Laely Heron is the owner of and winemaker for her namesake Heron Vineyards. As you might guess from someone who studied enology and viticulture in Bordeaux, she likes the old-world style of winemaking: low in alcohol, multilayered, and food friendly. She makes wines from vineyards all over California as well as several in France and Spain. She's friendly and open and incredibly knowledgeable, but she also displays the inner grit it takes to be a business person and farmer. Above all, she makes wonderful domestic wines that are earthy and tannic, reminiscent of their French and Spanish antecedents, but which still taste fruity, as if they came from California.
Heron was in Austin last week to show her wines along with a couple, dozen other wineries. Among a sea of $20- $75-a-bottle wines, hers were standouts, and almost all were under $15. Most folks like an occasional Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chardonnay. The Heron Mendocino Cab tasted like a good quality (say $25-$30) Bordeaux with just a touch more fruitiness and less dustiness. It was $12.99. Her Chardonnay had that slight butterscotch taste you get in some Burgundies; it was very restrained, but fascinating because it was so multilayered (kind of like that ad with the pretty girl wearing rectangular plastic glasses channeling what they refer to as the sexy librarian look). It was just $11.99.
When I met with her, she had just been told that her winery was named the Wine & Spirits Magazine 2012 Top Value Brand of the Year. They made a perfect choice. I was impressed with all of her wines. It's not often I can find a label that seems to be completely recommendable, but Laely Heron is on a roll.
See my short interview with Ms. Heron on the Chronicle Food blog under Heron Wines. You can find her wines at Tom's Market (Heron's biggest supporters), Central Market, Spec's, and some Twin Liquors.
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