Selections for December 2016

Quick, braise something!!

2010 DANE ZINFANDEL – Los Chamizal Vineyard, Sonoma Valley

Having oftentimes tasted and chosen your club wines a month or so ago, I uncork and re-taste a bottle as I’m writing these notes.  The “live” experience can often have me typing in a certain direction.  More often than not I compose the notes in the sequence you’re seeing, meaning I had just tried the brilliant Aglianico mentioned above before uncorking this Zinfandel (yes, another Zinfandel!).  After that deep, saucy winter wine experience in my mouth I’m experiencing yet another; a good follow-up!

This Zinfandel, sold for $32 by the winery itself, calls its source ‘Sonoma Valley’ on the label.  If we were to be viewing its 2011 counterpart a new sub-appellation name would be seen instead.  Los Chamizal Vineyard does not occur in a “valley” but well above one – up to 800 feet above the actual Sonoma Valley on what we may now call (the authorities give their blessing) “Moon Mountain.” 

The nutrient and water-depriving qualities of “mountain,” the age of the head-pruned Zinfandel vines, and the six-year-old age of this wine all contribute to a rich and mysteriously-flavored wine.  I want short ribs with this episode of tobacco, leather, and dried cherries.  I want it to be raining outside – or cold as hell.  I want to be a cowboy.

The Next PdV             

2014 DOMAINE des PLUS-de-VIE – Livermore Valley

For the duration of the nineties two guys nicknamed “Biff” and “Scooter” made the wine at Livermore Valley Cellars. 

I was Biff. 

That decade taught us two important lessons:  “What Lousy Wine Tastes Like” and “How Not to Make It.”  In our later years we learned a third:  “Mourvèdre Is Good.”

Long after I moved on to hanging around The Wine Steward I remembered those teachings, going back to Scooter’s place to assemble a Mourvèdre-based wine or two for The Wine Steward’s club.  Y’all liked ‘em.  Years passed, LVC shut down, and we had to devise another way to bring you this lesser-known player in the GSM game.  Finally, in Vintage 2013, Domaine des Plus-de-Vie was born.  I took Livermore Valley Mourvèdre from Wente’s Raboli Vineyard to Napa (of all places) where friend Adam Webb and I could make it into wine under his bond.  To “M” I added “G” and “S” (Grenache and Syrah) grown in my back yard and those of a couple local friends.  My daughter’s boyfriend and I devised a French-looking label to intimate our intent to make a more modest and balanced (what I call “drinkable”) Livermore Valley wine.  180 cases were bottled and as of December 20 (today) 175 cases have been sold. 

The next PdV – this one – uses the same grape sources and was rendered closer to home in the hills of Sunol.  We enlisted the aid of ambient yeasts (some call them “native”) and oversized neutral (older) barrels, just as they might in France’s Rhone Valley.  This 2014 spent twice the amount of time in that semi-oxidative environment so it’s more mellow and expressive at release than was its predecessor. 

This soft-yet-tangy, discreet-yet-flavorful compilation of strawberry fruit, tobacco, and shaded leafpile is easily the most elegant wine I’ve ever had anything to do with.  I’d like to think growing the right grape variety in the right place is a big reason why, along with the data I’ve collected from many a winemaker visiting TWS to share his or her own achievements. 

We made just 50 cases this time around and when we run out I can probably let you know of another source for the same wine, otherwise labeled.