Archive for the ‘Wine of the Week’ Category
It struck me recently I have been quite negligent in my wine reviews. Somehow I had missed ever publishing a review of Tablas Creek. How could this be? I consider myself a vocal fan, what in marketing and social media terms we refer to as a 'brand ambassador.' The term, which I use regularly in wine marketing presentations, refers to a customer/consumer (generally) that is passionate about a company and its product's and essentially is a walking billboard, compensated in no way.
If I am asked for an opinion on where to taste in Paso Robles – my answer is Tablas Creek. Name a leading US Rhone producer? Tablas Creek. US producer who makes refined, elegant non new world palate Rhones? Tablas Creek. One of my favorite xxxx varietals? Tablas Creek. I frequently gush about them on Facebook, Twitter, give them high scores on Cellartracker (although I often enjoy their wines so much, I don't take the time to pick them apart and don't always record notes.)
I am not alone, many industry writers agree. On a recent trip to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, I had the good fortune to ride down with Lisa Shara Hall, esteemed Senior Editor Wine Business Monthly and author of Wines of the Pacific Northwest. We were on a tight schedule for HdR and only had time for one stop, to let Lisa experience what I thought was demonstrative of a Paso leader. This is not an easy woman to impress, as you might expect, and she was, as she complimented General Manager Jason Haas, and thanked me later.
I am no Patrick Comiskey (writer, Wines & Spirits, Rhone lover, and working on a book on the history of US Rhones) but I have been around enough to recognize the incredible impact they have had on the proliferation of Rhone plantings in the US. You can read some of the history here.
The history of Tablas Creek and their contributions deserve far more coverage than I am going to put into a wine review, and perhaps I will re-tell their story in a separate piece. They tend to be fairly humble about it themselves, although their website is a wealth of information about Rhone varieties, and one of the best single online sources of information. Jason also publishes a blog on the website. He doesn't promote it heavily nor does it receive the full recognition it deserves – its one of the best written winery blogs in existent in my discoveries, especially if you are a Rhone lover. Jason has also played a significant role (told here) in the growth and evolution of the Rhone Rangers, and its been my pleasure to work with him this year as an active supporting member.
Tablas has played a strong leadership role in the US Rhone movement. Their assistance in helping propagate Rhone grapevines to other growers, instead of keeping to themselves. contributed greatly to the role of Paso Robles as the stronghold of Rhone wines in this country. For this reason, I select Tablas Creek, as the first of my 'Winery of the Month.'
This wine has an interesting origin and a new path for Tablas, that I wholly applaud both in conc
ept and especially in the results. Jason outline the full story in a blog post. While it sounds like a good problem to have, Tablas Creek has run out of wine several years in a row. Growth of sales, combined with drought years double hit them, with a variance as high as 7k cases less production. DTC wine sales have grown to 10k cases a year. As a result, for several years in a row, distributors received less wine than requested. This is not a good problem to have, frustration like this can result in loss of a distributor.
Prior to Patelin, Tablas Creek had never sourced fruit from the outside, it was always estate. Yet Rhone growers in Paso Robles had excess, the last few years, and many of them had planted Tablas clones. Tablas decided to combine these two phenomenon and create a relief valve. By purchasing fruit from top, sustainable local growers, for this single label, they are able to buffer demand in lean harvest years, and have a home for excess fruit in bumper harvests. Its also a few dollars less than their other white blend, Côtes de Tablas Blanc.
The two new wines are named Patelin de Tablas and Patelin de Tablas Blanc. Patelin is French slang roughly translated as “country neighborhood”. Growers were chosen for the care they take in their vineyards, and for the track records of the wines that these vineyards have produced. All are in the neighborhood. The growers are named explicitly on the labels; each wine will list the vineyards that contributed fruit, with the percentage of the wine that each accounted for.
Wine Review – Tablas Creek 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc
As someone now making Rhone whites, bottling soon, and trying to figure out my blend, I have huge new appreciation for the complexity, and less available direct experience in Rhone wines making in Northern California that I can refer to. I am working with the same four varietals for my small personal project, and could only hope to achieve a wine of this quality.
While the Côtes de Tablas Blanc. is more Viognier based, with Grenache Blanc as the smallest component, the Patelin Blanc leads with Grenache Blanc (50%), then 33% Viognier, 10% Roussanne, and 7% Marsanne. Whole cluster pressed, and fermented in stainless steel, only native yeasts were used. Bottled in February 2011.
- Viognier from the biodynamically-farmed Chequera Vineyard in the cool Templeton Gap
- Tablas-clone Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc from the Edward Sellers Vineyard in the Templeton Gap
- Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from the Dawson's Creek Vineyard in the limestone-rich El Pomar region of Templeton
- Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from Catherine's Vineyard in El Pomar
- Grenache Blanc from the Tablas Creek estate vineyard.
Color: Vibrant, clear, pale yellow straw.
On the Nose: Stone fruit, citrus, hint of floral.
In the Mouth: Be sure to drink this at proper temperature (aka not overchilled) to experience its nuances. For a wine that is $20 retail, it has a lot of complexity. Light, pleasant and fresh, on the front palate, it picks up weight and density in the mid palate, coating the tonque, and finishing with great mouthfeel and lingering acidity, and some minerality. A pleasing combination of lemon, peach, more stone fruit and citrus. Pairs well with a variety of foods due to the mouthfeel and acidity, fish, chicken, paella,
Recommendations: Buy, drink, before gone. Priced like a house wine, drinks like Friday night bottle. $20 retail. (or join Vinsiders Wine Club, $16.) Buy it online. Look for these National distributors. You Bay area people can find it at K&L Wine as well. (11 left, hurry!) 93 Points, Highly Recommend.
Carignane – Fallen From Grace, Back on the Rise?
Carignane (also spelled Carignan) has been an often maligned wine varietal, that has seen a bit of a resurgence recently in some circles. This was a popular varietal in California years ago with 27,000 acres planted in 1970, dwindling each decade to only 3,600 acres reported in 2010. Carignane was popular for jug wines, and blending with Zinfandel to add color, likely because it can be a very high yielding varietal.
It is also susceptible to powdery mildew and other challenges in the vineyard, and in the hands of an inexperienced winemaker can be acidic, tannic, astringent. Combine that with the wine industry’s romance with big extraction, oak, and lack of nuance, and Carignane wasn’t getting much love or quality on any side.
It took some time to reach this state, but I have learned the benefits of pushing my palate, always seeking new things, and not being afraid to try, re-try, and try again. Increased knowledge helps guide exploration, and as the lights go on, bulb by bulb, the path gets less dim, eventually at what seems like an exponential pace. Carignane has been one of those (re) discoveries.
My favorite and beloved wine pusher, er supplier, K&L Wines recently did a blog post on Carignane, but my interest was already re-piqued by a few discoveries, this wine being one of them, which I first had in a Fall trip to Paso Robles, my other wine home.
Amy Butler is the winemaker and proprietor of Ranchero Cellars. Amy was formerly the head winemaker at Edward Sellers, before starting Ranchero. A resident of Paso Robles, the epi-center of Rhone wines in the U.S., she is passionate about Rhone wines, and making them in a style that lets the fruit and the vintage express itself.
Carignane isn’t grown in Paso Robles, so Amy sourced from Redwood Valley vineyard in Mendocino, a low yielding old vine planting, that is labor of love by three generations of the Colombini family. The varietal seems to shine more brightly from the veteran grapevines, not young pups.
Amy also makes an excellent Grenache Blanc, a Viognier and shares a label with another Paso rising star Anthony Yount (Kinero, Denner) called Brouhaha, a low alcohol ‘porch pounder’ priced at only $12.
Ranchero Cellars 2008 Carignan, Old Vines, Mendocino County
On The Nose: Dark berry, red fruit, slight smoky meat
In the Mouth: Rustic, expressive. (Eric Asimov wants two word wine reviews, hows that?) Fun to drink, but complex as well, if you want to pull it apart. Red and black fruits dominate, but a touch of earthiness runs through it. Nice acidity to pair with food, and a pleasing finish. Modest tannins in balance. Drinks wonderfully now, will have to see if I can hold on to my last bottle and see how does with some bottle aging.
Food Pairing: Many. Burger with blue cheese. Ribs. Some pastas with red sauce. A ribeye.
Rating: Outstanding. 90 points.
Recommendation: Buy and drink or hold.
Where to Buy: Direct from Winery. $28
It’s intriguing to me the high quality Rhone wines that can come out of the Russian River Valley, especially since this is known as a ‘cool’ climate, and the Southern Rhone is warm. While not widely planted, you can find Rhone whites Marsanne, Roussanne, & Viognier here. Grenache blanc doesn’t seem to exist yet in RRV, my likely hobby planting may be one of the first. Excellent Syrah (which does well in both cool and warm climates, with a big flavor profile difference) and small plantings of Grenache can also be found.
I am one of the odder ducks perhaps, as I also like Russian River Zinfandel. Dry Creek Valley is of course the respected King, but there are quite a decent amount of very old vine, head trained Zin here.
What’s my point? I guess that despite being cooler, we have a long enough growing season and hang time, plus cool foggy nights. This allows for longer, slower ripening, good acidity, and good flavor profile maturation, without excess ripeness and alcohol, and loss of acidity. (As sugars increase, acid levels eventually decrease.) Acidity is what makes wine food friendly. Alcohol is what makes you fall down.
Achieving a Balanced California Viognier
What does this have to do with Inspiration Vineyards Viognier? It’s from Russian River, and I am comparing it side by side with a Dry Creek (much warmer climate) Viognier. California Viognier has unfortunately (earned in some cases) gotten a bit of a bad rap, for being too big, flabby (lacking acidity) and overly floral.
This is a varietal that is characteristically quite floral AND lower on acidity levels, so over ripening it is a dangerous proposition. Additionally some producers are leaving some sweetness (Residual sugar, or RS) on it to appeal to mass palates. A tiny bit of RS can be a positive thing in achieving balance, but some I have tried exceed that.
About Inspiration Vineyards
Jon & Barbara Philips have been chasing their dream, started making wine in 1999, and in 2001 plunged right in buying a house and 4.5 acres in the Russian River Valley. I have had the pleasure to meet them both. Passionate about wine, the region, the community. Jon is a wine geek extraordinaire. You can read more on theirA story here. They make a variety of wines; my favorites being their Rhones (Syrah & this Viognier) and Burgundian wines (Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.)
Wine Review – Inspiration Vineyards Russian River Valley 2009 Viognier
To The Eye: medium yellow straw, vibrant, clear
On The Nose: Fragrant as a Viognier should be, but not overpowering. White Peach, lime zest, hint of guava.
In The Mouth: Great viscosity, weight, mouthfeel, but not cloying as some can be. Peach, Stone fruits, citrus.
Food Pairing: Crab, seafood, grilled chicken, amongst others
Rating: Outstanding. 91 points
Wine Geek Notes:
- Vineyard: Marsha’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley
- Harvest Date: September 30th 2009
- Brix at Harvest: 26.5°
- Total Acid: .70 g/L
- pH: 3.45
- Alcohol: 14.8%
- Bottled Date: September 17th 2010
- Release Date: March 1st
- Vinification: 100% stainless, sterile filtered, no malo-lactic secondary fermentation.
Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog .
Pinot Noir – my first non Bordeaux love, before my Rhone mistress. You never forget your first real experience with a woman; Pinot Noir, thankfully ahead of Sideways, awoke my palate after many years of Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot, etc.) I was seduced by this seductive, layered, complex varietal that didn’t require tannin condom on my tongue to drink.
I speak passionately about Rhones, but a elegant, silky Pinot Noir fills a void no other wine does.
I had a very pleasant re-visit to Dutton during my frenetic garagiste harvest. Consumer sales guru Martini Bagget had been corresponding with me to stop in. Dutton Estate’s tasting room is casual and non-pretentious, which worked well since I was coming back from Saralee Vineyards with my trailer after dropping off bins, in harvest attire. It was a quick stop from Saralee , so I decided to treat myself to a visit amidst the fall frenzy of activity.
Unfortunately I didn’t make a blog about my entire tasting – but sometimes even wine writers ‘just enjoy’, and I did. Martini was a very gracious, enthusiastic hostess.
My goal for Wine of the Week is to share a special wine I think others will enjoy, and will strive for something in reach of most. Granted, at ~$45, this is a bit higher than others, but small lot, well made Pinot Noir simply isn’t inexpensive. Like an expensive mistress, it’s a high maintenance grape that needs special attention, and comes with a higher production cost for a true Pinot Noir experience.
Dutton Estate is a grower first, vintner second, managing 80 distinct vineyards in Russian River Valley, much located in Green Valley. Thomas Road is planted with Dijon clone 115, which produces a darker, bolder Pinot Noir. Nonetheless this Pinot Noir maintains her form. Don’t let the clonal descriptors through you off, this is not a Syrah tainted Pinot.
I wish I had created this quote myself, but I must share one of the Cellartracker reviews: “A big, curvy, sexy Pinot, stuffed into a simple elegant dress…” This is a woman, not a girl.
To The Eye: Garnet. Modestly opaque, unfiltered.
On The Nose: Cranberry, black cherry, spice, and a hint of earth
In The Mouth: Bold front palate; black fruit, cherry; wonderful mid palate, lush, nice mouth feel. Fruit carries through to a nice finish, with lingering acidity.
Where To Buy: Online on their website, $48
Food Pairing: This Pinot has enough heft to stand up to a number of meats – Lamb. Filet Mignon. Duck.
Other Info: 14.4 % Alcohol. Only 15 barrels (375 cases, unless using Napa math) made
Recommendation: A Russian River Pinot Noir worthy of a spot in your cellar. Not quite as delicate as other Pinot Noirs I often favor, but seduced me nonetheless.
Rating: Outstanding, 91 points
Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !
As I look at the wine label to scribe this review, the irony strikes me, and is a good segue for my excuse for the recent decreased Simple Hedonisms posts. The Hahn label is a rooster. The reason I have been too busy to write, is that in a whirlwind transaction over the holidays, I purchased a house with 1.5 acre farm, soon to be partial vineyard, in Russian River Valley. It’s a 3 year project, and labor of love (and $$.) (For those not friends, the full story is forthcoming, I promise.)
Anyway, the house, a foreclosure, came with a rooster, left behind, who is now affectionately named Krav. As one who lived for a stint in a fishing village in Mexico and cursed roosters every weekend morning, I am pleasantly surprised how much personality a rooster can have, and others have commented similarly.
Anyway, my big move , and start of farm life,is this Saturday, after some rapid renovations, to include, of course, a wine cellar! (Details on that to follow as well.)
Wine of the Week
As promised, wine of the week returns, after inaugural Wine of the Week: Cartograph 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer then, Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard 2009 “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache . Wine of the Week reflects personal favorite picks, that I believe are worth sharing. I will strive to also pick wines affordable, available, interesting.
What Is A GSM?
SO glad you asked! For those who aren’t Rhone lovers (yet) a GSM simply stands for a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. A blend of the three most common of the Rhone red varietals, and the dominant grapes of the southern Rhone valley of France and the most common in Chateauneuf du Pape, GSM is also apparently a Australian acronym in origin from late 90′s.
This blend is 60% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre
To the Eye: Medium purple, the Syrah coming through
On the Nose: Gorgeous – The grenache delivers with its spice, black fruit. The tiniest hint of bacon fat (Syrah or Mourvedre) and sniff of the Grenache hard candy scent.
In The Mouth: Lush, full. Layers of fruit across the tongue. Black fruit, fig, white pepper. Delivers with good texture, mid palate, and then lingers a bit at finish with acidity and soft tannins. Modest 14% alcohol. An easy to enjoy wine that doesn’t require a thesis.
Food Pairing: Grilled meats come to mind. A steak, grilled lamb, or a burger even.
Recommendation: This wine is $10-12 a bottle on average. It can be a quest to find good domestic Red Rhone blends at under the$20 price point, that I’d drink regularly, but this is one I could. It reminds me of the Ortman Red Rhone blend I reviewed last month; it’s enjoyable and easy to drink, at a great price. Some nights I love complex, deeper brooding wines, some nights I want an comfy sweater.
Wine Geek Info:
- Vintage: 2009
- GSM Varietal Composition: 60% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre
- Appellation: Central Coast
- Acid: .62 g/100ml P
- pH: 3.67
- Alcohol %: 14%
Simple Hedonisms returns from its Christmas break! MANY things to share in future posts; the next few months are very busy with some exciting new wine endeavors; more details soon.
Last week I started a new column, ‘Wine of the Week’, this series is more subjective, and reflective of my personal palate, as opposed to normal reviews, where I more objectively review the wine itself.
When grown in proper conditions, and not made in an attempt to make it Cab or Zin like, Grenache can be a subtle, elegant wine. It’s best aged in neutral or very minimal new oak to let fruit express itself, if I try a grenache I don’t care for, its usually from the New World fascination with too much oak.
Grenache can also be lighter in color, like Pinot Noir. (Real Pinot, not Pinot infused with Syrah for color.) While on the topic of color, let me shatter a myth some consumers hold; dark color does not automatically equate to complexity or indicative of quality in a red wine. It’s unfortunate the Parkerish mentality of big wines has driven this belief.
Don’t be afraid of a Grenache, Pinot, or other red wine light in color. I generally give it an immediate extra star, knowing the winemaker hasn’t manipulated or blended to achieve color, but instead let the varietal and vintage express it self.
I could write the entire article just on Bonny Doon and Randall Grahm’s contribution and dedication for over 30 years bringing Rhone wines to the US. I am a huge fan in what Bonny Doon stands for, and for the wines they share with the world. If you are ever near Santa Cruz, enlighten yourself and stop in their tasting room. The staff hospitality is as noteworthy as the wines. The attached Cellar Door restaurant, open Wed-Sun. is also pretty amazing and worth time for a meal if you have it.
2009 Clos de Gilroy Grenache, Monterey County
A blend of 88% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, 2% Syrah
To the Eye: lively, translucent, light purple
On the Nose: Gorgeous – Red fruit, Strawberry, pepper, and that classic Grenache slight hint of hard candy
In The Mouth: A delight of strawberry, rhubarb, red fruit, cranberry, that shines through not masked by oak. Silky in the mouth, excellent body, and delivers front, mid palate; the finish is pleasant, lingering.
I am not one to call out other reviews as wine is subjective, but I couldn’t disagree more with a comment of “Our hope is that with age (or if you must drink this wine young, decant as much as possible), it will mellow and come together.”
This wine is highly quaffable, needs no decanting, and drinks well solo. Its intended for immediate consumption. (Suspect it will cellar as well, but have little intent of laying mine down.)
Where to Buy: Various distribution outlets (Not K&L Wines at this time) and Available online. Almost steal at $15, discounts for cases or wine club. (I belong.)
Food Pairing: Very versatile, love mine with poultry, last night had it with pasta. Or as Bonny Doon more eloquently states “To really tease all available horsepower from CdG, a roast turkey, chicken or other large fowl and trimmings can hardly be bested. Exceptional food and wine combinations are a wondrous experience though in all honesty they are not uncommon – barbecue ribs, grilled tuna, veggies, pasta arrabiata, tapas, poulet tagine, anything al fresco, all by itself or annointed with olive oil CdG proves itself a partner in bliss.”
(By the way, if you haven’t read Randall’s award winning “Been Dewn So Long” – I highly recommend.)
Recommendation: Granted I am biased, stating up front Grenache is a personal favorite, however all Grenache’s are not the same. This is one of my everyday red”s now – ‘everyday’ because its ridiculously affordable, so I stocked a case at Christmas. If you like Grenache, or are a Pinot lover looking to expand your horizons, or want a break from big red wines, but seek subtle complexity, I highly recommend as a buy.
Wine Geek Info:
Varietal Blend: 88% Biodynamic® grenache, 10% cinsault, 2% syrah
Appellation: Monterey County
Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
TA: 6.0 g/L
Production: 750 cases
Welcome to a new weekly feature of Simple Hedonisms: ‘Wine of the Week.’ In addition to increasing my wine reviews, once a week I will pick a wine that’s my personal favorite. It may be a sample sent for review, something tried at a restaurant, something imported from K&L Wines, or one of the many bottles I have purchased in my travels and tastings.
When I review wine and samples, I try and separate out my personal palate preferences to review the quality of the wine, expression of the varietal. Wine of the Week will also combine some aspect of what I like as a wine consumer. No, it won’t always be a Rhone wine, as the inaugural pick shows.
I love to branch out beyond the traditional varietals the New World palate has fixated on, the wine world is full of many hundreds of accessible varietals (Grape types.)
Gewürztraminer is sometimes associated as a slightly sweet, or off dry style wine, which doesn’t appeal to all consumers. Although a tiny bit of residual sugar (aka sweetness) is a very valid style and ideal for certain food pairings, this does not represent the full range of experiences and styles.
What is an Alsatian Varietal?
What is an Alsatian varietal? It simply refers to the Alsace region in France. You know of Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet and Merlot, Rhone wines like Syrah, Grenache, Viognier. The most commonly known Alsatian varietals are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat. If you are a fan of these wines, check out the Alsace Varietals Festival in Anderson Valley this February.
Who is Cartograph? Remember the Name, You’ll Want To.
Haven’t heard of Cartograph yet? Welcome to one of Healdsburg’s up and coming boutique producers, the love child of Alan Baker and Serena Lourie, focusing on Pinot Noir and Gewurtz.
Is that a bold statement in today’s crowded wine world? Go to their website and try to order their 2008 Split Rock or Two Pisces Pinot Noir. Guess what it says.
I had wanted to review the Pinots’ , got behind on reviews, and now it would be a tease. The good news is that Cartograph is stepping up production.
A Brief Synopsis
I’ll do a more in depth feature piece in the future, but it’s a fascinating story of two people passionate about wine. Alan, an award winning radio broadcaster who moved from Minnesota, NPR Wine radio show and Podcaster, a stint at Crushpad, and them jumping both feet into his true passion and destiny.
His partner Serena, who grew up in both France and the U.S., shared an inherent love for wine. First a an MS in nursing and then an MBA, then a founding member of a Venture Capital team, all roads pulled Serena back to wine, where she and Alan, by fate it seemed, intersected at Crushpad.
Their passions and lives melded together and Cartograph was born. There are more details and insight on the Cartograph website, it’s a worthy read.
Review: 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer
On the Nose: Gewürztraminer is a floral grape, I find in some cases the floral aroma profile can be overwhelming. Not with Cartograph; I want to bury my nose in the glass and leave it. But I remove it because I want it in my mouth. Aromas of peach, stone fruit, honeysuckle wash over you.
In The Mouth: I am immediately struck by the pleasant viscosity of the wine. It’s immediately pleasing and elegant on the palate. Honeydew immediately comes to mind. It holds through on the mid palate with lime and peach, and then finishes with a lingering kiss.
Food Pairing: A fairly versatile wine; I enjoyed mine with roasted chicken, would pair equally well with Christmas Turkey, but in no means limited to these.
Recommendation: Wine of the Week, will inherently be indicative of a strong recommendation.
I’d like to further extrapolate this as an excellent ‘winter white.’ It was great this summer during the hot months, when the last thing you wanted was a cabernet or zin on a hot day, but its complexity and weight lend itself to the same characteristics I would look to in a white Rhone blend.
Important note: Do NOT overchill this wine. If you don’t have a wine cellar or regulated 52-58 degree environment and are pulling it from the fridge, let it sit for 15-30 minutes. Over chilling will numb its complexity, much like eating a bowl of butternut squash soup from the fridge, instead of the hot fragrance of the stove top.
Wine Geek Notes:
•Harvest Date: Hand harvested September 15th, 2009 (night pick)
• Brix at harvest: 24.0
• Crush and Pressing: Whole cluster pressed to steel tank
• Fermentation: 10 day ferment, 100% steel
• Aging: Aged 5 months in steel barrels
• Alcohol: 13.7%
• No malolactic
• Bottled: February 2010
• Case Production: 61 cases
Buy and enjoy a bottle, before what is left is gone – cheers!