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Never too Late

Most people might be afraid of launching a wine brand in their 60s. Not Tim and Jackie Reuling.  The first 500 cases of vintage 2011 Reuling Vineyard pinot noir will reach store shelves in May.  A rosé will follow in the summer.

Childhood sweethearts in their native Illinois who re-connected years later, the Reulings moved to Forestville within California’s Sonoma Coast AVA in 1998 as Tim’s career in managing real estate and then pension funds was winding down.  With their two grown kids settling into their own careers back East, Tim and Jackie turned a neglected apple orchard in the back yard of their comfortable though not opulent home into 16-acre prized vineyard.  Their grapes quickly found their way into wines made by Peter Michael and Aubert, whose 2008 Reuling Vineyard Chardonnay aced a “99” on the Robert Parker taste test.

Recently, I visited the Reulings to tour their gently sloping, grass-covered vineyard with them and winemaker and vineyardist Matt Taylor.  A small flock of grazing Shetland sheep nosed around us while thoroughly intimidating Ruth, the couple’s sheep dog.  Taylor explained how the property, located on sandy Goldridge soils, got more warmth than even its nearest neighbor and hence had early-ripening grapes, and detailed measures he was taking to continue to improve quality.  An avid gardener and cook, Jackie has planted scattered vegetable plots wherever there aren’t any grapes in a manner than might best be called French country casual.

Once inside, we chatted in Jackie’s flamboyantly decorated, brightly colored kitchen with its Southwestern accents as we readied for a lunch and wine tasting. “I’ve been trying to adapt my cooking, which is spicy, to the wine,” she said.  “It’s been an effort, which is why I’m so glad we’re making a rosé.”

At the table, Jackie served a budino – “with Gruyère, which is typically used in gougères, and some pancetta made from Matt’s hogs.” Gougères are de rigeur for tasting pinot noir in Burgundy, and the budino matched very well with the 2011 Reuling Pinot Noir.  The wine is delicious and generous with mild tannins to reign in the ripe, mature cherry, rooty flavors.  Score one for Jackie’s cooking and Matt’s winemaking.

Next came a salad with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette and black rice from China served with a barrel sample of the 2012 Reuling Rosé of Pinot Noir, a very aromatic pink with contrasting but balanced fruity/tart flavors.  It should show well when it comes to market.

Matt Taylor is a story in himself – former winemaker and vineyard manager at Araujo, intern in Burgundy at Domaine Dujac, devotee of biodynamic growing principles and overseer of the ambitious Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg.  But today belongs to Tim and Jackie Reuling, who are as excited about their new career as winery owners as would be two freshly married kids from Illinois.

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