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Heritage Wines of California at Pebble Beach Food and Wine

Pebble Beach Food + Wine Heritage Wines of California panelfrom left: Morgan Twain-Peterson, Gillian Balance, Ray Isle, Tegan Passalacqua

Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor for Food & Wine Magazine celebrated heritage wines of California on a panel at this year’s Pebble Beach Food and Wine. Bringing together Morgan Twain-Peterson and Tegan Passalacqua of the Historic Vineyard Society, with Master Sommelier and wine educator, Gillian Balance, the discussion offered an introduction to terroir specific vineyards of California through ten wines of Northern California.

Attending the Heritage Vineyard Society panel was a lucky treat. The event was one of the first to sell out for Pebble Beach Food & Wine this year, and the crowd waiting to get into the panel was not only early but pushed against the door waiting for it to open. It was a fantastic panel discussion bringing out not only the value of the ten individual wines (shown below) featured, but also of the importance of historic vineyards more broadly. Following is a look at the discussion and the wines.

The Value of Older Vineyards

To open the conversation, Isle highlighted the point that older vineyards are not just old vines, but plots of land that offer cultural value beyond their simple economic value. Twain-Peterson and Passalacqua have worked with vineyards throughout the Northern part of the state for decades.

Twain-Peterson grew up with the interest through work in wine with his father, Joel Peterson of Ravenswood. However, he began his own passion for the work at a young age making his first wine thanks to grapes from a family friend at the age of 5. Though he must have had assistance at such a young age, he selected the type of fruit he wanted himself–Pinot Noir. He now has his own label, Bedrock Wine Co.

After work with wine in South Africa, Passalacqua has spent the last decade with Turley Wine Cellars driving between vineyards throughout Northern California and into the Central Coast, scouting new sites, and managing vine health to then make wine for the label. More recently he has also launched his own already celebrated label, Sandlands.

The depth of experience with older vineyard sites shared by Passalacqua and Twain-Peterson is some of the deepest in the state. Again and again, however, the duo witnessed brilliant older vineyards being ripped out for merely economic reasons. The experience was repeatedly devastating.

Older sites offer more direct insight into any sense of California terroir. As vines age they adapt to the conditions of their site. The adaptation means that their growth and fruit production are unique to the place in which they are grown, not replaceable by simply getting fruit from another site. Younger vines can offer abundant fruit but tend to be more expressive of their variety and clone. As vines age, however, clonal distinctions fade to the backdrop and site expression steps to the fore.

As Isle pointed out, however, older vineyards don’t just contain older vines. Sites in California planted prior to Prohibition still produce beautiful fruit, offering a link through the state’s otherwise broken viticultural history. Many of these vineyards are also still owned and farmed by the families that planted them. Grandchildren that first walked the rows with their now deceased relatives thus maintain a connection with their own history. As the panel emphasized, agriculture reflects culture, rather than just being agri-business.

Many of the older sites that Twain-Peterson and Passalacqua valued were unknown, however. So, when faced with the destruction of one of these vineyards few people even realized what had been lost. Frustrated with the trend, the pair got together with several others, including Mike Officer, of Carlisle Winery, and David Gates of Ridge, to found the Historic Vineyard Society, a non-profit that registers, maps, and raises awareness of older vine sites in an effort to preserve them.

Heritage Wines of California

Heritage Wines of California panelthe ten wines of the Heritage Wines of California, PBFW panel
from top left: Hanzell Ambassador 1953-planting 2007 Pinot Noir; Bedrock Wine Co Gibson Ranch 120-yr old 2013 Grenache; Idlewild Testa Vineyard 2012 Carignane; Neyers Evangelho Vineyard 2012 Mourvedre; Turley 1880s-planted Library VIneyard 2012 Petite Sirah; Turley Kirchenmann Vineyard 2012 Zinfandel; Limerick Lane 1910-planted 2011 Zinfandel; Carlisle Winery Carlisle Vineyard 2012 Zinfandel; Ridge 2012 Geyserville

In choosing the ten wines for the panel discussion, the group selected examples made from vineyards legally established more than 50 years ago, with more than 33% of the planting still containing original vines. Farmers of older sites will individually replace vines with cuttings of the originals as issues develop in particular vines. As a result, older vineyards often reflect a patchwork of ages but with a predominance of original vines, and a root in original vine material.

The first challenge for older vineyards existing today rests in surviving the fancy of economic trends. However, being established at a time with less potential intervention means such sites were also, by luck or intention, established in locations that can genuinely support healthy vines. As Passalacqua pointed out, because of the lack of technological intervention previously possible, older sites represent land genuinely good for grapes. If it was too hard to grow healthy grapes there, the site was going to be pulled out for farming an easier, more lucrative crop.

As the panel explained, vineyards older than 50 years represent access to an older paradigm “before a more recent intellectual and technical shift in vineyard technology.” More than 50 years, ago sites were planted dry farmed with older (pre-trellising) techniques. Such sites, as a result, reflect not only older vines but sites brilliant for vineyards.

The Wines of the Panel

The wines as a whole were impressively vibrant, with complex expression and flavor concentration. The ten panel selections showed a predominance of elegance, with just a few examples of winemaker experimentation or a touch of vineyard funk. Following are notes on the individual vineyards and wines.

Hanzell, Ambassador Block, 2007 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Valley
In the 1953-planted Ambassador block, Hanzell grows what is believed to be the oldest continuously producing Pinot Noir vineyard in North America. As Gillian Balance explained, the site is “one of the most spectacular vineyards ever seen” offering incredibly low yields and “a benchmark for what great California Pinot Noir should be.” The 2007 carries a beautiful, easy purity of expression offering layers of fruit, earthy-herbal elements with stimulating while delicate tannin, built around a graceful backbone.

Bedrock Wine Co, Gibson Ranch, 2013 Grenache, McDowell Valley
Bedrock sources fruit from the historic Gibson Ranch McDowell Vineyard, featuring Grenache trees more than 120 years old. The vines on the site are head trained but having been largely left to their own devices over the years, vine height is often taller than people. Harvesting the fruit includes ladders, or standing inside the body of the vine itself. As Twain-Peterson explains, he loves the wines of Gramenon, and from Beaujolais, and so chose to use some whole cluster fermentation to call on the characteristics of those wines. The Bedrock Gibson Grenache carries lots of fresh red fruit lift, moving into a purple and violet palate with tons of mineral crunch and pleasing texture.

Idlewild, Testa Vineyard, 2012 Carignane, Redwood Valley
Though Zinfandel often takes credit as California’s historic grape, Carignan established itself through the same regions as its spicy cousin. The two varieties complement each other in the glass with Carignan bringing a meaty earthiness to Zinfandels fruit spice. Examples of Carignan can be found on its own as well. The Idlewild Testa Carignane brings elegant richness to juicy dark fruit integrated with a deeper spice and ginger accents. Isle laughingly described it as “bright, zingy, like tap dancer wine.”

Neyers, Evangelho Vineyard, 2012 Mourvedre, Contra Costa County
As Passalacqua explains, the Evangelho stands as a rolling vineyard of blow sand — decomposed granite literally blown down from the Sierra Nevadas. It can be a challenge moving through the site to sample fruit, like walking long distances on a beach. One of the advantages of growing vines in sand, however, rests in phylloxera’s inability to prosper in such an environment. As a result, vines can grow on their own roots giving more direct expression, and greater balance in the final wine. The Neyers Evangelho Mourvedre gives dark fruit, dried maple (no sweetness), and natural spice concentration lifted with clean, fresh fruit and melting tannin.

Turley, Library Vineyard, 2012 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley
The Library Vineyard grows in the heart of St Helena wrapping the back sides of the town library. Planted in the late 1880s, more than 24 different varieties, including some unidentified, grow in the site. In this way, the Library Vineyard is not only adjacent to the town library, but is in itself a library of historic cuttings from around the Napa Valley. The Turley Library Petite Sirah wine is full of concentrated complexity beginning with opaque aromatics and violet perfume, then carrying the perfume into the palate with layers of sarsaparilla, mandarin zest, dark fruit, and natural (not barrel) coffee accents.

Turley, Kirschenmann Vineyard, 2012 Zinfandel, Lodi
Growing in what is known as the Peninsula section of the historic Mokelumne River AVA of Lodi, the Kirschenmann Vineyard showcases the lighter fresh fruit profile offered by the sands of the Lodi region. Passalacqua himself now owns the Kirschenmann Vineyard, having purchased it with his wife directly from the family that farmed it for generations. The Turley Kirschenmann Zinfandel carries perfumed red aromatics, rolling into a fresh palate of white and red cherry accented by pink grapefruit spice, white pepper midpalate accents, and suave melting tannin.

Limerick Lane, 1910 Zinfandel Block, 2011 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley
In the Northeastern section of the Russian River Valley, Limerick Lane owns their historic Estate vineyard, originally homesteaded and planted in 1910. From the site some of the most respected names in California wine history have made wine, including Davis Bynum, and Ravenswood. Maintaining a block of the original vines, Limerick Lane produces a field blend Zinfandel. The 2011 carries redwood, earthy, and savory black olive notes through a drying midpalate and long finish. Note: though the panel papers named this the 2012 vintage, the wine poured was actually the 2011.

Carlisle Winery, Carlisle Vineyard, 2012 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley
Growing on the Eastern Bench of the historic river floodplain in the Russian River Valley, the Carlisle Vineyard proves one of the most varietally diverse sites in Northern California. Thirty-eight different varieties prosper in the site. Carlisle Winery produces a field blend Zinfandel featuring the mix. Carlisle Vineyard is owned by Mike Officer, one of the board members and founders of the Historic Vineyard Society. The Carlisle field blend Zinfandel gives red fruit lift and refreshing pink grapefruit accents carrying forward into a creamy palate with layers of rich maple (no sweetness), cocoa powder, cracked pepper, and touches of loam.

Bedrock Wine Co., Bedrock Vineyard Heritage Wine, 2012 Sonoma Valley
Founded in 1854, Bedrock Vineyard carries rich heritage including the attention of U.S. Generals, a state Senator, survival through Prohibition, and now ownership by what Twain-Peterson refers to as the The Peterson-Deininger-Kenworthy-Burney Braintrust. The Bedrock Wine Co Bedrock Vineyard blend brings together Carignan and Zinfandel with 20% mixed field blend from the property’s historic vines. The wine gives lifted fresh purple fruit integrated with fresh herbal, earthy elements and light pine through creamy flavors on a lean, drying palate.

Ridge 2012 Geyserville, Alexander Valley
Another historic field blend site, Ridge’s Geyserville wine brings fruit from the Geyserville vineyard featuring vines more than 130 years old. The field blend includes Carignan, Zinfandel, and Mataro (aka Mourvedre), a combination classic to the warmer areas of Northern California. Ridge has been making wine from the site since 1966. The Ridge Geyserville spins with perfumed floral notes of cherry blossom, dried rose petal, and forest violet, moving into a touch of forest floor, cocoa, and savory soy elements through the ultra long finish.

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For more on Heritage Vineyards in California, read Ray Isle’s excellent article: http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/the-battle-for-americas-oldest-vines

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Thank you to Ray Isle, Gillian Balance, Tegan Passalacqua, and Morgan Twain-Peterson.

Thank you to Sarah Logan.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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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

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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.

Together, Hardy Wallace and Matt, along with Kate Graham and Amy, have started and today release Dirty & Rowdy [Family] Wines. Hardy and Matt share the overall demands of the business, and all of the high level wine making decisions, while Hardy is on site through the year to maintain the hands on wine making. The family is of affection. In June, I was lucky enough to spend time with Wallace and Graham, tasting their Mourvedre and Semillon, while talking about how they understand the work they do.

Tasting Dirty & Rowdy Wines

The 2010 Dirty & Rowdy Mourvedre

The 2010 Dirty & Rowdy Mourvedre comes in at 12.8% with a lighter bodied presentation of the dark elements classic to the grape.The wine carries a dusty fineness of dark berries, with a balance of freshness and earthiness both, very light petrol and powdered sage, and a long toast with light tang finish.

Wallace explains his inspiration for this wine is the lighter style of Cru Beaujolais, with its combination of refreshing body carrying a depth of stoniness and character. At the same time, his interest in making the Mourvedre comes from his love of whites, with their ability to offer a transparency of the dirt from which they originate. His goal, then, is to create a wine with rich flavoral components, a transparency of the place in which it is grown, and at the same time a lighter weight in the mouth.

Wallace illustrates that his favorite wines can be understood as an analog to sushi. “The wines I love most have had the least amount of touch. Every time a wine is touched [in production], it is one step further from where it’s from.” Sushi, on the other hand, offers the least intervention for food–as raw fish, it is dealt with only in as much as will make it safe to consume, and as much as it takes to cut and place it on the plate. The paradox of this wine arises in that Mourvedre, as a variety, offers a great weight in its character, but Wallace manages to draw on the heft of the Mourvedre in a lighter frame of presentation. Traditionally the grape has been dealt with in red blends to bring darker notes. It is less often treated as a straight varietal.

To deliver his vision, Wallace created the 2010 Mourvedre with Santa Barbara Highlands fruit, 100% whole cluster, and only enough punch downs to push the cap during fermentation.

The 2011 Dirty & Rowdy Mourvedre

For the 2011 vintage, Wallace wanted to create an even lighter presentation for the Mourvedre. He chose to pick the fruit earlier for a little more freshness, and during fermentation was even lighter in his pushing on the clusters. He’d push the cap down once a day in 2011, “just enough to see my feet in there.”

In getting Wallace to discuss his views on wine, conversation comes around eventually to a profoundly spiritual heart focus. In the way he discusses wine and wine making, what shows is a belief that inasmuch as any of us have a spiritual life, it is right here in our everyday. The choice comes in whether we be open to it. “When fermentation gets going… [he pauses] I want to be present for it. That process… the center of the earth is connected to the center of the universe, hopefully with gentle hands between.” Wallace’s devotion and focus comes too from more than 17 years studying, and playing North Indian Classical music, a form that brings together incredible discipline and clarity with the understanding that any of us are, and can be conduits for that spiritual life force just mentioned.

Wallace explains that his views of wine overlap his understanding of music. “Music communicates the things we don’t have language for. Wine does this as well.” Kate agrees, nodding, “What Hardy is doing, it’s all about the heart. [Engaging in wine and music, or any of our other projects] they’re a way of noticing, what does it do to you? And, also, of paying attention to, what are you doing?” Revealed in these questions is a simultaneous awareness of surrender to what can’t be controlled, and recognition of the power of personal choices. It is in the midst of this understanding that the seriousness shows something more. Wallace spells it out. “We’re trying to make it as fun as possible, by taking a light hearted approach. It should be fun. It is our life.”

The 2011 utilizes fruit of Shake Ridge Vineyard, and carries a greener, toastier nose, with light green melon and wild berry. The palate again shows that powdered touch on an earthy pepper palate and a berry tang finish. This wine is juicy in the mouth, with a drying finish. It does drink with the lightness of white wine, showing, compared to the 2010, a younger, stronger structure with pleasant lift, and a freshness and liveliness pumping through it.

The 2011 Dirty & Rowdy Semillon

In 2011 Hardy & Matt added Semillon from Yountville to their portfolio. Interested, again, in generating a wine with the mixed qualities not necessarily typical of the grape, they chose to do two separate fermentations that would be blended after.

The ton of Semillon was split into two lots, half de-stemmed and fermented in an open top with vigorous tred. The wine fermented easily and was never racked generating a lot of juice. The second lot was half pressed, with everything going into a concrete egg. The fermentation, however, was slow to start so Wallace took a small portion of juice from the first lot and added it in. Fermentation then took off, and when complete the wine was racked into barrels. After, both lots were blended back together.

The 2011 Semillon shows a nose of dusty, citrus brightness with apricot, and very light pineapple hints. The palate is vibrant, totally avoiding Semillon’s potential for fattiness in the mouth. The wine carries a dusty, grippy finish.

***

Congratulations to the Dirty & Rowdy family on the birth of their wine label TO-DAY. (p.s. Yours is my favorite wine t-shirt. I wore it all over Oregon yesterday to boost the love in anticipation of your release.)

If you are interested in purchasing Dirty & Rowdy wines they are available via mailing list. You can sign up with your name and address via email to: info (at) dirtyandrowdy (dot) com.

They are also being distributed in New York by Jenny & Francois Selections.

Thank you so much to Hardy Wallace and Kate Graham.

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

 

Dirty and Rowdy Family Wines with Hardy Wallace and Kate Graham

Do you see how beautiful these people are? Have I said recently how grateful I am for my life? In the midst of following stories about wine, people invite me to be witness to their honest passions, the intimacy of what they most value, and often too the beauty of what they share in love. Hardy Wallace and Kate Graham were kind enough to have me for dinner. Hardy cooks meat. I love meat. And, after ten days in remote Alaska they helped me remember the beauty of fresh produce. Kate made a wonderful salad. We reveled in odd ball commonalities. Almost peed laughing about the idea of wearing wigs (I need to hear more specifics on these stories, you two!). Hardy really does smile as openly and often as these photos indicate. Kate has a heart that glows like the light in the last photo. I’m not gushing. These things are true. Can’t wait to write up their Dirty and Rowdy Family Wines–such a great project. Keep an eye out for them–they’ll hopefully be released mid-August. Write up soon to follow.

In the meantime, thank you to Hardy Wallace and Kate Graham for having me. I’m grateful.

Thank you to Dan Petroski.

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

 

Chateauneuf du Pape: The Appellation and Style

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Thanks in part to the special attention of Robert Parker, the Southern Rhone appellation Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP) celebrates a meaty International reputation. Incredibly, this one appellation of Southern Rhone produces more wine than all of Northern Rhone. However, it also hosts a wider selection of grape varieties than its sister appellations in the North.

CDP is firmly intertwined with Papal history, having been established as “The Pope’s New Castle” after the pope moved from Rome to Avignon in 1308. With its famous residents, the area’s wines developed a prestigious and popular reputation surpassing the attention of other wine regions of France. Unfortunately, phylloxera also hit CDP in 1870, earlier than other regions of France and so deeply impacted wine production of the region, though it has now long since recovered.

Records indicate that wines from the region pre-phylloxera were much lighter in style than how they are understood today.

Today, the appellation allows both red and white blends to be produced, though not rose’s. Eighteen grape varieties are allowed in a CDP blend, though thirteen of those are seen as most traditional to the style. The appellation predominately makes red wines, with only 1 in 16 bottles being a white CDP blend.

The style tends to be understood as earthy, rich bodied, with a range of berry flavors, alongside darker characteristics such as tar, leather, tobacco, truffle, herbs, and even garlic. With its darker and fuller style it is rarely described as approachable, and can often present as angular or even coarse in its younger years.  Some even describe the classic CDP as heavy and brooding. Compared to other wine regions of France, this is not a wine known for aging into elegance or grace. However, for many this chewable, dark quality is exactly what makes the wine so alluring.

Well known wine critic, Robert Parker, one of the region’s great champions, who helped increase its popularity in the States and raise its selling price too, outlines the benefits of CDP wine as both intellectual and hedonistic–there are impressive layers of flavor here, alongside a structure and presentation to reflect upon.

The Wine Loft, Flagstaff, AZ: A CDP Tasting

the Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape Wine Loft Wine Tasting Line-up

As a special treat, The Wine Loft, Flagstaff, AZ hosted a Chateauneuf du Pape tasting, offering with it both an educational and hedonistic attention–a balance capturing Parker’s own account of these wines at their best. Unsurprisingly, the tasting was popular here in town showing a significant turn out–the CDP, after all, carries a name recognizable by wine lovers.

* Domaine Pierre Henri Morel 2010 Cotes du Rhone Villages, Laudun Blanc

70% Grenache Blanc, 30% Bourbelanc

The tasting opened with a Rhone white not local to the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation specifically, but from Southern Rhone more generally. The Laudun Blanc from Domaine Pierre Henri Morel showed as an easy, fresh, smooth textured white with just a touch of heat in the mouth.

The wine presents on the nose with citrus zest of lemon and lime, with light accents of lime juice, as well as subtle hints of fresh herbs. The mouth follows with the citrus shifting more towards grapefruit and a fresh candied element. There is nice jaw biting acidity here, 14% alcohol and a medium-plus finish.

* Domaine Pierre Henri Morel 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape

85% Grenache, 5% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre

The CDP portion of the tasting began with the Laudun Blanc’s sister red, the 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine opens with red fruit of cherry and berry, blended smoothly with vanilla, lavendar, and light white pepper. It warms into dried fruit and spice offering a ripe but not jammy presentation. This red is both approachable and bright, without being too much fruit reduction. Instead, it is an easy, food wine. There is medium-plus acidity, medium tannin, and medium-long finish with 14.5% alcohol.

* Telegramme 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape

90% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre

The second label CDP for Telegraphe, the Telegramme, is a less expensive, lighter bodied style to its more buxom older sister. It offers red fruit of cherry, raspberry, and light strawberry, with spice, light lavender, and faint mushroom accents. The Telegramme is not flabby, but instead pleasantly plump. This wine offers medium acidity, medium tannin, and a medium finish with 14.5% alcohol.

The Telegramme is a popular red for its younger, more approachable rendition of the well-known CDP style. That said, I’ll admit this is not my go to wine. I appreciate the Telegraphe, and would readily buy it when I’m looking for a wine of its type and price range. But I generally want more structure and complexity than the 2009 Telegramme shows.

What the Telegramme has to offer is vivid fruit, on a generally clean presentation. I’m reluctant to recommend it, however, in that you still pay higher prices as demanded by the appellation, even if not as high as the Telegraphe, without getting the rich complexity expected from the style. For that reason, if you’re looking for a red fruit driven wine, I’d recommend spending less on a non-CDP red before grabbing the Telegramme.

* Domaine du Galet des Papes 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape

80% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, 5% Vaccarese, 5% Cinsault

The Domaine du Galet des Papes is a cohesive, slightly strange CDP only in the sense that it wants more age or more air. It clearly carries those angular, less polished elements the appellation is known for. Currently it drinks funky, dirty earth elements, hints of petrol, and with heat in the mouth in front of distinct red fruit.. That said, there is good structure here that will support the overall flavors deepening into a nicely balanced wine. I want to taste this again in several years. The wine offers medium acidity, medium tannin, and a medium finish, with 14.5% alcohol.

* Chapoutier 2005 La Bernardine Chateauneuf du Pape

Mostly Grenache, Some Syrah

The 2005 “La Bernardine” CDP by Chapoutier had the advantage in this tasting of bringing the most age with it on a style of wine that, generally speaking, wants age. I’ve also reviewed “La Bernardine” before but will post notes for it here as it was the culmination of The Wine Loft tasting.

The Chapoutier CDP is the most earthy and grounded of the selection, showing concentrated fruit of red cherry, date, and dried plum alongside licorice, lightly meaty and spiced elements. The acidity here stays up at medium-plus, with medium tannin, medium-plus finish, and 14% alcohol. There is a lot more age in this bottle, and it is drinking nicely now. This is a tasty, rich, well-balanced wine.

***

Thank you to Fred Wojtkielewicz, and The Wine Loft for hosting this treat of a tasting.

The Wine Loft, Flagstaff, AZ is located at 17 N. San Francisco St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001 USA, UPSTAIRS (it’s a loft). 928-773-9463. https://www.facebook.com/thewineloftflagstaff

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

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Started in 1998 Kunin Wines remains today a boutique size and style winery situated in the Santa Barbara region of California. The founder, Seth Kunin, sources grapes from quality vineyards throughout the Central Coast region to produce wines from Viognier, Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel, and GSM blends.

Kunin Wines Reds: 2008 Grenache, 2007 Syrah, 2010 Pape Star GSM

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Each of these wines from Kunin drinks as fresh, clean and well balanced now with a lovely potential for aging, and already a nicely developing, changing show in an evening of time in the glass.

Kunin Wines 2008 Grenache

The 2008 Grenache is a lovely food wine with bright acidity and red fruit, lightly drying tannin, balanced spice as well as hints of cola and metallic elements. There are touches of yeast bread here as well as light earth and leather. It would be beautiful alongside pork with berry compote toppings.

Much of Kunin’s Grenache is used for their GSM blend, the Pape Star, so it was a treat to taste it in their single varietal rendition from the Larnier vineyard in Ballard Canyon of Santa Ynez.

I tasted this with Katherine who suggested it would pair well with pork loin and berries stuffed with parsley, thyme, and juniper stuffing. Grenache is a classic pairing for pork, and this particular wine opens to show more herbal elements.

Kunin Wines 2007 Santa Barbara Syrah

The 2007 Syrah is blended from fruit of three different vineyards in Santa Barbara county, each offering cooler climate expressions of the grape.

Blackberry and raspberry show here also offering hints of their seed crunch flavor on the palate, with mixed pepper, touches of smoke and spice, and well balanced acidity to tannin. This is a fruit driven wine that opens into deeper notes with air. It shows as wonderfully clean and fresh on both the nose and mouth.

Kunin Wines 2010 Pape Star Grenache Syrah Mourvedre Blend

This GSM from Kunin, 2010 Pape Star, offers a blend that could serve both as a drinking and food wine. The blend is well executed and shows here with pleasing texture and light grip to the mouth, balanced with the mouthwatering acidity and a medium long finish. The nose carries spice, red fruit of cherry and berry, vanilla, light pepper and cinnamon, with the palate following.

This Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend is a wonderful example of how a wine can change thoroughly in the glass as it continues to open. The fruit deepens as the wine breathes taking on flavors of fig, with menthol and tobacco touches. The nose is rich here, and again shows more and more with a richness of detail being offered.

This is definitely a wine to enjoy over time. I’m also impressed by its good value; at $25 retail you get a lot for your money.

Enjoy!

Thank you to Kunin Wines and Seth Kunin for sending these samples!

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