Craig McAllister, head winemaker at La Crema, is our in-studio guest on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. The last time we had a guest from La Crema was this March 2, 2022 episode with winemaker Eric Johannsen.
First they taste a brand new Bonny Doon orange wine, a white wine aged on skins, not very long but very cold, and made for quick drinking. The orange comes from 10% orange muscat grapes, which bring some sweetness. Steve didn’t like it but Dan and Craig do. Bonny Doon is located in Santa Cruz, founded by Randal Graham.
Craig came to California in 2007. His background in New Zealand was in resort hotels, he trained as a hotel manager. He lived in the UK and worked construction and serving beer in bars. Back in New Zealand, he went to college and studied winemaking. He describes learning about wine and cocktails in the hotel business and how that made for a good transition into winemaking.
La Crema Viñera was the original name. Jess Jackson bought the property and has made a steady run of high-quality wines at reasonable prices. As they taste the Sauvignon Blanc, Craig says he is focusing on texture 70% of the thought process. 25% of this wine was in neutral oak barrels, 25 or thirty days only, which gives the texture he wants.
Taste of Sonoma
La Crema will be pouring at the Grand Tasting at the Taste of Sonoma at Kendall-Jackson, on Saturday June 24, an event sponsored by Sonoma County Vintners. All the other great labels will be there too. Dan Berger says it’s one of the most enjoyable events on the calendar. There will also be live music as well as early bird pricing, which is available until May 31.
Craig also brought a Rosé of Pinot Noir from Saralee’s vineyard, which is only sold in the tasting room. It is grown and made with the intent of making Rosé. It has bright natural acidity and smells a bit like champagne stock, says Dan. There is Pinot Noir flavor without any of the tannin or bite. It’s copper colored with a hint of pink. It is bone dry, close to zero sugar. “All fermented out…” says Craig. The hand harvested fruit is picked in the very early morning and it goes straight into a very gentle pressing cycle. Direct to press means that the grapes are only gently pressed, not crushed, which would bring more tannins and other flavor elements into the juice.
The Themed Lounges at Taste of Sonoma
Dan describes the themed lounges at Taste of Sonoma as an opportunity to get an education in wine. A public wine event like this allows you to understand why the wine is as good as it is. You learn all about the wine at the different lounges, like Rodney Strong Destination Rosé lounge or the Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge sparkling wine. Over in another lounge, there will be a silent disco (where everyone has separate headphones and is hearing different music.)
There are different options for visiting La Crema, visit their website for more information. Some wines are only available in their tasting room and it is on a beautiful historic property.