More Adventuresome Wines
Not many California wine aficionados will know the location of the San
Antonio Valley. Probably some will think it's in Texas, but that's
wrong by close to 1600 miles.
In fact, if you want to visit the top producer in the San Antonio Valley,
you'd head in the direction of King City and and meander south another 24
miles to the town of Lockwood. ((This is a few miles west of San Ardo.))
The Pierce family has about 30 acres of vineyards amongst three sites near
Lake San Antonio at about a thousand feet above sea level. They're
maybe 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean and on lime and chalk
- We've found this estate to have some interesting wines made of Iberian
- Their 2013 Albariño really hits that nail on the head. The aromas
offer notes of lime and apple, with a hint of a spicy tone. It's crisp
and dry, too. No oak, so you won't mistake this for a California
Chardonnay. You might, however, mistake it for an Iberian version of
this lovely grape...
- Best with seafood or as a cocktail/aperitif wine.
- Currently in stock: 2013 PIERCE San Antonio Valley ALBARINO
- Sure, Heitz
is world famous for its phenomenal single-vineyard Napa Cabernets costing
$50-$120 a bottle. But they still make their delightfully exotic,
simple Napa Valley red wine called Grignolino.
In Italy's Piemonte a few producers still make Grignolino, a rather
light-colored wine with bracing acidity. The Heitz wine does not, at all,
resemble the Piemontese Grignolino, but it does have elements in common with two
other red grapes from Piemonte: Brachetto and Malvasia. Whatever grapes
they vinify to make this wine, it's delicious! A smooth,
medium-light-bodied red, this can be paired with Thai, Viet, Indian or
Mediterranean fare. We enjoy it served at cool cellar temp.
Currently in stock: Heitz Napa Grignolino (list
$19) SALE $16.99
PAPA'S ALL BLACKS SALE
Peterson, founding winemaker at Ravenswood and his son Morgan have great
reverence for old vineyards. Morgan's step-mom, Mady, is also part
of the project.
They're involved in the California Historical
Vineyard Society and they collaborate in making this
exceptional old vines' blended red.
Old timers cultivating vineyards in the late 1800s and early 1900s would
often plant a mixed vineyard of different varieties. Some might be
for their abundant yields, while others would be included for color or
spice. Essentially, the "blend" was made in the vineyard
and the grapes would be harvested in one pass and simply co-fermented
Many of these old mixed plantings are being grubbed up in favor of new,
more economically viable vineyards. You see, the seriously old
vines, which have their roots plunged deep into the ground (so they don't
have much trouble in drought years), tend to produce smaller crop levels,
but often rewarding the winemaker with grapes of greater
- The sad thing is some growers don't care much about wine quality...they
only are concerned with tonnage and sugar levels (and being paid).
The Petersons are thrilled to be able to purchase fruit grown in seriously
old vineyards. They view "heritage vineyards" as being 50+
years of age.
The fruit used to make this mystery red is thought to be about 60%
Zinfandel with the balance being some odd mix of perhaps 17 other
varieties, including Petite Sirah & Alicante Bouschet for
Old timers would refer to their grapes as either "whites" or
"blacks," hence the name "Papa's All Blacks" for this
It's a fairly full-bodied wine, displaying notes reminiscent of blackberry
and plum with a faintly woodsy undertone. There's a modest level of
tannin in the 2011 (we had one customer who's a big fan of Orin Swift's
"Prisoner", a wine that may have a hint of sweetness, return a
bottle of this saying it's "vinegar." We asked if she
could distinguish between vinegar and tannin and she said she could.
We taste the wine she brought back and determined she cannot differentiate
between the bitterness of tannin and the sourness of vinegar).
Pairing the wine with a well-marbled steak or lamb on the grill makes for
a nice match. Braised or stewed meats also shine with this.
Coteaux des Travers
COTEAUX DES TRAVERS
Charavin owns this magnificent estate in the village of Rasteau in the
Southern Rhône. We visited the place in April of 2010 and tasted
the usual dazzling line-up of wines, both white and red.
The 2011 Rasteau is a delicious little red wine. It's
predominantly Grenache, with a modest amount of Syrah and about 10%
of Mourvèdre. The vines are somewhere in the neighborhood of 50
Currently in stock: 2011 COTEAUX DES TRAVERS
Rasteau Rouge $16.99
of the more prestigious producers of Syrah in France's Northern Rhone
region is Clusel Roch. They make wonderful Cote-Rotie and Condrieu.
Their son is renting a couple of vineyard parcels near Lyon, a few miles
from the winery and these are planted with Gamay.
The resulting wine is very intriguing in the 2011 vintage...it smells and
tastes like "Gamay made by a Syrah winemaker." That is to
say it's not a light, strawberry sort of carefree wine like Beaujolais,
but a deeper, darker, more 'serious' red with red fruits, black fruits and
the spiciness of a Syrah.
Medium bodied...nice now and best served at cool cellar temp.
A "traboule" is a passage way and these are found in
Lyon...these alley-ways would allow residents up on the hill to more
speedily make their way down to the river when trading vessels made their
way to Lyon...
Currently in stock: 2011 CLUSEL ROCH "Traboules"
is a famous Australian winery, dating back to the 1860s.
They're in Central Victoria, about 70 miles north of Melbourne and the
vineyards are planted largely with grape varieties more commonly found in
France's Rhone Valley.
Most people wouldn't build their brand around the Marsanne grape, but at
Tahbilk it's a bit of a specialty, along with Shiraz. In fact,
they've been growing Marsanne since the 1860s and Tahbilk has, we're told,
the world's largest vineyard plantings of that grape.
We had the opportunity to taste some older vintages of Tahbilk Marsanne
and these were extraordinarily good and remarkably complex. Still
family owned and operated, they used to be called "Chateau
Tahbilk." The word "tabilk" is that of some
indigenous people and refers to many waterholes. That's not
watering holes as we have in San Francisco, by the way.
They changed the spelling of "tabilk" to "Tahbilk" so
European customers would be able to pronounce it correctly.
The entry level Marsanne bottling is a winner and puts to shame most of
the local vintner's work with white Rhone varieties, never mind the
price. This is a very famous wine...every Aussie connoisseur knows
Tahbilk's Marsanne and yet it remains a reasonably-priced bottle.
Winemaker Neil Larson told us he likes to ferment the juice at relatively
low temperatures and bottle the wine in its youth to capture the bright
fruit characters of the Marsanne grape. No oak, no malolactic and no
lees stirring of this wine...and yet we found a faintly toasty or smoky
aspect to it.
And the older vintages were remarkably complex...but not yet available.
In the meantime, the 2010 has just arrived and it's most attractively
priced. It reminds us a bit of orange/honey and a touch of pineapple
Currently in stock: 2010 TAHBILK Central Victoria
MATIAS 2013 VERDELHO $18.99
been delighted by this new producer's work with the Portuguese grape
Verdelho from California's Central Coast appellation.
It's a prominent variety in Madeira, but it's also grown to a very
small extent in Australia.
And now in California.
I think they said the grapes are from Contra Costa County, but
wherever they're from, they make for a nice wine.
No oak...very finely citrusy with lemon and lime
notes...dry...fresh...crisp...great with seafood...
MORE ADVENTURESOME WINES