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Westcoast ramblings

Florida Jim

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Ten days in California is always dynamic: from the weather (clear and cold, then rainy, then beautiful) to the dining (from very fancy to the Taco truck) to business (some set-backs, some gains), all in a compressed period. Makes coming home a welcome respite.

Along the way, some very nice wines included the 1985 Giacosa, Barbaresco San Stefano Res. which started off a bit tight, loosened nicely with air and then faded slightly; a lovely bottle. A 1999, Jamet, Côte Rôtie was in good form with plenty of complexity and good structure but this wine has often concerned me for what I discern as a hole in the middle – and here it was again. Maybe the red wine of the trip was the 2000 Edmunds St. John, Syrah Wylie-Fanaughty with its immense complexity even while being fully integrated. And the more air it got, the better it got – a remarkable wine just coming into its own. A 1996 d’Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru was decanted prior to dinner and, over the span of the meal, became a quintessential expression of Volnay. Likewise, a 1998 Chevillon, Nuits-St.-Georges La Perrières showed its gamey, mineral-based personality after a about an hour open. And a 1996 Taluau, St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil VV was sublime once it blew off the expected initial herbaceousness.

The 2001 Hirtzberger, Riesling Singerriedel is rich and powerful, loaded both aromatically and in the mouth and quite long but I’m betting cellar time will make it even more attractive. We also tasted the 2008 Bedrock, Cuvée Caritas that was a compelling new find. This is semillon/ sauvignon and so well balanced and together that it is cause to explore this new winery further (details below).

There were more than a few others; I didn’t take notes, just tried to remember a few impressions.

But a couple of wines/wineries need additional comment:

First, the initial vintage of Westerhold Family Vineyards, Syrah was just bottled and I had a chance to taste it. I have been very excited about this project from Bennett Valley – it’s all a single estate site, all the Alban 1 clone of syrah and the barrel program appears to be fairly constant. Winemaker is Russell Bevan and the farming here is meticulous. The wine is, as you might expect, still closed but there is an underlying saline quality that I think reflects both the clone and the place. It is balanced despite big alcohol and does not feel overdone in any way. The oak is already well on its way to integrating and I expect this will be really stunning in a year or two. Special wine.

Second, Morgan Twain-Peterson (Joel Peterson’s son) has started Bedrock Wine Co. I tasted with Morgan while I was in town and bought some of his wines immediately. As mentioned above, the Cuvée Caritas is a remarkable Bordeaux blanc blend that is fresh and so perfectly balanced that I was immediately charmed. There are also a couple syrahs, two field blends, a cabernet sauvignon, a pinot and a rosé for sale now. All are worth trying and I found Morgan to be very knowledgeable and obliging. I expect big things in the next several years from this young man.

Last, but certainly not least, I got to taste, on several occasions, the wines from Bevan Cellars. As most of you know, Russell Bevan is a dear friend and my mentor in this business. Russell’s style is different from mine; he loves big, yummy, full blown wines with new oak. Yet his wines are not the monsters that I would expect – for instance, his 2007 syrah is less alcoholic than mine and mine is 13.9%. In any event, Russell’s wines are not for the faint of heart but they are not misshapen or incoherent and they have so much concentration and intensity of fruit that I think anyone that likes the CA style will love is syrah and cabernet sauvignon. And I hear he’ll be making a sauvignon blanc under his own label next year – after his efforts with Dry Stack/Grey Stack sauvignon in the past, I look forward to his own bottling.

So much more to tell but this should do it for now. Thanks to all who made this trip a success and a lot of fun. See you in a couple months back on the leftcoast.

Best, Jim


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