When we first met Penny Gadd-Coster, now owner and winemaker for Coral Mustang, she was still working at Jordan Winery as the enologist. She and her husband Frank had invited us to meet with them and tour the winery, which was closed to the public. When Penny took us up to the lab and pulled out several Riedel glasses and a wine thief, we knew this was not going to be your ordinary tour.
Some years (and another winery job) later, Penny decided it was time to strike out on her own with the Coral Mustang label. Coral is her middle name and a mustang, in the parlance of the U.S. Marines, is an officer who has come up through the ranks, as opposed to starting as an officer. That’s Penny’s story, too.
She’s focusing on tempranillo. Penny told us a few years ago that she made that choice because it was an up and coming grape with not a lot of competition in a tight wine market. And the grape is, indeed, finally getting some traction in the wine world. Although she is based in Sonoma, she sources her grapes from Paso Robles.
The result? Some of the most incredible tempranillo wines on the planet. Penny makes her wines to be friendly with a wide range of foods. One night, when she came to visit us, we made dinner together. Chicken breasts with two kinds of beurre blanc. Anne made the traditional, lemon-based style, and Penny did a version with blueberries. Her tempranillo worked beautifully with both.
Penny just joined a brand-new tasting room called Vino Veritas, 118 North Street, Healdsburg, California. You can also buy Coral Mustang wines here.
Like them or not, screw tops are showing up on wine bottles. No long tradition or ceremony in their extraction and no twenty-year studies on storage issues – yet. But do not let the top of the bottle distract you from the Yosemite View’s 2005 Syrah inside, It’s ready to drink when you are.
The nose has raspberry and the sweet hint of oak with cherry underneath.
The deep red color delivers on the promise of red fruits like cherries and the aforementioned oak adds some tannins that dry the palate instead of coating it. The acids are there as well and cleanse the mouth. The finish is decent and drying. This is not a syrah meant to be kept but to be enjoyed young. And if the big worry about screw caps is the ability to age the wines bottled with them, then it’s so not an issue here.
Any number of pasta dishes with tomato sauces or acid-based flavors would compliment the acids in the wine and the 14.5 percent alcohol should leave you able to enjoy the next bite and sip. And the next one after that.
Yosemite View is Mariposa Wine Company’s “value” line, but it is a significant value, especially the 2007 Caprice Rose.
Roses are often blends and it’s not unusual to sip one and wonder what went into it. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wonder with the Caprice Rose, an exceptional wine, let alone rose.
The blend of juices is 30 percent cinsault, 60 percent zinfandel and 10 percent pinot grigio. which is different to be sure. Take away the cinsault’s structure and the pinot grigio’s acidity and you’re left with the usual syrupy sweet white zinfandel. But put together with some consideration, the result is a real treat of a wine.
Since roses almost never have any exposure to oak or long term storage, there should be nothing between your nose and the fruit. The nose on the Yosemite View is a lovely combination of strawberry and passionfruit.
The first taste was a surprise and Mike took another right away to make sure he wasn’t missing something. The surprise was the balance of acids to tannins to what sweetness there was in the wine. No one component stood out but all were there. As a home winemaker, this is the rose that Mike wants to make for himself.
Needless to say, the Caprice is a terrific food wine for cool, summer salads or a nice ham sandwich or even hot dogs off the grill. The alcohol is a modest 11.9 percent. That means even the alcohol doesn’t get in the way of a second glass after dinner in the park on a summer’s night.
While the Carmichael Sur le Pont is not technically an oddball bottle of wine. The fact that it is made up of 80 percent syrah means it can be legally called a syrah, and that’s hardly oddball these days. But that other 20 percent of lesser known grapes adds something really special to the final product. We promise tastings of grenaches, mouvedres and carignans in the future. But for now they are all present in the 2005 Carmichael Sur Le Pont, with 14 percent mouvedre, 5 percent carignan and 1 percent grenache.
These are all Rhone varietals, meaning they are largely grown in and inspired by the winemaking in the fertile valley surrounding the Rhone River in France. Unlike the five Bordeaux grapes (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet franc), there are 22 grapes grown in the Rhone Valley, so you can just imagine all the possible blends. Where do we start? Right here!
The wine Sur le Pont is named after the French children’s tune “Sur le pont D’Avignon,” or On Avignon’s Bridge, Avignon being one of the primary cities in the Rhone (and also more infamously known as the base for a series of Roman Catholic popes/non-popes, who during the Middle Ages tried to take over).
The wine has the nose of blackberries and cola. The taste has some dry fruit, but it’s not jammy. Instead the wine is lightweight in the mouth without being cloying or burning with excessive alcohol. In fact, at 14.3 percent, it’s almost a lightweight compared to the hot (high in alcohol) syrahs that are often made today. This makes it an excellent companion to meat off the summer grill or winter stews of lamb or beef. The acids keep the palate stimulated and can handle sauces that are not spicy or terribly sweet – a mushroom gravy comes to mind.
Carmichael is Mariposa Wine Company’s mid-range label. The fun thing is that the Grigio e Bianco is a lovely, very drinkable blend of pinto grigio, sauvignon blanc and a splash of chardonnay.
Pinot grigio is a hard grape to describe – the most obvious tag is that it’s not chardonnay. Sometimes considered to be of little value in some of its traditional French and Italian locations, it has been used as a filler in lesser bottlings of Friuli and some Burgundies. While some of the better examples are reputed to be in Oregon and the French Alsace, there are other places to find some good pinot grigios, including Monterey County, from whence Mariposa has sourced the fruit for this wine.
Since pinot grigio’s flavors tend to be more of the citrus variety, the nose of the Carmichael 2007 Pinot Grigio is noticeably different in its tropical fruitiness with almost a banana edge. The answer lies in the blend: 88 percent pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc fermented in steel (we couldn’t find how much of that 88 percent is pinto grigio and how much is sauv blanc) and 12% is chardonnay from neutral oak. The tropical nose tends to suggest warmer location and greater ripeness in the vineyard – a distinct possibility with all the microclimate options in California and in Monterey County for this specific wine.
But the nose is somewhat deceptive. The taste reveals the acid streak and lighter flavors of a ‘typical’ pinot grigio. There is no lingering sweetness and the overall effect is that palate cleanser we refer to. The finish holds some of that crispness, wonderful after taking that swallow on a warm afternoon or with a shrimp dish, roasted chicken or a plate of mozerella, tomato and basil with just a hint of balsamic – you don’t want to overpower the acids of the wine. Just chill out with them.