LA CLARINE FARM
SIERRA FOOTHILLS, California
If wine writer Terry Theise’s notion that distinctiveness as precondition for greatness is correct, La Clarine Farm is certainly primed for immortality. The La Clarine wines are teeming with life in a way that separates them from even the most lively of French natural producers. Self-proclaimed refugees from the music business, Hank Beckmeyer and Caroline Hoël began the project thinking they’d try a few things and if people liked it, they’d continue. Recovering biodynamic farmers, they have evolved from Steiner’s method of rigorous input to Fukuoka’s method of careful observation. Although they purchase the majority of their fruit, Hank writes about the quantum entanglement of vineyard, winery and winemaker; a cellar-inclusive addendum to the conception of terroir. The La Clarine wines are bottled inquiries, cloudy with curiosity and a bursting state of vivacious play that makes them a joy to drink and endlessly fascinating.
Syrah and Mourvedre from two different high-elevation vineyards with volcanic loam soils.
This is the quintessential La Clarine cuvée. Hank writes: "Probably my favorite wine we make, just on the basis of it being so damn drinkable young, and so damn beautiful after 8 or 10 years in the bottle."
SUMU KAW SYRAH
Another elemental La Clarine wine. This is truly special Syrah from a forested, high elevation volcanic vineyard whose name means 'place of the sugar pines.'
Although the single varietal Viognier was initially intended as a one-off to capture an exceptional vintage for the grape, Hank tells us “I guess I’ve made my peace with Viognier,” and the wine allows him to showcase two of his favorite vineyards together.
The idea for Al Basc came about from a conversation with the great Eric Texier about the nature of 6-7 month macerations. Hank decided Albarino would be a great grape to try it out with and three years later here we are!
Cab? From Clarine? Well, the fruit is coming from his Cedarville plot, which is the vineyard he’s worked with most extensively. The early ripening vineyard sports decomposed granite soils, giving the wines a vivid aromatic profile. To keep the Cab from getting too brawny, they picked early and used only the brightly contoured free run juice. This isn’t a great walloping Cali Cab but rather a La Clarine wine through the prism of Cabernet Sauvignon.
ANGLE OF REPOSE RED
Y’all remember the AoR rosé Hank made last year? It was really delicious right? Well he’d made it that way because it was the first year fruiting for baby Tannat and Grenache but this year he decided to vinify red. Both varieties are picked simultaneously and cofermented in whole clusters. Gently pressed and blended with a little Albariño and that’s the whole story!
What the what? How can this be the first time Hank’s messed around with Gamay? He confesses a little reticence for working with the variety in the first place perhaps owing to his wines’ natural penchant for pixie-like wildness. For Gamay he channeled Jean-Paul Brun’s more Burgundian approach and created a wine he is super happy with! Owing to its more rugged process, Hank recommends decanting as the wine can be reluctant to express itself quickly.
Although Hank has been making directly pressed wines since the outset, it’s in the last few years that he’s really dialed in. His predilection for early picking and a gentle touch balanced with a careful barrel program has taken his whites from good (if somewhat inconsistent) to rock solid and precise. This fruit comes from our friend Matthew Rorick at his sprawling, limestone rich, high elevation vineyard in Calaveras county.