What: Tom Gamble was a farmer before he decided to plant grapevines and try his hand at making wine. His father and grandfather before him also were farmers. The land is in his blood, and he must have picked up some skills along the way because his wines are a great representation of the terroir, the land and climate where the grapes were grown.
The Gamble Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Napa Valley, is a perfect summer wine, full of lively fruit flavors balanced by crisp acidity. It is a great wine for light summer meals on those hot days ahead.
The wine is a lively light yellow in the glass with tantalizing aromas of Meyer lemon, ginger and apricot with some delicate floral notes. There are many layers of flavor but zesty citrus and minerality dominate.
Everything is nicely in balance, though, leaving you with a rich, lush mouthfeel. Depending on what you are eating, you may pick up bursts of grapefruit, orange peel, lemongrass, key lime or honey. The finish is long and delicious. Twenty minutes after I finished dinner, I could still pick up hints of this wine rolling around my mouth.
The wine is a terrific value, an all-estate-grown, single-vineyard, site-specific and elegant sauvignon blanc that really showcases the varietal’s potential in Napa. I admire people who grow something other than cabernet sauvignon in Napa, because if you have Napa cabernet on the label, you can charge a lot for your wine. Many people will buy anything that says Napa cab. Other varietals have to earn loyalty through great wine.
The Gamble Vineyard sits at the center of the Napa Valley on the northern edge of the Yountville appellation. They grow several sauvignon blanc clones, each displaying a different expression of the grape.
Sauvignon Musque Clone and Clone 530 come from the Loire region and two clones come from the Bordeaux region: Preston Clone and Clone 316. Using all these clones gives the wine some complexity and makes the wine interesting.
The fruit is hand-harvested in the morning and taken directly to the press to preserve fruit and flavor integrity.
For this vintage, they picked fruit on seven different occasions, as particular blocs would get ripe. Each was fermented separately. The early fruit helped preserve the wine’s crispness. The wine made from the later harvests added a greater depth of flavor.
But Gamble wasn’t through. He fermented 25 percent of the fruit in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, on the lees for six months, adding clean, bright tropical fruit flavors. The rest was fermented in barrels, on the lees for six months, adding the silky mouthfeel and lightly-spiced honey flavors. The winery used 13 percent new French and Hungarian oak, the rest previously used barrels. Native yeasts were used in both methods.
When all the batches were blended the result was a great complexity that had layer after layer of flavor.
Gamble also makes an interesting cabernet sauvignon, which I have enjoyed, and a special red blend called Paramount. The blend is spectacular, with intense black cherry and blueberry aromas followed by complex flavors on the palate. Raspberry and blackberry dominate with hints of fig and leather. The current release is 2013, and it will continue to get better in the cellar for another 10-12 years.
Winery: Tom Gamble was a third-generation farmer when he decided to get into the wine business. When he did, he made a pledge never to put his family name on a label until the wine was worthy. He certainly has done that.
Gamble says his ancestors have influenced his life, giving him a love for the land he hopes to transfer to the next generation.
“They have left, as part of their legacy, their deep and abiding affinity for the land from which came not only their livelihood, but also a life full of purpose,” he said. “Given this legacy, one does not continue farming for dispassionate reasons alone – there are easier ways to make a living.”
Gamble bought his first vineyard in 1981 and founded Gamble Family Vineyards in 2005. The winery was built in 2012. Some of his land is leased to other wineries and he sells many of his grapes to other wineries.
Winemaker Jim Close joined Gamble in 2003. He grew up in London, studied winemaking at the University of Brighton and began working in French vineyards in 1998.
The Gamble wines are similar to the Old World wines that Close grew up with: well-structured, balanced wines that express the true terroir of each of the Napa vineyards.
All Gamble wines are produced in small quantities. The winery also produces an incredible cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, a couple of red blends, syrah and zinfandel. Much of the wine is sold through the winery, though some is shipped to restaurants and wine shops.
Goes With: I had this nice wine with chicken pot pie while we were at our lake house the weekend before Independence Day. We didn’t get to the lake until late afternoon, so instead of working on a meal, we popped pies in the oven and relaxed.
This time the wine definitely made the meal. Gamble says his wines are meant to be enjoyed over several hours with good food and those you love. It’s a great formula, and one that works every time.
The crisp acidity and lively citrus flavors were a great complement to the savory chicken and vegetables in the pie. We added some apple slices to round out the meal, and they were nice with the wine as well.
I sipped a little of the wine after dinner, and it was fine, but I much preferred it with food.
The wine would pair well with roast chicken or turkey, shrimp, lightly fried fish and all kinds of cheese.