Maxwell Leer Produces Grenache Vin Gris

Sommelier Maxwell Leer tries his hand at local winemaking

"We drink local beer; we eat local produce. Why shouldn't we have access to great local wine?"

That was the question posed by Maxwell Leer, the 29-year-old wine director who oversaw the eclectic wine programs at The Tasting Kitchen and The Bazaar, and now curates the celebrated list at Downtown's Bestia.

We're glad he chose to answer that question himself.

Last year, Leer partnered with Rancho Cucamonga's Joseph Filippi Winery to produce his first vintage, 2012 Fleur de Valle Grenache Vin Gris ($12 for 750 ml).

The goal: Make an old-world, low-cost wine that captured the "expressive and historical terroir" of the dusty San Gabriel foothills. So Grenache grapes were pressed into white wine, their black skins tinting the wine a light gray color. The wine then sat on its lees for a month, lending a complex, acidic bite. 

Leer refers to the current vintage as a "rough draft," but it tastes pretty thought-provoking to us, especially for it's bargain price. Dry, tart and almost olive-like in flavor, it's a wine that begs to be paired with food.

For Leer, that means the salumi plate at Bestia ($15): house-baked sourdough and house-cured sausage, consumed with–what else?–a bottle of wine grown just over the horizon.

Fleur de Valle is available online, by the glass at Bestia, Black Hogg, Salt's Cure and Bäco Mercat, or by the bottle in limited quantities at Domaine LA.