13 No.2 - August
and tasting notes from visits to several California wineries
and vineyards. The main focus of our trip was to attend
the Clos Pepe BBQ and futures roll-out at the CP vineyard on Saturday,
August 6th. But, this merely gave us an excuse to repeat
what we did last year -- visit a few other wineries and
vineyards on the Central Coast over the weekend. We'd
planned to spend Friday in Paso, then head south to the
Santa Barbara County for Saturday and the early part of
Sunday. Riding shotgun on this trip was GrapeRadio's
Jay Selman, plus we were scheduled to meet up in Paso
Robles with several folks from the Bay Area (Bob Summers,
Ken Zinns, Al Osterheld, Ken Emory, Eric Lundblad, and
Alan Garretson), AKA, the 'usual suspects.'
A special thanks to Terry Culton at Adelaida, who tasted
us through everything from Pinot Noir to Touriga Nacional.
Thanks also to Terry and Jennifer Hoage, who are embarking
on one of the most ambitious expansion projects on the
Westside. And finally, thanks to Gary Gibson, who has
his vineyard in Paso, lives in San Luis Obispo, makes
wine in Santa Maria, and still has a day job!
Santa Barbara County, a special thanks to Peter Cargasacchi
for the Jalama tour, and both he and Brian for sharing
their wines with us. Thanks again to Wes Hagen and family
- they put on quite a bash. Thanks also to Barry Torres
for guiding us around the emerging Ambullneo winery at
their open house. Finally, many thanks to Paul Lato for
arranging his schedule to meet with us at the Solomon
Hills vineyard, to see first hand his fruit source, and
taste his beautiful wines on site.
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.
order to beat the L.A. traffic out of town, Jay and I left Irvine
early enought to beat the sunrise as well. Our goal was to get to
Paso Robles about 9:30am for some coffee and Danish at Dining
with Andre, where we'd meet up with six friends who'd come down
from the Bay Area for the weekend. We were all staying at the same
motel, so after a little coffee, we headed over to check-in and
leave our wine and luggage in some air-conditioned rooms (it was
due to be 104 degrees). Afterward, we doubled back to DwA
again for a quick lunch, and then finally headed out for our first
stop of the day.
Adelaida Chardonnay - Chamisal Vnyd, SLO. Barrel fermented,
sur lee aged, and 100% ML. Nice light smokiness throughout,
with lots of clean fruit and a long smooth finish, punctuated
by some grip on the back palate.
Adelaida Viognier - Paso Robles. 100% neutral barrel fermented.
Floral and flinty, with nice minerality and touch of lime
zest and honey. Lots of pure fruit throughout, and nice long
Adelaida Pinot Noir - HMR Vnyd, Paso Robles. Mt. Eden
clone, 100% whole cluster fermentation, 30-40% stem inclusion,
20-30% new oak. Nose of black cherry and floral notes, with
a lesser amount of herb and forest floor aromas. Full on the
palate, good texture, obvious floral undertones - almost as
if were co-fermented with a floral white. Delicious!
Adelaida Pinot Noir - HMR Vnyd, Paso Robles. Completely
destemed. Significantly more black cherry aroma and taste
over the previous wine -only slightly less complexity. Very
Adelaida Grenache - Glenrose Vnyd, Paso Robles. Tablas
clone. Loads of intense strawberry-raspberry and orange zest
in the nose. Slightly sweet mouthfeel, with lots of sweet-sour
fruit, very nice balance and finish.
Adelaida Mourvedre - Paso Robles. New François
Freres barrel. Meaty-scented nose of dark berry, chocolate,
and floral tones. Roasted meats and dark fruit on the palate,
lighter on the cocoa in mouthfeel, and long smooth finish.
Will go into the Rhone blend, rather than bottled separately.
Adelaida Counoise - Paso Robles. Very floral in aroma,
with roses, gardenia and a touch of lavender. Light in mouthfeel,
with juicy mouthfeel, touch of blueberry and floral on the
palate, nice finish.
Adelaida Cinsault - Paso Robles. Peppery and meaty in
aroma. Slightly sweet in mouthfeel, lightly extracted, touch
of candied zest, and a bit of grip on the finish.
Adelaida Syrah - Glenrose Vnyd, Paso Robles. Aged in 500L
Hungarian barrel. Big, rich, ripe blackberry nose. Blueberry
and blackberry on the palate, loads of fruit throughout, nice
Adelaida Syrah - Viking Vnyd, Paso Robles. Nose of pure
blackberry, a bit riper and fuller than the Glenrose. Thick
and full on the palate, not quite as ripe/sweet in taste as
the nose might have foretold. Delicious long finish.
Adelaida Nebbiolo - Paso Robles. Nose of rhubarb pie.
Huge tannins and plenty of acids assure its ability to cut
through Mama Mia's marinara sauce. Fascinating, if a bit austere.
Adelaida Touriga Nacional - Paso Robles. Lightly sweet
and smoky-ripe in nose. Very drying on the palate, with plenty
of herbaceous qualities on the palate, and a grippy finish.
Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon - Viking Vnyd, Paso Robles.
Taransaud barrel for 24 months, with 3 rackings. Lightly sweet
and ripe blackberry nose. Touches of black forest cake and
accent the predominately dark cherry-cassis taste, with a
tasty long finish.
Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon - Viking Vnyd, Paso Robles.
François Freres barrel. Very similar in mouthfeel to
the wine above, but there's more of a pronounced cherry Kirsch
and chocolate mint aroma.
Adelaida Zinfandel - Martinelli Vnyd. From tank, just
before bottling. Nose has a old-vine quality to it, though
the fruit is from a newer section of the vineyard. Lots of
boysenberry and a touch of raspberry. Nice flavor profile
and long finish. Well done!
Adelaida Zinfandel - Martinelli Vnyd. Similar to above,
but with lots more of the vineyard's older fruit, and more
aof a meling of flevors and aromas.
Adelaida "Cryogenique" - Paso Robles. This "Ice
Wine" knockoff is an interesting blend of Muscat (92%)
and Viognier. The grapes were frozen (hence the name), and
processed normally. This got a little dryer than Terry wanted,
hence it is less viscous and sweet, with more of a pronounced
muscat - not surprising, considering the blend.
at Adelaida Cellars,
we checked in at the spacious new tasting room to see about our
appointment with winemaker Terry Culton. During HdR week, a few
years back, we were on the way to Tablas Creek and figured we'd
just stop by Adelaida for a quick taste of the Zin and the Cab.
I met Adelaida's National Sales Rep, Paul Sowerby on that particular
day, and he was really excited about their current harvest - 2002
at the time. I ran into Paul again at the 2005 HdR, and he seemed
very eager to have us try the '02s that he had spoken about before,
as well as the new '04 whites - Viognier, and a Grenache Blanc-Roussanne
blend - all of which he was pouring that day. The wines were all
quite good - especially the whites, and I asked if we could set
up a visit with Adelaida's winemaker sometime in the next few months.
Although he couldn't be there too, Paul arranged for us to meet
with Terry Culton, for a closer look at Adelaida's wines.
met us in the tasting room, and after the round of introductions,
mentioned that all of his '04 whites had just been bottled within
the last two weeks, and might not be showing well. So, he poured
us an '03 Chardonnay from bottle, and then after some coaxing, he
agreed to pour us an '04 Viognier. From there, we followed Terry
outside and over to the barrel room to try a full range of things
- from Viognier to Touriga Nacional, from destemmed to whole cluster,
and from Hungarian to French oak.
in 1981, Adelaida first earned its reputation as the home of full-throttle,
highly extracted Zinfandels and Cabernets. Through the '80s, and
into the early '90s, winemakers John Munch (now Le Cuvier)
and Neil Collins (now Tablas Creek) were producing some very
big wines - even for the times. Acquired by the Van Steenwyck family
in 1991, there seems to have been a steady momentum over the last
10 years to producing more balanced wines.
in the rolling hills of Paso's westside, Adelaida is about 15 miles
from the Pacific Ocean. At an elevation of 1,700 feet in the Santa
Lucia mountain chain, the weather here consists of hot days, contrasted
with afternoon coastal breezes which significantly cool the vineyards
in the evenings. The hillside vineyards are filled with High pH
limestone and shale. The calcareous, chalky, rock soils of the West
Side, coupled with abundant rainfall and steep terrain results in
lots of small berry clusters of highly concentrated grapes. About
80% of the planted acreage is to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay,
Merlot and Zinfandel, with various other varieties making up the
sources fruit from its own Estate vineyards, as well as a small
group of contracted local vineyards. The two Estate vineyards, Viking
Vineyard and HMR Vineyard are the flagship properties. The historic
HMR Vineyard (Hoffman Mountain Ranch) had originally been planted
by Dr. Stanley Hoffman in the early 60's. Hoffman hired the late
Andre Tchelistcheff to advise him on the potential of his acreage,
and Tchelistcheff enthusiastically recommended planting a vineyard
of, among other things, Pinot Noir. Tchelistcheff continued consulting
for a few years, and helped to produce some vineyard successes through
the early-'70s. However, over the subsequent years, the property
fell into a state of benign neglect, and the HMR label and reference
to the vineyard was gone from the marketplace for over a decade.
In 1994, Adelaida owners Don and Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, heard that
HMR Vineyard, just a couple of miles from their Estate, was for
sale and purchased a 400-acre portion of the Hoffman Mountain Ranch,
including all of the original Pinot Noir plantings. The 64-acre
vineyard is currently planted to Pinot, Chardonnay, and a bit of
20-acre Viking Vineyard was planted in 1992. It's location is considerably
warmer in temperature than the HMR Vineyard, making it more ideal
for producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Though the daily temperatures
are higher here, the nights are significantly cooler, due to the
influences of the Templeton Gap (a natural gap in the Santa Lucia
coastal range that creates an 'air conditioning' effect). Overnight
temperatures here drop by as much as 50 degrees, making it one of
the greatest diurnal variations in the state - something that also
helps a needed natural acidity develop in the fruit.
in the Paso Robles area in 1991, winemaker Terry Culton worked his
first harvest that Fall at Creston Manor, and from there moved to
Wild Horse. After attending extension classes at UC Davis, he became
cellar master at Edmeades Winery in Mendocino County, and then assistant
winemaker at Calera in San Benito County, working with Josh Jensen
for 3-1/2 years. Terry heard from departing winemaker Jon Priest
that the winemaking position at Adelaida was open. He immediately
expressed interest, was hired and began with Adelaida at the '03
with many of his contempories, Terry feels wines are made in the
vineyard, and thus embraces a non-interventionist style of winemaking.
He uses native yeast to start fermentations, then ages the wines
for 14 to 24 months in French and/or European oak barrels (20% to
30% new oak, depending upon the varietals). Terry likes to use oak
as a spice rack, to accent the wine, rather than dominate it. Everything
is bottled unfiltered and unfined. We talked about bottle closure
issues and he mentioned that he hadn't seen much of a problem with
TCA, but that he would consider screwcaps for his white wines, but
not the reds. Adelaida's production is about 15,000 cases annually.
visit to Adelaida was illuminating. All of the wines were fruit-filled
and well-balanced, with a modest amount of oak. Whether it's Pinot
Noir or Cabernet or Syrah, Terry is obviously a talented winemaker,
and the fact that he appears to have full control of both the vineyards
and winemaking, bodes well for Adelaida's future.
west at Terry Hoage Vineyards, looking overly the recently
Adelaida, we headed back toward Paso, through town and onto Hwy 46
West. A couple of turns later we were at the gate for Terry
Hoage Vineyards. I'd been here once before, when it was
named Winchester Vineyard - owned appropriately by a fellow named
Ken Winchester. Terry and Jennifer Hoage bought the property in 2002,
and quickly set about dealing with the immediate harvest of the '02
Hoage "the 46" Syrah - Paso Robles.
Syrah-Grenache blend. Very ripe in nose of raspberry and blackberry.
Juicy and bright on the palate, with dusty tannins and a nice
long finish. (The "46" is named for Coach Buddy
Ryan's famous defense, as well as a play on the fact that
the vineyard is located off Hwy 46.)
Hoage "the Hedge" Syrah - Paso Robles.
Deep, peppery blackberry nose, with touch of chocolate. Juicy
sweet-sour flavors, lots of fruit, very tasty finish. (The
"Hedge" is named for the hedges at U of Georgia
Garretson Syrah - Hoage Vnyd, Paso Robles. Something we'd
brought along for comparison. Very monolithic in nose and
mouth, with a Petite Sirah-like density, but surprisingly
Hoage "the Hedge" Syrah - Paso Robles.
Very similar to the '02 Hedge - just slightly sweeter in taste.
Lovely mouthfeel, juicy and loaded with fruit throughout.
Hoage "the Hedge" Syrah - Paso Robles.
Similar to the '03 with its juicy acids, though less sweet
some may already know, Terry was an All-American football player
with the University of Georgia Bulldogs in '82 and '83. In addition,
he was also an Academic All-America selection, with a 3.71 grade
point average, and a major in Genetics. Drafted by New Orleans in
'84, he was traded to Philadelphia in '86 where he led the NFL in
interceptions in '88. After graduation, he had actually intended
to enroll in medical school, but, as with many 'great expectations,'
Terry ended up staying in the NFL for 13 seasons, highlighted by
the Super Bowl ring he received as a Washington Redskin in '92.
He was inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame
drove up the road through the vineyard and parked outside a recently
remodeled barn. Getting out of the car, we could feel that the day
was only getting hotter. An employee was watering down the cement
crush pad, and I felt like lying down in front of the hose to soak
up some of the water.
and Terry came out to meet us as we pulled in. After introductions,
Terry asked if we'd like to start with some wine, or head on out
into the vineyard. How about if we see the vineyard first, most
of us thought, before the wine slows us down (little did we know
that the walk itself would slow us down). So, out into the vineyard
we went, Terry leading us up and over the rolling sandy hills into
the dry heat, like some scene from the Lost Patrol, to the
highest point in the vineyard. It was here on the back of the property
that he'll plant his meter-by-meter vines (3.1 x 3.1 feet), often
referred to as "close treatment." The competition between
vines for water and other nutrients that are planted at such high
density naturally stresses the plants, making the berries smaller
and the flavors more intense. Thus far, the vineyard stakes for
trellising have been set into place, but rows of dried-out brush
and weeds stand as the only sentinels until vine planting begins
in late Winter or very early Spring. I stared at the weeds for a
minute, trying to come up with something amusing (I always seem
to do this). Gee, I hate to tell you this Terry, but these vines
don't look too good, I said tongue-in-cheek. In fact, they look
dead, I added. Yeah, they look dead to me too, he said with a half-smile,
obviously having heard this before.
of our group (Bob Summers, Eric Lundblad) walk among the meter
x meter vineyard stakes
heat didn't seem nearly as intense up on the top of hill, and we
could feel a nice strong breeze picking up from the Templeton Gap.
The 26-acre property currently has 17 acres planted, much of it
shall we go back and taste some wine, Terry said. Sure, we thought,
though we hated to leave the breeze behind. On the way back, we
walked by the newer section of Grenache. Terry mentioned that he
had already dropped about 2/3 of it - a substantial amount of crop.
Véraison (change of color) had already started, and the vineyard
was showing a nice palette of colors.
at the barn (which will be the winery, when completed), we took
comfort in the cool, air-conditioned front room, while Jennifer
poured us some wines. Hoage's first release was 2002, which was
made by Justin Smith (Saxum). From the outset, Terry seemed intent
on taking over the winemaking, and we chatted about the stylistic
differences that he felt we might notice between the wines made
by Justin Smith. Interestingly, I think one can actually taste the
similarities, as well differences in winemaking over the three vintages
('02, '03, '04), with Justin consulting on the '03, and Terry making
the '04. Despite the extra hot sunlamp in the sky, it was an excellent
visit, and I for one was pleased to see this property expanding,
and taste the first vintages of what I imagine will be another excellent
wine estate for the Paso area.
south at Shadow Canyon Vineyards
Terry Hoage Vineyards, we continued west on Hwy 46 to the York Mtn
AVA, currently the only sub-appellation in Paso Robles. Our destination
was Shadow Canyon
vineyard, and a visit with owner and winemaker Gary Gibson. In addition
to his estate fruit, Gary also sources Pinot Blanc from Bien Nacido
Viineyard, as well as Syrah and Grenache from Larner vineyards,
both in Santa Barbara County.
Shadow Canyon Viognier - Larner Vnyd, SYV. Lovely floral
and white peach aromas. Nice crisp mouthfeel, stone fruit
and slightly candied pineapple flavors, and nice finish.
Shadow Canyon Estate Syrah - York Mtn. Lots of
currant, pepper, with just a touch of chocolate. Medium grip
on the palate, juicy acids, beautiful texture and flavor,
very long finish.
Shadow Canyon Syrah - Larner Vnyd, SYV. Slightly heavier
in density that the Estate version, with ripe blackberry flavors,
excellent balance, lots of smooth tannins, and an equally
Shadow Canyon Grenche - Larner Vnyd, SYV. Surprisingly
massive fruit in nose and mouth, very well balanced, long
druit-filled finish. Wow!
Shadow Canyon Late Harvest "Paeonia" Pinot
Blanc - Bien Nacido Vnyd, SMV. Lovely nose of floral and
citron aromas. Very flavorful, delightful sweetness and acidity
throughout, and nice long smooth finish. 11.3% alcohol
first met Gary at HdR this year, when Mid-West friend Mitch Tallan
discovered Gary and his wife at the Grand Tasting, and spread the
word. Gary is originally from Southern California, first coming
to the area to attend Cal Poly SLO. He now lives in San Luis Obispo
and makes his wine at CCWS in Santa Maria. Besides this, he has
a day job in SLO, finding time to meet at the winery in Santa Maria
was going to be difficult for him. But, a few emails later, and
we'd arranged to meet with Gary at his York Mtn vineyard - and,
he'd bring the wine to us! It just doesn't get much better than
might have had more than a little difficulty finding the place,
were it not for Gary's map and instructions. SCV is located about
half-way to Cambria, tucked into a canyon off York Mountain Rd.
At 1500', the 40 acre property is on a gently sloping hillside,
smack dab in the middle of the Templeton Gap, the corridor that
allows the area to cool down in the late afternoons and effectively
increase the "hang time" of the grapes. The area gets
an average 40" of rainfall annually - and up to twice that
during El Niño years.
Christle (l) watches as Gary Gibson pulls another bottle
vineyard is strewn with rocks, allowing excellent drainage
has about 15 acres fenced in, and 11 of those were planted to Syrah
starting in '98 and continuing through 2000. Future plans call for
planting some Grenache as well. The hillside slopes to the west
and the south, with north/south rows of Vertical Shoot Positioned
vines. Five different clones are planted: Estrella, #877, and ENTAV
clones #174, 383 and 470. Yields are kept to 2-tons/acre, and the
fruit quality speaks for itself. Gary's 2000 harvest (3rd leaf)
went to none other than Manfred Krankel's Sine Qua Non - all of
it! Between 2001-03, SQN reduced their demand to 50% of the Syrah,
as their own Syrah plantings came on line. For the '04 vintage,
Gary is selling Syrah to Red Car, as well, of course, as making
his own wine. Besides his Estate Syrah, Gary also bottles a Viognier,
a Syrah, and a Grenache from Larner Vineyard, as well as a botrytised
Pinot Blanc from Bien Nacido Vineyard. There was an interesting
story behind the Pinot Blanc. Apparently, the fruit had always suffered
from botrytis, and the Millers (owners of B/N) were actively trying
to treat the vines to rid them of the mold. Talking with owners
and a few other local winemakers, Gary convinced them to let the
botrytis do its thing unabated. Thus was born Gary's Paeonia,
a late-harvest Pinot Blanc in a beautiful square-sided 500ml bottle.
temperature was getting cooler as we stood in the vineyard. I looked
down at the rock-strewn soil. Wow, it must have cost you a fortune
to get all this rock up her, huh Gary? He snickered, playing along.
Yeah, it did, but it was worth it, he said grinning. After walking
back up the slope from the vineyard, we gathered at a picnic table
under some of the old live-oak trees, which - except for the vineyard
- seemed to dominate the hillsides of York Mountain. The Gibsons
have a house on the property that's being renovated. Once finished,
they'll all have one less commute to make - although there's still
the matter of Gary's day job. We thanked Gary and family for the
tour, the wine, and his company and headed back to Paso.
wines - Paris restaurant...
2003 Peay Roussanne-Marsanne
2003 Linne Calodo Contrarian (Rhone white)
1998 Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc L'Orvert
2003 Dauvissat La Foret
2002 Girardin Chassagne Montrachet 1'er Les Vides Bourses
2001 Siduri Pinot Noir Rosella's
2003 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir 4-Barrel
1996 Mommesin Clos de Tart
1989 Ch. Leoville las Cases
2003 Domain Fouet Saumur Champigny
1969 Sterling Cabernet
1982 Ch. La Dominique
1997 Flora Springs Trilogy
2001 Rieussec Sauternes
2001 Guiraud Sauternes
to the motel for a little 'happy hour,' then we headed over to our
reservation for dinner at Paris Restaurant in Paso (1221 Park St.),
conveniently located within walking distance. We'd originally intended
to order off the menu, but Bob Summers had an idea that we all could
appreciate. So, we decided to split up a few of the entrees and
all have a little of each one. We were able to try the monkfish
paired with the white wines, and the the duck, and lamb paired with
the Burgundy and Pinot Noir, as well as with a few of the Cabernets.
wines were all great, with the '69 Sterling turning out to be the
real surprise of the evening. I'm sure most of us expected it to
be DOA, but it was surprisingly fruit-forward. All in all, an excellent
August 6, 2005 - Santa Barbara County
early, we headed out of town for a breakfast meeting in Lompoc with
Peter Cargasacchi. A little over an hour later we arrived at a place
called Hi's. (It's really called "Hi, Let's Eat,"
but, that's not a very rousing endorsement for the place. Despite
the older appearance of the place, the food is usually very good,
and there's plenty of it.) After breakfast, our morning plan called
for a visit to Jalama Vineyard, Peter's other vineyard, located
off Hwy 1 on an access road to Jalama Beach, near Pt. Concepcion.
Besides our usual group from Friday's visits, we were also going
to be joined by Bennett Traub, and Alonso Tejeda and wife Lexi.
Cargasacchi (c) discusses Pinot Noir with Bennett Traub (l),
and Al Osterheld (r)
the difference in degree of veriason (color change) of the Mt.
Eden Pinot clone (above) and clone 115 (below)
followed Peter back to Hwy 1, and south to the Jalama Beach turnoff.
Here, tucked into some rolling hills was Peter's 16 acres of Pinot
(previously Pinot and Syrah), along with a bit of Pinot Grigio.
We pulled our cars off the main road onto the dirt and walked with
Peter over to the rows of vines. The vine rows are on an east/west
face, in a variety of soils. The Pinot Noir was partially planted
in 1999 to Mt. Eden clones, with additional plantings of clone 115
in 2001. The original Syrah vines were re-grafted to the new 828
Pinot. Peter has 450 acres of property here, so he also intends
to plant the north ridge of the property at some point.
we approached the vineyard, one of the interesting things immediately
visible was the different stages of veriason on the blocks of Pinot.
The 115 Pinot clone looked completely different from the Martin
Ray/Mt. Eden Pinot clone right next to it. The 115 was almost finished,
while the Mt. Eden was only 1/3-1/2 finished. Peter told us that
115 does indeed ripen earlier. Obviously, all clones are not created
vineyard is in an area known as Salsipuedes Canyon. According to
Peter, the name originated as something of a warning, roughly translating
to "flee, if you can." Apparently, bandits who preyed
upon early California travelers would lie in wait in the Gaviota
Pass, the natural pass between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez
Valley. However, the inland route along the Santa Ynez River, and
ultimately through this canyon provided much safer passage. Now,
some might consider this with some suspicion, given that Peter does
indeed tell some tall tales. But, we all told him we believed him.
He just feels better that way.
Point Concepción Rose - SBC. A 50/50 blend
of Syrah (the last from Jalama) and Viognier. Big blast of
floral notes in the nose and mouth give way to a lightly sweet
and crisp mouthfeel.
Point Concepción Chardonnay - SBC. Very nice mineral,
light smoke in the nose. Off sweet fruiti on the palate. Pretty
Loring Pinot Noir - Brousseau Vnyd, Chalone. Big fruit,
real nice, with lots of black cherry and a light cola aspect,
and fruit-filled finish.
Loring Pinot Noir - Keefer Ranch, Green Valley. Nose of
espresso and a hint of roasted meats. Touches of forest floor
in the flavor profile signals out Sonoma County.
Loring Pinot Noir - Garys' Vnyd, SLH. Very nice strawberry
and cherry aroma and flavor, with just a touch of orange zest
near the finish.
Loring Pinot Noir - Pisoni Vnyd, SLH. Roasted coffee and
espresso aromas mingle with the deep rich black cherry.Tannic
and tight in mouthfeel right now, but this is a huge wine,
with a nice gripon the very long finish.
Loring Pinot Noir - Rancho Ontiveros Vnyd, SMV. Nose of
cherry and black cherry, with touches of coffee and raspberry.
Juicy mouthfeel, lots of fruit throughout. Excellent!
Point Concepción Pinot Noir - Jalama Vnyd, SBC.
Slightly reduced at this point, but there's a nice forest
floor/Burg-like quality here.
Cargasacchi Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH. This will be the
first Estate Pinot under teh Cargasacchi label (rather than
the Pt. Concepcion label). Dense, rich nose of black cherry,
forest floor, and orange zest. It seemed way too early to
be trying this wine, but it was very well balanced, filled
with fruit, and had a nice long finish.
Point Concepción Syrah - SBC. The last of the Syrah
from Jalama, blended with some Syrah from westside Paso (prev.
Moss Hill Vnyd). Still cool-climate influenced, with the profile
more to the pepper and spice side of things, and a long off-sweet
Jalama, we headed back into Lompoc to visit the home of Loring
and Point Concepción
Wines in what is affectionately called "Pinot Prison,"
due to its proximity to the Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution.
(It's actually closer to the dog pound, yet the pair saw fit to
ignore any reference to that of course.) Currently, Andrew Vignello
also makes his wine (AP Vin) here too.
is Brian Loring's 5th vintage, and for my palate, it's his best
effort yet. As alliterative as it might sound, Loring wines have
always been fruit-forward, friendly, and flat-out delicious. However,
everything I tasted this time around seemed to be kicked up a notch
in complexity. In addition, he's added a couple of new vineyards
for the '04 vintage - Keefer Ranch and Durell, both from Sonoma
County. This also marks Brian's entry into full-time winemaking
- no more day job - and none too soon, either. With 9 different
Pinots, and plans to add even more for '05, I know why the
guy does it (he's crazy about Pinot), I just don't know how
was able to do it. Now, with the day-job behind him he'll finally
be able to work 140 hours/week on wine-related activities. Also
for '04, Brian will split the wine offerings between two release
dates, one in the Fall and one in the Spring.
Cargasacchi needs no introduction to those familiar with Pinot Noir.
Planted in 1998, the very well-known Cargasacchi Vineyard has 16
acres of clone 115 Pinot in the western-most portion of the Santa
Rita Hills AVA. There's not enough fruit to supply all of those
who want to make a Cargasacchi Vineyard designate Pinot Noir, but
those that do make one are quick to acknowledge that this is some
of the finest Pinot Noir fruit in the state. Peter has also been
making wine for a couple of years under his Point Concepción
label. However, the '04 vintage will also mark the debut of his
own Estate label. I guess even Peter had to admit that his
was some of the finest Pinot Noir grown in California.
in the shade
Tomasso, relaxin' at Clos Pepe
Lompoc, we headed for the BBQ at Clos
Pepe Vineyards. This
is an annual event that Wes and Chanda Hagen, and Steve and Cathy
Pepe put on for their Allocation List members. Here, the 2004 Barrel
Samples were offered for tasting, with the wines offered as futures
and with special pricing. The event also affords the opportunity
to taste through several vintages of Clos Pepe wines made by other
local producers! The BBQ features: Red Oak Barbecued Pork Shoulder
with a variety of sauces and rolls. Turkey Italian, and Chicken
Pesto Sausages with Baguette, and artisanal cheeses: Midnight Moon,
Humboldt Fog, Red Hawk, Point Reyes Blue, Crescenza, Carmody Reserve.
I seldom take notes at this event (I don't usually take them at
dinners, either), preferring to relax, enjoy the wine, food, and
camaraderie, plus shoot a few pictures.
with a view
way of background, Clos Pepe Vineyards is on a former 40-acre horse
ranch that was purchased in 1994 by Cathy and Steve Pepe, Wes' mother
and stepfather. Before setting up the 28-acre vineyard, the family
consulted with Jeff Newton and Larry Finkle of Coastal Vineyard
Care to site and plant the vineyards. Burgundian varietals are Wes'
passion, and that's all that's grown here - with Pinot Noir claiming
the majority of acreage, plus a small amount of Chardonnay. Although
Clos Pepe sells about 90% of its fruit to the likes of Siduri, Ojai,
Babcock, Loring, Clifton-Brewer and Hitching Post, they keep 3.5
acres (about 250 cases) of Pinot Noir to bottle under their own
label. Yields have been down lately - sometimes almost miniscule
at Clos Pepe. CP's first year of production was 2000, the critics
noticed, about the rest as they say is history.
Hagens and Pepes are phenomenal hosts, and this BBQ is their way
of thanking their allocation list members. We could easily have
stayed all afternoon, but the BBQ ended at 4:00 and we had another
stop to make before our dinner reservation at the Hitching Post
Jay and I had heard that a new winery named Ambullneo
was having an Open House, right after the Clos Pepe BBQ. Jay first
heard of the winery through friend Barry Torres - who is also involved
in the venture. When first told about Ambullneo, I hadn't heard
of the winery, so I decided to check out their website. My first
surprise was that Ambullneo wasn't the owner's name, it was actually
the name of a new breed of dog - a cross between an American Bulldog
and a Neopolitan Mastiff - Am-Bull-Neo. My second surprise
was that they had already been in production for one vintage. And,
my third surprise was the pricing, which seemed quite lofty for
a new operation.
names like Chardonnay Big Paw and Pinot Noir Bulldog Reserve,
it'd be easy not to take Ambullneo seriously. But, when critic Robert
Parker gives the '03 Chard 92 points, and the '03 Pinot 93 points,
you have to take notice. At $40 and $65 respectively, one might
also expect that the wines have risen to their highest price points.
Apparently not. The '04 versions of both of these wines will be
at even loftier $59 and $79 respectively. In addition, there will
be a Mastiff Cuvee Pinot from Carneros for $79, and a Canis
Major Pinot Noir - California AVA because it's a blend from
the north (Carneros) and the south (Santa Maria Valley) for $95.
Greg Linn and winemaker Scott Ames have their sights set high. Barry
Torres led us around the back, pointing out with obvious pride the
gleaming new stainless steel tanks and equipment. There was no question
that these folks are making a heavy investment - and consequently,
a commitment to make great wine. Scott's winemaking includes about
50% whole cluster fermentation, with 50% new oak. Their first decision
was to blend each and every wine, thus purposely not becoming a
site (or vineyard) dependent winery, as they saw it. Or, as Greg
Linn put it, "Not being at the mercy of single vineyards enhances
the quality of every vintage...What if Burgundy could blend La Tache,
Musigny and Chambertin? Just imagine the results." Sourcing
fruit from Solomon Hills and Bien Nacido locally, and from the Hyde
and Hudson vineyards in northern California,
Jay, Al and I decided to see what all of the fuss was about, and
headed out to Bien Nacido Vineyard to attend the Open House (well,
we were invited). When we arrived, a band was already set
and playing, and the crowd was happy. The mobile Hitching Post BBQ
was on-site serving tri-tip, and there were slices of designer pizza
as well as various other munchies. Heck, we easily could've done
dinner right here.
of the Ambullneo people was pouring from an un-Godly sized champagne
bottle, and they were trotting out their newer wines frequently
- this, in addition to the various other bottles that wishing-you-well'ers
like Jim Clendenen were heaving up on the table -- as I said, we
could have stayed for dinner and drinks! But, we did have other
plans, so I asked one of the HP people if they knew of a shortcut
back to Buellton. Sure, she said, take the blah-blah to such and
such, then right on 246 and you're there. I nodded incoherently
at the instructions, and off we went.
How were the wines? They were very-good to excellent. Were they
worth the bucks? Wel-l-l-l-l, assessing wine's selling price
is awfully subjective. Sound like I'm hedging? Yeah, I guess I am.
wines - Hitching Post restaurant...
Copain Broken Leg Viognier
1999 Thackrey Orion
1997 Ojai Stolpman Syrah
2000 Saxum Bone Rock Syrah
2001 Copain Cailloux and Coccinelle Syrah
2002 Sine Qua Non Just for the Love of It
2002 Copain Broken Leg Syrah
???? Carlisle Dry Creek Syrah
2001 Alban Reva Syrah
2002 Alban Seymour's Syrah
1996 Tardieu Laurent Cornas
1999 Tensley Purisima Mountain Syrah
1999 Clos Pepe Beckmen Syrah
1997 Babcock Black Label Syrah
1999 D'Arenberg Dead Arm
2001 Lookout Ridge Gabrielli Syrah
2000 Testarossa Garys' Syrah
2000 Kathryn Kennedy Syrah
2000 Ojai Thompson Special Bottling Syrah
2002 Hitching Post Cargasacchi Pinot Noir
2001 Suduiraut Sauternes
that night was at the Hitching Post II in Buellton. John Tomasso
made the call, requesting a reservation for "up to 20"
people, which elicited more than a little laughter from the staff
at the HP. 'Twenty people? Saturday night? Hahahahah.' But, John's
tight with the HP folks and hung in there until they decided we
could have a seating at 8:30 - two tables, nearly contiguous. That
was fine with us - nobody was complaining. Given the Sideways
effect to both the area and the HP in particular, we were lucky
to be seated at all.
after our seating, Frank Ostini came over to see if he recognized
anyone in this group of 20. He certainly did - nearly all of us,
and he hung out awhile, even giving us a bottle of HP Cargasacchi
Pinot, since Peter was dining with us. Just what we needed - more
wine, we told him, and proceeded to have some nice beef with our
Syrah...oh, and Frank and Peter's Pinot, too.
August 7, 2005 - Santa Barbara County
early (seems we're always up early), we still had some time to to
get breakfast before heading up toward Santa Maria. We'd already
been to Hi's, so we were looking for somewhere different, but where?
Al and I remembered something John had said the night before, "...there's
always the Cajun Kitchen," in Lompoc. Since John takes his
food seriously, we had to assume this was a worthy place.
He was right. Just after we were seated, hordes of local folks (along
with some of our group) started arriving for breakfast. The plan
for the day was to meet up with Paul Lato at a Santa Maria Valley
vineyard named Solomon Hills. John was right - he food was
very good. After breakfast, we headed north toward Santa Maria to
Solomon Hills Vnyd
Paul Lato "Duende" Pinot Noir - Gold Coast
Vnyd, SMV. Martini clone. Beautiful strawberry and cherry,
interwoven with hints of grilled meat and citrus. Long silky
finish. Paul's first release, from .9-tons/acre!!
Paul Lato "Ray" Pinot Noir - Gold Coast
Vnyd, SMV. Martini clone, from 1.5 tons/acre yields. Sweet
purity of black cherry and strawberry fruit, with a touch
of cocoa. Beautiful balance, delicious throughout.
Paul Lato "Magdalene" Pinot Noir - Solomon
Hills Vnyd, SMV. New François Freres barrel, with
heavy toast. Nose of strawberry, witha hint of rhubarb and
touch of candied orange peel. Lots of structure, juicy acids
and long lovely finish. Wow!
Paul Lato "Longshot" Syrah - Bien Nacido
Vnyd, SMV. 1/3 new oak. Nose of blackberry, clove and
mineral. Beautiful silky mouthfeel, lots of fruit, juicy acids,
off-sweet long luxurious finish. Wow, again!
first met Paul Lato at the '05 Wine Cask Futures tasting in March.
Once again, a mid-west friend - this time Chris Gross, put me on
to someone pouring some terrific wines, Pinot and a Syrah. the wines
were stunning - yes, stunning. Paul and I talked briefly,
and we agreed to talk more, at some mutually convenient time.
weeks led to months and the next time I ran into Paul was at the
'05 HdR in May. He was performing sommelier duties for the event
- he and a dozen other sommeliers were pouring wine for the 400
participants at each of the seminars. I mentioned that I'd be back
in Santa Barbara County in August, and promised to call/write him.
called Paul in July, and after some phone tag, we had a visit set
- well, almost. Like many others in the wine business, Paul has
a day job. So, we needed to work around his schedule. Sunday would
work best for him, but he wouldn't have access to his wines at Central
Coast Wine Services (CCWS) in Santa Maria. We could meet you at
a vineyard, I suggested, explaining that we often did this, and
in fact found it almost more rewarding - actually tasting
wine from its own vineyard! So we agreed to meet him Sunday morning
at the Solomon Hills Vineyard, near Orcutt on the east side of Hwy
Hills, planted in 1999 is owned and operated by the Miller Family,
who also own the Bien Nacido vineyard. The Solomon Hills site is
one of the coolest in the Santa Maria Valley - in fact, from a geographic
standpoint, this vineyard is actually closer to the ocean than many
of the vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills. The vineyard itself is
divided into four different blocks - each one planted to a specific
clone and rootstock best suited to soil type and microclimate. The
vineyard shares common soil with the famed Sierra Madre Vineyards
formerly owned by the Mondavi organization. 2003 is the second year
the vineyard has produced a crop. Currently, Foley, Tantara, Flying
Goat, Ambullneo, Ojai, Summerland, Hartley-Ostini (Hitching Post),
J. Wilkes and Paul Lato, among others, source fruit from here.
Hwy 101 at Clark, we parked at the side of the road to wait for
Paul. Unfortunately, we'd gotten our signals crossed, and Paul was
waiting a mile further up the road. But, when we didn't show up,
he finally came looking for us - thanks, Paul! We followed him up
to Telephone Rd, and turned into an access road that led to the
Solomon Hills Vineyard. We parked on the side road, and Paul introduced
us to his fiancee Kascha, whom he met just after last year's World
of Pinot symposium. After chatting for a few minutes, we followed
Paul down the gentle slope to a strategic point in the vineyard.
He described his passion for wine and the vineyard.
is originally from Poland, emigrating to Canada, where he was a
sommelier for 12 years in Toronto. He moved to this area in '96,
working harvest with Jim Clendenen. This will be Paul's 3rd year
working harvest at Solomon Hills. He says he agonizes about winemaking
decisions beforehand (to which his fiancee nods with a smile), but
once the decision is made he has no regrets. He tries to "cater
the winemaking to the vintage," and the 2004 vintage presented
special problems, which he dealt with accordingly. Paul did add
some water to the must, and acidulated within the first 4 days of
wants his wines to "age comfortably" for 6-7 years. We
asked him what kind of 'style' he was going for with his wines.
He replied that he strives to make his wines something akin to a
"swiss clock with a gypsy soul." Ordinarily, that might
sound real corny. But, from Paul we completely understood - wine
was his passion. We complimented Paul on his obvious zeal, and on
his exquisite wines. But, it was winemaker Yves Cuilleron who probably
paid Paul the highest compliment when he told him that his wines
were "the most French tasting, outside of France." We
couldn't have said it better ourselves.
over, it was time for all of us to head our separate ways. It was
another interesting and revealing series of visits, and we met a
lot of great people along with way. Many thanks to all of those
fabulous people who grow wine. They make life fun.
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- Eric Anderson