Edward Wallo and his wife Deborah didn't plan to be winemakers. As a young couple "tromping around Europe," they'd fallen in love with Bordeaux and French wine; later they'd found a slice of heaven in Mendocino County. At the time, many of the properties available in the area came with small vineyards. Theirs was a plot of sauvignon blanc. They thought about it, and decided to try growing some grapes.
Now, Yorkville Cellars is the most awarded organic winery in California. Getting from there to here, Edward says, was "a fun and enjoyable journey" that still brings the couple joy. What more could you ask for in life? How about a nice Anderson Valley Malbec?
I was lucky enough to sample the 2009 Malbec, one of only a few produced in California. A bright burst of berries and fruit, it's aggressive on the approach, balanced on the finish and delightful all the way through.
The 2010 Semillon is very pleasantly rounded, nicely balanced between sweet and dry, with a honey overtone and hints of pear.
Personally, I loved the 2009 Merlot. Unassuming on the nose, it hits with a simple, sweet note and then expands with a deep, earthy flavor that lingers on the palate.
See more of Yorkville's current selection, including signature blends and a rare Petit Verdot.
Crafting such delicious wines organically, according to Edward, is the natural thing to do: "They've carbon dated wine that they've brought up in vessels from under the sea in the Mediterranean, and proven that we were crushing and fermenting grapes back to 5,000 B.C. So wine is over 7,000 years old, and it's really only in the last 50 that we've had herbicides and pesticides, meaning for 6,950 years all that wine was made from organic grapes like we're doing now. So it's really the traditional way, not the new whiz bang thing."
The Wallos studied their local weather history and found that they'd be able to plant the six "Noble Reds" of Bordeaux wine country. At first they intended to create blends, but once they tasted the quality of what they were producing, they decided to make a separate wine with each grape.
At the same time, Edward and Deborah were starting their own family. Living adjacent to the vineyard, it seemed clear that they should grow organically. It wasn't just for them, but for their neighbors too: Located at the top of the watershed, they knew "anything we did there would affect a lot of people one way or the other."
Since opening their tasting room 18 years ago, the Wallos have shared their Bordeaux-inspired, but wholly Californian, wine with countless thousands. Join the movement: Buy Yorkville Cellars wine online or visit the tasting room in the Anderson Valley, one of my favorite places in the world.
To be clear: Yorkville Cellars wines are made with organic grapes, but are not sulfite-free.
top image: Megan Mallen
Catch up with Jessica Reeder on Facebook and Twitter