It always excites us to discover new, under the radar, up and coming wineries. Today we are elated to feature just that and one that we took the entire allocation for Illinois because we thought the wines were that good.
We introduce you to Cruse Wine Company, brainchild of Michael Cruse, who made his name with the highly coveted sparkling wines from Ultramarine. He also produces a few still wines under his Cruse Label, and we were not only blown away by the high quality and purity of the wines but also the very friendly price points.
The Chardonnay from Rorick Vineyard comes from the oldest vines in the highest of places, the tiny berries produce a wine of extreme concentration. The expressive nose is filled with white flower and concentrated citrus. The weight is viscous and oily but with a bright, cleansing acidity. A mineral palate of wet stone and earth. They don't add sulfur until right before bottling, then give the wine another 6 - 8 months in bottle to come together. Ready to drink now but could age for another 5-10 years.
The Syrah is from the famed Charles Heintz vineyard in Occidental, a cool site at the extremes of ripening Syrah in western Sonoma County. The fruit was fermented whole cluster in a concrete tank for 16 days with very light and gentle foot treading. The resultant wine is dark, very floral and rustic. There are notes of wet pine needles and oil-cured olives. The texture is steamy and tannic. They just rereleased this wine as the extra time in bottle has calmed its rustic nature and increased the drinkability. This interpretation of Syrah acknowledges the Northern Rhone while still being purely Californian.
Oh and the labels! "If you look at the old sherry labels from the 19th century, there's a lot of graphics and detailed engravings, and I love those,” Cruse says, adding that the addition of a neon paint splash overlay on the artwork introduces a semblance of modernity. That combination, he says, reflects what he’s attempting with his wine project, to “return to California roots and California classics…but doing it in a modern way.”