A taste inside the wineries of JetBlue’s Mint experience

Mint

JetBlue’s Food and Beverage team has a very hard task of choosing all of the wines we serve on board. Tireless hours go into smelling, tasting and ultimately selecting the wines our customers enjoy. It is a hard job, but somebody has to do it!

In reality though, the team takes their responsibility seriously and works hard to build those mutually beneficial partnerships with the people who grow and harvest the grapes as well as ensuring the wine tastes just as delicious at 35,000 feet as it does at your dinner table. Jon Bonne, celebrated wine writer and JetBlue’s wine expert, advises the airline on these decisions and has assembled a collection of top California wines exclusively for the Mint experience. His selections complement the Mint dining menu and highlight some of the small, artisan producers at the forefront of American wine today. Recently, Jon helped curate a trip for a team of JetBlue’s crewmembers to get an inside look at six wineries they currently feature on board.

Wind Gap

Winery #1: Wind Gap

 

Winemaker: Pax Mahle

Website:
www.windgapwines.com

Wines served on board:

2015 Soif, Old-Vine Red Wine, North Coast: Wind Gap’s tribute to both the old red field blends of California’s North Coast and to easy-going (but serious) summer wines like cru Beaujolais. It’s composed of seven classic old California varieties, from vines dating as far back as 1881: Valdiguié, Zinfandel, Carignan,

Petite Sirah, Dolcetto, Negroamaro and Mourvedre. Undergoes carbonic maceration and a four-month aging in French oak and concrete.

Wind GapStory from the Vines:

Pax Mahle and his future wife, Pam, began their trek west in Massachusetts, from which they traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona, where they studied in the Master Sommelier program, and then to California. In 2000, the couple launched their own label, Pax Wine Cellars, focused primarily on Syrah. A few years later, Mahle planned an alternate label for some wines from some of his best vineyards; so began his second act, Wind Gap, named in tribute to the gaps in the coastal hills where his best vineyards were situated. Today, Wind Gap has become known not only as one of the best makers of Syrah in California, but as a place for innovation, thanks to wines like its red Soif and its orange-tinted Trousseau Gris.

Winery #2: Hanzell Vineyards

Hanzell Vineyards

Winemaker: Michael McNeill

Website: www.hanzell.com

Wine served on board:

2014 Sebella Chardonnay, Sonoma County: Crafted predominantly from the younger vines on the Hanzell estate, finished and aged for three to six months in neutral French oak barrels. Sebella is meant to be a fresher, more forward expression of Hanzell’s classic style of Chardonnay, meant to drink while the Estate bottle ages.

Hanzell Vineyards

Story from the Vines:

In 1953, former ambassador James Zellerbach planted a spot in the hills outside the town of Sonoma with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, grapes he had loved during his time in Europe. Zellerbach viewed his work not simply as a weekend lark but as an attempt to emulate the wines he loved from Montrachet and Clos de Vougeot. He spurned one bit of local advice: instead of using American wood, he sent to France for barrels, becoming the first California winery of that era to import new French oak. Today, Hanzell is experiencing a glorious renaissance. Sonoma Valley isn’t an obvious spot for this grape, and these are not everyone’s Chardonnays: deeply oaked and powerful, they are grown on soil that might equally suit red wine. As such, I find them analogous to the whites of Corton-Charlemagne, powerful and flashy.

Winery #3: Bedrock Wine Company

Bedrock Wine Company

Winemaker: Morgan Twain-Peterson

Website: www.bedrockwineco.com

Wine served on board:

On-board selections have included Bedrock’s Old Vine Zinfandel and Wirz Vineyard Cienega Valley Riesling

Bedrock Wine Company

Story from the Vines:

It’s almost silly to say that Morgan Twain-Peterson got an early start in winemaking. He made his first wine, a Pinot Noir, at age five. With the sale of their avenswood label in 2001, the Peterson family was free to pursue their own path to quality—one built around the 152- acre Bedrock Vineyard near Kenwood, with its

vines dating to the 1880s. Zinfandel is the key base material, but the Bedrock label’s lineup of wine also includes Syrah, “mixed blacks,” white blends, Cabernet, and more. Few wineries are such dedicated curators of the state’s old-time bounty. Twain-Peterson’s studiousness and globalism informs his winemaking style.

His winemaking is in the mode of his father Joel Peterson’s best work: indigenous fermentations and malolactic conversion, a modest amount of new oak, and relatively early harvests.

 

Winery #4: Turley Wine Cellars

Turley Wine Cellars

Winemaker: Tegan Passalacqua

Website: www.turleywinecellars.com

Wine served on board:

2014 Juvenile Zinfandel, California ($28): A tribute to the diversity of Zinfandel terroir, this is from younger vines planted in many of Turley’s most famous vineyards, including Hayne, Pesenti, Ueberroth and Kirschenmann — 18 in total, located from Napa down to Paso Robles. Harvested in a separate pick of vines from six to 25 years, and meant to bring out the fresh fruit and spice of the state’s beloved grape.

Turley Wine Cellars

Story from the Vines:

These wines were stars from their launch in 1993, when Larry Turley, a former ER doctor and founder of Frog’s Leap winery, launched a new Zinfandel-driven label. His sister Helen was his first winemaker, and the early Turley wines were made in her unapologetically ripe style. She would soon depart, and eventually winemaker Ehren Jordan—and later Tegan Passalacqua—would devise a far subtler protocol. New oak is a rarity, fermentations are indigenous, and there are virtually no cellar additions. In many cases, picking has been moved up, sometimes by weeks, to get fresher fruit. The wines have become some of the purest, most site-driven expressions of California around. This is driven in large part by a reliance on excellent vineyards, many of them more than fifty years old, and most farmed both without irrigation and according to organic principles. It is a revival of some of California’s best resources.

 

Winery #5: Matthiasson Wines
Matthiasson Wines

Winemaker: Steve Matthiasson

Website: www.matthiasson.com

Wine served on board:

2014 Chardonnay, Linda Vista Vineyard, Napa Valley: A tribute to the great, classic Napa

Chardonnays of the past, from a historic site in southern Napa, just behind the Matthiassons’ backyard.

Matthiasson Wines

Story from the Vines:

By day Steve Matthiasson is one of Napa’s top vineyard consultants, offering advice to some of its famed wineries, including Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Araujo. When he’s not doing that, Matthiasson and his wife can be found at their home, tending a few acres of vines, or perhaps checking on a nearby Chardonnay vineyard they lease. Although his house sits at the edge of the Napa district known as Oak Knoll, at the south of the valley, Matthiasson forsook the Merlot and Cabernet popular there to plant several obscure Italian grapes like Refosco and Schioppettino. Under his Matthiasson Wines label he bottles not only these but a handful of savory reds as well as a Napa Valley white blend that combines the grapes and traditions of both Bordeaux and Italy’s Friuli region—mixing Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Tocai Friulano, and Ribolla Gialla. It has quickly become one of California’s most compelling white wines.

Winery #6: Broc Cellars

Broc Cellars

Winemaker: Chris Brockway

Website: www.broccellars.com

Wine served on board:

2014 Counoise, Eagle Point Ranch, Mendocino: This unusual southern French red grape provided one of our best on-board surprise hits among Mint customers. Grown organically in the northern Mayacamas Range, it combines the spice of Syrah and the subtlety of Pinot.

Broc Cellars

Story from the Vines:

Chris Brockway—an Omaha, Nebraska, native— came to California via Seattle, studying first at UC Davis and then at Fresno State. After first aspiring to somewhat fancier wines, he soon realized his mission: to make less aspirational, more down-to-earth, and ultimately more interesting wines of the thirst-quenching sort that got little attention in the Big Flavor era. From his cramped quarters in Berkeley, Brockway

practices a relatively simple winemaking regimen. Fermentations are indigenous, with no additives and a minimum of sulfur dioxide. At his best, Brockway is always finding new pathways for California’s heritage grapes.