Saturday, 24 August 2013

A rare creature

Matthew Rorick is a busy man. Without the benefit of a large staff he creates a remarkable number of what he calls 'Rare Creatures'.

L'Asino Santo - Barbera
Batiscafo - Verdelho
Les Deux Matthieu - Petite Sirah
The Faufreluches - Gewurtztraminer
Gascony Cadets - Petit Verdot
La Gitana - Torrontes
Kirschenmann - Orange of Pinot Gris
Kumo to Amo - Rose of Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz/Tinta Cao/Tinta Amarella
Mil Amores - Red of Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz/Tinta Cao/Tinta Amarella
Nacre - Semillon
Norgard - Chenin Blanc
Old Woodsbull - Syrah
Ost-Intrigen - St. Laurent
Les Paresseux - Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
Picpoul de Rutherford - Picpoul Blanc
Que Saudade - Verdelho
San Hercurmer delle Freccie - Barbera
Sihaya - Ribolla Gialla
Sogni della Speccia - Sangiovese
Suspiro del Moro - Alvarelhao
Trou Grit - Trousseau Gris

He also works with Valdigue, Charbono, Gamay and Mourvedre.

From this list you can see that Matthew Rorick is not only a prolific maker of wines but a poet of winemakers. Indeed, the wines themselves are poetic if one can allow oneself that expression and not only for the choice of grapes. Matthew Rorick's Forlorn Hope Blog is full of poetic formulas even concerning winemaking. Viz;

In the winery, the Alvarelhão has been unsure of whether or not it wants to be pressed yet but it appears that it’s leaning toward leaving the fermentor and cozying up in barrel tomorrow.

(the Blog is a delight; really interesting reading).

And so to the name, 'Forlorn Hope'. Who better to explain than Mr. Rorick;

At Matthew Rorick Wines, we love the longshots. We love the outsiders, the lost causes, the people/projects/ideas abandoned as not having a chance in the world. We love the longshots because we’re all about tenacity, we relish a challenge, and – we admit it – we love us a good tussle.
Hans Brinker, the Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike? We’re big fans of his. Penelope – weaving all day and ripping it out all night? She’s with us. Henry V’s speech at the Battle of Agincourt? Pretty much our theme song.
Taken from the Dutch ‘verloren hoop’, meaning ‘lost troop’, Forlorn Hope was the name given to the band of soldiers who volunteered to lead the charge directly into enemy defenses. The chance of success for the Forlorn Hope was always slim, but the glory and rewards granted to survivors ensured no shortage of applicants.
These bottles, the first produced by Matthew Rorick Wines, were our headlong rush into the breach. Rare creatures from appellations unknown and varieties uncommon, these wines are our brave advance party, our pride and joy – our Forlorn Hope.

So forget 'Alles Verlorenen' of South Africa, 'Forlorn Hope' is basically the same as Avant Garde, just more poetic of course.

Matthew Rorick has an interesting CV including service in the Navy during the first Gulf War, wine studies at UC Davis and Anthropology at Chicago University, winemaking experience at Errazuriz and several others.

We had made a vague arrangement to meet Mr. Rorick but it wasn't clear when or where. The only address we had was in Napa which turned out to be his home.

His charming and helpful wife Susanne, herself from a famous Napa wine family (Snowden Vineyards) not only made contact for us but gave us 3 bottles of Rare Creatures refusing all payment.

We headed over to Fairfax about 20' away where the Forlorn Hope Winery is near. Matthew was on his way but helpers were already preparing equipment for the first harvest of the season, Verdelho the next day (August 3rd).

When Matthew arrived we introduced ourselves hurriedly not wanting to take up his time at probably the worst possible moment to call. But he was all charm and seemed disappointed we couldn't stay all day and bombard him with boring questions. He is a charismatic person as are his co-workers - all young and good-looking (this is California after all).

We asked where we could buy a bottle of the Suspiro del Moro. Matthew looked puzzled and then mentioned a shop called By Right in San Francisco. We said we would try there but if they didn't have it might he send us a couple of bottles to our address in Santa Cruz where we would be for the next week. He promised to do so when we had made a quick call to the retailer and found they were out of all Forlorn Hope wines (they do sell out wherever they are).

There is a characteristic end to this story. Ashamed to say we couldn't believe that with so much else going on Mr. Rorick would have the time to send the wine or even remember agreeing to ship it so we ordered a couple of bottles  to be sent by courier from a shop called Domaine LA in  Los Angeles.

The day after these arrived came a large box from Forlorn Hope with a charming hand-written note and no less than 6 bottles including 2 of Suspiro del Moro and 4 others of different kinds.

There was no invoice contained. We emailed our thanks beseeching to know the amount owing and payment details. No answer has been received to date. Matthew Rorick is just one of those people who want you to enjoy his wines! Production of any one Rare Creature never surpasses 2,500 bottles it is reported. Fortunately there are no lack of takers.

And the wines themselves? Rorick's says "All Forlorn Hope wines are produced from winegrapes. That's it." and "Just being wierd isn't enough. It's got to be the right variety on the right soil". So putting everything else aside, from the very few wines we have tasted we can say they are all very well made (Mil Amores red, San Hercurmer delle Frecce) and sometimes outstanding (Suspiro del Moro). We can't wait to try the others.


Kate said...

How wonderful. I love everything about him. Can you save some for us to try? Kx

Anonymous said...

it's "Fairfield" - not Fairfax