit of pineapple on the side.”
Next in line is the Moniker Pinot Noir, described as “a big, dark-hued wine…a German yeast strain supported the wine’s dark fruit profile while native yeasts contributed bright fruit and forest floor aromatics”.
Beaman knows his Moniker Pinot Noir intimately. And in a way, without having tasted it, you probably do, too.
“The Pinot Noir would be that friend who’s pretty complicated. There’s a lot going on – the ‘still waters run deep’ type. A strong but silent situation, but also somebody who, if you crack the code of communication, you can sit down and talk with and realize this person has led a really interesting life, has a lot of thoughts and ideas about things, wanting to work and do good things. A fascinating personality and you were glad you took the time to sit down and wait for them to open up and reveal what they’re all about.”
Sounds like somebody we all know, right?
“Wine sometimes, like people, needs time to go through some yoga poses and emerge and get limbered up once you pull the cork out,” Beaman continues. “The Moniker Pinot Noir needs that. It’s got a lot of body and tannin so it needs a little bit of aeration to really open up and be happy.”
For Beaman, the Moniker Pinot begs to be served up with a mushroom risotto: “It would embrace the earthy side that’s there and the savory aspect. You kind of get that edamame feeling that goes along with it.
Finally, we come to the Moniker Cabernet Sauvignon.
“I would say this is the traveler friend,” says Beaman. “This is somebody who did a year or two abroad back in college and as soon as they graduated, they found a job that took them overseas. They’re constantly going out there and exploring. You send them an e-mail, ‘Where are you this time?’, and they’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m in Sri Lanka’. A very worldly person. You always have something to talk about. Yet they’re not sanctimonious, like, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m traveling the world, I’m so awesome’. Not like that. Just very kind of humble.”
Ah. So volunteering at an archaeological dig, for instance
“Absolutely,” Beaman agrees. “I blended in some Cap Franc and a little bit of Petit Bordeaux. The Cap Franc was for the spice and the Petit Bordeaux was for power and some backbone and tannin and color. I think people might have a tougher time pegging where it came from, and I’m proud of that.”
And given the choice of any food on earth, what would Beaman eat with his Moniker Cabernet?
“It’d be fun to have something like cassoulet. Something that’s hearty, harvest-oriented, that’s full of flavor, tons of aroma, fills the room and fills your stomach. I think that’d be a perfect pairing with the cabernet.”
While the Moniker wine trio may bring to mind familiar characters we’ve met before, these wines are anything but ordinary. In fact, I have a theory. I think there’s magic in these bottles. I think it was transmitted via sheer emotion; the familial love and joie de vivre that characterize the Mendocino Wine Company, and the deep gratitude of the earth itself for being so well respected and tended.
The dream of two brothers
Listen to Tim Thornhill, Founder of The Mendocino Wine Company share his story about a dream of two brothers, Tom and Tim Thornhill – a shared vision for creating a utopia where their family members could converge from all over the country and live and work together.
As Tim Thornhill shared with me, “We spent thirty-five years seeing each other and each other’s children once or twice a year, if somebody died or got married. So we started looking for something that would be paradise. We looked around quite a bit and eventually focused on Mendocino. While Napa and Sonoma have the same basic geography and climate, they didn’t have the same community we were looking for. We were looking for a place where we could make a difference in the community and a place that our family members would come to and not want to leave.”
Today, the Thornhill brothers’ reality surpasses their original dream. Not only are their parents with them, but so are their children and grandchildren. Even winemaker Mark Beaman, who worked at the winery before it was purchased by the Thornhills, eventually became part of the family.
“This pretty blond girl showed up down in the offices. Danger zone type stuff, boss’s daughter, which is like the script for a soap opera episode…but there was definitely a mutual attraction so we got our flirt on and pretty soon…it was like, ‘I think I need to talk to your dad’…later on that turned into a marriage between Kate and I and a couple of kids. Worked out very well.”
Beaman grew up in a farming environment, which is now becoming part of his children’s lives as well. “It’s what I want,” says Beaman. “It’s pretty cool that Tim was envisioning this for his family and it’s part of that expanse now.”
The people behind the Mendocino Wine Company are true lovers of the land
Not only did Beaman grow up on a wheat farm, but before moving to the West Coast, Tim Thornhill was a site development contractor who built botanical gardens around various parts of the country.
“I try to serve and inspire the soil,” says Thornhill. “I don’t manage it. I try to help balance it. So, for instance, I use owls for rodent control. Instead of putting out traps and poison, I put up owl boxes…if there’s something to eat, something will show up to eat it. It’s the same thing with insects. I don’t spray for insects – I plant flowers. The more flowers I have, the more insects I’ll have, the more they will balance themselves.”
The family has also done some innovative things with their water reclamation system. When Thornhill first purchased the winery, he was faced with a stagnant, stinking purple pond to which he summoned several consultants. “They all wanted to do the same thing everybody does in the wine industry…they wanted me to take out some more vines, dig another pond…then we’re going to put in four tin horse agitators…and basically pound oxygen back into the water. I just wasn’t going to do any of that. So we did different.”
Turns out going with his gut was a smart move. “We’re now operating at about 20% of the power (the consultants) would’ve designed in,” says Thornhill. “We spent 30% of what they would have budgeted to build the water system that we needed…our water quality is 2-3 times that of what they would’ve aspired to. We’ve ended up with a bird sanctuary and we get to recycle 100% of the water that the winery uses.”
Not only is their water reclamation system ingenious, it’s beautiful, too. “It’s a walking tour,” says Thornhill. “It has four waterfalls…you can walk right across the top of the wetland…so now I have school children and classes that come and look at all the bugs.”
I couldn’t help asking Thornhill how often he finds himself shedding tears of joy.
“Probably almost once a week,” he admits. “I’m a pretty sentimental person.” He also reflects back on the beginning of his dream, saying, “This is how this started for me. I started making a list of what I would regret if I got to the end of my life and I had…six days, six weeks or six months in a facility, thinking about what I should’ve or could’ve done, and it would’ve been spending the remainder of my life with as many of my family members as possible…so I feel very rewarded, and the idea that I might get teary about it is almost funny, because it’s very real.”
Love, family, and good ecological stewardship have blended together to create the outstanding “Moniker” trio of wines.
To learn more about Moniker and the Mendocino Wine Company and plan a visit, go to www.monikerwineestates.com.
Written By: Uncorked Monthly
THE NEW BOTTLE EXPERIENCE RATING
2012 Moniker Cabernet Sauvignon
Bright appearance, with full aromas of blackberry, black currant and prune. A medium/full-bodied red with blackberry, black currant and prune flavours. The finish is layered/complex. An overall good Cab from United States.
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