Wine Time: Mi Sueño Chardonnay 2014, Carneros

Cost: $41-$43

 

What: I’m a sucker for a good story, especially if it’s about a good wine.

The story about Mi Sueño is straight out of Hollywood, and the chardonnay they make at Mi Sueño is a real stunner. To celebrate 20 years of business, the winery is showcasing the chardonnay as the wine that started it all for them.

If you know any Spanish you probably know that Mi Sueño means “my dream.” The wine was the dream of Mexican immigrant Rolando Herrera. In 1997, he married Lorena, whose family has deep roots in Napa and Sonoma counties as grape growers, and the same year they founded their winery.

Since then the winery has continued to grow and has drawn praise for its wine.

The chardonnay is a rare wine that combines the restrained elegance of fine Burgundy with a rich Napa personality. To me, it is the best of both styles.

In the glass, it is a beautiful golden color. Enticing apricot, peach and green apple aromas prepare you for the lush flavors to follow. A rich and creamy mouthfeel includes apple and butterscotch flavors with crisp acidity.

The grapes come from the Tierra Blanca vineyard, named after the light color of the soil. It is on the Napa side of Los Carneros, by the San Pablo Bay. The Carneros is south of both Napa and Sonoma and has ideal soil and weather for chardonnay and pinot noir.

After fermentation the wine spends 10 months aging on the lees, the dead yeast particles that collect at the bottom of a container during fermentation. Wines aged sur lie are described as creamier and richer. That is certainly the case with this chardonnay. The complexity and depth of this wine are evident from the first sip.

On the back label, Herrera says he tries to extract the native characteristics unique to each vineyard where the grapes are grown.

Winery: Mexican immigrant Rolando Herrera worked in and around the wine industry for 15 years before he could make his own wine. He started working nights as a dishwasher at the legendary Auberge du Soleil restaurant while going to high school.

After graduation, he was a harvest laborer at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, one of the most respected wineries in the Napa Valley. Eventually he worked his way up to cellar master.

He kept getting jobs with more responsibility at other iconic wineries, including as assistant winemaker at Chateau Potelle, winemaker at Vine Cliff Winery and then director of winemaking at Paul Hobbs Consulting.

In 1997, he made 200 cases of chardonnay as his own side project, and that was the beginning of Mi Sueño. The wine sold quickly.

Rolando and Lorena were both born in Mexico, but Lorena’s parents moved the family to California when she was a year old. They moved to Sonoma and developed vineyards in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties. Rolando’s family moved to Napa three years later. His father took a job in a vine nursery. Rolando’s father decided to retire and moved the family back to Mexico when Rolando was 13.

Rolando longed to return to California. So a couple of years later he begged his father to let him and his brother Jose move back to Napa. They enrolled in high school while supporting themselves by working nights and weekends.

While breaking rocks to build a garden wall, he caught the eye of Warren Winiarski, owner of Stag’s Leap, and got a job as a “cellar rat” at age 17. Within three years he was promoted to cellar master.

On the back label of the chardonnay, Rolando says. “From the moment I set foot in the cellar I knew that making great wine would become my life’s pursuit.”

Through his jobs, Rolando learned how to make great wine and he became familiar with many of the great vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. “Farming and making wine is not science, it’s experience,” he says.

As his experience grew, so did his fame. When George W. Bush held a state dinner in honor of President Vicente Fox of Mexico he served Mi Sueño’s 1999 Los Carneros Chardonnay.

Rolando and Lorena formed their own vineyard management company so they could control the whole winemaking process from grape to bottle. They also launched the Herrera Portfolio with six single varietal wines to express the essence of a specific vineyard. Each of the six wines is named after one of their children.

Finally, in 2004 Rolando quit his other jobs and managed Mi Sueño full time.

Mi Sueño wines were poured at White House dinners twice more, once by George W. Bush in 2008, and once by Barack Obama in 2010.

With their team of skilled workers, Rolando and Lorena farm 40 acres of estate vineyards in their favorite appellations including Oak Knoll, Coombsville, Los Carneros, Russian River Valley, and Sonoma Mountain.

In 2016, they purchased property on Mt. Veeder, which they will use for the Herrera portfolio. They also hope to build a winery and tasting room there. For now, they offer daily tastings by appointment at their winery in the warehouse district of southern Napa.

Mi Sueño produces between 8,000 and 10,000 cases of wine per year. Bottlings include Los Carneros Chardonnay, Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay ($55), Los Carneros Pinot Noir ($42), Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($55), cabernet sauvignon ($75), syrah ($55), tempranillo ($55), and a red blend made of primarily cabernet sauvignon and syrah, “El Llano” ($49).

Goes With: We had this with a wonderful dinner of broiled lobster tails and baked potatoes with salad. It was a few days before Irma came to town and we wanted to make sure we ate some good meals ahead of the storm.

The Mi Sueño chardonnay was a perfect pairing with the rich food. The complexity, depth and creaminess of the wine really added to the richness of the lobster. The combination of the wine and the lobster was almost a sensory overload.

We added a salad and bacon bits for the salad and potatoes and thought we were dining in luxury. It was a wonderful meal.

This wine pairs beautifully with a wide range of cheeses, from aged Gouda to Farmstead Cheddar. It’s also delicious with fish tacos, scallops, ceviche, and grilled chicken.

 

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