This is a great story. It would make a fabulous movie. Talented actor, director and writer meets beautiful woman working part-time in a florist shop while finishing a masters’ thesis in journalism. She: in love with the idea of wine and helping to revive fallow vineyards in her family’s native Macedonia. He: exhausted, needing help pronto to plant some 800 vines in (of all unlikely places) Malibu! She’s in. 48 hours. He falls in love. Cut to ocean sunset and the magic elixir of a glass of Pinot Noir. Ahhhhh….
This is no movie. It’s the back story of Casa Dumetz, the labor of love of Emilio Estevez and Sonja Magdevski. He still acts, directs and writes. She still writes, a combination of feature articles and blogs. They connect in the vineyard.
Thanks to the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission, I had the pleasure of meeting Emilio and Sonja at a Sunday evening tasting of Casa Dumetz wines hosted by Commission director Kristen Erwin and her husband Mike Schlotman. Emilio will be returning to the Cincinnati area next spring to film a movie. Will Sonja bring us more Casa Dumetz wines? Combining loves, personal and professional, seems like a grand idea. Game on, Cincinnati!!
Our comprehensive tasting was ordered in a unique way. Initially skeptical about why we would taste red, then white, then red, then white, and finally bubbly — well, there’s a method to the madness. Let me walk you through the line-up of the 2012 vintage.
A pair of Grenache wines provide a perfect lesson in terroir. Two vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley, Tierra Alta and Larner, are the sources of Sonja’s grapes, cultivated and picked in consultation with the grower. These wines demonstrate just how varied the wines of one grape can be from places situated so close together. Because I haven’t visited the vineyards (yet), all I can tell you is that the Larner vineyard is a cooler microclimate with sandier soil than Tierra Alta.
We started with Tierra Alta Grenache. I had a singular profound reaction: this wine tasted like Christmas, all red fruit and cinnamon spices! Glints of light and pronounced aromas literally bounced from the glass of deceptively light-colored wine. At 14.8% abv, this wine could have overwhelmed the palate with wafts of alcohol. But I couldn’t wait to have another sip.
In contrast, the Larner Grenache was all savory herbs with delicate floral notes. Medium color and body, the aroma notes of red and black fruit gave way to flavors of eucalyptus and forest floor. Slightly lower in alcohol (14%), this wine matched my palate preference.
The Casa Dumetz Viognier was so delicately perfumed that even my friend Lesa Johnson — who generally can’t stand perfume and flower notes in her wine — would swoon for this. (She will get the opportunity in February when we tour the stretch of wine country between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.) I’m pretty sure that Kristen and Mike’s guests were feeling happy about this offering of aromatic Viognier.
The moment I was waiting for: the Syrah. It was worth the wait! I am hereby declaring this my favorite of the Casa Dumetz range. It was silky and elegant, tannins in check even at this young age, owing mostly to the fact that Sonja relies on neutral barrels for aging. The wine was at once deeply savory and perfumed, mushrooms and violets. I’m pretty sure that I consumed more than my share of this wine…
I found myself feeling a bit confused about the Gewurtztraminer. It was clearly a shift away from the strength of the Rhone varietals. Perhaps it was just an interesting winemaker’s experiment, but I thought it fell short on flavor and complexity compared to the other wines. It was only lightly spicy on the nose and palate, with a medium-short finish. I love Gewurtztraminer, but this was a shade too delicate to my taste.
Closing with a traditional method bubbly made from Syrah grapes, capped like a bottle of coca-cola (no cork and cage), was quite an interesting close to the tasting. A note on each bottle declares that inedible “magic fermentation beads” created the fizz. Although vinified dry, the bubbly offered a hint of sweetness that might actually make this wine a good match for dessert. I am an obstinant anti-chocolate-with-wine person, but I might find forgiveness in Sonja’s Suds.
Until Cincinnati arranges to offer Sonja’s wines locally, you can buy Casa Dumetz wines online at www.casadumetzwines.com. All wines are $30-35 plus shipping. Or visit the tasting room at 388 Bell St., Los Alamos CA.
photo credits: werd.com; casadumetzwines.com; Kathy Merchant