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Mike Cox, winemaker of La Prenda Wines, joins Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger on California Wine Country. They opened a tasting room in central Santa Rosa last year. La Prenda is owned by Ned Hill and his wife Erika.
Mike grew up in the farming industry and started making his own wine fifteen years ago. Back then, the big wineries could dictate what they wanted and “the growers could be left holding the bag, in a tough vintage…” He began in 2020 as winemaker and for 25 years before that he was the winemaker at Shoup winery in Sonoma.
Mike Cox grew up in Sonoma County, attended UCLA (in Chemical Engineering) and then took some courses at UC Davis. He took Fall quarter of 1988 off to work the harvest, then transferred to Davis. He was an “eager volunteer” and he especially loved working in the vineyard, and became fascinated with wine. The 1980s was “a fun time to be in the wine industry.” Dan Berger says that Mike Cox’s 2021 wine “blew me away,” and adds, “…spending time in the vineyard is the secret to this stuff.”
Today Dan Berger has brought another cellar wine. Dan admits that some of them are junk, but this one today is great. They have all liked the old Sauvignon Blancs. This is a 2011 Simi Sauvignon Blanc. Its citrus notes have come on strong. It has not changed color at all. Simi winery has been around since before Prohibition. They are located north of Healdsburg and they have a nice tasting room. Dan especially loves their Merlots.
Mike Cox says that La Prenda farms about 1200 acres and they pull some grapes for themselves. First they taste a Rosé of Pinot Noir. These grapes are from the heart of the south part of Sonoma County. The wine is bone dry with no residual sugar. Dan says, “…this is a real Rosé… delicious stuff.” The alcohol is modest, only 12 percent. “It’s a purpose built Rosé.” It is a copper or salmon color.
The next wine they taste is actually called “The Copper.” A friend told him about a white wine made in Friuli in Italy, which is a Pinot Grigio that uses the skins in fermentation. (Grigio means the color “gray” in Italian and the grapes are that color.) It produces wine that is grayish. Dan Berger says it is like a light red wine and it would go well with poached salmon.
They taste a 2020 La Prenda Chardonnay, with light oak and good acidity. It is rich but not overpowering. Mike Cox says the acidity is the key component. He used fruit from different vineyards in order to balance the flavors that are typical of the different areas. Carneros brings acidity and Bennett Valley brings richness.
Finally they taste a 2020 La Prenda Pinot Noir, from Carneros, in the hills west of Sonoma, called Thornton Ranch. The vines are from a Burgundian clone called Pommard. That is a district in Burgundy and the clone that comes from there has aromatic qualities. “…a really good clone from Burgundy.”