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.

Guerilla Pouring with Benjamin Spencer

 

 

Benjamin Spencer's great viognier

While waiting for the Rhone Rendezvous tasting at the recent Hospice du Rhone wine festival, we started chatting with winemaker and blogger Benjamin Spencer.  You can catch one of his posts here at intowine.com.  He also has a very small boutique winery Leojami – and you can check out their site here www.LeojamiWines.com.

 

Spencer and Anne were talking about writing about HdR, but then Spencer mentioned that he was about to do a guerilla pouring, as well.

A what?

“Well, basically, it’s just a behind the scenes pouring at public wine events,” Spencer explained.  “You grab your newly-released viognier, in my case, for Leojami, and you put in on ice in your trunk. And you pull it out when everybody else is tasting and you find your friends from Facebook, who you know are soms [sommeliers] at various established resorts and restaurants and wine writers for Wine Spectator, etc.”

But why not just get a table?

“For people like us, we’re only making 400 cases per year,” Spencer said.  “We’re possibly pouring out a substantial amount of our potential profit, it just doesn’t make sense. So, I’m not… I haven’t always been on this side of the law, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m very happy to get out there and work for whoever wants to taste our wines.”

We did get a taste of Spencer’s 2008 Viognier and liked it a lot.  It had the typical viognier flowers in the nose – kind of a honeysuckle thing, but not sweet like honey.  There was some nice food-friendly acidity, and Mike tasted some stone fruits and a hint of citrus, with a medium mouthfeel and no oak.

Vergari 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

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.

Vergari 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Type: Dry red

Made with: Cabernet sauvignon

Plays well with: Meat, meat and more meat

 

Please don’t think we’ve sold out the OBG mission of highlighting lesser known varieties. We also promise to highlight smaller producers who we believe deserve attention. So, that means a Napa cabernet is bound to turn up in these posts once in a while, especially since with Vergari Wines, there is no winery to find or visit. And, thanks again to winemaker David Vergari for finding us.

The Vergari 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon shows the same attention to detail that Mr. Vergari brings to his pinot noir, including the same deep ruby color from good fruit. The nose is a combination of cherries, berries and rose petals. Michael found himself taking several deep sniffs to get all these aromas because they were almost as good as the flavor.

 

The first taste showed good acidity and a lush mouthfeel, with a lingering finish that displayed well-balanced tannins that didn’t dry out the mouth. The concentration of fruit and the light use of oak as a spice makes this a decent cocktail wine, if you’re so inclined to drink it by itself.

We’re not so inclined.  The wine was so nice and rich we think it would be wasted by itself. Pair it with prime rib, steaks or stews. The alcohol, at a slightly high but acceptable 14.5 percent, will not interfere with the enjoyment of your meal.