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.
We love blends. They can express the full palate of a terrior – think Burgundy or Bordeaux. They can also demonstrate the combined skills of a winemaking team that includes vineyard staff and cellar rats alike. As a bonus, every winery has the option of creating its own brand of cola product.
In this case,the resulting aroma is licorice/anise with some berries. The first taste was that of spices like black pepper and cloves. Dusty fruit, or a ripe taste that’s not overly sweet, is balanced with less acid and more tannins, thanks to a combination of American, Hungarian and older French oak barrel aging. There is some noticeable dryness from the tannins that would cut through the weight and richness of a steak, a savory winter beef stew or some lamb chops medium-rare with some pinkness at the bone.
Twisted Oak’s 2005 Tempranillo is one of those wines that just seems to fit in anywhere. It’s rich, but not overpowering – the subtle kind of wine that stands out just enough to be memorable without taking over.
Tempranillo is one of those up and coming grapes. We’ve seen it here and there for a number of years. In fact, tempranillo seems to be about where syrah was almost 10 years ago. People had heard of it, but you rarely saw it on the shelf at the supermarket. Of late, in places like California, tempranillo is getting the treatment previously reserved for cabernets and pinot noir and in the right hands and in the right soils, it is a glorious thing.
The grape, itself, is a blue/black grape most commonly used in blends in Spain. It’s chief flavor characteristics are blueberry and other berries, grassy or herbal qualities, hints of earth and/or leather. Leather may sound a little odd, but that’s what the books say. Your mileage may vary. Because the grape has a thick skin, it can have some powerful tannins, which is why it’s often blended with grapes with less color and/or tannins.
The Twisted Oak Tempranillo has a deep ruby color and a nose full of the characteristic blueberries and cherries. But don’t let that fool you. This is no fruit bomb. Winemaker Scott Klann used some French oak (which you can taste) but not enough to drown out the fruit. There are some nice acids in the center of the palate which make for a clean, easy drinking mouthfeel.
This is a great food wine – an Oddball Grape hallmark – and should go well with grilled meats like tri-tip, or grilled chicken or anything Spanish-style. Mike was amazed at how well it worked with some seared scallops in a caper sauce. You might also try it with a cioppino or even a good surf and turf. We do not recommend it with rubber chicken.