Rare Creatures from Cali: Forlorn Hope and the enigma that is Matthew Rorick


What is complexity in wine?  I guess it's what we're all looking for when we open a bottle.  Whatever reason it may be, from a simple Tuesday night dinner, a chance to unwind or perhaps a deeper sense of place and connection, there is no one answer. In fact when people ask me what my favorite wine is, I often half jokingly roll my eyes and say, "I don't have a favorite, I love and drink them all for different reasons, at different times, with different people, with different purposes.".  And that's the honest truth.

So what is an enigmatic wine?  Well, like a pit's not immediately understood.  You have to piece it all together to see the whole picture.  If you're following me then simply extrapolate this and apply it to wine, in this case, the wines of Matthew Rorick and his Forlorn Hope project. 

From far away, and we are far from northern California, especially at the moment, Rorick's wines can be difficult to pin down.  He makes a lot of different cuvee's, all in microscopic quantities, all with varying methods...no two wines are a like, each vintage, each bottle is a delightful experiment.

It's an experiment in the unconventional.  It would have been far too easy for the inquisitive mind of Matthew Rorick to go up to Napa and make overpriced cabernet.  Too easy to add a yeast to make the wine smell a certain way, too easy to make the same wine every year.  No, the wines of Forlorn Hope are distinct, genuine and indeed, 'rare creature's as Matthew himself puts it.  Drinking one of his wines, like you'll do tonight, is always an adventure worth taking.  He knows how to capture complexity, the spirit of a place and grape and put it all together with an inquisitive yet unpretentious mind and hand. 

We are beyond excited to pour 7 of the new Forlorn Hope releases.  We'll be joined by Oscar, owner/operator of Olmstead Wine Co. (the guy responsible for bringing these wines into Massachusetts), while we debut and discover some of Rorick's current vintages.  As always with Forlorn Hope wines, quantities are scant, so come take advantage of this chance to taste and stock up. 

Forlorn Hope, Late Winter Releases:

Forlorn Hope, Picpoul, Haug Vineyard, Napa Valley $28
There's a surprising amount of Picpoul growing in California, especially in the fancy zip code that is Napa.  Being a grape that thrives in the Mediterranean south of France, it's well adapted to the climate of Napa and though largely unknown, it can be a characterful variety offering simple pleasure.  Let's see what this one has to offer, I'm guessing something delicious.

Forlorn Hope, 'Que Saudade', Verdelho $25
If one wine has been a consistent fan favorite then it's certainly this little verdelho white wine.  We've worked with several vintages of this wine and each offers something distinct yet continuous.  Here, a white Iberial grape finds itself wearing baggy American cloths.  It's left to be round, ripe and full while not wavering in it's firm acidity and wild aromatics.  Looking forward to this new vintage for sure.

Forlorn Hope, 'Ukiyo' Rose`, Sierra Foothills $20
Matthew has a penchant towards making 'version's of his wines.  Often the same 'base' wine will find itself on divergent paths.  Such is the case with this rose`.  Part of this wine was aged briefly and bottled last spring (you drank that last summer, remember?).  The other part was aged in old barrels until the Fall of last year and then bottled....this is that version.  Let's see how this long elevage rose` turned out! (I forget what grape it's made of....it doesn't matter anyway).

Forlorn Hope, 'Al Frediani' Valdiguie`, Napa Valley $36
I bet you've never had so much Valdiguie` in your life.  It seems this humble, misnamed grape (often referred to incorrectly as 'Napa gamay') is enjoying a resurgence of interest, both from inquisitive winemakers and us, the drinking folks.  Perhaps it's because we love the high-toned, fresh fruit, lower alcohol style that Valdiguie` offers and keen winemakers, who like to drink the same things as we do, are making more, better wines from grapes that are often tossed into 'house blends' from industrial producers.  Perhaps it's because we like to say 'Valdiguie`'.  Either way this wine is awesome.

Forlorn Hope, 'Ost-Intrigen' St. Laurent, Carneros $25
Oh how we adore this wine.  Who knew that Carneros could make great wine?  Turns out it just has to be made of rare Austrian grape varieties like St. Laurent.  This wine is a breath of fresh air and a total curiosity.  Smoke, spice and everything nice...some wile aromatics and balanced tannins make it an easy wine to fall for.

Forlorn Hope, 'San Hercurmer delle Frecce' Barbera, Amador $30
Forlorn Hope, 'L'Asino Santo, Barbera w/o sulfur, Amador $30
As I mentioned above, Matthew likes to make 'versions' of his wines, and here's a great example.  This is the same barbera, from the same Snake River Vineyard in Amador County, yet one was made with just 10mg/L of sulfur added at bottling and the other was made with 0 added.  This is a great way to compare and contrast the two methods and see what all the fuss about SO2 is really about.  Needless to say, these are extremely limited.

Comments on this post (3 comments)

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  • Ediina says...

    Creo que estos vinos al igual que su nombre son muy exustqiios e interesantes. Ademe1s opino que el vino es muy rome1ntico, comparto la opinif3n sobre el enlace de lo saludable que sere1 hacer el amor junto con este vino.

    On October 29, 2015

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