Selections for September 2017

Pssst!  Your bias is showing!


I’d like to say a word or two about what’s NOT in this wine and how, in my biased opinion (isn’t all opinion “biased”??) its absence makes ‘Method’ more delicious.  Note the source declaration (American Viticultural Area) on the label:  NORTH COAST.  This geographically broad term allows for fruit from any and all of six different counties:  Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Lake, Marin, and Mendocino. 

Give this North Coast blend little air, then start swirling, sniffing, and sipping.  What’s happening in this Syrah / Petite Sirah / Zinfandel concoction?  Sweet dark earth.  Boysenberries.  Espresso.  Freshness.  Juiciness.  Indulgence balanced with levity.  Tannins and acids countered by happy, ripe fruit. 

What’s NOT happening in this wine?  Compost.  Lawn mower bag.  Freshly-mown cornfield.  I’d suggest what you’re getting from ‘Method’ happens because the fruit is sourced from Mendocino and Lake Counties, qualifying it as a “North Coast” wine.  I’ve been wondering why we’re seeing this appendage less and less often these days, and suddenly it came to me:  Many makers of this kind of thing are now heading for LODI for a less expensive fruit addition to their blends, necessitating a “California” source on the label. 

Now, “California” doesn’t bother me a bit.  What bugs Yours Truly is a certain quality of freshly-fertilized cornfield or decomposing bits of leftover post-harvest tomato plants I taste in so many blends including Lodi grapes.  Now, I’m the first to insist we not apply blanket praise or dismissal when it comes to wine types and regions.  There are always exceptions; I have had some terrific Lodi wines defying my bias.  – But I’m talkin’ TENDENCY here:  When I taste “California” blends with vendors I can nearly always tell when Lodi is part of the wine.  Different flavors are appealing or offensive to different folks; the newly-manured plot up-wind from a plot of Zinfandel is my personal issue, to which you are subject!  Yep, I guess bias is on full display!

This dark and delicious juice bomb includes Master Sommelier Ian Cauble on the design team.  You’ll remember him as one of the four dudes pursuing their certification in the move “Somm”.  So, Ian, does Lodi bug you, too?!        

Drink now, with frequency and friends.

Le Bec is BACK!

2015 BECKMEN VINEYARDS ‘Cuvée le Bec’ – Santa Ynez Valley

For the next two months you will be subject to our particular interest in Rhone blends.  Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and the like are most famously assembled in France’s northern Provence region of the Southern Rhone, and the rest of the wine world including California’s Central Coast aspires to emulate.  Why the global popularity?  I think it’s all about the uniquely delicious coming-together of charmingly-fruited “G,” darkly mysterious “S,” and curmudgeonly rustic “M”.  These complementary grapes play a beautiful trio so many wine palates can appreciate!

In October we will present the recently-bottled 2016 Domaine des Plus-de-Vie, our own contribution to the Rhone inquiry.  – But it may have to rest a little longer:  “Bottle shock” has a hard-to-predict duration and PdV really needs a nap right now.  In the meantime we’re pleased to bring you a frequent player in your club, yet another vintage of thoughtful grower/winemaker Steve Beckmen’s ‘Cuvée le Bec’ from Sideways Country’s Santa Ynez Valley.

This GSM also includes the less frequently applied Counoise grape.  If our estimations of the first three grapes are happening in Le Bec’s scents and flavors, what might the latter be adding?  I’ve only tasted three or four varietal renditions of Counoise but surmise that any quality of incense or Asian spice could be attributed to its inclusion.  After all, the whole idea of blending is the access of an elaborate “spice cabinet” of flavors and dimensions.  Who wants a wine that says but one simple thing?

I love “Le Bec” for its modesty.  Very little new oak was applied here, and most of the barrels employed were the larger format “hogshead” and “puncheon” sizes.  Tempranillo and Cabernet wines love newer and smaller barrels, but the Rhone varieties are generally offended by that treatment.  Consider the beautiful fresh fruit and floral perfume happening here – why clutter that with vanilla and oxidation?

Certainly, this generously-fruited wine also sports a structural element of acidic nerve and tannic grip (that little “nip” of astringency in the finish).  You are meant to resolve that by eating – especially grilled proteins.  You DO eat, don’t you?!