The San Francisco Chronicle named Morgan Twain-Peterson and Tegan Passalacqua their co-winemakers of the year for 2015. Why does this matter, you may ask? Typically, we don’t pay too much attention to these kind of awards. But since Morgan and Tegan are two of our very favorite winemakers (Morgan for Bedrock Wine Company and Tegan for Turley Wine Cellars as well as Sandlands), this award made us sit up and take notice of who the Chronicle named going forward.
Fast forward to 2018. The Chronicle named their winemaker of the year to be – Ian Brand. “Who?”, you may ask (we did). But further research resulted in us resolving to visit Ian’s winery tasting room in the Carmel Valley as soon as practical. It took us a while, but we finally made it.
Ian sources grapes from all over Monterey and San Benito Counties. You may not be familiar with many of the grapes and the vineyard sites are often historic and underrepresented in a land where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are king and queen.
Ian actually produces wine under three labels: Le P’tit Paysan (The Little Peasant) would be considered entry level, inspired by French Village wines; La Marea (The Tide) focuses on Spanish varietals; and I. Brand, which are single vineyard, old vine bottlings. Total annual production is about 15,000 cases, with the premium I Brand label representing the lowest production.
We tasted some of the wines from the I. Brand label when we visited the tasting room in Carmel Valley Village. Note that most of these vineyards are registered with the Historic Vineyard Society (HVS), an organization near and dear to our hearts.
2021 Arneis –from the Vista Verde Vineyard in the Paicines AVA of San Benito County
Bright, Asian pear, lemon notes. Medium to full mouth feel, long fish. Impression of very slight sweetness, distinct and structured.
2021 Pinot Gris – from the Eden Rift Vineyard in the Cienega Valley AVA of San Benito County.
Eden Rift was planted in the early 1850s by Theophile Vaché, a pioneer of the California wine industry. Light blush color, since it spent five days on its skins. Complex tannins, strawberry raspberry notes in the mouth and on the nose. Long finish.
2021 Pinot Noir – from the Enz Vineyard in the Lime Kiln Valley AVA of San Benito County. This vineyard is registered with the Historic Vineyard Society. Temperatures are warmer in this area compared to Monterey County so harvest is earlier. The soil is limestone versus the granite of Monterey County. Great fruit nose. Stone fruit complexity, medium mouth feel, medium to long finish.
2019 Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache – from the Chalone Vineyard in the Chalone AVA of Monterey County. This is another vineyard registered with the HVS. A perfect blend of these three grapes (56%, 32% and 12% respectively), this elegant wine had a cherry nose, red, ripe fruit and rosemary notes. A nice long finish.
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon – from the Massa Vineyard in the Carmel Valley AVA of Monterey County
This is oldest vineyard in Carmel Valley. It was previously owned by the Durneys and is now owned by the Massas and is HVS registered. The wine was obviously still very young but was very structured and layered, with pomegranate and white pepper notes.
Ian is making outstanding wines from these great old vineyards. You should definitely take the drive to the end of Carmel Valley Village to see and taste for yourself. It makes for a very leisurely ride.
With the three labels, there is a variety to choose from. The tasting room is comfy and cozy. We enjoyed sitting outside looking at the scenery, the beautiful mountains and the surrounding areas. It only added to the overall experience.
I. Brand & Family
19 East Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley Village, CA 93924Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.