For most people that consume wine, there is relatively common ground in terms of the varietals we've been accustomed to drinking. Chardonnay comes to the top of the list, as does Cabernet Sauvignon ... but the truth of the matter is that there are literally thousands of different grape varietals used in commercial wine making throughout the world. What you find in the aisle of your local wine shop or supermarket only scratches the surface of what is actually out there.
In the Carneros region of California, the area is dominated by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as that is what tends to grow best. However, that is by no means all that is produced in this particular area. You'll find that vineyards all throughout Carneros will experiment with different varietals to see what works, what doesn't, or perhaps just want to offer a alternate perspective on what is commonly found in other climates. After all, a Merlot grown in Carneros is going to turn out a lot different than a Merlot from Howell Mountain.
Above: Close-up view of a St. Laurent grape cluster.
At Ricci Vineyards, we are no exception to this. Through the years we have grown a number of grapes from off the beaten path, all with varying degrees of success. One of the most recent varietals we've introduced in our vineyard has been St. Laurent; which prior to our planting, was a varietal not grown within the continental United States. St. Laurent has established itself as the "go-to" grape for red wine produced in the Czech Republic, but beyond that, it is not commonly found anywhere else except for in Austria and other small plantings in Europe.
In addition, the grape itself is somewhat of a mystery in terms of origin. Definitely possessing characteristics of Pinot Noir, the remaining portion of its ancestry is unknown. What IS known about the grape is that it was named after a day of the year, St. Lawerence Day, which recognizes the hailed Lawrence of Rome. The only notable relation to wine and Lawerence of Rome, that we could find anyway, is that the celebration for St. Lawrence Day occurs on August 10th, coincidentally the same time that the St. Laurent fruit changes color on the vine and really begins to ripen.
With all of that said, as far as the fruit itself, it does resemble a Pinot Noir ... but maybe more so a Pinot Noir from the wrong side of the tracks that brandishes a switchblade. There is no denying that the wine that comes from these grapes has an unrefined edge and it is unapologetic about it, which is also why we love it.
If you are ever interested in foregoing the ordinary and trying something unusually awesome, we highly encourage you to give this varietal a whirl when you come across it. To find producers using our St. Laurent fruit, you are welcome to do so here. Take care and happy drinking!