Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving Norman Rockwell

The wine cellar is choc-full of “special occasion” wines. Some bottles have this emotional designation because of the cost, while others carry rich sentiment because of the place or experience when the wines were purchased. It’s funny how life circumstances can redefine just about everything, including what constitutes a “special occasion.” As previously penned, TUESDAY is a special occasion!  Each day, each moment ought to be experienced as special, sacred, pure gift, because each moment IS a gift!

Nevertheless, there are occasions that are widely accepted as “special” because of who gathers around the table, the feast that is spread, and the communal experience of gratitude.  Thanksgiving is, of course, one of these celebrations. If we cellarmasters don’t share our finest wines on these occasions, then we ought to have a serious conversation with Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge.

Friends and family gathered once again in our home to prepare and share a fantastic feast.  Each person is to bring or prepare the dishes that, without that item being part of the feast, it would simply not be “Thanksgiving.” Our buffet included the obligatory turkey (prepared on the Big Green Egg – my own “must have”), stuffing reminiscent of one guest’s grandmother’s recipe, sweet potato “pudding” (a nod to another’s semi-Southern roots), and a cranberry salad that hinted at yet another’s grandmother’s “pond scum” (yes, it’s a thing — known as “green stuff” in my own childhood). Cheese plates, dips, mashed potatoes, gravy, salads, vegetables, rolls, pies, and even the seventh-grade home ec class recipe for “Poco Pepper Snacks” — it was one menagerie of a feast! And what a feast it was — a feast of food, a feast of deep love, and a feast of gratitude.  Oh, and a feast of wine, of course!

The wines of Thanksgiving 2015:

Dragonette 2013 Rose

 

2013 Dragonette Cellars Rose
Light and festive wine to celebrate cooking and preparation of Thanksgiving Dinner 2015. Fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries) with citrus and wildflower notes in the nose and mouth. So easily drinkable and reminiscent of summer days even in chilly autumn!

Saarloos Loos Bubbles 2009

2009 Saarloos & Sons Loos Bubbles
A delightful bit of bubbly to toast friends and family gathered for our Thanksgiving feast. Words of gratitude to guests as this bright rose was poured into each stem, then a collective “Cheers!” as we realized the depths of our “thanksgiving.” The wine embodied this sense of gratitude — grown, crafted, bottled, and released as a gift from one family to others. In the words of the winemaker, “Loos is a celebratory wine befitting life’s greatest milestones and we believe that it should only be opened for such moments.” The “label” consists of the words “Loos Bubbles” and the winemaker’s signature scrawled on the bottles with a gold metallic marker. Personal. Unpretentious. Gift.

So it is with the wine itself. Not one of the world’s greatest sparkling wines, but truly a celebration in a bottle. Bright, fruity, balanced, and pleasant in every way. Gratitude in a bottle!

Evan's Ranch 2004 Chardonnay Las Brisas

2005 Evan’s Ranch Chardonnay Las Brisas Vineyard
Notes coming soon

Sea Smoke 2010 Pinot Noir Ten

2010 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Ten
Notes coming soon

Domaine du Pegau 2004 Chateneuf du Pape

 

2004 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée
Notes coming soon

2008 Kaena Hapa

2008 Kaena Hapa
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 93

Uncorked: 2011.07.02  Shared with friends in celebration of Barry & Mary’s 50th Anniversary and Renewal of Vows

An extraordinary wine for an extraordinary occasion — celebration of friends’ 50 years of marriage and renewal of their vows.  This wine is young and verile with layer upon layer of explosive aromas and flavors.  The Syrah and Grenache lead this wine with potent fruit and solid backbone — dark red cherry, blackberry, and ripe plum with deep earthiness.  The addition of Cabernet Sauvignon to this blend adds dimension and structure — a long finish with solid tanins.  Like a long marriage, this wine will develop, soften, and become more nuanced with time.  It is certainly “rarin’ to go” right out of the bottle and was wothy of the celebration for which it was opened.

$37.00 / $29.60 (club price)   from Mikael Sigouin (winemaker) at Kaena Wine Company

Kaena Wine Company Website

Two Summer Rosés: Kaena & Tercero

While we didn’t slice any watermelon, we had the chance last evening to enjoy and compare two of my favorite Central Coast Rosés with some discerning friends. It was a warm summer evening here in NE Ohio and the wines were well-chilled. Both wines were a hit and the differences in the two wines was appreciated.  The wines were the perfect excuse to gather some friends and neighbors on our front porch, demonstrating once again the way the wine can help bring people together and generate conversations and experiences that begin with the wine itself and then propel into deeper parts of our lives.  Simple summer wine creating community!  Love it!

 Here are the wines:

Kaena Label 

2010 Kaena Grenache Rosé

USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 92

Uncorked: 2011.07.03   Drank with friends on the front porch

Served well-chilled on a warm summer afternoon on the porch with friends. Gorgeous salmon color with ripe raspberry and watermelon fruit in the nose. Crisp, aromatic, and layers of flavors. Fruit hints in the nose carry through the palate with added complexity of dark, juicy blackberry or ripe plum. The sensation in the mouth is wonderful — fresh fruit flavors with bright, crisp acidity, followed by a surprising plunge into an almost rich flavor and texture sensation. The wine didn’t stay at the top of my palate — it went deeper than I expected with a bright, crisp rose. Everything about this wine is balanced, textured, refreshing, bright, and wonderful. It has risen quickly to be one of my favorite summer rosés!

$18.00  Kaena Wine Company

Kaena Wine Company Website

Tercero Rose 2009

2009 Tercero Grenache|Mourvèdre Rosé

USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 90

Uncorked: 2011.07.03  Drank with friends on the front porch

This wine is consistently one of my favorite warm summer day sippers. It is bright and beautiful in color, aromas, and flavors. Strawberries and watermelon with crisp acidity and brightness. There is subtlety in the flavors of this wine that I almost hate to mute with food pairings — I enjoy drinking this one on its own, though it is a great match with cheeses, salads, and light fish. It remains a top choice for warm summer evenings on the back deck.

$15.00 Tercero Wines

Tercero Wines Website

2007 Ampelos Pinot Noir Lambda

2007 Ampelos Pinot Noir Lambda Sta Rita Hills
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills

Wine Rating: 92

Uncorked: 2011.06.24  Dinner at home – served with grilled grass-fed tri-tip, grilled artichoke
The wine is clean and vibrant, almost ascetic or austere. It’s a “pure” tasting Pinot Noir that reflects the wine making intentions of Peter and Rebecca Work. Gorgeous fruit and balanced acidity, subtle oak and hints of SRH terroir. While the wine is a medium-bodied Pinot, it went perfectly with food off the Big Green Egg, particularly the grilled artichokes. A lovely wine and a valuable study in the essence of Pinot Noir.

I visited Rebecca Work at Ampelos again a week and a half ago.  She and her husband Peter inspire a fresh look and taste of old world wines made in a sustainable, biodynamic, and organic manner.  Eschewing more popular or market-friendly (i.e. consumer- and market-oriented or “grocery store”) styles of viticulture and wine making, they have made a commitment to gentle technique that does no harm to the wine, the vine, or the world in which we live.  The respect they demonstrate to each environment — the vineyard, the winery, the bottle, as well as the earth — is captured in the wine itself.  The wine compels reflection and respect in return.  But it’s not just an expression or an experiment — this is terrific wine made by people whose mission and vision I am honored to support.

Peter and Rebecca were both very helpful in my doctoral research.  I raise my glass this evening in thanks and with great respect for the wine making passions at Ampelos!

$35.00 / $29.75 (club price)   from the Ampelos Filos Wine Club

Ampelos Cellars and Vineyard Website

2006 Tercero Cuvee Christie

2006 Tercero Cuvee Christie
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 92

Uncorked: 2011.06.19  Dinner at home – served with grilled grass-fed steak
Loved this wine with dinner tonight — it is perfectly mature and opulent. Served with grass fed beef New York strip steaks from the farmer’s market, grilled artichokes, and farm fresh corn on the cob. The food was big flavors with tender elements in each — and the wine was a perfect match. It is big, bold, juicy, peppery, and dark while at the same time elegant, layered, and mysterious. This wine is gorgeous, silky, vibrant, and rich. So glad there are several more bottles in the cellar!

$28.00  purchased from the winery

Tercero Wines Website

2008 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Clone 667 La Encantada Vineyard

 

2008 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Clone 667 La Encantada Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills

Wine Rating: 93

Uncorked: 2008.08.18 Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore – Julie’s Birthday Dinner
This wine immediately transports me to the Santa Ynez Valley. New World wines are not noted for their terroir, but this wine demonstrates that the ground from which the grapes grew CAN be captured even in the Santa Rita Hills. My nose was greeted by earthy aromas along with generous fruit and restrained oak. I couldn’t tarry long before sipping this wine — it beckoned to be tasted. The wine teased my mouth. Nothing was overblown or blatent. Everything about this wine is evocative. Cherries and ripe raspberries to be sure, but so much more — layer upon layer of fruit, loamy earth, spice, more fruit, and wet stones. Great balance and solid structure through the whole taste. Supple tannins with a lingering finish. The enchantment of “La Encantada” is evidenced in this bottle of wine.

$43.00 Alma Rosa Cellar Club

Alma Rosa Winery Website

2009 Tercero Gewürztraminer “The Outlier”

2009 Tercero Gewürztraminer “The Outlier”
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 92

Uncorked: 2010.08.27 Just sipping on the front porch
The Outlier has become one of my favorite summer wines. It is the perfect choice for easy sipping on the back deck or for pairing with a fresh salad or cheese tray. Aromatic on the nose, bountiful in the mouth. Perfectly dry with an amazing amount of ripe fruit flavors — a magical feat of extracting all of the flavors of the grape and leaving nearly no sweetness. Stone fruit, citrus, and pear with lots of minerality. Nothing but enjoyment in this bottle of wine.

$20.00 Tercero Wines

Tercero Wines Website

2006 Gainey Merlot

2006 Gainey Merlot
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2009.12.21 Sipped through the evening
Pretty tight in the nose and mouth when uncorked, but opened up very nicely over the evening. Deep ruby color. Fruity nose with black cherry and ripe plum, coffee, cigar, and pencil shavings. The fruit carried through into the mouth with concentrated, ripe cherry and plum. Herbal notes emerged late in the taste. Plenty of earthiness. Tannins will subdue a bit with another year or two in the bottle. Easy drinking wine.

$24.00 Gainey Cellar Club

Gainey Vineyard Website

2005 Château Greysac

2005 Château Greysac
France, Bordeaux, Médoc

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2009.12.23 Wine to sip through the evening, pizza dinner
Easy drinking Medoc and a steal at $9.89 (after case discount). A bit tight right out of the bottle, but fairly expressive after a few hours. Cherry, plum, tobacco, and cedar in the nose. Ripe fruit in the mouth with dark earthiness. Tannins are a bit thin. Nicely balanced but fiarly simple. Excellent QPR. Glad I bought a case.

$10.99 (case price = $9.89; normally approx. $25.00) Chuck’s Fine Wines

Chuck’s Fine Wines Website

2002 Zaca Mesa Syrah

2002 Zaca Mesa Syrah
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2009.12.04 Dinner at home – homemade pizza
Concentrated flavors and aromas with lots of subtleties. Dark red color with dark fruit, pepper, and a bit of smokiness on the nost. Nice fruit flavors in the mouth with plenty of earthiness. Blackberry, ripe cherry, and plum with ground pepper, red bell pepper, hints of smoke and toasted oak. Nicely balanced flavors throughout the palate, finishing with firm tannins. Nice drinking wine and excellent value.

$22.00 Zaca Mesa Wine Club

Zaca Mesa Winery Website

2006 Evan’s Ranch Pinot Noir Clone 114 Lone Oak Vineyard

Evan's Ranch Pinot Noir

2006 Evan’s Ranch Pinot Noir Clone 114 Lone Oak Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills

Wine Rating: 91

Uncorked: 2009.11.26 Thanksgiving Dinner
This was a fine pairing with the Thanksgiving meal of roasted foods. Beautiful ruby color as it cascaded into the decanter. Cherry, cranberry and sawdust on the nose. Plenty of body, complexity and firmness to stand up to the meal. Surprisingly dark flavors in this wine with concentrated black cherry and dark raspberry. Tree bark, cloves and allspice flavors bring a spiciness to the wine. Bigger than I expected with an almost loamy-like soil undertone. Rounded tannins with a long finish. Noteworthy wine.

$52.00 Evan’s Ranch Cellar Club [Gainey Vineyard]

Gainey Vineyard Website

2006 Tercero Grenache/Mourvedre Rose

Tercero Rose 2006

2006 Tercero Grenache/Mourvedre Rose
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2009.09.11 Dinner on the Deck – served with grilled salmon & shrimp
I’ve been drinking several of the wines I discovered on my visit this summer in the Santa Ynez Valley. Some of the wines won’t find their way into these reviews for several years, but at least a case of the wine that came home with me is intended to be enjoyed in these final days of summer and early fall.

So there have been several notes about Larry Schaffer’s Tercero Wines. I have to say, this is a winemaker to watch out for. He is working magic with the fruit of the Santa Ynez Valley (with is a treasure to begin with), bringing a purity and clarity to wine that is pretty unique. His wines are an extension of the vineyard — good fruit into the process, tending it carefully, and bringing to the glass a wonderful sip of the Valley itself. Seriously — I taste the Santa Ynez Valley in every sip of these wines. But it’s not old musty “terroir” — it is the freshness and life of the vineyards and valley. Combine that purity and place with a luxurious feel in the mouth, and you’ve got Larry’s wines.

This wine is one of the first two wines that Larry Schaffer made. If he weren’t so ernest and honest, I wouldn’t believe him. This wine tastes like it was made by an experienced master. Yet it is fresh in style and exudes accessibility. It’s no surprise, then, that this is the third or fourth wine from Tercero that I have written about in the past few weeks. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I REALLY like these wines! The only reason I’d tell you to not go buy every bottle you can find (mostly from the winemaker himself — they’re small production and not yet widely available), it would be because I’m selfish and want to drink it all myself. It’s also an amazing bargain. GO BUY THIS WINE. On with the tasting notes…

Soft in color. texture, and flavors. Not wimpy, but gentle with a good backbone. Very well balanced in the nose and mouth. Citrus, honey, and strawberry on the nose. Cashmere feeling in the mouth with fresh summer fruit flavors and firm acid that make for a wonderfully balanced, easy drinking, summer wine. Wonderful to drink on the deck on a warm afternooon. Went very well with grilled salmon and shrimp.

$12.00 (special pricing right now for like $10) purchased from the winery

Tercero Wines Website

2006 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard

Tercero Grenache Blanc 2006

2006 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 89

Uncorked: 2009.09.06 Picnic at Blossom – Cleveland Orchestra
What a wonderful wine to enjoy on a summer evening, particularly at NE Ohio’s Blossom with the Cleveland Orchestra!

A bit softer than the 2008 we’ve already had, undoubtedly the result of more time in the bottle. The aromas were a bit muted, but still had plenty of citrus and honey with a refreshing smell of wet stones. Very round, almost velvety feel in the mouth. Plenty of fruit flavors, mostly sweet fruits, but without the accompanying sugar: apricot, honeydew, even slightly tart pineapple. Plenty of citrus and minerality with nicely balanced acid. Very enjoyable and easy to drink. Excellent QPR.

$18.00 retail Purchased from the winery

Tercero Wines Website

1992 Château Bel-Air (Domaines Henri Martin)

Chateau Bel Air

1992 Château Bel-Air (Domaines Henri Martin)
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc

Wine Rating: 83

Uncorked: 2009.09.04 Dinner with Neighbors
This poor little bottle had been forgotten in the cellar. I’ve got a couple more down there — an ’88 and a ’94. These are pretty simple, low-end Bordeaux bottlings, but it’s always fun to find forgotten bottles, and interesting to endulge in a bit of mystery since it’s hard to know what’s gone in under the cork over these several years.

We had dinner with some of our neighbors, and this was one of seveal wines we sampled. We opened the bottle and let it decant for about an hour. It was tight and a bit unwieldy. Not a crowd-pleaser, but I had a sense there was more to this little bottle than the turned-up noses as we first tasted the wine. So I drank it over the next three days. This was a good example of “good things come to those who wait.” While the wine never became anything extraordinary, it was fun to see that this little bottle wasn’t just going to roll over and be forgotten.

Obviously beyond prime, but surprising how it balanced out on day 3. Aromas of dark chocolate, elderberries, and smoke. Soft feel in the mouth with skin-on plum, currant, and bell pepper flavors. Softened but ripe tanins endured through a moderate finish. Remarkably easy to drink, even in its twilight.

I encourage even novice wine drinkers to find a couple of bottles that can be hidden away for a few years. It is a treat to see how wines develop over time. This one went beyond its best drinking window, but how fun it was to blow off the dust, wake it up a bit, and let it give the gifts of aromas and flavors that have been bottled up for fifteen or sixteen years.

$8.00 in 1994

2006 Saarloos & Sons Ring Effie Unk Santa Ynez Valley

Saarloos Ring Effie Unk

2006 Saarloos & Sons Ring Effie Unk Santa Ynez Valley

Bordeaux-Style Blend (85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc)
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 94

Uncorked: 2009.08.22 Jeff’s Birthday Dinner – served with farmer’s market finds on the grill
Concentrated and intricate, expressive and lush, elegant and delicious. There is something really special going on in this bottle of wine, and at this young age it is just beginning to demonstrate its moxy. The color is beautifully dense and saturated. Earthiness in the nose with dark berries and currants, coffee, graphite, and hints of wildflowers. Delicately extracted yet concentrated fruit flavors show remarkable restraint. Blackberry, ripe plum, and slightly sweet blueberry are balanced with good structure and body. Flavors of the vineyard itself come through with earthiness, dried herbs, and shale. Solid tannins lead to a lingering finish. Focused, sensuous, and very memorable.

$48.00 Purchased from the winery

Story about the unique name of the wine:
What is RING EFFIE UNK? Ring, Effie, and Unk are the names of family members that lived together. Ring and Effie were married and his brother, whom everyone called Unk, came to live with them. Leave a blend of personalities together for a extended period of time and no longer are they individuals but a entirely new family. They went so far as to have the names on the sign on their home include them all.

Saarloos & Sons Website

Home

Dinner Toast Styled

Wine is a luxury of being home.

Sure, I have my cellar in my home and I am writing this sitting on the front porch of my home while sipping the remains of the 2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 that I opened yesterday (it has only gotten better!).  We share simple family meals with a glass of wine, or have extravagant dinner parties where wine and fellowship are shared in abundance.  But that’s not my point.

Wine is not the product of nomads.  It takes years for a newly planted grapevine to produce enough fruit to make wine.  The vines need tending, the fruit needs harvesting, and the juice needs a place to undergo its transformation into wine.  Fermentation, racking, aging, bottling, storing — these are all activities that require settlement.  One of the markers that researchers and archeologists use to determine when bands of people moved from wandering to being settled is the presence of viticulture and winemaking.

20090730-021 Vineyard

Certainly wine (of sorts) can be made by nomads who find fruit, pick it, crush it, and allow natural fermentation to happen as they continue along their journey.  But viticulture, growing grapes to produce wine, simply can’t be done on the move.

In the Biblical story of the flood (with Noah and the ark), one of the first things Noah was instructed to do when the water receded was to plant a vineyard.  Those vines were a strong symbol that Noah and his kin were no longer displaced; they were now home.

The implications of wine being a product of settlement, security, having a “place” and land, are many and rich.

While I will no doubt wax on profusely about all of this at another time, I want to end here by suggesting a connection between this concept and one of my newest favorite wineries:  Saarloos & Sons.  They are making some wonderful wines and serve them in this home built in 1886 which they call simply, “House.”

Saarloos & Sons House

Each of the wines that Keith Saarloos (son) makes is connected to stories of home — stories from the vineyards where the wines had their birth as well as stories of family and ancestors whose memories and legacies are captured and honored in the naming of their bottlings.  Their family creed says it all:  “We live to honor those that have come before us, and to prepare the way for those yet to come.”  An example of their somewhat odd wine naming is their “Purper Hart.”  Not a misspelling.  It’s the Dutch translation of “Purple Heart.”  The wine (an amazing Syrah) honors John Saarloos, a member of their family who received the Purple Heart for his service in WWII.

These wines, and all wines, are connected to the land, to the people who make them, and to those who delight in drinking them.

You see… it’s about home.

2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard

Tercero 2008 Grenache Blanc

2008 Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 90

Uncorked: 2009.08.13 Warm afternoon sipper
Delicious and elegant. Pale straw color. When cold the nose was a bit tight with lemon, green apple, minerals, and hints of pepper. Opened up with riper aromas of honeydew and stone fruit. Youthful and vibrant in the mouth. Bright and crisp citrus flavors dominate followed by nice tartness. Finishes with nice acidity. Very well balanced flavors, particularly for a wine this young. It is luscious with depth and texture in the mouth, yet remains refreshingly crisp. I could drink this all summer long. Extraordinary QPR.

$18.00 From Larry Schaffer himself after private tasting

Tercero Wines Website

2008 Foley Estates Pinot Gris Courtney’s Vineyard

Foley 2007 Pinot Gris SRH

2008 Foley Estates Pinot Gris Courtney’s Vineyard
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills

Wine Rating: 88

Uncorked: 2009.08.09 Kerri enjoyed this wine on Joyce Davis’ patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean
Crisp in color, aroma, and flavors. Floral hints in the nose with definite citrus and minerals. Bright melon and citrus in the mouth with an interestingly round mouthfeel. Perfect wine for a warm afternoon.

$23.00 Foley Estates Winery

Foley Estates Website

A Lesson on Bias: Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker

I confess that I have had a bias against Fess Parker wines for many years. The winery itself is gorgeous, nestled in the midst of mature vineyards along a picturesque winding road in the Santa Ynez Valley. On one of my early visits to the winery (early 1990s) we met Fess Parker himself, and were pleased to have “Davy Crocket” (or “Daniel Boone” if you prefer) autograph one of his bottles of Pinot Noir for us. It was quaint, though the facade of a skilled Hollywood production was obvious. This guy knew how to market wine… even wine that was quite unremarkable. Over the next few years, the number of tour buses visiting the winery increased, the array of products available in the tasting room eclipsed the varieties of wines, and the wines themselves… well, they remained unremarkable. So I stopped visiting Fess Parker Winery, and probably raised my nose a bit every time I drove by on my way to one of the lesser known wineries up the road.

Fess Parker Winery sm

That was until last week. One of the area’s most interesting new wine makers, Larry Schaffer, met us for a private tasting of his Tercero Wines (see yesterday’s review of his Outlier Gewurtztraminer). I came to find out that Larry is on the wine making staff of Fess Parker Winery. That got my interest. Larry spoke very highly of Blair Fox, the head winemaker at Fess Parker, and gave me a different prespective on the resources that are available to the wine making team as part of a larger enterprise. They have the luxury of selecting only certain barrels to include in their finest wines — a reality not available to the smallest producers. They have the resources to have a wine making staff, not just one winemaker and one palate shaping the wine.

Still, what made me visit Fess Parker Winery again was its accessibility to less well-trained wine consumers… I took my mother-in-law. She likes wine out of a box. White Zinfandel is her wine of choice. She wouldn’t like Tercero’s complex flavors or the big flavors in Beckmen’s juice. Of all the wineries in the valley, the one bearing the mark of the ‘coon skin cap is the one she’ll like the best.

I had set up a private tasting at Fess Parker with Larry Schaffer, assistant winemaker, to guide our experience. The first wine was a Santa Barbara County Chardonnay. I almost skipped the pour. Larry’s expressive face told me to try it. The wine had a clean, elegant aroma that got my attention. THIS is Fess Parker’s wine? I sipped and was instantly humbled. This is a new kind of wine from Fess Parker. Thinking it might be a fluke, I was still reluctant as we continued the tasting. Boy was I wrong. This team of winemakers is doing something really interesting — they are exploiting the resources available to them to create some really fine wine.

We bought two bottles — I’d have bought more if we weren’t restricted by our need to take it home on an airplane. The chardonnay would be a gift for the couple taking care of my mother-in-law’s dog (nice gift!), and I’d keep the wine that changed my mind about this winery — the 2005 Syrah “The Big Easy.” They have captured some of Santa Ynez Valley’s finest Syrah character in that bottle. See some of my impressions in the review below.

Oh, and fortunately I’ve still got that autographed bottle on display in my wine cellar at home.

Fess Parker Winery Website

2005 Fess Parker Syrah “The Big Easy”

Fess Parker 2005 Syrah Big Easy

2005 Fess Parker Syrah “The Big Easy”
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley

Wine Rating: 90

Uncorked: 2009.08.02
Davis family patio – served with grilled tri-tip, sipped into the night

Improved after being open for an hour or so. Very big in the nose with dark fruit aromas, vanilla, and some earthiness. In the mouth it lives up to its name, “The Big Easy.” Big fruit, but not over-extracted. Juicy plum, cherry, and dark berry flavors with a bit of spice. Very well balanced flavors and mouth feel. Finishes with solid tanins, and the alcohol was subdued with some breathing time. I was pleasantly surprised that this came from the Fess Parker Winery — they’re producing some fine wines these days.

$40.00 Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker Winery Website

2008 Tercero Wines “The Outlier” Santa Barbara County

This is the first of many coming posts from an amazing three days in the Santa Ynez Valley.  I had the privilege to share wine and conversation with several amazing wine makers, including a few of whom I think are THE up-and-coming wine makers of the region.

It was a long drive home through LA traffic, but I’m now sitting on my Favorite Mother-in-Law’s back patio overlooking Long Beach and out over the Pacific Ocean.  It is night time, and the city lights twinkle right up to the coastline.  Next to me is my wonderful wife (who lovingly endured my endless conversations and wine passion of the last three days), and in my hand is an amazing glass of wine.  It, my friends, will be the first review from this extraordinary excursion…

 

Tercero 2008 The Outlier

2008 Tercero Wines “The Outlier” Santa Barbara County (Gewurztraminer)
USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County

Wine Rating: 91

Uncorked: 2009.08.01
Sitting on the Davis patio after a great wine tasting adventure

Unusual dry Gewurztraminer. On the nose there is a nice balance of tart fruit, minerals, and floral aromas. It is a surprise in the mouth — very bright and clean, crisp and tart fruit flavors, hints of spice, subtle floral notes, and lots of minerals and earthiness. The flavors open up in the middle of the mouth with a wash of opulence – almost suede-like in the feel. Much more body in the mouth than expected. The finish continues through the bright finish. Excellent acid and clean tanins. Balance and elegance are the words forthis surprisingly delicious wine. I didn’t expect this from a Gewurztraminer. Will easily become a summer favorite.

$18.00 from Larry Schaffer himself

Tercero Wines Website

CTS Wine Ministry 2009 – Day 1

Wine Ministry Logo

Monday, July 6, 2009
Theme: Opening Up the Palate

Wine Ministry at CTS – a wonderful experience of community, theology, and pretty fine wine. Everyone is welcome and the circle always has room for more. As we gathered on the first evening of Wine Ministry, the selections were broad in order to open our palates for the week. But this first night also included two wines from Canada’s Niagara Peninsula in honor of Stephen, whom I knew would be attending the tastings. Here is the flight of wines for the evening:

1 – 2008 Total Depravity Riesling [Ohio/Washington] $priceless
2 – 2007 Clean Slate Riesling Shared by Stephen [Germany] $9.99
3 – 2007 Total Depravity Pinot Noir [Ohio/California] $priceless
4 – 2002 Pillitteri Estates Gamay Noir Family Reserve [Canada] $32.99
5 – 2002 Kacaba Vineyards Meritage [Canada] $36.99

For a listing of all wines from the CTS Wine Ministry 2009 tastings, click here.

2008 Total Depravity Riesling

Total Depravity Riesling 2008

2008 Total Depravity Riesling
Produced and Cellared in Solon, OH – fruit sourced from Washington

Rating: too biased to rate, but it ought to be at least a 90

Uncorked: 2009.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Wine Tastings
Monday, Wine No. 1

I thought we should start the tastings with something a bit unique… something that’s boutique, difficult to find. So I opened a bottle of Total Depravity Riesling – a wine I made. It was bottled just this past weekend just for this occasion.

There is truly no way for me to offer an objective review of this wine, but it’s pretty darn good! It’s fairly typical of a Washington Riesling, which isn’t so bad. It is off-dry and best served chilled, though the aromas and flavors become more pronounced as it warms up a bit. Slightly floral with a nose full of ripe pear and citrus. Not much minerality. In the mouth it is more soft than crisp, again consistent with the Washington source of the fruit. Lush apples, pears, and apricot flavors with hints of sweet grapefruit. It finishes with a nice acidic bump to leave the mouth with a soft yet balanced finish. A bit sweet, but it was made for my mother-in-law, so what can I say? It’s easy to drink on a warm summer afternoon!

$priceless available only from the winemaker

2007 Clean Slate Riesling

Clean Slate Riesling

2007 Clean Slate Riesling
Mosel, Germany

Rating: 87

Uncorked: 2009.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Wine Tastings
Monday, Wine No. 2

Provided by Stephen

Excellent QPR for an easy drinking, slightly sweet German Riesling. Very light color – almost clear. Minerals and citrus on the nose with hints of honeysuckle. Plenty of fruit and floral aromas that carry into the flavors of this wine. The mouthfeel is velvety and smooth. Pears, sweet lemon, nectarine, lavender, and mineral/slate flavors with hints of wildflower honey. Nicely acidic to balance the sweet flavors and offer a bit of crisp tartness, particularly on the finish. Nice wine for a summer afternoon.

$9.99 widely available

2007 Total Depravity Pinot Noir

Total Depravity Pinot Noir 2007

2007 Total Depravity Pinot Noir
Produced and Cellared in Solon, OH – juice sourced from California

Rating: too biased to rate

Uncorked: 2009.07.06
Wine Ministry – CTS DMin Wine Tastings
Monday, Wine No. 3

I can’t say a whole lot about this wine since I made it myself. It was part of the 2007 vintage – my first. Not particularly good wine, but it was fun to make and certainly fun to share with friends. But I can honestly say, it’s much better than the wine that can be purchased commercially for around two dollars! But in honor of Jean Calvin’s 500th birthday later this week, we simply had to uncork a few bottles of Total Depravity this week.

$priceless available only from the winemaker