Wineries of the Sierra Foothills, Clos Saron

Gideon Beinstock. | Johan Martin

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the second edition of the popular guidebook “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills: Risk-Takers & Rule-Breakers” available now on Amazon. All sales support Tahoe Weekly.


Clos Saron’s Gideon Beinstock, winemaker and co-owner of this unique North Yuba County winery with wife, Saron Rice, has done something not typical in California winemaking. A good summary of Gideon’s experience is that he has had the opportunity to take vineyards in the North Yuba AVA from big to medium to small, and now, on his own property at Clos Saron, smaller.

The result is a track record of increasingly better wines. He is known for producing a Pinot Noir that displays the true character of the grape with a minimalist touch.

“What has brought me to all of this is my passion for wine, and its ability to really express the terroir,” he said.

Clos Saron is Gideon’s family run vineyard and winery. He jokes that it is a Ma and Pa operation because since it was started in 1999, all family members help in some way. His wife, teenage sons and younger daughter are all are engaged with the vineyard, the vegetables and the animals.

“Our founding concept is that Clos Saron will remain on a small scale so that one family can take care of everything,” he said. The goal is to build a self-sustaining, family enterprise.

Small means big when it comes to the quality of his wines. Gideon studied winemaking in the Burgundy and Rhone regions of France. His winemaking style has evolved to be on the extreme side of natural.

“The most fascinating aspect of a wine is its potential evolution,” he says.

Gideon and Saron have an organic approach to their vineyard, with natural soil augmentations from the chickens, rabbits, ducks, geese and sheep they raise on site. Vines are own-rooted and densely planted, kept free of all chemicals. Home Vineyard, their Pinot Noir cradle, is 2.5 acres.

Clos Saron is close to what is called a dry-farmed vineyard. Water application is sparse on his clay-loam soil. Generally, the philosophy is to keep the vines alive and let them struggle. The result is exceptional fruit from vines that he has patiently watched mature for more than a decade.

Gideon takes his minimalist philosophy into the winery, too. Working with fruit that he knows well, he uses gentle extraction methods. He does not filter or fine the wines. He is averse to using sulfites. He bottles as much as possible during the middle phase of the new moon.

Many of Clos Saron’s wines have what Gideon refers to as a life span of 20 years after bottling. His Home Vineyard Pinot Noir is so sought after that customers will fly planes in from places as remote as Texas to stock up before the 50 to 150 cases produced annually are gone. This and the Texas Hill Road Pinot Noir (with fruit from 1 acre leased nearby) are terroir-driven, spicy, minerally and with concentrated flavors. All of Clos Saron’s wines are limited in production.

On the winery Web site, Gideon has posted what could be called a mission statement. “Since 1999, Saron and I have accumulated decades of experience in viticulture, winemaking, and all sorts of farming. We have decided to take on this dubious financial challenge/adventure out of many other-than-commercial reasons: love of wine (especially Pinot Noir, but really all good wine), love of outdoors work (especially viticulture), and our wish to do something productive in our lives. Farming and living close to nature may be challenging in many ways, but it is equally life giving and inspiring. Wine is for us an integral part of our lives, a source of joy, learning, and an endlessly expanding horizon to explore. We hope our wines will enhance your life in similar ways.”

Gideon tells all tasters and customers that his wines are alive in the bottle and that makes them especially demanding.

“No two bottles are ever truly identical,” he says. “Every bottle is unique in its specific subtle nuances and expression.”

Customers know by now that the wines might require a few weeks of rest after traveling, that they should use a serving basket instead of decanting the wine in order to minimize oxidation and get a clear pour, and that they should serve these rare and elegant wines at the right temperature.

You’ll need to plan your visit to Clos Saron in advance. It is a Foothills wine experience you should not miss. While you are there, let Gideon and Saron educate you a bit about living with the land. | (530) 692-1080,