Posts Tagged ‘Paso Robles’
Massive walk around tastings have to evolve. This is a point I have been evangelizing for over a year. Wine sales, more focus, smaller more committed attendees, reasonable pricing – all of these are elements to be considered to draw enthusiastic consumers and buyers in, as opposed to an event of staggering drunks with their glasses waving in your face, like baby birds, five persons deep.
This weekend in Paso Robles, a new idea and venue emerges: The Garagiste Festival
The Garagiste Festival
This weekend is the first annual Paso Garagiste Festival: Celebrating the Artisan Winemaker. The event will be held November 11-12 at the beautiful 724-acre Windfall Farms in the heart of California’s Central Coast.
“The mission of the Paso Garagiste Festival is to focus on the undiscovered artisan producers who are making some of the most thrilling wine on the planet right now,” said PasoGaragiste.com Co-founder Doug Minnick. “Our event is unique in the industry because it gives a home to the smaller, trail-blazing wine producers who don’t have huge marketing resources, while also introducing wine lovers to winemakers on the cusp of discovery.”
“The Central Coast garagistes are one of the best-kept secrets in the wine world and their excellent wines can be almost impossible to find — unless you know the right people and places to go,” added PasoGaragiste.com Co-founder Stewart McLennan. “The Paso Garagiste Festival will have forty of them, gathered in one place for the first time ever. The festival is the place for passionate wine consumers to come face-to-face, wine glass-to-bottle, with the undiscovered future rock stars of the wine world.”
Personally I am very excited about this event. Both as a wine writer/blogger, passionate consumer, and now as well as a small Vintner with my Rhone label, Two Shepherds, that launches the end of November. Unfortunately not in time to pour at this event, plus I’d miss all the fun tasting as media.
Last I heard, after a flurry of media, tickets were selling out. (The VIP/Seminars are now sold out.) I’d recommend you grab some if interested. If you are a reader and are attending, do let me know, I will be at the Tasting and 6-9 pm Wine Maker party.
You can also follow the fun, photos and updates on their Facebook page.
Artisan winemakers slated to showcase their wines at the festival include Aaron Wines, Alta Colina, Bodegas M Winery, Brochelle Vineyards, Caliza Winery, Cloak and Dagger Wines, J Dusi Wines, Giornata Wines, Grizzly Republic Winery, Hammersky Vineyards, Indigene Cellars, Jalama Wines, La Filice Winery, Nicora Wines, Per Cazo Cellars, Poalillo Vineyards, Ranchero Cellars, Red Zeppelin Winery, Rendarrio Vineyards, Stanger Vineyards, Symbiosis Wines, Tassajara Cellars, Vin Alegre Winery, and Vines on the Marycrest.
I visit Paso Robles 3-4 times a year and haven’t heard of many of these – what an exciting day of discovery!
Situated in the heart of beautiful Central Coast wine country, Windfall Farms is a spectacular 724-acre horse farm with one of the finest equestrian facilities in the Western United States. It features stunning brick buildings with glass and copper steeples and is surrounded by vineyards, fenced pastures, green sprawling lawns and panoramic views of the majestic, oak-studded rolling hills of the Central Coast.
Check out a video of this great venue here:
This may be the hot new venue for Paso Robles. The Rhone Rangers Paso Robles chapter will also be hosting their annual seminar an event here. (Another do not miss event.)
What is A ‘Garagistes’
Garagistes (gar-uh-zhē-stuh) is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their “garages” (anything considered not a chateau), who refused to follow the “rules,” and is now a full-fledged movement responsible for making some of the best wine in the world. Click here for more info and proper ‘garagiste’ pronunciation.
Gathering of Garagistes: Proudly Small-Time Winemakers Show Off Hard-to-Find Stuff at Paso Robles Festival (Santa Barbara Independant)
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.
It’s a stunning weekend of wine events through out California. For some of these events only a handful of tickets remain. Get em while they are hot!
The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley rolls out the red carper with its 22nd annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley. 45+ Dry Creek Valley wineries will be rolling out the red carpet for an exclusive weekend of new wine releases paired with a bounty of food from top Sonoma County chefs! Meet the winemakers and owners, often the same people, and learn more about winemaking in bucolic Dry Creek Valley. Many wineries offer either live music or entertainment. In past years, this has included circus troupes, belly dancers and safari adventures. Come and see what they have to offer this year!
There are a handful of two day tickets left - tickets are limited by design to keep this event a very high quality experience. Check/ buy here.
Simple Hedonisms writer Katherine Parker will be attending and Tweeting live. You can follow her on Twitter as well as Dry Creek Valley. Follow the Twitter hashtag #PassportDCV. No need to have a Twitter account, just click here.
It’s Rhone Christmas in Paso Robles this weekend at Hospice du Rhône. For the past 19 years, three-days in the late spring have been reserved for an exclusive weekend surrounding all things Rhône. A palate provoking weekend embracing the enchantment, history and tastes of the twenty-two Rhône varieties. Throughout the weekend, tip your glass with worldly Rhône wine producers, journey through the largest international collection of Rhône variety wines and savor Rhône inspired cuisine all while taking in the inspiring and spirited Rhône community.
Online Pass Sales will closed yesterday. Friday Rhône Rendezvous and Saturday Grand Tasting passes will be available at the door for $110. Considering over 30 French Producers are pouring, and the amazing food pairings, $110 is a steal, trust me.
I wish I could attend all four events, but unfortunately I can’t. I love almost all wines, but Rhone’s stir my blood, and I have a media invite to this event that beckons. Watch for a follow-up post tomorrow on how to follow for updates. Twitter hashtag is #HdR2011.
This weekend at Hopland’s Famous Wine Tasting Event, Hopland area wineries assemble and “roll out the barrel” showing their finest in Rhone, Italian, Burgundian, and Bordeaux varietals ranging from Arneis to Zinfandel. Experience 17 Local Mendocino County Wineries -Each winery will entertain in their own special way, which could include live music, bocce ball, barrel tasting, barbeques, book signings, reserve and future tastings and much more. Excellent summary by the Ukiah Daily Journal can be found here.
Pebble Beach Food and Wine
I have yet to attend this event, but its big enough that even hard core Rhoners like Bonny Doon divide and conquer coverage between this and Paso Robles Hospice du Rhone.
Pebble Beach Food & Wine is the massive epicurean lifestyle event, bringing 6,000 national and international attendees to Del Monte Forest. Hosted primarily at Spanish Bay, the scope of the event encompasses every property in Pebble Beach and uses local and regional staff to create a hedonistic four-day event that matches 250 acclaimed wineries with 75 celebrity chefs, and includes wine and beverage tasting, cooking demonstrations, and some of the most exclusive, unique dining opportunities available in the world. Tickets are still available for some events and tastings, check here.
For every budget, focus and palate, there is something to enjoy this weekend – have a great weekend of Simple Hedonisms – wine, food, friends, and fun – cheers!
A Rhone Event Like No Other – Hospice du Rhone April 29-30 Paso Robles (OR – The French are Coming!)
My taste buds are still a tingle from 2 days of Rhone immersion with the past weekend’s Rhone Rangers event in San Francisco.
Now in only a month, another Rhone immersion, with an International flare awaits. Hospice du Rhone (HdR) holds a special place in my heart as it was the event responsible for my conversion to a Rhone enthusiast to a borderline obsession. (What else do you call it when a busy man drives 6 hours with a trailer full of Grenache Blanc grapes?)
This year at HdR the French are back in droves. Over 30 will be attending and pouring, plus Rhoners from Australia, and even one from Italy. And of course the many world class producers that have emerged in the U.S. This list of producers attending can be found here.
From the learning Rhone aficionado to the savvy Master Sommelier or Winemaker – something exists for everyone. If you have declared Rhone wines as one of your favorites, you will be inspired to a whole new level after this event. Serious fun. Serious wine.
If you have attended HdR before, perhaps skipped a year or two – this years model has some serious new curves to check out and drive.
For Rhone Lovers of All Levels: There are two walk around tastings: The Friday Rhône Rendezvous Tasting from 3-6 p.m. and the Saturday Grand Tasting, also 3-6 pm. 130 Rhone worldy producers will pour Rhone varieties and blends you may not have access to, short of flying around for a month. These tastings have been enhanced with food tastings and cooking demonstrations.
For The Knowledge Hungry & Explorers: For the first time ever a limited number of seminar tickets from the series have been made available outside of the Weekend Pass. These 4 seminars offer an incredible wealth of diverse knowledge, enhanced with tastings. Explore the Rhone adventures of California, hear from the “Dream Team” of French Roussillon producers, revel in the spirit of the Aussies as they discuss 2011 Harvest, or hear from the mother lode of the Rhone Valley producers themselves.
For Everyone! A Tradition…Enhanced: Rhône ‘n Bowl : HdR always kicks off Thursday night with bowling. Where else in the world can you bowl with world class Rhone producers from all over the world, pouring Rhone wines of every flavor, including from magnums, and usually some very special bottles! Chef Ryan Gromfin
of Central City Market located in Santa Maria is catering. Some special, creative treats are planned, such as Kobe beef corn dogs!
For those who like Sizzle! Friday Night – New Event – Soirée! Dazzle your senses with music, food, and of course wine in the International Street fair. (Poured from large format bottles selected by 22 sommeliers and 35 global producers.) Mingle your way through the international “streets” at Soirée! While walking the “streets” of this international street faire enjoy the cuisine of Chef Clark Staub from Full of Life Flatbread hailing from Los Alamos, California.
For Foodies: Eat and taste your way through the Friday Rosé Lunch, the Saturday Lunch and Live Auction, and the Saturday night Farewell BBQ.
- The Friday Rosé Lunch lunch is catered by Chef José Dahan of Et Voilà Restaurant in San Luis Obispo, California. His French cuisine will showcase these wines.
- Saturday Lunch and Live Auction will feature the delicious cuisine of Chef Budi Kazali from the Ballard Inn in Santa Barbara Wine Country. Wines for this lunch will be provided by Sud de France.
- The Saturday night Farewell BBQ is a a true California-styled BBQ will be prepared by the famous The Hitching Post from Buellton, California. Music & games will also be featured.
Sunday Morning: Roll out of bed and wonder how you will survive until HdR2012. Or do what I do and venture around Paso Robles and learn why its second only to the Rhone valley for World class Rhone wines.
I was one of the first to use/review the HdR app last year, and it remains to this day, in my opinion the best winery/event app I have used. The basic review is still valid, but additional functionality has been added, which I will do a updated review on.
Coming Live to the Internet Browser Nearest You
I’d certainly encourage anyone who loves Rhones who can, to attend. Even if its nothing more than one of the tastings – a perfect compliment to a Paso Robles weekend. But for those of you who can’t I will be broadcasting live as I did last weekend for The Rhone Rangers, which seemed well received. (Feedback always welcome.) Twitter hashtag is #HdR2011.
Any questions, feedback, comments encouraged. Thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog – cheers!
Wine Blogger Wednesday (#WBW71) snuck up on me, and a slammed day. I had hoped to write several articles, given the topic is one near and dear to my heart: Rhones Not From The Rhône aka France. As a passionate Rhone Ranger I HAD to write, even if if its one of the last blogs of the day for WBW.
Rhone Wines Popularity Surging in The US
Rhone wines are suddenly getting a huge amount of attention. Paso Robles, the mecca of US Rhones, made the cover of Wine Spectator last month. Wine writers have been pumping out pieces like Jon Bonne’s “.. make way for Grenache”. Grenache Blanc (thats a white grape Sonoma peeps) crushed tonnage doubled in 2009 (I need to see 2010 stats.) Articles on Mourvedre, Syrah and more are more abundant that ever before.
The Rhone movement is everywhere and its easy to understand. There are 22 Rhone varietals, though in the U.S. we commonly see about 2/3 of them. Tablas Creek a leading producer of Rhone wines, and who paved the Rhone viticulture movement, has more under quarantine. We also much to Rhone icon Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard for his tireless pursuit in advancing Rhone wines in the US.
Rhone Wines & Blends
Why do people go Rhone loco once they discover them? Its a huge category of wines, with endless permutations of white and red blends. And for those tired of big over oaked tannic Reds, or white flabby oak bombs. Rhone wines are often more subtle, nuanced. Wine consumers often consume ‘big’ with complex – and if anything its the opposite.
Don’t get me wrong, New World Winemakers can and do screw up Rhone wines. Nothing makes me want to beat a wine maker or owner with a punchdown tool than a lovely Grenache thats been subjected to new oak, over extracted, and the fruit entirely masked. Fortunately the revolution against big wines has been growing as well as more new Rhone winemakers realizing that Carignane and Mourvedre aren’t Cabernet Sauvignon and shouldn’t be made in the same method.
Rhone wines have more diversity across the varietals and give winemakers a huge flavor portfolio to work with, and thus consumers a myriad of combinations and flavor profiles. In Rhone wines, often the Sum of the Whole, is greater than the sum of the parts.
Those of you in the Bay Area interested in Rhones should not miss the Rhone Ranger event in San Francisco this month. Most think of it as just the Grand Tasting, but its two full days of Seminars with wine, a wine makers dinner and auction, and a tasting.
Thus tonight, I present a Rhone blend, from a new producer I recently met. It’s an ever increasingly small place here in the wine world.
Wesley Ashley Wines – Intelligent Design Cuvee
‘Intelligent Design: Wine With a Soul’ is the mantra for the brain/love child of Jim Sloate. The name Wesley-Ashley come from the combination his middle name, “Wesley,” which is an old family nae and “Ashley,” his little girl’s middle name.)
The Genesis of Intelligent Design & ‘Wine with A Soul’
Jim was thinking about the label for his new wine, and one night, perusing photographs from various trips came across the picture of the bike, shot during a trip to Cuba. The bike looked like it belonged in a junkyard. But, it was also very functional, and it had obviously been kept working by a very resourceful person. Then, it hit him that the blends he wanted to make were very much like that bike—multiple components coming together to create something very functional, and even beautiful.
Jim thought – “That’s my label. Now what about the name?” Sitting there at the table sipping my glass, wine in my hand, my mind wandering randomly, it came to me: “Intelligent Design.”
Playing off of the debate between “Intelligent Design” and the theory of evolution, Wesley Ashley Wines asks you to ponder:
is a fine wine is simply the sum of its parts, or is there something else, something indefinable, that makes it truly special? Is a great wine a matter of science … or is it something more?
Jim feels ‘A working knowledge of enology is all you really need to make a good wine, but it takes a bit of the divine to make a great wine. A great wine has a soul.’
I for one, tend to agree…
Review: Wesley Ashley Wines – Intelligent Design Cuvee, Red Rhone Blend
On the Nose: Rhubarb. Spice. Black Cherry. Earth.
In the Mouth: The primary varietal is Carignane (52%) and it’s presence, while not overpowering, is a wonderful base 6 varietals total). Good red fruit, dark berry, earth, detectable all front, mid palate and a nice finish with excellent acidity and food friendly nature. Modest tannins, and 13.8% alcohol. A wine that is great by itself, shines brightly with food.
Rating: Outstanding. 90 points.
Varietals: 52% Carignane, 15% Grenache, 14% Cinsault, 11% Petite Sirah, 5% Mourvedre
Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !
Special thanks to Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite for this Guest Post, and for road tripping to my beloved Paso Robles!
Back on January 2nd I predicted that 2011 would be the year of Syrah and if the Rhone Rangers organization has anything to do with it, every year will be the year of Syrah in addition to Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah… you catch my drift. This weekend the wife and I embarked on our first trip to Paso Robles to accompany William Allen of SimpleHedonisms.com for a weekend of Rhone wonder. Though many of my friends and readers know I am a Pinot man at heart, they may not know how much I am a lush for southern Rhone offerings including those from Gigondas and Chateneuf-du-Pape, especially.
The 4-hour drive south from Napa was easy and quite scenic as we whisked our way down I-680 then along US 101 through the Monterey AVA, passing by the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone and Arroyo Seco AVAs as well. The morning of our travels, the mountains ranges were being hammered by some precipitation and with the temps hovering close to 41F on the highway, it was cold enough at the higher elevations to produce snow which provided a nice dusting and contrast on the horizon of green rolling hills with white caps. Coffee, Jack in the Box breakfast, uninterrupted satellite Radio, and breathtaking farmland scenery… 4 hours flew by.
Our first stop was Alta Colina where we met up with William, Maggie Tillman, Amy Butler (Ranchero Cellars) and Faith Wells (Hospice du Rhone) for a vineyard tour and a tasting. Funny how the rain finally decided to hit us when we pulled into the parking lot of the tasting room. Not ones to be deterred from geeking about vines by weather, we piled (literally) into William’s FJ and bounded up the slopes. Founding the property in 2003, their first vintage wasn’t until 2007 and now already boast an impressive list of Rhone varietals. Some of our favorites included:
- 2009 12 O’clock High – named for the orientation of the rows, this aromatic white consists of 69% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, 7% Marsanne, 6% Grenache Blanc. I’m big on floral aromatics and this wine comes through.
- 2009 Toasted Slope Syrah – this is a soon-to-be-released Syrah that will easily age for 7+ years
Next we sloshed onward to Carina Cellars where we met Nicolette and David. They were pulling out all the stops throwing down some pairings of cheese, chorizo, craisins/goat cheese and chocolate with their wares. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, but these stood out and we ended up with more than just a few bottles.
- 2009 Grenache Blanc – From the Tierra Alta vineyards in Santa Ynez, this white was refreshing, crisp and fragrant. Sorry guys, this one is now sold out.
- 2007 Clairvoyant – This GSM (33/55/12) – awesome black and red fruits, deep color, mocha and spice.
After a brief stop at Bronco Burger for some much-needed nourishment (monster burgers – I recommend the ABC), we arrived at a business park and entered Barrel 27. This place was happening. Edgar was helping out behind the counter and has a great personality to make any tasting fun. He makes his own wine, but was just helping out the staff today. After tasting the lineup from Barrel 27 we had an opportunity to meet Russell P. From of Herman Story Wines and accompany him for a round of his juice. This guy runs his operation solo (his website is no frills, yo) and has the goatee and untucked plaid shirt to prove it. The wine is for real and is even better when shared with friends and some loud tunes in a dark barrel room somewhere.
This was just on Saturday. On Sunday we attended a wine tasting seminar, lunch and Grand Tasting with the Rhone Rangers. A post on this event is coming soon. By the way, the answer to the question regading pronunciation from an informal survey is “Pah-soo Row-blays,” however a few “locals” claim “Pa-so Ro-bulls”, but I’m going with the first for now. We’ll be going back soon.
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
Tick Tock, time is running out on the Wine Clock, although in my opinion and experience its acceptable to ship wine presents right through the New Year. Technically the 12 days of Christmas goes until January 6th!
Its not too late to order online and ship two day to get wine to your special someone, parent, boss, or (of age) child.
On a quick road tip yesterday to Paso Robles for barrel tasting with Rhone giant Tablas Creek, I was in awe as the UPS guy picked up two pallets of wine gift boxes, and realized was inspired to share two of my personal favorite small producers, who’s wines are sure to please everyone, and are literally flying off the shelves.
“Shipping included” specials abound around now. I am going to highlight offers of two of my personal favorites, because I know they are open, staffed and equipped to handle the influx and distribution. Small wineries may be closed, but best to check (suggest a live call) with your favorite winery or wine store.
If you aren’t familiar with Tablas Creek, this Paso Robles producer is a leader in the US evolution of Rhone varietals, and has helped further the cause both through the extensive viticulture program as well as their incredible wines, and played a major role in making Paso Robles the dominant force in Rhone wines.
Their holiday gift web page has a number of great ideas, but the one flying out the door is the 2010 Holiday Wine Gift Pack, of their two flagship blends the 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel and the 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc in a special decorative gift box. They are including shipping at no extra charge on the gift packs to any address in any of the 32 states can ship to.
Only $90 per pack, and just $72 per pack for VINsider Wine Club members, (shipping included). Orders to California will still make it today. For others, best to call live at 805 237 1231 and check.
The gift page also features gift cards, wine club memberships, and great non wine local artisan gifts.
Bonny Doon Shipping Included $99 and Special Gift Packs
Another personal favorite, both for their wines, and the huge respect for a lifetime of contribution to bringing Rhone varietals focus and quality to the US, has a number of incredible holiday offers.
- Free ground shipping for any order over $99. The $99 shipping included is ground. Orders placed today will make California, and a few surrounding states. If urgent, best to call live, the Bonny Doon team will work with you. 888.819.6789
- It’s easy to make a case order and not break the bank with Bonny Doon. Some of my personal faves that are my every day drinking wines include the Clos du Gilroy, Grenache base blend only $15, the Contra, Carignane based blend only $14, but there many more.
- Check out the special Mixed Six for $99, which includes; 2007 Syrah “Le Pousseur”, 2007 Angel Paille, 2008 Le Cigare Blanc, 2007 Le Cigare Volant – normale, 2009 Ca’ del Solo Muscat, certified biodynamic, 2009 Contra Carignane
- Holiday 6-pack Box ~2007 Le Cigare Volant
- Le Cigare Volant red Rhone blend is the wine that put Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon on the map, and there are great holiday bundles under the Holiday Specials on their storefront include:
- 2007 Le Cigare Volant – Holiday 6-pack in limited edition Cigar Box: $210
- Cigare Family 5-pack ~ 4 table wines, 1 dessert: $129;
- Cigare Family 3-pack ~ 2 table wines and 1 dessert: $79
- Le Cigare Volant red Rhone blend is the wine that put Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon on the map, and there are great holiday bundles under the Holiday Specials on their storefront include:
- Wine Club Membership gift special: Give the gift of wine all year long. Bonny Doon is offering a year long membership for $425, which includes shipping, and a 25% off coupon. There are quite a few other benefits and options, while these can be gifted online, it may be best to call.
The 12 Days of Wine Christmas
My apologies to the Ortman Family for this long overdue wine review. As many know, I am a big fan of Paso Robles, and had the opportunity to visit Lisa and Matt at the tasting room earlier this year. I encourage you to stop in if ever in Downtown Paso Robles. They make great wines, and the tasting room is fun, lively, and hospitable. Wine isn’t just a beverage, its an experience.or
The O2 Line Up
The 02 label is a series of affordable wines ($18-20) that are well made, interesting, easy to drink, good quality. Current release includes a 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay, a 2008 Paso Robles Sangiovese, and the 2007 SLO County Cuvee Eddy, a red Rhone blend.
I will be reviewing all three, starting tonight with the Cuvee Eddy Rhone blend. (Shocking I’d pick that one I know!)
A red Rhone blend consisting of 42% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 19% Mourvèdre, 9% Petite Sirah. (The latter always debated if a Rhone, but let that slide. ) This wine seems clearly intended to be pleasant, fruit expressive and easy to drink. I am usually good at pulling out Rhone individual varietal components, but these are quite integrated.
Color: Dark Red/Purple. Clear
On the Nose: Blueberry, Black fruit, a touch of smoke, meat.
On the Palate: Berries and bright red fruit. This release is straightforward, and incredibly easy to drink, well balanced, and enjoyable. There are times when I want something layered, complex, to pull apart an mull over. Other time I just want a wine I can open, quaff and enjoy. I like the easy finish, lack of oak chip and tannin extract to crush your palate. Consumers need to experience wines that don’t have to hit you in the back of a head with a oak tannin bat – bigger doesn’t always mean better.
This fun, enjoyable red blend that goes down quite nicely alone, sitting on the couch with a book or a movie. Its versatility would pair it well with most meats, many pastas, or even a burger or BBQ.
Hard to beat for $20 retail. This review was from a media sample provided, but I did gladly buy and consume my own bottle when I visited. (And will again.)
89 Points, Recommended.
Enjoy, and Cheers!
It’s about to kick into over drive. Over the years I have been described with a number of terms, ‘Tasmanian devil’ ‘energizer bunny’ and a few others of color, as a compliments (one assumes) to my drive. This weekend it kicks off a whole new level and test of my endurance, especially Sunday.
If you know me personally, or follow my Tweets or Facebook updates, you know I am a massive fan of the Rhone white varietal called Grenache Blanc, which is growing in popularity in the US amongst knowledgeable consumers, branching out.
Of all the Rhone whites I wanted for my ‘project’ this year, this topped my list. Sadly its not widely grown in Sonoma County, and the few growers I talked to had lost some due to sunburn in this years challenging harvest. It’s grown much more abundantly in Paso Robles (a Rhone wine heaven) and Santa Ynez.
I had been putting out on the Social Media wire for awhile I really wanted Grenache Blanc, and with some luck and karma, a source was revealed, through none other than the Father of California Rhones, the original Rhone Ranger, and a man I deeply respect and admire: Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. (And of course, love his wines.) The source was in Santa Ynez, 6 hours away. I get to thank Randall personally tonight (as well as pick up my wine club and re-stock) at his Le Cigare Volant Retrospective dinner tonight in Santa Cruz. I can’t wait.
I called the Santa Ynez grower Randall tipped me to: my luck seemed to expand; the fruit was ready now, and I was already going to be in Paso Robles Saturday for the Grand Opening of Edward Sellers new tasting room. Thats four of the 6 hours already behind me. I have a new trailer I purchased for reasons like this why not. The plan aligned well; Friday night in Santa Cruz, Saturday in Paso, a leisurely day exploring Santa Ynez Sunday, and then leave early Monday morning with my grapes, and process them early afternoon back home.
The luck slipped after that, bringing back the theme, “No Plan Survives Battle’. A major account we have been pursuing in my real life job (that pays for all this) popped up and requires an on site Executive meeting on east coast that required Monday travel. (Additionally complicating the week as it looks like that my Saralee Vineyards Marsanne, Grenache (Noir), and Syrah will be ready as well! )
Now it all compresses and looks like this.
- Leave Paso at 5-6 a.m. Drive two hours to Santa Ynez.
- Help a (now reduced) crew of 3 pick 3/4 ton of grenache blanc, load up, dry ice it and head north with a 6 hour drive home.
- Quick stop in Santa Maria to pick up as many neutral white oak barrels as I can fit on the trailer with 2 bins of fruit.
- Pull into North Sonoma late afternoon and process the fruit. (Haven’t decided vinification process yet.)
- Collapse in bed a sometime, then get up early morning to drive to SFO.
- Fly across the country, have a day of meetings, cross it back, and then pick/process at least 3 more varietals. Whew!
One highlight that emerged, I had planned a casual day Saturday in Paso. It’s their Harvest Festival and town is jammed pack, so any serious private tastings were out.
I had been communicating with Anthony Yount, the head winemaker at Denner, as well as his own brilliant label Kinero. (I will be writing more about Anthony later, and one of the best vineyard tours in my life.) He is a brilliant young wine maker, off the cuff, colorful, yet an old soul, whose knowledge, confidence, and wines belie his youth. This is a man to watch in my opinion. His Kinero Grenache Blanc and Roussanne sell out very quickly each year, and are two of the best expressions of the varietal I have ever had.
He has a new release, I wanted to try, buy: 2009 Cabrida Blanca (34% Picpoul,33% Grenache Blanc,33% Chardonnay). I also asked if I could have a few hours of consulting time as I have so many decisions still to make and love what he does stylistically. Turns out he is picking and processing Grenache Blanc that day and offered insight in exchange for help. Jackpot! I can always come taste wine, but a chance to do my favorite hard work on a varietal I love with Anthony is a not to be missed opportunity for this wine geek.
Never A Dull Moment:
For those interested, I will as best as time, cell coverage and batteries allow, leave a trail of updates and pictures on Twitter and Facebook.
To the local wine industry; I apologize for the decrease in blog coverage of events and things I said I’d cover, those who have reached out for my help. I am temporarily saturated, but promise to get my head back above water, very soon.