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Purveyor of uncommon wine, spirits & beer.

Filtering by Tag: California

Between my finger and my thumb

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There are days when we glow with the fire of being, when life is coalescent in the kindling of the white hot now. And there are days when the fire burns low and we lie like embers in the hearth of a silver dawn. And there are still other days, days when the heat of a swampy evening keeps us from thinking of the fire at all, when we just want to be swept away. Those are the days in which our imaginations come to life, the days we find a friend in dreaming. Today, I'd rather be in Cali, kicking back at one of the Scribe Viticultural Society's epic al fresco dinners. If you detect the cloying scent of nostalgia in this smoke, blame the handsome rogues at Scribe. I've met co-vintner Adam Mariani twice, and both times he has disarmed me with his signature mix of enthusiasm and composure. And a quick revisiting of these wines—as well as the brothers Andrew and Adam who make them, their easy manner and principled approach, the sheer joy they seem to take in their craft—has me swooning all over again.

I'll spare you a rehashing of all the delightful history of the land Scribe now occupies, or their unusual approach to farming (with the wild), and instead encourage you to check out their site. Or, even better, come dip your taste buds in a few pours of Scribe wines and meet Adam, the younger of the vintners Mariani. They're making some of the most engaging wines in Napa without wasting an ounce of charm. Adam will be here Saturday. Not to be missed.


 

FREE TASTING Saturday, May 31 3pm - 5pm The Wines of Scribe Winery

2013 Estate Sylvaner ($tbd)

2012 Estate Riesling ($tbd)

2012 Skin-fermented Chardonnay ($tbd)

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($tbd)

Heaps of Hope

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"All Forlorn Hope wines are produced from winegrapes. That's it." So reads the website of this California negociant, one of a growing trend of small producers in the region who believe passionately that wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar. MR_samples_Green_Hungarian_vines

Forlorn Hope labels each of their offerings "rare creatures". Indeed, with a roster including Semillon, Ribolla Giala, Verdelho, and single-row Petit Sirah, it's hard to fit the wines together into any ordinary box. I've written much on this blog about the vanguard of California winemakers—Broc Cellars, Dirty & Rowdy and Cowan Cellars, most recently—who strive for pure rather than merely consistent wines. Authenticity is paramount in this trend. And while authenticity in California takes a different shape than it does in the Europe, it's worth noting that, nonetheless, the similarities are striking.

Folks like Italian vintner Elisabetta Foradori, in Trentino, have eschewed so-called "international varieties" and instead focused on cultivating grapes that are particular to their land and its indigenous culture (in her case, the varietal teroldego). In California, there is no elemental-historical tie to any one grape. As with so much of American culture, American wine is an amalgamation of its myriad immigrants. And yet, on both sides of the pond, within this broad movement toward authenticity, there is a common understanding of wine's metaphysical relationship to the people who make and drink it. Wine is primal. And yet if not convivial, if not ultimately healthful, wine loses that primacy.

Matthew Rorick, the winemaker behind Forlorn Hope, seems to have a seriously good time in the process. For me, this gets at the heart of what is happening across the globe. To enjoy wine is to embrace its personality. Matthew Rorick gets that. And his elaborations tell a story all their own.

(BTW, wondering what's with the name? Take a quick peak at the Wikipedia page regarding the phrase 'forlorn hope'. Charge!)


Forlorn Hope

"Gascony Cadets" 2006 ($33) Petit Verdot King Vineyard, Suisun Valley, CA

"Les Deux Matieux" 2006 ($33) Petite Sirah Tendink Vineyard, Suisun Valley, CA

"Suspiro del Moro" 2010 ($22) Alvarelhào Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa, CA

"Kumo to Ame" 2013 ($22) rosé of Tinta Amarella, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional Dewitt Vineyard, Amador County, CA

"Sihaya" 2010 ($27) Ribolla Gialla Vare Vineyard, Napa Valley, CA

"Nacré" 2010 ($27) Semillon Yount Mill Vineyard, Yountville, CA

"Que Saudade" 2012 ($27) Verdelho CA

Neyers: All lined up

scott

When Bruce Neyers joined the Army in the late 1960s, wine was no more on his mind than it was for the great majority of Americans at that time. But when he left the service in 1970, he had developed a taste for the trade while working as a cellar rat in his down time, and thought staying a couple years in Napa Valley (then merely a shade of what it is today) sounded better than returning to plastics engineering back east. Yeah. Good call, Bruce. And just in the nick of time. From there he traveled to Germany and then back to the West Coast, where he began working for California wine legend Joseph Phelps. In the intervening years, he learned the skills needed to grow, make and sell wine in a variety of settings. He left Phelps in 1992 and joined with an old friend and mentor, import magnate Kermit Lynch. It was with Kermit that he began to understand unflinching commitment to quality and immersion, the sensibilities of small vignerons in Europe, and wed his two passions: making California wine and selling French wine.

His story then, like all good stories, is one of convergence—hard work, some ethical maneuvering and a lot of dumb luck. "I married well," he says. No doubt, and so it appears his good taste extends beyond the rim of the glass.

From these confluences has sprung a line up of what I can only term straightforward excellence. The grapes are organically grown and the wine is (almost all) unfined and unfiltered. And the juice sings. These wines, taken generally, have a consistency of style that neither smacks you around with its own sense of itself, nor sits back stiffly and makes you do all the talking. Rather, they have an unaffected charm and ease of manner, like a good house guest who knows how make you laugh and keeps you up late two nights in a row but then cleans up after himself and leaves just in time to make you miss him. Oh, that Sage Canyon. . . I hope he comes back soon.

Like the man himself, these are joyous wines that hold no small touch of grace.

Neyers Vineyards - wines in stock
"Carneros" Chardonnay — $33 "304" Chardonnay (stainless steel-aged) — $25 "Vista Luna" Zinfandel — $25 "Sage Canyon" Red — $25 "Neyers Ranch" Merlot — $42 "Cuvee d'Honneur" Syrah — $50 "Neyers Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon — $65

Dirty & Rowdy Semillon

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I'm too jaded about California wine. So much of it for so long became more homogenous and less spontaneous over time, with late-ripened grapes producing high-alcohol wines that are stamped out with industrial yeasts to fit some fast-food model ideal. But that's me drawing a caricature. Maybe it's time to check again. The reality is that the California wine world is home to a diverse set of projects, tastes and craftspersons.

A recent post on SeriousEats identified a trend referred to as the New Wave of California wine. I'm loathe to perpetuate a label like that, but at a time when small perturbations are creating significant change, it may help to group certain projects together and differentiate them as a group from the behemoth of the standard model. What is this group up to? They're farming (or sourcing) organic and biodynamic vines, turning away from irrigation, and using so-called natural methods in the cellar—adding nothing, taking nothing away (see my interview with Alice Feiring)—as opposed to the mechanized and inoculated destroyer approach of the Big Brands. We can include Broc Cellars in this newer, smaller set, as well as Scholium Project. Others like LIOCO and Copain, who make absolutely beautiful wines, float around the nebulous fringes of the cohort. All mainstays in this shop.

Enter Dirty & Rowdy, our latest acquisition from the CA vanguard. Hardy Wallace and Matt Richardson got together in 2010 after each creating his own popular blog. Wallace wrote about libations in Dirty South Wine, while Richardson talked eats in his blog Rowdy Food—thus the name of their collaboration, Dirty & Rowdy. The pairing has been nothing short of sensational.

In no time, the project has become a highlight on several of the best wine lists in the country, and written about everywhere from the SF Examiner to the New York Times. To share a little tidbit, or even boast a little, we cracked a bottle of their mourvedre in its first vintage. Our venerable Will Motley had (mysteriously) picked up a bottle from a friend and we all delighted with it over a mountain of southern fried chicken by Buttermilk Road. This was Christmas 2012 and we're still talking about it. The whole crew was blown away. Besides the Barolo Chinato we took down with dessert, the Dirty & Rowdy was the talk of the evening. It's the kind of wine that makes me believe again.

But not until this month have we been able to get hold of these wines for sale and distribution.

To start, we present their white. This is some crazy shit. 100% Napa semillon undergoing spontaneous fermentation in concrete on the skins, aged in wood, bottled under 12% alcohol. It's got this amazing texture, rich in fruit without losing any vitality, a vibrant acidity carrying notes of pineapple, peppers and almonds. Like nothing you've had before. This isn't just a find, it's a keeper.

Dirty & Rowdy Skin-and-Concrete-Egg Fermented Semillon — $26

Looking on the Broadside

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No one seems to have harnessed the power of Paso Robles quite like the winemakers behind Broadside wines. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of powerful wine coming out of that part of California. But Broadside has a restrained quality that is missing in so many of the others. Never jammy, always poised. Attribute that finesse partly to the location of the Margarita Vineyard, which sits a little further south and is a little cooler than its neighbors. But also recognize that a light touch in the cellar (little to no oak treatment, all native yeasts) and a preference by the winemakers for lower ripeness of fruit makes for wine that is both bold and focused in its approach, lingering and earthy in its finish.

The Winemakers

Young gun Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars teamed up with fellow iconoclast Brian Terrizzi of Giornata to form this lineup of wallet-friendly California superstars. Terrizzi is known for working with Italian varietals that otherwise get little attention in California, like Vermentino and Aglianico, and for doing them justice. Brockway was named a "winemaker to watch" last year by the San Francisco Chronicle, and is known for producing deliciously drinkable wines that are on the low side of the alcohol content range.

The Wines

"Margarita Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon — $22 "Margarita Vineyard" Merlot — $20 "Printers Alley" Proprietary Red — $20 "Wild Ferment" Chardonnay — $17