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.
Terre Rouge/Easton Wines -
November 2, 2011
We tasted last week (11/2/11) some TerreRouge/Easton Wines:
1. TerreRouge Viognier AmadorCnty (14.5%; www.TerreRougeWines.com) 2008: Med.gold color; lovely very perfumed/fragrant/
ripe/peach/pear/Viog/lush some spicy/nutmeg floral/peach blossoms nose; very tart rich/lush strong peach/pear/floral/
Viog bit stony/earthy spicy/nutmeg flavor; long tart/acid/tangy light peach/pear/floral/carnations/nutmeg slight stony
finish; lovely aromatics and seems a bit strident/acid/tangy on the palate that keeps it from straying into
DollyParton territory. $24.00
2. TerreRouge GrenacheBlanc HawkCreekVnyd/Coyoteville/MtAukum SierraFoothills (13.0%) 2009: Med.gold color; some floral/
honeysuckle rather restrained light earthy/spicy somewhat atypical GB nose; bit softer bright/zippy light floral/
honeysuckle/waxy light earthy/spicy flavor; med.long bright/zippy/spicy light floral/honeysuckle finish; seems a bit
taut & restrained and not the typical exhuberent fruit that GB shows; elegant restrained well-made white at a very
good price. $20.00
3. TerreRouge Roussanne SierraFoothills MonarchMineVnyd/CedarCreekCanyon (14.5%) 2008: Med.light gold color; very strong
floral/honeysuckle/spicy/waxy rather perfumed lovely nose; fairly tart strong floral/honeysuckle/honeyed/angel food
cake slight spicy/pepperminty balanced slight nutty/honeyed flavor; very long angel food cake/honeyed/honeysuckle/floral
finish; a lovely well-made Roussanne at a great price. $24.00
4. Easton Barbera CooperRanch/ShenandoahVlly/Calif (14.5%) 2006: Med.color; lovely very spicy/Italian sausage/licorice/
earthy quite floral/fragrant almost Nebb-like cherry nose; fairly tart/tannic very spicy/licorice/tarry/Italian
sausage flavor; med.long bit tarry/licorice/spicy/Italian sausage somewhat tart/tannic finish; very interesting wine
that speaks strongly of Barbera; somewhat like a good Barbera d'Asti in style. $24.00
5. Easton Zin ShenandoahVlly/Calif (EB; 15.1%) 2007: Dark color; quite spicy/berry/raspberry/briary/Zin slight alcoholic
nose; tart very tannic/hard/structured strong briary/raspberry/blackberry/Zin slight licorice/pungent flavor; long
slight tarry/pungent/licorice very spicy/briary/raspberry/Zin slight earthy bit alcoholic fairly tannic/hard finish;
needs 3-6 yrs of age; lots of high-tone notes that aren't often found in Amador Zins. $32.00
6. Easton Zin OldVine RinaldiVnyd/Fiddletown (14.5%; Planted in 1865/Eschen) 2007: Med.dark color; deeper some
dusty/old vine strong raspberry/spicy/Zin/briary/licorice/black cherry/cinammon fairly aromatic nose; somewhat tannic
lighter/brighter lovely raspberry/black cherry/Zin/briary very spicy bit lean/tannic/angular flavor; very long/
lingering very spicy/blackberry/black cherry/raspberry/Zin/spicy some dusty/old vine bit tannic/hard finish; needs
age; lots of Eschen black cherry character; some like Ridge Eschen '77 w/o the oak; lovely Zin. $28.00
7. Easton Zin "E" Fiddletown (14.5%; Rice-MacDonald Vnyd/Planted 2000) 2009: Med.dark color; some earthy spicy/raspberry/
licorice/blackberry/Zin slight alcoholic bit simpler nose; slight tannic/hard boit alcoholic fairly strong spicy/brairy/
raspberry/Zin light blackberry/licorice bit earthy flavor; med.long bit alcoholic light tannic spicy/briary/raspberry/
blackberry/Zin light earthy finish; seems a bit simpler & more alcoholic than previous two; quite a nice Zin at a
good price. $22.00
8. TerreRouge L'Autre SierraFoothills (73% Grenache/15% Syrah/12% Mourvedre; 14.5%) 2007: Med.dark color; very attractive
spicy/strawberry/Grenache slight blackberry very pretty/forward nose; tart bright/strawberry/Grenache light tannic/bitey
some earthy pleasant flavor; med.long pretty/Grenache/strawberry light earthy bit tannic/bitey finish; lots of pretty
Grenache fruit but a bit tannic & needs a few yrs of age; much like EdStJohn Rocks&Gravel but more tannic; a pretty/
attractive Grenache. $30.00
9. TerreRouge Syrah DTR Ranch/Fiddletown (14.5%) 2007: Dark color; light toasty/coconutty/oak spicy blackberry/Syrah/briary
light licorice/pungent/spicy slight alcoholic/earthy quite fragrant nose; somewhat tannic/hard very spicy/blackberry/
Syrah slight licorice/pungent/roasted/Rhonish quite structured flavor; long strong blackberry/Syrah/spicy slight briary/
licorice/pungent/Rhonish bit hard/tannic finish; needs more age; speaks strongly of Syrah. $38.00
10. TerreRouge Syrah HighSlopes SierraFoothills (14.5%) 2006: Dark color; light toasty/oak/coconutty/ZagNutBar more pungent/
Rhonish/licorice/roasted strong blackberry/Syrah more spicy/licorice lovely nose; rather tannic/hard/structured spicy/
briary/blackberry/Syrah some licorice/pungent/Rhonish light coconutty/oak flavor; very long rather tannic/hard/
structured strong blackberry/Syrah/briary/spicy some pungent/roasted/Rhonish finish; needs more age; prefer slightly to #9
for its more Rhonish/interesting character; fairly priced at $35.00
11. Easton Zin LateHrvst Fiddletown (16%; RinaldiVnyd; SaH: 30 Brix; RS: 4 gm/100ml) 2006: Med.dark color; very ripe/
raisened/pruney intense boysenberry/blackberry/Zin some alcoholic nose; rather sweet some hot/alcoholic light raisened/
pruney/very ripe quite intense blackberry/boysenberry/briary/spicy/Zin bit tannic flavor; very long very ripe/raisened
very intense boysenberry/blackberry/briary/Zin some sweet finish; huge fruit w/ some tannins buried in there; alcohol
shows thru but huge boysenberry fruit & should age well. $28.00/500 ml
12. Easton Zin LateHrvst Obscura Fiddletown (13.6%; RinaldiVnyd; SaH: 40%; RS: 16.7%) 2009: Med.dark color; very intense
raisened/pruney/late harvesty intense boysenberry/blackberry/Zin nose; quite sweet intense boysenberry/blackberry/Zin/
spicy quite raisened/late-harvest/essence huge fruit flavor; very long/lingering huge/boysenberry/blackberry/Zin/spicy/
essence rather raisened/late-harvest very sweet finish; very much like the Ridge Essence Zins or Mayacamas LateHrvsts;
an excellent Essence Zin that should go out 10-20 yrs; great price at $20.00/hlf
More trivial nonsense from the BloodyPulpit:
1. I have, of course, followed AmadorCounty from the very start (SutterHome Deaver Zin '68....or, more exactly...
CharlieMeyers Ho-Made DeaverVnyd Zin '62). The ShenandoahVlly has had its up&downs over they yrs. In the early
yrs (late '60's-mid '70's), the wines produced up there were not very good (which led to the referring to the wines
as coming from "AmateurCounty"). But the quality of the grapes were undeniable, as many out-of-county wineries trekked up
to the ShenandoahVlly to purchase grapes. The wines were legendary from Mayacamas, Ridge, MontereyPeninsula,
SutterHome (yeah....[b]that[/b] SutterHome...BobTrinchero once knew how to make great wines), Harbor, CarnerosCreek,
Gemello, CortiReserve..to name a few.
That all changed when CaryGott and WalterField founded the Montevina Wnry (now owned by Sutter Home and using the
Terra d'Oro label) on ShenandoahSchoolRd. Those wines were some of the best/classic Amadors to come out of AmadorCnty.
Shortly thereafter, LeeSobon started up ShenandoahVnyds there on SteinerRd...then BenZeitman started AmadorFoothill.
The Montevina's were generally spectacular, though somewhat on the alcoholic side. Some of them went out for 20 yrs.
Still have a few of those from the late '70's in the cellar. The Barberas were some of the best ever produced in
Calif...maybe the world. After Cary left Montevina, the wines got much less interesting and the SutterHome ownership
has done nothing to rectify that. The wines nowadays are rather boring to my taste.
The next reniassance for Amador was when ScottHarvey returned to make the wines at Santino and start the Renwood
label. He made some exceptional Zins & Barberas in the big/brash/alcoholic classic Amador style. A style he now
eschews under his ScottHarvey label.
And the third coming of Amador has been w/ BillEaston, particularly with his focus on Rhone varietals under his
TerreRouge label. I think he's making the most exciting and interesting wines in the ShenandoahVlly these days.
Over the yrs, there have been some other/occasional bright spots in the wines coming out of the ShenandoahVlly.
Wineries up there seem to come & go. Fortunately, the Smerling/Renwood debaucle is over and it will be interesting
if the new SouthAmerican owners can turn that place around. It's an area that is very unique for grapes in Calif.
I really need to get back up there again and spend some time and get a better lay of the land these days. John Lasisch used to make some terrific sausages up there and I've often wondered if they're still there.
2. I have, of course, followed BillEaston from the very start..from his early days at SolanoCllrs in Albany. His early
wines were made at AmadorFoothill and Renwood. He then purchased the old Ed&Kay Baldinelli vnyd (whose grapes went
into the legendary Mayacamas LateHrvst Zin '72) and wnry on DicksonRd, right off of ShenandoahRd when he & Jane
(who has a very good cookbook out that I love) when they moved up to Fiddletown. I've long thought Bill has been making
the best wines in AmadorCnty for some time now.
I regularly try Bill's wines at RhoneRangers, HdR, and FamilyWinemakers tastings; which is not the best venue to
be making judgements. Several months ago, Mike Dunne/SacBee gave a strong rec to Bill's Barbera and I decided it was
time to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk w/ his wines, so I ordered up a mixed case to try w/ my group.
I was particularly impressed w/ all three whites; the Roussanne being my favorite. The ShenandoahVlly has never
been particularly noted for their whites. SauvBlanc was the first of their whites, but it never seemed to have much
character; rather earthy and not a lot of fragrance. With the Rhone white varieties, it appears now that Amador can
make whites as good as any in Calif. Earlier ones I tried often seemed to be on the overripe/fat/porky side. These
three were not like that at all. They had good acidity & balance and very fine aromatics.
Of the Zins, I've mostly only tried the basic Amador Zin that retails for below $20/btl. It's a pretty tasty Zin
that's sometime on the alcoholic side, but fairly classic Amador and a good value. I was rather impressed with these
three Zins. There are quite different from what I was expecting; not at all like the classic Zins of Scott or Cary.
They had much less of that blackberry/jammy/briary character that those Zins used to show. They had much more high-
toned fruit, less alcohol, less extracted but much more structure for aging than those had. They showed more balance
and less in-your-face Amador fruit then those of yore. They reminded me a bit of BenZeitman's early AmadorFoothill
Zins; though not quite as lean/eviscerated in character as his could be. A new paradigm for Amador Zins I would call it.
Of the Syrahs, these represent the bottom tier of the DTR Syrahs. It did not include the SentinelOak and the
Ascent Syrahs; Syrahs that I've found in the past to be as fine a Syrah as being produced anywhere in Calif.
When they first started producing Syrah in the ShenandoahVlly, I found that the ShenandoahVlyy terroir dominated
the wines and marganilazed the Syrah varietal character; they didn't seem a whole lot different from the Amador Zins
in character. In the DTR Syrahs, I see much less of that tendenacy and they speak of Syrah loud & clear.
I also liked both LateHrvst Zins, particularly the Obscura. The Mayacamas LateHrvst '72 easily went out 30 yrs
as did some of the ShenandoahVnyds from ChetEschen's vnyd. I see no reason these won't go as far.
And, finally, the Barbera. MikeDunne was spot on on this wine. Much different than Amador Barberas from the past,
which were not much different from Amador Zins. This is one of the most Italianate Calif Barberas I can recall;
very much like many of the Barbera d'Astis that I really like.
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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