Wine on the Fault Line

Gary and Richard of Left Bend Winery. | Lou Phillips

So, you’ve made it to an outdoor concert on the coast. Your friends are on the way and you have arrived early, which means no-hassle parking, the perfect blanket spot and an unobstructed view. You smugly open the cooler to assess your expertly curated options. Oh, how everyone is going to be impressed. Aged cheese, charcuterie, fresh fruit, the crunchiest crusted French bread, and — oh, no. You forgot the wine.

Not a catastrophe if you’re in Los Gatos. Simply call Left Bend Winery and your fitter-than-a-fiddle winery founder will show up on his delivery bike. All you have to worry about is if it’s going to be a chilled, crisp Chardonnay, a lovely Pinot Noir or a spicy red blend. True story. The delivery guys at Left Bend Winery are dedicated riders and bike forays are made to even the steeper neighborhoods of Los Gatos.

Avid cyclist Gary Robinson had a specific wine vision. He wanted his wines to express the planting sites as much or more than the grapes. This led him to tiny artisan vineyards at elevation in truly varied areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains. When he plotted the sites on a map of the region he noticed they almost formed a road map of the San Andreas Fault. He saw that two of the most expressive sights were where the fault takes a sharp left turn, hence the name, Left Bend. He was joined by retired tech-executive Richard Hanke, a fellow cyclist and wine enthusiast in 2013.

Lively tasting room in Los Gatos. | Lou Phillips

These vineyards are some of the coolest in California with specific soils that favor certain varieties. Cool-climate vineyards yield lithe fresh grapes and the correct soil/grape/clone/winemaking ménage à quatre, which when done right, makes for balanced, nuanced, complex wines. You’ll find spice, florals, acidity and minerality going head to head with fruit in their offerings — real food/foodie wines.

Featuring single-vineyard offerings of the aforementioned are the Pinot and Chardonnay duo, excellent Bordeaux-style wines, Syrah, late-harvest Zinfandels and a groovy natural-styled Rosé sparkler — there is enough variety for everyone. Their unique Solera-style Cabernet-Syrah blend called Mashup, which is made from multi-vintages, won Best of Class in the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Their late-harvest Zinfandel, 2015 Last Straw, refers to a practice of drying grapes on straw to concentrate the juice and flavors before fermentation. In 2014, Left Bend was stuck with grapes that had turned to raisins on the vine during the drought years. They gave those raisin-like grapes another chance and called the dessert wine Last Straw. They obviously made the best of it because it won gold in the Chronicle wine competition.

These wines are well worth a visit, or a phone call. Get some and Left Bend it on the first block of popular Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos. Cheers.

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