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

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

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.

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