It’s back to school season, which means greeting old friends and making new ones, so this month we’re spotlighting Valdiguié, a grape that’s a little bit of both. Grown in California since the 19th century, it was initially known as “Napa Gamay” and was thought to be a local version of the Gamay Noir varietal in Beaujolais, until 1980, when ampelographer Pierre Galet identified it as Valdiguié (which is also known as Gros Auxerrois in southern France.) Although popular with Golden State growers following Prohibition for its high yields and disease resistance, Valdiguié had fallen out of favor in the recent years. There are currently less than 1,000 acres under vine in California, but Valdiguié is experiencing something of a revival right now amongst California vintners. Valdiguié’s ability to retain acidity and low alcohol at full ripeness makes it an ideal match for light reds, pet-nats and, you guessed it, rosés. Here are two great takes from two Cali veterans: Billy D’s Napa based Ramble label and Santa Barbara’s Hitching Post.

2020 Ramble Buddha’s Dharma Vineyard Valdiguié Rosé

Region/Country of Origin: Mendocino County, California

About the Winery: Billy Davies was born into the wine business as the first son of Jack and Jamie Davies of Schramsberg fame, and the godson of Martin Ray. Following a childhood spent picking grapes and pruning vines in the family vineyards, Billy has built a career touching upon most corners of the food and wine industry: he has done sales and marketing for Southern Wine and Spirits, Trefethen and Schramsberg (amongst others), founded a gourmet grocery store in Virginia called the Farm, and lectured on wine and viticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In 2020, he launched two wine labels, Billy D. and Ramble, which evoke the adventurous, DIY spirit of the California wine industry of Billy’s youth. Ramble focuses on overlooked varietals from organically grown old vines; sourced from vineyards all over Northern California, these wines are  low in alcohol and long on purity of fruit and natural acidity. Both projects are family affairs, with Billy’s daughter Abbie designing the labels and son Jack acting  as  “wordsmith” and “general counsel.”

About the Winemaking: Ramble’s Valdiguié Rosé is made from 75 year old vines from the Buddha’s Dharma vineyard in Mendocino county. Vines are dry and organically farmed. Grapes are half foot-trod and pressed whole-cluster with all native yeasts and no fining or filtration. Wine spends 8 months in neutral barrels before release. Total production is 50  cases, bottled sustainably with ultra light glass and a plant based, fully recyclable cork.  

Tasting Notes:  A tangy melange of ripe strawberries, raspberries and mouth-watering watermelon, with slightly chalky and surprisingly long finish. 

Winemaker: Billy Davies 

$25 bottle/ $270 case

Suggested Food Pairing: 

Caprese salad

Grilled whitefish


2019 Hitching Post Pinks 

Region/Country of Origin: Central Coast, California 

About the Winery: Leading the Hitching Post Wines team are the creators and two long-time friends, Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini, who have been making wines in Santa Barbara County, California since 1979. Gray Hartley, a former Alaskan salmon fisherman and Frank Ostini, chef and owner of the famed Hitching Post 2 Restaurant in Buellton, were brought together by their love of wine and winemaking. Over the years their backyard hobby has turned into a highly acclaimed winemaking enterprise.

In 1981 they discovered the wonders of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir; since then Pinot has been their primary focus.. Along with ten selections of Pinot Noir, Hitching Post produces a dry Rosé called Pinks, a Syrah, and a Merlot-based red named Gen Red. 

Then came Sideways in 2004, the Academy Award winning film set in Santa Barbara wine country, prominently featuring The Hitching Post 2 and Hitching Post Wines. Since exposure in the movie, Hitching Post wines have gained in popularity. Currently, the winery has 12,000 barrels and produces about 17,000 cases a year.

Hartley and Ostini strive to create flavorful handcrafted wines that possess poise and balance, putting a slice of Santa Barbara in each glass, and a piece of their soul in every bottle of Hitching Post.

About the Winemaking: 80% Valdiguié and 20% Pinot Noir. The Valdiguie  was picked early and pressed especially for this rose; the Pinot is free run juice removed as grapes were being pressed for red wine fermentation. Fermented in stainless steel and put half in barrel to age on lees. 

Tasting Notes: A refreshing blend of 80% Valdiguié and 20% Pinot Noir. As the Valdiguie offers lively crisp and refreshing strawberry scents, the Pinot Noir adds a touch of richness that rounds the texture on the palate without minimizing its refreshing, light nature. 

Winemaker: Gray Hartley & Frank Ostini

$16 bottle/ $172.8 case. 

Suggested Food Pairing: 

Artichoke Pizza

BBQ Chicken

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