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Archive for October, 2007

el Sol winery

De-stemming of grapes during harvest at el Sol wineryFresh grapes received at el Sol wineryProduction underway inside of barrel room of el Sol wineryOutside of barrel room of el Sol WineryProduction area of el Sol

el el Sol Winery

One usually slows down in life after retirement from public service, maybe taking up golf or sailing as a hobby. The owner of el Sol winery in Livermore chose to go back to work. Retiring from the Hayward Fire Department after 36 years of service, Hal Liske, along with his wife Kathy, has been operating el Sol winery for the last 4 years. Starting in the late 1990’s as a home winemaker, Hal still loves to golf and sail. He just doesn’t get to do it all the time. “I work harder now than I did when I was with the department”, says Hal, “but this is extremely gratifying, a labor of love.”

The harvest season began in early September for el Sol, and the hard work is well under way. Most all of el Sol’s wines are small lot productions, usually 50 to 100 cases. Hal truly enjoys the creativity of wine-making, the blending of science and art. I can personally tell you it shows in his wines. The winery utilizes a variety of methods for the production of wine. American and French Oaks with different flavor profiles from different cooperages (winery talk for barrel makers), provides complexity and style. And speaking of style, even before you open a bottle, the label catches your eyes. Vibrant and visually pleasing, the southwestern artwork on the label was custom made. el Sol worked in collaboration with Sonya Paz, an artist Hal and Kathy love. In the tasting room at el Sol winery (which is available for wine tastings by appointment), one gets an opportunity to see some of the other artwork by the artist.

White wines produced by el Sol winery include the Italian Pinot Grigio and Rhone Varietal Viognier. The Pinot Grigio is refreshingly crisp with a hint of sweet tea and melon. The Viognier is a wine that exhibits a powerful floral bouquet with notes of white peach and nectarine and finishes with well balanced acidity.

For reds, the Spanish Tempranillo, a very complex wine with luscious dark cherry notes and slight nuances of toasted bramble berry (like a raspberry) and black olive, and the Croatian originated turned Californian fruit forward Zinfandel. One of the winery’s biggest productions and specialties is a Syrah from the Central Valley. The grapes come from a vineyard called “Loco Lobo”. Hal loves the fruit from the vineyard, claiming the grower, he says, “is one of the best I utilize for winemaking”. It is reflected in the wine. This ruby red wine shows raspberry and blueberry upfront with a smooth and subtle smokiness on the finish.

Another of his wonderful wines is Sangiovese. This grape is commonly known as the Chianti grape for all of those Italian wine lovers. This wine is done in an interesting way. Normally, the wine is fermented into a deep red color. el Sol decided to release a rose’ of this varietal. Lighter color from minimal skin contact provides a more fruit forward quality. This wine shows white cherry and strawberry on the nose and in the mouth, with a velvety finish that imparts vanilla cream.

In accordance with the European Union Agreement, dessert wines made outside of Portugal can no longer be called Port Wine. That doesn’t stop Hal from making a couple of fabulous dessert wines. Now commonly referred to as “late harvest” or “fortified” wines, el Sol currently has two available for purchase, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. The Cab ignites blackberry jam and candied pomegranate in the palate, while the Petite Sirah shows subtle chocolate cream with a sweet and toasty edge at the finish.

All of el Sol’s wines are priced from $10 to $30 dollars.

The winery’s name literally means “the sun”. Most wine makers are also grape growers. Hal is quick to point out that his wines would not be possible without the help from our good friend overhead.

During crush, the winery is extremely busy. If one can’t wait to try the wines by appointment, the winery also has a public tasting room that is shared with Big White House. It is open on the weekends. The location is at the south end of Greenville road just past Poppy Ridge golf course in Livermore.

www.elsolwine.com for phone and directions.

Special thanks to Brett Eisan for sensory evaluations of el Sol’s wines.

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