Hank Beckmeyer and his wife Carolyn Hoël started La Clarine Farm in 2001, at the time raising goats for cheese and dabbling in winegrowing. Hank had been living in Germany where he met his French wife who was an enthusiastic amateur cheese maker, something she practiced at La Clarine for a few years, with great accolades, but no more with the focus now on the wine. A Florida native, Hank fled to Brooklyn with his guitar and eventually hooked up with the band Half Japanese (I hadn’t heard of them either but Kurt Cobain was reported to have been wearing one of their t-shirts when he was found dead) and wound up touring Europe with them. He decided not to come home and spent many years living in Germany working in music production. As part of that gig, he was able to travel to regularly to France where he discovered wines like Domaine Tempier, a wine that expressed purity and place, and quickly fell in love with the whole idea of terroir and minimalist wine growing.
Hank and Caroline left Europe and relocated to the town of Somerset in the Sierras, some 65 miles east of Sacramento, whose crushed granite soils (and affordable property) reminded him of France’s Languedoc. Their goal was to take their wine and cheese ideas to the next level and Hank took a series of winemaking jobs before settling on a small piece of property which has now grown to 10 acres of Tempranillo, Syrah, Tannat, Grenache, Negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon. Hank's farming practices went from organic to Demeter certified biodynamic to an almost completely hands off approach inspired by ideas expressed in the book One Straw Farming by legendary Japanese farmer/philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. This "do nothing" farming is literally that; no treatments, fertilizers, plowing etc. They also buy fruit from properly farmed, old vine local vineyards, one of which is the source of this wine.
The Josphine + Mariposa red, a roughly 70/30 blend of Grenache and Mourvedre in this inaugural vintage of 2012, is named after the soil its grown on. Josephine-Mariposa complex soils are native to the Sierra Foothills and are comprised of about 6 inches of gravelly loam over a 22 inch base of yellow slate. That’s according to the US Bureau of Reclamation website and I’m not quite sure how it affects vine or wine quality but soil always does and this wine is fantastic. A grower friend of Hank’s hadmentioned this site in nearby Swansboro because of its interesting soils and after one quick inspection and seeing the slate, Hank made a deal for fruit on the spot. At harvest, the fruit was foot stomped, I Love Lucy style, and pressed into 600 liter old wood barrels, or demi-muids for about a year. The result is a beautifully aromatic wine with notes of red cherry, chalk, herbs and earth. Full bodied but with plenty of structure from the Mourvedre and vibrant acidity. Think traditionally styled southern Rhone wine like Chateauneuf du Pape with vibrant California energy. This is one of a tiny handful of California producers you’ll ever see in an offer of mine and like everything else they make, there isn’t much of it to go around.