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Will McIlroy from McIlroy Cellars is our guest on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Before we begin with Will McIlroy’s wines, they taste a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from Geyser Peak, which Dan has brought from his cellar. Dan says it’s still all right, in good shape, still tastes like Sauvignon Blanc. Very drinkable, for a 7-year-old Sauvignon Blanc. Dan would never have cellared this one for so long but sometimes a bottle gets lost in the cellar.
Will McIlroy tells the story of how his family acquired some land in 1972 which was planted to prunes. He went to Cal Poly then to UC Davis, where he learned how to grow grapes and make wine, respectively. He worked at Davis Bynum with Gary Farrell for many years. In 1990 his family winery started making Chardonnay with his wife, and now they make an average of a little over 5000 cases per year. Everything in single-vineyard except for the Rosé and mainly it all comes from Russian River Valley.
First they taste the 2020 Russian River Valley Chardonnay from their family vineyards. It is all barrel fermented and undergoes malolactic fermentation. This is very true to the varietal, nice fruit flavors and a long finish. Dan says it has subtle richness and aromatics. There is a slight lime and lemon component. Dan Berger says that this wine would be at its peak in two or three more years.
Bottle Barn is their biggest retail presence in Sonoma County. They have plenty in stock. McIlroy Cellars also sells their wines online.
Next they taste their 2019 Reserve Chardonnay. It has “Aquarius Ranch” on the label, right on the bench of the Russian River. After about 7 months in the barrels they select their favorite barrels for this reserve bottling. This one sells for $40.
They also taste a 2019 Pinot Noir from the Monterey Arroyo Seco region. He only made 290 cases of this one. There were 5 tons harvested at night and shipped immediately to the winery. It is succulent, very little tannins, and smells like Pinot Noir is supposed to, with delicate cherry and plum. It has a tiny taste of oak, but not much. It has been open for about 4 hours and is starting to open up.
Will says that this year’s harvest was a dream, the weather temperatures were perfect, warm by day and cold at night, which is perfect for the grapes. The Pinot Noir quantity was low and Chard normal, but overall a great vintage.
The McIlroy 2019 Watson Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. This has some richness to it, with the spice component and raspberry, cherry and blackberry. In about a year or two the red fruit will come out a bit more. The vineyard is 2/3s of the way up the Dry Creek Valley. The vines are all head-trained, the 100-year-old Italian method. That makes them hard to pick, because mechanical harvesters depend on the shape of the vines being different.