14 No.1 - May
...a 3-hour tour?
Rita Hills - the wines:
and tasting notes from visits to several California wineries.
The final destination of the trip was the 2006
Hospice du Rhône, (Friday and Saturday May 12th
and 13th in Paso Robles), and I'd left a few days early to
make some winery visits along the way. Okay, so what about
Thursday the 11th, you may ask - aren't there usually some
winery visits on Thursday? Well, the short story is that I
elected to cover the HdR Syrah Shootout held at Villa Creek
on the day before HdR (Thursday), so unfortunately missed
visiting both Adelaida and Tablas Creek, with a lunch stop
at Hug. I was told, however, that those who did do
the tour had a fantastic time.
special thanks once again to Peter Cargasacchi and all of
the other Santa Rita Hills winegrowers and vintners for
inviting us to Melville Winery to taste their 2005 vintage.
though barrel tasting is one of the most instructive ways
to sample wine, it is also something that causes more than
a little angst among winemakers. The fact is that the wines
being sampled from barrel haven't finished their infancy yet
- they are still going through growth and development in the
barrel, and haven't reached the point of bottling. Therefore,
winemakers are often reluctant to expose their barrel samples
to the public - concerned the wines may be misjudged or unappreciated
by tasters during this growth stage. Since
the tasting notes in this report contain many barrel samples,
please note that my impressions relate only to the wine at
its current stage of development.
May 10, 2005 - Santa Barbara County
early, I headed for Lompoc to start off our annual pre-HdR Sta.
Rita Hills (Santa Rita Hills) tour. Once again, the Santa Rita Hills
folks pulled out all the stops to welcome the many wine-geeks that
gathered for what has become an annual pre-Hospice du Rhone sojourn.
It was still overcast, so I decided to take Santa
Rosa Road - hoping to get some shots of vineyards shrouded in the
famous SRH fog. Well, I turned one corner, and sure enough...there
of us met for breakfast at a small cafe called Tom's, in Lompoc.
From there, we headed over to the "Lompoc Wine Ghetto"
to sample wines from several different producers, including Fiddlehead,
Longoria, Alma Rosa, Ortman, Demetria, Foley, and Huber. Palmina,
though not a Rhone producer, was hosting and opened their tasting
room for us to enjoy the many Italian varietals they make.
a lunch break, we were off to Melville for a barrel tasting in their
cellar of many of the same producers, plus Clos Pepe, Flying Goat,
Hitching Post, Dierberg, and Pali. Had an excellent time!
room at Fiddlehead
at "the Ghetto," we parked and walked over to a sunshade-tent
area that had been setup behind the Palmina winery as our lunch
area. The wineries had set up separately in two barrel rooms, allowing
for plenty of room.
We split off into two groups, one going across
the alley to the Fiddlehead barrel room, and the other staying at
the Palmina barrel room and tasting room (Palmina had graciously
opened all of their own offerings of Italian varietals).
Fiddlehead we were able to taste their Pinot, along with Pinots
from Alma Rosa, Longoria, and Ampellos Cellars. Meanwhile, over
at the Palmina facility, they were pouring Ortman, Demetria, Foley,
and Huber - and, truth be told, we even tasted a couple of SRH Syrahs
as well, as well as some (cough, sputter) Cabernet - plus
of course the aforementioned Palmina Italian lineup. Well, what's
that they say...'when in Rome....'
about an hour, our respective groups merely switched locations
and were able to try the other wines. Great concept. Meanwhile,
Peter Cargasacchi and John Tomasso headed into Lompoc to pick
up sandwiches and drinks for the group, and finally, after a
couple hours of tasting, previously ordered boxed lunches were
brought in. Wow, it's nice to be waited on!
Longoria Cuvee Diana Chardonnay - SBC &
Sweeney Vnyds . Lovely apple and smoked applewood
nose. Smooth fruit-filled mouthfeel, with nice hit of
espresso/coffee bean on the finish
Ampellos Viognier - Quatro Viento Vnyd, Los Olivos.
Pretty floral nose, with hints of white peach. Slightly
soft in mouthfeel, but with amazing crispness.
Fiddlehead Honeysuckle Sauvignon Blanc - SYV.
Fascinating petrol quality to the otherwise toasty clover-scented
fruit. Crisp, fleshy and delicious on the palate.
Fiddlehead Pink Fiddle Rose of Pinot Noir -
SRH. Quite light and airy in the nose, with obvious
if lighter Pinot-based aromas. Light in mouthfeel, with
good Pinot flavors on the back end.
Ampellos Rose of Syrah - SRH. Spicy and fleshy throughout,
with a very nice hint of citrus rind on the back end.
Fiddlehead 728 Pinot Noir - SRH. Beautiful
spicy and rich nose of black cherry and a hint of cola.
Very fleshy mouthfeel, spicy and chewy on the palate,
with just a hint of gaminess in flavor.
Longoria Pinot Noir - Mt. Carmel, SRH. Fantastic
nose of spicy, rich fruit. Somewhat more muted in mouthfeel,
but excellent. (This will be the last Mt.Carmel for
Rick Longoria, as the vineyard was purchased by Brewer-Clifton.)
Longoria Pinot Noir - Fe Ciega, SRH. Slightly reduced
in the nose, but the fruit here is beautiful. Lots of
cherry and strawberry, with a nice spicy streak from
mid to latter palate.
Alma Rosa Pinot Noir - SRH. Nice spicy lighter red
berry nose. Very nice flavors on the palate, and very
long delicious finish. This is the "basic"
Alma Rosa bottling. (screwcap)
Alma Rosa Pinot Noir - La Encantada, SRH. More intense
in both nose and mouth - bigger and blousier, with lovely
balance and finish. (screwcap)
Ampellos Syrah - Estate, SRH. Lots of black and
red fruit, white pepper, and a nice spicy streak in
the nose. Excellent structure, plenty of dark fruit.
Palmina Traminer - Alisos, SRH. Huge nose of floral
and spicy notes, yet subtle as well. Dances on the palate,
with lively spiced fruit and terrific balance.
Palmina Pinot Grigio - Honea, SYV. Nice green apple
background aroma, crisp mouthfeel, beautiful balance
Palmina Tocai Friulano - Honea, SYV. Bright crisp
nose. Barest hint of sweetness to the mouthfeel - especially
at the finish. Excellent balance, almost see-through
texture. Very interesting - in a good way!
Palmina Arneis - Honea, SYV. With a slightly stinky
nose of smoke, mineral and a touch of vitamin, you know
you're into something Italian (think white Barolo).
Wow mouthfeel, with lots of chewy flavors, and touch
of something nutty that continues through the long finish.
Palmina Botasea Rosato - Honea, SYV. A
blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto that comes
across something akin to a Rose of Syrah, but not as
spicy. Flashy and a bit tart in mouthfeel, this ought
to stand up to tomato-based dishes.
Palmina Alisos - Alisos, SBC. The 75/25
blend of Sangiovese and Merlot creates a flavor profile
that seem to be more than the sum of its parts. Lots
of dark dried cherry, with a nice smoky aroma. Full
and rich on the palate, with nice balance and structure,
and spicy long finish.
Palmina Undici - Eleven Oaks, SYV. Wow!
100% Sangiovese that's loaded with spicy dark cherry,
with just a hint of chocolate on the back end. The Undici
name (Italian for eleven) is a nod to the vnyd source
for this wine.
Palmina Nebbiolo - Honea, SYV. Dark cherry nose.
Quite tannic on the palate, very nice balance and ripeness,
with wonderfully long finish. Nice job!
East Valley Vnyd Pinot Noir - Hamilton Vnyd, SBC.
Floral-scented black cherry jumps from the glass. Seems
a bit shy in mouthfeel, but nice balance, flavors and
finish. Vnyd source here is from the Jalama Valley,
quite near the coast.
East Valley Vnyd Pinot Noir - Hamilton Vnyd, SBC.
Similar to the '03, but somewhat bigger and the tiniest
bit more ripe.
East Valley Vnyd Cabernet Sauvignon - Estate, SYV.
Fascinating light herb and dill, with a sweet rich mouthfeel,
nice balance and long finish. 15% Cab Franc, 5% Merlot.
East Valley Vnyd Cabernet Sauvignon - Estate, SYV.
Nice ripe dark cherry-cassis, somewhat sweet-sour in
mouthfeel, nice balance and finish. 20% Merlot.
Ortman Rose of Syrah - SLO. Nice and fleshy nose,
but less so in mouthfeel. Light and airy finish.
Ortman Sangiovese - Paso Robles. Nose of nicely
ripened dried cherry fruit, good balance, flavors and
Demetria Pinot Blanc - SBC. Moderately full-bodied,
with hints of citrus and clover.
Demetria Chardonnay - SBC. (barrel fermented) Lots
of fruit apparentl in both nose and mouth. Nice apple-like
flavors, moderate crispness, and long finish.
Demetria Papou Viognier/Roussanne - SBC.
(barrel fermented) 50/50 blend of Viognier and Roussannne.
Lightly sweet and fairly waxy in both nose and mouthfeel,
Demetria Constantine Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah
- SBC. A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah.
Wow mouthfeel, with nice rich fruit, very good balance
and long finish.
Demetria Syrah - SBC. Very spicy dark berry nose.
Huge mouthfeel, with lots of dark berry and smoky spice
and espresso, and long tasty finish.
Fiddlehead L'Orvert Sauvignon Blanc - SBC.
Wow! Nose of apple, toast, walnut and petrol. Smooth
toasty complex mouthfeel, nice balance and finish.
Foley/Phillips Rose of Syrah - SBC. Nice fleshy
nose. Lovely mouthfeel, with a nice crispness, plenty
of fruit and long finish.
Foley Syrah - SRH. Dark, gamey and a bit herbal,
but this slight green edge certainly brings out the
amimale in the wine.
Foley Syrah - SRH. Bright aromas of dark fruit and
rare meat. Nice chewy texture, touches of spice and
pepper on the long finish.
Huber Chardonnay - SRH. (stainless steel fermented)
Nice crispness throughout, with a lovely apple aroma.
Lots of fruit on the palate, with some nuttiness noted
through the long finish.
Huber Chardonnay - SRH. (20% new oak) Nose of citrus
and green apple. Excellent balance, smoky and rich,
with a touch of toast on the long finish
Huber Pinot Noir - SRH. Ripe and spicy - more to
the bing cherry side of things, with a slightly soft
mouthfeel and long finish.
Huber Dornfelder - SRH. Ah yes, the Grapeanator.
Dark, dark, dark, this wine is like Petite Sirah meets
Petite Verdot, and double their intensity. It's an experience!
Longoria seems pretty happy with the '05 vintage.
Sanford (l) talks with Peter Work from Ampellos (c), and Jeff
Cargasacchi: "Okay, this should be enough to buy that vineyard
I've always wanted. Hey, Anderson, did you pay me?"
Hagen: "Let's see, how's that go...righties swirl counter-clockwise?"
Steinwachs and Norman Huber : "stop and smell the Dornfelder."
Demetria's Mike Roth wonders, "How long do I have to hold
Tasting - Melville
written frequently about Melville
Vineyards, but I can't say enough good things about
the people and the wines - all of which are fabulous.
With our lunch
finished, we were able to get down to more serious tasting. Chad Melville had arranged for each
winery to pour their SRH-grown wines, all from the 2005 vintage.
Melville Pinot Noir - Clone 777, SRH. Floral and
sappy cherry and pomegranate aromas - Yeah! Beautiful
mouthfeel, smooth and silky, with a touch of heat on
the lightly gripping finish.
Melville Pinot Noir - Clone 828, SRH. Very restrained
nose, but more focused in flavors on the palate. Lots
of dark berry, with lovely balance and long delicious
Ojai Pinot Noir - Clos Pepe, SRH. Dense and dark,
yet slightly restrained nose. Lots of dark cherry fruit
on the palate, chewy mouthfeel, and delicious long finish.
Hitching Post Pinot Noir - Bien Nacido, SMV. Gorgeous
nose of strawberry and dark cherry, with a soft spicy
quality in the nose. Rich and nicely textured, with
bits of spice and toast throughout the long finish.
Hitching Post Pinot Noir - Cargasacchi, SRH. Darker
in tone and intensity than the B/N version, with a tightly-packed
flavor profile, tons of chewy fruit and finish.
Hitching Post Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix, SRH. Similar
to the Cargasacchi, but with a meatier aroma and flavor.
Also seems more accessible at present.
Hitching Post Pinot Noir - Sanford & Benedict, SRH.
Bit of sweetness to the fruit, with a hint of floral
and talc notes. Softens a bit on back end and finish.
Dierberg Pinot Noir - SMV. This seemed to have a
somewhat darker fruit profile than most Santa Maria
Pinots - more to the black cherry than cherry or strawberry.
Flying Goat Pinot Noir - Rancho Santa Rosa, SRH.
Nice floral quality to the fruit-filled nose. Drop-dead
mouthfeel - rich, chewy filled with fruit and very drinkable.
Pali Pinot Noir - Shea, OR. Nose of earthy cherry,
and a bit of the mushroom quality. Nicely ripened flavors,
big on structure, excellent balance with lots of acids
and very ong finish.
Huber Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH. Spicy and rich,
with intriguing floral notes.
Clos Pepe Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH. 1st pick. Interesting
assortment of wines, brought here by Wes Hagen. This
wine, plus the folllowing two wines represent different
passes for picking the vineyard. This was easily the
highest in acids, and on its own seems a bit narrowly
focused. 13.5 alcohol.
Clos Pepe Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH. 2nd pick. Okay,
now we have a bit more succulent fruit. 14.5 alcohol.
Clos Pepe Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH. 3rd pick. No,
we have lots of sweet fruit in nose and mouth, with
the balance and finish starting to push the envelope
at 15.5 alcohol.
Clos Pepe Pinot Noir - Estate, SRH. Blend of the
above three wines. the blend works to even out thing
in both nose and mouth. Seems logical - and it is! Nice.
Melville (l); Augie Hug (r)
Loring: "My God! What is this, Syrah?"
about 4:00, we needed to get on the road to Paso Robles. I still
had to get a few supplies for our big Friday BBQ, check in at the
motel and freshen up for our offline at Villa Creek. What a week
so far, and it was only going to get better.
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