"All Forlorn Hope wines are produced from winegrapes. That's it." So reads the website of this California negociant, one of a growing trend of small producers in the region who believe passionately that wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.
Forlorn Hope labels each of their offerings "rare creatures". Indeed, with a roster including Semillon, Ribolla Giala, Verdelho, and single-row Petit Sirah, it's hard to fit the wines together into any ordinary box. I've written much on this blog about the vanguard of California winemakers—Broc Cellars, Dirty & Rowdy and Cowan Cellars, most recently—who strive for pure rather than merely consistent wines. Authenticity is paramount in this trend. And while authenticity in California takes a different shape than it does in the Europe, it's worth noting that, nonetheless, the similarities are striking.
Folks like Italian vintner Elisabetta Foradori, in Trentino, have eschewed so-called "international varieties" and instead focused on cultivating grapes that are particular to their land and its indigenous culture (in her case, the varietal teroldego). In California, there is no elemental-historical tie to any one grape. As with so much of American culture, American wine is an amalgamation of its myriad immigrants. And yet, on both sides of the pond, within this broad movement toward authenticity, there is a common understanding of wine's metaphysical relationship to the people who make and drink it. Wine is primal. And yet if not convivial, if not ultimately healthful, wine loses that primacy.
Matthew Rorick, the winemaker behind Forlorn Hope, seems to have a seriously good time in the process. For me, this gets at the heart of what is happening across the globe. To enjoy wine is to embrace its personality. Matthew Rorick gets that. And his elaborations tell a story all their own.
(BTW, wondering what's with the name? Take a quick peak at the Wikipedia page regarding the phrase 'forlorn hope'. Charge!)
"Gascony Cadets" 2006 ($33) Petit Verdot King Vineyard, Suisun Valley, CA
"Les Deux Matieux" 2006 ($33) Petite Sirah Tendink Vineyard, Suisun Valley, CA
"Suspiro del Moro" 2010 ($22) Alvarelhào Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa, CA
"Kumo to Ame" 2013 ($22) rosé of Tinta Amarella, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional Dewitt Vineyard, Amador County, CA
"Sihaya" 2010 ($27) Ribolla Gialla Vare Vineyard, Napa Valley, CA
"Nacré" 2010 ($27) Semillon Yount Mill Vineyard, Yountville, CA
"Que Saudade" 2012 ($27) Verdelho CA