by Tom Hill
self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico
and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National
Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale
code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates
locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area,
and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals,
such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and
ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport
fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing,
backpacking, mountain climbing.
New Wines -
October 21, 2011
We tried the other week (10/21/11) Some New Wines:
1. BodegaRancho Viognier SantaLuciaHighlands (13.4%; www.BodegaRancho.com; 135 cs) 2010: Light gold color; very
attractive/perfumed spicy/peach/pear/Viog light pencilly/toasty/oak lovely nose; tart ripe/lush spicy/pear/peach/
Viog light toasty/oak structured flavor; very long bright/pear/peach/Viog quite spicy light pencilly/oak finish;
lots of ripe/spicy/Viog fruit but the acidity/structure to keep it out of DollyPartonViog territory. $30.00
2. OjaiVnyd Calif Viognier RollRanchVnyd (14.0%) 2009: Med.gold color; light herbal/earthy some smokey/Mosel valve
oil/R-like low-key waxy/pear/Viog rather atypical nose; quite tart earthy/metallic low-key/pear/Viog bit Riesling-
like/floral flavor; med.long waxy/pear/Viog tart/earthy/metallic/tangy lean light floral/R-like some waxy/pear/
Viog finish; rather tight/lean almost eviscerated tangy unusual rendition of Viog; probably needs some age. $28.00
3. JosephSwanVnyds Marsanne(69%)/Roussanne(31%) Saralee'sVnyd/RRV (15.4%) 2008: Med.dark gold color; strong toasty/
caramel/butterscotchy/oak bit herbal/toasted pine nuts strong honeysuckle/honeyed/very ripe slight nutty complex
nose; soft strong/toasty/caramel/butterscotch/oak bit oxidized/toasted pine nuts slight floral/honeyed flavor;
med.short toasty/caramel/butterscotchy/oak slight oxidized/toasted pine nuts slight bitter light floral/honeyed
finish; carries the alcohol well but somewhat overripe/over-the-top rendition of Marsanne. $17.00 (K&L)
4. M.Sorrell AC: Crozes-HermitageBlanc (MeBalP; 14%) 2008: Med.dark gold color; rather herbal/piney/pine sol/valve oil/
almost R-like bit earthy strange nose; soft some earthy/herbal piney/pine sol bit valve-oil/floral strange flavor;
med.short soft somewhat overripe piney/pine sol/herbal/earthy finish; a pretty weird NorthernRhone blanc; a rather
charmless wine I don't ever see going anywhere. $40.00 (K&L)
5. ForlornHope Suspiro del Moro Alverelhao SilvaspoonsVnyd/AltaMesa/Lodi (167 cs; 13.7%) 2010: Dark color; some toasty/oak
rather herbal/earthy bit rustic/earthy/Blaufrankish/Lemberger-like very strong herbal/rosemary/thyme exotic very aromatic
nose; soft bit tannic intense herbal/rosemary/thyme some earthy some toasty/oak bit plummy/pungent quite exotic
flavor; very long herbal/spicy/rosemary/thyme/peppery soft some tannic some toasty/oak finish; needs some age;
quite an exotic/interesting red. $23.50
6. Domaine des Lises AC: Crozes-Hermitage (13%) Equis/les chenes verts/Pont de l'Isere 2008: Dark color; very strong
cracked black pepper/NorthernRhone/roasted/pungent very peppery very slight Syrah fruit nose with maybe a whiff of TCA;
tart/lean herbal/cracked black pepper some lean/hard/tannic little fruit flavor; tart/lean/thin little fruit strong
cracked black pepper some tannic/hard finish; sort of a Johnny-one-note; interesting NR/pepper character but totally
lacking in fruit. $25.00 (WH/SB)
7. WindGap Orra RW NorthCoast (69% Grenache/21% Mourv/10% Counoise; #111; 298 cs; 14.0%) 2009: Med.light color; light
charred/oak very aromatic/strawberry/Grenache quite perfumed/spicy/Vitalis hair oil exotic nose; tart bright/strawberry/
Grenache perfumed/exotic/spicy flavor w/ light tannins; med.long bright/strawberry/Grenache light charred/oak rather
perfumed/spicy finish w/ light tannins; an interesting & exotic rendition of Grenache. $28.00
8. WindGap Syrah SonomaCoast (12.2%; #4209; 390 cs) 2008: Very dark color; intense black pepper/Rhonish/smokey/herbal/
pungent light blackberry/Syrah beautiful/complex nose; very tart/lean intense cracked black pepper herbal pungent very
NorthernRhonish some pungent/licorice/tarry/blackberry/Syrah complex flavor; very long Rhonish/cracked black pepper/
smokey strong pungent/licorice/blackberry/Syrah slight earthy/tarry tart complex finish w/ modest tannins; needs 2-5
yrs, maybe longer; much the same peppery character of #6 but much more fruit and structure and depth of flavor; a
beautiful example of a Syrah w/ restraint. $36.00
9. BodegaRancho Syrah VivioVnyd/BennettVlly (14.5%; 27 cs; 2007: Very dark color; very strong pure/blackberry/Syrah
very perfumed/spicy light toasty/oak very fragrant nose; fairly tart clean/pure/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah quite
spicy light toasty/oak flavor w/ modest tannins; long spicy/blackberry/Syrah/pure light toasty/oak finish w/ some
tannins; needs several yrs age; much like between a Novy and Carlisle BennettVlly Syrah; lots of pure Syrah fruit
but not a lot of cold-climate character; quite a lovely Syrah. $44.00
10. BodegaRancho Syrah ThierotVnyd/SonomaCoast (13.5%; 135 cs) 2007: Very dark/black color; intense very ripe/chocolaty/
plummy/boysenberry/Syrah bit herbal/rosemary slight alcoholic light toasty/oak nose; soft very ripe/boysenberry/
blackberry/Syrah/lush bit tannic/hard flavor; long very ripe/boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah/licorice soft finish w/
some hard/tannic edges; seems much riper than the 13.5% suggests; loads of lush/ripe fruit but not sure how it'll
11. BodegaRancho Syrah QueSyrahVnyd/SonomaCoast (279 cs; 13.7%) 2007: Very dark color; intense blackberry/Syrah/
boysenberry/licorice rather cold-climate/peppery/Rhonish/pungent/licorice/bit tarry very spicy/mocha/espresso some
Rhonish light toasty/oak complex beautiful nose; rather tart/tannic/hard very spicy/cold-climate/peppery/pungent
strong very spicy/blackberry/Syrah light toasty/oak complex flavor; very long very spicy/peppery/cold-climate/bit
Rhonish strong blackberry/Syrah/licorice light toasty/oak w/ ample tannins; very structured and needs 5-10 yrs;
another stellar QueSyrah Syrah. $39.00
12. Agharta RW NorthCoast (15.2%; 97% Syrah/2% Grenache/1% Viog) 2005: Very dark color; intense boysenberry/Oz-like/
pungent/ozone/coffee/smokey charred oak quite peppery/cold-climate/espresso beautiful nose; soft very ripe
blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah peppery/cold-climate rather tannic/hard rich/lush/mouthfilling rather Oz-like
charred/burnt/oak espresso/smokey flavor; very long/lingering intense/boysenberry/blackberry/Syrah pretty hard/
tannic strong espresso/charred/oak some peppery/pungent/cold-climate finish; needs much age; a rather strange
Syrah w/ lots of ripe/overripe fruit but still has a cracked black pepper/cold-climate character; terrific/eccentric
Syrah if a bit pricey. $80.00
And the usual meanderings from TheBloodyPulpit:
1. Ojai: Adam has been known for his rich/sumptuous wines and has gotten good scores from Monktown attourneys. Adam's
made it no secret that he does not care for that style any longer and has been reigning in his wine stylistic.
Not so much in his Syrahs, somewhat in his Pinots, but it's been pretty obvious in his whites. Some have had a
bone-jarring/teeth-chattering acidity level to them. Generally, his (dry) RollRanch Viog is a pretty rich/lush
wine, though never into DollyParton territory. This '09 RollRanch reflects his new style; not your usual rendition
of Viog. Probably won't play in Monktown. I find this kind of Viog is much better w/ food. I, because of the acidity,
I suspect this will age into something pretty interesting.
2. Swan: Sorta deja vu all over again. Back in '73 (by crackey), JoeSwan made his first Estate Chard. Always one to
watch his pennies, Joe bought some used bourbon barrels (probably at his local HomeDepot), broke them down,
scraped out the insides of the bourbon, and rebuilt them to age his Chard in. Alas, he didn't scrape them deep
enough and the Chard picked up a distinct whiskey taint. Tasted a bit like a ratafia. Joe rued his penny-pinching.
It was a pretty weird Chard, but one that I took a shine to. Because of its acidity, it actually aged into a
quite interesting wine. This Marsanne reminded me a bit of Joe's first Chard because of its character. And I
rather liked this Marsanne for its quirky character..but it won't be to everyone's liking.
There's a lot of different/interesting stuff planted in Saralee's Vnyd (www.saraleesvineyard.com), including
a lot of table grapes. They have a pretty lengthy list of buyers of their grapes. I've not usually found the
wines from this vnyd particularly distinguished, but I'll occasionally find one I like a lot. A recent Traminer
from Enrico/ArbeGarbe was exceptional. Alas, last crop from those Traminer grapes.
3. ForlornHope: This is MatthewRorick, who makes some very interesting wines up in SuisunCity from some very unusual/
interesting grapes. I've been highly impressed w/ his wines thus far. The Alverelhao is a grape variety grown almost
exclusively in the Dao area of Portugal. There is a small planting of it in Fred Silva's vnyd in the eastern
foothills of Lodi. I thought this Alverelhao to be a quite interesting wine and didn't speak much of its Lodi origins.
You can check out Matt's blog at (fhwines.wordpress.com/).
4. BodegaRancho: This is the Rhone varietal label of Kurt & Derek Beitler. These wines used to be under the LaBoheme
label, but they now use that label for their Burgundian-style wines. I have, of course, followed these wines from the
very start. Originally, their only Syrah was from AlRago's superlative QueSyrah vnyd out on TaylorRidge west of
Sebastapol. They've now expanded the label to include grapes from other vnyds.
Of this release, I liked quite a bit the Viognier. It showed a structure & acidity that I don't often find in
SLH Viognier...more like an EdenVlly Viognier, yet lots of ripe Viog fruit. The Vivio was a straightforward very
attractive Syrah from a new vnyd to me. The Thierot Syrah, from a PetalumaGap vnyd, was a bit of a puzzle to me.
It showed lots of very ripe fruit, but none of the cold-climate Syrah character I'd expected. And the QueSyrah
was another stunning showing from a very special vnyd; one of Calif's great Syrah vnyds.
And the usual nonsense from the BloodyPulpit:
1. Tablas blancs: I was surprised that the Picpoul and the Marsanne had a lot of ripe floral character. These two wines typically show the TCV austere character of their whites. These showed a lot more ripeness/lushness than they typically do, even though the alcohol levels were low.
OTOH, the EspritBlanc was classic TCV Esprit. Maybe one of their best yet. Though quite good now, and speaks mostly of Roussanne; it should show significant improvements over the next 10-15 yrs, maybe longer. Doesn't show the ripeness of the Picpoul & Marsanne.
2. Patelin: French patois for "neighborhood". TCV's new wine made from some Estate grapes, supplemented with purchased grapes from their neighbor vnyds in WestSide Paso. They both show a bit more lushness than the other TCV wines, but still that TCV restraint and elegance. Bot Blanc and Rouge are great values at $20.
3. EnGoblet: This is a wine made from vines on their Estate that are head pruned. Almost no one does head-pruned, newly-planted vnyds these days. I thought this was a terrific wine. They suggested this wine had an elegance & clarity from the head-pruned vines. Not sure I see that in this wine and thought it a pretty big/lush wine.
4. I have, of course, followed TCV from the very start. I was excited when I heard that they were coming to Paso, probably the true ancestral home for Syrah in Calif (GaryEberle's EstrellaRiverVnyd Syrah planting really opened the door to great Syrah in Calif). They brought in all their own cuttings from the Rhone vlly and had to work them thru the quarantine issue (in GenevaStation/NY I believe). The early focus was getting the vnyd started and propagating the Rhone varieties. Their nursery operation was a big part of their business, but I think they've gotten out of selling plant material. I was a bit puzzled in those early yrs why it took them so long to start producing wines. In those early yrs, they made wine from purchased grapes under a different label (forget the name...long time ago). Not sure the source of the grapes, but it was not very good wine. Recall, there was not much in the way of new plantings of grapes, particularly Syrah or Rhone varieties, in WestSidePaso back then, so they were probably EastSide Paso grapes.
When they did, finally, produce their first blended red (forget the name), BobSenn was so excited to show it to me in his LOW&SE tasting room. He could tell from the crestfallen look on my face that I was not impressed. I was expecting something much bigger & richer in the wine, as was becoming the vogue in Calif in those days. It had the understated restraint & balance that I've now come to recognize as the hallmark of TCV wines. "This is a wuss wine" I snorted to Bob. He gave me this knowing wink, as was his tradition when he was confident is his take on a wine, and responded.."You wait and see". About three yrs later, at dinner w/ Bob at the Casmalia HitchingPost, he brought a brown-paper bagged btl & opened it up for me, blind. "Wow" was my first response, then another "wow". It was a beautiful perfumed/fragrant, almost Cote-Rotie floral, kind of wine. "Cote-Rotie" I asked?? I could tell by the smirk on Bob's face that something was up. He unvieled the btl and triumphantly declared "Didn't I tell you". As he often did with me...Bob had the last laugh. Gads...do I miss that guy!!! End of story.
[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]
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