Wind Gap meets London Cru

Published by Emma Partington on 09/03/2017

Forget the bore of allocating designated drivers and the nightmare of getting lost in miles of countryside. Wineries are increasingly setting up shop in surprisingly urban settings, allowing them to select grapes from the best of the surrounding vineyards. Roberson Wine’s sister company London Cru is the only such enterprise in the UK, however making wine in an urban setting is more common for those across the pond in the US. California in particular is a hotbed of urban wineries - Golden State winemakers are ripping up the rulebook and opening boutique, quality-focused wineries and tasting rooms in the heart of inner-city neighbourhoods across the state.

Wind Gap Wines are one such producer, based out of downtown Sebastopol in Sonoma County. Roberson Wine has been importing Wind Gap since its inception, and last week chief winemaker Pax Mahle visited Roberson and London Cru last week to swap notes and talk all things wine.

Wind Gap Wines is Pax’s own label and all of the winemaking takes place at his city-centre base. He has a spot in The Barlow, a trendy industrial complex for artisans, with all of the vineyards he uses within a two-hour radius. It is easy to point out the similarities between the set up of London Cru and Wind Gap. However, more interesting is the similarities between winemaking ethos of the two city-based wineries.

London Cru’s winemaker Gavin Monery is an ardent proponent of letting the grapes do the talking in his wines, selecting the best grapes from specific vineyard sites and allowing the fruit to sing. Likewise, Pax focuses on making honest, authentic and compelling wines that are true expressions of fruit. Both look for special vineyard sites to help them do this.

For Pax this means seeking out vineyards that are planted along, or directly influenced by, a ‘wind gap’. That is, a geological break in the coastal hills that funnels wind inland that helps to keep the vineyards cool. This coolness, coupled with picking at lower sugar levels, gives the final wines an alluring freshness – a clear eschewal of the big, ripe styles traditionally typical of California.

While Sebastopol is within spitting distance of a multitude of exciting Californian vineyards, Gavin must travel a little further afield to find exciting cooler-climate vineyards for London Cru. However, found them he has with grapes from (among others) a planting of Syrah 1,000m above sea level in rural Calatayud and an ocean-lashed, verdant Albariño site in Rías Baixas.

Both Gavin and Pax focus on making wine with as little intervention as possible. They have a love for the craft, and for the grapes themselves; you won’t find these winemakers adding sugar, or needlessly stripping the wine of complexity through filtration.

We tasted Pax’s wines while he was visiting, and we weren’t disappointed. Of particular note was the Chenoweth Pinot Noir 2013. With grapes from a site further north than Wind Gap’s other sites, this wine is full bodied and decadent but still has the wonderful tell-tale elegance of Wind Gap’s other wines. Alternatively, the wine to watch from London Cru’s latest release is Charlotte St 2015 - refined and elegant with hints of citrus, tropical melon and quince.

Emma

Emma Partington

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