Wyoming winery shows it’s grape stuff with California medals

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In this Oct. 24, 2019 photo, Anthony Schroth, of Jackson Hole Winery, smells the juice of the cabernet sauvignon grapes being de-stemmed to check if the flavor is just right, in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Schroth, founder and vintner of the winery, believes making wine in a colder climate provides many benefits. In addition to the fact that it is cheaper to cold-stabilize the wine, low microbial activity during the aging process leads to wine that is low in sulfites. (Kathryn Ziesig/Jackson Hole News & Guide via AP)

JACKSON, Wyo | While wineries in California are spending money on giant refrigeration rigs to cold-stabilize their wine, Jackson Hole Winery just opens its doors.

Anthony Schroth, founder and vintner of the winery, believes making wine in a colder climate provides many benefits. In addition to the fact that it is cheaper to cold-stabilize the wine, low microbial activity during the aging process leads to wine that is low in sulfites.

Although purveyors of French and Californian wine might be skeptical of these claims, Schroth has some evidence to back it up.

Last month, Jackson Hole Winery took home four awards at the San Francisco Chronicle’s annual wine competition. The 2020 competition hosted more than 60 judges, who evaluated over 6,000 wines from over 1,000 wineries. Jackson Hole won gold for its Outlaw and silver medals for its pinot noir, chardonnay and Rendezvous Red.

Schroth was proud to beat out wineries in each category from the famous Napa and Sonoma valleys in California.

“To have a concept that a lot of people thought was crazy and then to have it come out and win golds and best-of-class medals in these competitions is huge,” Schroth said.

Although the wine is produced and aged in Jackson, the winery grows its fruit in Napa, Sonoma and Washington state. Schroth spends much of his time between the many vineyards that he manages on the West Coast and the winery in Jackson.

“You can’t argue that the fruit from these regions don’t make really great wines,” Schroth said. “It’s kind of the best of both worlds.”

The latest satellite growing location for the winery is in the Horse Heaven Hills American Viticultural Area in Washington, which is situated on windy slopes between the Yakima Valley and the Columbia River. The vineyards that Jackson Hole Winery manages at Horse Heaven Hills produce the cabernet Franc, syrah and merlot varieties used in the Rendezvous Red that won silver.

According to Schroth, Rendezvous Red is a “cocktail-style wine” that pairs well with the kind of game meat you might find in Jackson: elk, venison or bison.

His gold-medal-winning wine, the Outlaw cabernet, ranks highest on his list for most memorable to make — having nearly cost him his life.

The vineyard he was using to grow cabernet grapes was located on a steep hillside in the Dry Creek Valley American Viticultural Area in Sonoma County. He had “a couple of close calls” with his tractor due to the pitch of the vineyard.

“I just had a baby,” Schroth said. “I don’t need to be doing this stuff.”

Although it almost cost him, the fruit from the vineyard created some of the best wine the winery has ever produced.

Schroth also points to the French fine-grain oak barrels from Tonnellerie Sylvain that he decided to use to age the wine as contributing to its unique flavor.

“For some reason, with this vineyard and with this cooper, it just pops and you get these really lively, juicy wines,” he said.

Although Jackson Hole Winery has received accolades for almost every wine it has ever produced, a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition was a landmark win. The winery has won silver medals at the competition five years running, but never a gold before now.

“From my point of view, it’s the best wine competition,” Schroth said.