Here a collection of interesting NEW releases we tasted this past Saturday.
2012 Carlisle “Compagni Portis”
Compagni Portis is a single, organically farmed vineyard of a unique field blend, planted in 1954, east of the town of Sonoma. Carlisle owner/winemaker, Mike Officer, has a real hankering for old vine fruit, which in this case includes white grape varieties such as Gewurztraminer, Trousseau Gris, Roter Veltliner & Riesling, just to name 4. The wine was fermented in stainless & saw NO ML. This is certainly a very unique white wine, quite aromatic, stony with fresh herbs & a distinct refreshing lime finish. This was one of the participants’ favorites of the day. 86 case production.
This stellar Pinot is produced from 16 different clones/selections from their Santa Rita Hills estate vineyard. 60% gently de-stemmed & fermented in open top & then aged in old oak. This is without a doubt one of the finest Pinots we have had from this venerable, highly lauded estate & its superstar winemaker, Greg Brewer–so alluring, transparent & lovely!
2012 Linne Calodo “Outsider”
Owner/winemaker, Matt Trevisan produces real eye catching, provocative Rhone styled wines from his complex matrix of grape varieties & various limestone/siliceous clay vineyards from throughout the westside of Paso Robles. He also crafts some of the most standout Zinfandel based wines out of California as well. Although not produced in every vintage, these include Problem Child, Cherry Red & this bottling, Outsider, which in 2012 is 72% Zinfandel (from Heaton Ranch), 22% Syrah & 6% Mourvedre. It is the most meaty, gamey, masculine of his Zin based red wines & his 2012 is a standout! You will surprised, however, at how buoyant, full throttle Zin can be because of its innate minerality, which is what truly makes Paso Robles an intriguing source for BIG Reds.
2011 Scherrer Chardonnay “Helfer Vineyard”
The Helfer Vineyard is located in the Vine Hill area of the Russian River Valley. 2011 marked the 14th year Fred has worked with the fruit & I would dare say he has quite a handle on how to masterfully craft the wine because of that. For those not too familiar with this Chardonnay bottling (a scant 120 cases of 2011), from my experience, this is a very intense, well structured Chardonnay, which really takes years to harmonize & strut its stuff. With considerable bottle age, it really becomes glorious & truly mesmerizing & there are very few Californian white wines which can become what this wine innately can. The 2011 is tighter & leaner than many of the previous vintages I have tasted in its youth, BUT I know it will be another standout with age. Yes….well worth stashing away.
As VINO regulars well know, we have been huge fans of winemaker Justin Willett & his wines for many years. They truly are about purity, precision, fine-ness & impeccable balance. I was quite taken back by the past 2 October visits to New York, seeing how many winelists at the city’s top restaurants feature the Tyler wines, since I understand how small the production of each is. I always selfishly worry with the growing demand, we will inevitably get less Tyler wine here in the Islands. (I should actually stop writing about them as we speak). Just the other day, I tasted 3 of the very best wines I have had from this star winery. The 2012 Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard”, for instance, comes from the most desirable “W” Block & its rocky vein. The resulting wine is stony rather than being minerally with effortless attention grabbing nuance & character done with just the right, masterful touch. The 2012 Pinot Noir “Bien Nacido Vineyard”, I believe, is a blend of the treasured old vine, own rooted Bien Nacido blocks–“G”, “N” & “Q”. The wine therefore has the vinosity, intriguing character most winemakers could only hope to get, coupled with the precision, balance & wonderful texture of Justin’s superb winemaking. Finally, the piece de resistance of the trio is the 2012 Pinot Noir “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”. I have been tasting Santa Barbara wines for many years & this has to be one of the very best. The wine was amazingly ethereal & stony & NOT about clones, oak barrels or a conrnucopia of fruit & spice one frequently encounters with Californian Pinot. It was sheer, elegant, enticing, alluring & almost airy in its remarkable lightness of the palate. Boy, is this wine good!!!!! (all 147 cases of it).
This is the handiwork of Master Sommelier Greg Harrington. Unlike several of the other headliners coming out of Washington state, where the volume is set at 11 on a scale of 10, Gramercy seems to set their level at somewhere around 7. It’s nice to see Greg championing elegance & balance. Kudos to you & Brandon, kiddo!!!!! On this day, we tried two of his 2012’s. The 2012 Third Man” is 57% Grenache, 38% Syrah & 5% Mourvedre. The vineyards–Les Collines for the Syrah (a switch from previous vintages) with the Grenache & Mourvedre coming from the Olsen & Alder Ridge sites. They use some stems, ferment in open top fermentors & then age in older puncheons & 225L barrique (although Robert Parker notes there is roughly 14% new oak used). The 2012 Syrah “The Deuce” is 100% Syrah, a blend of Les Collines & The Rocks, 80% whole cluster & aged 18 months in old puncheons & 225L barrique (Parker again notes 14% new in his review). The biggest suggestion for wine professionals is to consider these two wines to fill the big gap which lies between Pinot Noir & Cabernet based reds. Makes total sense, doesn’t it?
Last year, a friend suggested we start checking out the wine scene in Washington state. He strongly felt there is a growing nucleus of New Age winemaking phenoms which will change the game. In our research, several friends recommended Matt Reynvaan & his wines. Matt definitely has some interesting estate fruit to work with AND smartly hired Cayuse maestro, Christophe Baron, to be his winemaking consultant. Where Gramercy wines have their volume level set at 7, Reynvaan is undoubtedly looking for the 10 spot. Thank goodness we contacted him when we did! This winery is on fire right now & I would imagine, based upon his high ratings & growing accolades & acclaim, it will now be hard for newly interested parties to get allocations. On this day, we tasted 4 of his 2012’s. The 2012 Syrah “In the Hills” is 90% Syrah & 10% Viognier co-fermented with 20% whole clusters. It is strikingly fragrant–profusely floral with lots of lavender & violets with a definite underlying rocky character & rich ripe, lavish fruit. The 2012 Syrah “In the Rocks”, as the named suggests, comes from rocky parcels & is co-fermented with 5% Viognier. The 2012 spent 18 months in French oak, 25% new. This wine is definitely more masculine in personality & more about crushed rock nuances than any floral notes. The 2012 Syrah “Unnamed” is 90% Syrah & 10% Grenache Blanc (mainly from a vineyard just outside of the estate). It is another lavish, masculine, eye popping 95 to 97 point rated beast. The most compelling of the 4 to me, interestingly, proved to be the 2012 Syrah “The Contender”. 97% Syrah co-fermented with 3% Marsanne, which is aged for 18 months in French oak, 25% new. The 2012 seemed to combine the best attributes of all of the other individual Syrah bottlings to make a very magnificent, majestic & complete Syrah….an orchestra….as opposed to just the horn section.