MacLaren: Northern Rhône Style with a Scottish Brogue

Melissa Hobson 0 Comments

Mr. Wine Cutie and I have only tasted in Sonoma once before, on the long way back from Napa. I know, crazy right?! We decided that for the week of the Fourth of July we would take a family vacation to Sonoma-ish, specifically Bodega Bay, as I wanted to be by the water and bring our doggo!

Our first stop was MacLaren. Mr. Wine Cutie asked for recommendations for wineries “with some quirky varietals or methods or small enough that you may run into the owner or winemaker.” MacLaren was at the top of the list.

As we turn into their driveway after passing it initially, we are super excited, we found it! We get out of our car, grab Jedi and head towards the cottage. We immediately see Heather Law, the winemaker's wife who greets us. She asks if we would like to sit in the shade on the deck. Heck yes, it’s warm here today!

Before we start the tasting, we learn that this tasting room is pretty new. Heather and Steve Law just recently bought this property and completed renovating the cottage that is used as their tasting room. Heather explains that the previous owners had lived here for over forty years and that there used to be a barn on the property. However, during the 2017 Tubbs Fire, the barn burned down and the previous owners decided to sell the property. She mentions that they are planning to rebuild the barn.

Onto the wine!

This tasting comes with small bites–two kinds of cheese and salami–all from local producers. Excellent support of local business!

Heather pours our first wine, 2017 Lee's Sauvignon Blanc. This sauvignon blanc is incredible and so different from any other sauvignon blanc we've ever had. It has more body than usual for a sauvignon blanc. Heather explains that is because the sauvignon blanc is aged in neutral oak. The wine is paired with the brie, which brings out more of the tropical notes to the wine.

Heather explains in detail about where the grapes are grown and says that her hubby can taste any grape from the vine before they are ripe and he’ll have an idea of how the wine will taste. She can only do it with the sauvignon blanc. She continues and says that when she tasted this year’s grape, she knew that the wine was going to taste tropical, specifically pineapple. Heather was not wrong, I can seriously taste the pineapple!

We tasted the viognier next. It smells exactly like jasmine. Mr. Wine Cutie wasn’t sure how jasmine smelled. Heather, pauses and says that she just planted some and goes to get him a small flower so he can smell jasmine.

Heather tells us that Steve decided to make viognier in 2017. He was super excited about finding a vineyard for the grapes and creating a new wine. After Steve produced his first vintage, the owner decided to sell the land, which led to Steve losing the source for his viognier. Luckily for us, he was able to get viognier from the Gregori Vineyard in the heart of Green Valley, and the 2018 Aida Viognier is delightful!

We taste the 2015 Heather Pinot Noir which was also really good and move onto what MacLaren specialized in, syrah.

At this time Steve, the winemaker, comes out to tell us about the wine. Steve uses the three different syrahs we’re about to taste to explain his style of making syrah. He tells us that his syrahs are made in the style of Northern Rhône which means that they are lower in sugar and have less alcohol. He explains that the fog has a major influence over his wine and that we are going to taste them in order from the most fog to the least fog. All of the syrahs are from the 2015 vintage.

The first syrah is from Atoosa's Vineyard, in the Russian River Valley. The fog regulates the sun, which leads to less sugar and lower alcohol at only 13.3%. It smells like eucalyptus and raspberries and also tastes like raspberries. This syrah was Mr. Wine Cuties fave of the three, as he liked the light, subtle fruit flavor.

The next one is from Samantha's Vineyard, also in the Russian River Valley. This vineyard gets more sun than the previous vineyard. This wine has red fruit on the nose and is fruit forward in taste. We both taste red cherries and raspberries.

The final syrah is from Moaveni Vineyard, in Bennett Valley. This syrah differs from the other two for two reasons. The first is that this vineyard is on volcanic soil on a 22% grade incline, which is crazy! Steve explains that the grapes typically are quite small. The second reason, is that this vineyard gets the most sun. However, due to the volcanic soil, this wine has less fruit than you would otherwise expect in a mostly sunny vineyard. This wine was my favorite, it had black pepper on the nose and hints of cherry on the palate with an earthiness to it.

This was the first winery of our short vacation, and we were blown away! Both Heather and Steve were so welcoming and friendly. I truly felt like we were just hanging out with new friends that just happen to own and run a winery. If you're looking for a personal wine experience that is relaxed and laid back, then MacLaren is definitely the place for you.

Until next time Cuties, keep tasting!

Melissa Hobson

I’m Melissa, a.k.a. Wine Cutie. I’m originally from the Philadelphia Area and moved to the Bay Area in 2016 with my now husband and doggo Jedi. These are my Wine Adventures.