From Gideon and Saron’s two and a half-acre vineyard, planted on a gentle, well-drained, north-east facing slope at 1500-1600 feet altitude in yellowish clay-loam topsoil on fractured granite and volcanic ash subsoil, sprinkled with fragments of granitic rocks and quartz. 100% whole cluster, aged in old barrels.
“Subtly, it’s the miniature likes of Clos Saron that are increasingly, if quietly, reshaping America’s vision of fine wine. Tasting Clos Saron’s singular—and singularly fine—wines and talking with Mr. Beinstock reminded me yet again why smaller is better.”
—Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator
Way up in the northern reaches of the Sierra Foothills, Gideon Beinstock and his wife, Saron Rice, produce small batches of wines that are unlike anything else coming out of California. Using traditional techniques and strict organic methods both in the vineyard and the cellar, they make tiny amounts of Pinot Noir from their two and one-fifth acre home vineyard as well as a variety of unique blends from five and a half acres of nearby leased vineyards that they farm as well.
The vineyards are densely planted, about 2,500 vines per acre, and are dry farmed wherever possible; yields range from as low as one ton per acre and maxing out around two. Because their area is free of phylloxera, their vines are all “own-rooted” and some are over thirty-five years old.
Their vineyards are harvested in repeated passes through the vines (typically from three to eight times), picking only clusters as they begin to soften, to determine perfect ripeness. The grapes are foot-stomped in open-top bins allowing the vineyards’ indigenous yeasts to conduct the fermentation. For the blends, the grape varieties are all co-fermented as Gideon believes the results are better integrated. The wines are then aged on lees in five- to twenty-five-year-old French oak barrels for as long as he feels is needed before being bottled, unfined and unfiltered, with minimal use of sulfites. Production is often around one hundred cases or less per wine.
Over the past thirty-five years, Gideon has been involved in almost every aspect of the wine industry: sales, writing, purchasing, educating, and a sixteen-year-ong stint as winemaker for Renaissance. It is at Clos Saron, though, where he has tapped into something rare: wines that are challenging, surprising, and yet instantly gratifying. They happily defy description and convention without forgetting that, at its core, a wine should be a pleasure to drink.