Saturday, February 27, 2010

Smile at the Cellar Door

A recent blog post by wine critic, Steve Heimoff, leads me to this thought:

if you are lucky enough to live in or near wine country, get to know the wines and the people behind those wines. Letting a a numerical score (which implies an objectivity that doesn't exist) substitute for relationships seems like a recipe for a stunted, reductive experience.

Remember wine is all about relationships, the relationship of the grower with the vines, the winemaker with fruit, the Tasting Room team with its customers, and the customer to the experience. No purported exactitude can ever take the place of a smile at the cellar door.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Evolution's the Thing

Back when my dad started selling wine, there were only a handful of premium wineries in California, and the only model for world-class Cabernet was the wine from Bordeaux. Those wines were significantly lower in alcohol and less fruit-filled than their California counterparts. They were also very tannic, nearly undrinkable wines when they were young.

The concept of laying Cabernet down before you drank it and for ascribing inherent quality to a wine that can (or needs to) age before it is drunk is directly related to the Bordeaux experience. California wineries trying to make exceptional Cabernet emulated Bordeaux even when the viticultural conditions in their home state blessed them with a completely different kind of wine.

To my mind, the biggest, brawniest Cab in the room is not the prettiest pig at the Fair. Often, these huge monsters are so out of balance that by the time the tannins have softened with age, the piddling fruit that had started the journey was long gone when the wine was finally opened.

I love big, BALANCED wines. Cabernet is a grape that has tannin, and even more tannin is imparted to the wine when it is aged in newer barrels. Cabernet shouldn't apologize for having structure, but it also shouldn't haughtily beat its chest for having way more tannin than the rest of its constituent parts can elegantly support.

All wines will age. Tannins will soften out. Some wines will, no doubt, age better than others. What is important is not the wine's ability to age, it is the wine's ability to evolve into something worth waiting for. Great wines give you something substantially new each time you drink them...some new palette of secondary aromas, the dramatic debut of a heretofore shy mix of flavors, the effortless marriage of fruit, wood, and structure.

Great wines are like great books. No matter how long or short, each time you open them they always have something new to teach.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silver Lining

When business is off for one part of an industry, the negative ramifications are usually felt up and down the chain. Sales for high-end wines have been hit the hardest in the current economic downturn. The total volume of wine is right where it was in 2008, but price points tend to drop as disposable income diminishes.

Where the silver lining lies is in new opportunities for purchasing fruit. La Rochelle Winery will be getting a couple of tons of Pinot Noir from a new site in the Santa Lucia Highland called Soberanes Vineyard. This site was planted and is being farmed by the same people behind Garys', Pisoni, and Rosella's vineyards...three of the best sites in the world.

On the Chardonnay front, Merrillie will now be getting fruit from Rosella's Vineyard (pictured right) one of the top Chardonnay sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Coupled with the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard fruit from which we made wine for the first time in 2009, Merrillie is poised to begin her new life as a Chardonnay-only brand in 2011 with a stable of some of the top Chardonnay vineyards in the state.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Steven Kent's First Malbec to Debut

Members of our Future Release Program have come to love the Bordeaux-variety blends we make exclusively for them. Until now, we have not had a Malbec to share. With our February release, however, the last of the five classic varieties will make its debut.

Aromatic notes of dried cherry, brambly berry, and spice join seamlessly with a viscous mid-palate and substantial finishing tannin to create a supremely interesting and delicious wine. 86% Malbec and 14% Cabernet Franc, this wine will be at its peak from 2011-2015. Fewer than 200 cases were produced.