Posts Tagged ‘Liquorama Upland’

Upland winegrowers alive

November 25, 2011

Zinfandel Cucamonga Denson Vineyard in Upland

Upland, once considered the lemon capital of the world, is not a place ever included when discussing California’s interesting wine regions, nor is it a hot topic among oenophilias (oenophilia describes a disciplined devotion to, or simply enjoyment of wine), however its foothills are home to Brian and Camille Brandt’s award-winning Brandt Family Winery in San Antonio Heights, and a cluster of vintners including Gregg Denson.

For the past decade, Denson’s interest in growing vines and producing wines has transformed from general interest to deep passion. He first became interested in the viticulture history of Rancho Cucamonga upon his daily commutes past the old Thomas Brothers Winery site. “I began to wonder, this is a great old winery building, but where did all the vines go? With the housing boom, I noticed more and more vineyards being replaced by new homes and retail centers. It made me sad to see such a rich part of the cultural history of Rancho vanish before my eyes,” said Denson who serves as Director of Design at Architerra Design Group in Rancho Cucamonga.

“Originally, my idea was keep a little piece of history and grow the signature Zinfandel grapes of the Cucamonga region; not necessarily make wine. But after three years in the ground, and with grapes on the vine, I harvested and crushed my first small vintage in 2004 from a handful of vines, netting only 10 bottles!”

Denson inquired about growing and producing with his fellow co-worker, John Federico, who had worked the DeAmbrogio Ranch many years before as a young man. “He knew a great deal of history about the vineyard, and right before the property was graded over, we drove through the vineyard rows in winter and picked up some of the recently pruned canes. It’s my understanding that some of the vines on that property were over 100 years old. I thought it would be a good legacy to preserve the parent plants of this vineyard.”

Denson began his vineyard with a dozen vine cuttings, selected from various varieties at the historic DeAmbriogio Ranch. “Maybe half rooted in from the original planting and after a couple of years of growth, I took additional cuttings and increased the number of vines. Currently, I have about 30 Zinfandel vines, 4 Red Malaga, 2 Syrah, 2 Thompson Seedless and 1 Mission on our standard residential 8,000 square foot lot in Upland,” said Denson. “Grapevines pretty much drape most of my yard, with the majority of the vines planted in the front yard sharing space with California native plants. The soil is coarse and littered with stones, gravels and sand. The ancient alluvial soils of the Cucamonga Creek are deep and drain quickly.”

Originally located on the southwest corner of Foothill Blvd (Route 66) at Haven Avenue (west of the Rancho Cucamonga Civic Center), the famed DeAmbrogio Ranch served as the valley’s grape packing and shipping center. “Mary and Frank DeAmbrogio were the last of the large grape packers and shippers of our valley,” said local winemaker Don Galleano. “I remember they were sending their prized Cucamonga Zinfandel grapes to the east coast as late as the early 1980’s via refrigerated trucks. DeAmbrogio Zinfandel grapes were the best in the valley,” said Galleano who worked closely on several vintages with respected Australian-born Enologist Daryl Groom at Geyer Peak Winery – in Geyserville – which produced the highest-rated Cucamonga Zinfandel ever, a “92 point score” in Wine Spectator. Galleano continues farming portions of the vineyards once cared for by the DeAmbrogios.

“Upon first view of the small bush-like vines, and the sandy soils, I fell in love with them. They reminded me of the very old Shiraz vines at Kalimna,” said Groom. “The wine was rich, dark and jammy with a distinct character I called, ‘Cucamonga character’ – a sort of earthy and warm character. It was that Cucamonga site which inspired me to plant zinfandel.”
The front yard vineyard at the Denson home has become a special place. “It’s an annual event of getting together with family, friends and neighbors to enjoy food and wine while we harvest and crush the grapes. It’s always fun to see the look on someone’s face who has never stomped grapes by foot before. There’s always some apprehension, followed by a big smile and laughter. What originally started off as a idea to preserve a portion of viticulture history of the Cucamonga Valley, has blossomed into a family tradition that marks the culmination of another growing season. Each year I bottle up a little gift of Denson Reserva Cucamonga Valley Zinfandel for those who attend our family harvest!
Local wine enthusiasts may also appreciate the small vineyard planting located at the Mercury Insurance building in Rancho Cucamonga, designed by Architerra Design Group in Rancho Cucamonga.

Cucamonga grown Zinfandel wines can be purchased at: Liquorama Fine Wines in Upland, Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, and J. Filippi Winery Rancho Cucamonga. Brandt Family wines can be purchased at Pacific Wine Merchants in Upland

Gino L. Filippi can be reached at


Crémant Sparkling Wines

December 13, 2009

Differences between champagne and crémant explored – December 2009

With the holidays upon us, I thought it fitting to share with you a story of effervescent flair from my friend of the vine and author Rhoda Stewart in Napa. Enjoy!

During a December 2007 holiday in Paris, I came across champagne tasting in a wine store near Centre Pompidou. Welcomed in by the portly manager, I directly began my rounds.

Before visiting many stations, I encountered a crémant sparkling wine. Curious to know how did crémant differ from champagne, I undertook some research.

The word champagne is reserved exclusively for sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, and is considered the classic example of sparkling wines.

The term “crémant” refers to sparkling wines made in regions other than the Champagne region, but in accordance with Méthode Champenoise. (That is, the wine goes through the fermentation process twice: following primary fermentation and bottling, winemakers add a dosage of sugar and yeast, enabling the wine to go through a second fermentation in the bottle. The carbon dioxide produced from this second fermentation is trapped in the bottle. When the consumer opens the bottle, the carbon dioxide bubbles are released, causing the wine to sparkle.)

Crémant wines are produced with slightly less carbon dioxide and lower bottle pressure (typically 2-3 atmospheres instead of 5-6) than wines from the Champagne region. This lower effervescence is achieved by adding smaller dosage to the bottles for the second fermentation. The lighter effervesce creates the creamy texture to the wines, hence the name crémant, meaning “creamy.” The crémant designation was originally used for sparkling wines from the Champagne region made by méthode champenoise but with this lower effervescence.

In 1975, Crémant de Loire was given formal recognition as an Appellation Origine de Contr le (AOC), and was followed by Crémant de Bourgogne (1975) and Crémant d’Alsace (1976).

In the late 1980s, lobbying by champagne producers led to the term méthode champenoise being forbidden within the European Union as a designation for the traditional method, the term being replaced by methode traditionelle.

Crémant wines have to fulfill strict production criteria. The grapes must be harvested by hand with yields not exceeding a set amount for their appellation. The wines must be aged on the lees for a minimum of one year.

The Loire Valley is France’s largest producer of sparkling wines outside of the Champagne region. The majority of these crémant de Loire are a blend of the chardonnay, chenin blanc, and cabernet franc. Crémant de Loire Ros is purely cabernet franc, the color derived from a 12-hour maceration before the must is taken off the skins. This wine spends 18 months on its lees (expired yeast cells) before disgorgement.

One of my favorites is the Langlois Crémant de Loire ros made wholly from cabernet franc, the red grape of the region. This lovely sparkling rosé sec has a beautiful salmon rose color, plentiful tiny bubbles, and a delicate flavor and aroma of fruit and a light spicy mineral character.

In Burgundy, Crémant de Bourgogne must be composed of at least 30 percent pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot blanc or pinot gris.

Crémant d’Alsace is made primarily from pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling, or chardonnay. Alsace cr mant is typically a sparkling white wine, delicate and light. But there are also fragrant, full-bodied, richly flavored ros d’Alsace made from pinot noir.

California crémant wine by Schramsberg (Napa Valley) deserves special mention. Schramsberg made California’s first cr mant in 1972 with the flora grape, a cross of s millon and gew rztraminer, as its core component. Select lots of chardonnay are added to provide zest and length to the palate. Schramsberg demi-sec cr mant is aged on the lees for about two years prior to disgorgement.

Crémant wines provide a classic yet (usually) a less expensive sparkling wine experience compared to full-pressure champagnes and sparkling wines. The cr mant ros s have won me over!

Crémant wines are available locally:

Liquorama Fine Wines & Spirits at 901 West Foothill Blvd., Upland.

Telephone (909) 985-3131

Pierre Sparr Cr mant d’ Alsace Rose $19.99, Schramsberg Mendocino Demi-Sec Cr mant 2005 $29.99, G.H. Mumm de Cr mant Brut Chardonnay NV $64.99.

Total Wine at 8201 Day Creek Boulevard, Rancho Cucamonga.

Telephone (909) 463-5670

From Burgundy: Louis Bouillot Brut 11.99, Louis Bouillot Rose 12.99, Louis Bouillot Blanc de Blanc 15.99, Louis Bouillot Vintage 2006 17.99, Louis Bouillot Perle d’Or Vintage 2001 18.99, Luquet Crémant de Bourgogne 19.99. From Alsace: Arthur Metz Brut 14.99, Rose 14.99, Cuvee Special 14.99, Blanc de Noir 14.99

Off the Vine thanks Rhoda Stewart for her assistance. More memoirs of a winemaker coming from Rhoda! She can be reached at

Gino L. Filippi can be reached at