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NICE LITTLE PINOT $9.99

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More Adventuresome Wines

PIERCE
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 soils.  
 
We've found this estate to have some interesting wines made of Iberian grape varieties.
 
Their 2011 Albarino 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:  2011 PIERCE San Antonio Valley ALBARINO  $15.99
 


 
 
HEITZ CELLAR
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




PALMINA

Steve Clifton is the man behind the Palmina label, assisted by his wife Chrystal.  You might recognize the name Clifton from another Santa Barbara enterprise called Brewer-Clifton.  It's one of those wine geek labels that wine geeks like to taunt their friends with: "Lookee here at what I own (and you don't)!!!"

In any case, Clifton was fortunate enough to have traveled to Italy in his youth and returned to California to work in an Italian-themed dining establishment.  This was the start of this odyssey focusing on making California wines from varieties of grapes more commonly found in Italy.  

We've found the wines from this property to be quite good.  

A 2002 Nebbiolo from the Stolpman vineyard is remarkable and it's the first Palmina wine we've brought into the shop.

The Stolpman vineyard is a real challenge to a vine to survive.  There's not much soil and so the vine has to really send its roots deep into the earth to look for sustenance.   The climate also features significant fog..."nebbia" in Italian.  Many people claim that's where the name "Nebbiolo" comes from.  (We have sometimes thought it refers to one's condition after drinking an entire bottle.)

Clifton picked the grapes in early November (yikes, talk about a long growing season!) and the fruit was crushed and fermented in open top fruit bins.  They would punch down the cap (the grape skins which rise to the surface as carbon dioxide is formed) to coax some color out of the fruit.  

Once fermented, the wine was put into Slavonian oak for nearly two years.  The wine was bottle without fining or filtering, much along the same lines as top Piemontese reds.

The resulting wine shows its California roots, but there's definitely "Nebbiolo" in the bottle.  We like the hints of dried cherry and tobacco, smoky tones we find here. The tannin level shows Clifton paid attention, for the wine is not off-the-charts tannic as are many Barolo and Barbaresco wines.  

They don't make much of this.  Less than 200 cases were produced.


Currently in stock:  2002 Palmina Santa Ynez Valley "Stolpman Vineyard" Nebbiolo  $32.99






Robert Charavin
Coteaux des Travers



COTEAUX DES TRAVERS

Robert 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 years old.  Try buying "old vine" anything in a good neighborhood in California for $13.99!

Currently in stock:  2011 COTEAUX DES TRAVERS Rasteau Rouge $15.99








CLUSEL ROCH

One 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"  $16.99

 

 

 

TAHBILK

Tahbilk 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 or melon...Dry.  

Currently in stock:  2010 TAHBILK Central Victoria MARSANNE  $12.99 (case discounts, too!)










 

 








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