1. IdleHour: So who the heck is IdleHour and why are they making such good wines? AnnaMarie dos Remedios is the mind-behind.
A few weeks ago, Heimhoff had a stupid post on his blog expressing his utter disdain for Calif Syrah. One of the responders who gave a very cogent/reasoned rebuttal to his inanities was AnnaMarie, who indetified herself as winemaker, IdleHour. Who be that wnry..never heer'd of it??? Took a look at her WebSite (www.IdleHourWinery.com) and it looked interesting. So ordered a mixed case to try w/ my group. These are those wines.
AnnaMarie was the publisher of the Hollister Pinnacle newspaper. Which happens to be not far from MtHarlan. And JoshJensen/Calera. She eventually got drawn into wine and bitten by the bug. With Josh as her mentor, she started Panoche Valley Vineyards there. She then moved to Oakhurst (Sierra foothills about 15 miles south of the SouthEntrance to Yosemite), took over the Queen's Inn B&B & wine bar, and relocated her wnry to Oakhurst. If you're headed to Yosemite, it's right there on the path. If you're a wine geek touring in Calif, it's way to hell & gone off the beaten track.
In all honesty, I went into this tasting w/ pretty low expectations; expecting the wines to be pleasant, maybe a bit on the amateurish side, but just that. I've been down that same/dismal road too many times before. Other than the SLH Pinot, the grapes were not being sourced from particularly prestigious areas. Madera/ Coarsegold/Lodi/Clarksburg/Mariposa??? Not exactly the hotbeds of Calif's most prestigious wines.
So...what did I really like? The two '10 blancs were delicious and very fairly priced. My favorite of
the whites was the VinBlanc for its classic Roussanne character. Of the reds, I very much liked the Pinot and the OwlBox Syrah. Both very/very well-made, very interesting/nuanced and balanced wines. The CuveeRouge was the least interesting wine to me. It was pleasant enough but just seemed a bit unfocused. With my group, the PS was the huge hit. A very black/extracted wine but the low acidity makes me wonder about its long-term ageability. However, sometimes great balance can trump lack of structure, so we will have to see.
So....did I see JoshJensen's guiding hand lurking in the background? Not really, because he doesn't make most of those varietals. I didn't really see a strong resemblance in their Pinots. AnnaMarie's had a bit more bright, slightly herbal, fruit and didn't have the deep base notes I see in Josh's Pinots.
So....what did I really think of the IdleHour wines?? The greatest thing since sliced bread??? Well... probably not. Stunning/profound wines that'll score big points in Monktown?? Probably not...it'll be yrs afore Galloni discovers these wines...if ever. But, on the whole, I was very/very impressed w/ these wines from a producer I'd never heard of. Usually/oftentimes these unknown producers are unknown for a reason... the wines are not very good. That's a fur piece from being the case for IdleHour.
These are not big/bombastic/extracted/in-your-face wines that will play well w/ Laube/Parker/Galloni and the point whores looking for the next big thing. These are very well-made/balanced/nuanced wines that speak strongly of their varietal character and...maybe...of their terrior...which I wouldn't be able to recognize if'n it hit me over the head. The alcohols and the oak are held in check. These are wines that offer up very good drinking at extremely fair prices. If I would fault these wines for anything, they (mostly) seemed to have a certain softness on the palate that characterizes high pH wines...though the actually pH's don't seem to support that. I don't sense that these wines are very long lived wines, but, like many of the Ridge Zins, their impeccable balance may carry them out further in time than one would expect. They reminded me a lot of Aimée Sunseri's NewClairvaux wines, but with a bit more pizzazz. Some of the very good Bokisch wines out of Lodi, a bit of AdamWebb's/Odisea wines from Lodi, and a bit of some of MattRorick's/ForlornHope wines from the SierraFoothills. That's all pretty good company.
So...I guess IdleHour is my wine discovery of the year. That's my story & I'm stickin' to it.
2. BonnyDoon: This is a wine I bought some 5-6 yrs ago from BonnyDoon. I wanted something to have w/ my chocolate brownies I served, so here it is. My sense is that it was not made from grapes dried on mats like a ReciotoValpolicella, but simply some Barbera grapes left on the vine well after harvest. Whatever....it was an absolutely delicious dessert wine. Friggin' BonnyDoon wines.....after having one boring BonnyDoon wine after another...I hit something like this and get sucked back in to Randall's Universe once more.