AO Collective – Alpha Omega Winery, Tolosa Winery & Perinet

We spent an amazing morning learning about the umbrella brand known as the Alpha Omega Collective and tasting wines from Alpha Omega Winery as well as the two sister properties, Tolosa Winery and Perinet. It was an exciting day with three unique Winemakers, discussing the philosophy behind their wines and what ties the AO Collective together.

The Alpha Omega collective consists of three very different wineries, Alpha Omega, Tolosa, and Perinet, owned by Robin and Michelle Baggett. The collective is about three expressions of varying winemaking techniques, locations, and terroir. It’s about wines that have balance, show expression of site, and will create a legacy of wine.

Tolosa – San Luis Obispo

Tolosa Winery was co-founded in 1998 by Robin Baggett along with two other business partners. After stepping away to for a small period to found Alpha Omega in 2006 with his wife Michelle, Robin was back in touch with Tolosa in 2015, buying out one of his two partners and revamping the property. New single vineyard wines were introduced as well as a flagship wine, the Primera. Everything from the equipment to the hospitality spaces was upgraded as well as the vineyard.

Tolosa’s Edna Ranch vineyard sits in the volcanic hills of Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo. It’s magical location, lying close to the ocean and offering 60 different soil types, creates a prime growing area for Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

Tolosa Pinot Noir - Edna Valley
Tolosa’s Pinot Noirs – Hollister Edna Valley Ranch and Primera

Tolosa’s Winemaker, Frederic Delivert felt the same way about the area when he visited in June of 2017 and toured the 750 acres of grapes that is Edna Valley Ranch. He signed on last July to meticulously work the terroir, creating particular Pinots and Chardonnays that reflect the area.

Edna Valley has been recognized as the coolest AVA in California. To Frederic, the combination of the soil and weather combined keeps Tolosa’s Pinots and Chardonnays true to their nature. The long, mild growing season preserves the acidity and character of the fruit producing exceptionally balanced Pinot Noirs.

Tolosa’s philosophy is precision and experimentation. Frederic keeps his eyes on the blocks, seeing where they are in the big scheme of things. He fine tunes each vineyard block using different pruning methods and shade cloth to help the ones that are not showing their true potential. In the cellar, he tests different kinds of fermentation, changing temperatures, and blending blocks down to the last detail. Tolosa’s Pinot Noirs go back to a more acidic and fresher style,  leaving behind, the syrah-like Pinot’s of yesteryear.

I first tried the 2016 Tolosa Hollister Edna Ranch Pinot Noir, a single vineyard of the 828 clone located closest to the ocean. A lighter ruby color, it had a delicate balance of acidity and structure with a long finish and a hint of brine, possibly influenced by the seabed soil, a pure expression of the site. I enjoyed this particular Pinot Noir, relishing in the elegance of it.

The Hollister Pinot Noir - Single Vineyard from San Luis Obispo
The Hollister Pinot Noir – Single Vineyard from San Luis Obispo

The second Tolosa Pinot was their flagship wine, 2016 Tolosa Primera Pinot Noir. The concept of this particular wine is different from the Hollister,  taking the best lots of the Edna Ranch vineyard, then tasting each barrel and blending the best barrels of the best lots. It is the créme de la créme so to speak.

Much darker ruby color than the Hollister, the Primera had hints of vanilla and floral on the noise and silkier on the palate. It seemed more concentrated than the Hollister and carried out the flavors of the darker fruits.

Tolosa makes many different Pinot Noirs from up and down the coast; these wines reflect the detail that Frederic and the AO Collective, in general, want to express in their philosophy of wine.

Perinet – Priorat, Spain

One hour south of Barcelona lies the small wine region of Priorat. Steeped in ancient tradition, Priorat has been producing Grenache and Carignan since the Carthusians introduced viticulture in 1194. Other varietals produced are Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Priorat is only one of two regions in Spain that is Denominació d’Origen Qualificada or (DOQ). The DOQ is the highest qualification given to a wine-producing region in this country.

Priorat Wine Region of Spain (photo courtesy of Perinet Winery)
Priorat Wine Region of Spain (photo courtesy of Perinet Winery)

Located in Priorat is Perinet Winery, the second winery in the AO Collective. Antoni Sanchez, the Winemaker, has been with Perinet since 2015 but has been in Priorat since 2000, making aromatic blends from a combination mostly made up of Carignan and Grenache. Toni meticulously balances these two grapes which he describes as the yin and yang of each other, each character reflecting the opposite of the other.

Priorat is a very dry, hilly area with rocky, breakable soil, hot days and cooler nights. These conditions create a struggling vine, small in diameter, and intense in aroma and flavor. Toni describes the area as a four-sided pyramid with two levels top bottom creating eight different wines out of the varietals in a tiny region.

They poured us two wines from Perinet, the 2015 Priorat DOQ, and 2015 1194 Priorat DOQ. The 2015 Priorat DOQ is a blend of the classic four varietals of Priorat, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. These two wines were wildly aromatic, the nose overpowering all the other wines on the table, a testament to the struggle and concentration of the vines and fruit.

AO Collective - discussing wine philosophy and each of the six wines we tried
AO Collective – discussing wine philosophy and each of the six wines we tried.

The 2015 Priorat DOQ was a deep purple color and represented black fruit on the nose. It had beautiful acidity on the back and tannins that were generous but not rough. Toni uses different size barrels for each varietal to balance the tannins perfectly. The struggle of the vine is very apparent in both of these wines, representing the characteristics of the region.

Perhaps the most aromatic wine of them all, the 2015 1194 Priorat DOQ, immediately jumped out at me. This 65% Grenache, 32.5% Carignan, and 2.5% Syrah blend was dark and luxurious with both dark fruit and earthiness on the nose, full-bodied, and lengthy finish on the palate. I could imagine the rocky, iron-filled soil as the minerality leaped across my palate. This wine went particularly well with food.

All the fruit used in the Perinet blends come from three vineyards, Mas Vell, Planetes and Mas D’en Xes, all different in climate and characteristics. Mas Vell is a warmer climate with more sun, increasing intensity in the fruit. Planetes is closest to the sea, creating spice, minerality, and brine. Mas D’en Xes creates freshness and acidity, adding a long finish. All these tiny microclimates within the Perinet vineyards allow Toni to create different styles in his blends. Making wine in the Priorat is as much about the vineyard as it is in the cellar.

Alpha Omega – Napa Valley

Previously at Newton Vineyards, Jean Hoefliger has been with Alpha Omega since 2006 when it was established. Jean along with Robin and Michelle Baggett took the existing property and created what is now Alpha Omega, building the cellar and tasting room as well as deciding what vineyards were going to be the basis of Alpha Omega Wines. Jean’s philosophy is like Frederic’s and Toni’s allowing the characteristics of the wines to reflect their origin. Beckstoffer To Kalon is one vineyard in Napa Valley that reflects that expression.

AO Collective wines - Tolosa - Perinet - Alpha Omega
AO Collective wines – Tolosa – Perinet – Alpha Omega

The very well known Beckstoffer To Kalon vineyard, located in Oakville, between Robert Mondavi and Opus One, is special because it is incredibly uniform. Located on a mild slope, it is harvested mid-season, so it stays away from any weather threats. The soil is very deep letting the roots penetrate. To Kalon’s distinct characteristics of granular tannins, layers, and acidity makes it one of the most special vineyards in Napa Valley, and also the most expensive per ton. Being on the west side of highway 29, and against the Mayacamas Mountains, it gets less afternoon sun, protecting the acidity which Jean calls the backbone of the wine.

The 2015 Alpha Omega Beckstoffer To Kalon is the perfect expression of a Napa Valley Cabernet, floral on the nose with hints of vanilla throughout. The wine had a fruit forward front with bountiful, velvety tannins and a white pepper finish. This wine is as enjoyable now as it will be in 20-30 years, offering an extended window of drinkability.

Our final tasting was in the cellar straight from the barrel.  The 2016 Alpha Omega Era Napa Valley is a mixture of all of the best vineyards, Sunshine Valley Vineyard, Beckstoffer Dr. Crane, Beckstoffer Georges III, Beckstoffer To Kalon, Beckstoffer Las Piedras, Thomas Vineyard, Drew Vineyard and Stagecoach Vineyard. It is AO’s flagship wine and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 22 months in 80% new French oak and 20% one-year-old barrels. Because all of these vineyards have vastly different soil types, this wine is not an expression of a particular place but the beauty of Napa Valley as a whole, celebrating its diversity.

Winemakers of the AO Collective – Antoni Sanchez, Frederic Delivert & Jean Hoefliger – Enjoying Era from the barrel.

The AO Collective is all about the commonality between the three regions, cultivating the acidity in these wines to promote balance. The shared philosophy between the Winemakers as well as the Baggetts is keeping a legacy with their wines, whether it be Priorat with generations of knowledge and culture or the evolving legacy that is Napa and coastal California wines. And finally using viticulture to create a sense of place from which everyone can discover through a nice bottle of wine.

Enjoy… The Wine Ho

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