SIERRA FOOTHILLS, California
It might seem impossible to rock stetsons, punk rock bullet belts and biker tattoos all while making some of California’s most faithful representations of place, but ours is a world of contradictions, after all. Matthew Rorick swaggered into the wine world in 2005 as an orbital curiosity at the event horizon of Cali’s post-Parker wine scene. He built the Forlorn Hope name on an ever shifting rogue’s gallery of super small production wines from fringy grapes and fringy vineyards. After 10 years of patchwork innovation, Matthew found his home at Calaveras Count in the Sierra Foothills.
At an impressive 3000 ft altitude, Rorick Heritage Vineyard is a sprawling 60+ acre encyclopedia of apocryphal grape varieties on a steep, natural amphitheater. Matt remembers having to peel his jaw off the floor when he first saw the limestone outcroppings. LIMESTONE in California! 20 varieties were planted in the early 2000’s by the first owner, Barden Stevenot and another 10 are now in production with 10-15 additional varieties waiting in the wings at the nurseries.
The particular combination of altitude, limestone and schist as well as the grab bag of quirky grapes has made RHV a household name among the great artisan winemakers of California. Folks like Evan Lewandowski, Michael Cruse and Chad Hinds have all found themselves drawn in by the promise of Trousseau, Picpoul, Tempranillo and even ungrafted Chardonnay.
Today, with the help of coconspirator Danielle Shehab and their team, they produce wines that are both classy and radical. Free of the chaos so frequently attributed to natural wines, these wines are polished Cali beauties electrified by limestone terroir.
QUEEN OF THE SIERRA WHITE
The Forlorn Hope country white wine is a charming mix of Chardonnay, Muscat and Verdelho blended in the winter and aged a year in barrel.
QUEEN OF THE SIERRA ROSÉ
Whole cluster pressed Zinfandel, Grenache and Tempranillo fermented and aged in steel on fine lees. Bottled the following spring.
QUEEN OF SIERRA RED
A surprising blend of Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Mondeuse, Trousseau, Grenache all processed a variety of ways to bring out the best from each variety. After a few months aging, the lots were blended in winter, aged a bit more and then bottled in spring.
QUEEN OF THE SIERRA AMBER
Vermintino, Muscat long macerated for four months in Flextank eggs with some stems in with some of the Muscat. Drained off and blended with destemmed, skin-fermented Chard. Blended into small barrels and bottled a year after harvest.
Languedoc's lowly Picpoul variety energized by RHV's limestone soils and altitude. Brief presoak with the skins and then a super long 10 month ferment in small barrels. Racked once and aged another year on fine lees before bottling.
SAN HERCURMER DELLE FRECCE
Homegrown Barbera from their high elevation, limestone rich vineyard fermented with all the stems 'n everything and aged in a mix of barriques and puncheons.
A single barrel of what becomes 'San Hercurmer' bottled without any sulfite addition.
Sémillon from vines planted in the 1950's in Napa. Whole cluster pressed, lees aged through the winter and then bottle aged for 7 years.
Verdelho, a longtime specialty of Forlorn Hope now from their own vines at the Rorick Heritage Vineyard.
Trousseau done whole cluster footstompies. Aged 8 months in barrel, racked once and then another two before bottling.