||All in all, a nice morning's work. Another great visit
with Adam Tolmach... they always are.
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Though known mostly for his Syrahs and Pinots, Adam also makes some very
lovely whites as well. His SauvignonBlanc is always one of my favorites,
made in what he calls a Sancerre style. He no longer makes the Cuvee Belle
Helene which had Semillon blended therein.
Many of the vintners who buy from Bien Nacido vnyd have often complained
in the past that their farming tended to overcrop the yields. Adam know
buys on an acerage basis, as do many others, plus a new farmer taking care
of the vnyds, seems to have finessed this problem.
Adam is pretty excited by the Pinot he's getting from both the Melville
and the Clos Pepe vnyds. Both are very cool-climate vnyds in the SantaRitaHills
in the west end of the SantaYnez Valley. This year is the last year that
he will be taking Pinot from the Pisoni vnyd. He was finding it a lot of
hassle to go that distance to check on the grapes and has consistently
had problems on one sort or another on that wine, like stuck fermentations
and such. Plus the grapes are not cheap. So, except for RollRanch. all
his wines will henceforth be Santa Barbara County.
Durell vs. Estrella clones: My impression of these two clones is that the
Estrella gives a Syrah w/ more strawberry/high-toned fragrance and the
Durell gives a wine w/ more spicy/peppery and more big/deep/pungent character.
I've generally preferred the Durell clone, mostly based on what Steve Edmunds
does. Tasting at Ojai, Jaffurs, and Stolpman; the Estrella clone seems
to give the bigger and more interesting Syrah and the Durell the more lighter/simpler
wine. Now I AM confused.
It should be noted on the 2001 barrel sampling that these are definitely
works in progress and far from finished wines. I was mightly impressed
by them across the board as big/extracted/powerful wines. Unless Adam went
out the day before and selected which barrels he would show us (highly
unlikely that TomHill would be worth THAT trouble), the wines seemed to
be some of Adam's best yet. But they are just one barrel of many, in each
case, and represent that wine as just a snapshot in time. So don't make
your specific buying decision based on these notes when they're released.
In fact, you should just do like I do.....buy them all; been doing it from
the very start and no reason to change now!!
Adam was sort of blindsided by the huge RP score for his Thompson Syrah
1999 and unprepared for the typical insane scramble for this wine; even
afore its release. He has not done allocations before to his mailing list
and was unprepared for the demand. Hench, some of the very early orders
got a full case, but most were cut back to only 6 or 3 or, in some cases,
0 btls for his mailing list. This is NOT a part of the romance of winemaking/running
a winery that Adam particularly enjoys. And the wines are much the better
for it, I would say. FYI, I only got 3 btls out of the 1.5 cs our group
received; I had requests for over 3 cases worth. Would have liked more,
but I'll live with it.
2000 vintage: The vintage was a difficult one up on the NorthCoast and
has been pretty badly panned by the critics. Down in Santa Barbara, there
was also some problems in getting the grapes fully ripe as well. However,
Adam's 2000's certainly do NOT reflect any problems to me with this vintage;
they all seem classic big Ojai wines, but not overdone, w/ maybe a bit
more acidity to them...a good sign for their aging.
The '94 and '95 vintage were the last of Adam's Estate Syrah. The vnyd
was badly afflicted by Pierce's disease and was then abandoned. The grapes
always went into his Calif Syrah and were, to my knowledge, never bottled
as an Estate Syrah.
Ojai Calif Syrah: These wines have always been to me one of the best valued
Syrahs in Calif. Still are. Those of you/us that were buying those in the
middle-'90's for $14-$16/btl have in our hands a wine that is easily worth
2-3 times that price. His '00 Santa Barbara Syrah is probably the least
typical of the recent ones. It seems pretty hard and closed right now and
probably should have been held for the Fall release. But the wine is packed
with flavor and plenty of structure and will probably age better than any
of his Calif Syrahs. A killer wine.... down the road. That's the good news.
The good news is that it's still fairly available. Not to be missed if
it show's up on your retailer's shelf. Priced in the low-mid $20's, it's
dishonest to buy a wine this good at that price.
I've followed Adam's wines from the very start. It's been an exciting journey,
for all of us. I started sending my notes to Adam with his first Syrah,
the '82, and have done so ever since. It was almost 6-7 year's worth of
this (many would have given up much earlier) persistence afore he even
responded to me with a short postcard. And yet another few yrs before I
actually met Adam in person. If anybody could be labeled as such, Adam
Tolmach could probably be termed California's Jacques Reynaud.... though
I seriously doubt Adam has ever hidden in a ditch in order to avoid any
visitors!! It's hard to imagine Adam being given the Marvin Shanken bear-hug
up on the dias at the NewYork Wine Extravaganza!! His Syrahs from the early
'80's, showed a lot of toasty French oak, almost Burgundian-style of Syrah.
As his vnyd sources matured, his wines started showing a lot more extract
and loads of Syrah fruit, with still a lot of toasty/French oak. My sense
is that Adam is backing off a bit on the amount of new oak his wines receive;
giving them more oak if he feels they have the stuffing to take it. Clearly,
he is one of the greatest Syrah makers in Calif/the world. And, despite
Adam's best efforts on the marketing scene to remain obscure (Bob Lindquist
labels Adam as an anti-marketing marketing guy); alas, he's no longer our