A house wine says a lot about a restaurant. Is it locally sourced? Does it go well with the signature dishes? Is it themed to match the ambience?
Yes, yes and yes are the answers at Smithfields Restaurant and Bar (www.smithfieldsashland.com), where an English pub meets fine locavore cuisine. The restaurant at 36 S. Second St., Ashland, has a house wine made from Applegate Valley grapes and bottled exclusively for Smithfields by winemaker Herb Quady.
The name of the wine, Hammers, is a nod to co-owner and chef Neil Clooney's support of London's West Ham United Football Club. Winemaker Quady describes the 2009 merlot as "a hearty red wine selected especially to complement the meat-centric menu."
Only 15 cases of the merlot were made ($10 a glass, $45 a bottle). Quady is known for his small-lot productions as winemaker for Troon Vineyard and his own Quady North wine, both in the Applegate Valley. An easygoing perfectionist, Quady scours vineyards for choice grapes and waits until they reach their flavor peak. He joined forces with the equally exacting Clooney because, "I appreciate Neil's cooking, and the restaurant's concept is cool."
Smithfields' wine list does contain some imports: French sancerres, German rieslings, New Zealand sauvignon blancs and, of course, California chardonnays. But Clooney and business partner Dee Vallentyne are big believers in supporting local producers, both with ingredients in their dishes and beverages they serve.
On the list: Cowhorn 2008 Syrah; Irvine Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir and 2010 Viognier; RoxyAnn Winery 2007 Pinot Gris and 2008 Claret; Troon 2007 Old Vine Meritage; and Quady North 2008 Syrah (4-2,A), 2009 Cabernet Franc, 2011 Pistoleta and Rose.
— Janet Eastman