Showing posts from June, 2009

My best from 2009's Hospice du Rhône

This past spring I attended two massive tasting events: the Hospice du Rhône (May 1-2) in Paso Robles, and World of Pinot Noir (March 6-7) in Shell Beach.

As much for myself as for your possible interest, here are some of the highlights from the Hospice du Rhône – all exceptional wines, worthy of a place in any wine list or cellar – out of about 100 wines tasted, listed in order of my personal favorites:


2005 Alban Vineyards, Reva Syrah (Alban Estate, Edna Valley)
Holy cow, can Syrah can any more intense, sleek and balanced as this? Black-purplish ruby, followed by nose of smoked bacon and oak, and sweetly scented, concentrated, violet and framboise/berry aromas. Thick, full, unctuous impact; the luscious flavors unfolding in textured layers across the palate.

2007 Paul Lato, Il Padrino Syrah (Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley)
(Proprietor/winemaker Paul Lato pictured below). Stunningly intense nose of sweet berries, violets, brown (cinnamon), black (peppercor…

More great Pinots than you can shake a stick at (World of Pinot Noir 2009)

There are now more great Pinot Noirs being made than you can shake a stick at.
Pinot lovers these days feel like kids in a candy shop at venues like World of Pinot Noir. So as much for myself as for your possible interest, here are some of the highlights from that weekend in Shell Beach – all exceptional wines, worthy of a place in any wine list or cellar – out of some 150 total wines tasted, listed in rough order of my personal favorites (although I loved them all!):

2006 Failla, Vivien Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast)
Brick red color gives little warning of the huge, sweetly intense, pure, red berry perfume in the nose, and the compact yet gentle, silken, feminine feel positively bursting at the seams with lush, viscous berry flavors, lingering endless on the palate.

2006 Pey-Marin, Trois Filles Pinot Noir (Marin County)
Extraordinary rendering of the newly explored, ultra-cold climate, coastal region between the Bay and Sonoma Coast. Color is pale, transluscent ruby, but the nose is huge – fr…

Organic wine & food matching: Beckman Purisima & summer grills

I could see for miles and miles at the top of the Purisima Mountain Vineyard, owned and farmed by Steve Beckman of Santa Barbara’s Beckman Vineyards. But the “truth,” according to Beckman, is not “out there,” but in the soil, the grapes, and in the resulting wine; no matter what you may think of the Biodynamic® practices they have been practicing full-on since 2006.

The Beckmans (Steve the vigneron, with his parents Tom and Judy) purchased their 365 acre mountain estate in the mid-section (unofficially called Ballard Canyon) of Santa Ynez Valley in 1996, just a couple of years after establishing their winery on a 20 acre vineyard parcel just over the hill, a couple of hairpin turns away. Vintages from the late ‘90s, produced from grapes from neighboring properties (like the prestigious Stolpman Vineyards) convinced the Beckmans that Syrah and Grenache – yielding ultra-deep and concentrated wines when grown in the shallow, sandy clay layered over mounds of calcareous rock, surfacing t…

Organic wine & food matching: Tres Sabores Perspective and gnocchi with pig's feet & chanterelles

I spent more time with Julie Johnson at her CCOF certified Tres Sabores than any other single winemaker during a recent three week swing through the West Coast this past spring. Why? Admittedly, because I can drink her wines all day or night, everyday. Also, because everything she does, as a grower and winemaker, just seems to make sense. My vinous sensibility is simpático with Tres Sabores.

Johnson farms a 32 year-old vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley’s famed Rutherford AVA; originally planted to Zinfandel (making killer reds), but to which she added two acres of Cabernet Sauvignon (yielding no more than a couple hundred cases a year) after first acquiring the property in 1987. As a former partner at Frog’s Leap, her instincts were, and still are, organic, but for all the right reasons: this vineyard is also her home, her refuge, her sustenance, and an extension of herself – everything in its place, but in the opposite of a contrived, unnatural fashion.

“The essence of sus…

Organic wine & food matching:: Robert Sinskey Marcien & Maria Helm's braised veal shanks

When Biodynamic® guru Alan York began consulting with winegrower/proprietor Rob Sinskey of RobertSinskeyVineyards (a.k.a. RSV), the first thing he advised was to “get over the voodoo doo-doo” and find the “practical ways to get it done.” “I was never that heavy into Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual philosophy anyway,” confesses Sinskey, “but what makes sense are the steps that give your vineyard a distinctive personality… if it means planting according to the rhythms of the earth and employing sheep herders to mow the grass, so be it.”

Although Biodynamic® certification didn’t come to RSV until 2007, the original “tipping point” for Sinskey goes back to1990; when he observed one of his Chardonnay blocks in Carneros shutting down and phylloxera strangling the vines. “At that time we were spraying and constantly sterilizing the soil to the point which it had basically become a ‘dead zone,’ showing little sign of life, almost no birds or earthworms to be found. It was our winemaker, Jeff Vir…