The Heron Wine philosophy embraces the idea that delicious wines should be an inalienable right. An overstatement? Perhaps, but owner Laely Heron believes that high-quality, approachable wine should not come at a huge price. For years, feedback from around the globe has confirmed that Heron exceeds expectations for quality, style, and balance. Their wines come from some of the greatest growing regions in the world. Their original wine was a groundbreaking Merlot from St. Chinian in southwest France. Though Heron makes wine in France and Spain (they go where the best grapes are grown in order to maximize the natural characteristics of the wines), this month the Wine Shop’s focus is on California.
Owning no vineyards allows Heron to spend their money where it matters (on exceptional grapes and barrels, not mortgages). By establishing both short and long-term contracts with growers, they have the benefits of consistency and flexibility. Whenever possible, Heron works with vineyards that are certified or managed organically, biodynamically, or at the very least, sustainably. Most of the vineyards are dry-farmed, with a preference for old-vine, higher elevation, marine-influenced vineyards with moderate climates, allowing for slower maturation of intensely flavorful grapes.
When it comes to winemaking, Heron embraces a “less is more” philosophy; a winemaker’s job is to allow the best qualities of the fruit to shine through. They are one of the few wineries in California not using malolactic fermentation on Chardonnay because they prefer the natural, bright acidity of the grape. Heron's goal is to make wines of character and soul rather than sameness, and not according to a formula or projected return on investment. In the end, they believe that elegance, balance, and complexity are what wine lovers appreciate most.
2012 Heron Chardonnay, $11.99
A blend of 1/3 Russian River fruit, 1/3 Carneros and 1/3 Santa Maria—Heron is lucky to work with small, family run vineyards tended by people as passionate about quality as they are. This vintage shows pure Chardonnay fruit: bright citrus, peach and pear aromas and flavors. Not overoaked, it is elegantly balanced.
2012 Heron Sauvignon Blanc, $12.99
This Sauvignon Blanc combines the best varietal characteristics of Northern California’s bucolic Highway 101′s east and west: bright vigorous citrus flavors balanced with generous tropical fruit. Crisp, clean, and vibrant with hints of minerality, it has a long, refreshing finish.
2011 Heron Cabernet Sauvignon, $12.99
The grapes for Heron’s 2011 Cabernet came from three Northern California growing regions. Mendocino County is ideal for growing Bordeaux varieties, with warm days and chilly nights resulting in more concentrated berries. Pope Valley is at a higher elevation with great hot-cold temperature exchanges, providing grapes with structure, weight, and elegance. Clarksburg fruit imparts perfume true to the variety, and gives this wine beautiful aromatics. It’s a textbook Cabernet Sauvignon with moderate alcohol of just 13 percent. The result? A delicious wine with plenty of blackberry and red currant flavors, deep color and moderate to firm tannins.
2012 Heron Pinot Noir, California, $12.99
A blend of Monterey, Paso Robles (Westside with cool ocean temperatures) and Russian River Valley fruit. Heron Pinot Noir is stunningly complex for a wine at this price point, boasting aromas and flavors of red cherry fruit, earth, smoke, pepper, and bramble berry. This elegant wine is one to buy by the case.
2012 Heron Pinot Noir, Monterey, $16.99
The northwestern section of Monterey County is Pinot Noir territory, from the ground up! A large corridor of ideal Pinot Noir soil runs north to south, at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountains, from Chualar down past Soledad. This alluvial ground—loam, sand, and cobbles, with outcroppings of limestone—is a major factor in the ability to produce excellent Pinot Noir with beautiful character and aromatics. Combine this geography with the climate of a warm, protected valley, influenced by the cool marine air from Monterey Bay that sweeps down from the north through a wind tunnel, and this Pinot is truly in its element.
2012 Heron Merlot, $13.99
Made with grapes sourced from Mendocino, universally recognized as the Mecca of organic grape growing in California, the majority of the Merlot vineyards Heron uses are in the rolling bench land east of the little town of Hopland. Cobbly, poor soil ensures the vines will struggle, resulting in more intense and flavorful fruit. The result is a wine deep in color and rich on the palate, with lots of red cherry and dark plum flavors. The tannins are moderately firm and nicely frame the forward fruit. The result is a balanced wine with finesse, intensity and elegance.