Calder’s Rory Williams makes wine with his father, John Williams, at Frog’s Leap, and with his mother, Julie Johnson, at Tres Sabores. His own label is dedicated to exploring what he calls Napa’s “cultural terroir,” in an effort to better understand the region’s winemaking heritage, of which grapes like charbono, riesling and chenin blanc are certainly part.
This wine was vibrant and pure, deliciously fruity with an underlying bitterness that refreshed and invited the next sip. It seemed to capture past and future, sadness and sweet hope. It is a much better memory than the wildfire smoke that will forever be imprinted in my memory.
2. Lambrusco, at its best, is a humble farmhouse wine, and I say that with sincere esteem. The 2015 Rosso Viola from Luciano Saetti is a great example.
It is made of the salamino grape, one of several used for Lambrusco. In the hands of Mr. Saetti, who farms organically, the wine is dry, earthy and meaty — not complex — and extraordinarily delicious. I’ve had it maybe a half-dozen times in 2017, and always I am shocked by how much I love it.
This wine, by the way, is made without any sulfur dioxide, the common stabilizer shunned by many natural wine producers. I have never had a flawed bottle. The salamino grape takes its name from its elongated shape, which resembles a small salami, another thing about the wine that makes me happy.
3. Domaine Roulot is one of the world’s great producers of white wines, renowned for its Meursaults and other Burgundies. But the wine I could not forget was Roulot’s 2007 aligoté, Burgundy’s often forgotten other white grape.
I was in the Roulot cellar with Jean-Marc Roulot tasting aligotés when he pulled out the ’07. By reputation, aligoté is thin, acidic and simple, with little capacity to age or display the nuances of place. Many heralded Burgundy producers like Mr. Roulot continue to make aligoté because it is part of a revered heritage.
His aligotés are exceptional, but even he does not expect too much of them. They are meant to be unpretentious. “There’s no shame in that,” Mr. Roulot told me. The 2007, at 10 years old, was rich,…