Wine Time

Dennis Sodomka is a guest columnist | Contact Dennis

Wine Time: Cultivate Dream Walking Chardonnay 2010, California

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COST: $17-19

WHAT: It’s nice when wine lives up to a winery’s story. Cultivate has a great story and even better wines.

The company is owned by a couple who grew up in Atlanta, founded a winery that became a cult favorite, co-owned the winery with the hardest-to-find wines in the country and now run what they call a socially responsible business.

They produce great wines, finding grapes from around the world they think provide the best possible value. The Dream Walking Chardonnay is a great example of producing a first-rate wine at an affordable price. A medium-bodied Chardonnay with only slight hints of oak, it is a refreshing wine with plenty of length, finesse and structure. It is pale straw in the glass, with pineapple and Meyer lemon on the nose.

It has a smooth mouthfeel, tasting of citrus and peaches. The finish is pleasant and long.

The grapes are 100 percent Chardonnay from cool weather sites in California’s Mendocino and Santa Rita Hills, the North Coast region. To blend Dream Walking, the winemaker spent months tasting thousands of samples to find the right components.

Serve it slightly chilled, but not too cold.

Some of the principals of the winery have been involved in producing 20 wines rated 95 points or higher in the past 10 years at various wineries, so they clearly know how to make great wine. Dream Walking would rank right up there with some of their more prestigious wines.

WINERY: The story of Cultivate starts with owners Ali and Charles Banks, who went to the same high school in Atlanta. He graduated from the University of Georgia and she graduated from the University of Virginia.

Charles was an investment banker and became interested in wine by drinking it and sharing it at dinner parties. Later the couple moved to California. They thought they might like to get into the wine business when they got older, but in 2000 they had a chance to buy 600 acres in Santa Barbara and plant them with grapevines.

The Bankses and their partners experimented with various varietals, and all of them were successful. The first vintage of Jonata in 2005 had good reviews, and then the wine took off. The wines consistently get rave reviews.

The Bankses and another partner bought cult winery Screaming Eagle in 2006 and sold their share in 2009. In 2011, the couple bought well-known South African winery Mulderbosch and set about restoring it.

Ali and Charles said they got the idea for Cultivate when they were sitting around thinking about what they would want to cultivate in the next 10 years of their lives. They talked about friends, and sharing and giving. They thought Cultivate would be the perfect name for a winery.

Ali wondered if they could build a business model from the ground up and put sharing first? So when they started Cultivate in late 2011 they decided to donate the first 10 cents of every dollar that comes in. That’s 10 percent of revenue, not profits. Since then they have given away more than $490,000 through a program they call The Give.

Even more unusual is they do not choose who gets the money. Nonprofits for education and basic human needs submit their cause, and then customers vote on the Cultivate Web site and Facebook page. They have helped causes that include building shelters for orphans in Kenya to blindness prevention programs in Atlanta.

“We’re making wines from all around the world and we expect to make a difference all around the world,” said Charles.

The Bankses subscribe to a business/philanthropic philosophy called connected capitalism, a belief that for-profit companies with a socially responsible mission are powerful enough to shake the foundations of the world.

Cultivate does not own any vines. It is essentially a global wine négociant, with the staff roaming the world, tasting thousands of samples to pick the wines they think will be the best possible value.

The current offerings include Double Blind, a Pinot Grigio from Italy; the Gambler, a Malbec from Argentina; The Feast, a Merlot/Cab blend from North Coast, California; Wonderlust, a Chilean Chardonnay, and Copa Cabana, a Cab/Carmenere blend from Chile. They range in price from $12 to $25. Wonderlust and Copa Cabana also are available in boxes.

The family’s umbrella company, Terroir Selections, has a portfolio that includes Mulderbosch, Sandi, Mayacamas, Fable and Leviathan.

GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I enjoyed this wine with deep fried shrimp paired with brown rice and salads. It was an outstanding pairing.

I used a heavier breading than I usually do with my fried shrimp, so it was good to have a robust wine to stand up to the flavors in the shrimp.

This is a great fish and seafood wine, but I think it also would go well with fried chicken, turkey in gravy, Cornish game hen and a wide variety of cheeses. It will be good for sipping on the porch on the hot summer days ahead.

WINE EVENTS

THURSDAY, MAY 8

Wine and tapas tasting, 5 p.m. until closing, La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $25; (706) 722-4805

FRIDAY, MAY 9

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection, (706) 922-9463

SATURDAY, MAY 10

Wine and beer tasting, 2-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection; (706) 922-9463

TUESDAY, MAY 13

Wine dinner, 6:30 p.m., Calvert’s 475 Highland Ave., featuring wines from Elk Cove Vineyards of Oregon, $75; reservations, (706) 836-0457

THURSDAY, MAY 15

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses; $5 with rebate on purchase of one bottle of the featured wines; (803) 279-9522

SUNDAY, MAY 18

Wine dinner, 5:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St., featuring French wines, $75; reservations, (706) 722-4805


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