Masterclass - Friday, 10:00AM
VINS DE VIENNES :
Les Vins De Vienne - Cornas. Dark ruby color. Knockout
nose of floral, vanilla, and toasty aromas. Slightly
sweet-sour mouthfeel, with delicious blackberry, and
spicy black cherry flavors. A lovely wine, with a long
Les Vins De Vienne - Cornas. Dark ruby garnet color.
Floral, almost candied nose. Sweet-sour blackcherry
flavor, and somewhat more tart and puckery in mouthfeel
than the '00, and not nearly as sweet as the nose seems
to promise. While this will obviously evolve, I'm not
sure if it'll be as seductive as the '00.
Thierry Allemand "Reynard" - Cornas. Very
dark purple ruby color. Rustic, slightly sulphered nose
of licorice, tar, and camphor. Slight acidic edge to
the chewy blackberry fruit; both gripping and bright
in mouthfeel, with a nice stemmy quality. Medium smooth
tannins give the wine a light chalky/dusty element on
the palate. Dense tannic long finish.
Thierry Allemand "No Sulphur Cuvee" - Cornas.
Dark purple ruby color. Intense nose, and very similar
to the "Reynard," though more overtly fruity
and somewhat crisper. Very smooth on the palate, this
cuvee seems a lot less rustic, with a lovely mouthfeel
and a very long smooth finish.
by Ehren Jordan, winemaker - Turley Cellars, co-owner and
winemaker - Failla Wines. Ehren translated the questions and
answers for this closer look at Cornas, and producers Yves
Cuilleron of Vins de Viennes, and Thierry
to r) Yves Cuilleron, Ehren Jordan, Thierry Allemand
tiny appellation of Cornas comprises only about 260 acres,
and is the southern-most red wine producing area in the northern
Rhone. At Cornas, the Rhone Valley flairs out, thus escaping
the wind tunnel effect of the other northern districts. The
result is a climate that is significantly warmer, with very
little rainfall. The soils of Cornas are largely granite-based,
becoming more gravely to the north and semi-sandy to the south.
south or south-east facing vineyards are mostly on hillsides,
and are tightly spaced, with low head trained vines that use
no trellising - they have just a single stake for support.
In Allemand's case, the vineyards are mostly hand-farmed,
and no irrigation is used.
Allemand's vineyards are over 40 yrs old. He does no scientific
fruit analysis - he merely tastes the grapes to check ripeness.
(In fact, Ehren explained that Thierry wouldn't even know
what to do with such equipment - such were Thierry's non-technical
and non-interventionist methods.) Allemand de-stems clusters
by hand if he feels the stems aren't ripe enough to go through
fermentation with the fruit. He makes three wines, using whole
cluster fermentation and a combination of wood and stainless
steel. After two punch downs during fermentation, the wine
is left on its own, and Thierry does no racking during the
18-22 months in 60 gal barrels. No new wood is used, and no
fining or filtration takes places before bottling. Production
is about 1,000 cases, and the wines [would] retail for an
estimated $45-60/bottle. As it turns out, Thierry Allemand's
wines have extremely limited distribution in the U.S. For
instance, the "No Sulfur Cuvee" is only imported
by a Manhattan restaurant.
Vins de Vienne is a partnership of Yves Cuilleron and Francois
Villard. They produce small lots of wine from each of the
districts in the appellation, aging the wines in about 50%
new wood for 18 months, and giving them a light egg white
finish with no filtration. The wines retail for about $35/bottle.
Less about tasting through the wines with the panel, this
seminar was largely an education in the terroir
of Cornas and a Q&A session. Ehren Jordan fielded questions
from the audience, translating them into French for the panel,
and then translating the answers back into English for the
Yves has been something of a "regular" at previous
HdRs, Ehren seemed to direct most of the questions to Thierry.
Although I don't speak French, it seemed to me that Cuilleron
echoed most of Allemand's comments - at least as far as I
contrast to Yves frequent HdR attendance, it seems that Thierry
Allemand "...never leaves Cornas." At least that
was the substance of Ehren's introduction, as he related how
when he would eagerly mention that Thierry Allemand was coming
to HdR in conversation with wine importers and others in the
business, he was always told not to get his hopes up, because
everybody knows that "Thierry Allemand never leaves Cornas."
It was especially interesting to hear about Allemand's low-tech
non-intervention methods. I found the discussion fascinating,
although tasting through the wines with the panel would have
Just the Facts, Ma'am - Friday, 11:30AM
Cakebread Syrah - Syrah Noir, Phelps - 3309 Rootstalk.
Very dark purple ruby color. Nose was a melange of smoky
espresso, roasted coffee, blackberry and just a touch
of stems. Smooth and sweet mouthfeel; very tasty with
just a trace of bitterness on the very long finish.
Cakebread Syrah - Alban Selection #1- 3309 Rootstalk.
Very dark ruby color. Slightly more candied and tarry
in the nose. Sweet licorice and tar flavors, deliciously
chewy mouthfeel, with a toasty long smooth finish that
picks of just a touch of sweet-sour flavor.
Cakebread Syrah - ENTAV #174 - 3309 Rootstalk. Dark
purple violet color. Toasty, dried pasta nose of blackberry
and slightly earthy tones. Blackberry with a hint of
tar on the palate, just a bit more off-sweet/sour in
mouthfeel, with hints of brown sugar and caper - sort
of a BBQ/A-1 sauce quality.
Cakebread Syrah - ENTAV #877 - 3309 Rootstalk. Medium-dark
purple-violet color. Initially sweet mouthfeel, gets
a bit more tart at mid-palate, which stays until finish.
Flavors of bittersweet chocolate, mocha, and bacon.
Slight acid balance, very long finish.
Saxum Syrah - Heart Stone Vnyd - Clone #174. Black
purple color. 'Wow' nose of blackberry, coffee, cocoa,
tar, with touches of bacon. Chewy and very concentrated
on the palate, smooth and almost silky, with flavors
of tarry cocoa and chocolate, smooth, tasty, with excellent
balance and lightly sweet very long finish. Ripe in
nose and mouth, this one never crosses the over-ripe
Saxum Syrah - Heart Stone Vnyd - Clone #470. Black
purple color. Very tarry nose of blackberry, and licorice.
Seems substantially more dense and monolithic than the
#174 clone. Huge, and very chewy with a very concentrated
feel on the palate, and a very long tannic finish. What
a brute, this one slaps you up both sides of your face,
and warns you to blend it with something more seductive.
Incredible...Hulk, that is!
Saxum Syrah - Denner Estate - Clone #99. Very dark
purple ruby color. Bright nose, with aromas of licorice,
and boysenberry. Slightly sharp and crisp on the palate,
with a bit of tartness to the very long finish. This
clone is obviously intended to provide the backbone
and structure to something a bit more voluptuous. Maybe
the next sample will provide this?
Saxum Syrah - Denner Estate - Estrella Clone. Dark
purple violet ruby color. Very tarry and slighly chalky
with its moderately smooth tannins. Lots more mocha
than previous clone, this wine seems to have a high
viscosity, but also seems to roll off the side of the
glass easily. An obvious touch of oak accentuates the
mid-palate here, and the flavors and texture blend well
through the long finish.
by John Alban, the seminar gave us a closer look at the origins
and the clones of Syrah, with panel members Lee Hudson of
Hudson Vineyards, Justin Smith of Saxum and James Berry Vineyards,
and Professor Emeritus Carole Meredith of UC Davis.)
to r) John Alban, Justin Smith, Lee Hudson, Carole Meredith
rumors of its origins were greatly exaggerated,' to paraphrase
Mark Twain. This was just one of the facts presented here
about everyone's Rhône hearthrob, Syrah. We also were
reminded that it's not from Iraq or somewhere else in the
Middle East after all - it actually is from France.
The mother of Syrah turns out to be a grape known as Mondeuse
Blanche; and the father is a grape called Dureza. Of note,
is appears that Dureza may have come from antiquity, since
it has been mentioned by Pliny in 71AD as having been around
"...since time immemorial." Well, since that first
propagation, mother Mondeuse Blanche has been reduced to about
12 acres of vines worldwide. And, while that's small, father
Dureza has disappeared completely.
of these facts were just groundwork for a presentation on
clones - sort of an 'everything you wanted to know about clones,
but were afraid to ask.' Okay, I'll be the first to admit
to more than a little misunderstanding about this subject,
so Professor Meredith's presentation was just what I needed
to get clear on the clone issue.
clone arises naturally in nature; it happens when a variant
shoot appears on an otherwise normal vine. These "mutations"
are somewhat rare events. Of course, the older the variety,
the more likely the opportunity to develop a variant. If this
variant is selected for propagation, you have a clone of the
original. What's the difference between a "clone"
and a "selection?" Well, a clone comes from the
cuttings of a single vine, while a selection comes from cuttings
of several vines within a vineyard.
more? Okay, there's "clonal selection,"which is
the process of collecting many variants - selecting them for
such things as smaller berries or other unique qualities.
In France, clonal selection has been practiced for about 40
years, where they are frequently taken to ENTAV, the French
bureau that holds vine cuttings for evaluation, pending certification
and registration - sort of an INS for grapes. Thus far, of
the 554 submissions to ENTAV, only 16 have been registered
- 12 from the Northern Rhone, and 4 from the southwest of
Syrah clones have only been [legally] imported into the U.S.
for a few years. So far, nine ENTAV clones have been made
available in California, adding to the many "local"
clones, many of which have come from undocumented sources,
including France and Australia. The fact of the matter is
that each of the clones planted in California will likely
produce unique characteristics, depending largely upon soil
and geographic conditions. Finally, the selection of specific
rootstalks is largely based on soil conditions.
Smith showed several cross-section slides of the James Berry
Vineyard on Paso's Westside (west of Hwy 101). This, and many
of the surrounding vineyards are primarily made up of broken
rock, calcareous soil, and light clay and loam. Owned by the
Smith family, the James Berry Vineyard is one of the finest
on the Central Coast. Meticulously farmed by Justin and crew,
the prized fruit from this vineyard also owes a nod to the
geography and soil. The Westside of Paso is generally cooler
than the Eastside. Add to this, an interesting natural break
in the north-south Santa Lucia range occurs at a point called
the Templeton Gap, allowing cooler ocean breezes to penetrate
into the vineyards of the Westside.
grower Lee Hudson gave us an very nice statistically-oriented
introduction to his 180 acres of vineyards in the Carneros
area. The Hudson Vineyards are widely dispersed in many micro-climates,
and are frequently cited as excellent examples of cool climate
syrah vineyards. Among those using Hudson Syrah: Cakebread,
Kongsgaard, Jade Mtn, Havens, Elyse, Etude, Neyers and many
others. The key here is soil and geography. The soil is shale,
broken sandstone, and silty loam. The vineyard gets plenty
of sunshine, but also gets cooled off sufficiently by its
proximity to San Pablo Bay. Lee presented several interesting
aerial slides produced by a company named VinImage. Based
on a color profile, it was easy to see the differences of
canopy thickness in his each of blocks - each represented
by a different clone.
A very interesting presentation by Carole Meredith about clones,
rootstalks, and the ultimate value of "the site,"
or shall we say, terroir. From the presentation, it
became clear to me that there's a whole lot of research that
goes (or, ought to go) into picking which clone to
plant, and where to plant it. The differences between the
"cool climate" and "warm climate" wines
was instructive as well. Tasting through the wines seemed
to bear out much of what was being presented, and I learned
a whole new appreciation for the complexity of vineyard management.
What's in a Name - Saturday, 9:00AM
Marsanne/Viognier/Roussanne. Medium yellow color.
Obvious characteristics of each of these varietals,
with aromas of apricot, honey, light citrus and a hint
of citron. Delicious mouthfeel and taste, very nice
balance - more about plush taste and feel.
Viognier/Marsanne/Roussanne. Medium yellow color.
Seems surprisingly crisper in aromatics, with a crisp
mouthfeel and a bit of grip on the finish. Apparently,
'02 was a cooler year - which accounts for thethe difference
of the blends.
Woodcutters Red. Made from the younger shiraz fruit,
this wine sees no new oak, which probably helps smooth
it out a bit. Touch of Cabernet in this wine (Dave doesn't
favor Cab for the Barossa), which also probably acts
as a counter point to the stiff slight off-sweet bitterness
in the Shiraz. Nice wine.
Woodcutters Red (Tank Sample). Dark purple ruby
color. Very aromatic sample, with a sweet nose and mouthfeel,
excellent concentration and very long finish.
Juveniles. A GSM blend based largely on unwooded
Grenache, Juveniles was originally commissioned for
Willie's Wine Bar in Paris. In contrast to the name,
the fruit is not from young vines. Huge floral blast
on the nose, with aromas of raspberry, black cherry,
and toast. Very tasty and balanced.
Juveniles. Rich and sweet on both the nose and palate.
Huge concentration or fruit, and a staggeringly long
finish. In a word - Killer!
The Steading. Lovely nose of spicy blackberry, vanilla
and clove, along with a hint of eucalyptus. Lots of
weight on the palate, very good balance, smooth long
The Steading. Somewhat moderated aromatics, and
a bit more tannic than the '99, this one's got similar
concentration, though the mouthfeel feels a slightly
The Descendant. Dark purple ruby color. Beautiful
nose of blackberry, with a light floral touch, along
with tar, licorice and toast. Quite tannic on the palate,
the dark fruit does seem to have a detectable apricot-like
streak - though it could be the power of suggestion,
since this has a touch of Viognier. The 'Descendant'
name comes from the fact that the vineyard was planted
with Run Rig cuttings.
The Descendant. Dark purple ruby color. Lovely floral
quality to the dark fruit nose. Somewhat bitter in mouthfeel
initially, but does seem to sweeten up a bit by mid-palate,
and get smooth, tasty and seamless through the finish.
Again, a bit of Viognier or Roussane/Marsanne is usually
in the blend.
The Factor. Nose dark fruit, with lots of chocolate
and mocha accents. Tight mouthfeel, but with obvious
gobs of chewy fruit. Excellent balance, very long finish.
A really nice wine. 100% Shiraz, usually held in neutral
The Factor. Chocolate and cherry nose, this seems
slightly brighter in aromatics than the '99. Sweet-sourdark
cherry fruit, moderately chewy mouthfeel, good balance,
long finish. A Run Rig wasn't made in 2000, so, this
is basically a declassified Run Rig.
Run Rig. Dense, spicy ripe nose. Very spicy fruit
on the palate, with seamless flavors and texture, and
a very long smooth finish. A touch of Viognier is usually
added just before bottling. (The fruit for the Factor
and Run Rig comes from the same vineyards; though the
Run Rig probably gets the equivalent of the "reserve"
fruit, and does get more new oak.)
by Michael Havens, the seminar gave us a in-depth look at
Torbreck wines, and Dave Powell, the man behind the wines.)
Havens (l), and Dave Powell
we seated ourselves at 9:00AM, a staggering array of wines
- two placemats worth of 13 glasses was spread out in front
of each us. Add to this a water bottle, a water cup, and a
spit cup, and we had just about maxed out the table space
allotted per person - not that I'm complaining! With all this
table ware in front of us, it was anyone's guess how long
it would take to hear a crash somewhere in the room. But,
everyone was amazingly coordinated - the expected crash never
came. Kudos to all.
vineyards in the Australia's Barossa are among the best in
the world. This is due to both geography and the excellent
soil conditions, but also to the fact that these vineyards
were all planted nearly 150 years ago, so there was nothing
to research - most of the hard work had already been done.
Dave Powell was fortunate to practically "...walk right
into" several Barossa vineyards that had been left fallow
as a result of governmental missteps during a major wine glut*
in Australia in the 1980s. And, in 1995, Torbreck (named after
a Scottish forest) was born.
Dave Powell, a man who studied economics and also worked as
a lumberjack, the dream to build his own high-end wine label
came from a developing interest in wine - specifically, red
wine. Powell began in 1980 with Yalumba, and moved on the
the likes of Blass, and Peter Lehmann, before creating his
own label at Rockford. By '95, Torbreck had 3 tons of grapes
to work with, and by 1999 Dave was starting to accumulate
vineyard holdings and accessible acreage through "share-farming"
relationships for total planting of over 250 acres.
Powell seems sensitive to the fact that his wines have less
alcohol than many other wines from Oz. Dubious competitors
have all but accused him of adding water to reduce his alcohol
levels. But Powell has found that these levels can be controlled
during fermentation. He also gets chided about his oak program.
Eschewing the "no wood - no good" slogan of some
winemakers, Dave prefers to allow the fruit to do the talking,
and uses very little new wood - and no wood on the Grenache
in the Juveniles program.
rabid non-interventionist, Dave favors tasting the fruit in
the vineyard, and doesn't use or advocate use of a refractometer.
In fact, he even mentioned that if he were to find one of
his people using a refractometer, he "...put it where
the sun doesn't shine." Dave also prefers blends - fairly
obvious in his lineup of blended reds.
production for '02 was 43-45,000 cases. About 40% of that
production stays in Australia, and 45% is exported to the
the 1980s, as Australia was faced with a wine glut, the government
paid people to pull out their vineyards. Unfortunately, this
resulted in many old vine vineyards being up-rooted and destroyed.
Things got ugly when the responsible government bureau ran
out of money to pay off those pulling vineyards. The result
was a large exodus of growers from several wine areas (including
the Barossa), that left many vineyards to lie fallow.
able to taste through these was pleasure enough. Michael Havens'
astute moderating and Dave Powell's assured comments were
just icing on the cake. Anybody can make a fruit bomb...okay,
not ANYbody. But, these wines have a balance not normally
associated with many people's impression of Australian wines.
The interview-discussion-talk was a smooth as silk -- just
like most of Dave Powell's wines.
Wines of John Kongsgaard - Saturday, 10:30AM
Roussanne. Lots of dried pasta qualities, with just
a few touches of floral and sweet peach, as well as
a lingering wiff of sulpher. This was co-fermented in
mostly 2-4 yr old oak,with 1 new barrel added each year.
60% Roussanne. Rich, yet crisp on the palate, this seesm
an ideal blend of the two varieties.
Roussanne. Heavy nose with huge floral aromatics,
lots of honey and peach. Sweet rich mouthfeel with plenty
of viscious texture - like white peaches in heavy syrup,
with a few rose petals added. Kongsgaard mentioned that
this blend of 60% Viognier was just about at his threshold
Hudson Vnyd Syrah. Tarry with dark berry aromatics
and a hint of pepper. High-toned, tight and tannic on
the palate, the blackberry flavor seems to hide in the
background, with more tar and a bit of stem in the foreground.
Hudson Vnyd Syrah. Nose of espresso, tar, licorice,
and roasted qualities. More obvious in oak notes, the
wine seems slightly more accessible than the '99, and
drinks quite well now.
Hudson Vnyd Syrah. Very dense, extracted and concentrated
nose. Massively fruity, with a nice melange of tar,
licorice, and asphalt notes. Excellent mouthfeel, chewy
and rich, with excellent balance and structure, and
a very long finish.
Hudson Vnyd Syrah. Massive blackberry nose - lush
and layered withlots of licorice and tar background
notes. Very clingy on the palate, plenty of dark and
tarry flavors, and long finish.
by Michael Bonaccorsi, the seminar gave us a in-depth look
at the man behind Arietta and Kongsgaard wines.)
by John Alban, the start of this seminar had all the trappings
of a Friar's Club roast of Michael Bonaccorsi. John described
Michael's initial reaction to the Alban wines when John tried
to get him to carry the wines at Campanile, where Bonaccorsi
was sommelier. According to Alban, Bonaccorsi thought the
wines "sucked!" Michael Bonaccorsi looked a little
sheepish, although it's hard to say whether or not it was
true. No matter, this is how legends are made.
Alban went on to describe how he, Mat Garretson, and Vicki
Carroll made a road trip to Napa to sign up talent for current
and future HdRs. After their first stop successfully landed
Kongsgaard's appearance for 2003, Alban immediately declared
the trip a complete success - and half-seriously suggested
they (or at least, he) might just as well head home.
Well, we now had icon status now firmly established for John
Alban's introductions, Kongsgaard wasted no time in jesting
about the power of sommeliers in general, and how it was both
his and Alban's turn to be apply a little heat to Bonaccorsi's
feet. Meanwhile, Mike was taking all this ribbing good-naturedly,
returning nothing but compliments. With his new career as
a winemaker, Bonaccorsi seemed obviously aware that he was
now pledging their fraternity.
Kongsgaard's family has been in the Napa Valley since the
early 1920s, when his grandfather bought some land just north
of Napa city (near those two 'bumps' between Silverado Trail
and Hwy 29. His grandfather intended to use the hills as quarry
material for his construction company, but it never happened
- thankfully. After working with some of the bigger winemaking
names of the time, John established his reputation at Newton
winery, where he was winemaker from 1983-95. He moved on to
become a partner in Luna winery, a new startup on the site
of the former St. Andrews winery. The move allowed John to
focus on his own label. He made 4 barrels of wine in 1996,
and is up to 40 barrels at present. So, this was something
of a unique opportunity. John Kongsgaard doesn't make much
wine, and here each of us were, sitting with a Syrah vertical,
basically drinking his library collection.
is big on taking care of things in the vineyard, attempting
to eliminate unwanted fruit at that point, rather than waiting
for it to get to the sorting table. The fruit is destemmed
and mostly crushed, although he leaves some whole berries
to get processed with the juice. He continues to allow the
juice to lie on the skins for quite awhile after fermentation
is complete. Influenced greatly by Michel Rolland, John believes
that wines are best left alone to become what they must (no
discussing his wines, John mentioned something particularly
of interest - something he referred to as "oxidative
death, or slumber." It is this period that we often refer
to as a "dumb" phase, in which the wine is closed
down temporarily. Waking from this 'slumber,' the wine is
refreshed and has usually taken on new and pleasing characteristics,
some of which would have been previously been considered to
be unpleasant notes.
to drink through anyone's library collection - much less John
Kongsgaard's. He seemed like some gentle giant sitting up
there, reflecting on his passion for winemaking, and offering
sage information and advice to all who would ask. At the end
of the session, when he was gratefully thanked for his participation
at the 2003 HdR, he said it was he who should be thanking
us. He felt that this event was something akin to "...a
gathering of the clan," and it was his pleasure "...to
be invited to the mother church to preach to the faithful."
Oh yes, the wines weren't too shabby, either.