MONIKER WINE: it’s not brain surgery, people, but look how long it took someone to come up with the actual moniker as a wine brand. Now that it’s out there, the rest of us are all slapping our foreheads.

Leave it to the folks at Mendocino Wine Company, to branch out into the Moniker realm. I remember when I wrote about Petite Sirah being the John Wayne of wine varieties. I put it out to all of the members to use that as branding… And it was branded by the Mendocino Wine Company. (It’s so great when someone is actually paying attention and understands a good idea.)

Owner Tim Thornhill came to an event that I was holding in Orlando at Universal Studios, being put on by the National Pork Board. The members of PS I Love You were pouring their wines to go along with chef’s dishes. It was then that I learned of Tim’s sharp wit and great marketing savvy. Now, his next generation has joined his wine company… Chase Thornhill, his son, has been given Moniker Wines to market, among his other duties, and success will be his. According to Chase, “Moniker wines represent the best of our family, our desire to do right by our land and by our community.”

The Thornhills have really put their best foot forward with Moniker wine.

Moniker Estates winemaker is Mark Beaman. Mark has always had deep connections to land through his passion for agriculture. He grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, and his family members were wheat farmers. What I really like most about Mark is that the did something that I could only imagine (I didn’t have the guts). He joined the Peace Corps, and worked on soil conservation projects in Tanzania. That kind of dedication and empathy is what I’d like to know a winemaker has experienced… where he’s also worked outside of his comfort zone and wine disciplines.

This is a family affair, currently involving three generations of Thornhills… Ann and Tommy Thornhill, Jr. are the grandparent generation, bothers Tim and Tom (the III) are brothers, and their youngest generation involves Kate Thornhill-Beaman and Chase Thornhill. I can appreciate family working together, because my three daughters have all been helping Diaz Communications at one time or another, between mothering and launching other dream careers. When the Thornhills invested Parducci Wine Cellars, Tom will tell you, “We were looking for a community in which we could make a positive impact and bring our family together.”

Of Moniker, Tim is quoted as saying (and I can hear him saying it), “I learned young that when someone told me I should not do something, it did not mean I could not do it. This spirit lead me to do things like move giant trees, saving and preserving enormous living things. This same innovative spirit permeates the family and Moniker.”

These are very classy wines,

from a classic American family

2012 Moniker Chardonnay, Mendocino County ~ Ripe and resplendent, Golden Delicious apples with a bit of toasty almond on the finish… I’m thinking of the Cambodian Glass Noodle dish at Chinos Asian Bistro. Wine and food porn in your mouth… yeah, that delicious.

2012 Moniker Pinot Noir, Mendocino County ~ This is a hearty and rustic Pinot for me, destined for barbeques of the best kind… with Pulled Pork Sliders. The American oak is what gives it that rustic, American-style edge. Its spice is evident and part of its appeal. Still within the 13 percent alcohol, it’s a wine with great depth.

2011 Moniker Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County ~ Lots of tannic backbone, so either lay it down for a while, or use an aerator to give yourself the most enjoyment for its big, opulent flavors of cassis, blackberries, and a hint of cigar box.This is a big, complex wine.

You could also do what a friend of ours used to always do, back in our rock and roll days. Roman Marcinkiewicz, then of MCA Records, who is now at Masciarelli Wine in Florida, would call a restaurant to make a reservation for that evening, and ask the wine steward to open the wine at 10:00 a.m. for our 7:00 p.m. dinner enjoyment. We’d chuckle at Roman at the time… We were all rockers, we didn’t get the “fine wine” thing. Now we’ve joined the ranks and are making the same recommendations, when a wine calls for it. (Thanks, Roman, for leading the way!)

Do yourself a favor and enjoy a little Moniker… Wines with lower alcohol are always pleasant to the palate and always very food friendly.