Orlaigh ‘Alonso Family Vyd’ Mencia Sierra Pelona Valley ‘17
Juan Alonso’s lived a full life. A native of Galicia, he moved to France in his youth and spent time in the French Army where he learned how to cook. After kicking around some fine dining establishments in Europe he headed to Los Angeles in the early ‘70’s and ended up in, of all places: Agua Dulce, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County, California. It was there that he opened Le Chêne in the early ‘80’s, a classic French restaurant on a sleepy stretch of the Sierra Pelona Hwy. Le Chêne quickly became a place to be in the 1980’s, a true destination restaurant. In the mid-‘90’s he decided the next logical step would be to plant a vineyard on the property, because, why not? The initial planting was tiny and would essentially serve as a nursery for what would still be a small but commercially viable vineyard, built on cuttings from his native Galicia that just happened to show up on his doorstep one day: Souson, Albariño, Godello, Trajadura, Loueiro, Brancellao, Graciano, Caiño Tinto, etc.,......oh, and Mencia. At the time he grafted these into his northern LA County vineyard hideaway, no one on this side of the Atlantic really knew nor cared about Mencia. Bierzo was still a few years away from making a minor splash in the American wine scene, and the wines of the dramatically terraced Ribeira Sacra, which ultimately seemed to solidify the varietal’s place amongst the wine cognoscenti, were yet another few years from making themselves known to any significant degree stateside. We’re not the first people to have made wine from the 3+ rows of Mencia in Canyon Country. Before it was a TTB allowable varietal in the US, a local winemaker bottled and sold it under the name, “Sangre de Tierra”, or “Blood of the Earth”, appropriately enough. Our interpretation remains bloody and full of an olive brine-like savory quality with fine, elegant tannins countered by a good balance of acidity on the palate. We get all of the Mencia in the vineyard....which amounts to a whopping 48 cases in a good year! If you ever make it to Le Chêne, which you should, have a bottle of our Mencia with their signature dish, Wild Boar Ragôut.
About Orlaigh: Patrick Dorsey and Shiri Nagar are longtime food and wine professionals having each spent the bulk of their respective careers working for some incredible restaurants in Los Angeles, CA. Having met while working at James Beard Award-winners Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s Tavern, Patrick then continued on to a position as Wine Director for the Michelin-starred Hatfield’s while Shiri began a long tenure at Nancy Silverton’s Mozza restaurants working pastry. They began Orlaigh with one barrel of sparkling wine in 2016 (the source of which they now farm themselves) and have slowly but surely added some interesting vineyards and varietals to their lineup over the past 4 years, and hope to continue to do so for many more.