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La Clarine Farm: Piedi Grandi & Beyond


La Clarine Farm

I recently posted about the arrival of Arnot-Roberts, California's bellwether producer of balanced, handmade wines. Today I have the pleasure of announcing the arrival yet another star of that California natural wine set, La Clarine Farm.

Husband and wife duo Hank Beckmeyer and Caroline Hoel settled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills after leaving Germany ten years ago. They were inspired by the human-scale farmers they had known and read, like the Japanese philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, author of the 1975 minimalist farming manifesto, The One-Straw Revolution.

Hank was coming off two decades as a musician with the influential art-rock band Half Japanese. Caroline was focused on raising goats and making cheese. Both of them wanted to find a place to take their ideas about wine to ground, and found a welcome outpost in the high hills of Somerset, California.

From their Home Vineyard they make the surprising Piedi Grandi, made from nebbiolo and mourvedre, two grapes that normally stand far apart, glaring at each other from across a flavor divide, but which in the hands of La Clarine Farm come together like sugar and spice, with a very pretty nose of dried fruits and a fine-grained, complex umami finish.

And the fun doesn't stop there. Piedi Grandi is their most recognizable, most iconic wine to date. But in our initial tasting of these wines my personal favorite was the 2014 Priscilla — a Rhône-style blend of grenache and cinsault that are grown on their midget vines among the sage, thyme, and Indian Paintbrush. This wild approach shows through and makes for a wine unlike any other. The aromas tend toward savory almond and caraway seed. Then there is a juicy black fruit sumptuousness on the palate. The tannins are packed tight, hard but graceful, rustic, much like the place itself.

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia

The best value is easily their Jambalaia Rouge, which is put together exactly as it sounds, like a pot of everything. And somehow, somewhat magically, the result is an ethereal soiff of lip-smacking goodness. Kind of a head spinner, especially for twenty bucks.

The Sierra Foothills has been hyped as the next frontier for the avant-garde of California wine. And as I work my way through these bottles of La Clarine Farm, I know exactly why. It's an experience like no other.

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge 2015
Mouvedre, Marsanne, Grenache, Syrah
Sierra Foothills, USA

La Clarine Farm Priscilla 2014
Grenache, Cinsault
Sierra Foothills, USA

La Clarine Farm Piedi Grandi 2014
Nebbiolo, Mouvedre
Sierra Foothills, USA