An eruption with finesse

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Volcanic choice: The 2011 Eruption Red Blend comes from a northern California region recognized for its volcanic and alluvial soils, which contribute to the characteristics of the grapes from this property. Photo by Mary Compton

This was a relatively obscure grape-growing region in California until a resurgence of interest in this area coupled with increased vineyard plantings and the development of Lake County in the 1960s. Almost a 2 1/2 hour drive north of San Francisco and 1 1/2 hours from Napa Valley, Lake County is centered around the largest natural lake in California and rests at a northern elevation of 1,300 to 2,600 feet. At these higher elevations the growing season is prolonged and the winters are cooler, while the rolling hills provide numerous microclimates that make it conducive for grape growing.

Jerry Brassfield was raised on a cattle ranch in the San Joaquin Valley and believed in nutritional supplements after they restored his health as a child. He founded his own company with products formulated to promote health and wellness. In 1973 he moved forward in the purchase of 1,600 acres of what was a working cattle ranch and wildlife reserve in the western portion of Lake County. The winery was built on the property in 2003 and was expanded to over 2,500 acres, with a modest 270 acres planted to vineyards. This region is known as a High Valley AVA in Lake County and is recognized for its volcanic and alluvial soils, which contribute to the characteristics of the grapes from this property.

There are six core wines that make up the Brassfield portfolio and they are under the direction of consulting winemaker David Ramey. The 2011 Eruption Red Blend is composed of mostly Syrah and Mourvedre along with amounts of Malbec, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Grenache. The color is nearly opaque with faint aromas of vanilla bean evident when open. The wine has an even, silky entry with mulberry, sweet kirsch and some briary notes. This wine speaks of more finesse than power and everything is nicely designed while layering across your palate from front to back. Enjoy this wine in its infancy as the fruit is fresh and balanced.

Suggested Retail : $17.99

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.