I’ve included bottles here that are wildly popular and priced to be enjoyed any day of the week, as well as rosés that rise to Grand Cru Burgundy levels of price and collectibility. There is a rosé out there for everyone. Which is a beautiful thing, because these days, all of us could use a glassful of the kind of unselfconscious joy that great rosé so reliably provides.
...Obviously I did not have time or energy to taste all 500 wines so had to choose producers who seemed to me to represent the most exciting new wave of California, together with a few old friends who have been producing lighter, fresher wine for ages.
This relatively new enterprise – first official vintage 2017 – was started up by Kyle Jeffrey, Brad Jonas and Miriam Pitt, who met at Cal Poly. Kyle and Brad were studying winemaking in 2010. They specialise in wines grown in Brad's native Mendocino, including the oft-overlooked Mendocino Ridge close to the ocean. The name is inspired by the super-low tide that Brad would encounter that is particularly good for harvesting seafood. All three have separate day jobs in wine. Kyle works at a natural winery and brewery on Treasure Island. Brad makes wine for Toulouse winery in Philo, Anderson Valley, where they make their wine. And Miriam does PR for wineries on the west coast including Spottswoode. They don’t own any vines but all grapes are Mendocino… all but the Syrah is dry farmed. All native yeast and French oak. Total annual production is only about 600 cases but I was impressed by the quality.
2018 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan - 17: Superior
100% Carignan. The red expression of their delicious rosé. In 2017 they did 100% carbonic maceration with the aim of making a light, juicy red, but 40% carbonic maceration in this 2018. Pressed pretty early, to avoid too much tannin. This smells a bit more recognisable as Carignan. Quite a bit of freshness and a fruity core. Not mean but with marked acidity. Silky texture. Quite obviously natural but not excessively so. Well done. A very good Carignan. Quite good length. Drink 2019 – 2022
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay - 17: Superior
100% Chardonnay. Vineyard is nine miles from the coast at 2,600 ft. The second-highest vineyard in the county. Mendocino Ridge is an AVA for the land above 1,200 ft, so-called ‘islands in the sky’ because the land is above the fog line. The vineyard belongs to Dan Dooling, who planted Pinot as long ago as 1979. It was almost all Zinfandel before. Chardonnay went in in the mid 1980s. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak puncheons. A little lees stirring in the first two months. Mendocino Ridge fruit can be very high in malic acid so they didn’t want to overdo it. Acids at picking are far higher than textbook would allow (picked at pH 3.1). Picked mid September during a heatwave. Spontaneous malo finished during the 2018 harvest! So total SO2 is about 40 ppm – none before bottling. Slightly cloudy – unfiltered. Quite rich and savoury but not sweet. Good tension. Very neat. More body than many Sonoma Coast Chardonnays. Drink 2019 – 2024
2018 Minus Tide Manchester Ridge Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay - 16.5++ : Distinguished
100% Chardonnay. This vineyard is 3.5 miles from the coast and you can see and hear Manchester below. Fermented in neutral puncheons. 11% new oak – a half-barrel. Picked 24 September. Deep greenish gold. Spicy notes. But actually the green-fruit flavours and acidity are more marked than in the 2017 Mariah Vineyard. Partly because of the vintage presumably. Drink 2021 – 2025
2018 Minus Tide Valenti Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Syrah - 16.5: Distinguished
100% Syrah. First vintage. One of the coolest Syrah vineyards, planted in 1998 six miles from the coast at 1,300–1,600 ft. A vineyard that can ripen at 19 to 20 Brix. Picked 30 October! Very cool site. Just 2 acres of Syrah in a Pinot and Chardonnay vineyard. 75% whole bunch. Aged in neutral French oak. Smells of ripe Syrah. A little bit of rotundone but smooth and juicy. Lots of sweet fruit. Finishes dry. Not too austere. Drink 2020 – 2024
2018 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé - 16.5: Distinguished, VGV: Very Good Value
100% Carignan. Second vintage from 112-year-old, dry-farmed, head-trained, 7-ft tall vines in a cooler part of Hopland on an old riverbed. They pick the fruit a second time for the red. Minerality from the soil, they hope. Root systems presumably enormous. Surrounded by more fashionable varieties. Carignan grape price has almost doubled in five years. Very pale salmon colour. The grapes sat in the press for about an hour. Very pretty and with a nice balance of acid and fruit and a good dry finish. Pretty and perfumed. I don’t think I could tell this was a Carignan, if tasted blind. Drink 2019 – 2021
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir - 16: Distinguished
100% Pinot Noir. From Dan Dooling. 35% whole bunch, neutral barrels. Hand punchdowns in small bins. 17 days on skins. Picked the same day as the Chardonnay in mid September. 10 months’ ageing. Probably grafted-over old vines. From a hot year. 116 °F at the winery. Very fruity nose. Winemaker Brad Jonas says Mendocino Ridge Pinot is more savoury than, for instance, Anderson Valley, though to me this wine is predominantly fruity. Very clean and direct. Good fruity core. Probably not for very long ageing. Drink 2019 – 2022
—Jancis Robinson, June 2020
New Releases From California
Minus Tide is a new winery founded by Kyle Jeffrey, Brad Jonas and his wife Miriam Pitt. Jeffrey and Jonas met at Cal Poly and serve today as co-winemakers. The current focus is on Mendocino wines and its cool climate characteristics.
2019 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé
Light orange/blush; aromas of fresh orange and red currant. Medium-bodied, this is tasty with a pleasant freshness and good acidity. The finish is off-dry, with just a hint of sweetness. Drink over the next 12-18 months. Very Good
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
Deep young garnet; aromas of bing and black cherry, marjoram and orange peel. Medium-full with very good concentration, this is spicy Pinot Noir with notes of cinnamon and baking spice, along with very good varietal ripeness, good acidity and medium-weight tannins. Enjoy now with roast pork or lighter game birds; peak drinking in 5-7 years. Excellent
—Tom Hyland, June 2020
26 Stellar Rosés to Welcome the Warmer Months
Today, dry rosé is an all-gender, warm-weather favorite the world over.
One after another in our tasting proved beautifully balanced between ripe fruit and lively acidity, managing that delicate dance with grace and elegance.
We’ve concentrated on West Coast bottles here... any one of these beauties will make you forget continental dreams with the first sip.
2019 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé
Another of California’s rare Carignan rosés, this Minus Tide comes from one of Mendocino’s ancient (100+-year-old), head-pruned vineyards. Alive and brimming with character, the pale wine opens with perfumed and spicy potpourri aromas, followed by a bushel of red fruit—cherry and raspberry—layered with peach and almond melba notes.
—Sara Schneider, May 2020
Jancis Robinson on California’s new-wave wines
Forget the expensive Napa Cabernets and the mass-market brands, there are gems in the middle price bracket
…But, in fact, California’s vitality and excitement lie neither at the top nor the bottom of the price scale, but in the lower middle where there is a much, much wider range of grape varieties, styles and appellations than there were 10 years ago.
They are typically produced by young, dynamic, innovative and independent winemakers. And that, I hope, is where California’s wine future lies.
Recommended new-wave California wines
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay
2018 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan
—Jancis Robinson, June 2020
It’s so exciting to discover new producers making serious, kindly priced wines anywhere, but especially in California where they have been relatively rare.
Funnily enough I have recently come across two – with spookily similar names. How weird is that? One is Minus Tide, producers of a series of exciting Mendocino wines grown close to the Pacific coast and named after a particularly low tide there that is great for gathering seafood, I’m told. I’ll be writing about these wines and the trio behind it in a big survey of new-wave California wines I’m planning.
—Jancis Robinson, May 2020
This week included a couple of pretty rosés from Oregon and California. The second, from relative newcomer Minus Tide Wines in Mendocino, is a really lovely rendition of Carignan in pink form that is just mouthwatering and just what you want to be drinking on a warm afternoon.
Minus Tide also offered a Pinot this week from Mendocino Ridge, overlooking the Pacific Ocean... it did some some very nice qualities, chief among which was a nice forest-floor quality.
2019 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé - Around 9 Points
A pale salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and watermelon rind. In the mouth, watermelon rind, green strawberries, and citrus peel have a zippy, bouncy brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. Lean, bright, with a pink SweetTart finish that is mouthwatering.
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir - Between 8.5 and 9 Points
Light to medium ruby in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of green willow bark, forest floor, and raspberries. In the mouth, notes of red apple skin, raspberry, and dried cherry have a very nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. The wine has a feeling of having been well oxygenated, which makes it taste more evolved than I would expect at this young age, but all the flavors are good.
—Alder Yarrow May 2020
2019 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé - 92 Points
Vintage number two for this great Rosé - one you won't want to delay in ordering. Intentional Rosé from start to finish, it's an elegant expression of what's usually thought of as a rustic variety. Crisp nectarine, subtle strawberry and soft citrus ride a stony mineral core through a long finish where the red fruit gets a little push. A favorite new producer!
—Rich Cook, June 2020
California Wines Export 2020
Jancis Robinson, MW, with wine writer and educator, Elaine Chukan Brown, discuss their insights into the role and potential of California wine globally. Jancis recommends Minus Tide!
—Jancis Robinson, February 2020
Ripe fruit aromas and enticing pastry-shop accents bring a lot of enjoyment to this medium-bodied, fresh and minimally oaky wine. Crisp apple and poached pear mingle with vanilla, nutmeg and ginger on the palate while crisp natural acidity keeps it in balance.
—Jim Gordon, December 2019
Kelly Clarkson and cheese expert Liz Thorpe featured the 2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay on The Kelly Clarkson Show!
"This is a good wine!"
—Kelly Clarkson, October 2019
The Anderson Valley Winter White Wine Festival full of delights
Here are the producers that made the biggest impressions over the weekend, all for different reasons.
This young brand is a partnership between three, 30-something wine industry pros who met at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and still have their day jobs, but it’s obvious their line-up of uber-coastal Mendocino County wines are getting a lot of attention from their peers. They don’t have a tasting room, but after sampling a bit at the Grand Tasting, I was able to do a deep dive into their lineup on Sunday at Disco Ranch, a great little wine shop and market in Boonville, along with their friendly husky named Joe. Outside of the standard Mendocino Pinot Noir and Chardonnay they also make a Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Carignan, and Syrah. All of the wines were elegant and balanced with a focus on high acidity and lower alcohol.
As a bonus, their most expensive bottle is $42. The Feliz Creek Vineyard Carignan Rosé, produced from head-trained, dry-farmed vines planted back in 1908, was my first official Rosé purchase of 2020 and I picked up a bottle of the Valenti Vineyard Syrah too. I’ve been on a cool-climate Syrah kick lately and this particular vineyard site sits just six miles from the coast.
—Jess Lander, March 2020
Mendocino Ridge is known as “Islands in the Sky” because it applies exclusively to land above 1,200ft — hills that are generally above the fog line but fully exposed to marine onslaughts. At 2,600ft, the Mariah Vineyard is the second highest in Mendocino County, yet it’s a stone’s throw from the ocean.
A newish part-time operation Minus Tide has made some particularly promising wines from this and other Mendocino Ridge vineyards.
—Jancis Robinson, March 2020
About 260 wine industry members gathered Tuesday in Napa for “Export 2020: California Wine Global Export Conference,” a program to spur California wine exports.
Among the speakers Tuesday was British wine critic and educator Jancis Robinson, a columnist for the Financial Times. She spoke to wine writer and educator Elaine Chukan Brown, a contributor to Robinson’s wine blog, jancisrobinson.com.Among the current favorite affordable American wines, Robinson mentioned Steve Matthiasson’s Tendu, which will appeal to younger consumers, Minus Tide and Calder Wine Co.
—Kerana Todorov, February 2020
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay - 94 Points
One of the reasons that you’ve taken this moment to visit us here at Wine Review Online is no doubt to find something new -- it’s certainly one of the things that binds us together as wine lovers.
That said, it’s my pleasure to highly recommend a first release wine from Minus Tide, a brand-new player in California’s Mendocino County. This 2017 Chardonnay, sourced from the Mendocino Ridge AVA’s Mariah Vineyard ($36), has been beautifully realized by three friends that met at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (one of California’s “other” wine schools) who are handling nearly every aspect of the winery, from winemaking to sales to label artwork, and they are off to the races with this gorgeously place-specific white wine.
A little background on sourcing: Mendocino Ridge is the rare AVA that is based on an elevation cut line, sitting above 1200 feet, and it’s the only non-contiguous AVA in the country to date. Picture mountaintop vineyards dotting your view -- basking in the sun above the fog that swaddles the landscape resting below 1200 feet -- and you’ll get a sense of what the AVA is…unique to say the least.
Now, look up to picture Dan Dooling’s Mariah Vineyard at 2600 feet -- more than double the AVA’s cut line elevation -- with a view of the Pacific, and you’ll get a fuller picture of how this wine comes together.
And come together it does, with elegant aromatics include pear, peach, apple, stony minerality and a dash of ocean spray. These all translate in linear fashion on the palate, with a solid core of acidity driving the wine’s intensity and integration of flavors through a long finish. Neutral oak adds a lovely textural component without interfering with the tension and purity of the fruit mix. I could drink this all day long and never tire of it, and I’m excited to taste the rest of the lineup from this venture. Look for more reviews soon.
I love discovering something new in wine -- it’s like looking down and spotting a shell or a stone that you’ve never seen before while strolling the beach during a minus tide….
—Rich Cook, August 2019
This week also saw the appearance of a bunch of wines from a brand new producer named Minus Tide. Started by three friends -- Kyle Jeffrey, Brad Jonas, and Miriam Pitt -- this is a small estate-less winery making cool climate wines in small quantities. Miriam Pitt works in the wine PR business, and is responsible for sending me a bunch of the wines that you see reviewed here on Vinography, so it was quite charming to get some wines that she had a hand in making. They're all tasty. I particularly like the Carignan in both its rosé form and its full red incarnation (which benefits from some air before drinking).
2018 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé - Around 9 Points
A pale coppery salmon color in the glass, this wine smells of strawberries and raspberries. In the mouth, beautifully silky flavors of green strawberry, raspberry and watermelon have a citrusy acidity that makes the mouth water. Fantastic and bright, and utterly delicious with hints of watermelon rind lingering in the finish along with a faint sweetness. Happiness Creek, indeed.
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay - Between 8.5 and 9 Points
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of freshly cut apples and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, Fuji apples and white flowers have a brisk brightness to them thanks to very good acidity. Crisp and fruity, with a hint of butterscotch emerging on the finish.
2017 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan - Between 8.5 and 9 Points
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of distinctly sweet boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, intense boysenberry flavors have a faint tannic texture to them and a nice acidity that keeps the mouth watering as the lush fruit flavors move across the palate. Juicy and fruity, but perhaps lacking some complexity. This is fairly well made up for with charm, however.
2015 Minus Tide Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino Malbec - Between 8.5 and 9 Points
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, rich, ripe black cherry fruit is intense, with juicy acidity that makes for a mouthwatering package. Hints of espresso back up the black cherry and blueberry fruit.
—Alder Yarrow, July 2019
...we’ve added a few more of our new favorites—all offering the nuance of variety and place that make them serious wines.
2018 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé
A first release from a new team in Mendocino this pale pink opens with a fresh-ocean-breeze salinity mixed with wild strawberry, spice, and honeysuckle. It’s perfectly balanced between juicy fruit and dryness, with a satisfyingly savory finish.
—Sara Schneider, July 2019
2017 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan - 93 Points
Heads up Ms. Butler and Ms. Shelton – there’s a worthy new player in the Carignan arena, and with a unique angle to boot. Winemakers Brad Jonas and Kyle Jeffrey bring us a Beaujolais styled expression of fruit from Wendy Fetzer’s dry farmed head trained vines in Hopland that were originally planted in 1908. Carbonic maceration on native yeast and ten months in neutral oak results in a dry, bright wine that sings with ripe strawberry, cherry, bay leaf, pepper and gentle oak spice, finishing tart and fresh. There’s real versatility in the variety, and this is a welcome take.
—Rich Cook, November 2019
Longtime senior account executive at J.A.M. PR, Miriam Pitt, released her debut Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 2019 from the 2017 vintages. She co-founded the winery with her fiance, Brad Jonas (assistant winemaker at Toulouse Vineyards) and their best friend, Kyle Jeffrey (winemaker at Campovida in Hopland). The winery's focus is on cool-climate wines from small, family-owned and sustainably farmed vineyards in Mendocino County. Many of the vineyards are dry farmed and organic.
2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay - 93 Points: Outstanding
Whole cluster pressed. Native yeast barrel fermentation in neutral French oak puncheons for 13 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Alluring scent of apple pastry, lemon butter, pineapple and flint. Bright and lively in the mouth, blessed with sound acidity and showing no distracting oak overlay. Flavors of lemon-lime, green apple, pear, a hint of pineapple and a saline note are immensely satisfying. The finish is clean and refreshing. The winemakers have done a commendable job of balancing acidic verve with enough fruit richness.
—Rusty Gaffney, June 2019
2018 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé
This gorgeous, tension-filled wine proves that a cold night is a perfect night for a great bottle of rosé: The @minustidewines Carignan Rosé 2018 bursts from the glass with wild strawberries, field flowers, sun-warmed hay, oyster shells, orange blossom, and honeysuckle, ending on an almost salty finish that made it absolutely sing alongside homemade tacos, cumin-scented beans, and enough guacamole to drown in, happily.
—Brian Freedman (of Forbes and Food & Wine), January 2020
2018 Minus Tide Feliz Creek Vineyard Mendocino Carignan Rosé - 92 Points
New player Minus Tide is off to a great start -- this second introduction features ripe white peach aromas offset by light floral notes. The palate is steely dry, with touches of sea spray and herbs dancing with citrus, tart peach and strawberry around a pole of stony minerality. Light and refreshing, yet with some depth and character. Salute!
—Rich Cook, August 2019