Tony Cartlidge is one of my favorite California Wine personalities. He’s a British transplant with an outsize personality, a memory like a steel trap, and a kind word for everyone.
He founded Associated Distributors in the ’80s and was the first one to bring in Jorge Ordoñez’s imported Spanish wines into California. He founded Cartlidge and Brown winery around the same time, gaining placements in nearly every independent wine retailer and fine dining restaurant in Northern California. (We carried his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for many, many years). Associated was sold to a larger house, and eventually Cartlidge and Brown collapsed – the name survives, but it’s not the same stuff.
I met Tony over 25 years ago prior to my entry into the wine business, through his late sister Katrin, a film and theater actor with whom I worked several times when I was a film press agent. She was a brilliant actor – rent/stream Mike Leigh’s Naked or Career Girls, or Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves to see what I mean – and her untimely passing still stings many years later.
Tony’s not one to sit idly by, so he started, along with his son Stefan, Dancing Crow, a Lake County-based winery that makes a few wines: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Rosé, and a Zinfandel. We carry the entire line.
Lake County’s unique terroir is the result of a tremendous 11,000 year-old volcanic eruption, an elevated mountain climate, and its proximity to Clear Lake, which is one of the largest freshwater lakes in California. Lake County’s fertile soils are complemented by hot days and cool nights, which allows for optimum balance between fruit, tannin and acidity.
The 2020 Rosé comes from 30-year-old Syrah vines on the Smith Lane Vineyard, located at 1,300 feet on the lower portion of the Kelsey Bench AVA and sits on dark clay-loam soils where abundant willows and a nearby pear orchard indicate the riparian nature of the environment.
The grapes were hand picked on September 9th and 10th at just over 21° Brix. We sent 50% of the grapes to the classic “white pressing program” and the other 50% to a “Champagne pressing” program. The former gave us more flavor and color, while the latter produced a wine that had intriguing aromas and more elegant texture. Combining the two optimizes the qualities of the fruit and creates a fresh, subtle and complex wine in the Provençal style.
Pale peach color hints at a dry yet aromatically fulfilling wine. Aromas of Alpine strawberry, fresh plum and honeydew melon are accented by an exotic note of cardamom. On the palate, fresh yellow plum and strawberry fruits are enlivened by brisk mineral and savory flavors of fresh thyme. The finish offers a refreshing dry mineral sensation that is lifted by hints of garden herbs. This is an enthralling wine of great complexity that is refreshing and fun to drink.