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Old Mold

Sonoma meets Bordeaux at G&C Lurton Vineyards

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You'll find some real Old World wines at the new G&C Lurton tasting room in downtown Healdsburg, and I don't mean that as an approving nod to the winemaking style—I mean the real, old deal.

It's easy enough these days to speak of Old World vs. New World wines. You don't even have to know your Right Bank from your Left Bank; just a nod and a wink will do, and identification of the positive attributes of "Old World" wines as, very loosely speaking, dirt and rocks (minerality, for extra points) while raising an eyebrow at the questionable characteristics of "New World" wines, which include such villains as fruit and flavor. Boo, flavor—(all together now) booo!

What isn't easy is teasing out the thorny issue of style vs. region—is Old World style strictly a matter of place, or winemaking? This tasting room offers a unique insight into that issue. Owners Gonzague Lurton and Claire Villars-Lurton both operate seveal chateaux in Bordeaux, France, and make wine from their Trinite Estate in Sonoma County.

In Swirl, we last met up with this Chalk Hill vineyard when it was owned by Chateau Felice over a decade ago. Planted with a mix of varieties then, the vineyard has gone completely to Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot since the Lurtons acquired it. While they own several big-name chateaux, their Healdsburg outpost is a modest affair, sharing a new tasting room space on Healdsburg Avenue with Sanglier Cellars, the Rhone-centric boutiquers I visited in 2014.

I am so New World, I had to lean in to glean the thickly accented story as told by tasting room manager Pascal Guerlou, who knew the Lurtons back in Bordeaux, where he ran a wine shop, and ran into them again at the French-American school in Santa Rosa. Old World, New World—small world.

But the big surprise is how Old World the Chalk Hill wines smell and taste—even the richer, cassis-inflected 2013 Acaibo ($69) could pass, while the muted 2014 Amaino Trinite Estate Sonoma County ($49) and the more barnyardy 2013 Amaino had me wondering if they import the very barrels from France to achieve this effect.

Nope. Just try the real Old World wines for comparison, like the ethereal, perfumed 2009 Chapelle de Bages ($39), the "second wine" of the Haut-Bages Liberal estate. Despite the Old World style the Sonoma County wines do, indeed, display—these are in the real old mold.

G&C Lurton Vineyards, 422 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. Open daily, 11am–6pm. $15–$29. 707.473.8556.

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