This is not your typical mourvedre. Known for a dominating personality of black pepper, red meat, smoke, and high tannins - mourvedre wines are generally not for the faint of heart. But when a winemaker decides to have an open mind and experiment with grapes in new locales, a grape like mourvedre can take on an entirely different persona. If warm climates create a hearty BBQ pairing wine, then what should we expect from the Sierra foothills, with their cooling winds, volcanic and granite soils, and refrigerated sunshine? When mourvedre tangos with the edge of snowmelt, what then?
This wine is bright and refreshing with just-ripe plum, black cherry, and a hint of spice. It’s not delicate or wimpy, but neither is it the “masculine” behemoth that the grape’s reputation might suggest. This is your late summer red - the perfect wine to grab while spending a weekend in Tahoe with your friends.
It would pair wonderfully with dishes that incorporate the summer stone fruit, like this grilled pork chop with halloumi, plum, and lemon, but it could also pair with with dishes that celebrate the peak of heirloom tomato season. Aim for recipes with roasted tomatoes to highlight their natural sweetness - like a provencal ratatouille or pasta with pancetta and cherry tomatoes. And why not try pairing with a dish that picks up on the subtle spice? Recipes with 5-spice, ginger, or other Asian seasonings. For that matter, chinese short ribs could be just the thing.
Curious to learn more?
Bryan Harrington is our hometown hero - but don’t expect him to tell you that.
Born in San Francisco, he went to Saint Ignatius for three years before getting suspended one too many times for refusing to cut his hair, so he finished up at Lowell. Ever the boundary pusher, his first professional calling wasn’t wine at all, but as an artist. He spent 15 years as a painter in New York, filling galleries with his work and putting on one man shows. The allure of making art for money seemed to lose its luster over time and that’s when he fell into the food and wine scene back in the Bay Area, eventually making wine in his home.
After being informed that he was making more than the legal amount of wine for a home winemaker, he took advantage of a friend’s offer to move his operation to the back half of a metalworking shop in the Dogpatch. The directions for finding him today go something like, “Find the two large shipping containers and there’s a door in between them. Walk through the large metal shop and into the backroom. That’s where you’ll find me.” Google Maps has no idea where his desk is.
Bryan started off making wine as so many California winemakers do, a little Zinfandel, some Pinot Noir - but quickly that boundary pushing bug must have bit him again, because he took a hard right and headed down the path of rare and obscure grape varieties. It seems the local nurseries didn’t share his curiosity (or endless energy to find what he wanted) so eventually he turned to UC Davis for help. He found the Foundation Plant Services at Davis and offered to scour Europe for rare grape varieties to bring back to the US. Would they pay for his way, quarantine the grapes for him, and then let him plant wherever he saw fit if he promised to open source the cuttings? It turns out they would.
One could argue (as my husband Riley recently exclaimed), he’s basically the Indiana Jones of wine.
Fast forward to today and Bryan has introduced thirty different grape varieties to the United States through the UC Davis program. His stories of securing these cuttings are unbelievable - my favorite of which involved a visit to Sicily in search of Nerello Mascelese cuttings, only to find himself in a restaurant that was suspiciously empty except for one particularly “connected businessman” who wanted to talk to him. After the “businessman” made him an offer he couldn’t refuse… okay that last part isn’t true, but I couldn’t resist. Moral of the story here is that it turns out the Sicilians don’t want anyone taking their grapes! Sitting through a wine tasting with Bryan is full of colorful stories, thoughtful observations, and a killer opportunity to taste outlandish grape varieties. I’ll happily admit that tasting with Bryan made me feel like a complete wine novice. Have you tasted the Mission grape before? Nope. How about Hondarribi Beltza or Bombino Bianco? Nope, nope.
But here’s the thing about Bryan. He’s not just chasing obscure grape varieties for the novelty of it or for the fame of being the only US winemaker with a Susumaniello under his label. He’s scouring the world for these rare varieties so they aren’t forgotten and so they can be shared with others.
There are two realities that I keep thinking about in relation to Bryan’s winemaking. The first, that climate change will absolutely change how we think about growing all kinds of plants (from grape vines to corn fields) and the time to become open-minded and thoughtful about how we farm is now. And second, our world is more interconnected than ever today, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be learning from one another to continue to experiment and evolve as farmers, winemakers, and consumers.
Bryan isn’t motivated by consumer trends or business success. He isn’t scouring the world and sneaking vines home in his suitcase to hoard for himself (as many others have). Rather, he’s thoughtfully exploring, experimenting, and sharing what he learns along the way. If not cutting his hair in high school was simply a personal rebellion against the jesuits, then today his boundary pushing seems purposeful, inclusive, and forward thinking. So cheers to Bryan for being our hometown hero - a boundary breaking artist with an insatiable sense of curiosity.