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 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
- 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
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
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
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
They don't make much of this. Less than 200 cases were
Currently in stock: 2002 Palmina Santa Ynez
Valley "Stolpman Vineyard" Nebbiolo $32.99
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
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
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
MARSANNE $12.99 (case discounts, too!)
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