Selections for October 2017

A rare thing these days!


What so many of you want is what’s hardest for us to find these days.  We’re talking about good $20 California Cabernet.  Oh, you can survey the supermarket shelves to find many a Cab represented at this price point, but the ones which properly function are few.  On that larger production level they tend to taste “manufactured” or betray cheap fruit sourcing causing less-than-attractive scents and flavors. 

What we think you want is a Cab you can take right home and drink right now.  You want color.  You want ripe fruit with perhaps an extra (but not intrusive) dimension of earth and / or herb.  You want a generous mouthfeel and enough – but not too much – of a tannic effect.  You want a damn good and affordable dark red drink!

Not to put words in your mouth but we think we just have.  Esoterica Cabernet represents the “third label” of Kent Rasmussen who long ago ditched his librarian job for grape-growing and winemaking.  His timing was right, arriving in Napa when land and grapes were still within the financial reach of the “common” man.  Kent has made many fans of his namesake Pinot Noir over the years, and also provides a range of value wines under his ‘Ramsay’ label.  ‘Esoterica’ is the appendage reserved for Rasmussen wines made in small production, barely appearing in the market.  Napa Cabernet fruit would be way too expensive to represent in a $20 bottle, so Kent heads farther north to find quality at a more nominal per-ton rate.  Mendocino and Lake County are the reliable providers of such a thing.   

Looking ahead to the holidays, we recommend stocking up with this Cab.  Considering its style and price, a lot of the folks you’ll be hangin’ with will appreciate your uncorkings of Esoterica!   


Bottled August 28, Debuting TODAY!!

2016 DOMAINE des PLUS-DE-VIE RED WINE – San Francisco Bay

That SF Chronicle quote happened in 2012 when this project was just a glimmer in my eye.  We’d had Grenache and Syrah vines in the back yard for nearly ten years.  At the time, their yield combined with those of a few local friends with the same varieties was making a not-for-sale hobby wine.  In 2013 we took the project more seriously by buying two tons of Livermore Valley Mourvèdre to augment and taking the whole batch to friend Adam Webb’s winery in Napa to be made “under bond” (which enables legal selling of the stuff).  Daughter Mary’s significant other Jason Cryer worked up a fun label design based on bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Calvados I showed him, and Domaine des Plus-de-Vie was born.

This is PdV Iteration #3.  Our roughly 700 pounds of homegrown Grenache and Syrah once again join Mourvèdre.  Those familiar with the project will notice a difference on the label (besides some color tweaking):  The appellation we’re now declaring is “San Francisco Bay.”  In 2016 we sourced the Mourvèdre addition not from Livermore but one county up, Contra Costa.   - Oakley, specifically; the unlikely home to some of California’s oldest grape vines.  The over 100-year-old dry-farmed Mourvèdre participants in PdV are actually un-grafted, meaning they didn’t have to be planted on phylloxera-resistant rootstock since that root-nibbling louse can’t survive in Oakley’s sandy soil.  Some wine geeks insist “own-rooted” grapevines speak more honestly of their variety.  I couldn’t say, but I was intrigued enough by the concept to plant my own Grenache and Syrah this way (no sign of infestation YET!).  “San Francisco Bay” is an actual American Viticultural Area just like “Livermore Valley” and “Napa Valley”.  Since this wine is sourced from two counties within the San Francisco Bay Appellation we chose to identify PdV that way rather than applying the more general “California” tag.

As noted, the 2013 version happened under Adam Webb’s jurisdiction in Napa.  The 2014 of which we have virtually sold out occurred under the roof of Nella Terra in the hills above Sunol.  We skipped the 2015 year but when it came time to revive the project we returned to Adam for help.  He is to be thanked for babysitting PdV for us once again, and our gratitude will be most obvious to you by showing some of his own Odisea / Cochon wine in our clubs.

This year around PdV can’t be called ‘Mourvèdre’ because it uses less than the 75% amount required for varietal identification.  The blend we liked after myriad bench trials is roughly 58% Oakley ancient vine Mourvèdre, 17% Livermore Valley Syrah, 17% Livermore Valley Grenache, and 4% Dry Creek Carignan (you’re allowed a small outside-appellation percentage).  The fermentation happened with no added yeast; only the ambient critters were invited to the party.  Once pressed off, the wine resided only in used, neutrally-flavored barrels; oversized versions known as hogsheads.  After a mere eight month rest in these “hogs” PdV was bottled without fining or filtration.


When we U-Hauled all 106 cases from the warehouse just a week after bottling I popped open a bottle for a celebratory sip – and knew what to expect:  Next to nothing.  When you run a wine through pumps and lines and related bottling equipment it gets “sea sick”; nearly all of the smells and most of the flavors you admired at blending time completely disappear.  As anticipated, these qualities are GRADUALLY re-emerging.  While this wine is entirely friendly right now it is still returning, on its own sweet time, to its original idea of complexity. 

Our premise in blending was to not allow bruiser Mourvèdre to completely overwhelm the more delicate yet exotic homegrown Grenache and Syrah.  With a little more aging time this wine will reflect that attentiveness.  “M” is known by its sappy and briary fruit.  “G” keeps the effect crisp and levitated.  “S” adds darkness and incense, plus a little pepper.  Our “C”arignan addition gives a slight sense of “bass note.”  In combination, these players provide a fresh, crisp and lively red which enriches with air and/or time.

We are damn proud of it.