Wine column | Wine Culture

Geyser Peak: A hot, historic Sonoma brand that's easy to find

Jon Ornee of Holland, Mich. designed the label for Geyser Peak's new Merlot-based red wine blend. (Courtesy Geyser Peak)

Jon Ornee of Holland, Mich. designed the label for Geyser Peak’s new Merlot-based red wine blend. (Courtesy Geyser Peak)

The new owner of Geyser Peak Winery is giving the marketplace a refresher course in this historic brand located on the same road as Silver Oak Cellars in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County.

Accolade Wines, the fifth largest wine company in the world, continues to affirm the brand’s Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignons as top sellers and keeps prices low, but also has introduced an impressive entry in the hot new “red blend” category called Uncensored with a terrific label that plays off the last three letters of the name.

Founded in 1880, Geyser Peak was the 29th winery to be bonded after Prohibition in California and now is one of only a handful of the pioneers still in business. In recent times it has limped along under a string of owners. But to the credit of them all, the Geyser Peak staff, including winemaker Ondine Chattan, has remained constant, along with their enthusiasm.

Its huge following in Michigan — we are one of the top markets in the U.S. — is no doubt based on the super quality and super-affordable prices for fruit from prized California regions.

You can find the label at Busch’s, Hiller’s, Kroger and Meijer, and Spartan on the west side of the state, plus other chains and many independent wine shops.

I recently tasted through a bunch of the wines with sales rep Paul Rinaldi at Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse in Dearborn with manager/sommelier Kat Hawkins.

Uncensored 2010, $12.99-$13.99: Geyser Peak started releasing this new red blend in December in the Michigan market. You cannot miss the pop art label by Holland, Mich., designer Jon Ornee. Uncensored is rich and structured with a big slam of ripe plum, blackberry, cherry, currant and brown baking spices. It’s Merlot-based with Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, and Petite Sirah. It may make you step out of your safety zone if you think all “Red Wine Blends” (like the recent spate of them) are sweet. Bottom line: This one has style.

Geyser Peak Pinot Grigio 2011, $11: This is the second vintage of Pinot Grigio for GP. It has a crisp, refreshing personality of tart lemon, green apple and white peach tones threaded with minerality. No oak; no malolactic. The fruit is the whole show. It’s packs character in the fashion of Geyser Peak whites.

(Courtesy Geyser Peak)

(Courtesy Geyser Peak)

Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2011, $11: This baby and the Cabs are important wines for GP. The Sauvignon Blanc is No. 1 in sales in its price category in Michigan, according to Nielsen, and it just keeps winning gold medals. It’s crisp, gently tart and dry, with hints of lime, lemon grass, passion fruit and Texas red grapefruit. It doesn’t coat the palate with the overly herbaceous flavors of some Sauvignon Blancs. No wonder it’s such a great seller. It’s divine as an apertif or foil to sweet shellfish.

Geyser Peak Chardonnay 2010, $11: This lean, buttery, crisp Chardonnay is packed with green apple, pear, pineapple, nectarine and apricot notes. It’s light on its feet with just a kiss of spicy, smoky oak. It engages the palate with its balance and yumminess. The $11 price for the Geyser Peak whites will vary, dipping as low as $8-$9 on sale.

Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2008, $14.99: This wine –the next release will likely be the 2010 — delivers that signature approachable, delicious style of Alexander Valley Cabs — raspberry, blackberry, cherry, toasted almond, vanilla. Best of all, like the other wines in the line, it’s affordable — a downright bargain for an Alexanader Valley Cabernet.

Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2007, $20: This big, elegant, oak-infused beauty is produced off an estate vineyard with a tree made famous by traversing its way down a hillside until it was determined it was a risk, and was taken down. Inhale dark currants, cherries, blackberries, dark plums and smoky bacon. Good structure — and a great buy.