This Week’s Wine Tasting

American Wine: Laetitia Estate of California and Hedges of Washington State



Nadia and Laetitia- Far from the windswept coastal foothills of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery lies a land of elevated, quiet grace.  Framed by chalky cliffs and planted to vines that are drenched in sun by day and chilled by the cover of night – this is the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, the home of NADIA.

It was on this stretch of remote earth that, several years ago, the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery team decided to take a chance.  Owner Selim Zilkha asked himself and several others Could this be the place? And after tireless examination, the answer came back an unqualified yes.  The soil, the sun, the altitude; every scrap of evidence announced definitively that Rhône and Bordeaux varietals would find their truest expression in such a place as this – and even rival the finest in the world.

With Lino Bozzano and Eric Hickey rising to the challenge in the vineyard and the cellar, respectively, thus was the concept of NADIA born: a limited collection of Rhône and Bordeaux-varietal wines whose sole purpose is to champion the secluded beauty and inexhaustible potential of the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard.

Armed with a top-shelf estate vineyard, a purpose, and one of the most collaborative vineyard and winemaking teams in the wine business, Lino and Eric went about the work of creating these special wines from the ground up – ground whose uncannily amenable growing conditions are fundamental to the depth, sophistication, intrigue and value of NADIA wines.

Such an ambitious undertaking cannot be named on a whim, without respect for and reflection on its character. A wine’s label must reveal the passionate hope and affection that its authors have poured into it.  Selim knew this when setting out to designate this sister label to his beloved winery, Laetitia, and could think of only one name to capture the essence of such a treasured place: the name of his only daughter, NADIA, which translates to mean “hope” in Russian and “delicate” in Arabic.

Nadia- “Comprised of the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard’s highest echelon Bordeaux and Rhône-variety grapes, NADIA Wines eloquently express the remarkable high-elevation terroir of the Sierra Madre Mountains in limited-production lots”

Laetitia- “Made from fruit grown in the ideal coastal conditions of the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA, Laetitia Estate wines encapsulate the moments, sites, and people who pour their lives into ensuring the excellence of every sip.”

Nadia Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Santa Barbara County, California. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. “The wine was whole cluster pressed, chilled and then settled for 24 hours. It was then racked to the lees and fermentation began. The wine was cold fermentented in stainless steel tanks for 6 weeks to increase aromatics. To keep the crisp nature of this variety, the wine did not go through malolactic fermentation. Our NADIA Sauvignon Blanc is aged in a combination of stainless steel and neutral French oak. 80% of the wine stays in stainless steel for the 6 month aging period, while the remaining 15% moves into small neutral French oak barrels to add richness and complexity. Mango peel aromas waft from the glass weaving through a redolence of tropical kiwi and night blooming jasmine. On the palate, cooked stone fruit and zingy key lime notes are softened by hints of dried field grass. A refreshing mineral-driven backbone is balanced  by weight and texture imparted by 15% aging in neutral French oak, while the remainder aged in stainless steel. A Californian spin on a Bordeaux native, the NADIA Sauvignon Blanc is marked by aromas of dried field grass, key lime and bright, tropical flavors.”


Nadia Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Santa Barbara County, California. “All lots were destemmed and crushed in 5 and 10 ton fermentors. Fermentation was extended to 30 days to soften tannins and develop complexity. Mid-way through fermentation the wine was racked and returned to maximize color and extraction. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot were all crushed and fermented separately and blended at 10 months. Our NADIA Cabernet Sauvignon benefits from aging in medium plus toasted oak barrels. The wine is aged for 16 months in 30% new French oak, 20% new American oak and the remaining 50% in neutral French  oak. Wild blackberry and forest floor notes enthusiastically emerge from the glass as sweet cigar  smoke and perfumed violet weave throughout. Layers of chocolate covered cherries, anise and salty sea air are underscored by rich cedar with warm, yet supple tannin unwinding through time in the glass. Look to pair with a bison burger topped with sautéed mushrooms.”



Laetitia Estate Chardonnay 2012
Arroyo Grande Valley, California. “The grapes were whole-cluster-pressed and went through 75% secondary malolactic fermentation until naturally arrested at blending. Each barrel was tasted individually when blended to create an exquisitely balanced 2012 Estate Chardonnay that is true to its varietal roots with a hint of the signature “Laetitia spice.” Only the best French oak is used to age Laetitia Chardonnay. The 2012 vintage was aged in 25% new François Frères and Rousseau barrels for nine months. Dried honeycomb and tart green apple show themselves in this beautiful interpretation of a cool climate Chardonnay. Multilayered notes of hard lemon candy, wet river rock and hazelnut sweet cream weave throughout this estate bottling, finishing with notes of spicy anise.”


Laetitia Pinot Noir 2012
Arroyo Grande Valley, California. “With challenge sometimes comes triumph, but with consistent, moderate growing conditions, wines of unpressured elegance are born. All lots were destemmed to allow the expressive fruit to come through and this concentrated fruit required only a 3-day cold soak. A quick fermentation lasting 4 days followed and the wine was allowed to age, keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention winemaking. This wine was aged for 11 months in a combination of François Frères and Rousseau French oak barrels, with 30% new oak. A seductive nose reminiscent of ripe plum and blackberry, with layered components of earth, violets and Asian spice. The palate reveals supple tannins and lively acids accented with pretty hints of framboise and underlying notes of dark chocolate and rye.”



Hedges Family Estate– “Anne-Marie Liégeois was born in Champagne, France. Her upbringing was very much routed in traditional French culture where work and French formalities took priority over idealism. Within the confines of a “maison bourgeoise” surrounded by organically cultivated gardens and edible game, three generations of family lived and worked side by side for the greater good of name and property. The Dupont-Liégeois family business prospered, the rewards of which were the enjoyment of traditional French life focused around the dinner table. Interesting animated discussions, traditional home cooked meals, and wonderful local wines were the norm. What Anne-Marie was accustomed to, Tom would desire.

Tom was born in Richland, Washington State. He is the product of a traditional American home of strong work ethics steered by the Department of Energy’s demands on his apple and dairy-farm-raised father. A firm hand, the pursuit of sports, and the focus of fast eating were typical life patterns for the young American. The eastern Washington State surroundings of shrub and sand—his terroir—carved a lifestyle of Americana most would find uninspiring at best. However, rigid European customs did not bind him down, as they did for Anne-Marie. The American sixties allowed Tom to rebel, to free his mind, to act on impulse with minimal consequence, something Anne-Marie must have desired during her year at a Parisian finishing school for women.

The history of Hedges Family Estate begins in June of 1976, with the marriage of Tom Hedges and Anne-Marie Liégeois in a 12th century church in Champagne, France. The convergence of separate cultural upbringings provides a strong backdrop for creating a modern day, but traditionally inspired wine estate.”

Hedges CMS White 2012
Columbia Valley, Washington. “Sauvignon Blanc, dominant, with small amounts of Chardonnay and Marsanne. A blended white wine with Sauvignon Blanc dominating over 75% of the wine, this was one of the original malic-acid friendly white wines released from Washington State. Rounding out the blend is a touch of chardonnay accompanied by just a pinch of Marsanne. Beautifully structured with wonderful Sauvignon Blanc fruit character, the mouth feel has a delicate balance of acid angularity and defined herbal sophistication.”


Hedges CMS Red 2011
Columbia Valley, Washington. “CMS Red, Washington State’s original blended red wine, has been produced and bottled by the estate since 1987. Consistently recognized as one of the best values in Washington State, CMS Red combines elegance and historic blending practices with top quality vineyard sources in the Columbia Valley. A style consistent with classic northern latitude wine growing, the CMS Red is known for a more Columbia Valley AVA regionally driven style, giving way to purity and structure over modernity.”


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