Kelli White and Scott Brenner are the (married, with children) sommeliers who built the award-winning wine program at PRESS Restaurant in St. Helena, California, among other accomplishments (Kelli is the author of “Napa Valley Then & Now”). Houndstooth is their passion project, launched in 2011, focused on small-lot wines sourced from select vineyards across Northern California. Their experience cultivating the lengthy PRESS wine list served them well in identifying the best plots to showcase in their wines: In this case, it’s the now-legendary Bedrock Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley, known first and foremost for century-old Zinfandel plantings but also well-stocked with all the classic “Bordeaux” varieties.
The Bedrock Vineyard, purchased in 2005 by the Peterson family (of Ravenswood and, now, Bedrock fame), is part of a historic property that dates to the time before California was a US State. Today, there are 120 acres planted to vine, about 35 of which are devoted to Zinfandel and other “heritage” varieties dating to the 1890s. The vineyard is situated in a warmer section of Sonoma Valley and is traversed by a series of creeks; as such, the soils mix sandy loam and larger cobble stones.
The fact that this wine is crafted by two sommeliers goes a long way in explaining its lighter, brighter, less-extracted style—Kelli and Scott set out to create a Bordeaux-inspired red of elegance and energy, fermenting and aging the wine in large, neutral oak puncheons. Aging in barrel lasted 16 months before bottling.
This ’21 is a deep (but not opaque) ruby-red in the glass, with some of the “red” fruit character often spoken about with Merlot but rarely experienced. Aromas and flavors of tangy cherry, plum, tobacco leaf, and violets are delivered in a silk blanket of tannins. It’s got some body to it but it is light on its feet, unlike many of the chocolatey, inky fruit bombs that have dominated the category in recent years. There’s good freshness for enjoying with food, be it a steak, a burger, or a pork loin roast.