Here are some of the highlights from a recent Trade Tasting over on Kauai.
2012 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc
This is joint project of superstar sommelier Eric Railsback & Tyler winemaker/owner Justin Willett. The Lieu Dit wines are stylistically much more like Loire Valley & this Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example. The 2012 is sleek, highly refined, pure, minerally with more interesting-ness, minerality, length & rounded edges than one typically finds from most Californians. The grapes come from THREE different vineyard sites–Gassini, McGinley & Star Lane (sand, shale, gravel, clay, serpentine & rock soils). This wine is fermented in stainless steel & oak….& then aged in old oak. Kudos to Eric & Justin!!!
2012 Drew Albarino “Anderson Valley”
There is no doubt, Jason Drew is in the “groove” right now & crafting some wines well worth seeking out. Here is his one white wine. The 2012 is a blend of 2 vineyards–Wentzlau (600 feet elevation, “suitcase” cutting, organically farmed) ….& Valenti (1400 feet elevation). This wine is fermented in 80% stainless steel & 20% old oak & sees 100% ML. While we are always cautious about fad-ish wines, this Albarino is tasty, riveting, pure, bright eyed & bushy tailed with a vivacious personality. Unfortunately, the production is small. Jason has also planted some Albarino on his own, newly planted vineyard & we are really looking forward to tasting it.
2012 Cambiata Albarino “Monterey”
This is the only other Californian Albarino we typically buy. The grapes come from a wind pounded hillside facing the ocean down in Monterey. Winemaker/owner Eric Laumann’s rendition is more lush, more tropical & rounder, but still exuding the exotic, captivating aromatics this grape variety is capable of. This style is an easier wean away for California Chardonnay drinkers because of its lusher, rounder style.
2011 Costa de Oro Chardonnay “Gold Coast Vineyard”
VINO regulars well know that we are HUGE fans of Costa de Oro, their wines & winemaker/owner Gary Burk. It is because the wines are finesseful….minerally….tasty, interesting, refreshing AND greatly over deliver for the dollar. The estate vineyard is located 5 minutes closer to the ocean than Bien Nacido & is up on a wind pounded mesa. The soil is very sandy with tiny bits of seashell…..which gives the wine a distinct seashell/briny character. We also love how seamless, complete, impeccably balanced & UN-heavy, UN-oaky & UN-alcoholic it thankfully is. Just so you know, most of the Chardonnay vines were planted in 1989, 90 & 91, which at least partially explains the innate vinosity of the wine.
2011 Solomon Hills Chardonnay 2011 Bien Nacido Chardonnay
The Miller family own both the Solomon Hills & the Bien Nacido Vineyards. They recently hired winemaking phenom Trey Fletcher away from Littorai winery, to produce showpiece, highly acclaimed wines from their respective vineyards. The 2011 Solomon Hills (93 points–Robert Parker, 125 case production) comes from clones/selections–4,75, 95, 96, organically farmed, wild yeast fermented in barrels, partial ML & is aged in oak for 16 months (30% new). Being that Solomon Hills is cooler during the growing season, it is much more elegant & refined. The 2011 Bien Nacido Vineyard (also 93 points–Robert Parker, 125 case production) is clone 4, own rooted vines planted in 1973 (I block). This wine is also wild yeast fermented in barrels, partial ML & is aged in oak for 16 months (30% new). It is much more overtly stony/minerally & showy.
Samsara is the project of Mary & Chad Melville. Chad, by day, oversees his family’s estate vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara county. Samsara is his opportunity to also oversee the winemaking, which completes his vision of what a Pinot Noir can be from the ground to the bottle. The fruit for their 2011 Pinot Noir “Santa Rita Hills” comes from Kessler Haak & Rita’s Crown vineyards (clones 115, 667 & 777). This wine sees 30% whole cluster & NO new oak. It certainly displays the sultry, more masculine, thoroughbred style of Pinot which Samsara has become known for. The 2011 just seems more elongated & higher in acidity than other vintages. The 2010 Pinot Noir “Cagassacchi Vineyard”, on the other hand, is exclusively clone 115, 50% whole cluster & 50% new oak. It definitely has more grandeur & presence.
2011 Robert Biale Zinfandel “Founding Farmers” is sourced from 2 of the oldest vineyard sites in the Napa Valley–Varossa (planted in 1885) & Kraft (planted in 1865). The 2011 is from Varossa’s “young” vines (20 years old)–non-irrigated, creekside gravel located over by Spottswoode. The 2011 Robert Biale Zinfandel “Rocky Ridge” comes from a 1500 feet hilltop vineyard, planted in 2001, overlooking Lake Sonoma. The soil is shallow, broken basaltic shale. In both cases the wines were aged for 14 months in Burgundian oak (of which 20% is new). Looking over the list of plant material for the 2 vineyards, we did not thankfully see any Primitivo listed, making them both stellar examples of Californian RED Zinfandel.