A Tasting with Young Sommeliers 04-09-17–Part One–Red WinesBy
A chance to get together to taste wines, talk story & share insight. Thanks to all who came.
2012 Cambiata Tannat “Monterey”–we found this winery sometime back. Our relationship with owner/winemaker Eric Laumann with his Albariño, which stood out among its Californian grown peers, but later very impressed, as well, with his big, black 2004 Tannat red wine beast & its character, texture, remarkable balance despite its enormity. Albarino, Tannat???? Who in their right mind specializes in these kinds of grape variety & challenges & still have a viable business model in California? Here is what Eric has to say about it all–“Cambiata is not your average California winery. I launched Cambiata in 2002. My intention was to make distinctive wines that go beyond the Franco triumvirate of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. Today, we are vinifying a handful of compelling wines from some of California’s scarcest grape varieties including Albariño, Tannat and Dornfelder. We planted our small Tannat vineyard in the rocky and well drained soils of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Tannat has an incredible ability to absorb oxygen. Technically speaking, the wine is full of procyanidin‐type tannins, which slow the aging and development process to a crawl. While today’s technology has given winemakers aggressive tools to introduce oxygen, at Cambiata we do it the old‐fashion way – extended barrel aging. For our 2012 Tannat it took 28 months before the wine had reached an appropriate balance between fruit and tannin that allowed us to put it into bottle. We fermented the black juice in small open‐top fermenters. The wine was then pressed straight to 60 gallon barrels (100% French, 40% new). Our 2012 Tannat is incredibly deep and concentrated with notes of earth, blackberries, saddle leather and licorice. On the palate it is thick and chewy with bold, well‐integrated tannins“. Our intent was to show the younger generation, “good” wine can be found out of the box, without getting esoteric & trying to carry the next new frontier. In our humble opinion there are opportunities in our VINO restaurant for wines like this…because it is very good……especially for the dollar.
2013 Hilt Pinot Noir “Old Guard”–on one of last trips to Californian wine country, this was THE standout of 8 days of visiting countless wineries, vineyards & tastings. We loved how un-clonal it was, showcasing amazing intensity without any sense of overdone-ness & how seamless, well textured & balanced it really was. We later found out, the core is old vine Mount Eden vine selection (with a little Martini as well), from the iconic Sanford & Benedict vineyard. Their parcel was planted in 1971 on its own roots & organically farmed. (I don’t think the rest of the vineyard is organically farmed). I just to show the tasters what American grown Pinot Noir can be. 2014 Guillemot Savigny-lès-Beaune “Vieilles Vignes”–in comparison, here is a Pinot made in the “old fashion” way. The vines average 55 years in age & are grown in limestone, marl, clay & gravel. I have to say, however, this wine is SOOOO transparent & ethereal–much more about the limestone, especially in taste. I could tell from the tasters’ faces, it was something they were not used too. I understand, as it took quite a long time to understand & appreciate these wines too. The 2014 came from 3 parcels–Planchots de la Champagne, Dessus les Gollardes, Vermots within the village. Here is what importer Kermit Lynch appropriately says–“The Guillemot family has worked Savigny-lès-Beaune vines for eight generations (!) and produces wines with classic Burgundian finesse and balance, all while leaving us a reminder of Savigny’s rustic character. Guillemot is one of the quintessential KLWM producers, with wines that epitomize the local terroir and emphasize grace and elegance over power and structure“.
Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras–this particular bottling/producer is one of typical favorites from the Southern Rhone Valley of France. I am the first to admit, these wildly rustic, hearty, masculine red wine beasts are not for everyone. Even the majority of the professional wine community I surmise probably would not tolerate the higher levels of volatile acidity & brett frequently found in these wines. Still, for me, the true soulfulness this wine typically has is the reason I keep coming back for more, which is partly why I therefore presented these 2 wines. In addition, I thought it would be interesting to compare a younger vintage to one completely different in profile AND with a little bottle age. We started with the 2014, as it was showing well right out of the gates—surprisingly approachable, transparent & tame with lower in alcohol & tannin levels. It reminded me of some of the vintages back in the 1980’s which featured rusticity, integrity & soulfulness without so much bravado. I also would add, I cannot wait to try this wine again when it is 10 to 15 years of age, as I think it will be quite the experience! For comparison, we then poured the 2007, a wine now 10 years of age. I remember trying this wine upon release & thinking how humongous it really was–much darker than usual & showing mostly deep, lavish, opulent fruit & a profile I was not used to from this domaine. (Please remember, this was coming after the 2006–which I found to showcase its feral/rusticity & stoniness right out of the gates with lighter coloring & a leaner mouthfeel….& the 2005–which was power packed & such formidable structure). I was anxious to taste the 2007 again, as it had been awhile. In short, despite much early on apprehension, I was mesmerized how gorgeous this wine tasted on this night. OMG! Yes, 10 years of bottle age had done wonders for this behemoth. One memorable facet, was how the visceral, higher alcohol & glycerine levels from the vintage’s generous sunshine added a very different & luscious texture to the wine & the innate rusticity & stoniness was once again shining through, though with seemingly deeper base notes. Wow!
Piemonte Reds–while we all are quite fascinated with the standout style of wines, at VINO, we also work hard to keep an eye out for really good “country” styled wines–those that are delicious, lighter, food friendly & gulpable–& therefore well suited for the dining table. We frequently encounter 2 real challenges on that question, living way out here in the Islands. The first is availability/supply (which is undoubtedly linked to the lack of demand here) of the smaller, true artisan renditions. We instead see examples from large houses or those done, almost as an after thought. Secondly, finding examples which are shipped all the way here in temperature control. Yes, all of this can be quite formidable. We tasted these 2 wines to show participants, it is though possible. In addition, we wanted to show tasters 2 completely different “takes” on what dinner table red wines can be, at least from Piemonte. The 2014 La Palazzotto Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba–we started the duo with this wonderfully delicious, fabulous new “find”. Yes, there are quite a bit of very good Dolcetto based reds available. I, however, don’t run across which catch my fancy like this one did. Why? Because of its real deliciousness. Furthermore, it still has such a wonderful artisan feel & therefore displays the earthiness, muskiness, spices I find in many Piemontese quality reds. In comparison, we then poured the 2015 La Pergola “Il Goccetto”. As VINO regulars well know by now, we have been really searching for well grown & made aromatic wines, both white & red (& I am sure soon to include rose too). They can uplift foods, just as fresh herbs do. Here was our latest arrival, produced mainly from the lighter colored, highly perfumed Brachetto grape variety, along with some Barbera for structure & core. It certainly did not disappoint. The perfume is quite a shock for most. Many wine drinkers today after all been trained in the wine world to think, bigger & darker equates to higher quality, even with innately lighter pigmented grape varieties such as Pinot Noir. Imagine trying these 2 wines with VINO food–whether it is our Braised Spanish Octopus served with a ham hock stew or our homemade fennel sausage pizza! The Dolcetto would be much more classical & the Brachetto would provide a completely different & unique experience. Isn’t that at least part of the fun of pairing wine & food?
We then followed with a duo of exemplary Nebbiolo based Piemontese red wines to remind tasters of the difference between “country”/dinner table wines & more top echelon Piemontese wines. Furthermore, this could hopefully provide a glimpse of how different Barolo & Barbaresco can be. 2012 Cavallotto Barolo “Bricco Boschis”–yes, this is certainly one of our favorite Barolo producers, located in the Castiglione Falletto appellation. The family owns 25ha of prime vineyard, mainly in the Bricco Boschis & Vignolo crus, all organically farmed. We loved the 2012 because of its perfume, purity, vinosity, depth, mojo, structure & balance. It is a real GUN. In comparison, we poured the 2011 Cascina Luisin Barbaresco “Rabaja”. Their winery is located on the ridge lying above the iconic Rabaja cru, right down the road from Giuseppe Cortese, another favorite producer. This estate was founded in 1913, owns 7ha, mostly in the Asili & Rabaja crus. The 2011 was very pretty, seemingly softer, more broad, flatter & approachable than the Cavallotto, yet still showcasing the purity & virility their wines are renown for. This past October while visiting Piemonte, I was reminded how wonderful AND true these 3 producers’ wines are & how each is done with much respect to where they came from.