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Larner Vineyard and Winery

Michael Larner
February 1, 2019 | Michael Larner


n. The scientific study of the composition, texture, and structure of rocks; analyzing their distribution, occurrence, and origin in relation to physiochemical condition and geologic processes. The crux of this study is the classification of the three major rocks – igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. The state and formation of each rock dictated by the various geological forces of heat and pressure fundamentally driven by convection currents from our Earth’s core and plate tectonics on our planet’s outer shell, a process known as orogenesis. Again, with all of these processes we can distill everything down into those three rock types, in essence giving us the three dimensions of petrology.

It is uncanny then when looking at the world of wine, one finds themselves looking at many different varietals and grapes, yet similarly it can also break down into divisions. Sommeliers commonly focus on new-world versus old-world classifications, however sometimes omitting what really should be one on its own – when these two worlds collide. As a winemaker, knowledge is gained working harvests in both new and old-world wine regions, wine styles can become solidified. Obtaining a master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology after a degree in Geology however expands horizons like the petrologist’s ability to look not just at a rock, but the story behind its formation and environment.

For Larner, this is the story of the inaugural release of the petrology wine series, commemorating the 20thanniversary of growing organic wine-grapes in the Ballard Canyon AVA and our 10thanniversary of the family making estate wines. A personal quest fueled by a winemaker’s experiences and training, making wine in three different dimensions, new-world, old-world, and inspired – Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary (respectively). Where each wine labeled by the rock type carries with it ‘s own energy and genesis.

All three wines born in 2014 from the estate vineyard, crafted to adopt their respective styles through the fermentation techniques, oak type, and clonal selection: Igneous, a rock born of fire, represents a new world style Syrah stylized after Australian Shiraz and its use of fine American oak aging. Metamorphic, a complex rock molded by heat and/or pressure, an old-world style influenced by Côte Rôtie and its use of 100% stem-inclusion and co-fermentation with Viognier. Lastly, Sedimentary, a layered formation eroded and deposited and lithified, which can truly be described as a Californian style, taking the unconventional approach of Syrah co-fermented with Malvasia Bianca and aging in Russian oak barrels.

If our planet is made of three fundamental rocks: Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary, then the petrology wine selection seeks to bridge the elusive intersection between geology and enology. Together, these three expressions complete a portrait of a single grape, Syrah.


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