Flying Goat 2007 Pinot Noir Salisbury Vineyard

Type: Dry red
What makes it special: A pinot noir that’s not from the Santa Rita Hills.
Plays well with: pork, lamb, salmon, cheese.

The 2007 Flying Goat Pinot Wine comes from San Luis Obispo, a little farther up the California coast from where Norman Yost makes his wines in Lompoc.

The nose has a spicebox aroma – think asian five spice powder ingredients such as licorice and cardamon. The color is the same gorgeous ruby red of a certain pair of shoes made in Oz (or more accurately the MGM costume shop).
But just check out the mouth feel and flavor: a medium density filling the mouth with cranberry, strawberry and raspberry without the cloying sweetness those flavors sometimes bring to the party.
The acids present quench the thirst and clear the palate for the next bite of something tasty.  Don’t drink this one alone. Share it with a good meat dish. You could drink it by yourself, but we don’t that would make you too popular.

Longoria 2009 Pinot Grigio

Type: Dry white
What makes it special: Italian grape finding a great home in Santa Barbara county.

Plays well with:
Salads, seafood, creamy sauces.
We are celebrating this humble, but lovely treat of a wine for a couple reasons.
First up, we do want to make note of the TAPAS Grand Tasting in San Francisco this weekend, one of the wineries pouring is winemaker Richard Longoria, who made this pinot grigio – even though it’s not one of the wines featured by the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society. TAPAS is, of course, about the Spanish grapes – tempranillo, garnacha albariño.
Longoria is going to be one of 44 wineries showing their wares to upwards of 1500 consumers. Address, ticket prices (there are still some left) and more information can be gotten at the TAPAS site, tapasociety.org.
The other reason is that we love pinot grigio. In the same way that sangiovese got a bad rap after years of cheap bottlings in straw baskets, pinot grigio got tagged with being a largely blah, insipid tasteless product produced cheaply for export from its native Italy.
Now, we ask you – is that any way to treat a perfectly nice, inoffensive little grape? We don’t think so and, fortunately, neither does Mr. Longoria and a bunch of other growers in Santa Barbara county, near the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Ynez regions.
Thanks to them, pinot grigio is making a comeback, finding a new soul and a backbone.

The Longoria 2009 Pinot Grigio is clean looking and smells fresh without being too fruity. But there’s plenty of crisp fruit in the taste, including peaches and honeydew melon. It’s light in the mouth, and there are plenty of thirst-quenching acids to help cleanse the palate between bites of something tasty on a lazy afternoon.

There’s also a great feel of minerality to the wine similar to the added minerals in your bottled water. Consider it a feature of the terroir of the Santa Barbara region, which is finally getting some attention these days and not just for the abundance of chardonnay in the area.

This isn’t the cheapest wine on the market, but it is perfect for that special summer picnic. Just don’t try holding onto it for long. Pinot grigio – even the best of them – won’t age and should be as transitory as that lazy summer afternoon.

Sawtooth 2007 Viognier

Type: Dry white
Made with: Viognier
Plays well with: Cheese, light sauces, chicken dishes

We’re always on the lookout for grapes in unusual places.  So Michael was pretty stoked when he found the Sawtooth 2007 Viognier from Idaho among the bottles he’d won in a silent auction to benefit the Southern California chapter of the Rhone Rangers. The Sawtooth vineyards are in the Nampa region along the Snake River.  They’re fairly new and there is a lot of interest in finding out what will do well there as time goes on. So keep Idaho on your radar screens and taste whatever turns up from there.

The Sawtooth Viognier had the gold color and floral smell that shouts, “This is a well-made wine.” The nose had traces of melon and no oak – which is good because you don’t usually use oak on viognier. The first taste turned up some nice, light acids which popped up again on the back of the palate. There was melon and some lemony citrus and some white grapefruit in the taste. The finish after swallowing was a good long one – meaning the taste stayed with us for a good twenty seconds – along with a nice hint of creaminess. That’s from some the malolactic fermentation – a secondary fermentation done with red wines and sometimes with whites that turns the malic acid in the wine into lactic acid, the same acid you find in milk, hence the creaminess.

We served the wine with a roasted chicken and it really put the high note on a lovely dinner.

Dancing Coyote 2009 Verdelho

Type: Dry white
Made with: Verdelho
Plays well with: Cream sauces, sharp cheeses, non-oily fish

If folks know about verdelho, they know it  primarily as a blending grape in its native Chianti, Italy. But winemakers in Portugal have been making a pretty tasty white out of it for…  Well, a really long time.  And several California growing areas are starting to include it in their own blends or as a varietal of its own – including the nice folks at Dancing Coyote, in Acampo, California, part of the Clarksburg appellation.

The 2009 Verdelho has a nice floral nose. The taste is citrus and spicy with dry fruit flavors  – think fresh peaches instead of canned peaches in syrup. These are the kind of good acids that clean the palate and prepare the mouth for the next taste. It would be a shame not to enjoy it with food, like some nice sharp cheese, but it’s also very nice on its own. Alcohol is 14.5 percent, which is fairly moderate these days.

Be aware, it’s almost gone – so do make sure you skip over to the website, www.dancingcoyotewines.com,  sooner rather than later if you want some.

La Motte 2007 Shiraz/Viognier

Courtesy La Motte

Type: Dry red
Made With: syrah and viognier grapes
Plays Well With: Chili and other hearty fare

Shiraz.  Syrah.  It’s the same grape, just a different name.  The Australians made the shiraz term familiar to us in the U.S., and according to La Motte Winemaker Edmund Terblanche, the South Africans are just as likely to say shiraz as not.  Which means the following is going to get a little confusing unless we chose a name and stick with it.  And, by gum, we’re sticking with syrah, since we’ll be referring to the grape as it’s known in both France and South Africa.

So the La Motte 07 Shiraz/Viognier is made with only 9 percent viognier, a white grape known for its flowery nose and soft, fruity flavors.  It’s an old trick in France’s Rhone Valley to ferment syrah with either some skins from the viognier grape that have already been pressed and made into a white wine, or ferment with the actual viognier grapes.  We’re not sure which way Terblanche did it, just that the combination really made this wine come alive.

Usually, viognier smooths out some of the bad boy characteristics of syrah, which can get a little harsh and closed on its own, and in the La Motte wine, the viognier seems to have given the color a nice boost (from a white grape, go figure), not to mention the nose, which is still a little muted and could probably use some exposure to air.

Or, more likely, it could have used some more time in the bottle – since a muted nose can be a symptom of a too young wine.  Funny thing is, the tannins – that drying sensation that gives a wine some structure and ability to age – were a little on the light side, meaning it should probably be drunk sooner rather than later.

This should go really well with a nice, beefy chili that’s not too spicy, and a second glass after dinner should prove interesting, assuming the nose opens up.  With an easy 13.5 percent alcohol, an after-dinner glass of wine is just right.

Rideau 2007 Mourvedre

Type: Dry red

Made With: the mourvedre grape

Plays Well With: Hearty meats, such as herbed leg of lamb.

Call the mourvedre grape the stinky cheese of the wine world.  While it’s a good, hearty wine that does pair well with strong cheeses, like they do about some cheeses, folks will complain about funk in the nose or taste.  Which is probably why it’s getting more and more common to see US. wines blended with the lighter grenache and fruitier syrah – the GSM you sometimes see on labels – like they do in the Rhone valley of France.

But you’re just as likely to find it bottled as a single variety wine, like this one from Rideau Vineyard.

The nose is a combination of rose petals and a hint of leather which can be one way to describe the “French funk” as it is known. But the nose is only hiding some good fruitiness and some herb flavors such as sage and mint. That may not sound very tasty for a wine, but then, this wine needs to be drunk with food on the plate, such as an herb-roasted leg of lamb or some other hearty fare that will play off some of the herbs and other flavors in the wine. While some mourvedres are made with lots of fruit and can be served as cocktails, this specific model from Rideau is not of them and that is a very good thing indeed.

Dos Cabezas Wineworks 2008 El Campo

 

red wine stock pic

Type: Dry red
Made with: Tempranillo, Mourvedre and a field blend
Plays well with: Southwestern cuisine, grilled meats

There are several different points in the winemaking process where different varietals can be blended into one wine.  Many winemakers prefer waiting until right before bottling, then combining all the young, single grape wines into different formulations to hit on just the right taste – and, damn, that’s a fun process.  We know.  We’ve been doing it for the past several years with all the different wines Michael makes at home.

But the Dos Cabezas 2008 El Campo features a different kind of blending – what’s called a field blend.  That’s when two (or more) different varieties of grapes are crushed, fermented and pressed together into, basically right from the field.  The advantage is that you get a wine that can be more than the sum of its parts.

The dark red color had a slight salty aroma but given the venue –  a crowded tasting at Hospice DuRhone – that could have been a fluke.

The glass, on the other hand, delivered more than the nose promised.  The flavor was rich with dark fruits and good acids, both balanced for a lighter mouthfeel that goes down very easily. Being a Rhone-inspired blend, enjoying it with food is the best way to show it off, and given Dos Cabezas’ Southwestern location, try some grilled fajitas or carnitas tacos.

You can find more information about the winery and order wines at the website, doscabezaswinery.com

La Fenetre 2006 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir

Type: Dry red
Made With: Pinot Noir grapes
Plays Well With: Salmon, pork or grilled beef.

This is a wine that is all about balance – no mean trick when it comes to the notoriously finicky pinot noir grape.

Winemaker and founder Joshua Klapper started with some amazing fruit – from farmer and winemaker Peter Cargasacchi’s vineyards in the ever-so-hot Santa Rita Hills.  Cargasacchi has his own Point Concepcion label (which we have had the good fortune to taste), but does sell a fair amount of his crop to several local vintners – including La Fenetre.  In fact, one of our dream tastings would be side-by-side comparisons of wines from Cargasacchi’s many clients next to his own decidedly yummy version.

Klapper’s wine had some berries and a slight whiff of rose petals.  Taste-wise, the acidity was bright, but not harsh and the texture in the mouth was silky.  But the best part was the balance.  We may not be talking angels on the head of a pin, here, but there was just enough fruit, just enough acid and just enough tannin to make this wine perfect for sipping with a really good dinner.  Maybe some salmon in paper pouch with plenty of garlic, lemon and herbs.  Or perfectly grilled pork chops.

Tablas Creek 2009 Rosé

 

 

Courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyards

 

Type: Dry rosé
Made with: Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise
Plays well with: duck, figs, cheese, nuts and picnic fare.

Let’s be clear.  This is not a sweet wine.  Alas, US rosés, in particular, have that bad rep from the cheap box wines that were so popular in the 1960s and ’70s.  But this ain’t your daddy’s Lancers.  The Tablas Creek 2009 Rosé was pink, as in the color a fresh rosé should have. The nose was fruity with watermelon and strawberry, and the fruitiness continued into the taste, even though it is very dry without any residual sweetness. It also had that yummy, thirst-quenching cleansing effect on our palates.  Alcohol was a decent fourteen and half percent.

Keep in mind, we drank this at the Hospice du Rhone Rosé Lunch, along with about five other Tavels – rosés from the Tavel region of France, near the south of the Rhone Valley.  The Tablas Creek rosé stood out among the Tavels because it was more fruit forward.  But that’s the California style. And did we say it was dry?  It is.  Really.

You can find out more Tablas Creek Vineyard at their website, www.tablascreek.com.

Tablas Creek 2006 Cotes de Tablas

 

Courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyards

Type: Dry Red
Made: In Paso Robles, California with grenache, syrah, mourvedre, counoise grapes
Plays well with: Slightly spicy beef dishes, anything laced with garlic.

With Tablas Creek Vineyard GM Jason Haas one of the honchos behind the Rhone Rangers and Hospice du Rhone, you think maybe he and his family are into Rhone-style wines?  Like the winery’s portfolio is based on these food friendly wines of the Rhone valley of southern France.  The Cotes de Tablas is a typical Rhone-style blend of syrah, mourvedre and counoise built on a foundation grenache. The nose is full of dark bramble fruit – think blackberry – with a hint of cedar. Taste it, and the nose comes through with the same flavors and a nice medium-weight mouthfeel.

The wine also felt a tidge warm in the mouth – like a lot of “hot” or high-alcohol wines, which was kind of odd because it wasn’t particularly heavy on that end at 14.8 percent, and the wine was otherwise balanced.  So it may have been a fluke and the wine was very tasty in spite of the warmth.

This is a good food wine and can stand up to some spiciness, maybe a Steak au Poivre (which is the steak with the black pepper) or Pepper steak (which is the steak with bell peppers).  The wine might even be a candidate for the Ultimate Garlic Experience – take a garlic-stuffed olive, eat it and knock back the wine over it.  Wow!

You can get the Cote de Tablas through the winery at www.tablascreek.com.