Type: Dry red
Made with: Pinot Noir
Plays well with: Strong cheeses, red meats
The Vergari 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a premium example of a California pinot noir. Which is not to say that it is a copy of a Burgundian wine. The California style generally has riper fruit which can sometimes be a problem in France. Actually, it can be a problem with Californis wines, too. Riper fruit can translate into jammier characters and higher alcohol – qualities not becoming for a food friendly grape like pinot noir.
Not so with the Vergari. It’s a crafted wine that pays attention to the details and doesn’t let the fruit get smothered by alcohol, oak or residual sugars. The color is the dark ruby typical of a California pinot. The nose is full of berries, cherries and a cola character which seems unique to pinot. The first taste shows good acidity and even some spice – a characteristic that often gets buried in the fruitier pinots. The weight in the mouth is substantive but not heavy or too thin. A good finish rounds out this excellent dry wine that cries out for food. Stronger cheeses, roasted beast of almost any type and level of doneness would be mandatory. Alcohol is a modest 14.2 percent – well, modest by California standards.
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.