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Part One: San Fran with Rorick of Forlorn Hope

Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope (photo credit)

Ryan Looper and Brian Pilliod took a trip to California, and here’s Ryan’s take on meeting Matthew Rorick:

Matthew Rorick is the wine equivalent of Patrick Swayze in Road House: A badass philosopher with great hair who challenges the norm.

As an “outlier” in California, Rorick is beginning to get the attention he deserves, because the texture of California wine is changing.  With the relevance of Ribolla Gialla, Trousseau Gris and Noir, and Gamay Noir gaining traction, there will certainly be more plantings of these and other alternative varietals in the years to come.

As Rorick walked onto the deck overlooking the fiery twilight haze of San Francisco, he immediately seemed like an old friend.  As he, Brian Pilliod and I proceeded to kill a bottle of wine, Matthew talked about the vineyards he works with, while sharing his perspective on wine.  And while I had imagined that he would recount the age-old “discovery of Natural wine” story of sleeping in cars and tasting unsulphured wines through the countryside or at Parisian Bar-a-Vins, (echoing “the gang of five are the shit”), this was not the case at all.

This year’s harvest at Forlorn Hope

It turns out that Matthew had gravitated to unadjusted and pure wines through a personal and aesthetic process that began by questioning the status quo.  He is the conductor and the vineyards are his orchestras; the raising of his baton at the right moments is what keeps them in harmony.

The wines of Forlorn Hope are of a new breed, exploring the boundaries beyond Pinot, Chardonnay and Cabernet, while searching out rare (existing) plantings in single sites, and vinifying them with almost no intervention.  These wines express the possibilities of California, through vineyards that are unadorned and encouraged to find their own balance.

And though we later had a memorable evening out on the town with friends at Michel Mina and Rich Table, it was those first few minutes on the deck with Matthew that meant the most to me.  With a new understanding of his wines, I caught hold of an exciting vision for the future.

You can read what Matthew chooses not to do in the winery here, but most important to me is what he does do.  He is a torchbearer for the rebellious grape growers and winemakers in California, blazing a path not yet taken.

See what I mean?  It is a little Road House.

I advise you to follow Matthew on twitter here.

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