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Located in Healdsburg, Brick & Mortar is a mix of classic and new Napa styles. They focus on more traditional grapes (pinot noir and chardonnay) but present them in inventive and surprising new ways. Keeping acidity high while still trying to offer wines that show Napa’s iconic signatures, winemaker Matt Iaconis uses inventive blends, earlier harvest times, native yeast fermentation, and nontraditional methods in the winery. With its distinct winemaking philosophy Brick & Mortar has forged an identity all it's own in the ever-changing landscape of California wine.
One fascinating experiment being done in the winery provides two intriguing wines. The Vin Clair and Vin Rubis are made with grapes blended from the same two parcels: pinot noir from Block House vineyard in Yountville and chardonnay from Lincoln Creek vineyard in Oakville. Grapes are picked from both sites on the same day, and each lot is then separated upon arrival in the vineyard. Two wines are made, both 53% pinot noir and 47% chardonnay: one (Vin Clair) is white, one (Vin Rubis) is a light red. The Vin Clair is an ode to the still wines that are the building blocks of champagne. The two varieties are pressed together and co-fermented using natural yeast. No oak is used, giving a wine that is zippy, fresh, and lively. The chardonnay that goes into the Vin Rubis is dumped whole cluster in an open tank on top of which the destemmed pinot noir is added. Five days of cold soak follow, with subsequent native yeast fermentation, daily punch-down by hand, and aging in 100% neutral oak barrels. Light and refreshing, with bright red fruit and great lip-smacking acidity, this is a great wine to serve with a slight chill somewhere sunny. Using the same parcels, split up in the same way, the winemaker has made two remarkable wines that are entirely distinct.
A more powerful, serious white, the 2014 Sweetwater Springs RRV Chardonnay has primary and secondary native fermentation occur deep in natural caves in 33% new oak, which gives enough new-oak character to detect but not enough to be overblown. As with all their wines this chardonnay is a classic style in a new and vital form: tensile, high-energy, and with graceful reserve, the definitive aspects of Sonoma chardonnay - at times sun-drenched, at times creamy - are sublimated into a delicate and lasting form.
Lastly, there is the 2014 Pinot Noir from La Perla vineyard. At 1700 feet above sea level, this steep site is fantastic pinot country. At this elevation and location, the cold air of the Pacific that renders Sonoma so climatically different than Napa drifts over the Mayacamas mountains at night, allowing for increased acidity and structure in the final wines. This wine is native yeast fermented before resting in used French oak barrels for 16 months. As with all Brick & Mortar wines, this pinot noir is an amalgam of traditional and innovative California styles that ultimately converge to create wonderful, exciting, and balanced wines. Andrew Farquhar
An ode to the blending wines used to make champagne, this wine is 53% pinot noir and 47% chardonnay, vinified with no skin contact as a full-on high-energy white wine. Yellow apple and white peach on the nose mix with classic ripe unoaked Napa chardonnay character. The palate is quite different, having a briny quality and increased depth from the pinot noir. This wine is great for sipping cold on a sunny spring day. No new oak, native yeast fermentation in barrel. Andrew Farquhar
The companion to Brick & Mortar’s Vin Clair, this fascinating light red is 53% whole cluster chardonnay and 53% destemmed pinot noir. Unmistakably pinot noir on the nose but the aromatic character is less full and unctuous and more delicately etched. Edgy and tensile, the palate is almost Italianate in its bright cherry fruit and brisk acidity. Through this brightness is threaded a delicate, pleasing hint of baking spice that lingers through the finish. This wine shows best with a slight chill. Andrew Farquhar
This stylish wine from the Russian River Valley gives lovers of California chardonnay a new angle to appreciate a beloved classic. 33% new oak gives just a touch of creaminess on the nose, mixed with a hint of smoke. One sniff will tell you this is unmistakably California chardonnay, yet on the palate it is anything but fat. Powerful and exciting, its notes of lemon, citrus flower, wheat and gravel are ably integrated around fine minerality. This wine is lean and muscular, with surprising depth of structure that will make it capable of cellar storage for up to a decade. Andrew Farquhar
Situated at an altitude of 1700 feet, La Perla vineyard in Spring Mountain District is a true high altitude site, and a wonderful place to grow pinot noir. Cool air from the Pacific makes it here at night, lending extra acidity and structure to the wine. This is an elegant pinot, cast in a lighter and more graceful mold. The nose is a muted expression of black cherry and spiced plum. Herbal aromas becomes a dark, tea-like character on the palate that accompanies a pleasant surprise: evidence of some tannic grip. While not a powerfully tannic wine in any sense, it has enough to give a sense of order to the mid-palate that allows its fruit, brighter than on the nose, to shine through with the elevated acidity that is a hallmark of this winery. Remains in used French oak barrels for 16 months before bottling unfined and unfiltered. Andrew Farquhar