Livermore winemaker Chris Sorensen has family in the wine industry, but it's not quite what you think.
Sorensen's mom, grandfather, cousin and, up until a few years ago, his fiancee, Courtney Garcia, all work in various capacities at Occasio, John Kinney's award-winning winery where Sorensen, 31, is associate winemaker. If you've been there, you know it's a small space for that much family, no matter how well you get along.
"It's great having the family support," Sorensen insists, "but I mostly work weekdays, and they mostly work weekends."
The family support must come in extra handy now that Sorensen pulls double duty with his own label, Caddis. He and Garcia opened the winery in December in the same Cedar Mountain Road garage where Larry Dino started Cuda Ridge.
Caddis is named for a fishing lure, which resembles the mothlike flies whose presence indicates that the water in a lake or river is clean, Sorensen explains on a recent, breezy Tuesday while seated behind the winery's makeshift tasting bar -- a plank of wood laid across barrels. They chose the name because of Sorensen's love of fly fishing but also because every winery label needs "a thing."
Sorensen and Garcia will be married this June (in her parents' quarter-acre Sonoma vineyard) and they wanted to start and grow something together. Caddis is their garagiste baby, and the vessel for Sorensen's top-shelf wines made almost exclusively from Livermore fruit. Garcia, a graphic designer and event manager for Stony Ridge and Crooked Vine, designed the elegant label, with a fishing line that loops around twice before landing on the S in what looks like a whimsical, chubby heart.
It matches the whimsy of the winery, which sits on a residential property surrounded by the Crane Ridge Vineyard, where Sorensen sources his merlot. The fanciest piece of equipment is an old-time wine press he bought on Craigslist for $200 -- "It works great, a little slow, but great." It's the shop's centerpiece. Behind that, 10 inky barrels age his zinfandel, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo. Framed local, state and federal permits are waiting to be hung. The space is too small for a forklift, so Sorenson uses a barrel jack to move barrels.
The garage, he says, "works for now, but I don't think I can make more than 500 cases in here."
Production is currently 300 cases, and Sorensen says he'd never want the label to exceed 2,000. His winemaking philosophy is simple: "I want to make bold, fruit-forward reds," he says. He likes new oak, and believes a wine barrel's life is three years -- "four, tops." He doesn't see the point in neutral oak. "I would rather pull the wine from a neutral barrel and let it age in the bottle."
Sorensen is making his debut with three wines, priced at $26 to $42. Tropical white wine lovers will go for the 2011 Chardonnay, which gets its bright acidity and lemon-lime flavors from 7 percent sauvignon blanc. The 2010 "Better Together" Blend is a 50-50 of syrah and cabernet sauvignon and has rich aromas of black cherries, licorice and leather; and the 2010 Syrah, which scored a gold medal in the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, is bold and peppery with a velvet texture on the palate.
But the real stand out is the 2011 Tempranillo, which will celebrate its release at the winery on Feb. 15 and 16. It scored a double-gold medal at the competition and has a lush, silky mouth feel and a finish that goes on and on. He also made a tiny amount of zinfandel from his soon-to-be in-laws' home vineyard. He plans to release it in August, but he'll open a few bottles in June for the wedding.
"We wanted to drink wine that came from the vineyard where we were getting married," he says -- wine from his other family in the wine industry.
Contact Jessica Yadegaran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
want to visit?
Caddis Winery is open by appointment at 7878 Cedar Mountain Road in Livermore. Call 925-380-6219 or visit www.caddiswine.com. They will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 15 and 16. You also can taste Chris Sorensen's wines at Livermore Valley's Barrel Tasting Weekend, noon to 4 p.m. March 29 and 30. Tickets are $40 in advance. For more information, visit www.lvwine.org.