More than 250 wineries have sprung up in the 10 counties that can be considered part of the Foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The wines being produced are incredible: intense, unique, sometimes even experimental in terms of blends and varietals. Learn more about this great and growing California wine region!
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Solune’s Winemaker helps a Start-Up Winery in Grass Valley (Nevada County-Sierra Foothills)
Jacques Mercier is winemaker and
co-owner of Solune WineGrowers in Grass Valley, Nevada County in the Sierra
Foothills. He is one of those who worked
their way “back to the vineyard,” and he’s happy to share his knowledge with
start-up wineries in Nevada County.
Currently he is mentoring Riki
Pollock, a native Maori from New Zealand.
Riki has named his new Grass Valley winery Katoa Cellars.
Riki Pollock, right, shares time in Solune's lab
Jacques’ love of wine began in
his native Quebec. He built an impressive wine resume in a series of
self-managed steps. He’d been lured to a
tasting seminar in Ontario, and became so curious about good wine that he took
an intensive program to get his wine sommelier diploma. He did a bit of consulting with restaurants,
started home winemaking, and then moved to Texas with his day-job. When he won the "Best-of-Show"
award and a handful of gold and silver medals at the prestigious American Wine
Society Annual Competition in 1995, that
was the turning point. He started
thinking about winemaking as a second career.
He continued to learn more about wine, and graduated from the 3-year
wine judge program of the American Wine Society. He was hooked, and over the years expanded
his judging to include international venues.
In 2001, he and his partner
Andrea Hamer purchased a property in Nevada County after explorations during
ski trips to Tahoe.
“We decided to name our winery Solune, which
is a combination of the French words for sun (soleil) and moon (lune),” explained Jacques. “We appreciate the growing advantage we have
to produce premium grapes in this beautiful Northern California Sierra
Foothills area, and in particular, we’ve sought to work with varieties that do
well with the large temperature difference between our warm days and our cool
Initially, Jacque planted 24
varieties, creating what was essentially a big laboratory. Now, after his first decade, he has 11
reliable varieties. He uses double
pruning, monitors water closely, and continues to pick the brains of other
winemakers and grape growers.
At 1000 cases now, which is a
self-imposed upward limit in order to keep quality high, Jacques is looking
forward to a 50/50 ratio of juice from his own estate vineyards and grapes that
he buys in from selected Foothill growers.
As he achieves that goal, the emphasis will continue to be on quality.
He is happy to share his
experience with Katoa, and Katoa should have their own high quality wines
available to taste soon. At Katoa, Riki
Pollock is making Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay wines
in a system he calls “The Yin Yang Project.”
This is “an experimental approach to wine production that serves as a
learning tool for Katoa visitors. Katoa
cellars is making at least two wines each year that will highlight the effect
different techniques and approaches can have on wine production,” says
16303 Jewett Lane (Colfax Hwy)
Grass Valley, CA 95945
can read more about Solune WineGrowers and meet the winemaker via photos by Johan Martin in my forthcoming
book...sign up to get updates/alert on publication date ... www.wineriesofthesierrafoothills.com)