Tag grenache

Drinking Small Production Rhone Wines: Rhone Rangers 2014

The Rise of the Rhone Garagiste Rhone Rangers Seminar

This past weekend the Rhone Rangers hosted a panel of eight “Garagiste” winemakers each producing less than 3000 cases of wine for their individual label. Luke Sykora facilitated the discussion crossing a range of wine types and locales. What the wines, selected by the Rhone Rangers Education committee from membership submissions, shared was a well made, food friendly character.

The Rhone Rangers celebrates wines made from Rhone varieties within the United States. Though the largest concentration of winery membership arises from California, Oregon, Washington, and Virginia also join the organization. Membership offers the opportunity to support and select research on Rhone varieties, and participation in both local and national events. The recent Rhone Rangers weekend marked their largest annual event with the largest Rhone wine tasting in the country.

In circumscribing its domain, the Rhone Rangers include 22 grape varieties within their description of Rhone wine. The 22 varieties predominately arise from the Rhone region of France, and include not only the widely planted and better known reds and whites of the area, but also grapes historic to the Valley. Additionally, the group includes Petite Sirah among their allowable grapes. The variety originates as a cross between two Rhone grapes developed in France in the 1880s. Though the variety is not today seen in the Rhone Valley, because of its Rhone parentage, and history of planting with other Rhone grapes in California it is included.

The Rhone Valley has a strong history of blending and co-fermentation of varieties. With that in mind, the Rhone Rangers count wines that blend any of the 22 grapes, as well as wines made to be at least 75% from Rhone varieties.

Most of the 22 Rhone varieties are planted in very small number within the United States. The truth is that Rhone wines still represent a small portion of the overall wine market with far more plantings rooted in the popular varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, as two examples. As a result, Rhone varieties are generally planted to small acreage.

For larger producers such small plantings are often used as a sort of spice box accent within a larger blend, sometimes still named by its predominate variety. A Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, might be given extra heft by an accent of Petite Sirah. However, the fruit of lesser known varieties often sells for far less than the commonly known types. For smaller producers, it can be almost impossible to afford the cost of well-known grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. Small plantings of unusual grapes, then, offer a more affordable option, but also the chance to work with something new without the pressures of market expectation. The Garagiste winemaker, then, represents the unexpected freedom of experimentation given by a shoestring budget, and a glimpse into the still uncharted possibilities of quality wine.

The Wines of the Garagiste Rhone Rangers Panel

The Rhone Rangers Garagiste panel offered the chance to taste from the range of 22 varieties and their blending opportunities, including some of the lesser known of the Rhone grapes, as well as some of the classics. As mentioned, what the 8 wines selected shared was a well made, food friendly character. Pleasing juiciness was a common theme across the tasting. Following are notes on the 8 wines.

Acquiesce Winery, Lodi, 2013 Picpoul Blanc Estate
presented by Sue Tipton, 65 cases

Offering a 100% Picpoul for her 2013 bottling, Acquiesce Winery‘s Picpoul Blanc showcases the “lip sting” element definitive of the variety through tons of juiciness. However, the wine surpasses the singular acid focus often found with the grape, to give a vibrant lift through the palate with a softening finish. The 2013 brings a nice range of fruit characteristics including white and pink grapefruit peel with touches of pear blossom and a lightly floral musk finish. The flavors couple with the juiciness to tumble across the palate into a long finish.

Caliza Winery, Paso Robles, 2012 White Blend “Sidekick”
presented by Carl Bowker, Roussanne/Viognier, 125 cases

The Caliza Winery white blend comes from limestone and shale soils near the cooler Templeton Gap of Paso Robles. The wine offers floral chalk and dried floral aromatics and palate moving through a juicy mid-palate and into a long, increasingly juicy, cracked white and green pepper finish. There is nice tension through the palate here and a good balance of rounded flavors with long energetic lines.

* Stark Wines, Healdsburg, 2012 Viognier
presented by Christian Stark, 125 cases

Based in Healdsburg but sourcing fruit from the granite soils of the Sierra Foothills, Stark offers a nicely focused, well balanced expression of Viognier giving just a kiss of tropical flower Viognier is known for without any sweetness. The floral elements show in softened, clean presentation run through with a nerviness throughout, carrying into an ultra long juicy finish. There is a nice blend of elements here — great juiciness with a softened aromatic, and a light pinch of dryness on the finish.

* Two Shepherds, Santa Rosa, 2013 Grenache Gris Rosé
presented by William Allen, 35 cases

Drawing from 100+ year old, dry farmed vines in Mendocino, Two Shepherds delivers a pink-red fruit-and-floral spiced example of the uncommon variety. The wine offers delicate (without weakness) flavor complexity with a slippery mouthfeel and crunchy, lightly drying finish. The focus here is on clean fruit expression and juiciness with integrated natural fruit spice.

Ranchero Cellars, Paso Robles, 2010 Carignan, Columbini Vineyard
presented by Amy Butler, 150 cases

Based in Paso Robles, but sourcing Carignan from 90+ year old vines in Mendocino County, Ranchero Cellars delivers vibrant while dark aromatics with a body of earthy fruit and flower of wild rose and dark floral musk, touched by a faint mint lift. This is a super juicy wine with easy tannin grip and a moderately long drying finish.

Folin Cellars, Gold Hill, 2010 Red Blend “Misceo”
presented by Rob Folin, 40% Syrah 40% Mourvedre 20% Grenache, 225 cases

Celebrating Rhones in Southern Oregon, Folin Cellars gives a classic, well balanced Rhone red blend with a focus on dark fruit and floral accents, integrated through with natural fruit spice character and a moderately long cracked pepper finish. There is nice palate tension and texture on this wine. It’s offers a drying palate, juicy enough for movement, and clean fruit expression. This is a wine perfect for salumi.

* MacLaren Wine Co, Sonoma, 2010 Syrah Judge Family Vineyard
presented by Steve Law, 122 cases

With fruit from Bennett Valley, the MacLaren Wine Co offers a ton of yes!-ness in really a pretty, while hard to describe Syrah. The wine opens to pretty, round aromatics with menthol accents, then turns into a super juicy palate of dark rock and quartz mineral crunch, and savory earth elements brushed through with floral lines. The wine gives a surprising, clean, floral presentation with an earthy underbelly and integrated spice and herbal elements. I vote yes!

Kukkula, Paso Robles, 2012 Red Blend “Noir”
presented by Kevin Jussila, 86% Syrah 14% Counoise, 149 cases

From the Westside of Paso Robles, the Kukkula red blend presents dark cherry and alpine strawberry fruit candy aromatics moving into a juicy palate of dark plum with blossom, wild violet musk, and menthol with cracked pepper finish. The wine moves from floral aromatics into a musky juicy palate. There is just enough tannin grip for a pleasing mouthfeel but the focus is on juiciness and length.

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Thank you to the Rhone Rangers and Luke Sykora.

Thank you to William Allen.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Tasting Grenache with the Rhone Rangers

West Coast Grenache Noir

This recent weekend the Rhone Rangers hosted their Spring event featuring the largest U.S. Rhone-focused tasting in the country, the induction of Tablas Creek founder Robert Haas into their Hall of Fame, and two educational seminars. The second seminar focused in specifically on West Coast North American iterations of Grenache Noir, looking at the work of eight winemakers from distinctive regions, and moderated by Luke Sykora of Wine and Spirits Magazine.

Grenache Noir Characteristicsclick on image to enlarge

In selecting Grenache as a focal point, the seminar turned its attention to characteristics of the world’s most planted Rhone variety. Depending on site and winemaking style, the grape offers a medium bodied wine ranging from bright red juiciness with supple tannin to more weighted fleshiness and darker red-to-purple flavors.

Though the variety is prone to dropping acid, it can offer a wash of flavor with lots of juicy flow when picked before acids drop. The tannin of the variety too tends towards the lighter side, analogous to Pinot Noir in tannin presence. Many winemakers take advantage of the characteristic to offer more delicate expression, but in good Southern Rhone tradition blending with even a touch of other varieties such as Syrah can increase the heft of the final wine.

In selecting the wines for the panel, the Rhone Rangers Educational Committee chose to pick wines from distinctive regions. Though Grenache proves to be the world’s most planted Rhone variety, its development in California and Oregon vinification is still in its earlier stages. As a result, a number of the wines shown represented the first vintage of working with the grape, even from experienced winemakers.

Bob Lindquist of Qupé opened the panel expressing his affection for the variety. He brings a wealth of experience with Rhone grapes from Santa Barbara County to the table. As example, because Grenache varieties are prone to oxidation their aging before bottling needs to be carefully considered. However, as Lindquist discussed, Grenache does better texturally with some slow oxygen exposure. With that in mind, it is rare to see Grenache aged in Stainless. Most winemakers choose oak, though some are also starting to use concrete, to allow for slow air exchange.

The delicacy of Grenache favors neutral oak. However, making the point about the importance of site, Chris Cameron of Broken Earth on the Eastside of Paso Robles explained that, with the warmer temperatures of their region, small portions of new oak help showcase more flavor complexity in the wine.

The Rhone Rangers Grenache Panel Wines

The panel showcased well-made examples of Grenache from a range of growing conditions. Half of the wines presented as still quite tight in their presentation currently due to age, thus wanting more time in bottle or more air before drinking. Following are notes for each of the wines.

Quady North, Jacksonville, Oregon, 2012 Grenache “Bomba”presented by Herb Quady (95% Grenache 5% Syrah)

From Southern Oregon, the Quady North Bomba offers a rocky rusticity with lots of palate tension moving through a long juicy finish. The wine is quite young right now wanting more time in bottle to open but showing structure that speaks well for its future expression. The aromatics give dark cherry musk moving into a brighter palate with the full range of cherry elements–red cherry, cherry blossom musk, branch and leaf oil–all accented by hints of pink grapefruit oil. The palate is tight right now but carries a pleasing tension, and good juicy length.

Mounts Family Winery, Healdsburg, CA, 2011 Grenache Estate
presented by David Mounts

Using fruit from Dry Creek Valley, the Mounts Estate steps out of the glass with a mixed red fruit carbonic lift moving into a darker fruit palate. The wine is still tight on the palate wanting more time in bottle. It moves from smashed red cherry and raspberry blossom into floral musk accents on a line of cracked pepper and a perfumed, lightly drying finish. The nose right now is rather singular and lightly cloying, but there is a nice textural element to the moderate tannin and good tension through the palate.

Campovida, Hopland, CA, 2012 Grenache, Dark Horse Vineyards
presented by Sebastian Donoso

Their first vintage working with Grenache from Mendocino, the Campovida Dark Horse Vineyard brings an integrated fruit-earth-floral aromatic forward into the palate. The wine offers both red cherry and blossom, with floral powder notes showing through a savory cracked pepper mid-palate and accents of pink grapefruit zest. The wine is still tightly focused in its presentation but gives a nice juiciness to tannin balance and good length.

Miner Family Wines, 2012 Grenache, Hudson Vineyards
presented by Maura Christoffers

The Miner Family showed their Grenache sourced from Hudson Vineyard in the cooler Napa region of Carneros, the first crop yield year for the fruit. The wine gives soft red cherry with wild pink rose through a spiced and mint lift aromatic carrying forward on the palate with a light cherry powder mid-palate and clay finish. The wine offers an easy acid-tannin balance, and long finish.

Baiocchi Wines, Fair Play, CA, 2010 Grenache, Sharon’s Vineyard
presented by Greg Baiocchi

With fruit from a small, high elevation planting in El Dorado county region of the Sierra Foothills, the Baiocchi Sharon’s Vineyard gives the nervy tension characteristic of granite slopes. The aromatics here offer feminine perfumed lift with accents of green chili. The palate offers a smooth powdered cherry blossom and cracked pepper mid-palate with powerful flavor, strong structural tension, and a round floral finish. There is a ton of presence to this wine, with textural tannin and plenty of juiciness to keep it moving through a long finish.

* McCay Cellars, Lodi, CA, 2011 Grenache
presented by Michael McCay

My favorite of the wines on the panel, the McCay Grenache offers a sense of completeness that makes it ready to drink now with a distinctiveness that stands out within a line-up of Grenache. Showing alpine strawberry and wild cherry throughout, on the palate the wine gives the suave tannin of a sandier site with nice juiciness. There is a beautiful flavor-to-feel balance, and nice palate contact-to-movement dance, that both carry through with lots of delicate (without being weak) prettiness.

* Qupe, Los Olivos, CA, 2011 Grenache, Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard
presented by Bob Lindquist

Growing their fruit in Edna Valley, Qupé‘s Sawyer-Linquist Vineyard offers nice complexity with ease and a great focus on grounded juiciness. This is a nicely made wine giving lifted perfume of red cherry tree, touches of strawberry, and menthol accents carrying forward into a light pleasing palate with ruby grapefruit peel and integrated fruit spice through a long juicy palate. This wine is full of mouthwatering flavor.

Broken Earth, Paso Robles, CA, 2012 Grenache Estate
presented by Chris Cameron

From the warmer side of Paso Robles, the Broken Earth Estate carries the most overt accessibility with a spiced finish of the wines on the panel. This Grenache focuses in on the pinker side of red fruit aroma and flavor carrying red berry candy powder elements through the mid-palate and accents of ginger powder with light clove touched by black pepper through the finish, all on a body of melting tannin and juicy length. I have to admit that this wine is not my style as its focus stays more on sweet (not sugary) pink-red fruit flavor but it is a well done example of its type.

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Thank you to the Rhone Rangers, and Luke Sykora.

Thank you to William Allen.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

In the Spirit of Collaboration: Paris Popups

Attending a Paris Popup at Penrose in Oakland

Laura Vidal

Laura Vidal preparing the team on wine selections, Penrose, Oakland

Last week Laura Vidal and Harry Cummins were kind enough to invite me to their Paris Popup at Penrose in Oakland. The duo began the events while working together in Paris at Frenchies, taking over restaurants around the city. What would be a regular night off for the business would become a special treat for the owners — seeing their facility through the eyes of another team. The Paris Popups would open for one night only to a range of guests within an already established restaurant space, and provide dinner to the owner in exchange for using the space.

Laura Vidal and Harry Cummins

Laura Vidal and Harry Cummins

Originally from London, Cummins had returned home to visit friends and saw that a new style of food event — popups — were happening around the city. Returning to Paris he realized he hadn’t heard of them taking place on the French side of the Channel. He and Vidal decided to design their own, and Paris Popups were born. The venture developed organically. After their first successful occasion, restaurants around Paris began reaching out to the team offering to host. Paris Popups popped up all over the city, until the pair decided to take a year to both share and learn food and wine culture all over the world, beginning what would become a Popup world tour.

Harry Cummins

Harry Cummins

Unleashed from the team that was integral to their work in Paris, Cummins and Vidal have found their world tour defined by collaboration. The duo selected their route, then reached out to venues, wine distributors, and chefs in cities around the world. In each location they have sought to work intimately with area chefs to develop the menu with consideration for local ingredients, and bring in winemakers or distributors whose work they wish to support. Part of the point is to celebrate the unique offerings of a particular area. In selecting wines too, the people behind the wines are invited to participate, offering guests direct contact not easily afforded elsewhere. Evan Lewandowski of Ruth Lewandowski wines, Raj Parr of Domaine de la Cote, and Anthony Lynch of Kermit Lynch wines all poured, for example, in Oakland.

Paris Popup

Halibut, clams, blood oranges

The menu development occurs as a kind of ongoing conversation. Vidal selects wines in advance allowing for a progression through a multi-course meal. By this point, the chefs have already begun to brainstorm ideas, but now coordinate in concert with consideration of the wines as well. Vidal’s and Cummin’s expertise shows in listening to their process. Their skill in designing a meal in advance of an event reflects their experience with flavor and pairing. For the Penrose event, Cummins and Vidal were able to work with Bones Restaurant’s James Edward Henry and Austin Holey, as well as Charlie Hallowell, the chef of Penrose in the kitchen and to develop the menu.

Paris Popup

Sweetbreads, poached egg, Périgord black truffle

Each city’s food culture comes with a different infrastructure and dynamic. Where New York relies on ordered formality in a restaurant team, California’s Bay Area approaches evening meals with a more relaxed service style. Recognizing and working with the different styles of service for each location, then, becomes integral to the world tour.

Paris Popup

Uni, fermented squash, kumquats

The Oakland popup included two nights in Penrose, serving a seven course meal including wine pairings. The team accomplished an impressive, and well-executed menu showcasing the experience of pairings at their best. My favorite of the night rests strongly in the second course. We were greeted with a glass of Raveneau 2001 1er Cru Chablis then coupled with a dish of Dungeness crab, grapefruit, and artichokes. The pairing gave a beautiful example of how flavors can synthesize. While one of my favorite wines, Raveneau carries incredible strength, approaching the edge of pleasurable intensity on the palate. Similarly, the dish carried a strength of flavors with the richness of the crab absorbing the force of the grapefruit. The food followed by the wine, however, created a sense of elegance through the mouth that was truly beautiful.

Paris Popup

Oysters (served alongside the Rib eye)

Paris Popup

Rib eye

My other favorite pairing brought Les Palliéres 1999 Gigondas alongside a course of Rib eye with a side of oysters, and a green salad of citrus dressing. Rib eye is a classic suggestion for Gigondas, but the oysters nicely celebrated the sea-air freshness I find in the nose of older Les Palliéres, and the citrus note brought out the bright red elements of the wine on the palate, showing off the youthful vibrancy of the 1999. The combination was beautifully done.

Paris Popup

Apples, Penrose tonic ice served with Neige 2011 Apple Ice Wine

The other pairings throughout the night showcased differing approaches to marrying food and wine. Where the two courses mentioned celebrated an approach of complementing flavors, others focused on contrast. The sweetbreads, poached eggs, and black truffle dish brought a real richness to the palate that was cut through, and refreshed by the red fruit and black tea spine of the Domaine de la Cote 2011 Bloom’s Field, an elegant expression of what Sashi Moorman calls the Heart of Sta Rita Hills. Throughout the courses, I was impressed with the focus on texture. Each dish showcased a blend of varying levels of firmness, and push so that the pleasure of the palate was more than just taste. Such attention to texture showed in the way the wines paired as well. The light grip from skin contact maceration in the Ruth Lewandowski 2012 Fox Hill Vineyard Chilion Cortese Zero, for example, brought a vibrant citrus flavored texture alongside the slippery give of the uni and fermented squash with kumquat dish.

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The Penrose Paris Popup had a collaborative menu developed by James Edward Henry, and Austin Holey from Bones, Harry Cummins from The Paris Popup, and Charlie Hallowell from Penrose. Wine Selection was done by Laura Vidal.

Rajat Parr, Eric Railsback, Anthony Lynch, and Evan Lewandowski helped with wine service, while the Penrose team provided floor service.

La Face Cachée de la Pomme has sponsored the Paris Popup since its arrival in Montreal.

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All photos in this post are the work of Diane Yoon, and used with her permission.

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Thank you to Laura Vidal.

Thank you to Anthony Lynch.

Thank you to Diane Yoon.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

#GrenacheDay 2013: keeping it simple with three varieties

Celebrating #GrenacheDay

Friday, September 20 marks International Grenache Day for 2013. Last year, to celebrate I focused specifically on wines from the California Central Coast and Sonoma. This year, I decided to keep it simple and taste through examples from California more broadly focusing in more on Grenache Blanc, with just one Grenache Gris, and one Grenache Noir. Following are notes from tasting.

TASTING GRENACHE BLANC

Grenache Blancclick on image to enlarge

Acquiesce 2012 Grenache Blanc, Mokelumne Hills, 13.5%

Made from young vines, the Acquiesce Grenache Blanc is worth watching. In its second vintage, the wine is already showing interest with still young fruit. The 2012 offers a crisp body flavored by light stone fruit and crisp Asian pear alongside light grapefruit accents and touches of star fruit moving into a long white floral finish.

Bokisch Vineyards 2012 Garnacha Blanca, Vista Luna Vineyard, 13.5%

Blended with just a touch of Albarino, the Bokisch Garnacha Blanca gives the rocky tension the Vista Luna Vineyard reliably generates. Aged on its lees, the wine brings together a light creaminess with tons of juicy character moving into a long finish. Flavors of clementine, hints of wax, with refreshing dill accents move into a long mineral finish. This wine is all about value.

Cochon 2011 Grenache Blanc, Clements Hills, 13.8%

A nicely textural plushness with good acidity carries the subtle, clean flavors of the Cochon Grenache Blanc. The wine offers anise, with powdered lily, and fresh greenery through a long, lifting finish. The Grenache Blanc core is paired here with 5% Marsanne, and 5% Roussanne, keeping the focus on floral notes rather than fruit. I enjoy the clean flavor presentation, the focus on subtlety, and the textural interest.

Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Blanc, Saarloos Vineyard, Santa Ynez, 13.4%

The Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Blanc nose opens with light almond paste, quince and touches of citrus, that continue through the palate into a long juicy finish. As it warms, the wine shifts into riper pear and almond, bringing richer, still juicy flavors. With a creamy mouthfeel on a still taut mineral-zing line, the 2012 carries more fruit expression than its more austere, mineral focus 2011 counterpart, an appropriate indication of vintage expression.

TASTING GRENACHE GRIS

[Please pretend there is a brilliant illustration of Grenache Gris Varietal Characteristics here as I did not have time to design one though I love it so.]

click on imaginary image to enlarge

Idlewild 2012 Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch, 12.6%

A beautiful light rosé, the Idlewild Grenache Gris offers fresh floral aromatics with touches of jalapeno and light beeswax accents. Through the palate the character deepens into herbal, light campari-like hints, with brushes of apricot and blood orange. There is a nice textural interest here as well. This would also be a lovely, refreshing Thanksgiving wine.

TASTING GRENACHE NOIR

Grenache Noirclick on image to enlarge

Skinner 2010 Grenache, El Dorado, 14.8%

Giving a well-integrated presentation of red fruit, red flower and dark spice with touches of lavender, the Skinner Grenache shows a concentrated core rolling through with juicy length over smooth tannin into a medium-long finish. The bottle first opens with lightly reductive notes that just want a little time to roll into the wine’s lovely fruit expression.

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Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

Tasting South Australia: 11 Wines of the Region

We were able to gather 11 wines total from South Australia for a tasting bringing together a few of the smaller boutique labels, with a few of the more established ones. The vintages also varied between 2003 and 2012.

This Monday several of us got together to taste, enjoy, and talk through the wines. I retasted everything again the next day, and then once more the day after. The wines were not tasted blind because part of the interest was talking through the different regions and age of the wines. Here are the tasting notes.

Tasting South Australia

Much of South Australia has warmer temperatures bringing wines with a softer structural presentation. However, Clare Valley is one exception represented in the tasting, offering a moderate continental climate with cool nights. It is also one of the oldest wine regions in the country, and with its cooler nights and elevation is known for its Riesling.

General insight states that South Australian wines age less long than those from cooler climate areas, such as Victoria or Tasmania. However, to give us some glimpse at exceptions, Torbreck sent two older vintage wines, both also made partially from older vines.

The whites presented strongest overall in the tasting with the Kilikanoon Riesling, and the Torbreck Semillon showing best to the group in the tasting overall. The Torbreck Steading, and Ochota Barrels Grenache Syrah blend were the most pleasing of the reds. Details follow.

Flight 1: The Whites

South Australian Whites

Kilikanoon Clare Valley 2009 Mort’s Reserve Watervale Riesling, Kanta Egon Muller 2010 Riesling, Torbreck Barossa Valley 2004 Woodcutter’s Semillon

* Kilikanoon Clare Valley 2009 Mort’s Reserve Watervale Riesling 12.5%
Opening with classic petrol in nose and palate, that lifts to some degree with air, the Kilakanoon gives green apple notes with gritty texture coming through on a distinct mineral tension through the throat, vibrant acidity, and a tang finish. The wine starts high and lifted in the mouth, with lots of juiciness, followed by a grabbing finish full of tension and length. I vote yes.

Kanta Egon Muller 2010 Riesling 13.5%
Where the Kilakanoon comes in fresh and lifted, the Kanta has more weight. The nose is floral, and more candied, moving into a tart opening on the palate with a driven apple tang rise that grips the mouth for a gritty tart close all with a polished sand texture. The acidity here is juicy. If you prefer more of a fruit focus and slightly wider palate to your Riesling, you’ll like the Kanta better. It’s a nicely made wine but not my style. The weight of the wine and breadth of the palate work against me.

* Torbreck Barossa Valley 2004 Woodcutter’s Semillon 14.5%
The Woodcutter’s Semillon was my favorite of the entire tasting. It gave delicacy with depth, drinking (interestingly enough) like a nicely aged Rhone white. The nose was pretty and light, balanced with both a floral-herbal lift and a mid-range breadth of light marzipan on the nose. The palate carried through without sweetness, offering clean delicate flavors adding in light beach grass notes and a long saline finish. This wine offered good presence, with a delicate presentation, and nice weight.

Flight 2: Grenache Reds

South Australia Grenache Reds

d’Arenberg the Derelict Vineyard 2009 McLaren Vale Grenache, Ochota Barrels 2012 the Green Room Grenache Noir Syrah

These two wines come from starkly different styles giving an interesting contrast on treatment of Grenache.

d’Arenberg the Derelict Vineyard 2009 McLaren Vale Grenache 14.5%
d’Arenberg offers a rich focused presentation that is comfortable using oak to integrate spice with the fruit. The Derelict Vineyard Grenache serves as a nice example of a wine committed to this style and doing a fine job of it. It gives a layered presentation of flavors including lightly sweet fruit, lightly sweet baking spice, primarily clove and ginger, and an earthy groundedness. The fruit is juicy without being overly extracted. The wine shows best on its first day as it showed its oak more than its fruit as it stayed open longer giving stronger pencil elements–both the wood and graphite–as it got more air. It did not drink well on day 3.

Ochota Barrels 2012 the Green Room Grenache Noir Syrah 13.8%
The Ochota is quaffable and fresh, all about lifted fresh drink-now fruit. It drinks like a cool climate grenache with those slightly under-ripe elements alongside fruity varietal expression. The wine is fun, and lively, meant to be enjoyed while cooking and laughing with friends. It gives pink flowers, strawberry, orange peel, cardamom, and fennel seed on the finish. There are stem chewing elements that provide interest on what would otherwise be an ultra light fruit driven wine. This wine is pleasing and very much about varietal character, rather than about showing off the soil or site in which it’s grown.

(I was joking with Amy during the tasting that where the Ochota is meant to be gulped with friends at the start of a bbq while the meat is cooking but not yet ready, the d’Arenberg is the wine a slightly old school man would pour for you in front of a fire at night when he’s getting up the guts to make his first move.)

Flight 3: Shiraz and blend

South Australia Shiraz and blend

Adelina 2010 Clare Valley Shiraz, John Duval Entity 2010 Barossa Valley Shiraz, Torbreck 2003 The Steading Barossa Valley GSM

Properly speaking the Torbreck should have been placed in the previous flight. The Shiraz didn’t impact the flavor of the Torbreck. It would simply have suited the Grenache flight better.

Unfortunately, both the Adelina and the John Duval Wines were not pleasing here. Based on the texture and flavor composition of the wines I believe the bottles had been heat effected. With that in mind I cannot provide proper notes here as I believe what we tasted does not represent how the wines were made.

* Torbreck 2003 The Steading Barossa Valley 14.5% Grenache 60% Shiraz 20% Mataro 20%
The wine opens with a bretty sense that blows off and becomes animal musk on forest floor. The nose carries into the palate layering in an enlivening iodine element alongside porcini and seaweed umami with a long tingling finish and polished tannin. The alcohol is lightly hot here but palatable. The wine holds strong on day 3 bringing in a smoked cherry element and a touch more of the alcohol heat. This wine may be a year or so past its prime but that said I enjoyed it and was impressed by how well it showed on day 3.

Flight 4: Other Reds

South Australian Reds

Alpha Box & Dice 2007 Blood of Jupiter, Samuel’s Gorge 2011 Tempranillo McLaren Vale

Alpha Box & Dice 2007 Blood of Jupiter 15.5% Sangiovese 85% Cabernet 15%
The label Alpha Box & Dice is known for their commitment to experimentation and trying new blends to see what works. That is the sort of interest I appreciate, and in trying such wines some levity has to be allowed in the risk. This is all by way of saying I appreciate the work done here while at the same time am not a fan of this particular blend. The wine is drinkable while singular. It focuses primarily on fruit and spice without enough layered flavor.

Samuel’s Gorge 2011 McLaren Vale Tempranillo 14.5%
This was one of the harder wines for me as it comes in with big fruit and collapses into leather. The structure is soft collapsing in quick stages on the palate with a semi-long finish. There is more fruit than this wine’s spine carries. The varietal character does not show.

Flight 5: Dessert

South Australian Pedro Ximenez

Dandelion Vineyards Legacy of the Barossa 30 year old Pedro Ximenez

Dandelion Vineyards Legacy of the Barossa 30 year old Pedro Ximenez 19%
The Pedro Ximenez enters with a fresh, delicate nose that is lightly nutty, turning into black walnut and baking spice on the palate with a long juicy finish. The flavors are pleasing but I’d prefer more acidity to help wash the palate. Without the higher acidity it gets heavy in the mouth. This wine demands cheese.

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Thank you to each of the importers that provided these wines as samples.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Tasting the Sonoma Coast with Pax Mahle, Wind Gap Wines

Thank you to Eric Asimov for recommending this post in The New York Time’s Diner’s Journal “What We’re Reading,” February 15, 2013.

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Focus on the California Coast

Pax Mahle working on a Syrah blend

When I arrive at Wind Gap Winery, Pax Mahle is working on blending components for his Sonoma Coast Syrah. When he’s finished a stage of his work, we begin barrel tasting various small lot experiments that characterize the depth behind Wind Gap Wines. While maintaining focus on his label’s overall quality and central expression, from the beginning Mahle has nurtured his wine through side projects with experimental techniques. The Sonoma Coast Syrah, and its component parts

Wind Gap began with a central goal of expressing California Syrah unique to a particular site–the Western rim of the Sonoma Coast. The definitive wine for the label, then, is the Sonoma Coast Syrah, made with a blend of wines from three different vineyard sites within a few miles of the ocean. Though Mahle explains he is invested in an appellation focus, he knows people enjoy vineyard specific bottlings as well. As a result, Wind Gap also offers component bottlings from the Sonoma Coast blend.

Majik Vineyard carries a wild, heady top note that surprises me right out of the glass with its aromatic intensity. Nellessen Vineyard gives everything I love about Syrah–cool, lean, focused fruit, all backbone. “It gives the freshness and attitude of the blend,” Mahle explains. Finally, the Armagh brings the meat. “Armagh is the guts, the bacon, the bones.”

I nod in agreement and comment how much I love Syrah.

Mahle responds, “What I love about these wines is it would be very hard to confuse any of them for anything other than Syrah.”

Each of the four wines come in around 12% alcohol. “Yes, it is low alcohol,” Mahle tells me. “But that is not the point. The site gives that result. These wines could not be more representative of this part of California.” Nellessen Vineyard, as an example, Mahle explains is picked at the very end of the season, the grapes not ripe enough to harvest until November.

Most of the current portfolio

In 2000, Mahle and his wife began the label Pax Wine Cellars, along with an investor, with the intention of focusing on site specific Syrah from various parts of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. The methods used on each bottling were the same–whole cluster, foot tred, with similar duration of elevage. In keeping the techniques basically identical for each site, the wines expressed gave a view of the uniqueness offered from various parts of this portion of the California coast. Some of the wines came in regularly light bodied and around 12%, while other sites easily ground out 15% alcohol. The model made sense to Mahle who saw it as analogous to enjoying Northern Rhone from Hermitage, versus Cornas, for example. If one wine had higher alcohol, and another lower, it was because that was what the site naturally generated.

The wines that gained press attention for Pax Wine Cellars turned out to be the big hoofed work horse wines with higher intensity and higher alcohol. The range of offerings, however, generated some confusion among consumers that would come in expecting each of the wines to offer similar expression–those from the rim of the coast were sometimes taken by the bigger bodied wine lovers to be green. So, to offer greater brand clarity, Mahle started Wind Gap with the intention of carrying those leaner bottlings from the edge of the coast under the new label. Soon after initiating the beginnings of Wind Gap, changes occurred in the original winery partnership at Pax Wine Cellars, leading to Mahle’s attention diving full-time into his newer label, and its expansion beyond Syrah.

Old vine bottlings--Grenache and Mourvedre

Wind Gap Wines arise from a focus on site expression, and the commitment to letting more delicate techniques provide a view into this portion of California. In thinking about the idea of California wine, and the oft referenced perception of more fruit focused, large bodied wines, Mahle turns again to France as a counter-example. “No one would say Languedoc wines should taste like Rhone or Bordeaux. California is much larger, a very big place [larger than those regions in France],” Mahle remarks, “so why can’t we have wines as varied?”

Two old vine bottlings showcase well-established plantings found in Sonoma County. The old vine Mourvedre draws fruit from vines planted in the 1880s at the Bedrock Vineyard of Sonoma Valley. The wine is impressively expressive while light in presentation. It’s a good, enjoyable wine. “The Mourvedre is fun to drink. I like to have fun.” Mahle remarks.

The old vine Grenache celebrates bunches grown in Alexander Valley in a vineyard entirely dry farmed in sand (an impressive feat). The vines are 70-80 years old. The wine is made partially carbonic with two different picking selections at two different levels of ripeness–the combination offering greater dimensionality to the final wine. It’s style echoes that of the Mourvedre while carrying the zest and red fruit zing of Grenache.

Chardonnays, including an old vine bottling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir

Two Chardonnays show other aspects of the history of California wine. The Brousseau Vineyard in Chalone grows 38 year old vines in granite and limestone offering incredibly small berries, impressive concentration and that limestone-zing finish. The Yuen blend brings the Brousseau fruit in concert with 50 year old vines from James Berry vineyard in Paso Robles, only 10 miles from the coast. The combination lifts the intensity and seriousness of the Brousseau, into a balance of juicy citrus and blossom vibrancy with an under current of nuttiness and bread crust.

The Pinot Noir surprises me. (I hadn’t realized they were making one, to be honest.) It’s an intriguing and inviting wine, with a belly of dark fruit carried on a savory expression. It’s light with still great presence.

He realizes I'm taking his picture

What is common through the Wind Gap label is clean wines with strong lines. The structure is impressive throughout, the fruit allowed to speak for itself. These wines do not insist upon themselves, or demand you to listen. Instead, they compel your interest, leaving you happy to give it. There is great complexity here, and confidence. Wind Gap Wines carry intelligence dancing through a core of joy.

***

Thank you to Pax Mahle for taking time with me.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Casa Dumetz: Wines with a focus on Care and Convergence, a conversation with Sonja Magdevski

Tasting with Sonja Magdevski Sonja Magdevski, Casa Dumetz wines

The food has not yet arrived for dinner and Sonja Magdevski, winemaker of Casa Dumetz, has begun interviewing me, though we’ve met for us to talk about her wine. Her work history includes a Masters in Journalism, I discover, and she writes for Malibu Magazine, as well as her own site Malibu Grange. The questions she wants to ask center around the career change I’ve made from teaching and academic philosophy to writing about wine. It leads us through intensive conversation on ideas of faith, commitment, passion, and fear. We both turned from advanced training in one discipline to pursue something different, and it gives us a way to mutually interview each other, both of us getting to talk and listen.

When we meet again two weeks later I discover an interesting correlation in Magdevski’s fascination with journalism and her investment in wine. Both include, for her, a sense of responsibility in freedom.

She explains to me the connection by starting first to describe her work as a writer. “It’s always been fascinating to me, journalism. People spend time with me for an interview, like we are doing now, you and me. After, I get to take all this information, and write anything I want with it. There is a real trust there. I want to show in what I write that I understood and absorbed the conversation. I love the freedom in that but I always ask, what is my responsibility? Who am I responsible to?” Magdevski describes her experience with journalistic interviews like she is being given a gift. She takes an awareness to her work that people are sharing something valuable. The responsibility and freedom both show themselves in her asking what she will do to best recognize that.

Wine parallels journalism, for Magdevski, through a similar process of honoring what she has received and asking herself what she will do with it. “All these hands have touched these grapes in the progress [from vineyard to wine], but in the end the decision [of how to make the wine] is made by one.” In this way, the relationship Magdevski sees between so many layers of human help–nurseries that provide cuttings, vineyard workers that plant and tend vines then harvest the fruit, other winemakers that offer advice and insight, people that later sell and purchase the wine–fuels a passion for her work. Listening to her speak about the process makes clear too that Magdevski has a deep appreciation for what it means to be human, and the value of human life. “In wine I am being given all this time. The grapes, they are a gift of time, and a product, and an experience. People take the time to grow fruit, listen to what I want, and then I get to do whatever I want with that.” She continues, again acknowledging the responsibility of it. “That freedom is exciting, and it is also sort of a test of your character. How are you going to impose yourself or not? The freedom of that is fascinating to me.”

The Wines of Casa Dumetz

Casa Dumetz wines

In considering how these ideas enter vinification, Magdevski again reflects on the idea of freedom. “I love the freedom of being able to take the wine and make whatever I want, and say, here I am. This is who I am.” She continues, “being able to say, this is what I did. I am open to you now, for better or worse.” What she loves most is letting the fruit character speak through the wine. Still, she gets excited about experimentation in the winery as a way of learning how the different sites show. When we meet the second time it is to barrel taste through her current vintage.

Putting her winemaking in context she tells me, “Viognier is why I started making wine. Grenache is why I keep making it.” We taste through multiple lots of Viognier, Gewurtztraminer, Roussanne, and Syrah. In the midst of the experience, she talks me through five different barrels of Grenache varying by clone and vineyard site. Her original Grenache comes from the Tierra Alta Vineyard in Ballard Canyon, a steep sloped site banded with limestone, but she wants to work with grapes from other locations as well. Her goal is both to see if she might find something else she likes as much, but also to consider more closely what it is she loves from Tierra Alta fruit. In learning about these differences in wine, she realizes she is also learning about herself. She discovers not only what her own preferences are, but also how she wants to express herself, and what she will or won’t do about how others may receive her and her work.

Magdevski describes Grenache’s character as she sees it. “I really love Grenache,” she tells me. “It has a peasant nature. I love the brightness of the fruit, yet it is super complex, and it can be really elegant. I think of Pinot Noir, and Cabernet as elegant wines, and I like that. But that isn’t why I drink Grenache. I am looking for more complexity and beauty of fruit than elegance.”

Talking through each lot with Magdevski I begin to zero in on the peasant nature she describes. The barrel she likes best right now offers a plush convergence of round fruit integrated with spice and stemy hints. The wine fills while floats in the mouth and tasting it I see pink. It’s texture is more rustic, less candied, and less dense than the other lots.

That plush lift characterizes the wines of her 2011 portfolio too. They are round in the mouth with a core of powder touched fruit. Both the Grenache and Syrah rush with complexity and lightness with an subtle edge of wild funk, while the whites–Viognier and Gewurtztraminer–drink with the warm feel of Grandma’s white tile and wood kitchen–clean, comforting, and familiar. The Gewurtztraminer she started as a tribute to her Grandmother and her family in Macedonia, where the grape is traditional.

With her 2012s, she is playing with not only differing clones and vineyard sites, but also varying techniques. Her whites use a blend of skin contact and straight to press juice that offers dimensionality and a multi-note flavoral echo in the mouth. She will also be bottling both a Syrah and a Syrah rosé again, alongside her beloved Grenache.

In considering what she loves about winemaking, Magdevski tells me it is the dance of going deep into “geeky winemaking talk” about science, the process, the fruit, and the numbers–again a recognition of sharing and learning–while striving to make “a bottle of wine that is approachable and not pretentious.” She reflects again, “I never want to take any of this for granted. This is a gift.” She continues. “The goal is to share this with as many people as possible.”

***

Thank you to Sonja Magdevski for sharing with me, and for pushing me too to reflect in conversation. Thank you for taking time to talk with me.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Santa Barbara Wine Country 4: Photos from Day 3

Santa Barbara Wine Country

Andrew Murray Wines

Andrew Murray Roussane Grenache Blanc

2011 RGB, Roussanne Grenache Blanc

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray Wines, RGB, Syrahs, GSM

Andrew Murray RBG, Syrahs, Esperance GSM blend

Andrew Murray's new label E11even

Andrew Murray’s new label, This is E11EVEN, Unplugged white blend, Pinot Noir, Big Bottom red blend

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

Fess Parker Vineyards & Winery, Santa Ynez AVA

Fess Parker Vineyards

Fess Parker Rodney Vineyard

Fess Parker Ranch

Looking out over Fess Parker Ranch from the Mesa

Vino Vaqueros Horses

Fess Parker Ranch’s Vino Vaqueros Equestrian Vineyard Tour Horses

Fess Parker wines

Fess Parker Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Red blend

Epiphany wines

Epiphany Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Red blend

Riverbench Vineyards, Santa Maria Valley AVA

Riverbench Vineyards

Riverbench Vineyards

Riverbench Old Vines

Old Vines in the midst of replanting at Riverbench Vineyards

Riverbench Winery

Riverbench winery

Santa Maria Valley Round Table Winemaker Tasting, hosted by Riverbench

Jenny, Kevin, and Laura

Jenny Williamson Doré, Kevin Law, and Laura Mohseni

Dieter Cronje, Presqu'ile wines

Dieter Cronje, Presqu’ile Winermaker

Richard Dore, Foxen Wines

Richard Doré, Foxen Vineyards

Kevin Law, Luminesce wines

Kevin Law, Luminesce Winemaker

Jenny Williamson Dore, Foxen wines

Jenny Williamson Doré, Foxen Vineyards

Clarissa Nagy

Clarissa Nagy, Riverbench Winemaker

Riverbench roundtable tasting

Presqu’ile Sauvignon Blanc, Luminesce Pinot Noirs, Riverbench Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Foxen Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Dinner with Casa Dumetz Winemaker, Sonja Magdevski

Sonja Magdevski, Casa Dumetz wines

Sonja Magdevski, Casa Dumetz Winemaker

Casa Dumetz wines

Casa Dumetz Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, Gewurtztraminer

***

Thank you to Andrew Murray and Kristen Murray.

Thank you to Ashley Parker-Snider and David Potter.

Thank you to Clarissa Nagy and Laura Mohseni.

Thank you to Richard Doré, Jenny Williamson Doré, Kevin Law, and Dieter Cronje.

Thank you to Sonja Magdavski.

Thank you to Sao Anash, and Lacey Fussel.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

#GrenacheDay: Tasting Central Coast & Sonoma, California Grenache Blanc and Grenache Noir (in varietal and in blend)

This previous Friday, September 21 marked International Grenache Day, an occasion celebrated worldwide with tasting parties and events. Though I am a fan of Grenache and Grenache Blanc from multiple locales, this year I chose to focus on California examples.

Following are hand drawn Characteristic Cards for both Grenache Blanc, and Grenache Noir, and tasting descriptions for Central Coast, and Sonoma County wines of both grape types, made as either a varietal bottling, or blend. The descriptions appear in alphabetical order by label.

California Grenache Blanc and Grenache Blanc Blends

click on comic to enlarge

 

BonnyDoon 2010 Le Cigare Blanc. 55% Roussane, 45% Grenache Blanc. Vibrant citrus blossom and saline nose. Beeswax, lily, dill, salt water palate. Wants age.

Bonny Doon 2010 Le Cigare Blanc Reserve. 56% Roussanne, 44% Grenache Blanc. Ultra juicy, and mineral-driven pushes through the mouth on a citrus textural love fest. How sexy and happy can we get? I am a fan.

Martian Ranch 2011 Grenache Blanc. Crushed Nut, light orange blossom, Meyer lemon zest and blossom, plus dill, with a long nut-candle wax finish. Round mouthfeel, pleasing texture. Well enjoyed.

Tablas Creek 2011 Grenache Blanc. Pit of black olives, salt water, dill, dust and musk. Delicate nose, light flavor presentation. Texturally focused with good mineral dance.

Tablas Creek 2011 Patelin de Tablas Blanc. 45% Grenache Blanc, 34% Viognier, 18% Rousanne, 3% Marsanne. Chamomile that opens to apricot, buckwheat flour and hazelnut skin. Chalky, with beeswax and mineral finish. I want a little more zip here. Curious to try it with age.

Two Shepherds 2011 Grenache Blanc. Creamy bay leaf nose. Palate of peach blossom, and salt water freshness. Dill, integrated pepper and jalapeno skin. Lightly metallic. Makes me want food. I very much enjoy this wine.

 

California Grenache and Grenache Blends

click on comic to enlarge

Donelan 2010 Cuvee Moriah. 54% Grenache, 26% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah. Well integrated nose and palate presentation of light smoke and rare steak, violets and blue fruit, black and red cherries, light cranberry, pepper. Juicy fruit mouth. Very much enjoy this wine. Good drinking now showing good mouth weight. Will be brilliant in several years.  Can’t wait to age it.

Martian Ranch 2011 Grenache Noir. Pomegranate, sugar snap peas and ultra-fresh green pepper nose. Palate of ripe cherry, plus cherry pit, bramble, dried rose petals and toast finish. Lightly mouth watering, no mouth grip. Interesting presentation of this grape with its cool climate green notes. It struck me as strange at first, but I grew to quite enjoy it.

Ridge 2008 51% Syrah, 49% Grenache. Smoked meat, date, molasses, bay leaf, dirt with just a touch of horse, exotic spice, and a red fruit finish. Each of the Ridge wines are the richest examples in this overall tasting collection.

Ridge 2006 Lytton Estate Grenache with 10% Petite Syrah, 10% Zinfandel. Bay leaf nose. Brazil nut and hazelnut, menthol, concentrated fruit palate, with long finish.

Ridge 2005 Lytton Estate Grenache with 6% Petite Syrah 6% Zinfandel. Nose of rhubarb pie, licorice root, figs, & almond extract. Concentrated fruit, soy, light smoke and integrated pepper. Juicy palate. Long finish of exotic spice and walnut with a pleasing grip. The darkest most date-plus-soy focused of the Ridge wines.

Sheldon 2011 Ceja Vineyard Grenache. Red cherry, herb, pleasing palate offering a textural pull leaning towards drying mouth grip. This wine has good meat-plus-sexy. I enjoy the light body and dance-y flavor presentation of this wine.

Sheldon 2008 Vinlocity Grenache. Starts at the intersection of cherry pit-almond-vanilla spreads into light wintergreen-and-pine. Good structure. Wants age.

Tablas Creek 2010 Cotes De Tablas. 46% Grenache, 39% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 5% Counoise. Tomato seed, fig, and wheat plant. Pungent berry high notes, carrying a devil musk and his leather jacket from forest fog. Wants age.

Tablas Creek 2010 Grenache. Weighty wild red berry, pepper, wet leather and wet earth, plus spice. Nice mouth grab with pleasing acidic, mineral zip. Like the texture and freshness here.

Two Shepherds 2010 GSM. 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre. Cold red berries and flowers, light smoke, meat, violets and just the right amount of wet mud. Vibrant, only lightly bloody (a little blood here is pleasing), herbal, and freshly green. Earthy, with hints of leather, and a fresh mouth grip.

***

Thank you to Bonny Doon, Tablas Creek, and Donelan for the wine samples. Ridge, Two Shepherds, and Sheldon Wines were tasted at the Rhone Rangers North Coast Chapter Grenache Day event.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com. WakawakaWineReviews–accept no substitute.

Lunch at Bell St Farm: Martian Ranch 2009 Santa Ynez Grenache, and No Sulfur Grenache

Bell St. Farm, Los Alamos, California

Jamie at Bell St. Farm is a gem. They also have the tastiest meat loaf sandwich ever in the history of the world. And Katherine had some sandwich I can’t remember but it was good too. Plus, the bread was whoa.

Anyway, in the midst of waiting for our food, Jamie and I took to talking about the nice selection of local wines on their list, with offerings both by the glass and the bottle. Our conversation came around to Martian Ranch & Vineyard wines, made right there in Los Alamos.

By the end of lunch I’d tasted two rose’s, and then a secret bottle of a Martian Ranch experiment–a no sulfur, low intervention Grenache from the 2011 vintage. Michael Roth, Martian Ranch’s wine maker, had just dropped off the Grenache experiment earlier that afternoon for Jamie to try, and he was kind enough to share a glass a piece with both Katherine and I.

By the end of the affair, I left with a bottle of the Martian Ranch 2009 Santa Ynez Grenache to taste later. The 2009 was actually made by the winery’s previous wine maker, Brett Escalera, and shows a different style, I’m told, from the newer (2011 and forward) wines by Michael Roth. Roth has been able to focus on developing wines that celebrate the spirit of the area from which they grow. The No Sulfur Grenache is a Michael Roth experiment though, and I count myself lucky to have tasted it.

As if Jamie hadn’t already been generous enough, it turned out too that I missed meeting Michael Roth by mere moments. We apparently passed each other in the doorway of Bell St. Farm. He left just as I was walking in. Perhaps the opportunity will represent itself.

Following is a wine review comic of Martian Ranch’s 2009 Santa Ynez Grenache, and their Low Intervention Grenache experiment as well.

click on comic to enlarge

Martian Ranch 2011 No Sulfur Grenache Experiment

The No Sulfur Grenache offers a fresh red cherry, light funk opening, with light cola notes showing alongside the lemoncella and lavender elements. The wine is lively in the mouth, showing as both drying and juicy, but with the tannin beating out the acidity slightly in the overall balance. This bottle had light stem bitterness that showed primarily in the medium-long finish. Fun wine! Katherine very much enjoyed it as well.

Martian Ranch 2009 Santa Ynez Grenache

The 2009 Grenache from Martian Ranch offers a clean, well-balanced, spicy and drying varietal presentation. The wine offers a foundation of red berries, alongside spice, pepper, and surprising smoke elements. The alcohol comes in here at 14%, with a balance of medium acidity and medium tannin showing with a medium finish.

The style here would be distinct from the more recent Martian Ranch wines that Michael Roth has made from 2011 forward.

***

Martian Ranch also bottles Grenache blanc, and a Grenache rose’. I’m curious about both, but particularly the Grenache blanc. I knew in advance that Whit, of Brunellos Have More Fun, carries Martian Ranch wines made by Michael Roth at the shop she buys for in L.A. After tasting their No Sulfur Grenache I contacted her online to hear quickly what she thought of the rest of the portfolio–she said Roth’s wines are solid throughout. She and I have an overlapping palate in regards to the style that Roth would be producing, so I look forward to tasting more.

***

Thank you to Jamie for your excellent food, good conversation, and generosity in wine.

Thank you to Whitney Adams for telling me quickly about the rest of the Martian Ranch portfolio.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com