Selections for May 2017

Cab Franc that just wants to have fun


You have been enjoying and coming back for more of the recent Barter & Trade Cabernet and Merlot club provisions from Washington State.  Those are the work of Central Coast nurseryman-turned-winemaker Andrew Jones.  So is this friendly wine grown closer to home.

The grape variety Cab Franc and place Paso Robles give you a very different, more ridiculously lighthearted effect this time, as does the wine’s youth.  Yes, here’s a 2016, already out on the market.  Andrew meant to do that; emphasizing the nearly Beaujolais-like, devil-may-care wine experience in FRANC.

Redolent of mulberries, nearly-overripe plums, and musk, FRANC is juicy-licious on the palate.  Confronted with a hot summer day and still want a red wine?  Here it is.  Just give it a 20 minute stay in the fridge and crack it open on the patio.  It works just fine without food, but antipasto (salumi and such) would be seasonally-appropriate accompaniments.

You’d like Andrew.  He’s one of the most “real” guys I’ve encountered in this industry, happy to bring you pleasure as he best knows how . . . with a friendly wine like FRANC!

2013 COCHON SYRAH – Phoenix Ranch, Napa Valley

This is the story of Brian Phoenix, who owns Phoenix Vineyard just north of the town of Napa and south of Stags Leap District.  Brian farms his five acres of Syrah biodynamically, a level of farming attention above and beyond “organic.”   Biodynamics is a very natural, highly-observant farming culture concerned with the restoration of the soil and surrounding environment and, by that means, a more hopeful future for the land and – of course – a better wine.  Brian’s a pretty thoughtful vineyardist, it seems, and reinforcing the idea is his commitment to Syrah.  Napa-grown Cabernet Sauvignon could make him much more money per ton, but an all-Cabernet Napa Valley wouldn’t be as interesting, would it?  Here’s to Brian, Biodynamics, and varietal diversity!

This is also the story of Adam Webb, another advocate for mixin’ it up, who commits to buying and rendering Phoenix Ranch Syrah every year.  Adam eschews the idea of an ivy-covered, fancy-dancy up-valley winery in favor of making his small projects under the roof of a very industrial-looking custom crush facility near the Napa airport (he’s a block away from Mi Sueño).  While he has finally opened his own tasting room just off Sonoma’s town square, Adam’s way of selling his wines has been to the likes of The Wine Steward.  Because he’s a good friend (who helps us make our Domaine des Plus-de-Vie, by the way) and because we like his style we do several wine club deals with him each year.  Because of friendship and this level of support, Adam responds with very nice prices.  – Whereby we are able to offer you this wine for a price well below what’s advertised at his tasting room.

You may recognize this label.  A few months ago we provided your club with another “Cochon” Syrah coming from the Cardiac Hill Vineyard of Sonoma’s Bennett Valley.  That wine was darker and more mysteriously meaty and peppery.  Phoenix Ranch, on the other hand, is a more mellow, musky wine experience.  The color is less purple, more garnet.  The lifted nose portends spice, plum, and perhaps a little eucalyptus-derived menthol.  Its overall florality is emphasized by Adam’s addition of a small percentage of the white Viognier grape, the traditional Cote Rotie (Northern Rhone) practice.  The mouthfeel is tangy, borne out by the biodynamic farming (maybe) and (certainly) Adam’s preference for neutral, oversized barrels (he calls these his “pigs” or “cochon”).  The flavors range from pomegranate to strawberries, with a nostalgic cedar effect alongside.  This is not thick, bombastic Syrah as you might access from Paso Robles or Australia’s Barossa Valley.  Rather, it is the suave product of a Napa vineyard located south enough to be affected by the fog of San Francisco Bay.

We hope you appreciate it, and the stories behind it!