One of our favorite places to visit is the Central Coast of California. With its beguiling cypress pines, and undulating pounding surf, the Central Coast has been alluring artists, writers, and countless vacation goers for decades. What is a stand out in this pristine region of the country is its ability to maintain a vibrant agricultural and viticulture climate, amid the thousands of people that venture into the area on a monthly basis. Just a short drive inland, the Salinas Valley boast the “lettuce bowl capital of the world”, as it is the number one agricultural region of the United States, contributing 8.2 billion dollars to the local economy.
This vast wine growing region supplies the nation’s most premium grapes in North America and there is no shortage of wine tasting rooms with world class wines waiting to be tasted and purchased. While on the coast, the fishing industry is still providing the freshest seafood for the Valley. On this journey we were taking a few days to return to Carmel by the Sea and Monterey, to indulge in some of the county’s most glorious bounty and have a few glasses of exceptional wine to go along with the plethora of great dishes to be had on the Central Coast.
Our first stop was to a more unusual outpost, a tasting room known for showcasing Lodi wines; Twisted Roots. Wait a minute, a tasting room in Carmel Valley showcasing grapes from Lodi? We found out the answer to our question when sat down with the owners of Twisted Root winery to find out more about their grape growing story. Josh Ruiz, a farmer in the agricultural business fields is now working in the vineyards of his family’s historic property in Lodi California. Ruiz was more than willing to elaborate on his family story and to share in the wines that are now a byproduct of his passion and knowledge.
We quickly learned that his deep love of farming is now translated into making great wines. Twisted Roots now has proven its ability to produce outstanding wines with medals won in the following S.F. Chronicle Wine Competitions. In 2014, the Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) won a coveted gold medal, followed by the 2011 and 2012 Petite Syrah and the 1918 Old Vine Zinfandel garnering silver, while 2012 Chardonnay won a bronze medal. His love for farming the vineyards is evident in these award-winning wines. All the wines are certified “Green”, using sustainable farming practices throughout the vine growing process. Farming in this climate must be done with sustainability in mind to help with saving the environment, however, farmers may not realize that even though they are doing the correct practices they could still be doing something bad, for instance, if their equipment is not properly serviced regularly by checking out fuel lines, gears, changing lawn mower tires, etc. they could be harming the environment, so everything involved in farming must be looked at.
“To be real honest, I love to talk to folks on the weekend that come by our tasting room,” stated Ruiz. “My goal is not to make thousands of cases, but enough to have my hands in the business. We went from 45 cases to bottling a little over a thousand bottles last year”.
His favorite varietal is Petite Syrah and he poured us his 2012 vintage. He looks for the overall flavor of the grapes, not necessarily abiding by the standards of how and when things should be done but has come to rely more upon his farming instincts. The 2012 showcased the dark fruit and cassis of this sometimes overlooked varietal. We also had a chance to try the 2012 Chardonnay. ” I make it very simple, very light as it is more of Chablis style”, said Ruiz. “Many California Chardonnays have a tendency to big and flashy and I think it is ok to be more delicate and light with neutral French and stainless steel with a bit of malolactic.
Incorporated in 2001, three generations including Josh Ruiz, Mike Hodge and Ross Schmiedt, decided to expand the grape growing into a more sustainable wine making business. Ross a beloved friend and relative and has left the property in the care of the Luis and Julie after passing in 2014 from a lengthy illness. Ross never saw the need to make it into a full fledged wine business, but agreed to go continue the legacy with the more visionary Ruiz. Josh caught the wine vision and now is increasing the wine production and his own understanding of viticulture. Ruiz who resides and works in the Valley, decided that the family property had great potential to produce great grapes, but no one was going to go to Lodi, so he brought the grapes and the wines to Carmel Valley.
” It’s not that I am competition with the Monterey county guys because they do phenomenal wines here and I know that they are not going to go there, so I am bringing it here,” stated Ruiz, quickly quelling our quandary about the Lodi connection. Twisted Roots tasting room may be the new kid on the block but they are garnering some devote followers as they bring a bit of old time Lodi to the Carmel Valley. Ross and his delightful wife Julie are sticking with their mission to “let the fruit speak for itself”. They are doing a great job transforming the language of the grape into glasses of award winning wines. www.twistedroots.com