The thing with Ceja’s 2005 Vino de Casa is that it’s a basic, food-friendly, delicious little red. Nothing pretentious. Even the name just means “house wine.” Who’dathunk that it would come from 62% pinot noir and 38% Syrah? It’s hard to imagine two more different grapes.
Pinot noir is, of course, the heartbreak grape. Notoriously finicky, unless conditions are perfect in the vineyard and it’s treated with the right respect in the winery, you’re going to get crap. And usually expensive crap at that. Ask us how we know. Syrah, on the other hand, is hardy and usually as a wine it’s slightly spicy – think black pepper, licorice, cloves instead of fruity character – and in your face. As delicate and rich as the best pinots are, syrah is bold and almost overripe. Blended together, the two make an intriguing combination.
With pinot noir (and since that’s the larger part of the blend, those characteristics will presumably dominate), the aromas – or nose – will generally include cherries, raspberries, violets as well as sassafras, mint, leather and mushrooms. The taste can be any of these and oak is almost always part of a winery program, as long as there isn’t too much.
In the Casa de Vino, the Syrah adds color and flavor to the blend. There’s a nose of earth and some cedar/redwood. The medium weight mouthfeel contained pomegranate, some blueberry and dry red fruit. A good long finish lingered. And it’s more food-friendly than a lot of other pinot-based wines. At 13.2% alcohol, it will go well with lighter meats like pork with a light pomegranate reduction glaze or even with a little bit of oak smoke from the grill with the glaze as a grilling sauce. Vegetarian options could be smoked tofu or a French-inspired salad of artichoke hearts, olives and tomatoes over baby greens sounds yummy especially if there’s good bread alongside.
Sauvignon blanc is finally developing a following for the right reasons as opposed to being the Anti-Chardonnay. Lean, citrusy and crisp, it’s a great summer wine, and the Ceja 2007 sauv blanc, out of the Sonoma Coast region, fires on all the right cylinders.
If harvested and made with slightly underripe grapes, sauv blanc can have a distinctly “catbox” aroma. If overripe, it goes soft with melon and pineapple/tropical fruit aromas and taste. It is in that thin middle ground that its characteristic grapefruit aroma and crispness really gets to express itself. Although, too much grapefruit and the wine is definitely out of balance.
The Ceja had the grapefruit aroma indicative of a normally ripe fruit at harvest. Not much oak was detected due to the use of older barrels, which added almost no flavor to the wine but did concentrate the fruit flavors. The concentration became obvious in the mouth with the lemony/lime crispness and minerals on the mid-palate. The decent finish and modest mouthfeel make this a good palate cleanser and an excellent aperitif.
While many sauv blancs are little more than lemony water, the Ceja is a nice summertime refresher. Or try it alongside any number of dishes from chicken that’s been marinated in lime juice and garlic, ceviche or anything that has citrus elements.
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.
As in Twisted Oak’s Murgatroyd (and if you know the cartoon reference, post a comment). The wine is a blend of four varietals and five vineyards: two cabernet sauvignons (accounting for the extra vineyard), a petit verdot, a tempranillo and a grenache, which means there’s a potential range of aromas and tastes the could include violets, blackberries, molasses, plums, tobacco, blueberries and bell pepper.
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.
You could age the wine for another year or so. It would be interesting to see if it improves. That being said, it’s darned tasty now.
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.