Posted on | March 21, 2016
Written by | W.R. Tish
Known for quality in kosher wine, Herzog is among California’s most innovative wineries as well.
When the winemaking Herzog family first ventured into California in the 1980s, it was not a rush. After all, the Herzogs, originally from Czechoslovakia, had already been making wine for eight generations.
As the California business developed, they opened a new, state-of-the-art facility in Oxnard in 2005. With the ability to handle small-lot winemaking as well as the flexibility to boost case production, winemaker Joe Hurliman has not only maintained the Herzog label’s reputation for supplying fine kosher wine coast to coast, but also, through several brand new projects, kept Herzog perfectly in step with California’s most innovative wineries.
The 2015 Baron Herzog Rosé, for instance, stands apart from the pink crowd as 100% Cabernet Sauvignon—stated clearly on the front label. Vibrant in color and refreshing with acidity, the wine displays wonderful aromatics and fruit intensity (strawberry, cranberry) thanks to the foundation of full-flavored Cabernet. Perfect with food or sipped alone, this dry, elegant Rosé of Cabernet (SRP $10.99) demonstrates that Herzog has creatively embraced rosé’s growing popularity.
Battle of the Barrels
In the 2012 vintage, Hurliman and his winemaking team launched “Variations,” an experiment that put a novel twist on blending. Rather than work with multiple grape varieties from the same region, he combined parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon from multiple regions (Paso Robles, Napa Valley, Santa Ynez, Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill) in three distinct versions.
Now, tapping the bountiful 2014 vintage for the next take on Variations, Hurliman is zeroing in on barrel treatment: “We start with North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from Beckstoffer Vineyards, grown in well-drained, red volcanic soil,” Hurliman explains. “The wine is then separated into two sets of barrels: one in 100% new American oak, and one in 100% new French oak.” Both wines are then aged for nine months—like twins separated at barrel-birth.
Barrel aging brings out rich nuances in the flavor, profile and texture of wine—especially with Cabernet Sauvignon. What makes Herzog Variations Oak so intriguing is the opportunity it provides to compare the differences resulting strictly from the parallel oak-aging tracks. As a duo, the Herzog Variations American Oak and French Oak represent a truly original selling proposition for merchants.
Variations French Oak, from forests whose trees average 120-150 years old, highlights bold aromas of ripened cranberry and offers smooth, round tannins and a satin texture; the wine finishes with notes of creamy oak, vanilla and spice. Variations American Oak uses White Oak averaging 80-100 years old, known for wide grains that quickly release powerful, rich aromas and sweetness to wine. Here, the nine months of aging brings tantalizing notes of fresh black plum and a creamy, rich texture, finishing with hints of butterscotch and toasted pecan. The Variations Oak wines each retail for $35.
Honoring Three Decades
Finally, earlier this year, Herzog Wine Cellars released the 2014 “Camouflage,” a limited edition commemorating the company’s 30th anniversary of making wine in California. Fittingly, as the family originally planted 12 different grape varieties in their vineyard, Camouflage is a field blend. “Every nuance of this wine is a nod to the Herzog’s family heritage of quality winemaking,” says David Whittemore, Director of Marketing at Herzog Wine Cellars, “from the varietals that were selected and the way the vines were grown, to the skill it takes to blend and balance these flavors.” Aromatic, complex and well-structured, Camouflage Limited Edition retails for $25.