Forlorn Hope Queen of the Sierra Amber Wine

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Winemaker: Matthew Rorick

Appellation: Calaveras County, California

Grape Varieties: Verdelho, Albariño, Muscat, Chardonnay

The 2019 Queen of the Sierra Amber Estate blend was organically grown on the Rorick Heritage Vineyard in Calaveras County at 2000’ elevation, featuring soils comprised of a layer of schist over dolomite-rich limestone. Composed primarily of Verdelho, Albariño, Muscat, and Chardonnay, this beautifully nuanced and irreverently elegant wine shows all of the aromatic complexity and textural presence that are the hallmarks of wines grown on the limestone of our estate.

All fruit for our estate amber blend is hand-picked; fermentation occurred in open top vessels with some fruit being destemmed and some left whole bunch. For the most part we tried to minimize oxidization during cap management, with one punchdown or pumpover per day the typical regimen. We did include a few experimental lots that received different treatment: Vermentino fermented in egg and left there sealed and untouched for four months after which it was drained down to barrel, and a ton of Muscat fermented carbonically. Once removed from their fermentation vessels the ferments were put down to neutral 227L barrique or blended together in stainless, and remained there until being bottled unfined and unfiltered in June of 2020. As with all Forlorn Hope wines, no new oak is utilized, and nothing was added to the must or wine (no cultured yeast, ML bacteria, water, tartaric acid, enzymes, nutrients, etc) with the exception of minimal effective SO2.

The Forlorn Hope wines are the result of a project devoted to displaying the wealth of California's viticultural potential -- as well as championing varieties less common. Taken as a departure from the stereotypical Californian product, the Rare Creatures of the Forlorn Hope display what is possible when great care is taken in combining soil type, climate/site, and variety to produce wines which require no manipulation.

Winemaker Matthew Rorick started Forlorn Hope in 2005 having inherited from his grandfather a love of wine’s central place at the dinner table between friends and family. Rorick is an eclectic autodidact and used his initiative and resourcefulness to take the Forlorn Hope name to the level of a cult-ed wine label that sits within the Venn-diagram overlap of what excites sommeliers and natural wine devotees.

Once a “one-man” operation just outside of the town of Murphys in the Sierra Foothills, Rorick has connected with a community of passionate wine lovers and colleagues over time. Danielle Shehab came on as the Director of Operations after working harvest in 2016 while she continues to work in the cellar, run sales and marketing, and beyond. And before that, vineyard manager Demetrio Nava has built up and worked the heart and soul of Forlorn Hope, the Rorick Heritage Vineyard (RHV), over 15 years.

The Rorick Heritage Vineyard, peaking up to 2000 feet above sea level, has its start in the 1960’s when the ranching land was purchased by Calaveras County wine luminary Barden Stevenot. While Stevenot put Calaveras viticulture on the map, he planted own-rooted Wente Chardon on Rorick’s future land in ‘74-’76, some of which still remain today. Rorick purchased the property in 2013 and began organic conversion. Today, the 75-acre vineyard is devoted to an eclectic range of varieties planted or grafted in the limestone soils under a layer of schist.

Forlorn Hope wines are “honest and pure representations of the site and variety” vinified with just as much respect and care as is shown to vineyard that the individual wine reflects. There are no chemical adjustments, additives, yeast, or bacteria; and there is no new oak allowed in the winery. Some wines will receive the minimum effective amounts of SOs are added either post-ferment or pre-bottling, while others are bottled with no sulfur added. The latest addition is a line of wines under the “Queen of the Sierra” label. They are fresh and vibrant wines that are highly approachable and are made with fruit grown in Rorick’s own Heritage Vineyard.

-T Edward Wines