We had the privilege of being introduced to Josh Ruiz, and his Twisted Roots label, before dinner during our stay at the Hyatt Regency Monterey. A farmer by trade, and passion, Mr. Ruiz has a simple philosophy, “If I can farm really good grapes, and let them speak for themselves, the wine-making takes care of itself.” Take it from me – those grapes are speaking, and they are saying some delicious things.
The grapes are grown in Lodi at a vineyard that includes vines that have been in his wife’s family since 1918. Most of the grapes are sold to other winemakers, including to a very prominent maker of award-winning Zinfandels. His wife’s uncle saw the interest and passion for grapes in Mr. Ruiz, and gave him the nod to start working toward producing under his label. That was eight years ago, with the last five years growing into booming commercial sales. And let me tell you, he has come a long way from selling wine from the trunk of his car.
Everything is aged in neutral French oak barrels. [add quote] How does he know that the grapes are ready for harvesting? He eats them. The taste of the grape tells him everything he needs to know.
Chardonnay (Wine club sells at $22)
Ruiz suggests that the Chardonnay be served at close to room temperature. Rather than the big, flashy (and buttery) California Chardonnays that became popular, he makes his Chardonnay like an old-fashioned Chablis.
My Thoughts: I’m not a fan of most California Chardonnay, for the reason Ruiz mentions. But this was fairly light and delicate. This is a chardonnay I would actually order (which is saying something since I tend closer to Sauvignon Blancs when I go with white wines).
Cabernet (Wine club sells at $28)
At 14.3% alcohol, this Cabernet packs a punch. Ruiz explains that he makes the Cabernet to feel more like a pinot noir than most California Cabs. He picks grapes from the xxxxx, and the wine produced is lighter in tannins and without the harshness of many Cabernets.
My Thoughts: Much to my surprise, I this was tied as for my favorite wine of the night. Since I do gravitate toward Pinot Noirs, I suppose it should not have surprised me that much. It is fruit-forward, not particularly bold, and I thought it had a nice, smooth finish.
Petite Syrah (Wine club sells at $28)
Ruiz suggests that the Petite Syrah can be successfully stored and aged – in fact, he recommends it. It is one of their most popular wines with big flavor.
My Thoughts: There is an intense berry taste to this wine. You know from the deep color of the pour that you are in for a rich experience. I prefer to drink this wine with food rather than on its own.
Zinfandel (aka “1918” Old Vine Zinfandel) (Wine club sells at $35)
The old Zin is dry farmed from their historic roots. There have been no grafts to the original vines, and production is only between a half to one ton. But it is their history, and you can tell that he has a deep affection for this wine. Ruiz suggests that you should not buy and age the Old Zin. Buy a bottle and drink it tonight.
My Thoughts: I would happily buy a bottle of the Zinfandel and drink it tonight. This was the other part of my tied for favorite wine, and won Andy’s heart. It’s a complex wine that smells bigger than it tastes. Not aggressively tannic, it works well with food and on its own.
If any of these wines sound intriguing to you, you can order from their website, join the Twisted Roots wine club, or visit their tasting room in the village of Carmel Valley, CA (12 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley, CA – they share a space with the LyonsHead Art Gallery), or in downtown Lodi. They are also carried at wine shops around the Central Coast, and on the menu of the restaurants at the Hyatt Regency Monterey (along with a growing number of others, I’m sure).
[Note: Our introduction to Twisted Roots was part of a sponsored press trip to Hyatt Regency Monterey. All opinions are my own or of the site.]