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California taps into bright young things of harvest: Nouveau wines

Time:2016-11-12 18:06wine - Red wine life health Click:

wines California into harvest young

Sheehan, the maker of Poe Wines, pours us each a taste of her 2016 Pinot Nouveau, bottled only a day earlier. The liquid was pressed off of grape skins one week ago. Whereas most California Pinots made in the 2016 vintage won’t be sold for, say, two more years, the Poe Nouveau will be barely 2 months old when it’s released a few weeks from now.

What is this neonate wine like? It’s a brilliant fuchsia color and murky, nearly opaque. A fresh floral smell, like dewy petals, emanates from the glass, and there’s a red-cherry aroma so sweet that it verges on cough syrup. Then, on the palate, it’s all autumn: baked apples, cinnamon pastry and that nostalgic sensation of a big pile of damp autumn leaves — the kind you used to jump into. Mists and mellow fruitfulness, the whole thing. Without being warm, it’s warming.

Poe is among a sudden surge in California nouveau efforts. Although the concept is hardly nouveau in California — Joseph Phelps produced a Zinfandel nouveau for Chez Panisse from 1975 through 1990, and Beringer made one until 2005 — this year marks a reification: It’s officially a thing. Poe started doing it in 2013, Scribe in 2014, Bedrock and Coturri in 2015. In 2016, Cruse, Stirm, Broc, Methode Sauvage and others are releasing one for the first time. Ordinaire, the wine shop in Oakland, is making a mini-festival out of it.

Anyone making nouveau on these shores is taking her cues from the French region of Beaujolais, where the third Thursday of each November marks the yearly release of the vintage’s young wines. The tradition is essentially a party-supply mechanism: You celebrate the end of harvest by drinking that harvest’s wine. The parties happen across Beaujolais (though their imitators now are pan-global), and they seem designed to indulge every American fantasy of the French countryside — villagers gathering in fields, roasting whole animals over open fires, quaffing simple, young wine straight from the barrel.

A cluster of Cabernet grapes at Farella Winery in Napa where Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, produces her wine. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Farella Winery where Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, produces her wine in Napa. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

A glass of Pinot Nouveau produced by Sam Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines at Farella Winery in Napa. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Samantha Sheehan pulls Pinot Nouveau from the barrel at Farella Winery in Napa. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, drinks some of her Pinot Nouveau at Farella Winery in Napa. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Poe Wines, including Chardonnay and several Pinot Nouveaus, made by Sam Sheehan at Farella Winery in Napa. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Sam Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, drinks some of her Pinot Nouveau at Farella Winery in Napa. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, with son Owen at Farella Winery in Napa. She is part of a surge of California winemakers tapping into the French tradition of nouveau wines. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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A cluster of Cabernet grapes at Farella Winery in Napa where Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, produces her wine.

A cluster of Cabernet grapes at Farella Winery in Napa where Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, produces her wine.

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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Farella Winery where Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, produces her wine in Napa.

Farella Winery where Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, produces her wine in Napa.

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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A glass of Pinot Nouveau produced by Sam Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines at Farella Winery in Napa.

A glass of Pinot Nouveau produced by Sam Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines at Farella Winery in Napa.

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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Samantha Sheehan pulls Pinot Nouveau from the barrel at Farella Winery in Napa.

Samantha Sheehan pulls Pinot Nouveau from the barrel at Farella Winery in Napa.

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, drinks some of her Pinot Nouveau at Farella Winery in Napa.

Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, drinks some of her Pinot Nouveau at Farella Winery in Napa.

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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Poe Wines, including Chardonnay and several Pinot Nouveaus, made by Sam Sheehan at Farella Winery in Napa.

Poe Wines, including Chardonnay and several Pinot Nouveaus, made by Sam Sheehan at Farella Winery in Napa.

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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Sam Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, drinks some of her Pinot Nouveau at Farella Winery in Napa.

Sam Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, drinks some of her Pinot Nouveau at Farella Winery in Napa.

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

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Samantha Sheehan, owner and winemaker of Poe Wines, with son Owen at Farella Winery in Napa. She is part of a surge of California winemakers tapping into the French tradition of nouveau wines.

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