By Ellen Walsh
Who wrote the Book of Love
Chapter 1 Says you Love Her, you Love her with all your Heart
The Love, of course, is the love of Grapes, and Her, of course, is mother nature, who you love with all your heart, and whom you are sworn to protect throughout your entire life. Chapter 1 says you love the grapes, you love them with all your heart, because a lot of these stories begin in the same manner. Whether you were the enviable child of a farmer/winemaker, self-elected or forced, whichever the case may be to carry on the family torch, to be imbued with the awe of your own place in the universe, you were there to gopher this, and go for that. And slave you did even though you thought it was play, unlocking the caveau with your grandmother’s keys upon the arrival of guests, fetching the needed wines for tasters waiting in the cellar, riding the tractor and getting to steer, and sorting the clusters after you just picked them, ready for fermentation. And as if this living poem was not just a fantasy for one, this all took place in the family winery of Margaux, a 40 acre family winery that was to shape his destiny in ways few are lucky enough to claim as their own.
Margaux is a wine growing Appellation within Médoc in Bordeaux. Its leading (premier cru) château is also called Margaux. It contains 21 cru classé châteaux, more than any other Appellation in Bordeaux (according to Wikipedia).
Nicolas Vonderheyden knew from a young age that he would become a Vigneron (french for wine grower and vintner), and would be a willing celebrator of the process of coaxing the vines into wine. As he was learning wine production, he realized that the Vigneron’s journey was not to control Nature, but to exalt and sublimate it.
Yet Nicolas had a few more stops to make before the dream of owning a winery became his own. After studying food science engineering in the Netherlands, Nicolas completed a winemaking internship in CA, then returned to France and graduated with a master degree in Wine Estate Management back in Bordeaux. After coming back to the United States again, this time in 2014, it was only then that Nicolas began to manifest his own dream of making his own wine, that is from vine to bottle. Nicolas was able to approach his dream of creating his own wine with a new depth of focus. Seizing an opportunity to start his winery with a friend’s leased 2 acre plot of land located in Woodside, California, yet situated in the Santa Cruz Appellation about 1,400 feet above sea level, offering all kinds of ingredients mother NATURE had to contribute to the perfect recipe for wine. The name of his dream was to be called Maison AREION.
“I believe turning grapes into wine has real meaning. That’s why I use artisanal methods and respect a traditional savoir–faire. I implement sustainable, biodynamic and organic farming practices, soil and canopy management, not using any herbicides or insecticides. My focus is on harvesting fruit that reaches an optimal ripeness and shows a great balance between sugar and acidity while listening and responding to the vineyard needs. Wine will then naturally ferment and age in oak barrels to blend into a unique personality. From cultivating to bottling, craftsmanship reveals the passion and dedication to creating singular products. Wine is the water of the earth filtered through the roots of the vines,” says vigneron Nicolas Vonderheyden. This commitment is not just lip service to a culture which exalts the natural process, but to a spiritual process as well.
Look closely at the horse in the center of the winery’s logo. This horse is the Areion referred to in the name of the winery / brand. In Greek mythology, Areion means "moon-creature on high”, is a divinely-bred, extremely swift immortal horse which, according to the Latin poet Sextus Propertius, was endowed with speech. This horse is a symbol and constant reminder, almost a prayer, to bring everything spiritual in his life full circle. Gaia, Mother of Earth and Poseidon, God of Oceans, between water, earth and soil, gives birth to the grapes we create wine from. Grapes are the life and wine is the product of the life that is given, and that must be treated with deep respect.
The horse doubles as an ever-present reminder and reference to a horseback riding accident to Nicolas’ sister which almost took her life. This interruption to the cycle of nature’s creation demonstrates the closeness of family in the total cycle of life and ingredients of Mother Nature. Wine is an organic, living by- product of Mother Nature that is to be revered by a winemaker who also respected the healing process that has been needed to take place while his sister has been recovering with his mother in Florida. While the family rallied, travel that was not prescribed in the original scheme of things altered the original timetable that was to be Nicolas’ road map to full time winemaking. However, that was not the driving force when the entire family was needed. Unity was.
The first vintage of Maison Areion was the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. A light to medium bodied wine, the grapes were picked early and the wine is only 13% alcohol, making it very approachable. Light in oak, it reveals a lot of fruit flavors and some intense green olive/pepper that mountain fruit can sometimes show. It offers a smooth finish with a light toast on the palate. It is recommended to decant and let the wine “breathe” for best enjoyment.
The 2017 batch will have 20% new oak (10% American oak with the rest French oak), whereas the 2018 batch will have 40% new oak (25% American oak with the rest of the oak in French barrels). 100% of the volume is being aged in barrels. The wine is 100% single vineyard, with 100% sustainable, biodynamic and organic farming practices. Aging time lasts from 14 – 18 months.
The 2017 Chardonnay offers a distinct fruity flavor with crisp acidic balance. It does not have any new oak, as too much oak will overwhelm the flavor of a white grape. Nicolas is currently experimenting with used oak to see what the final expression of this flavor profile will be. The flavors have a natural blend that makes it a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal after being chilled. The 30 year old vines are 100% from a single vineyard, and contain 100% chardonnay grapes. This is 100% whole cluster pressed, French traditional method, sur lies, native yeast, fermentation, unfiltered, bringing a delicious, drinkable white wine that is sure to be a summertime favorite.
Winemaker of Areion wines by night, and winemaker by day for Gonzague and Claire Lurton Vineyards, Nicolas has the best of both worlds. By night he experiments with his own ingredients creating a wine by his own definition, that has a goal to let the fruit express itself at its best. And by day, he creates a Bordeaux style wine right here in Sonoma County under the direction of the Lurton’s. The estate grapes for the wines are grown on the former estate of Chateau Felice, the original architect of the 50 acre estate grown winery located in the Chalk Hill AVA in Sonoma County.
Many roads lead to a goal. New World Wine Club urges you to try these delicious wines. In order for you to feel encouraged to try these, we will offer these prices until the 10th of August at which time they will revert back to their normal retail price.
Click HERE for the 2017 Chardonnay. The normal price for this wine is $29. Our sale price is $21.00
Click HERE for the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Our normal price is $32. Our sale price is $23.