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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.

Rhone Rangers Report - March, 2009


Rhone Rangers 2009 :

Tuesday (3/17):
I usually schedule lunch at BayWolf w/ SteveEdmunds & OliverMcCrum when I first hit town. Alas, they were both out of town this time...but went ahead w/ the lunch plans anyway. Joining me were Chris and Pat from my wine group, who happened to be in the Bay area, and Pat's son, Jasper. I brought two wines:

1. Teruzzi&Puthod Terre di Tufo DOC: Vernaccia di SanGimignano (12.5%) Fattoria Ponte a Rondolino 1987: Med.light gold color; slight earthy/dusty rather stoney some floral/ perfumed very fresh nose w/ little complexity; tart/crisp/steely lean stoney/floral/ aromatic very fresh/clean flavor; long crisp/steely/tart light stoney rather floral/ carnations clean/fresh slight complex finish; as clean & fresh as if it were bottled
last week. Amazing stuff.
2. EdmundsStJohn Shell&Bone PasoRobles WW (14.2%; Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne) 2004: Med.yellow/gold color; slight reduced/stinky nose that clears rapidly to quite floral/ perfumed /pear rather minerally/stoney some complex nose; tart/clean/crisp rather minerally/ stoney quite pear/floral/ honeysuckle very perfumed some complex flavor; very long/lingering quite floral/ perfumed/pear/peach/ honeysuckle rather minerally/stoney/steely textured/rich some complex finish; has really developed into a lovely wine and should go another 5+ yrs.
1. Vernaccia: As I was rummaging in my cellar the night before for some interesting things to take on my RR'09 trip, I stumbled upon this btl. 20 yr old Vernaccia??? Whoa....this has gotta be deader than a doornail. But tossed it in anyway so's I could make Steve's S&B look good (as if that was necessary!!). When it was opened & poured at lunch, I immediately noted that the color was wrong. It was NOT brown & oxidized at all. The first whiff told me that this wine was still very much alive. Absolutely unfriggin' unbelieveable. It was as fresh & clean as if it'd been bottled the week before. Classic Terre di Tufo character. True...it hadn't developed much complexity over 20 yrs and was still a bit tight/austere on the palate, but a clear joy to drink on its own merits. No telling how long this wine'll live. Alas my last and only bottle. Have no idea why I bought it in the first place.
2. Shell&Bone: This wine is from the Rozet Vnyd, from which Steve no longer sources fruit. I believe the only Paso fruit he gets now is the TablasCreek Roussanne. This wine, at release, was a pretty tight/lean/wirey sort of wine. It has really blossomed over a few yrs and has wonderful aromatics, plus that underlying minerality. No "low-brow Cotes du Rhone" Blanc this wine!!
As usual, the lunch at BayWolf was wonderful. A leasurly lunch out in a bright sun on the front patio at BayWolf with great wines and good friends...don't get no better. Head on over to Morago to hook up w/ long-time wine friend DaveJones. I join them for son Colin's Akido class over in Oakland. After we drop off Colin, we head into Lafayette for dinner at Pizza Antica. Dave has brought along a big/honkin' btl of:

1. AuBonClimate PinotNoir BienNacidoVnyd Cuvee Isabelle 1998: Med.dark color w/ no browning; beautiful/fragrant/perfumey classic BN/black cherry/spicy slight earthy/dusty some pencilly/oak fairly mature/complex nose; soft/round/supple/smooth lush/ripe/spicy/black cherry/Pinot fairly toasty/pencilly/smokey/Fr.oak flavor w/ good complexity and light tannins; probably at or near its peak; lovely fully-mature ABC Pinot.

Wednesday (3/18)
Up early and head for the NapaVlly. Not my favorite wine destination anymore. I recall back in the old days (by crackey) driving down 29 thru StHelena and seeing this ole lady walking down the street in her blue terrycloth bathrobe and blue scuffies to get her morning newspaper. Such offensive behavior is probably outlawed by now as an insult to the tourists. But the NapaVlly is a bit too glitzy and chi-chi for my tastes. However, if you scratch below the moneied veneer, you can find plenty of down-to-earth/real-life people who have always been there. That was what
I was looking for...and found them.

First up was a visit to AtlasPeakVnyds/AnticaCllrs. I've interacted w/ NateWeis for several yrs on the wine boards whilst he worked at Patz&Hall. Last Dec, he was offered the winemaker's job at Antica and so wanted to meet him in person and see what's what at AtlasPeak. After this long drive up SodaCanyonRd, it open out onto this broad high valley, Foss Vlly, that contains the AtlasPeak AVA. Never been up here before and was quite impressed. Just afore the large Atlas
Peak vnyd is JanKrupp's Stagecoach vnyd. But the AtlasPeak vnyd is pretty large and quite
impressive as it spans the valley from one side to the other.

I've followed the AtlasPeak wines from the very start, as I'm a great believer that Calif can produce the greatest Sangiovese in the world. When the first one was released yrs ago, pretty agressively priced, it was a big disapointment. It had very pretty cherry/Sangio aromatics, and clamped down on the palate w/ fierce acids and tannins...ooopps...guess that's great Chianti I'm describing!! Subsequent vintages were much the same, but even less aggressive pricing didn't attract me to them. And the Cabernets from AtlasPeak were..well...Cabernets. What really got my attention from AtlasPeak was a Refosco that DarrellCorti bought up and released under his CortiBrosReserve label. A bit too much oak, but a very tasty red at a very attractive price.

The ownership of AtlasPeak is pretty complicated hiistory. Originally a partnership between
PieroAntinori, WhitbreadBrewers, and BollingerChampagne. It then became sole ownership of Piero
about 15 yrs ago, w/ the grapes contracted to go to AlliedDomceq. That contract has expired in 2008 and and now some of the grapes go to the Antinori label of Antica and the bulk are sold.
Mostly, they have Cabernet varieties, w/ some replanting, some Chard, but still a fair amount of
Sangio, some of it pretty old, and that poor/forlorn/tiny block of Refosco. Piero declares this is his last project of his life and is firmly determined that it will be a success, including the Sangio. I have little doubt that it will be just that. Nate's timing of coming on board AtlasPeak as Antica winemaker was perfect and is a golden opportunity for him.

We met up at the wnry and after taking in the broad expanse of the AtlasPeak vnyd from there,
went down to meet up w/ GlenSalva. Glen directs the US operation of Antinori, which includes Cal Solare and now Stag'sLeap WineCllrs, much in partnership w/ Ch.Ste.Michelle. Glen regales me w/tales of the AtlasPeak origins, some of DickPeterson's hair-brained schemes, the geology of
FossVlly, and the plans for the future. And that future looks pretty bright to me. The bulk of the vnyd is to Cab varieties, plus some Chard, a sizeable chubk of Sangio, a bit of Syrah, and that little block of Refosco.

After a drive around the vnyd, Nate & I head up to the caves at the wnry to try a few things. The wines were not Nate's, but were made by Glen I believe.

1. Antica Chard '06: Very attractive melony Chard nose w/ a bit of toasty oak; bright acidity
w/ nice Chard/melony fruit and touch of oak; a well-made/pretty Chard and very fairly priced at $35.
2. Antica CabernetSauvignon '06: Dark color; strong blackcurranty/Cab/slight herbal/tea w/ fair
amount of toasty oak; fairly tannic strong blackcurranty/Cab light herbal some toasty/oak flavor; great structure and needs age; a fairly rugged mountain Cab and very fairly priced at $55.
3. Antica Syrah '07: Bright spicy/blackberry/Syrah w/ a bit of roasted/charred/mocha character; big strong/blackberry/Syrah pretty tannic slight roasted/pungent/toasty flavor; very structured and needs age; reminds me a lot of Lagier-Meredith Syrahs in character and style. Far better than any of the Syrahs I've had from nearby StagecoachVnyd.
4. As Yet Unnamed PritchardHill Syrah '08: This is a small lot of Syrah from new vines that Nate is making as a consultant. Pretty strong blackberry/Syrah/straightforward nose; somewhat soft
straightforward Syrah/blackberry light oak flavor w/ some tannins; seems a bit rounder & softer than the Anticas.
5. Antica Syrah '08: Big rich Syrah/blackberry/blueberry light oak nose; pretty tannic/structured big blackberry Syrah fruit; hard to tell where it'll go but seems to have great potential I would guess.
The Syrahs are (of course) what really excite me about Antica. And the Sangio as well. Piero is committed to making this Antica/AtlasPeak operation a big success. I would expect that the Sangio and a SuperTuscan blend would be a crucial part of that success in his view. It was interesting talking to Glen and Nate as I didn't pick up the same sense of excitement for Sangio at AtlasPeak that I have. Maybe it's just that the Cabernet is pretty much a given winner and they recognize Sangio is gonna be a tough road to hoe. I did sense that that Nate was eager to start work w/ Sangio and has some ideas that can make this a great wine from Antica. I'd certainly bet my money on this horse, though. And I'm guessing that the Syrah will be as good as any (up-valley) Syrah in the NapaVlly. Exciting times and a wnry to follow from the very start.

Head back down SodaCanyon and to my appt w/ MollyHill at SequoiaGrove. Hate driving up 29 and seeing all these long/stretch limos. Normally, a wnry like SequoiaGrove would not be on my itinerary as I'm not a big fan of NapaVlly Cabs anymore. But I was the one, pretty much, that inspired founder JimAllen to get into the wnry biz and, thus, have a soft spot in my heart for SG. Furthermore, Susan's niece, MollyHill (no relation...but you gotta like the ring of that name) is the winemaker there and so SG is pretty much "family" now.
Try in the tasting room:

1. SequoiaGrove Syrah StagecoachRanch '06: Fairly rich blackberry/Syrah slight toasty/oak fore-square/bit simple nose; soft/lush simple/pleasant blackberry/Syrah light toasty/oak flavor w/ little tannins; pleasant bu on the simple side.
2. Two Chards, several Cabs: no notes; pleasant but just that.
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1. The Syrah was pretty consistent w/ most of the Rhones I've had from the Krupp's StageCoach vnyd. Another up-valley Rhone vnyd that delivers unremarkable wines. Not sure if it's just the site or the winemaking. And their own Rhones under the BlackBart label are very/very pricey for undistinguished wines.

Molly then took me into the cellar and we tasted thru a bunch of her Cabs. I thought them all
pretty good (for Cabs) and she had a CabFranc I liked quite a bit. Based on what I tasted from
the barrel, things seem to be on the upswing at SG. Then came the real opportunity. Molly had just got in two small stainless tanks of CabFranc and Syrah that had been put thru spinning cone and knocked back to 4% alcohol. I requested the chance to taste this "wine" and was granted such. It was like no other wine I'd had. The nose had rather enhanced/varietally-corect aromatics but ... man....on the palate it hurt like hell, with greatly magnified acids and tannins. Brutal tasting they were.

Bid adeau to Molly and head west and up DryCreekRd and then that long/windey climb to
Lagier-Meredith vnyd, high up on MtVeeder. I've followed Steve & Carole's wines from the very
start and regard their Syrah as easily the best of up-valley NapaVlly Syrah. Their altitude makes them definitely a cold-climate Syrah vnyd. They've completed their new home (called mini-me for reasons that Steve had to explain to a dunce like me) and have a beautiful deck
overlooking their new Mondeuse planting.

They are interested in MondeuseNoir from the ones of MikeOfficer they've had and the fact that Mondeuse is Syrah's crazy uncle. Syrah is a cross between MondeuseBlanche and Deureza, so I guess that makes MondeuseNoir the crazy uncle. They got their cuttings from the Davis plant
materials outfit. When Carole called MondeuseNoir, they were just preparing to prune their two vines of the stuff. So the sent the prunings to a commercial nursery, who propagated them into cuttings which Steve put into this tiny 0.2 acres block just off the deck. They will get their first/tiny crop from this planting this Fall. I asked Carole about Mondeuse/Refosco. She related that Italian Refosco and Savoie Mondeuse are NOT the same variety. However, apparently all the Refosco planted in Calif (and apparently at AtlasPeak) is, in fact, MondeuseNoir. They took their cuttings from the Davis material rather than propagating Mike's Mondeuse in his Twackers vnyd to avoid the possibility of getting virus-infected material. So....sometime down the road, they'll have Calif's third varietal Mondeuse. It will be unquestioningly one of Calif's great Mondeuses. And I've followed it from the very start cause I got to fondle a few of their new vines. We adjourn to the deck for some of Carole's Estate olives and almonds from Steve's dad's farm over in Ripon. There was wine involved:

1. Lagier-Meredith Rose of Syrah '08: This is their Syrah saignee. Dark color for a rose; quite fruity/minerally rather aromatic nose; tart dry/lean/austere very fruity flavor; exactly like I like my roses..tart/dry...very Provencal-like. $20.00 on release.
2. Lagier-Meredith Syrah '06: Though I'd received my batch of this wine, I'd not yet tried it.
Very dark/black color; very strong very spicy/blackberry/Syrah slight peppery/roasted slight earthy nose; strong very spicy/blackberry/Syrah/blueberry light toasty/roasted/peppery flavor w/ ample tannins; very long very spicy finish; a big/rugged/structured mountain Syrah made for the long haul; classic L-M Syrah. $48.00
3. Jasmin Cote-Ritie '81: Med.light color w/ no browning; beautiful elegant/perfumed floral/lilacs very slight roasted/mocha complex nose; smooth/elegant/delicate floral/violets/lilacs bit astringent/ drying-out complex palate; a very gentle/elegant old lady of a Cote-Ritie.
1. The release of the L-M Rose '08 will be sent out by e-mail any day now. It's one of my favorite Calif Syrah Roses because of its dry/auster character...very much like some of the Tavel, Provence roses and much like the Domaine Tempier version.
2. The Jasmin C-R was one I happened to in the boot of my rental car and thought this might be
a good opportunity to open it. It was, indeed. Decanted off very heavy sediment. It was a pretty gorgeous example of a fully-mature C-R, maybe a little beyound. Like many old wines, the primary beauty was in the aromatics, w/ a gentle whisper going across the palate. Back in the '70's-'80's, the Jasmin wines had quite a reputation, had just come into the USofA, and were pretty difficult to find. Truth be told, I was a bit underwhelmed by them when I first tried them. I was looking for power & intensity from my C-R's back in those days (by crackey).

The Jasmin were very pretty wines w/ lots of perfume, impeccable balance, but not very much
in-your-face. They were the Burgundy of Cote-Rotie, perhaps. So I wasn't expecting much from this Jasmin (and the '82 on Friday). So I was quite surprised that it was in such beautiful condition. I guess there's something to this "balance" thing when it comes to aging??

Much good conversation there on the deck over a broad range of topics. I find out that RileyOfficer is a pretty ferocious ping-pong player, a talent I'd not heard about. I get a preview of their new project...Chester's Anvil. Therein lies a tale that Steve will have to relate about ChesterBrandlin's anvil. Once Steve took his wire brush to this old anvil, ca. 1859 (the anvil's manufacture..not Steve's wire-brush job); one of the most beautiful pieces of old steel came to light under the thick veneer of rust. They will be releasing a Zinfandel from Chester Brandlin's '06 grapes, made w/ AlanPotts help, sometime in the near future. The label is a beautiful depiction of Chester's old anvil. Tiny amount, of course.

Bid adeau to Steve & Carole, head down to AmericanCanyon & check into my motel. No high-falutin'
MeadowWood Resort for me.

Thursday (3/19)
Over the last 4-5 yrs, as I've (tried to) follow Calif Syrah, I've encountered some pretty impressive Syrahs from the LasMadres vnyd, made by a broad range of producers. I'm of the belief that it's one of Calif's best cold-climate Syrah vnyds. So an invitation to come visit from JohnPainter was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I show up early and am greeted at the door by John and meet his wife Jean as well.

The vnyd is definitely cold-climate, located in the Carneros, to the south of Vineberg, not far from the NapaRd (into Sonoma) and the Napa-Sonoma Hwy 121. The site is about a mile North of the highway, which you can see off in the distance. John continue his career as an airline pilot, flying mostly to the FarEast. Jean does WebPage work at the nearby NicholsonRanchWnry. They had originally moved up to the Sonoma area and planted a tiny plot of Merlot, from which John made a bit of ho-made wine. As usual, he got bit by the bug, found this dilapidated/unplanted property in the Carneros and bought it w/ grander visions. It about 3-4 miles from LeeHudson's vnyd, another great Calif Syrah vnyd.

The LasMadres vnyd is located in this mostly south-facing swale, on a gentle slope. The LasMadres comes from the two mothers, Hulda and Esther. Each block is planted to a different ENTAV clone (forget the #'s) of Syrah. It goes to a variety of producers, mostly associated w/ MichaelBrill's CrushPad. The bulk of it goes, however, to the nearby NicholsonRanch. So we don boots and circumnavigate the vnyd. It's a beautiful property w/ a small lake/pond located near the Eastern edge. We then adjourn to the house to try two wines:

1. JohnPainter LasMadres Syrah '02: Med.dark color w/ slight browning; rather smokey/ pungent/roasted some peppery/blackberry/Syrah some complex nose; tart light peppery/ blackberry/Syrah some roasted/pungent flavor w/ a bit of an astringent backtaste. Showing nicely and right about its peak I would guess (never having had the wine before).
2. JohnPainter LasMadres Syrah '06: Dark color; rather strong black pepper/spicy/blackberry/
blueberry/Syrah slight roasted/toasty/oak bit mocha/coffee flavor w/ some tannins; good structure and balance and needs 2-4 yrs of age. Very nicely made wine.
These are two ho-made wines of John's, made in his small barn w/ the assistance of Armando
Ceja, who has a wnry nearby in the Carneros. These are not ho-made wines in any sense of the word; they're has good as most professional wines. No flaws that I could detect. The '02, first crop I believe from LasMadres, is probably at or slightly beyond its peak. The '06 is as good as any of the other '06 LasMadres I've had thus far. One of the characteristics of LasMadras Syrahs that has struck me is the distinct cracked black pepper they most all tend to show; definitely cold-climate Syrah. The '06 is a classic LasMadres.

After tasting these two wines, we head off to lunch at the BoonFlyCafe, located at the CarnerosInn on Hwy 121. It's a casual cafe that serves hearty/Calif bistro food and is quite popular w/ the locals. Joining us is Jacquelin Yoakum, winemaker at NicholsonRanch. BoonFly is a great little cafe w/ very good food...highly recommended. Jacquelin brought the NicholsonRanch LasMadres Syrah '06, a good counterpoint to John's version. No notes, but it had that distinctive peppery LasMadres quality...maybe a bit more oak and a bit more polished in character.

After lunch, we adjourn to the NicholsonRanchWnry. Located right there at the junction of NapaRd and Napa/Carneros Hwy 121. This was not a wnry I was familar with other than having heard its name. Browsing thru their WebSite, I was not expecting much. The emphasis seemed to be on glitzy weddings and receptions. Couldn't have been wronger.

From our lunch visit w/ Jacqulein, it was clear that they are serious about making good wine at Nicholson. So we exit BoonFly and head down to NicholsonRanch for some barrel tasting. John
wanted me to try the '08 LasMadres Syrah she has in barrel. But whilst we were there, I expressed
an interest in trying a few other things so's I could get a measure of what Jacqulein is doing.
So down into their caves below the wnry to taste.

We tasted thru several Chards and Pinots. Alas, I didn't take any notes, as I was just sorta
getting the lay of the land. I was fairly impressed w/ the wines I tried. Good/solid/well-made
wines in a more elegant/polished style and low-key oak. The '08 LasMadres Syrah was pretty
impressive w/ loads of the peppery LasMadres character and loads of blackberry/Syrah fruit; and
great structure for aging. The wines were all good enough that I ordered a hlf case to try of
current wines when I got home.

Bid adieu to Jacqulein and the Painters and head on over to Yountville to stop in and do a catch-up visit w/ JimAllen, founder of SequoiaGroveWnry. I was sorta the one who inspired Jim to chuck his academic career in SantaFe and start his own wnry, because of his coming to my weekly tastings in LosAlamos. I thought he was awfully stupid at the time to make that move, but it clearly worked out the best for him. He eventually sold the wnry to Kobrand and know does only promotional gigs for SG.

After we catch up on old...errrrr....long-time friends, I head on up Hwy 29. Not a fun drive for me anymore. Too much glitz & chi-chi. But I know up in the hills and in the towns, there are really-life people. Just below the surface. Make a quick stop at Dean&DeLuca, an emporium of glitz and chi-chi that represents all the things about the NapaVlly I dislike. Manage to buy about $150 of artisinal salumi there. At any deli, it woulda been half that price.

Then, running a bit late, I head on up to Calistoga. Driving thru lower StHelena, I chuckle w/ my rememberances of that old SutterHome barn there where, at one time, one of Calif's best Zins was made. My...how things have changed. And right out back of that ole barn was the former location of the famed Smoot-Hawley White Zinfandel vnyd, that Turley rode to fame on their White Zinfandel. I was intent on seeing Margaux, a long time friend from her SantaFe days, who owns the Enoteca wine shop in Calistoga. Alas, I didn't know she closes early and missed seeing her this trip.

Back down the ugly Hwy 29 to dinner at Fume in Napa and then on to AmericanCanyon and
on to bed.

Friday (3/20)
This was a pretty exciting day w/ new discoveries. Left AmericanCanyon and headed down to
Berkeley in fairly light traffic. Stopped into MeyerSound to surprise Rachel, LarryArchibald's
daughter. Clearly, Rachel has all the looks in the family. Hooked her up w/ Donkey&Goat and
SteveEdmunds to pour for a fundraiser for the BerkeleyRepTheatre she's organizing. Rachel didn't
know there were actually wineries in Berkeley...shocking I say.

Then headed down to lower Berkeley for an appointment w/ Tracey & Jared at Donkey&Goat. I've
been following D&G from the very start, when they first poured at RR's and on tips from several
of my EastBay friends. Since they get many of their grapes from ElDoradoCnty, their wines have
always had a special interest for me. Their wnry is located down in lower Berkeley. I thought I'd known most of the lower Berkeley wnry locations, but this was a new one for me. After talking about many of their vnyd sources, they had their Spring release lined up to taste. I've got mine ordered, but not yet received. Their new marketing guy, Levi, was also there to join us.

1. The Prospector ElDorado Mourvedre '07: Very dark color; strong plummy/loamy/earthy/Mourv
light oak nose; rich/plummy/Mourv bit earthy/mushroomy bit hard/tannic flavor; almost South
French in character; needs 2-5 yrs of age.
2. 4/13 ElDorado Red Blend '07: Dark color; some earthy/mushroomy ElDorado rather perfumed/
fragrant some blackberry/strawberry light toasty/oak nose; rich strong perfumed/blackberry/
strawberry bit earthy/dusty/gamey light oak flavor; needs several yrs.
3. FenaughtyVnyd ElDorado Syrah '06: Very dark color; some earthy/mushroomy/ElDorado very strong blackberry/Syrah/very spicy light toasty/oak lovely nose; tart fairly rich strong blackberry/
Syrah quite spicy light earthy/mushroomy light toasty/oak fairly tannic flavor; very spicy
classic ElDorado Syrah; needs 2-6 yrs.
4. VieillesVines Mendocino Syrah (McDowell & Perli Vnyds) '06: Dark color; strong/4-square/ Syrah/blackberry light toasty/oak nose; softer strong blackberry/Syrah bit spicy light toasty/oak
flavor; bit simpler but a solid/4-square Syrah.
5. TheRecluse AndersonVlly BrokenLegVnyd Syrah '06: My favorite of the reds. Terrific spicy/
peppery/cracked pepper/cold-climate pungent blackberry/blueberry/Syrah nose; tart black pepper/blackberry/Syrah light oak very spicy flavor; terrific cold-climate Syrah.
6. Roussanne ElDorado ElenRidgeVnyd '07: Very strong ripe/floral/honeysuckle/Roussanne spicy/nutmeg slight earthy nose; soft rich/lush floral/honeysuckle/Roussanne some spicy/nutmeg flavor; big/rich/lush Roussanne
7. Jasmin Cote-Rotie '82: Med. color w/ slight browning; very spicy/floral/violets/perfumed
very little classic roasted/mocha/coffee rather complex nose; very smooth/polished gentle/
elegant light floral/lilacs/violets rather spicy fairly complex flavor w/ little drying out
on the palate. Preferred this to the '81 because of its spiciness. Very little Rhone/roasted/
coffee/mocha character and a bit more alive than the '81. Lovely mature C-R.
1. Jared & Tracey adopt the French practice of serving the reds first and following them w/the whites. Supposedly, the tart acids of whites negatively impact your taste of the reds when you taste them in the traditional order. I can see that if the whites are high acid like Chablis or Loire or RhoneBlanc, but I'm not so sure that the bigger/richer Roussanne benefited from that treatment. Probably doesn't make that big a difference. Interesting.
2. One of the first things that attracted me to D&G originally (other than the neat label...I'm a sucker for those things) was their use of ElDorado grapes. D&G (and SteveEdmunds) are making some of the greatest/most profound Syrahs coming out of ElDorado these days. The SierraVistas are usually good, though sometimes a bit spotty. The Cedarvilles are always good, drinkable, and well-priced. But the D&G and EdStJ ElDorado Syrahs are pretty much as good as any being made in Calif. ElDorado reds tend to have an earthy/mushroomy character to them (that terroir thing I guess), a bit like ContraCosta reds, but w/ more acidity & structure. D&G does a great job of bringing out the fruit and keeping the earthy/mushroomy character in the background.

The McDowell Syrah was the least interesting to me of the wines. Way back when, McDowell
VllyVnyds made some pretty exceptional Syrahs. Of late, though, they've not been very interesting and other winemakers have been doing a better job w/ those grapes. The central block of McDowell Syrah are very old and capable of producing extraordinary Syrah. This D&G rendition was one of the better ones of late, but nothing (at this point in time)exceptional. Maybe it will evolve. But the BrokenLeg Syrah was a classic cold-climate Syrah and just about as good as it gets. All in all, a pretty impressive lineup from D&G.

When I was chatting w/ Tracey&Jared and mentioned my quest for artisinal salamis. They mentioned that they had served some from Addesso at their recent open house and they were a big hit. Adesso is a new restaurant owned by Ben & Jon of Dopo up on PiedmontAve, out beyond BayWolf, near Dopo...one of my most favorite pizza places. I had heard about Adesso the day before at LasMadres. Seth Cross, Jean's son, is the wine guy there and she suggested I stop by & introduce myself.

So w/ visions of salami in my mind, I headed up Piedmont to locate Adesso. I wandered around
Dopo but didn't see Addesso. But I did find a just opened wine shop, Wine on Piedmonte. After talking a bit to the owner, Brian, he told me where to find Addesso...but, alas, they are only open for dinner. He called them but...no....they are not licensed to sell me a whole salami, only by the slice in the restaurant. So struck out here on Addesso salami. Bought a case of interesting wine and headed back up the street for lunch at Dopo.

Seated at the bar, I glanced two seats to my right and who should I spy but....OliverMcCrum,
importer of some great Italian wines, having lunch. After loudly clearing my throat & generally
being obnoxious, it was clear, as he squirmed around in his seat, that I was making him a bit
uncomfortable...invading his space. So, finally, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he was going to ignore me all day!!! So I moved over next to Oiver and we chatted about nuclear
forensics, stockpile stewardship, strategic missile targeting, radiative compression of the secondary, primary boost....all the typical lunchtime conversation topics in Berkeley.. and I
described my failed salami quest. His face immediately brightened. So he asked owner Ben to come
over. Ben makes the salamis out back for both Dopo and Addesso. But...no....he couldn't sell me any.

They're not licensed to do so and not Federally-inspected. The Feds are far more concerned about
illegal pig parts than they are about protecting nuclear warheads. As we chatted longer about salami, after Oliver left, it became clear to him that I was serious in my quest. So....Ben told me he'd go back and look to see what he had and that if something showed up on my lunch bill, I was to profess ignorance (my forte, actually) and just pay the bill. So there was $20 added to my bill
for ???, and has I rose to leave, Ben walked over & handed me this big/honkin' Soppresatta, about 2 feet long and 4" in diameter. With this salami under my arm, I strolled up Piedmont to Addesso. This stunningly handsome/Italian-hunk looking guy was standing outside smoking a cig, right of the front cover of Gentleman'sQuarterly. I asked for Seth, he gave me this quizzicallook, and introduced himself as Seth. I related my LasMadres visit and we stood there and chatted Italian wines for 20 minutes or so. The wine list Seth has assembled is small, but obviously very well-selected. I can hardly wait to return to Berkeley to try out Addesso. They have about 30 different salamis by-the-slice on the menu. It looks to be a winner.

Pleased as punch w/ my aquisition of a Dopo/Adesso Soppressatta Salami, I headed over to
Livermore to see some LosAlamos friends. Alas, Mike had come down ill and our dinner at their
house was cancelled. Rose was supposed to join Doug & I for dinner, but she had a co-worker
in surgery and cancelled. So Doug & I headed up to WalnutCreek and Prima restaurant, one of
my perennial favorites out there. After tasting a flight (blind) of white wines, then reds, we focused on the wine I'd brought:

1. Ceretto BriccoAsili DOC: Barbaresco (13%; #5941/8960) 1980: Med.light color; quite perfumed/fragrant very light floral/violets some pungent/truffle dusty rather complex slight alcoholic very slight tarry nose; smooth/elegant almost Burgundian light mushroom/truffle very slight floral/ violets/dried rose petal slight tarry/pungent bit dried out/astringent flavor; very long smooth/ elegant light floral/tarry/truffle some dried out/astrigent finish; very smooth/ elegant on the palate and light/elegant on the nose and starting to dry out somewhat but a classic/aged Barbaresco. $14.85
Wee BP:
1. Friggin' Piedmonte Nebbiolo. I describe drinking Piedmonte Nebbiolo as like "stuffing violet
petals up one nostril, lilac petals up the other nostril, sealing both nostrils w/ a plug of hot tar; sticking out your tongue betwixt the jaws of a vise, and torqueing that sucker down. There are some nice things involved, but there is also a lot of pain". When I taste some young ones, I just shake my head in puzzlement at what people see in this wine. I've pretty much given up on Barolo/Barbaresco. Then I taste a wine like this and then all of a sudden the light comes on & I remember what first attracted me to those wines. Friggin' Nebbiolo.

Saturday (3/21)
For the first time, RR offered up two Seminars on the day afore the GrandTasting. Both were panels moderated by JonBonne, wine columinist for the SFChron, who did a good job of promoting/
provoking discussions and keeping any outbreak of fisticuffs under control.

The first panel was on Cool Climate Syrah From PinotCountry. Jon expressed some doubts to me
afterwards if all the wines really qualified as cool-climate Syrah. I expressed the opinion that they did, though some were clearly cooler than others. The Peay was probably the only real cold-
climate Syrah displayed.

I asked the question of DanLee/Morgan what the real differences were in DougMeador's
valley floor/ArroyoSecco (who, I feel, doesn't get the credit he deserves for having the first,
outside of BienNacido, cold-climate Syrah vnyd in Calif) conditions and thos up in the SantaLucia
Highlands. Didn't really get a good answer I thought. I find the SLH Syrahs tend to have a more
herbal component and greater ripeness, whilst those from VentanaVnyd seem to be more structured and display a more spicy/peppery Rhonish character.

I asked BobLindquist his preference between the Qupe X-Block Syrah and the Hillside planting.
He expressed a preference for the X-Block for it's greater age, but feels, with time, the Syrahs
from the Hillside block will surpass them. The wines and their presentors:

1. MattMeyer/MeyerFamilyCllrs: Syrah '04: Rather oaked (well...his Dad was JustinMeyer/SilverOak) some licorice/blackberry bit funky/aged nose; rather hard/lean bit dried out slight blackberry flavor; seems a bit tired and dull; underwhelming. $35
2. NickPeay/PeayVnyds: Syrah LaBruma/SonomaCoast '06: Beautiful classic cracked black pepper/blackberry/spicy complex/cold-climate nose; very tart classic cold-climate cracked black
pepper/blackberry flavor w/ great tannins & structure; needs age. $45
3. CharlieTsegeletos/ClineCllrs: Syrah CoolClimate '07: Lovely pepper/cool-climate Syrah licorice/
blackberry very spicy/lovely nose; tart peppery/licorice/blackberry/boysenberry spicy flavor;
seems a bit tight/closed compared to the '06; needs a yr or so to come around; an absolute
steal at $16
4. RyanZepaltas/NovyFamilyWnry: Syrah JudgeFamilyVnyd '06: Very lush/blackberry/ boysenberry/Syrah slight peppery some toasty/pencilly/oak nose; soft/lush/rich blackberry/ boysenberry some pencilly/oak flavor w/ soft tannins; needs a yr or two; classic Novy Syrah w/ little cool-climate character. $26
5. DanLee/MorganWnry: Syrah DoubleLVnyd/SantaLuciaHighlands '06: Rather oaked some earthy/black-berry/Syrah very slight peppery nose; tart low-fruit/blackberry somewhat toasty/oak flavor;tastes like Syrah from a Pinot producer; a bit underwhelming. $40
6.GregFreeman/HahnEstates: Syrah Hahn SantaLuciaHighlands Estate '07: Strong soupy/very ripe/blackberry YellowTail nose; soft/fat/porky blackberry/soupy/CocaCola flavor w/ little structure; some on the overripe side; rather dull & overpriced. $27
7. MatsHagstrom/TraviesoWnry: Syrah Amaranta Kirk'sFairviewRanch/SantaLuciaHighlands '05: Bit funky/unclean rather strange/herbal/sour milk slight blackberry nose; tart rather herbal/
lactic/sour milk slight blackberry finish w/ little structure; rather strange wine. $42
8. BobLindquist/QupeWnry BienNacidoVnyd '06: Lush blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry/spicy light
toasty/pungent classic Qupe Syrah nose; tart very spicy/blackberry/Syrah light pungent/toasty/
oak finish w/ great structure; classic Qupe Syrah, all about balance; will be a terrific Syrah
with 4-8 yrs of age. Steal at $30
___________________________________ _
1. The Peay was the clear standout for me w/ classic cold-climate Syrah/cracked black pepper
character; great structure and one that will withstand the test of time. The Qupe was next but didn't standout at this point in its life. It, too, is made for the long haul, not because of its tannins, but because of its balance. The Cline was another in a string of successes for this wine from over in the PetalumaGap area. Good cool-climate character at a great price. The Novy was classic Novy; soft/supple/lush and very drinkable. All the rest didn't do much for me; pretty underwhelming.

The second of the two RR Seminars that afternoon was on Rhone Blends. It was billed as TheTraditionalists (using classic G/S/M varieties) vs. TheMavericks (using other/non-Rhone grapes in the blend). The wines presented were:

1. TerryCulton/AdelaidaCllrs Version (38% Mourv, 28% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 7% Counoise,
5% Cinsault) '06 $30
2. JaySoloff/DeLilleCllrs DoyenneMetier RedMountain (50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Grenache) '06 $35
3. LarryShaffer/Epiphany Revelation (62% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 8% PS) '06 $35
4. KentMizuguchi/ZacaMesa Z-Cuvee (59% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah, 3% Cinsault) '06 $20

5. MichaelYoung/L'Aventure EstateCuvee (50% Syrah, 45% Cab, 5% PetiteVerdot) '06 $85
6. NeilCollins/LoneMadrone TheWill (Grenache, PS, Zin) '07 $35
7. LiseCiolino/Montemaggiore Nobile (60% Cab, 40% Syrah) '05 $45
8. KerryDamskey/Palmeri '04 $53

I didn't take any detailed notes in this seminar, just jotted down some general impressions.
These wines were far less interesting than the Syrahs in the previous seminar. The Mavericks
did not make an especially good case for non-traditional blends. Those that had Cabernet in
them (not one of my favorite grapes), I thought the Cabernet tended to dominate the blend and,
try as I might, I couldn't find much that the Rhones contributed. The LoneMadrone was the only
one of these that I particularly liked. The Palmeri and l'Aventure were way overpriced for
what they were.

The traditionals were a much more interesting bunch. The Epiphany was my clear favorite, probably because it spoke mostly of Syrah. The DeLille was not far behind, probably because
it spoke strongly of WashState and I found WashState Grenache, in general, more interesting than
Calif Grenache. The Adelaida was OK and the ZacaMesa pretty dull. They have a higher-end
Rhone blend (about $40) that I find much more interesting.

So.... I've long felt that Calif Rhone blends seldom excite me near as much as single varietals.
With few exceptions. Probably TablasCreek is the big exception. When you mix 3 colors together,
you can get a painting that is just a gray panel. Or you can get a Picasso. I just don't see
many Picassos in the Rhone blends; they more often seem more like a gray panel. I just don't
often see the complexity or terroir or whatever in the blends.

So....in my most rabble-rousing voice, I asked the panelists: "Do you ever see, in making up your blends, a synergistic effect...where the blend is far superior to the parts that go into it"? As I pretty much expected, they proclaimed that they do, though no examples were cited. So, again in my usual rabble-rousing voice, I asked: "Then why do most wineries sell their GSM blends for a lower price than their Syrah"?? Got no real good answer to that question either.

So.... this Seminar didn't really change my opinion of GSM blends much. I find the blends far less interesting, in most cases, than the single varietals from a wnry. I think many wineries probably use their GSM blends as a dumping ground to use leftover barrels that didn't make the cut for their single varietals. For some wineries, they wish to be known as a Rhone specialist and, since Chateauneuf is a (occasionally) great Rhone wine that can often command big $$'s; they feel it necessary to make a GSM blend. And then there are a few, like TablasCreek, who are convinced that the blend is better than the sum of the parts. Whatever the take, I too often see gray instead of a Picasso in these Rhone blends.

Dinner that night around the corner at A16. Another terrific meal at one of my most favorite

Sunday (3/22)
Up early and around the corner to Peet's for my double espresso. Their Dopios are so/so much better than Starbucks. Wander over to FtMason, pick up my credentials, and go thru my tasting book to scope out the afternoon's work. A grueling task it is. The crowds seem a bit smaller than last year's. All in all, RhoneRangers does an excellent job of organizing this tasting. There is, usually, enough room that you can chat a bit w/ the winemakers. Drag outmy trusty/red spitoon, leave my pack w/ Steve&Carole, and head off to work.

I didn't take much in the way of detailed notes except in a few cases, so these are more just impressions of what I liked and grabbed my attention. Did the room first for white wines that might interest me, then on to the reds. I tended to skip over many of my old friends because I can buy their wines w/ confidence, sight unseen. I try to check out many of the new kids on the block.

In alphabetic order:

1. AnabaWines: LandaVnyds SonomaVlly Viognier'07 and Coriol White Blend'07: Good/tasty/solid whites.
2. Arnot-Roberts: HudsonVnyd Syrah'07, Griffin'sLair Syrah'07, AlderSprings Syrah'07: A terrific
set of Syrahs across the board, very Rhonish in character and Pax-like. The Hudson & Griffin's
showed plenty of cold-climate peppery character. The AlderSprings more simple/blackberry
fruit and hard as nails. All need some time in btl.
3. Bink: Hawk'sButte YorkvilleHighlands Syrah'05: These two ladies make wines that I like quite
a lot. This Syrah was big/pungent and somewhat Rhonish in character. Solid/interesting Syrah.
4. BlueMoonWines: SeraFina Syrah '06: Address is WalnutCreek. Grapes are OldVine/Lodi Syrah
supposedly. Old Vine Syrah in Lodi??? Curious about that one. Rather dull/ flat/earthy w/o
much brightness or fruit. 4-square Lodi Syrah.
5. BrassfieldEstate: MonteSereno/HighVlly/LakeCnty Syrah '04: Lean/thin/dull w/ little fruit.
6. ClineCllrs: Cool-Climate Syrah'07: Not yet released. Another in a string of truly excellent
cool-climate Syrahs from their PetalumaGap vnyd. Still a bit tight/lean & needs a yr of age
but lovely/peppery slight green olive character. A steal at $16.
7. CrushPad: AlderSprings Syrah '07, PremiereCostal Syrah'07: The AlderSprings was pretty tart/lean/hard w/ a bit of smoky/Rhonish character, needs age. The Premiere was very Rhonish
toasty/pungent/spicy and quite good.
8. D.H.GustafsonFamilyVnyds: DryCreekMtnEstate Syrah'07: Pleasant rather simple blackberry
Syrah w/ not much excitement.
9. DavidGirardVnyds ElDorado Syrah '06: Was interested in his wines because he sells to Donkey&Goat. Solid ElDorado earthy/dusty rather blackberry/Syrah. Solid Syrah.
10. DeLilleCllrs: Doyenne Signature Syrah'06: Strong blueberry/Syrah slight Rhonish/pungent.
Very good/solid WashState Syrah but pricey at $50.
11. EdmundsStJohn: HeartOfGold ElDorado White Blend '08, Wylie-Fenaughty Syrah'05: I simply
could not, in good conscience, skip over Steve's table. The HoG has more Vermintino and less
GrenacheBlanc than the '07. Gives it more of a minerally/earthy character underneath all the
floral perfume. Terrific white blend. The W-F has lots of dusty/earthy ElDorado character
w/ plenty of blueberry/Syrah somewhat Rhonish character. Rather tough/chalky/hard on the palate and needs age. A keeper that will be an outstanding Syrah down the road. For a guy that has been characterized as making "low-brow Cotes duh Rhone" in Calif, he seems to know what he's doing in my book. Some of the most interesting wines in Calif. But what would I know..I've only followed him from the very start.
12. Epiphany: PetiteSirah '05: Not had Larry's PS before. There's not much PS planted in SBCnty, but there should be more. Big/ripe/plummy/peppery PS nose. Rich/lush/textured peppery/licorice on the palate. Terrific PS and up to the Jaffurs standard.
13. EricKentWineCllrs: DryStackVnyd/BennettVlly Syrah '05: Loads of blackberry/blueberry/spicy/
Syrah fruit w/ a slight peppery/cool-climate character. Juicy/lush/ripe Syrah.
14. FessParker: BigEasy Syrah '05: Very dark/black ripe/juicy/blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah almost Oz-like Syrah w/ bit of toasty/oak. Classic ripe SBCnty Syrah and maybe even worth the $40. Tannin & structure underneath all the fruit & needs some age yet.
15. FourVines: OneTreeHillBlock/LosAlamosVnyd Syrah '06: Wanted to try this because of the
LosAlamos appellation has a nice ring to it. I doubt this is the original SamHale property,
though. Very impressive smokey/pungent/peppery blackberry/blueberry/Syrah rather Rhonish.
Liked this wine a lot and worth the $40.
16. FrickWnry: GannonVnyd/DryCreekVlly Viognier '07, OwlHillVnyd/DryCreekVlly GrenacheBlanc '06, DryCreekVlly Cinsault'06, OwlHillVnyd/DryCreekVlly Syrah '03: Haven't had a Frick in many
a year. They made some fairly interesting wines a long time ago, so was eager to try some
of their recent ones. The whites were pretty unremarkable w/ little interest. The two reds
were somewhat more interesting but nothing I'd go out of my way to try again.
17. HagafenCllrs: PrixVnydReserve/Napa-Sonoma Syrah'05: Attracted to this because of the dual appellation. Carneros?? A big/blowset/buttery soft/porky kind of Syrah. Not interesting.
18. Harrison-Clarke: CuveeCharlotte Syrah'06: Pungent/smokey/bit Rhonish rich/blackberry/ Syrah that I found pretty tasty. But overpriced at $55.
19. Holly'sHill: Wylie-Fenaughty Syrah '06: Strong/pungent earthy/ElDorado/dusty some blueberry/ Syrah/spicy soft slight Rhonish character. Not the structure of the EdmundsStJohn.
20. InspirationVnyd&Wnry: RussianRvrVlly Viognier'07: Soft/peachy/lush Viognier but a bit on
the fat/porky side. Not inspired particularly.
21. JCCllrs: RockpileVnyd Syrah '06, VentanaVnyd/Monterey Syrah '05: The Rockpile has plenty of bright/minerally/blueberry/Syrah fruit but is pretty hard/tannic/lean/tart on the palate and
needs age. The Ventana is lovely/classic/cold-climate/peppery/spicy bit herbal Syrah and
easily worth the $30.
22. JemroseVnyds: CardiacHill/BennettVlly Syrah '06: Deep/rich/lush/blueberry/Syrah w/ lots of
fruit, good structure, and bit spicy/peppery character. Very good Syrah.
23. KennethVolkVnyds: EnzVnyds/CienegaVlly Mourvedre '06, NielsenVnyd Syrah '06: The Mourv was pretty classic plummy/licorice structured Mourv, quite tasty and interesting. The Syrah was
solid/blueberry/Syrah w/ a bit of a funky/wet-dog-fur aftertaste that distracted. Solid wines.
24. Lagier-Meredith: MtVeeder Syrah '04: Couldn't ignore Steve&Carole if'n I wanted my stash
back, so tried the oldest to see how it's evolving. At a snail's pace I would say. Classic
very spicy/blackberry/blueberry slight dusty light toasty/oak nose, big very spicy/blackberry/
Syrah still fairly tannic/hard on the palate; a Syrah made for the long haul. I think the L-M
is easily the best up-valley NapaVlly Syrah and as good as any made in Calif.
25. LavaCap: Reserve Syrah ElDorado '05: Rather dull/simple/earthy and not the interest of the
other ElDorado Syrahs.
26. LeMistral Red Blend '06: Dark classic cold-climate/peppery/pungent/licorice some herbal
character. Quite an interesting red but overpriced at $45.
27. LionHeartWines: SantaBarbaraCnty Syrah '06, EaglepointRanch Syrah '06: Made at MichaelBrill's CrushPad facility. The SBC Syrah was light/spicy 4-square SBCnty Syrah. The Eaglepoint was earthy/tomatoey/Mendo Syrah that lacks the bright fruit that Casey's version shows. Pleasant Syrahs but just that.
28. MartinelliWnry: ZioTonyRanch Syrah '06: Was prepared for another over-the-top Martinelli
but actually rather liked it. Intense blackberry/blueberry/Syrah bit hot/alcoholic strong
toasty/charred/burnt/oak slight Rhonish character. Way overpriced at $75.
29. MichaudVnyd: ChaloneEstate Syrah '03: Very dried herbs/garrigue/earthy bit Rhonish quite
interesting rendition of Calif Syrah.
30. NaggiarVnyds: Reserve Syrah '06, SierraFoothills PetiteSirah '05: This is a small wnry up
in NevadaCnty that has some interesting wines. They sell grapes to Elyse in the NapaVlly. Both
were rather earthy/dusty/terroir-driven reds w/o a lot of bright fruit. Interesting wines.
31. OlsonOgden: StagecoachVnyd Syrah'06: Big blackberry/Syrah bit hard/tannic/extracted. Good/solid if a bit uninteresting up-valley Syrah from AtlasPeak AVA. I've yet to have a Rhone
varietal from the Krupp's Stagecoach vnyd that has really excited me.
32. Palmeri: StagecoachVnyd Syrah '03: Made by KerryDamskey. Pleasant bit simple unexciting
straightforward blackberry Syrah w/ light tannins; still not thrilled by Stagecoach.
33. PeayVnyds: Marsanne-Roussanne '07, Viognier '07, LaBruma Syrah'06, LesTitans Syrah '06:
I find the Peay boys quite frustrating. They look quite different but I can never come up with the right name of Nick/Andy when they appear in front of me. The Viognier was probably the best Viog in the room, lots of pear/floral character w/ a nice underlying minerality. A bit less floral character on the blend, a bit more oak, but that same lovely minerally/slightly Rhonish character. Would'nt try to choose my favorite of the Syrahs. Both were stunning cold-climate/ very peppery quite blueberry Syrahs w/ great acidity/minerality and a lot of zip on the palate. Terrific Syrahs.
34. Prospect 772: Syrah Rose '08: This is an operation by JeffCohn's buddy from Rosenblum days, RonPerratti. They've got a new vnyd just on line up in CaleverasCnty. The rose was very tasty/bright/zippy cranberry/strawberry slight earthy bit Rhonish rose. Alas, didn't get back to
try the Syrah '06 and TheBrat RedBlend '06. With Ron's winemaking background, I expect the
Prospect 772 wines will be about the beat ever out of CalaverasCnty, a region that should be
getting more attention.
35. Qupe: Verdad GrenacheRose EdnaVlly '08, BienNacidoHillsideEstate Syrah '05, BienNacido
X-Block Syrah '05: BobLindquist, whom I've followed from the very start ('83) is, simply put,
one of my heroes. He doesn't get the recognition for his poineering work that he deserves.
The Verdad is Louisa's first crop off their EdnaVlly estate across the road from JohnAlban.
A bright/zippy/cranberry/strawberry totally dry spicy rose and a steal at $15. The Hillside
Estate is classic Hillside w/ a smokey/pungent somewhat Rhonish/smokey/roasted character
w/ great balance & finesse. The X-Block, from the oldest original Syrah planting on BienNacido
is even bigger/richer more pungent/roasted in character and probably the only Calif Syrah
that's worth $100. Definitely a keeper & will outlive both Bob & I.
36. RameyWineCllrs: ShanelVnyd/SonomaCoast/SonomaMtn Syrah '06, RodgersCreekVnyd/ SonomaCoast/PetalumaGap Syrah '06: The Shanel was big/ripe/plummy rather clunky Syrah. The Rodgers was good/solid cold-climate rather peppery/spicy/blackberry Syrah. Both way overpriced at $60.
37. Ridge: LyttonWest Syrah '05, LyttonEstate II Syrah '02: Both are lean/hard/tannic some earthy Syrahs that need much more time; lots of DraperPerfume, almost like a Languedoc Syrah. Not the richness or lushness of most Calif Syrah but I think they'll both be very good Ridge reds when they reach maturity. You just have to trust Draper sometimes.
38. RoccaFamilyVnyds: Syrah '05: Strong blackberry/blueberry/Syrah fairly structured Syrah showing only a bit of development. Quite spicy w/ some toasty/oak and one of the best up-valley NapaVlly Syrahs.
39. RotieCllrs: NorthernRhoneBlend Syrah '07: I was interested in trying this new WashState
producer because of the name (apparently no problems from the French..yet) and the very
classic French-looking label. CoteRotie/NorthernRhone this wine is not. But it is very/very
good classic WashState strong blackberry/blueberry/plummy slight earthy some toasty/ pungent/oak/smokey Syrah, much in the style of DougMcCrea's rather than CristopheBaron. And easily worth the $35. Keep your eye on Rotie.
40. SanLiege: Cotes-du-Coast PasoRobles WhiteBlend '07, TheOffering SBCnty RedBland '06: Was interested in trying these wines because of the ManfredKrankl look-alike label. The White
is very attractive floral/perfumed rather soft/rich/fat on the palate; interesting & good and
well-priced at $22. TheOffering is a terrific very Rhonish/smokey/pungent lovely red blend.
A wnry I need to learn more about (WebSite has little info I can see).
41. SawtoothWnry: SnakeRvrVlly Viognier '06, SnakeRvrVlly Syrah '05: I discovered this Idaho
wnry 4 yrs ago at RhoneRangers when they poured their first Syrah. This is their first Viognier
I've tried. Good/solid floral/pear/Viog w/ slight earthiness like many of the WashState Viog.
A steal at $15. The Syrah is terrific smokey/Rhonish/pungent/toasty/roasted beautiful Syrah
and a screamin' steal at $15. These folks are making terrific wine but nobody ever hears
about them.
42. Shane: TheVillian MendoCnty Syrah '07, TheUnknown SonomaCnty Syrah '07: The Mendo Syrah comesfrom BrokenLeg & Valenti vnyds in the AndersonVlly, the Sonoma from the KickRanch. Both arelovely/fragrant/perfumed almost Pinotish very spicy/blackberry/Syrah wines w/ the Mendo showing a bit more complexity and earthy and Rhonish character. Very lovely Syrahs in a more restrained/elegant style.
43. Skylark: UntiVnyd/DryCreekVlly Syrah '06: Strong 4-square blackberry/raspberry/Zyrah almost Zin-like bit unclean/bretty Syrah. Undistinguished.
44. StarkWine: CuveeJulian Syrah '06: Very attractive roasted/Rhonish smokey/pungent blueberry/blackberry/Syrah wine. DryCreek generally makes Zin-like/pleasant Syrah but just that. This one was a cut above most.
45. VentanaVnyds: Estate Syrah '06: I've always had a soft spot in my heart for DougMeader (no longer involved w/ Ventana). He was probably the first to plant Syrah in a genuine cold-
climate site there in the SalinasVlly. They were exquisite/peppery/bit herbal Syrahs w/a leanness and structure you don't usually find in SantaLuciaHighlands Syrah. VentanaVnyds
is one of the great Syrah sites in Calif. This Syrah, though not as big & structured as Doug's were, is classic Monterey/peppery/cold-climate/bit herbal blueberry Syrah and a deal at $18. Lovely cold-climate Syrah.
46. Zefina: HorseHeavenHills Viognier '07, HorseHeavenHills WhiteBlend '06: Not had any wines
from this new WashState producer. Both were solid WashState white Rhones, rather floral/
aromatic/perfumed/pear restrained slight earthy/minerally wines. Very good.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Sorry about being such a slacker and not trying all the wines. Saw lots of long-time friends, made some new ones, and tried lots of good wines.

Adjourn to SlantedDoor for dinner w/ LarryStein and SteveEdmunds. I was in the "enjoy" mode,
so took no notes. My first experience w/ SlantedDoor. A bit noisey, but amazingly good food. Off the next morning to LosAlamos and the real world.



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