Hi Eve! A quick note to let you know how much we look forward to hosting you and your group this weekend for a tour and tasting at Niner Wine Estates. Please note that you will be meeting with our shining star Winemaker Amanda Cramer on Saturday. She will show you a lovely time! Thank you again Eve and see you this weekend. Cheers! Allison Dana Addison www.ninerwine.com
We entered Niner as fast as we could last Saturday afternoon. We hardly noticed the yellow-brick-road as we dashed inside the tasting room. I checked in for our tour and while we waited I meandered around the gynormous room.
One wall had a large fireplace and seating area that my cold pals took advantage of. I strolled around the room noting another wall had large windows showcasing “The Hospitality Center” – that many guests were headed to for a party, a wall of wine bottles, another wall with gifts, and a display of wine glasses with selections of herbs, chocolate, coffee, spices and fruit meant to help educate tasters on the different aromas and flavors used to describe wine.
I felt that I had entered a very large classroom. Especially when I noted a second story that looked down on the first, akin to an observation floor.
Then my self-guided tour ended when I saw a young, healthy, vibrant, hurried woman striding purposely our way.
Well, fancy that, the winemaker we were slated to meet was Amanda Cramer. In the photo you can see that she is the 2010 winner of Andre Tchelistcheff’s “Winemaker of the Year” award from the San Francisco International Wine Competition. So the first thing this wine 101er asked was, “So, how’d you win?” To which Amanda, while raking back errant waves of hair from her face, said, “They like interesting wines! And these were my first for Niner!”
Amanda, a UC Davis grad and a school teacher in a former life, asked us to follow her car, yellow Volkswagen Beetle, as she slowly led our cars to the winery we were to visit.
Along the paved road we saw a couple of manmade irrigation pools and noticed that most of the vines we saw were still in cartons. Once at the main building, Amanda explained that Mr. and Mrs. Niner, owners of the winery, were going to be receiving their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in silver, hopefully by the spring. (Learn more about LEED here.)
Amanda then brought us inside, past her office, and the lab where she tastes wine with her assistant winemaker and enologist, “It’s the three” of them that are making the decisions on the wine.
Now, this is the part of the tour where Amanda tried not to loose us, figuratively and literally.
The “winery” is huge. It has a “multi-level” set up, where the juice drops down from the top tier, mostly only employing “gravity”, passes through many processes including de-stemming and sorting, and finally into the many waiting stainless steel tanks.
Amanda told us about the winery’s construction – the 14 inch thick walls made with foam and concrete keeping the room at the necessary 57 degrees, her choice in squat tanks for reds and tall for whites, and a woman’s bathroom on either side of the floor as the length was too far for her to sprint.
And, the tanks in a circle, as opposed to up against a wall, allowed all of the workers quick and efficient access. All innovations that even her teachers at US Davis would be surprised that she had employed, at great cost and benefit, for Niner Wines.
Amanda, in constant movement to match her constant speech, said, “It’s my OCD, or anal compulsiveness, that helps with the winemaking – so the fruit ‘shows itself.’”
At the end of the tour, which ran long for the obvious reasons – so much to see and learn – unfortunately our group had to race through the tasting to make it to our next scheduled stop! I noted that none of the wines were over $28 – most hovered around the $25 range – and the 07 Bootjack Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon was very good. The entire lineup, from white to red to olive oil can be seen here.