Archive for September, 2013
The winery is state of the art & I would say….truly a dream come true for most winemakers. These vessels can be programmed to do pump overs by themselves & as many times & when you want. No more late nights?
We then head back east across the Valley & up. This is the Maya parcel of Dalle Valle (left), another one of Andy’s projects. Directly above & what used to be Showket has recently been purchased by Peter Michael. We continued upwards as we head for Oakville Ranch, & specifically the Summit Block (right picture), which is located roughly 1000 feet in elevation. The soils is comprised of Aken soils, which in this case are rich in iron-clay & decomposing volcanic rock.
On our next visit (as there just was not enough time on this trip), I hope to visit Andy’s latest project–Mayacamas–a, iconic, historic vineyard & place, where Andy Erickson & his wife/viticulturist Annie Favia now oversee. I know it seems like Andy has lots of projects, but in comparison to the other top echelon, he really doesn’t have that many. But the ones he does have are truly special.
In the afternoon, we decided to stop by & see Neyers Vineyards located on Sage Canyon Road. Because things were so hectic, as the looming harvest meant cleaning all of the equipment, bottling wine to make room for the new harvest & visiting vineyards, we did not ask to see any vineyards with winemaker Tadeo on this visit. Just, way too much going on & we were appreciative for any time he & they could spend with us.
We were graciously received by Barbara Neyers & her team. She is an incredible person with a BIG heart & old soul. There is very few people around like her, believe me! She worked at Chez Panisse for 20+ years, along side Chef/owner Alice Waters. She & Bruce’s strongly believe in comprehensive sustainability. to the point I never have to ask.
We were then thankful to taste through a formidable line up of Neyers’ upcoming releases. We walked away as impressed as ever. As I have stated frequently in the past months, winemaker Tadeo Borchardt is totally in the groove & crafting a bevy of sensational wines…..which display character & interesting-ness….AND are seamless, well textured & wonderfully balanced. One should try the Neyers Syrah “Old Lakeville Road”, for example, just to see what we mean.
The vineyard on the left is “Black Chicken”. Interestingly, Black Chicken is a single vineyard….AND is also a proprietary name for one of their Zinfandels…(whose core is the Black Chicken vineyard). The vineyard on the right is Aldo, which was planted in 1937.
The grapes, in each case were close to ripening. They also had lots of character…& were not just tooty fruity like some of the other grapes we tasted in Paso Robles & other parcels of Napa Valley.
Robert Biale has a true passion for Zinfandel & their wines clearly show that. FYI–they now use Burgundian barrels to age the Zins & handle the grapes more gently. We were really impressed with what we saw & tasted.
The Napa Valley was truly bustling with energy as people scurried about to get ready for the looming harvests. AND, winemakers were making their rounds to check out their grape sources. Kenefick Ranch
We recently had an opportunity to visit and spend two days in the Napa Valley of California. We were fortunate that this year the harvest look to start early because of some severe heat spikes which happened in May & June. As is normally the case whenever we go to a winegrowing region we endeavor to walk vineyards with some of our favorite winemakers. In this case because of the early harvest, were also able to taste nearly ripe grapes as well.
Our first day we met with Napa Valley winemaking phenom Thomas Brown. Thomas, although very busy, was kind enough to meet us at my best friends’ family ranch just above St. Helena.. Even though I had been going to and staying at this ranch for 30+ years up until this visit I really had no idea of the true quality of the grapes grown on this 6 1/2 acre ranch. I was certainly in for an eye-opening discovery walking the vineyard with Thomas Brown.
The small dirt road lane has 4 vineyards (Schoenstein, Tournahu, Shibumi Knoll & Panek) on one side and one larger vineyard (Aida) on the opposite side. Schoenstein at one time was farmed by viticultural superstar David Abreu. Thomas Brown is a consulting winemaker for Shibumi Knoll & and I believe he also works with Panek. Aida vineyard was made famous by Turley Wine Cellars. Needless to say I was absolutely blown away by the reputation of all of these vineyards. To think for 30 years I had no idea.
We then went down the road a short while to visit Larkmead Estate, which is an iconic vineyard heralded back in 1961 by Napa Valley winemaking legend Andre Tchelistcheff, as being one of the four top vineyard sites in all of Napa Valley at that time.
We then did a walk through Michael Chiarello’s vineyard, which Thomas also consults for. Some of the Petite Sirah vines are over 100 years old. The nearly ripe fruit oozed vinosity & lots of character, eventhough the vines looked exhausted. This is really a vineyard which needs tender loving care.
Another vineyard & winery Thomas Brown consults for is Jones Family. The 10 acre estate vineyard is located on between St Helena & Calistoga between 600 & 900 feet & is farmed by superstar vineyard-ist David Abreu. This vineyard was originally planted by the Araujo’s who sold it off in 1992 when they purchased the Eislese vineyard.
We also learned that Thomas Brown is currently building 2 new wineries–one for Pinot Noir (located on a corner off of the Silverado Trail) & part of a custom crush facility near Calistoga, where he will make some of his Cabernets. This winemaking phenom certainly has alot going on, besides the high profile projects he consults for such as Schrader, Outpost, Maybach, Casa Piena (Carmen Policy’s winery) & GTS (the project of Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Tom Seaver)……AND his own label, Rivers Marie.
As I have noted many times before, especially recently after a tasting with Bruce Neyers, he is truly one of the most brilliant “wine minds” I have run across in my years of doing wine. He is able to combine theory with practicality. Furthermore, because of his dual “hats” of acting as the National Sales Manager for Kermit Lynch Wine merchants in addition to having his own Napa Valley winery, the insight he speaks about is very comprehensive & worldly. It is for these kinds of reasons, I truly relish my conversations with him over the years.
I include his latest blurb below so you can get an idea of what I mean.
“My first trip to France for Kermit Lynch was in January 1993. Accompanied by my long time colleague Ehren Jordan, I spent two weeks traveling from Paris to Marseilles — visiting producers, tasting wine, and learning about a side of France that was both new and fascinating to me.
Having begun Neyers Vineyards just the year before, I was sensitive to winemaking information that could be helpful to us. Ehren was living and working in Cornas at the time, so we scheduled a full day of visits with Kermit’s two producers there, Noel Verset and Auguste Clape. The Verset visit was wonderful; it remains one of the highlights of my career to have spent so much time with that colorful and storied vigneron. The meeting with Auguste Clape and his son, Pierre Marie, turned out to be the most informative – and most applicable — of the trip. We mainly discussed Syrah vines, since it was immediately clear to both Ehren and me that this was the topic the Clape family had on their minds.
As it turned out, they had been persuaded 15 years or so earlier to forego their traditional ‘Selection Massale’ process of developing replacement vineyards from existing vine stock. They had planted instead heat-treated, clonal selections of Syrah that were available from a nurseryman who had obtained them from the viticulture program at the University of Montpellier. The heat treatment system of vine propagation was developed in the United States in the early fifties to eliminate leaf-roll virus from grapevines sold by nurseries, and had been very successful. Leaf roll virus was now held in check.
Impressed by the scientific evidence, the father-son team at Clape removed almost two hectares of old vines infected with leaf-roll virus in their Reynard vineyard and, in 1975, replanted with a clone. (As part of the heat treatment program, vines were cloned – developed, that is, from a single parent rather than a vast field of different, biologically diverse plants. These ‘Clones’ – genetically identical plants –were what nurseries sold.)
When I visited Comas 15 years after Clape father and son had a taken this step, they had a chance to show us the other side of this presumably rosy picture. The wine they produced from the cloned vines was vastly inferior to that which they had produced for years from the same parcel planted to ‘Selection Massale’ vines. Neighbors who had removed old vines and re-planted with the ‘botanically superior’ clones had a similarly disappointing experience. The wine that Clape produced from the cloned vines was simpler, not as complex, not as flavorful or rich. In some instances, it was missing entirely some of the characteristics many had grown to recognize and appreciate in Clape Cornas. Moreover, the new vines had lost some of their natural defenses, and showed a susceptibility to common vineyard afflictions that had not been a concern for several years. As the Clape family saw it, complexity, natural protection, and much of the type and range of flavor had been bred out of the vine by the cloning process.
The difference was so profound that they had decided to bottle the Cornas produced from the cloned vines separately, and label it as a simple Côtes du Rhône. The selling price would be a fraction of what their top Cornas would fetch on the market. In an area already known for low yields from expensive real estate, this was going to be a financial disaster. There was much for them to grumble about when we began to taste the separate cuvées of the 1990, 1991 and 1992 vintages. I asked them what they planned to call this new wine. They looked at one another, looked back at me, and with a wry grin, Pierre-Marie said, “The Mistake”.
At Neyers Vineyards, we no longer work with any vines that are or have been developed from clones. Keep this in mind when you serve or sell a bottle of Neyers Carneros Chardonnay, or our Neyers Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon“.
Where to eat? Here are generally the top 3, although I must say Villa Creek over the years has clearly stood out for food (good, soild American inspired) & especially their wine program (some interesting Old World selections). For lunch, consider Thomas Hill Organics…nothing fancy…again good, solid food.
Where to stay? Cheryle & I enjoy our stay at the quaint, comforting, landmark Paso Robles Inn, especially in one of the back rooms which comes with “sulfur springs” water tubs. Yes, the water does smell, but it really is so relaxing, after a long day of visiting vineyards & tasting wines.
Yes, Epoch started crushing & it was really great to see winemaker Jordan Fiorentini & her team in action.
It was also great to run into Hilary Graves of Graves Winegrowers. She is unveiling a new package & seems to have a whole new take on what & how she makes wines now. I am wondering if her collaboration with France’s Cote Rotie producer Ogier has inspired her? Should be interesting.
Anthony Yount, winemaker at Denner, has his own label–Kinero, which is some very interesting wine & worth keeping an eye on.
In my day of working in table cloth, “fine” dining restaurants, such as the Maile, La Mer and Bagwell’s 2424 and their more classical French oriented menus, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon had its golden moments especially pairing with cream and butter infused sauces.
Today, however, the culinary world has greatly changed, especially at the top end restaurants. There is now a whirlwind of different “takes” on food, which incorporate a fusion of many different ethnic cooking ingredients, techniques and cultures.
From my point of view, paralleling this change in food trends, the art of pairing wines to these foods is also greatly changing.
One of the growing white wine categories to consider is what I refer to as the aromatic grape varieties. In the old days, the most well known of this group were the Gewurztraminer and Riesling varieties. In addition to that duo, we are also seeing other grapes growing in availability and demand such as Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Malvasia and Grenache Blanc, just to name a few.
Here is a simple example of how these more aromatic white wines can affect a dish. Imagine cutting a fresh, cold, locally grown tomato. Then, add some salt, pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Sounds tasty, right? Now, imagine adding some torn sweet basil or shiso. It creates a whole ‘nother experience, right? The uplifting, herby, somewhat mentholating qualities of the basil and shiso completely adds dimension to the dish without taking away from the tomato itself.
Pairing wines at a recent, star studded guest chef, “Made in America” event at the Four Seasons Hualalai really made this idea much clearer for me.
For example, a simple Fish Ceviche, cured with lime, spice and fresh Chinese parsley can be quite the challenge for wines. At this event, we found a wine that works well with such preparations is the Birichino Malvasia Bianca (roughly $15 a bottle). The wine smells like lychee and rose petals with a very crisp, lime-like edge which created quite a dynamic combination with the dish. Another really interesting, though more “quiet”, low keyed in its aromatics is the Oroya (roughly $11 a bottle), a dry, remarkably light, crisp and lemony offering from Spain by Japanese born winemaker Yoko Sato. (Because of her background and expertise, this wine can also readily pair with thinly sliced fish served with ponzu sauce (soy sauce and citrus).Another challenging dish, from the event, to pair wines with, “Fresh Hawaiian Shrimp with Jacob’s andouille and organic white grits”, is a creation of Chef John Besh of August Restaurant in New Orleans. On that night, we chose the Cypher Grenache Blanc (roughly $25), a very masculine, minerally white wine from the limestone hillsides of Paso Robles. The wine had enough lushness and body to handle the grits, andouille ’s fattiness while its wonderful, aromatic perfume and uplifting minerality greatly heightened each mouthful.
One of the most interesting and challenging food and wine pairings of the event was with Chef David Kinch’s (Manresa Restaurant, California) Strawberry Gazpacho. Half of the strawberries had been simmered for 2 hours over a double boiler and the other half was blended with onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, garlic, tarragon & extra virgin olive oil. With the resulting, cold and very refreshing soup, we chose the Malvira Birbet (roughly $24 a bottle), an equally fruity, slightly sweet, delicious, enticingly fragrant, lightly fizzy RED wine from Italy’s Piemonte wine growing region. The wine served as a sorbet would, refreshing the palate between bites in a very cool, uplifting way.
Yes, we did another sparkling wine tasting in VINO tonight. As is often the case….the goal was simply to show yet another dimension to the world of wines.
Punta Crena Mataossu Spumante Brut grown on the steep, rocky hillsides of Liguria, undergoes ML & secondary fermentation & aged on the lees for 10 months. This grape is grown by only 1 family in 1 village.
Raventos I Blanc Brut Rose “De Nit” FOUR indigenous Spanish grape varieties (xarello, parellada, macabeo & monastrell) grown in imestone influenced soils. Methode Champenoise. This family has been doing this for 19 generations!!!!!
Lambert de Seyssel “Royal Seyssel” a VERY unique bubbly from the Savoie region (limestone-clay soils), at higher elevation. Typically 50% each of Molette & Altesse grape varieties, 3 to 4 years on the less & done method tradionelle, just as they would in Champagne. Many believe this region was one of the first to produce bubblies this way….even before Champagne itself. “L’Altesse is the historic grape of the area for sparkling wines, and it has existed here since 1393. Its name translates to ‘Highness,’ which I guess makes sense in a place like Savoie. Wines from Altesse are remarkable for their aromatic finesse, elegance, and great aging potential. A second grape called Molette is what they consider the key to Royal Seyssel’s success. It is a native Savoie variety, descended from Gouais, with small compact clusters and tiny berries of golden yellow and remarkable acidity. They are a perfect combo for a vin Clair.”
Veuve Fourny Brut “Grande Reserve” 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir…Premier Cru… 2 ½ years ageing, 30% in Burgundy barrels. This family owned House looks for elegance, purity & fine-ness.
A quick 2 day visit to the Paso Robles appellation. In addition to spending time with Linne Calodo & Saxum (which was documented on separate blog entries), here is a recap of our other visits.
Margarita Vineyard is a roughly 900 acre vineyard located at about 1000 feet elevation, 14 miles from the ocean in southern Paso Robles. It is a vineyard I have been trying to walk for many years, but did not find the right contact, until very recently, to do so. I never realized this vineyard was so big. I also wonder how this is still Paso Robles appellation, since it is located on the “other” side of Templeton.
The vineyard has 6 main soil types. The most compelling is rich in fossilized oyster shells…..BUT the shale & gravel also produce some very interesting flavors/character.
Luna Matta is another interesting Paso Robles vineyard. The parcel is 242 total acres, of which 36 are planted & organically farmed since 2001.
There are alot of interesting grape varieties being grown here, including the bigger plantings (Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre), as well as smaller parcels of Grenache Blanc, Moscato Giallo, Aglianico, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo & Carignane. We will definitely be seeing more & more Luna Matta designated wines in the near future, especially with Stephy Terrizzi involved as a vineyard consultant.
Yet, another interesting vineyard which has been planted is the Villa Creek Estate. Owner/winemaker Cris Cherry, in addition to owning one of the best restaurants in the town of Paso Robles, also produces some terrific wines under his Villa Creek label. What started as a side project….supplying his contemporary styled eaterie with some very interesting, locally grown wine, has over the years blossomed into him building his own winery & now planting his own vineyards. Yes, these wines are certainly worth searching out for.
Our next visit was with Anthony Yount, winemaker at Denner Vineyard. We had toured the Denner Estate vineyard the day before with Matt Trevisan. Anthony was then kind enough to take us out to walk the 10 1/2 acre Basetti Vineyard, which lies outside of the Paso Robles appellation, closer to the ocean.
To the naked eye, Basetti doesn’t look like much. The most compelling influences of this vineyard, I was told, is the serpentine rock undersoils, the clay topsoil & the close proximity to the ocean (& its cool growing conditions). The 2 wineries sourcing the fruit is Denner (which produced a single vineyard 50% whole cluster, 100% Syrah in 2010, yet to be rated) & Villa Creek (92 point rated, single vineyard Syrah). I believe Denner also uses Basetti Grenache as well.
Basetti vineyard may be the beginning of a whole, new grape growing region for the future, despite its extreme growing conditions, just as we have previously seen with the Sonoma Coast appellation further north. I would also say, Anthony Yount is a young turk you should keep an eye out on, whether at Denner or Kinero, his very own label.
Cheryle & I stopped by Saxum & the James Berry Vineyard recently. It was great to spend some time with winemaker Justin Smith again. He certainly has evolved into quite the superstar through his incredible Saxum wines.
It starts with the soil.
I must say, tasting through his 2011’s, they are really some of the best I have ever had from this winery. His 2011 “Bone Rock” was the single most memorable wine from Justin Smith I have had in all these years. The 2011’s are LONG….have great length with amazing minerality & buoyancy.
Wine lovers will also go gaga with the 2012’s too. There is really alot to look forward to from this top echelon winery & uber-talented winemaker.
Thanks Justin…..for a great visit!
My wife Cheryle (& a friend) & I had the chance to walk some vineyards in Paso Robles recently. It was a good time, as there was “taste” to the grapes & it was therefore an incredibly learning opportunity.
Our first stop was at Linne Calodo & superstar winemaker Matt Trevisan. It had been years since I last visited Matt at the winery. We were excited & anxious to visit eventhough we were not sure how much time Matt would actually have with us, given the looming harvest, the fact that both noted wine writers–Robert Parker & Josh Reynolds were in town around the same time.
Lots of rock to deal with. There is only 18 inches to 3 feet of top soil.
Matt planted all kinds of interesting plant material. He had learned alot from planting & operating his other estate vineyard which surrounds the winery itself.
Whalebone (pictured in the background). I was amazed at how the big oak on the right side GREATLY affected such a wide area of vines…..which only a few were able to survive. The Poppy parcel is pictured in the foreground & the grapes tasted firmer, with way more acid (which Matt uses for his Problem Child bottling).
We also loved meeting the growers. Just so “salt of the earth” & genuine.
The Cushman vineyard was essentially right across the street….& one got a completely different vibe from this site. Matt gets 1 1/2 acres of the 10 planted (in 1978) It is also a cooler spot, & therefore results in higher acid fruit eventhough the fruit typically ripens 2 to 3 weeks later than Heaton. For me the fruit doesn’t have the same vinosity & character as the Poppy parcel across the way.
The Cherry vineyard was planted in 1977….only about 2 1/2 acres amid 400 acres of land. The vines are head trained with south to southwest facing. I though the fruit from this vineyard tasted the best of day, at least for Zinfandel. There was alot of character & vinosity. It really is a special site.
Denner Vineyard has truly blossomed to become one of the standout sites in all of Paso Robles. Located directly across the James Berry vineyard, it too is truly something to behold. Furthermore, each parcel offers something unique.
one can readily tell, for instance, which is the Mourvedre plantings (as seen by the “airstrip” looking parcel in the middle. Lots of vines here just don’t make it. It is also one of the last grape varieties to ripen.
Tasting through some of the various barrels of 2012’s convinced us, this is going to be one heck’uv vintage for Linne Calodo. Save some room in your cellars, people. AND work hard to get some!
Yes…the winemaking has changed…or a better way of putting it….evolved. The wines therefore are not as forward & have much more layering, intricacies & better balance. The minerality is thankfully much more showcased. In short, Matt Trevisan is totally in the “zone” right now.
This was a GREAT, major insightful visit!!!!! Thank you Matt.