Triumphs of Terroir: Clos Saron, Frenchtown Farms and La Onda

Gideon Bienstock (above), Dani Rozman, and Cara and Aaron Mockrish bottle wines from one of California's most isolated appellations, called Oregon House. If this wild appellation is known for anything, it's for making wines that age for decades, though the wines are distinctive and alluring even in their youth.

The first email I ever sent for this wine shop featured a library release from a small, “culty” winery in Sierra Foothills of California called Clos Saron. Now, four years later, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m leaving this incredible wine shop to work at that very winery for the 2021 harvest. These wines move me in a way that very few do, and I believe that they should be experienced by those interested in natural expressions of California terroir. They are immensely powerful, concentrated, and brimming with a rustic charm. If I ever manage to make my own wines, I'll be seeking this style – expressive, unique, psychedelic — which is exactly why I'm so excited to move to the Sierra Foothills and learn from Gideon, a proven teacher. 
Alongside a few select bottles from Clos Saron, we’re offering wines from La Onda and Frenchtown Farms, two wineries that were started in Gideon's cellar by people who worked for him.  If you're chasing wines that have a sense of place — if you're interested in the notion of terroir —  look no further, but please act fast. Given the total production is quite small for each of these wineries, the quantities are necessarily limited — and while we were excited to secure multiple cases of most of these, once they go, they're gone.


All of the wines below were made almost identically — whole-cluster, foot-tread, aged in neutral barrels — but the results take you to some very different places. If you want leathery, concentrated wines that have the power to age for years, look to Clos Saron. (And please inquire if you're interested in his "Stone Soup" Syrah 2016.) For slightly less wild expressions of this unique, Sierra Foothills terroir, look to Frenchtown Farms; while the wines clearly show Gideon's influence, they are a bit more approachable. For the opposite side of the spectrum, pick up the La Onda wines, which offer a tea-like structure, with layers and layers of delicate flavor and surprising grip. It's fascinating to compare and contrast these wines, as they all carry a similar spirit, though they each present slightly differently. 
This is an offer I have wanted to put together for a long time: Clos Saron alongside two remarkable wineries informed by Gideon's exacting winemaking style. Those who are already in the know will recognize that I’m underselling these bottles, but I don’t want to push these on people who prefer clean, buttoned up wines. If these wines are polarizing, it's because they are unapologetically earthy, and accurately described as a "mouthful of dirt". But if these wines were "just" earthy and wild, I wouldn't still be talking about them (or moving to California). The energy and power that you find in each of these wines comes from the vineyards where the grapes are grown, and the result is a vivid snapshot of time and place. This is nature translated and preserved. This is the spirit of the vineyard. 
Thank you for all the support over the years. Years from now, if you manage to snag a bottle of Clos Saron 2021, please know that it was made with love, and with you in mind. 
I sure hope this isn't the last you see of me, and so, until next time, cheers!
Matthew Hawkins 

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