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Old World and New World Wines at G&C Lurton’s Tasting Room

The new G&C Lurton tasting room in downtown Healdsburg in Sonoma County offers a rare opportunity to taste both New World and Old World wines in the same place, and made by the same families.

Say what you want about how Sonoma County Cabernet compares to Napa Valley Cab, but the benchmark for Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines will always be Bordeaux.

The contest of New World vs. Old World is a perennial theme in wine, particularly where it concerns Bordeaux, Burgundy and corresponding varietal wines and blends in California. Sometimes a wine from the Old World may be claimed to be — even accused of being! — made in the “New World” style.

 Visit the G&C Lurton tasting room to taste both the old and the new.

The Way Left Bank

G&C Lurton is named for Gonzague Lurton and Claire Villars-Lurton, the husband and wife team behind the new Trinite Estate in Sonoma County.

They are also the owners of Chateau Dufort-Vivens, Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal and Chateau Ferriere, as well as other properties. The first three are “classified growths,” properties that were ranked as top producers in the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines.

When in Bordeaux, you’ll find no shortage of Lurtons, as patriarch Lucien Lurton acquired enough properties to hand one down to each of his 10 children. He had his eye on Sonoma County as well, but it fell to Gonzague to seal the deal on a 45-acre plot in the Chalk Hill region.

Formerly the estate vineyards of Chateau Felice, and temporarily owned by neighboring wine magnate Bill Foley, the property was planted with 24 acres of vines—including, fortuitously, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

While there’s nothing wrong with growing Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Syrah in this crossover region, which receives warmth from the Mayacamas mountains but also cooling breezes from the Pacific Ocean, these varieties were grubbed up in favor of a traditional Bordeaux planting — more Cabernet, Merlot, and related varieties.

The estate was renamed Trinité Estate, and the marquee wine produced here is inspired by the language of the Pomo people who once inhabited this area: the Lurton’s logo of three fish, representing their top chateaux, translated as “Acaibo.”

Fly Sonoma-Bordeaux, Direct

New in 2017, the G&C Lurton tasting room shares a storefront with Rhone-centric producer Sanglier Cellars (Sanglier is French for wild boar, by the way, but the owner is a vineyard manager from Texas).

There’s room for one more in this spacious place, it seems, and there’s no harm in starting with a Syrah rosé at the first bar, and then moving on to compare the wines of Bordeaux and Sonoma at the little bar in the back.

When tasting room manager Pascal Guerlou is manning the bar, you’ll get the full story — albeit in a thick French accent. Guerlou formerly ran a wine shop in one of the villages of Bordeaux, so he was previously acquainted with the Lurtons when he bumped into them again at the French-American school their children attend in Santa Rosa.

In the spirit of Biodynamic practices they began adopting in Bordeaux, G&C Lurton farms the Trinité estate organically, and precision sap flow monitoring is used to limit irrigation to only what is necessary. But the big question on the minds of Bordeaux fans is, of course: how “Old World” are the New World wines?

The short answer is a two-part answer: both “wow,” and “oh, right…”

In other words, I was astounded at the Bordeaux-like traits of the Lurton’s Chalk Hills wines, like the discreet berry and leather notes of the G&C Lurton 2014 Trinite Estate Merlot ($34), the shy aroma of the 2014 Amaino Trinite Estate Sonoma County ($49) and the vinous, old barrel—even ever-so-slightly barnyardy notes of the “more approachable” (according to Guerlou) 2013 Amaino, which is 84 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

These wines reminded me more of the UGC (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux) tasting in San Francisco than many a California Cabernet blend.

I even asked if they’d imported once-used barrels from their Bordeaux estates for their Sonoma County wines — it is not so, but it was a tantalizing explanation. Does Old World style come down more to early picking decisions, as Guerlou suggests, after all?

Even the more fruit-forward, cassis-scented, and intense 2013 Acaibo ($69), with its cakebread and blueberry highlights, could have passed for Bordeaux. That’s the “wow” part.

But try a few from the lineup of French wines, and there’s no mistaking Old World for new in the light, bright 2010 Chateau La Gurgue Margaux ($39), or the ethereally glossy, raspberry-perfumed 2009 Chapelle de Bages ($39), the “second wine” of Haut-Bages Liberal. Oh, right…that’s Bordeaux.

Typical of the terroir, says Guerlou, the Chateau Domeyne 2010 St-Estephe ($34) is a more full-bodied wine, showing blackberry fruit and vanilla spice — approaching the richness of the comparatively restrained, for California standards, Sonoma County wines.

Cross the Road

If all that French wine has worked up an appetite for a French bistro brunch — naturally, we’re drinking wine before noon here — head directly across the street to Healdsburg’s longtime home of things Gallic and sandwichy, Costeaux French Bakery (417 Healdsburg Ave. 707-433-1913), where you’ll find quiche, croques both monsieur and madame, and duck salad.

G&C Lurton Tasting Room, 422 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-473-8556. Open daily, 11am–6pm. Tasting flights $15–$29.

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