Winemaker Christian Roguenant arrived in California some 35 years ago. A native of the Burgundy region in France, he quickly gained fame making elegant sparkling wines at Maison Deutz near Pismo Beach. Deutz eventually gave way to Lateita Winery, and Roguenant moved on, working for the Niven family in the nearby Edna Valley.
With the Nivens, his reputation only grew as he cranked out superb pinot noir and chardonnay under the Baileyana label. He also began to explore the aromatic white wines of Western Europe, producing some of the first albarino (Tangent) and gruner veltliner (Zocker) wines made in the United States.
Roguenant recently left the Niven wine conglomerate and started a new project in the Silicon Valley, Lightpost Winery, owned by the husband and wife team of Sofia Fedotova and John Mauro. The couple owned an 80-acre parcel in Morgan Hill and recently planted six acres of Burgundian and Bordeaux grape varieties.
With Roguenant as winemaker, they are also sourcing fruit from special vineyards throughout California's Central Coast. I recently tasted their 2018 chardonnay from the Spanish Springs Vineyard near San Luis Obispo. It is one of the finest California chardonnays I've tasted in recent memory.
Another chardonnay, from the Paraiso Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, was voted best chardonnay at the recent Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition in San Diego. In fact, Lighthouse wines swept 13 medals, including five gold and one platinum.
Not only was the Lighthouse performance at the challenge impressive; it signals Lighthouse as a winery to watch, especially when you consider that brilliant winemaker Christian Roguenant is only just getting started.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Vietti 2017 Barbera d'Asti, Tre Vigne, Italy ($18) — Vietti long ago learned to tame the rough edges of the barbera grape. The 2017 Tre Vigne is an excellent example of Vietti barbera, showing rich black-fruit aromas, firm acidity and rich grape tannins in a wine that will only get better with time. That said, it is very enjoyable now and comes alive when paired with roasted meats such as veal shank. Rating: 93.
Cline 2018 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County ($20) — Cline, a specialist in Rhone-style wines, has branched out in recent years with great success. It has also joined the ranks of California wineries producing excellent pinot noir for $20 or less. This 2018 Sonoma County bottling is a solid pinot that delivers notes of bright cherry and wood spice, with good depth and length, and modest tannins for enjoyable consumption now. Rating: 88.
Ferraton Pere & Fils 2017 Samorens, Cotes-du-Rhone, France ($16) — The Cotes du Rhone category continues to provide some of the best values in red wine in the world. This beauty from Ferraton is a blend of grenache, syrah and cinsault that highlights the red fruit and soft tannins of the grenache grape when grown in the south of France. The syrah adds a bit of backbone, but overall, this is a seriously fresh and easy-drinking red that's just as easy on the pocketbook. Rating: 88.
Perinet 2016 Merit, Priorat DOQ, Spain ($28) — This release from Perinet is a blend of old vine garnacha, merlot, syrah and carinena, and it packs a wallop. Big and bold, with richly layered red and black fruits, firm tannins, and impressive palate weight and length, it's a wine best held in the cellar for another six to 10 years for optimum enjoyment. Rating: 95.
Dutton Goldfield 2017 Pinot Noir, Dutton Ranch / Emerald Ridge Vineyard, Green Valley of Russian River Valley ($68) — Winemaker Dan Goldfield has been at the top of his game for the past several years, cranking out exquisite vineyard-specific pinot noir that sets a high bar for his neighbors. This vintage from the extremely cool Green Valley (on the western fringe of the Russian River Valley) exhibits exceptional fruit purity, showing notes of black cherry and raspberry with a touch of wood spice and impressive depth. The wine is beautifully balanced and plush on the palate, a pinot to savor now or lay down in the cellar for another five years or more. Rating: 92.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]