Heller Estate Organic Wines
bring all the wealth of high quality fruit, great wine making and a fantastic assortment of wines. The first time I tasted Heller Estate I was blown away by the sophistication of the wines, the nuances and the sheer variety of grapes that Wine Maker, Rich Tanguay works with. He is so very talented, I think he’s like a Zen Master. Very quiet, but clear. Below my reviews* of some of their wines, is a short interview with Rich. Enjoy.
2012 Chenin Blanc
Not many wineries do Chenin Blanc. I have found it to be to sweet and cloying and
simple. This is an exception. Guava (if you’ve never had Guava, it is like flowers with tangy notes) grapefruit and tangerine with honeysuckle blossom components. Lovely, soft and coating initial mouth feel that is dominated by melon, lychee and guava. Well balanced acidity throughout and a crisp, green apple finish make this wine a perfect match for spicy dishes as well as cheese and fruit plates.
Juicy crisp apple, with a Meyer lemon zesty mouth feel. Elegant, subtle oak and ever present Cachagua minerality combines with fragrant citrus notes.
2012 Merlot Rosé This is such a delicious, mouthwatering and juicy Rosé. It comes forward with tropical citrus and sour cherry flavors that abound on this almost dry rosé. Also look for lovely notes of tart cranberry and pomegranate. A really nice and vibrantly racy rosé that will be great with Asian tuna dishes and just about any salad.
2012 Cachagua Cabernet Sauvignon
To me, this is an every day drinking Cabernet. It has a youthful, fruit forward nose with predominant notes of blackberry, raspberry and black cassis. Bright, juicy flavors explode across the palate with notes of black cherry and blackberry. Also look for luscious jammy characters to show through the mid-palate. Supple and balanced tannins throughout with a fruit fade on the finish. Fantastically flavorful and balanced. Pair this New World cabernet with porterhouse or pink peppercorn encrusted steak.
2011 Malbec Nicely layered, integrated nose with fruit forward notes of freshly crushed blackberries/cassis and rounded notes of sweet oak and cedar. Bright, explosive mouth feel with sour blackberry and cherry being predominant. Medium-light body with light tannins and a crisp fruity finish. This zesty Malbec is a perfect example of how lovely and fruity this wine can be while still having enough tannin structure to hold up to any type of beef dish from barbeque to filet mignon.
This has a fresh taste and bright mouthfeel with predominant flavors of cherry,
cocoa and spices. Fruity but dry with full body and gripping dusty tannins. Chocolate roundness in mid-palate with rich fruit and oak spice flavors following with great length and style. This is an elegant powerhouse of a Merlot. Pair with a roasted lamb, Asian beef dishes or any dark chocolate desserts.
2009 Petit Verdot
Extremely rich, layered aromas of cassis, black cherry, custard and vanilla butter cream. Also, look for toasty oak and dried herb undertones. Very flavorful with an excellent food friendly tanginess and balanced tannins. Lively dry-yet-fruity body with a tangy blueberry pie finish. Complex minerality carries throughout palate from start to finish. Serve with any number of red meat dishes and grilled game.
2011 Petite Sirah
Big, bright mouth feel with explosive blood orange and cranberry sorbet acidity. Layered, intensive amounts of berry’s abound — black, rasp and boysen. Ripe tannins grip appropriately throughout and the finish is fruity but extremely dry. A solid and fruit driven Petite with mounds of complexity that will pair lusciously with a flavorful lasagna or any exotic game.
2010 Pinot Noir
It has aromas of spice paired with subtle floral notes of rose and violets. Also look for a lovely earthiness paired with freshly picked cherries. Bright and lively with a cherry core and medium-light body. Refreshing cranberry juice and sour cherry pit finish with dusty tannins. Also, notes of pepper and cedar mingle with elegant minerality. Enjoy this classical Pinot with a lovely wedge of Comté cheese, trout with bacon or a nice mushroom risotto.
Interview with the wine maker, Rich Tanguay
CTN:How did you come about becoming a winemaker, and what and who influenced you?
RT: Long and circuitously. Graduated high school in Radnor, PA and knew that I didn’t want to go directly to college as I had no idea what to study. Worked in many different jobs and landed squarely in the retail bicycle world. Realized after about 8 years that I really should get an education (retail work wasn’t very satisfying) and since I lived and worked in the greater bay area and traveled to Napa/Sonoma to wine taste often – went back to school to be a winemaker. Two years of community college and transferred to Sonoma State as a Chem major. Took a harvest lab tech position with Buena Vista and was hooked immediately…
Influenced by just about every person I ran across, winemakers, cellar rats and forepersons, vineyard workers and managers – the list goes on and on. Still am, by the way… Specifically, Jill Davis, Judy Matulich-Weitz, Andre Tchelistcheff, Peter Haywood, Jac Jacobs – seriously – the list is endless and still evolving.
CTN:What styles are you particularly interested in exploring?
RT: Styles. Primarily those that sell wine. I’d love to live totally ego-centric and just make wines I like to drink but that doesn’t pay the bills or generally make a large proportion of people happy. What I do like to do is make wines that exhibit real character that isn’t manipulated by the winemaking process. Having the opportunity to make wines from our little piece of land in Carmel Valley has been a real joy for me and I would think for any winemaker. These wines have a sense of place and can easily (with training) be identified from others from different regions which I feel really sets us apart.
CTN:How difficult is it to stay organic and sustainable?
RT: We are only organic. I’m not a big believer in sustainability as a farming technique and don’t believe it should be grouped in with organics as typically and universally as it is. Sustainability is more a business plan. Organic farming is dirt management. I have a problem with sustainability because I remember when it became a thing and I relate its development to “green washing”. Maybe it has evolved but that’s just my opinion.
No, it isn’t difficult to farm or remain organic. It is different from conventional farming and that’s why there aren’t as many organic grape growers as conventional. Growing organically requires a different mind set and different approaches that don’t easily translate to conventional means. I will say that unless one farms aggressively organic yields can be lower – in general, and that is tough on bottom line economics.
CTN:What new wines are you looking forward to making?
RT: It’s tough to look forward to making new wines only because of the length of time necessary to plant and propagate a grape vine – about 4 years. That’s why as an estate winery we really have stuck with what has been successful for us over the years, which is primarily Bordeaux style wines, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. We did – however – graft (a fast way to grow something new) a bunch of our merlot vineyards after Sideways to Malbec, Petite Verdot and Petite Sirah. Those have been wildly successful and well received.
In my dreams – Zinfandel, Negrette, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet – in no particular order.
*Tasting notes helped by Heller Estate