||And the usual meandering thoughts from the bloody pulpit:
TomHill (heading off for Hospice du Rhone next week)
Qupe Marsanne: I've followed Bob Lindquist's Marsannes from the very start.
Marsanne is not a grape that produces very interesting or exciting wines....
when young. They seem to have a rather austere simple appley/stoney character.
But it's only with a little age that they start to get really interesting.
They develop a slightly oxidized/nutty/ hazelnutty quality that I find
very interesting. I'm not sure I'd ever annoit Marsanne with the "great"
sobriquet; but it is an interesting/alternative white that can make for
a good food wine.
Qupe blended wines: I've followed Bob Lindquist's Bien Nacido Cuvee and
Los Olivos Cuvees from the very start. The Chard/Viognier blend I've never
really got. They have seemed more like a Chard wannabe more than anything.
This latest '00 version seems to have more floral Viognier aromatics than
previous editions. But the LO Cuvee has always been one of my favorite
Calif Chateauneuf du Pape blends. With 3-6-10 yrs of age, they cane evolve
into lovely/complex rather Rhonish (w/o the brett) like wines. And they
are always a very good value. The original versions were Syrah/ Mourvedre
blends. With the availability of Stolpman Grenache, this '99 version seems
to show a lot more Grenache character than they have in the past, making
for a wine with more bright/forward fruit. A great restaurant wine that
I suspect will still age well.
Ojai Syrahs: I've followed..... The first ones came from Gary Eberle's
Syrah fruit at EstrellaRiver. They matured into some of the finest Syrahs
ever produced from Paso fruit. The BNReserve used to be Bob's flagship
Syrah until the development of the Bien Nacido Syrah block way up on top
of the ridge just south of the winery. The last few vintages of the BNReserve
have struck me, upon first tasting them, as being on the light and fruity
side w/o the depth & extract of earlier versions. Yet I always seem
to be surprised with the wines a yr or two down the road, as they seem
to put on weight, much like his Calif Syrahs do. His Calif Syrah is usually
released in the Fall in time for the SantaFe Wine&Chile Fiesta. Every
year when I taste it then, I'm disappointed in the lightness and simplicity
of them. And, every year, six months or so down the road I see it start
to put on weight and become a very nice drinking Syrah. The use of FrenchCampVnyd
(owned by the Millers of Bien NacidoVnyd) Syrah and some old-vine Lodi
Zin & Carignane gives the wine a bit of a rustic/Rhonish quality. It
still remains a very good value.
Ojai Travail: This "work of the English" wine refers to the very old practice
in Burgundy of supplementing their wine w/ Syrah from the Rhone ("hermitaging")
to boost the color and intensity for the English market. When Adam bottles
his wine twice a year, it is pumped directly from the barrel into a blending
tank. The lees-laden wine left in the bottom of the barrel is then all
pumped into a holding tank, allowed to settle further, given a light filtration,
and returned to barrel to be blended w/ the similar remains from the next
bottling. Since Adam's Syrah production is much greater than his Pinot,
I would guess it is primarily Syrah in the blend. It's a good usage of
wine that previously was merely flushed down the drain. And a good value
There was some concern over possible heat damage to the Ojai shipments
to NewMexico because of the high temperatures down in Albuquerque late
last week. My cases were simpley left on my front porch sometime during
the afternoon and set there until I arrived home from work around 6:00
pm. When I took them inside & opened them, the wines were all cool
to the touch, probably in the upper 60's. No signs of leakage or corks
pushed. I certainly couldn't sense any heat damage in the '99 Calif we
Moving winemakers: When my Ojai order arrived last week, there was an apology
on my paperwork from Michael regarding the unavailability of the Ojai-logo
codpieces for me to wear at next week's Hospices du Rhone. Michael is Adam's
new winemaker there at Ojai. His previous winemaker of some 4-5 yrs, Sashi,
has moved on to become winemaker for Stolpman Vnyds. Working with the highly-regarded
Stolpman fruit, I'm expecting great things from him there. Larry has informed
me that Laura Chancellor, Haberdasher-in-Chief for the Only-the- Rhonely
bowling team, has fashioned this year's codpiece with moving parts!!! Be
afraid... be very afraid!! I am.
Calif Grenache: I continue to be disappointed by most of the Calif Grenaches.
John Alban's Grenache is in a class of its own and as fine a Grenache as
can be found anywhere in the world... including Rayas and Australia. But
the bulk of them are merely pleasant/pretty/ fragrant little wines; nice
quaffers but not nearly as serious a wine as Grenache can give. And there
is a place for these kind of wines; they're very nice drinking. John's
success with Grenache has spurred others on to try their hand w/ the variety,
but most still have a long ways to go. Probably the best of the others
I've had are the Ridge (which speaks more of Ridge red wine than Grenache)
and Jonathan Lach's Cedarville Grenache.
Alban Hospices Grenache: This '98 was the first real crop of of John's
SeymourVnyd (John's father) way up on top of his property in very rugged
terrain. One barrel of 20 cases was donated to the HdR Auction two yrs
ago and brought the top prize at the auction, entitling John to wear the
tacky/gaudy/hideous Coats-du-Rhone plaid sportscoat. Fortunately it fits
John but we're in big trouble if'n Gary Eberle ever wins the top auction
price. The balance of the Seymour'sVnyd Grenache went into John's Pandora
blend of Syrah/ Grenache; one of the greatest Calif Rhone-blends I've ever
had. John has now taken three crops off Seymour of Grenache and Syrah.
They seem to producer harder more tannic reds w/ more backbone than his
other Grenache & Syrah. I feel it's destined to be another one of Calif's
great Syrah vnyds.
CedarvilleVnyds: One of the up&coming stars in ElDorado County. Their
wines are well worth searching out. Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks bailed
out of the high-tech/SiliconVlly rat-race to pursue their dream up in ElDorado
County. Their Zin and Syrah are some of the best I've had from that area.
A winery to keep your eye on.
ElDorado Syrah: John MacCready has produced some exceptional Syrahs over
the years. This first Cedarville one is pretty terrific one. Steve Edmunds
Wylie-Fenaughty is exceptional. Clearly ElDorado does not have to take
a back-seat to Napa/Sonoma?SanLuisObispo or Santa Barbara when it comes
to producing great Calif Syrah. The evidence continues to accrue that cool-climes
are what it takes to make great Syrah in Calif.
Monterey Syrah: I've followed Monterey Syrah from the very start; with
Doug Meador's first VentanaVnyd Syrah. I thought the guy was crazy. Much
too cold for Syrah. The wines were rather light and quite herbal. But we're
now starting to see some pretty terrific Syrah come from there. The huge
SanBernarbeVnyd way south beyond KingCity grows a lot of Syrah that goes
into a lot of the ordinary Calif-appellation Syrah. I've not had yet a
SanBernarbe Syrah that I thought was better than just ordinary. But some
of the Ventana Syrahs, produced by RiverRun, Doug Meador and JC Cellars
are first rate, as good as anything produced elsewhere in Calif. It will
be interesting to see what Gary Pisoni's Syrah will be like. Take $$$$$'s
when you buy one.
JCCellars: I've followed..... JCCellars is, of course, Jeff Cohn, winemaker
at Rosenblum Cellars. His Zins are some of the best. His Syrah production
is very small but as good as any you can find from Calif. A producer to
keep your eye's on. His '99 VentanaVnyd Syrah, in larger quantities, is
a killer Syrah.
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