So often, it seems, wine and love seem to go together in the backstories of many a vigneron/vigneronne, meeting their partner in wine and life somewhere along the way, and the wines end up being the literal product of such fortuity and affection. No different here for Hank Beckmeyer and Caroline Hoël who met in the late ‘80s in Germany. Hank had been a musician on tour through Europe and decided to stay over there once the tour was finished because, simply, he enjoyed himself there. There is something in the improvisation and clear-eyed commitment to following one’s intuitions that continually translates from Hank’s biography into the spirit of the wines. Having met Caroline, who worked in the music industry in Germany, they got to periodically travel back to the South of France (though she was from Savoie, more specifically) and it was on these trips that the inspiration for leaving one life and entering another really took hold. Eventually in the late ‘90s they decided to depart Europe and move to California to start a wine and cheese business (Caroline had trained and learned to make cheese, so initially La Clarine was an even-split cheese/winemaking operation) in the Sierra Foothills of California, a stretch of land with varied terrain, cheaper rent than the skyscraping prices of Napa, and an honesty and integrity of old vines just waiting for the right hands willing to steward them back to the future. At high-elevations (2500-3000 feet) atop yellow slate, little archipelagos of limestone, and primarily decomposed granite, Hank and Caroline have been making some of the most complex, subtle, fascinating, and downright delicious California wines for a while now. Definitely try to get your hands on one of their skin-macerated Albariños – a palate-shifting kind of wine! Side-note: they got the name La Clarine from the word in Savoie dialect for the bell a cow would wear before being put out to pasture.
Vinification: 100% organic Tempranillo purchased from Hank’s friend and fellow winemaker, Matthew Rorick, of Forlorn Hope. Grown on a mix of schist & limestone soils, the fruit is handpicked from the coldest sector of the vineyard. The wine is fermented whole-cluster and aged in puncheon. Unfined, unfiltered with no added SO2.
Tasting: A red for the shifting season and colder months ahead. Medium-bodied, with notes of tart boysenberry, mulberry and red fruits, mixed with an intensely savory edge, like smoked venison. Finishes with soft, lush tannins. A warm, cozy blanket of a wine.