||And the usual mumblings from the bloody pulpit:
TomHill (shilling for John Alban once again)
Failia Jordan Viognier: With the combination of John's Edna Vlly fruit
and Ehren Jordan's; they wine is not a classic/obvious Viognier and many
tasters will think it too over-oaked. I loved this wine for incredible
fragrances intermingled w/ the strong oak. I think it's a Viognier that
will age well, but we'll have to see. But, since Viognier is not "supposed"
to have much oak in it, it's not a wine that will be highly regarded I
Tensley wines: I've been mightly impressed w/ the wines Joey Tensley has
been making of late; both when he was winemaker at Beckmen (he recently
left that position) and the ones under his own label. His Beckmen Cuvee
LaBec I've liked quite a lot. This Cuvee Zoe (don't know who Zoe is, though)
was even better. Some like Bob Lindquist's LosOlivos Cuvee but a bit more
bright fruit to it. Very well-done blend.
QueSyrah Vnyd: This is a vnyd owned by the Ragos over near Occidental...
Pinot/Chardonnay country. Whatever they're doing.... they're sure doing
it right. This is the second vintage Ehren Jordan has made from their grapes.
As with the '98, I'm mightly impressed. It has that cracked black pepper
character that you sometimes get in great Cote-Rotie, one of the few times
I find it in Calif Syrah. The toasty/charred oak gives it a lot of that
roasted/C-R character as well. One of the best Calif Syrahs. Clearly, one
has to include the QueSyrah vnyd in any list of great Calif Syrah vnyds.
And wait'll it has more maturity on it. I must visit the vnyd next trip
up to Sonoma. It's rather interesting how the views on Syrah has changed
in Calif. Originally, the idea was that Syrah should make a great wine
in Calif because of the warm Calif climate was like that in the RhoneValley.
But my understanding is that CoteRotie is not all that warm. But never
a thought was given in Calif to planting Syrah in Pinot/Chardonnay climates.
It now appears that some of the greatest Calif Syrahs are coming from the
coldest areas. The Edna Valley (Alban) immediately comes to mind. SteveEdmunds
has some great vnyds at very high elevations in ElDorado that are now producing
great Syrah. Just think what Syrah could do up in the AndersonValley. Better
yet, what a great Syrah we'd have if it were planted.... gasp.... up on
MonteBelloRidge!! Just a thought!!
AndrewMurray wines: I've followed young Andrew's wine from the very start;
when he first showed them at a WineCask futures tasting. I've been, generally,
pretty fond of them and it's been fun to watch Andrew's winemaking style
to evolve. Some of his '97's showed a distinct volatile/EA character when
I thought was a bit too strong in this Venteux. At least strong enough
to make the wine's future iffy. I was really looking forward to doing this
comparison between Estrella & Durell clones. Alas, the Estrella version
was a bit too volatile to illustrate the clonal differences I was looking
for. My impression, averaged over many different winemakers, is that the
Estrella clone produces lighter & more strawberry/perfumed/aromatic
Syrahs and the Durell producers wines more towards the peppery/spicy/blackberry
part of the spectrum. Maybe Steve Edmunds could educate me on this. Stolpman
Vnyd has both Durell and Estrella clones, so the comparison could be made
from those wines, perhaps.
Alban Vineyards: I've followed John Alban's wines from the very start.
He's pretty weak on his bowling skills, but boy does he know how to make
wine. But foremost, John is one of the best grape growers in Calif. The
guy even grows Chardonnay!! His Grenache is world class (as are all his
wines) and maybe the best in the world. I prefer it to Rayas, at least
any that I've had. They have all the intensity of great Oz OldVine Grenache,
but also the acidity and structure those wines often lack. The first Reva/Lorranie
pair of Syrahs ('96) were quite clearly slanted towards the Lorraine as
a bigger/more extracted Syrah. With the '98's, the differences seem to
be growing less. The Reva (John's Mom) is from the more northernly more
fertile block of Syrah down in front of the winery, whilst the Lorraine
(John's wife) is from a more rocky/less fertile southern block of Syrah.
If that distinction is still maintained, I'm not sure, or if it's now simply
a barrel selection. The Seymour vnyd is up on top of this high hill behind
the winery; very rugged growing conditions, one of the most sepctacular
hillside vnyds in Calif.
Alban pricing: John's wines used to be a real bargin. Now they are no longer
so. Some of the wines are getting pretty expensive. Part of the problem
is that John has two years of very low yields, often less than 1 ton/acre.
You gotta price your wines to stay in business is always a reasonable philosophy.
The price hikes for the '98 vintage has certainly raised the hackles of
some of John's fans. If you don't know John, it's easy dismiss him as just
another greedy/arrogant wine grower out to rape the consumer. Nothing,
however, could be further from the truth. He is one of the most generous/honest/genuine
guys I know in the wine business. If the wines seem too expensive; the
solution is simple.... don't buy the wines. I'm certainly buying fewer
Alban wines because of their prices. So be it.
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