||And the usual prattle from the bloody pulpit:
Like most tasting of older (some would say decrepit) wines, this was more
an intellectual experience than a sensual experience. Peoples opinions
varied all over the map on whether they liked the wines are not. The opinions
expressed above are, of course, the definitive ones!!
The Swans: Joe Swan released his first Estate Pinot in '73 (of which I
still have a btl). His first Pinots were made much like his Zins; big brooding
extracted oaked wines. But red Burgundy was his passion and his model,
not Zinfandel. In the late '70's, he started using more whole-berry fermentation
in the Pinots to get more of the elegance & finesse that makes Pinot
so great. I told Joe he was getting old & senile and was gutting the
wines (then... I was a big fan of the big extracted oaky Zins) with that.
He shook his head and assured me that I should stick with him and trust
him. Well.... old Joe knew more about making Pinot than I gave him credit
for. Those later Pinots of his really evolved into some very lovely very
Burgundian- style of Pinots. Hmmmmm. maybe there's something to be said
for elegance and balance in winemaking after all??? But what would I know!!
The CarnerosCreeks: I've followed the CarnerosCreek wines from the very
start; the '73 Napa Gamay I believe it was. There were some absolutely
stunning Zins made there in the mid-'70's from Eschen and Esola grapes
up in Amador. They still get Cabernet from (the late) Ernie Esola's vnyd.
But Pinot was and always will be Frank Mahoney's passion. Frank is a very
sharp but quiet and low-key guy. I don't think he really gets the credit
he deserves for the enormous strides Pinots have made over the yrs in Calif.
He was a pioneer in promoting Pinot in the Carneros; he encouraged Tony
Truchard to plant grapes on his property just to the North of CarnerosCreek.
In the '70's, Frank planted all sorts of Pinot clones on his property,
vinified them all separately, and, working w/ UC/Davis, did much of the
seminal work in sorting out the mess of all the Pinot clones in Calif.
I've always liked the CarnerosCreek Pinots and don't think they get the
recognition they deserve. I think they are pretty characteristic of what
typifies the Carneros Pinots, that deep dark brooding earthy sort of style
of Pinot, as contrasted w/ the more fragrant/perfumey ones you get from
AndersonVlly or Santa Barbara. And, over the yrs, Frank has made some very
very good Chards and Cabernets. Truly, a wnry that has a special place
in my heart.
SantaCruzMtnVnyds: I've followed Ken Burnap's wines from the very start.
Big brooding strapping SantaCruzMtn kind of wines. Much like the man himself.
The early ones were often quite reduced in character (the "Burnap stench"
I used to call it) and very fecal/stinky/sewer gas in character. But they
had it all in the mouth; big extracted full of flavor. And, despite the
stench, they usually lost that character and developed into absolutely
marvelous wines. The one thing I've learned from Ken's wines is even when
the nose is quite reduced, if the flavor is there, be patient and let the
wine come around. I still have some of his Cabs & Duriffs from the
early '80's that were sooooo stinky they didn't sell, and they were marked
down to $5.49/btl. Wonderful wines now they be.
Rasmussen Pinots: I've followed Kent Rasmussen's wines from the very start.
They have been some of my favorite Carneros Pinots; fairly big oaked Pinots
w/ more black cherry fragrance than most. His Chards have also been some
of the best from the Carneros. He also plays around w/ some unusual varietals
(Early Burgundy, Dolcetto, Pinotage, etc) and makes an interesting lineup
of wines. One of my favorite winemakers with whom I've been a bit lax in
keeping up with.
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