COST: Head High Rosé 2015, North Coast ($23-25)
Head High Red Blend 2014, North Coast ($29-31)
WHAT: I drink wine because I like the taste and I like the way it adds pleasure to a good meal. But it’s also nice to find a good wine that appeals to the charitable side of my nature. Head High does that by donating a portion of its sales to charitable organizations supporting education and the environment. The charitable donations make me feel good while drinking the wine, but what’s inside the bottle really makes these wines so attractive.
Made primarily from zinfandel and syrah, the rosé is delicate and lively with intense aromatics. It is perfect for drinking now, during warm weather, but it has enough body and weight to make it good with meals all year long.
The wine is a gorgeous deep pink in the glass with floral aromas and flavors of tart cherry and rich plum. It has a surprisingly long finish for a rosé.
After a difficult North Coast growing season in 2015, grape volume was down, but the compact berries were loaded with flavor. The wine is made of 49 percent zinfandel, 44 percent syrah, 4 percent grenache, and 3 percent tempranillo from Madder Lake Vineyard in North Coast AVA.
This is one of the best rosés I have had all year.
The red blend is just as good, with all kinds of rich fruit flavors. The wine is dark red in the glass, with aromas of plum and dark berries. It is a balanced and powerful wine, with all the components coming together perfectly. The 2014 harvest featured tremendous fruit development, with ripe berries and exceptional tannins.
There are eight varietals in the blend, and sometimes a blend like that can leave you scratching your head, wondering who put such crazy flavors together. With the Head High blend, you end up with a broad smile, appreciating the nuances of all the grapes.
The blend is 23 percent cabernet sauvignon, 16 percent grenache, 16 percent malbec, 15 percent tempranillo, 10 percent mourvedre, 8 percent syrah, 7 percent merlot, 3 percent petite sirah and 2 percent cabernet franc from Durell Vineyard, Madder Lake Vineyard and Lichau Hill Vineyard in the North Coast AVA.
Both of these wines are versatile. I like them with food, but I also liked sipping them without food. The blends have different taste profiles, but both are powerful and full of ripe fruit.
WINERY: Head High is a little more than a year old, and it already is producing very nice wines. The venture started from a shared vision between Bill Price, entrepreneur and owner of Price Family Vineyards & Estates, and managing director and winemaker Sam Spencer.
They make only three wines, Sonoma Coast pinot noir, a rosé and a red blend. The company produces about 7,000 cases a year, and plans substantial growth.
The partners share a love of surfing, so the name for their wine comes from a surfing term which refers to waves that are the same height as the rider.
Spencer – an avid surfer, cyclist, and sailor – has spent the past two decades producing consistently acclaimed wines in Northern California. He served as director of winegrowing for Cameron Hughes Wine and co-founded Spencer-Roloson Winery, a pioneer in California-grown Bordelaise, Rhône, and Iberian varietals.
He also owns and oversees farming of the Madder Lake Vineyard in Lake County. Spencer is noted for winemaking techniques that engender balance and harmony in wine, creating wines meant to be enjoyed and shared.
Price is one of the most widely respected names in the California wine business. He’s known for partnering with winemakers who possess a distinctive style of winemaking and enabling them to pursue their unique vision with each vintage and parcel of land they work with.
Price is the proprietor of Classic Wines, LLC and Price Family Vineyards, LLC – including ownership and management of Sonoma Coast vineyards: Durell Vineyard, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Walala Vineyard and other select Sonoma County vineyards in development. In addition to its vineyard properties, Classic Wines has ownership interests in Kistler Vineyards, Three Sticks, LUTUM, and Buccella. Price is also chairman of Gary Farrell Winery.
For every two bottles sold, Head High donates $1 to nonprofits, including Sustainable Surf, and the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. The company says it wants to support both the community of people who make these wines and the power and beauty of the natural world.
Spencer said he approaches winemaking the same way he approaches a wave: let nature speak for itself.
“The lesson I learned as I became more experienced,” he says, “was to stop trying to impose myself on the land, and instead let the land impose itself on me.”
GOES WITH: We had both of these wines with Chinese take out, a notoriously hard type of food to pair with wine. Beer often is a better alternative. I liked both of these with our food, although I thought the rosé was a bit better match.
My wife, Teri, my son Michael and I all had different dishes, so we were able to taste these wines with a variety of flavors. Michael and I had spicy dishes, Kung Po chicken and General Tso’s chicken. Teri had shrimp with Chinese vegetables. We also had egg rolls, fried rice and egg drop soup.
Both wines went well with all the food, though egg rolls with duck sauce were the worst match for either wine. I liked the fruitier flavor of the rosé with most of the food, but the powerful red blend was outstanding with the fried rice.
The rosé would be great with chicken, turkey, many seafood dishes and light cheeses. It would be especially good for Thanksgiving dinner. The red blend would be good with grilled meat such as pork chops or steak, a beef stew or even hamburgers.