Over the years, Terry and I have been blessed by several wineries who have responded enthusiastically to our requests to host a tasting for the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club.
These have been so successful and the wineries so generous that the tastings cumulatively have raised over $300,000 for our local youth.
Epoch Winery and its winemaker, Jordan Fiorentini, conducted an especially memorable evening for us. It was January 2020, a mere two months before the globe went into COVID crisis mode.
As all the guests that night anticipated, Jordan’s wines excelled. But then she did something that made Epoch stand out. She offered a weekend at the winery with accommodations and a private tour and barrel tasting with her, as well as a thorough tasting of past vintages of Epoch.
Well, our friends, Pat and Jim Hansen, and ourselves knew we had to take advantage of that special treat. So, after some fierce bidding, we wound up being able to experience an amazing weekend.
We got to Epoch at noon on Friday. Jordan greeted us warmly and then spent two hours giving us a thorough introduction to Epoch’s operations as well as its wines maturing slowly and gracefully before bottling.
We started with the 2022 viognier. It featured peach and other stone fruit flavors. Very fruit-forward with a long finish and aromas of gardenia. To us amateurs, it tastes like it was ready to bottle right now. But Jordan said it still needed another year to round and finish out. The viognier was tasted from stainless steel tanks.
One thing to note about Epoch is that it provides all of the fruit used for all of its wines. That means that every bottle is estate-grown, a rare trait.
Jordan proudly discussed the numerous ways that Epoch is forging new methods for making its wine. She pointed out not just the steel tanks but also the concrete eggs. These different vessels used to mature the wine allow the grapes to express themselves differently than if only oak is used.
For instance, she poured us a sample of the 2021 Sensibility. It’s a grenache that she retrieved from one of the concrete receptacles known as a cement tulip. The nose was quite pronounced, featuring berries and cherries. The coffee flavor was distinct, with a mild acidic finish. Yes, it’s going to see more aging in both the tulips and in oak barrels but it’s delicious now.
To compare and contrast, we then had the 2021 Sensibility from oak barrels. The wine featured more pronounced fruit and, in a somewhat contradictory fashion, was also more subtle. It’s richer than the one from the cement container and the raspberry flavor was more pronounced.
I’ve written before about Jordan. Many wine makers are called artists because of their wine creations. Jordan takes this one step further. She actually draws how the wine tastes to her. She calls them her Wine Expressions. She is so accomplished in this that she is being featured in an art show in Southern California.
We then did the 2021 York Mountain Syrah, which was amazing. A beautiful, deep, rich dark color, Jordan used a wine thief to pull samples from the barrel. While tannic, we still enjoyed the blackberry and tobacco notes.
Our last two wines from our tour of the barrel room were the 2021 Block B and the 2020 tempranillo. The Block B comes from the Paderewski Vineyard, and it’s always 100% Syrah. It featured great acidity and was well-balanced. One of our favorite varietals is tempranillo. Spain excels in its versions of this tasty wine. Many of those bottles come from vines that are 100 years old or older. California, mainly because of Prohibition, has few vines that are anywhere near that old. Despite that drawback, Jordan consistently produces a delicious, smooth and smoky wine from her grapes.
My next columns will feature the wines that have already been bottled by Epoch, as well as offerings from two other wineries that we visited for the first time.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.