Friday, November 27, 2015

Avanguardia Wines of Nevada County CA - Winemaker Rob Chrisman Moves Beyond Traditional Winemaking

Rob Chrisman  of Avanguardia Wines
The winding road to Avanguardia – Bitney Springs Road, bridge over Deer Creek, Newtown Road, Jones Bar, look for the sign – takes you to an in-winery tasting room that is charmingly set in the midst of cases of wine, bottling machines and winemaking equipment.   The sign that finally points in the direction of the purpose-built winery could say “varietal-free zone ahead” and that would tip you off that you are in for an other-worldly wine tasting experience.

Rob Chrisman is dedicated to making wines in his ultra-boutique winery that provide a maximum sensory pleasure to the wine drinker.  He refers to his style of winemaking as “hedonic blending”.  It doesn’t take long before you realize that he has a healthy disregard for the traditional California approach to winemaking, and is carving out a brave new world with his wines.

“I believed that Sierra Foothill wines could be as good as those from any area, and we planted vines in 2000 and 2001 on 3.5 acres here.”  Now, Avanguardia Wines produces proprietary blends using over twenty Italian, Georgian, Russian and French varietals and University of California-created crosses that he grows in his estate vineyards.  “Many of the grape varieties have been imported by the University especially for us and are available nowhere else, outside of Europe.”  To his own estate-grown grapes, he adds other Sierra Foothills fruit:  for example, Rob found an Eldorado vineyard that had excellent Dolcetto grapes. He started to produce cutting-edge blends, and they’ve found a loyal following.

“I call my winery a varietal-free zone because we don’t produce traditional chardonnay, zinfandel and so on.  Although several of my wines could be considered varietals because they sometimes contain enough of one varietal to be termed that, instead we chose to give them fanciful names,” he said.

Rob sincerely believes that blending is the way to go to get the best quality, tastiest wines.  Sometimes he uses as many as 6 different grapes in a blend.  “I do non-traditional blending, what I call “hedonic blending”, because I am looking for the maximum sensory pleasure out of the wine.  I want to produce wines that are extremely food friendly.”  His wines are not high alcohol, nor are they fruit-bombs.  Subtle oak and good acidity are key.   He produces 1000 cases of wine each year, and 90% of the grapes in those wines come from his estate vineyards in Nevada County.

Rob and Marilyn Chrisman
enjoy dinner with their Tri-T wine
 Avanguardia hopes to introduce many wine drinkers to these unique blends, and just in case you don’t feel like a twist-and-turn road-rally type adventure (that’s a  pity, since you’ll miss some astoundingly beautiful countryside, but I understand…), they’ve opened a tasting room in Grass Valley.

Avanguardia Winery                          
13028 Jones Bar Road                       
Nevada City, CA 95959                      

The winery makes 800-1000 cases of wine;  eight wines are currently offered and are proprietary blends of Teroldego, Tempranillo, Tannat, Peverella, Tocai Friulano, Forastera, Pinot Grigio, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Orange Muscat, Flora (a UC-patented variety), Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Refosco, Barbera, Brunello, and the patented UC Davis hybrid “Carmine”.

     You can read more about this winery and enjoy a recipe that pairs well with Avanguardia's Tri-T blend of Tannat, Tempranillo and Toroldego in the soon-to-be-published book, Wineries of the Sierra Foothills.   
      Sign up to get an alert when it's published via a simple process at the book's website,   There will be loads of ongoing features on Sierra Foothills wineries, and notification of book-signing events near you.

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