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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Davis Family & A Donkey and a Goat Wines - July 8, 2009


We tasted last week (7/8/09) Davis Family and Donkey&Goat Rhones:

  1. DavisFamilyVnyds Chard RRV (14.1%; www.DavisFamilyVineyards.com) 2005: Med.gold color; strong melony/Chard some toasty/smokey/pencilly/oak rather perfumed nose; tart rich/lush rather toasty/vanilla/oak ripe/melony/Chard perfumed flavor; very long/lingering ripe/ melony/Chard some toasty/oak quite vanilla finish; a rich/lush but balanced very attractive Chard. $36.00
  2. A Donkey&Goat Chard BrosseauVnyd/Chalone (U; 13%; www.ADonkeyAndGoat.com) 2007: Med.gold color; quite pungent/smokey/charred/tobaccoy/gunpowder nose that clears to a very strong tropical fruit/melony/celery/Chard light pungent/charred fairly complex nose; tart spicy/rich/ celery/tropical fruit some smokey/tobaccoy/oak complex flavor; very long tart/rich very spicy/ celery/tropical fruit/Chard some tobaccoy/smokey/oak finish; beautiful Chard. $40.00
  3. A Donkey&Goat Roussanne ElDorado (U; 13%) 2007: Med. yellow/gold color; lovely ripe/honeysuckle/ floral/Roussanne very light toasty/oak slight earthy but overripe nose; soft ripe/floral/ honeysuckle/Roussanne slight earthy/toasty bit overripe flavor; med.long lush/floral/ripe/ pineapply/honeysuckle slight toasty/oak bit overripe finish; a hint of some overripe fruit but great acidity & balance; a lovely Roussanne at a great price. $20.00
  4. A Donkey&Goat Roussanne Tamarindo ElDorado (12.8%; U) 2007: Med.gold rather cloudy color; slight yeasty very low-key/subdued/appley very slight perfumed talc almost no nose; soft very slight appley/floral almost no flavor; med.long rich/lush/textured very light appley/floral finish; lots of richness, body, and texture but almost no nose or flavor; probably a bad btl. $27.00
  5. DavisFamilyVnyds Syrah GuyzerBlock/RRV (14.1%; www.DavisFamilyVineyards.com) 2005: Very dark color; strong blackberry/Syrah/spicy light toasty/oak/perfumed talc slight peppery nose; tart spicy/blackberry/Syrah bit peppery/spicy light toasty/pungent/oak some tannic flavor; long toasty/pencilly/oak spicy/blackberry/Syrah finish w/ modest tannins; needs several yrs. $40.00
  6. DavisFamilyVnyds Syrah GuyzerBlock/RRV (14.1%; www.DavisFamilyVineyards.com) 2006: Very dark color; some musty/fumey/TCA/corked slight blackberry/Syrah nose; rather tannic/hard/astringent very slight blackberry/Syrah flavor; short tannic/astringent some musty finish; some TCA taint and robbed of its fruit leaving a hard/tannic shell. So sad. $40.00
  7. A Donkey&Goat Four/Thirteen Eldorado RW (U; Syr/Mourv/Grenache/Counoise; 14.3%) 2007: Med.color; dusty/earthy rather plummy/strawberry/Grenache fragrant/garrigue/ripe quite spicy/perfumed light toasty/oak nose; tart rich/balanced very spicy/strawberry/plummy spicy/cinammon/garrigue/earthy light toasty/oak lovely/complex flavor; very long spicy/cinammon/garrigue/thyme rather strawberry/ plummy finish w/ light tannins; some like the Qupe LosOlivosCuvee w/ more spice & garrigue; quite a nicely done blend; ready to drink and should go out 3-4 yrs. $32.00
  8. A Donkey&Goat Mourvedre TheProspector ElDorado (14.2%; U) 2007: Med.color; very strong plummy/ licorice/pungent very light toasty/oak slight earthy/mushroomy/ElDorado/damp forest floor very interesting nose; tart earthy/mushroomy/forest floor strong plummy/licorice/Mourvedre light tannic flavor; very long plummy/licorice/strawberry some violets/floral very light toasty/oak finish w/ light tannins; a lovely Mourvedre w/ lots of perfume. Great price at $25.00
  9. A Donkey&Goat Syrah TheRecluse/AndersonVlly (90% BrokenLegVnyd/AndersonVlly, 9% WylieVnyd/ElDoradoCnty; 3% Viognier; 265 cs; 14.5%) 2006: Very dark color; beautiful fragrant/ perfumed very spicy/blackberry/Syrah slight alcoholic bit peppery rather light/toasty/oak very complex/perfumed nose; tart beautiful/spicy/white pepper intense blackberry/Syrah/black cherry rather cold-climate/peppery complex flavor; very long/lingering white pepper/blackberry/Syrah/very spicy light toasty/oak some tannic complex/cold-climate Syrah finish w/ some tannins; needs 2-5 yrs; a beautiful cold-climate Syrah. $37.00
  10. A Donkey&Goat Syrah VieillesVignes/Mendocino (14.4%) 2006: Dark color; some dusty/old vines/ tomatoey light spicy some blackberry/blueberry/Syrah light oak attractive nose; soft rather tannic dusty/tomatoey light blueberry/Syrah/blackberry light toasty/oak flavor; med.long dusty/ old vine/tomatoey/Mendo some blueberry/Syrah finish w/ fair tannins; needs several yrs; lots of tomatoey/Mendocino character; a good 4-square Syrah but just that. $37.00
  11. A Donkey&Goat Syrah FenaughtyVnyd/ElDoradoCnty (U; 14.2%) 2006: Med.dark color; rather earthy/ mushroomy/dusty/ElDorado strong blueberry/blackberry/Syrah fairly spicy classic ElDorado Syrah beautiful nose; tart rather tannic/hard mushroomy/earthy/dusty/Eldorado strong spicy/blackberry/ Syrah light toasty/oak lovely flavor; long bit tannic/hard mushroomy/ElDorado/earthy strong Syrah/ blackberry/blueberry finish; needs 2-6 yrs of age; loads of Syrah fruit w/ underlying classic ElDorado/mushroomy terroir. $35.00
  12. A Donkey&Goat Syrah Reserve BrosseauVnyd/Chalone (#230 of 280; 14.4%) 2005: Med.dark color; strong toasty/smokey/oak bit licorice/blackberry/Syrah slight minerally/earthy/chalky some perfumed/ aromatic nose; tart rather hard/tannic some earthy/minerally strong charred/toasty/oak/pungent/smokey some blackberry/Syrah flavor; long hard/tannic/extracted some blackberry/Syrah bit minerally/chalky strong smokey/toasty/oak finish; a pretty hard/tannic annd tightly-wound wine; needs much age and may be a great Syrah w/ age, but it takes a certain leap of faith. $55.00

And the usual BloodyPulpit:

1. DavisFamily: I was first attracted to their wines for their OldVine Zin, which I liked quite a bit. I've also had several of their Pinots that I liked as well. This was my first experience with their Syrah. Alas, TCA taint pretty much gutted the '06 version, which I sense was a bigger and better Syrah than the '05. Alas, they are now out of the '06. Based on the '05, I did not find it sufficiently compelling to bother revisiting their Syrahs, unless the '07 shows up on the shelves here in NM. The Zin I will buy if it appears here again. And they also make an OliveOil from the SierraFoothills that is absolutely first rate. From a 1906 planting up in Loma Rica, CA just north of Sacramento, who also sell their oil under the SylverleafFarms label. __________________________

2. D&G: I've followed Tracey & Jared Brandt's wines from the very start, probably based on KenZinn's shilling of them some time ago. When I first met them at RhoneRangers several yrs ago, I was quite struck by their enthusiasm and passion for what they were doing. Plus they were sourcing fruit from some of my favorite vnyds up in ElDoradoCnty. I've since visited them at their wnry in lower Berkeley, afore RhoneRangers last March. It was my first time to taste thru their entire tableau at one fell swoop. I was impressed. I particularly liked the Chard, from the ChaloneBenchland. It reminded me much of the Chalone Chards of many a year ago. It's a better Chalone Chard than the current Chalone Chards, a property that has been underperforming for some time now. The Tamarindo was a very strange wine. I suspect I had a bad btl. When I first poured it, from the fridge at a fairly cold temperature, it was markedly cloudy. At first, I suspected it was fermenting in the btl; but there was no fizz/CO2 to suggest that. When I went back to the wine two hrs later, now at room temperature; the wine was perfectly clear now. Never done see'd that before. I assume the cloudiness was simply a protein haze, that is usually addressed by bentonite fining. More puzzling was the almost total lack of aroma and flavors. The Roussanne fruit in this wine was totally beaten down. Since the wine was screw-capped, it wouldn't have been TCA that robbed it of its fruit. I recall really liking this wine back in March at the wnry. So will retry it soon. Of the reds, the 4/13 was one of the better Rhone blends I've had this year. Of the Syrahs, the Recluse was the easy favorite, closely followed by the Fenaughty. Both as good as Syrah as you can find in Calif. The Mendocino is, I believe, mostly McDowellVllyVnyd Syrah grapes. With a little from the PerliVnyd, up in the AndersonVlly I believe. Overall, I'm pretty impressed by what Tracey & Jared are doing. Followed them from the very start; I have/I have. They have access to some very interesting and terrific vnyds. They, along with SteveEdmunds, are showing the world that ElDoradoCnty can make great wines. But we already knew that. Anyway, a wnry to keep your eyes on, if you've not already. If you like SteveEdmunds wines, I think you'll also like the D&G ones.

3. McDowellVllyVnyds: This central old-vine block of McDowellVllyVnyds is probably the oldest Syrah vnyd in Calif. It would be interesting to know how the heck Syrah wound up in the UkiahVlly. When BillyCrawford first started making wine under the McDowellVllyVnyd label, he only made Petite Syrah. And a rather good one it was. Back about 1979. They were selling much of their grapes to other wineries, who seemed to prefer this old block from the GibsonRanch. One block was planted on its own roots in 1919. Another block was planted on StGeorge rootstock in 1948. The 1919 block fell to phylloxera and was replanted in 1984. Since then, they've planted some ENTAV clones as well. Their first winemaker was GeorgeBursick. He realized in the early '80's that the GibsonRanch was something very special. About this time, LucieMorton identified this old block as Syrah, rather than PetiteSirah. Later work by CaroleMeredith identified it as mostly Syrah, w/ interplantings of Peloursin, Duriff, and Aubun. So, in the early '80's, McDVV started to identify their wine as Syrah rather than PetiteSirah, as the Rhone movement in Calif was starting to attract some attention amongst the cognesenti. Those early Syrahs resembled more PetiteSirah, but I have little reason to doubt their authenticity. But, by the late '80's, McDVV eventually got it right and started to make some of the best Syrahs being made in Calif. This was their glory days, to be sure. Alas...something happened along the way. Don't know if BillyCrawford lost his passion for the biz, or what. But the last 6-8-10 vintages of McDVV Syrahs have been pretty unremarkable. Not bad, and fairly priced...but not nearly as great a Syrah as these old vines should be producing. So sad. And over the last few yrs, he has been selling some of his Syrah to a few other producers, including D&G. Their wines have struck me as much better than the McDVV versions, yet not at the level of greatness one would expct from these old-vine Syrahs. Not sure what the problem is, but McDVV Syrah seems to be underchieving these days. __________________________

4. ElDoradoCnty: This is an area that seems to get no respect. Yet, I feel, it can produce some wines every bit as good as anyplace in Calif. John&Barbara MacCready started it all off when the put in their first Syrah in '79. Of the first great Calif Syrahs made in '82 (Ojai/Qupe/BonnyDoon..all from EstrellaRiver Syrah grapes, and SierraVista), it was the SierraVista Syrah that stood the test of time the best. The Cedarville Syrahs continue that tradition with very good/solid Syrahs. But the Syrahs from EdmundsStJohn and D&G are every bit as great as any being made in Calif. ElDorado terroir has a distinct earthy/mushroomy/dusty character that seems to work very well with Rhone varieties; less so with Zin and Cabernet. It gives the wines a bit of a (Southern) Rhone character that I find very interesting.


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