13 No.1 - May
1 of 2 - Journal and tasting notes from visits to several
California wineries and vineyards.
The final destination of the trip was the 2005
Hospice du Rhône, (Friday and Saturday May 13th
and 14th in Paso Robles), and I'd left a few days early to
make some winery visits along the way.
special thanks to Deborah Hall, who graciously allowed about
25 of us to descend on her idyllic Gypsy Canyon Vineyards
to observe the old planting of Mission vines, and taste
her bottling of Angelica, a wine made from these Mission
grapes. A big thanks too, to Peter Cargasacchi and all of
the other Santa Rita Hills winegrowers and winemakers for
inviting us to Melville Winery to taste the their 2003 vintage.
though barrel tasting is one of the most instructive ways
to sample wine, it is also something that causes more than
a little angst among winemakers. The fact is that the wines
being sampled from barrel haven't finished their infancy yet
- they are still going through growth and development in the
barrel, and haven't reached the point of bottling. Therefore,
winemakers are often reluctant to expose their barrel samples
to the public - concerned the wines may be misjudged or unappreciated
by tasters during this growth stage. Since
the tasting notes in this report contain many barrel samples,
please note that my impressions relate only to the wine at
its current stage of development.
May 9, 2005 - Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties
early for the drive up to Ojai for the first stop of the day at
Ojai Vineyard. Al Osterheld was joining me for the next couple of
days in the Santa Barbara area. He had stayed in Paso last night,
and we'd arranged to meet at the Ojai Vineyard for the first stop
of the day.
was nice weather during the drive up from Orange County, and Al
and I arrived in the Ojai area of Ventura County at about the same
time. Once through the town of Oak View, we'd been told to turn
up a largely non-descript road to the winery, with apparently nothing
more than the address to mark the entrance to the Ojai
Vineyard. Depending on their availability, I'd made
an appointment to meet with either proprietor Adam Tolmach or Ted
Vance, his assistant winemaker. Al and I drove down the road past
a small office and up to a group of buildings that appeared to be
the winery and barrel storage areas.
Ojai Chardonnay - Bien Nacido Vnyd, SMV. A bit funk initially,
the crisp slightly tropical fruit takes over. Very light oak
treatment, delicious fruit, and long lingering finish.
Ojai Chardonnay - Clos Pepe Vnyd, SRH. Deeper, and more
intense nose, with a bit more mineraliy in nose and mouth.
Plenty of fruit on the palate - pure and crisp.
Ojai Pinot Noir - Solomon Hills Vnyd, SMV. Adam "found"
this vnyd through Mike Bonaccorsi - having tried some of what
the latter had made. Tons of cherry throughout, nice fragrant
spicy nose and mouth.
Ojai Pinot Noir - Bien Nacido Vnyd, SMV. Martini clone.
Touch of herbaceous throughout, much earthier than the previous.
Very tasty sherry and wild strawberry fruit.
Ojai Pinot Noir - Clos Pepe Vnyd, SRH. Very spicyand floral
nose. More blue and blackberry in its cherry flavors, good
structure and finish.
Ojai Pinot Noir - Fe Ciega Vnyd, SRH. Spicy nose, fleshy
mouthfeel, lots of black cherry, terrifically smooth on the
palate. Adam was glad to have picked this before the big '04
heat spike. (Rick Longoria's vnyd.)
Ojai Grenache - Thompson Vnyd, SYV. Nose of pomegranate,
along with raspberry and a touch of blackberry. Nice mouthfeel,
good grip on the palate, long fruity finish.
Ojai Grenache - Purisima Vnyd, SYV. Somewhat reduced aroma
in the nose, lots offruit, though slightly less raspberry
than the Thompson above. Very, very long finish.
Ojai Mourvedre - Thompson Vnyd, SBC. Young, slighly high-toned
red and black fruit. Big and rich mouthfeel, almost crisp
in acids, juicy texture, long finish.
Ojai Syrah - Melville Vnyd, SRH. Stunning nose of violets
and blackberry/blueberry compote. Rich chewy mouthfeel, lots
of dark fruit, smooth tasty finish.
Ojai Syrah - Bien Nacido, SMV. Slightly sweeter and more
concentrated than the Mellville, huge mouthfeel, very well-balanced
flavors and finish.
Ojai Syrah - Verna's Vnyd, SBC. Espresso-laced nose of
blackberry, and light chocolate and bacon notes. Flesy mouthfeel,
with lots of body and grip on the palate. (Melville's "other"
vnyd, near Cat Cyn.)
Ojai Syrah - White Hawk Vnyd, SBC. Lots of floral and
Provençal aromas of lavender and sage. Leaning slightly
to the high-toned in flavors, with plenty of red and black
fruit, herbs and spice. (Very sandy soil, from a vnyd out
in Cat Cyn.)
Ojai Syrah - Thompson Vnyd, SYV. This wasn't finished
with ML yet. Nose was more to the bittersweet chocolate, and
the mouthfeel seeed higher-toned than vintages past.
Ojai Syrah - Stolpman Vnyd, SYV. Surprisingly young in
nose and mouthfeel (smoothness is usually a hallmark here),
but the dark, brooding, mineral-laden fruit really got my
attention. Very nice.
Ojai Syrah - Roll Ranch Vnyd, California. "Warmer,"
if you will, in nose and flavor, with a mix of red and black
fruit, and a nice white pepper picks of the natural spice.
(From 5 acres of Syrah located north of the town of Ojai in
Ventura County at the foot of the Las Padres Nat'l Forest.)
Ojai Chardonnay - Bien Nacido Vnyd, SMV. As with
the barrel sample, the beautiful fruit shone through on this
wine. Plenty of lightly crisp tropical fruit, excellent balance
and long snappy finish.
Ojai Viognier - Bien Nacido Vnyd, SMV. Nose of white peach,
with a touch of pineapple. Lightly viscous on the palate,
excellent balance,lots of fruit, lightly crisp finish.
Ojai Sauvignon Blanc - Westerly Vnyd, SYV. Big fruity
nose, excellent balance, wonderfully tasty finish. (From a
vnyd in the eastern Santa Ynez Valley, in an area called Happy
Ojai Pinot Noir - Clos Pepe Vnyd, SRH. Nose of spicy black
cherry, light pepper and smoke notes and full rich mouthfeel.
Ojai Syrah - Roll Ranch Vnyd, California . Rich spicy
nose of black fruit, medium-full body, with excellent balance
Ojai Vin du Soleil - SBC. This mostly Mourvedre
blend is surprisingly aromatic and flavorful. Plenty of fruit,
excellent balance, and nice long finish.
we pulled up, a fellow motioned us over to a gravel parking area.
Parking our cars, we gave the secluded canyon a quick look-around,
and wandered over to two of the barn-like buildings. We introduced
ourselves to cellar assistant Bruce Freeman, who told mentioned
that Ted wasn't going to be in today, so Adam would be along soon
to visit with us.
Tolmach house is on a hill overlooking the winery, and Adam came
down shortly thereafter to introduce himself. He mentioned that
he had another appointment coming at 11:00 (a wine store owner from
British Columbia), and that it would be more convienent for him
if he could include us with them, and wondered if it would be a
problem. No problem at all, we said. In fact, this gave us more
time to talk with Adam beforehand, and, as we were to find out later,
it also afforded us the occasion to taste many more wines - since
the buyer usually came in annually. (It turned out that the buyer
was John Clerides, owner of Marquis Liquors in Vancouver, and he,
his wife, and one of his employees were on their way to Hospice
du Rhône as well.
began making wine with Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist in the late
'70s in the small town of Los Alamos, about 15 miles south of Santa
Maria. His first vintage under his own Ojai label was 1983. Because
Adam makes so many Santa Barbara-based wines, it's probably assumed
that his winery is in Santa Barbara County. But, the Ojai property
is actually located in Ventura County, and has been in his family
since 1933. There was in fact once an estate vineyard planted here.
Unfortunately, the it fell to Pierce's Disease, and the last vintages
of estate wines were produced in the late '80s.
Tolmach (l) provides Al Osterheld with some Pinot
no shortage of well-known Central Coast vineyards, Adam has always
had an ample supply of fruit sources. And, as you can see by the
tasting notes, he makes a good many vineyard-designate bottlings.
On the other hand, he did stop making bottlings from both Pisoni
and Talley vineyards, and is now earnestly trying to simplify things
for himself by sticking with Santa Barbara County sources. Buying
fruit by the acre (as opposed to the ton), Adam is able to keep
the same select blocks in each of his vineyard sources. He prefers
only organic intervention in the vineyard ("I'm not a nozzlehead,"
he says, referring to the spraying of pesticides), and pretty much
leaves the wine to do its own thing in the winery by not racking
the barrels very often, if at all.
first took the five of us through several barrels of wines, as we
all chatted about vintages, locations, and his winemaking methods.
All of the fruit is trucked in, and wine made up here at the winery.
It was very interesting to taste through these barrels - tasting
what was basically a 'spice rack' of smells and flavors. We chatted
about the cork versus screw cap issue, and Adam said he is still
staying with cork -- paying about 70 cents for each one. Production
is about 6,000 cases, and the winery and storage buildings have
grown from one to three, right along with production.
the barrel tasting completed, Adam asked if we wanted to try some
of the current or soon-to-be-current releases to wind up the visit.
Would we? Of course, we said. In fact, we considered it a duty.
Adam pulled a half-dozen bottles from the case goods room, and started
pouring through these as well. All terrific stuff, but the Vin
du Soliel certainly represents one of the best bargains I've
ever tasted in a Rhône blend.
Adam for his hospitality, Al and I headed north to Santa Barbara.
Ojai, we headed north up Hwy 101, through Santa Barbara, into the
Santa Ynez Valley and over to the coastal town of Lompoc. I'd arranged
to meet Sashi Moorman, winemaker for Stolpman
Vineyards, to see what was new and taste through some
barrels. On the way, I got a call from Brad Harrington from westcoastwine.net,
who was also up in the area to make some winery visits on the way
to HdR. He mentioned that he'd spoken to Sashi who'd suggested that
he come on by the same time we were scheduled. This would be good
for all -- one-shopping for Sashi, and better group dynamics for
the three of us. (I've come to prefer having a few people along
for winery visits, because it allows me to take more notes and photos
more easily, as well as adding to the general stream of consciousness.)
Stolpman Roussanne - Estate. Nice lightly floral and tropical
notes, touch of waxy flavors in mouthfeel.
Stolpman L'Avion - Estate. Interesting blend of Roussanne,
Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, with the SB being fermented
on Viognier skins. Lots of honeydew melon in the nose, and
similarly on the palate. Lightly crisp, plenty of body, and
Stolpman Sangiovese - Estate. Lots of spicy dark cherry
in nose and mouth. Very nice balance, smooth seamless finish.
Stolpman Syrah - Estate. Another fascinating blaned of
Syrah aged on Roussanne lees. Nice floral notes in the otherwise
blackberry nose. Exceptionally smoooth and refined on the
palate, with touches of chocolate and red licorice accenting
the black fruit.
Stolpman Hilltops Syrah - Estate. Fabulous balance
here, with nice acid backbone to offset the plush berry and
Stolpman Syrah - Estate. Durell clone. Very nice floral
accent to the dark fruit nose. Very clingy on the palate,
chewy texture, nice balance, and long finish.
Stolpman Syrah - Estate. 877 clone. Slightly more floral
than the Durell, with a juicy and spicy mouthfeel, and mouthwatering
finish. 2nd leaf crop.
Stolpman Syrah - Estate. Non-toasted barrel. Nice fleshy
nose, moderate spice with a touch of licorice. Chewy fruit,
though a bit restrained. Slight oaky edge to the otherwise
Stolpman La Croce - Estate. This Syrah/Sangiovese
blend was loaded with spice and dark cherry and berry. Chewy
mouthfeel, smooth and seductive, with a nice
Stolpman Syrah - Estate. There's a little Grenache, Counoise,
and Cinsault in the blend here, which seems to give a little
more volume to the front and mid palate. Long smooth finish
is deceptively fruit-forward.
Stolpman Syrah - Estate. previously opened bottle - 5
days. Bit of oxidation noted on the nose. Nice fruit throughout,
though it gets a little hot on the medium-long finish.
Stolpman Hilltops Syrah - Estate. Fascinating
nose of beef drippings, iodine, and a touch of beet. Chewy
and full on the palate, with a nice refined smoothness throughout.
Red Car The Fight Syrah. Made up of mostly Napa
Fruit, the nose still had some light chocolate, coffee and
spices. The ripe fruit-filled mouthfeel was starting to show
the tiniest bit of oxidation.
Holus Bolus Syrah. Light touch of herb and gardenia noted
in the blackberry nose. Full and rich on the palate, not seeming
to show any sign of oxidation. (Sashi said that the small
% of Malvasia Blanca seemed to keep the wine more lively.)
Piedrasassi Syrah. Sourced from a wide variety of sites,
including Paso Robles, the fruit was fermented in 300L Cognac
barrels. Nose of ripe black and red fruit, ripe in mouthfeel,
with good balance and finish.
Holus Bolus Rose. A rose sagnee, with a very nice fruity
nose, somewhat crisp mouthfeel, and refreshing finish and
hoped that Al and I would be able to stop somewhere along the way
to have some lunch. But, we'd started our visit a little later and
therefore stayed a little longer at Ojai, so when we got to Buellton,
we headed into the local Albertsons for a couple of ready-made sandwiches
to go. I figured since we were driving right by our motel, we still
had time to check-in, and eat our sandwiches, before striking out
onto the self-named "wine ghetto" on the eastside of town,
Al and I made our way over to Stolpman, and wandered in to look
for Sashi. We noticed a few tables had been setup end-to-end in
the middle of the room, with several bottles and glasses out. Wow,
are those for us, we asked aloud. No, those are the remants from
the Parker tasting we had a few days ago, said Sashi. Our eyebrows
lifted. We noticed that there was generally plenty of wine left
in each bottle, and I wondered to myself if was this was going to
remain as some sort of museum. Sashi answered my unasked question
- they were tasting the remaining wine daily, as sort of a 'how
long will it last after it's opened' experiment. But, he assured
us, after we taste through some barrels, we can come back to these.
Ex-cellent, I said.
in the Ballard Canyon section of the Santa Ynez Valley, Stolpman
Vineyards started out as growers, providing fruit to many local
wineries (including Ojai, Jaffurs, Qupe, and Palmina). Tom and Marilyn
Stolpman first planted grapes in 1992 and today have 120 planted
acres, containing an assortment of varietals: Syrah, Sangiovese,
Nebbiolo, Sauvignon Blanc, Rousanne, Grenache, Cinsault, and Merlot.
With the 1997 vintage, Stolpman started producing their own wines.
They continue to sell fruit to others, but now on a much smaller
Sashi had been the assistant winemaker at Ojai, prior to coming
to Stolpman in 2001. Under his watch here, he has overseen a rather
dramatic change in vineyard plantings and selection - in addition
to winemaking style. I detailed many of the changes in my last visit
I was looking forward to seeing how things were progressing toward
Sashi's goal of creating more blended wines for the Stolpman label.
Brad and Maureen arrived, we all headed back to the barrel room
to do a little "research." After tasting the '04 Hilltops
Syrah, I commented how almost crisp I found the wine. Sashi said
that they really pushed this particular block, and had started experimenting
with less irrigation. Another interesting departure from the norm
was the use of non-toasted barrels. This is not a "neutral"
barrel, rather it's a new barrel that's not received any toasting.
This was a new one on me, because contrary to what you might assume,
the toasting process actually scales the otherwise raw oak back
a bit. Sashi also like to use 500L puncheons for aging the wines.
These larger barrels impart a little less oak, and allow the wine
to age a little longer.
tasting through several barrels, Sashi asked if we'd like go ahead
and taste through the bottles that were sitting on the table out
in the main room. We were eager to take him up on the offer. One
of the more interesting wines on the table was the Holus Bolus,
and combined effort from Sashi, Chad Melville, and Jim Knight (Jelly
thanked Sashi for his hospitality headed for our next stop. We also
said so-long to Brad and Maureen, who were headed back to Solvang.
What are you guys doing for dinner, he asked. We're not sure, we
replied, since we really weren't certain how long we'd be at our
next stop, and we hadn't made any reservations. Getting into the
post-Sideways Hitching Post was probably out of the question,
even for Friday's burger night. Well, if you guys want to
stop by our place, we have lots of cheese and meat, and plenty of
crackers and bread. That sounded great to Al and I, and we told
Brad we'd give him a call.
from back patio, looking north toward the Purisima Hills
we were going to be "in the ghetto" (as Elvis might have
said) during that afternoon, I'd asked Peter and Rebecca Work if
their son, Don Schroeder (also assistant winemaker at Sea Smoke),
might be able to taste us through some of the '04 wines. The Works
lease winemaking and storage space in the Lompoc complex from Presido
winery, and have all their barrel storage there as well.
the after-hours access has been a bit limited. But fortunately,
Don had an idea - let's meet at my folks place, he said. He said
he'd bottle up a few samples, and we could just relax with a little
cheese and wine. Great idea, I said. Do you know the way, he asked.
Sure, you're at the end of the only 20 mile driveway in the SRH,
I said kiddingly, remembering the long ribbon of concrete leading
up to their house with the beautiful view. Yep, that's it, he said.
Just be sure you fill up with gas before attempting the trip, he
leaving Lompoc, we headed back on Hwy 246 to Mail Road and over
to Ampelos Cellars,
formerly known as Wine @ Work, or Worx Cellars, after owners
Peter and Rebecca Work. The name change came easily enough - the
Works are partners in a resort of the same name, located on Folegandros
in the Cycladic Islands of Greece.
barrel samples, from bottle...
Ampelos Rose of Syrah - Estate. Floral and fleshy nose,
nice lightly crisp mouthfeel, lots of nearly chewy furit,
excellent balance and long finish.
Ampelos Pinot Noir - Estate. This is the first crop from
the Estate 4th leaf vnyd. From Pommard and 115 clones. Big,
with lots of floral and spice accents to the dark fruit.
Ampelos Syrache - Estate. A 50/50 Syrah/Grenache blend.
Obvious leaning to Syrah in the smoky meaty nose, give way
to a nice raspberry center. Somewhat more rasberry in mouthfeel,
with nice balance an finish.
Ampelos Syrah - Estate. Estrella clone, from a hybrid
barrel. Fabulous nose of dark and spicy fruit, and violet
aroma. Big mouthfeel, very tasty and balanced.
up the long driveway, we were met by the Works two large dogs, followed
by Peter, then Rebecca and Don. Since Al had not visited here before,
I suggested we take in the 360 degree vineyard views from their
beautiful house. Rebecca and Don gave us a tour, pointing out the
various vineyard sites. I covered this in more detail after visiting
back inside, we settled into a couple of stools at the kitchen bar,
and just talked and relaxed. They showed us their new Ampelos label
design - quite striking - and we delved into the wines. This was
my first opportunity to taste the Estate Pinot - their first crop
from the 4th leaf vineyard. Peter performs a lot of the vineyard
maintenance himself, but uses Jeff Newton of Coastal Vineyard Care
for most vineyard services.I was interested to hear how the vintage's
especially hot weather had affected the crop. Peter and Don told
us that when the heat spike first hit, they immediately went out
and picked over the following three days. It turned out the fruit
had climbed to 28 brix, so they added acidulated water that had
been filtered and de-chlorinated, to get it down to 24 brix. They
were successful, and the result was quite tasty.
has been experimenting with hybrid barrels (French oak heads, American
staves) on the '04 Syrah. Of course it was probably the power of
suggestion, but I had the distinct feeling that this is what added
the heavy spice to this wine. And, speaking of Syrah, apparently
are grafting some of it over to Grenache - as in Alban clone Grenache.
My mouth was watering. On the news front, Ampelos is moving its
winemaking facilities into a new space in Lompoc, over by Peter
Cargasacchi, and will be joined by Ken Brown (former Byron owner).
The new space will allow them to keep all of their barrels stacked
2-3 high, instead of the usual 4-5 high, in order to keep evaporation
and temperature more uniform. Ampelos is targeting production at
4,000 cases annually.
was time to move along and let Peter, Rebecca and Don get on with
their evening. We thanked them for the visit and the wines, and
complimented them on their new label. We decided to accept the Harringtons
kind offer to stop by their motel in Solvang. Brad had a variety
of cheeses and cured meats, as well as bread and crackers, so we
opened a few wines (well, a lot of wines) and we had a great time
- sort of our own mini offline.
May 10, 2005 - Santa Barbara County
early, Al and I headed over to Thanks a Latte, a small
coffee house in Buellton, for a scone and some java. This morning,
we were scheduled to meet with Joey Gummere of Kenneth Crawford,
followed by Jason Drew of Drew Family winery. Both were conveniently
located in the same facility in Buellton. Next, we'd head up to
Santa Maria to the Central Coast Wine Services (CCWS) to pay a visit
to Seth Kunin, as well as Tim Spear at Clos Mimi. Tim was in the
process of moving to newer diggs, but still had some barrels at
CCWS. We'd planned to have dinner in Santa Maria at Chef Rick's.
Kenneth Crawford Pinot Noir - Babcock Vnyd. New barrel.
115 and Pommard clones. Nose of sweet dark cherry and spice,
excellent balance and mouthfeel. New oak, but the fruit pretty
much kicks it into submission. Excellent!
Kenneth Crawford Pinot Noir - Babcock Vnyd. Neutral barrel.
115 and Pommard clones. Beautiful floral and cherry nose,
lovely balance, young - but elegant mouthfeel, long finish.
Kenneth Crawford Pinot Noir - Clos Pepe Vnyd. New barrel.
Clone 115. Picked at 24.5 brix, the nose is bright. Less hi-toned
in the mouth, with a darker almost sweetart taste, very good
balance and long finish.
Kenneth Crawford Grenache - Larner Vnyd. Nose of raspberry
and dark cherry. 3rd crop from this part of the vineyard.
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Larner Vnyd. Slightly sweet nose
of chocolate-covered coffee beans and blackberry. Less sweet
in mouthfeel than in nose, with nice sweet-sour finish.
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Stolpman Vnyd. Rich smooth nose
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - (blend of Larner & Stolpman).
Very Côte Rôtie in style, much more aromatic than
the individual vineyards, smooth and succulent, nice fine-grained
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Purisima Vnyd. Clone 1, new Sirugue
barrel. Big coffee scent to the dark fruit. Chewy and delicious,
with nice spice and light herbs, and massively long finish.
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Purisima Vnyd. Clone 1, new Marsanny
barrel. Even bigger in coffee aromas - more espresso. Darker
fruit in mouthfeel, very fleshy and chewy, and very long finish.
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Purisima Vnyd. Estrella clone,
neutral barrel. Slightly sweet dark cherry fruit, mouthfilling,
slightly tart fruit, huge finish.
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Lafond Vnyd. New Marsanny barrel.
Recently racked, this seemed much darker in fruit, with a
younger and more tannic edge, and long gripping finish.
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Lafond Vnyd. New Sirugue barrel.
Smoother and much more fruit forward, with lots of dark cherry
Kenneth Crawford Syrah - Evans Vnyd. Light roasted scent
to the dark fruit. Big, smooth, delicious, with excellent
balance, and a nice grip on the back end.
and I arrived about 9:00am at Kenneth
Crawford. I'd arranged to meet Joey Gummere at the
small facility that he and Mark Horvath have in Buellton, literally,
right around the corner from our motel.
first came across Joey and Mark's label at the 2002
Wine Cask Futures tasting, and was very impressed with their
first release '01 Lafond/Melville Vnyd Syrah. In fact, there was
a funny outcome to our conversation during that event. We talked
about their Syrah, and the fact they were also making a Pinot Noir.
But, what came out of the conversation created one of those countless
"urban myths," the origins of which are always difficult
to trace. What had happened was that I had gotten the impression
that they intended to concentrate on Pinot Noir - at the expense
of Syrah. Thankfully, nothing could have been further from the truth,
and Kenneth Crawford has been making both varietals - at least of
late. Ironically, it seems the pendulum may have actually swung
back the other direction, as the pair appear to have now decided
to concentrate even more on Syrah. But, regardless of what they
make, I'll always be a fan.
"Joey" Gummere and Mark Crawford Horvath met each other
while working at Babcock Winery. Later, Joey moved on to Lafond
Winery and Mark stayed with Babcock as Bryan's assistant winemaker.
Mark has now left Babcock to focus on the winery and a project with
his wife, and Joey too has left his day job, to focus on the Kenneth
their first commercial release in 2001 of just a couple of hundred
cases, the pair have increased their production only a slight amount
each year. Current production is a bit under 1,500 cases, with a
goal of 3,000 cases annually.
Gummere started us right away on some barrels, and we talked about
the whole Pinot vs. Syrah thing in the Valley in general, and the
Santa Rita Hills in particular. We talked about the Babcock Pinot
fruit that the two were very happy to get from Bryan Babcock's gorgeous
vineyard. This '04 fruit got a 6-day cold soak and basket press
(which ends up delivering about 50 gallons less juice). Shortly
after we began, Jason Drew arrived. Jason also makes the Drew Family
wines here in this facility, and we were due to meet with him right
after we finished with Joey, so we had some one-stop shopping in
store for us. Come on and join us if you like, Joey called out to
Jason. Nah, thanks anyway, you guys go ahead - I've got some barrel
maintenance to do here, Jason said.
this will probably be the last of the Stolpman Syrah fruit, as apparently
the price has substantially increased. And, speaking of "last,"
this looks to be the last of the Evans Ranch Syrah for KC as well,
since Gainey is apparently going to use it all for their own production.
It seems kind of sad, as I recall several California producers in
similar positions of having made a name for the fruit from a particular
vineyard, only to have the fruit either go up substantially in price,
or otherwise be made unavailable to other winemakers - who were
now victims of their own success, as it were. The worst part of
this is that identifying specific vineyard attributes is usually
a passion (at least for the wine geek consumer), and if growers
react negatively to outside recognition or accolades by raising
prices or keeping the fruit for themselves, we end up with a much
more myopic view of a vineyard's capability - in my not so humble
opinion, of course. I realize that the grower's interest lies in
taking advantage of favorable circumstances that might not last,
but I also think it's not a good idea to 'kill the goose that lays
the golden egg.'
understand that Mark Horvath and his wife have about 44 acres just
off Sweeney Road right next to Peter Cargasacchis now-famous
vineyard. I'm sure that Mark hopes to plant Pinot Noir, and who
knows, maybe Kenneth Crawford's focus will swing back to Pinot,
and away from Syrah. Not likely, though.
Drew Pinot Noir - Arita Hills Vnyd. 667 clone; blend of
small and hungarian barrels. Sweet dark cherry nose. Fleshy
and floral, very elegant.
Drew Pinot Noir - Clos Pepe/Fiddlestix. 115/777 clones.
Here's a blend you don't see every day. Lots of structure,
with sweet strawberry, cherry, and black cherry fruit. Impressive.
Drew Pinot Noir Gatekeepers - Santa Rita Hills.
Blend of 1/3 Ashley's and 2/3 Rio Vista vnyds. Smooth and
succulent, with dark and bing cherry aromas and flavors.
Drew Pinot Noir - Ashley's Vnyd. 115 clone. From one of
the higher elevation blocks (read, exposed) in this Fess Parker-owned
vnyd, in the western part of the appellation. Nose of bing
cherry and a touch of cranberry. Nice cherry fruit, very good
acidity. 1.5 tn/acre
Drew Pinot Noir - Rio Vista Vnyd. Clone 777. Slightly
bright nose; ripe and fleshy, with sweet cherry cordial flavors
and a heady finish. Picked at slightly higher brix - could
rightfully be called buxom.
Drew Pinot Noir - Rio Vista Vnyd. Clone 667. Less sweet
than the 777, lovely balance to mid-palate, but seems to fall
off on the finish.
Drew Pinot Noir - Rio Vista Vnyd. Clone 115. Slightly
candied pomegranate aroma, beautiful balance, and terrific
finish. These three Rio Vista barrels will be blended, and
for the majority of the Gatekeepers blend.
Drew Syrah - Larner Vnyd. Nose of dark black raspberry,
licorice, dark roasted coffee, and chocolate. Gripping mouthfeel,
with lots of big flavors and textures. Has a small % of Larner
Drew Syrah - Morehouse Vnyd. Nose of roasted dark fruit,
hi-toned, and balanced well, with long spiced-herb taste and
finish. Durell clone; vnyd planted in '92.
Drew Syrah - Hearthstone, Paso Robles Vnyd. Slightly hi-toned
sweet ripe nose, with a touch of mineral and iodine. A wow
finish, which starts to smoothly grab the palate a bit tighter
from midway to finish.
Drew Grenache - Larner/Hearthstone. an interesting blend
of AVAs here, and the result is that the nose and mouthfeel
get a CdP-like aroma and flavor with the addition of an Orange
floral and orange zest somponent.
Drew Syrah - Morehouse Vnyd. Nice complex nose of grilled
red and black fruits, toast, and a fascinating citrus note
of orange zest, and candied lemon peel. Slight rhubarb flavor
to the dark fruit, with a beautiful balance and finish.
Drew, thief in hand
Drew was just finishing some restacking and topping of barrels,
and was now ready for some tasting. This was about as convenient
as it gets - we segue from one winemaker to another without taking
more than a few steps.
first met Jason at the '03
Wine Cask Futures as well, as he was pouring several of the
wines. I was very impressed with the wines, and he mentioned that
I ought to stop by and taste some barrel next time I was in the
area. Conveniently, I expected to be in the area a couple of months
later, and Jason not only had us by try some barrel samples, but
he also led us on a 'three-hour
tour' of Happy Canyon, the literally hot area in the eastern
part of the valley that has been growing some remarkable reds and
whites from vineyards such as Vogelzang, Westerly, and Star Lane.
has been in the wine business since 1992, serving stints at Joseph
Phelps, Carmenet, Luna, Corison, and St. Supery. He also spent 1997-98
in Australia, getting his degree in winemaking. Relocating to Santa
Barbara County, he's yet another alumni from Babcock winery, and
loves to work with Pinot Noir and Syrah - a perfect match for the
Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills. In fact, he sources fruit
from some interesting locations, including Pinot from Arita Hills
(near Gainey's Evans Ranch), and Syrah from Morehouse, near Solvang.
Jason farms this himself, as do others who source from this location.
likes to play around with blends. He doesn't bottle too many separate
lots, and would much rather blend the wines initially - letting
the aromas and flavors meld together. And on that note, he had some
interesting things for us to try. The first was a Pinot blend of
Clos Pepe and Fiddlestix fruit - something you certainly don't see
every day. Sort of a mainstay is his "Gatekeepers" blend,
a name derived from the fact that the two components - Ashley's
and Rio Vista vineyards - are on opposite sides of the SRH. In another
instance, we we able to try all three clones from the Rio Vista
Vineyard. This is usually barrel tasting at its finest - being able
to sample the components that will go into the blend, and discussing
the effects of each clone with the winemaker.
wondered what was new with Drew Family. Well, plans to buy something
in the Santa Rita Hills didn't work out, so he and his wife Molly
have purchased 27 acres on Mendocino Ridge, on the NW side of Anderson
Valley. The elevation of 1250' shouldn't present much of a challenge.
Until his Estate vineyard is producing, he plans to source fruit
from Weir Vineyard. He's planning on planting to 65/35 Pinot and
Syrah, and may drop the local SYV Syrahs when he moves up there.
Drew Family Cellars produced 380 cases as their first vintage in
2001, and about 800 cases of the '02 vintage. Production is now
up to 1,400 cases for '04.
Buellton, we headed for Santa Maria, and the Central Coast Wine
Services facility to visit Kunin
Wines. I'd first met Seth Kunin when he debuted his 2000
vintage at a Wine Cask Futures tasting. Since then, he's become
something of a fixture at this annual event, always coming up with
new vineyard bottlings or intriguing blends. Yet somehow, I'd never
found the time pay him a visit.
Kunin shows off his new shirt
Kunin Sauvignon Blanc - Westerly Vnyd, SYV. Nose of pineapple,
apple and tropical aromas. Bright, crisp and tasty, this barrel
sample will be blended with some tank fermented juice.
Kunin Roussanne - Westerly Vnyd, SYV. Nice waxy, honeyed
nose. Surprising grip on the palate, crisp acids, very nice
texture and flavors.
Kunin Viognier - Stolpman Vnyd, SYV. Nose and flavors
more of a sweet lemony variety than white peach. Recently
sulphured, and a little tough to assess.
Kunin Zinfandel - Saunders Vnyd, PR. Nice bright aromas
and flavors of spicy red fruit and juicy acids.
Kunin Zinfandel - Cushman Vnyd, PR. Soaked up to 33 brix
and not dry yet, but still much riper than the Saunders, and
Kunin GSM - Larner Vnyd, SYV. Neutral oak. Here's a CdP
in New World clothing. Destined to become "Pape Star"
(an auction lot at HdR), this GSM blend has lots of dark fruit
in the nose, and more to the red on the palate. Delicious!
Kunin Syrah - SBC. Meaty in nose and mouth, lightly sweet
fruit throughout, plenty of tannins on long finish.
Kunin Syrah - Alisos Vnyd, SBC. Dark and brooding in the
nose, with blackberry and licorice aromas. Full and rich on
the palate, long tooth-staining finish.
Kunin Syrah - Westerly Vnyd. Co-fermented with 6% Viognier,
dark cherry and blackberry with a hint of floral, smooth throughout.
Kunin Syrah - Westerly Vnyd. Clone 877. Rich, slightly
sweet nose, with a nice rich smokey mouthfeel, and long finish.
Kunin Apres Viognier - Westerly Vnyd. From neutral
barrel. Vin de paille in style, with a toasty nutty nose,
and a definite botrytis effect. Beautifully rich and smooth
on the palate. Wow!
Kunin Sauvignon Blanc - Westerly Vnyd. Still in barrel!!
I believe Seth forgot about this barrel - which was good!
Yeasty and nutty, flat-out delicious.
Kunin Apres Viognier - Westerly Vnyd. From stainless.
This is the accompanying wine to the neutral one above. Once
again, vin de paille in style, with dried a toasty nutty nose,
and a honeyed peach component. Somewhat juicier acids than
the one in oak. Wow again!
wasn't sure if Seth was in bldg 1 or bldg 2, so after arriving at
CCWS, we drove down past the buildings looking for the usual evidence
of the winery's location - picking bins with KUNIN stenciled on
the sides. There they are, Al said, pointing over to the space between
the two buildings. Just then, as if by magic, out walks Seth Kunin,
cell phone in hand and obviously engrossed in an animated discussion.
Be right with you, he said. No problem, we said, as we considered
wandering around, but thought better of leaving the area, lest Seth
disappear and we lose sight of him. He finished quickly, but that
call seemed to leave some unfinished business. Okay if I just to
one more call, he asked, then we can get down to some tasting.
wine beginnings came after eight years in the restaurant business.
Beginning with a stint in the cellar and then the vineyards at Gainey
Winery, he was able to glean much about the process of growing and
making wine. Being able to pick the brains of people like the highly
respected Jeff Newton, owner of Coastal Vineyard Care, didn't hurt
paced back and forth, wandering in and out of building as he talked.
He seemed to be a guy in perpetual motion. One got the impression
that Seth Kunin's life was busy - but completely in control. A trait
learned in the restaurant business, no doubt.
his call, Seth looked at us: hi again, sorry about that, you sort
of have to deal with these things as they come up. Hey, not a problem,
we're happy you could spare the time to meet with us, we replied.
Besides, we're on SLO time, I thought to myself. We re-introduced
ourselves to each other. So what did you have in mind, he asked.
I was thinking we'd some barrel tasting, I said. Okay, he said nodding,
while walking back into building 2 with us in tow.
took us through a few whites, then some Zin, and finally to the
main course - Syrah. We were also able to get an advance taste of
his GSM from Larner Vineyard - Pape Star - which will be
an auction lot at HdR. There was also the surprise barrel - a 2001
Sauvignon Blanc! Maybe a little long in the tooth, but very complex
and interesting. Lastly, it was dessert time, and taste of two vin
de paille style Viogniers - one from neutral oak, the other
from stainless. (The vin de paille method consists of laying
the fruit out on straw mats, and dehydrating it over a long period
of time to concentrate the sugars.)
most winemakers, Seth always wants to make the best possible wine,
and seeks out the best possible sources of fruit. This usually leads
him to Santa Barbara County - but not always. From his beginnings
with some Dante Dusi Zinfandel, he frequestly selects fruit from
San Luis Obispo County as well. Seth has an affinity for Westerly
Vineyard, out in Happy Canyon section of Santa Ynez Valley. In fact,
he likes it so much, he's their winemaker as well.
believes that wines shouldn't be manipulated to try and be something
they're not. He feels that each wine of a particular vintage ought
to befit the conditions of that vintage - whether it was hotter
or cooler than normal - the wine should be representative of the
vintage. This, and the fact that he's always looking for optimum
fruit will keep Kunin Wines small, which is just how Seth Kunin
Seth Kunin's digs, we wandered back over to building 1 to see if
we could find Tim Spear of Clos
Mimi. I'd met Tim a few times in the past, but was
very interested in trying more of his wines - which frequently are
mentioned as the poster child of the bigger New World style - Central
Clos Mimi Syrah - Shell Creek, Paso Robles. Dark, almost
brooding nose of dark fruit, and roasted herbs. Big, slightly
sweet mouthfeel - ripe, but not overly so, with very good
balance and smooth long finish. 16.7% alcohol. No new oak.
Clos Mimi Syrah - Alamo Creek, SLO. Much redder in profile
than the Shell Creek, the nose is a compote of ripe raspberry
with a touch of boysenberry. Chewy in mouthfeel, with lots
of fruit and flavor and long smooth finish. Composed of younger
vines, this vnyd's located in SE San Luis Obispo county. 16.7%
Clos Mimi Syrah - Westerly Vnyd, SYV. Huge ripe dark berry
nose, with some buttered popcorn effects from the still on-going
fermention. Massively chewy, slight residual sugar apparent,
smooth long finish.
Clos Mimi Syrah - Shell Creek. Touch of loamy funk, and
roasted aromas in the nose - almost a French-like quality.
Good structure, lots of ripe fruit, juicy acids, long finish.
Clos Mimi Syrah - Brave Oak. (new barrel) Lots of red
and black fruit in the nose. Slightly hi-toned, with juicy
acidity, lots of fruit, and gripping finish.
Clos Mimi Syrah - Brave Oak. (neutral barrel) Okay, now
er're talking. Without the oak to mask the nose and mouth,
this wine has a loamy, herb-scented compote of red and black
fruit, distinctive roasted aroma, very good balance and long
Clos Mimi Syrah - Westerly. Big beautiful nose of red
and black fruit, with light accents of tar, licorice, and
chocolate throughout, and a nice smooth finish.
Clos Mimi Syrah - White Hawk, SBC. The one and only barrel
from this vnyd. Slightly sweet nose of dark fruit and black
forest cake. Similar flavors on the palate, big mouthfeel,
long balanced finish.
Clos Mimi Syrah - Rolling Hills. (21-28 day maceration,
neutral barrel) Nose of red and black fruit - has more of
grapey scent than the other barrels, along with licorice and
orange blossom, with a touch of mocha. Surprisingly tame -
plush, almost soft on the palate, with smooth long finish.
Clos Mimi Syrah - Rolling Hills. (6 yr old barrel) Very
similar to above, with the same maceration regimen. Seems
to have a bit more presence on the palate, and a more definition
in the finish.
Clos Mimi Syrah - Rolling Hills. (4 yr old barrel) Similar
to above, same maceration regimen, slightly more orange zest
wasn't a complete stranger to Tim's wines, and had been able to
try a couple of the Clos Mimi bottlings at some of the previous
Hospice du Rhone events, as well as having purchased some of the
earlier Red Car Syrahs, also made by Tim. Then, another chance
came when I met with several others for dinner at the Ballard Inn
last November also gave me a chance to chat with him for awhile,
and taste his 2002 Red Car Amour Fou, a whole different
level of Pinot Noir. But, what I really wanted to do was to get
to know the man behind these bold wines, and try some of his barrel
samples. A couple of emails later, we'd set up a visit.
in 1996 by Tim and Mimi Spear, Clos Mimi focuses on Syrah exclusively
(though, word is he might be going to make some Grenache as well),
purchasing grapes from several nearby vineyards, including Westerly
and White Hawk from Santa Barbara County, as well as Shell Creek
and Brave Oak from eastside Paso Robles. After graduating from UC
Davis, Tim went on to apprentice at such places as Chalone, Mumm
Napa, Silverado, Tablas Creek, Lynch-Bages, and Cloudy Bay. He feels
the time spent in Bordeaux gave him a insight and appreciation for
old world winemaking methods - although some might dispute this,
given that his winemaking style is very new world.
first winemaking position was at Justin Vineyards in Paso Robles,
where he was responsible for the making the '91 Isosceles. A few
years later, he became interested in viticulture, and went to work
for nearby Tablas Creek Vineyard. That experience eventually landed
him a vineyard position at Meridian Vineyards working for Robert
(Taz) Steinhauer. At the time, Meridian was purchasing fruit from
Shell Creek vineyard in Paso, and Tim became very familiar with
the vineyard and its potential.
long after, the owners of Shell Creek offered Tim and Mimi three
tons of Syrah, and the thought of starting their own label became
a reality. Tim made his first three vintages of Clos Mimi at Creston
Vineyards while serving as their winemaker, before finally moving
his operation to the large CCWS facility in 2000, at which time
he also began to consult for Red Car, a small label with
a similar focus on Syrah. Producing only about 250 cases of Syrah
under the Clos Mimi label, Tim and Mimi (well, Mimi) needed a larger
production wine to maintain cash-flow, thus, the 2,500 case Petite
Rousse label was born in 2001. With the exception of Bunny
Slope, most of their vineyard contracts call for 2.5 tons/acre.
heard that Tim was into biodymanics, reincarnation, phases of the
moon, and was a Francophile with an affectation for all things Burgundian.
Well, this probably isn't too far off, and Tim himself will be the
first to tell you that his winemaking practices fall "somewhere
between Pagan, Pauillac, and Port-like." In fact, he thinks
he'll come back in another life and make Syrah in Burgundy - after
global warming wipes out all the Pinot Noir. He seems completely
in earnest when he talks about these things, with an almost deadpan
expression. However, the fact that he occasionaly flashes a wry
smile makes one wonder if this is merely a facade, something to
pull you in. I found him to be introspective, with a quiet self-confidence
about who he is and what he does.
Tim's self-declared French leanings, he loves wines that are big,
ripe, and in-your-face. The ripeness in these wines almost approaches
'late harvest' in style - owed in no small part to the very concentrated
fruit that results from allowing the grapes extended 'hang time'
in the vineyard. In addition, most of his wines also carry higher
alcohol levels, as one might expect from very ripe fruit. That said,
they all seemed quite balanced, and according to Tim are never acidulated.
Other practices include must sulfiting, indigenous yeasts, pigeage,
pre-fermentation and post-fermentation maceration, indigenous malolactic
fermentation in barrel, and 18-36 months élévage in
large cooperage. As to any French similarity, he says he likes to
follow "pre-phylloxera traditions practiced in Hermitage, Côte
Rotie, Musigny, and Clos de la Roche." He feels his wines "are
intended for medium to long term cellaring thanks to well-preserved
fruit, ripe grape tannins, well-integrated oak tannins, lofty alcohols,
high pHs, and low TAs."
the time of our visit, Tim was in the process of moving his wines
over to a new facility, near the Santa Maria airport. After six
months of planning and designing a brand new 2,700 square foot winery,
he's able to realize the dream of having his own place. No more
communal space or shared equipment. He'd been doing a little 'midnight
plumbing,' and proudly showed us the sewer hookup and floor drains
he'd installed. The facility also features a barrel rinsing station
- a nice touch. He was also quick to point out how he was applying
feng shui to the new space, as we could see by the multi-colored
surroundings and Chinese accents.
good things must end, and it was time to let the "pagan winemaker"
get home for the rites of solstice... I mean, spending the evening
with his family. Besides, Al and I were hungry, and Chef Rick's
was just down the street. We thanked Tim for introducing us to his
philosophies and letting us sample his wines. My only hope was the
wine we selected for dinner wouldn't be too wimpy by comparison.
May 11, 2005 - Santa Barbara County
early, Al and I once again headed over to Thanks a Latte
for a little breakfast. The Wednesday before HdR is our annual Santa
Rita Hills outing, a day when grower/winemaker Peter Cargasacchi
usually shepherds his flock of 20-30 wine geeks around the AVA in
order to stick our noses into vineyards, as well as wine glasses.
This year was to include a visit to Gypsy Canyon, home of some 100+
year-old vines - probably the only remaining Mission vines in the
county. This was to be followed by a vineyard tour at Presidio,
a picnic lunch on the Purisima Mission grounds, and finally a tasting
at Melville Vineyards of '03 Pinot Noir from several SRH producers.
We'd all agreed to meet at Melville, and carpool down the highway
a bit to Gypsy Canyon, and then onto the Mission. Arriving at the
rendezvous is the fun part - seeing all the people arrive and introduce
or re-introduce themselves to each other. It's like some sort of
convention - like a bunch of wine-trekkies from different
parts of the state or country getting together to celebrate a common
love for wine.
visit of the day was to Gypsy
Canyon, which, in addition to Pinot Noir, has a small
area of Mission grapes under vine. This was a revisit for me, as
I'd visited with Deborah Hall just last
September. Our whole group, caravaning down the dirt road, must
have been a sight to see. Deborah met us at the entrance to her
property, and had us park just inside the gate where we walked up
the slight incline to see the vines, up close and personal, as it
were. She and her vineyard manager gave us quick course in the grape's
origins, and its sacramental, as well as other uses. As I mentioned
in my previous report, the genetic origins of the "Mission"
grape are less than clear - though the grape has a lot in common
with Monica or Criolla. Similar varieties are planted in South America
(Criolla in Argentina, and Pais in Chile), probably
brought there from Spain by Jesuit missionaries - hence our name
for the grape.
tour over, we walked down the road past Deborah's house to the remodeled
horse barn, where she had set up a table of stemware, some cheese
and a couple of bottles of Angelica, made from her grapes. We were
able to taste it alongside two older Angelicas brought by Tom Hill
(J.W. Morris Mission Angelica) and Mike Ripley-Lotee (1974 Novitiate
Angelica). Very nice indeed.
Gypsy Canyon Angelica
to r : Adam Lee, Deborah Hall, Mike Ripley-Lotee, and Tom
the tasting finished, we were all herded by shepherd Peter into
a group and told to head over to Presidio Vineyards for the scheduled
vineyard tour. We thanked Deborah for her generosity, and dutifully
followed the car in front of us, out the dirt road and further down
the highway to Presidio.
Braun describes his Presidio Vineyard's soil and climate
at Presidio Winery,
we parked wherever in haphazard fashion, most of us looking for
shade to keep the cars cool. We walked up the road to the vineyard
to hear owner and winemaker Doug Braun tell us about his biodynamically-farmed
feels that using sustainable farming techniques, such as using tea
composts, creates a healthy and more balanced soil than chemical
fertilizers, which might lead to unbalanced wines with undesirable
a total of 100 acres total, 30 acres planted to several varieties,
including Pinot Noir, with a little Syrah, Pinot Gris,and Viognier.
The vineyard is 5th leaf, which means they're on the 2nd vineyard
harvest. Presidio uses a trellising system that positions the vine
closer to the ground to maximize the heat that reaches the cluster.
It's a Burgundian model that incorporates a 9-bud cane, restrictive
yields and increased vine density. It is planted on a 3 x
7 spacing with a plant density of 2,074 vines per acre, and
the row orientation is north/south.
didn't have a great deal of time to spend here, but I'm always fascinated
with how much we look to 'old world' methods to solve 'new world'
problems. Our time was at an end, so, we piled into our cars, and
headed back toward the highway, and west to the Purisima Mission,
which was practically next door. Meanwhile, Peter Cargasacchi and
John Tomasso headed into Lompoc to pick up sandwiches and drinks
for the group.
at the Mission, we were surprised to see 50-60 school buses sitting
in the parking lot. The children had long since deboarded, and were
all over the place. Since we hadn't been able to reserve picnic
benches, it looked as though finding a place to sit and have lunch
might be tough. But, like the sheep that we were, we wandered around
- aimlessly, since both Peter and John had gone off to pickup the
sandwiches and drinks. But, they were back in a jiffy, and after
a couple of cell phone calls it was decided that we'd all just go
back to Melville to eat our lunch. An excellent idea! This was why
these guys got the big bucks, I figured. (We were to find out later
that this was "Mission Week" in Santa Barbara County,
and most schools were bussing kids to the closest Mission for a
field trip. Timing is everything.)
written frequently about Melville
Vineyards, but I can't say enough good things about
the place, the people, and the wines - all of which are fabulous.
It was a stroke of luck that our originally scheduled lunch venue
didn't work out and was moved back to Melville, because this was
much prettier and the weather seemed much cooler. With our lunch
finished, we were able to get down to some serious tasting. Peter
had arranged things with Chad Melville, and Chad asked that each
winery only pour SRH-grown wines, from the 2003 vintage. Unfortunately,
this cut a few producers out of the picture (notably Arcadian, whose
'03 was actually still in barrel), but most everyone else was able
to get with the program and we had 19-20 wines available.
Melville Pinot Noir - Terraces, SRH. Light candies
apple and pomegranate notes add to the cherry and dark
cherry nose. Lots of fruit, seamless textures, and crisp
Ortman Pinot Noir - SRH. Classic strawberry scents
and flavors, with just a bit of heat apparent on the
back end. Blend of Rancho Santa Rosa (Foley), and Fiddlestix.
Ortman Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix, SRH. Richer and
darker, with more black cherry than their blend above.
Nice mouthfeel, excellent balance, with a nice tasty
Lafond Pinot Noir - Lafond, SRH. More about structure,
the wine has lots of dark fruit, a lightly oaky backbone
and slightly leaner finish.
Flying Goat Pinot Noir - Rancho Santa Rosa, SRH.
Nose and flavors of bing cherry, with lighter notes
of cranberry and earth. Bright fruit throughout, juicy
acids, delicious finish.
Flying Goat Pinot Noir - Rio Vista, SRH. Nose of
darker fruit that the RSR above, with black cherry,
and a touch of pomegranate. Same excellent balance as
the RSR, with longer richer finish.
Fiddlehead 728 Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix, SRH.
Rich and earthy, with lots of black cherry, excellent
balance, and very long seamless finish.
Fiddlehead Lallapalooza Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix,
SRH. Similar in style as the 728, but with a richer
mouthfeel, even darker fruit, forest floor scents, and
smoother fuller finish.
Presidio Pinot Noir - Solomon Hills, SMV. Warmer
in nose and flavors, with black cherry, strawberry,
and a touch of earth. Nice slightly soft feel through
mid-palate, and the finish seems to melt away smoothly.
Hitching Post Pinot Noir - Rio Vista, SRH. Nose
of cherry, cherry and cherry, with lighter scents of
earth and loam. Nice balance, fruit seems a bit soft
on the finish.
Hitching Post Pinot Noir - Cargasacchi, SRH. Dark
and brooding black cherry in the nose. Lots of complexities
- mineral, earth, wet stone seem to compliment the aroma
Hitching Post Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix, SRH. Similar
to the Cargasacchi in nose and flavor profile, but more
accessible, and a bit softer on the finish.
Siduri Pinot Noir - SRH. Dark earthy nose, lightly
sweet throughout, with plenty of black cherry and touches
of toast. 60/40 Clos pepe and Cargasacchi.
Sea Smoke Botella Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH.
Light floral scent to the otherwise dark cherry nose.
Full and tasty, with plenty of black cherry, touch of
vanilla-cola, and bit of mineral on the back end.
Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH.
Very succulent, with a bit of brightness throughout,
and smooth long finish.
Sea Smoke Ten Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH. Wow
nose! Rich, full seamless, with decadent fruit, chewy
mouthfeel, long nicely balanced finish.
Ampelos Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix, SRH. Slightly sweet
nose and mouthfeel, excellent balance, long tasty finish.
'04 will mark the first of the Estate fruit.
Loring Pinot Noir - Clos Pepe, SRH. Dark and a little
brooding in the nose, with very nice balance and finish.
The nose seemed a little close, and the palate a little
softer than I remember.
Loring Pinot Noir - Cargasacchi, SRH. Gorgeous nose
of black cherry and a touch of blackberry, and loamy
earth. Big rich mouthfeel, juicy black cherry flavor,
very nice balance and long finish.
about 4:00, we needed to get on the road to Paso Robles. I still
had to get a few supplies for our big Friday BBQ, check in at the
motel and freshen up for our offline at Villa Creek. What a week
so far, and it was only going to get better.
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- Eric Anderson