Sometime after this year’s Super Bowl, someone named Danica Patrick “the World’s Worst Celebrity Endorser.” Given that she rather ubiquitously promotes Go Daddy.com, I presume much of this attribution stems from her product. I had meant to post one lengthy entry entitled What has Your West Coast Oenophile done for you lately?, but in “improving” its blogging application, which I use to post this blog and Sostevinobile’s other Web presences, the programming geniuses at Go Daddy’s Scottsdale headquarters reduced the capacity of the Tags field from unlimited to 500 characters, forcing me to truncate my entries. I’m starting to regard Arizona as the Bangalore of the Southwest.
I could extend the simile by comparing the burgeoning wine industries in both Arizona and India, but, fortunately, neither will find into the select program of sustainably grown West Coast vintages at Sostevinobile. And, in my perpetual quest to make this program incomparable, my next foray following WORDUP was an intimate gathering of Ivy Plus wine aficionados under the auspices of the Stanford Wine Club. These bi-monthly klatches have begun to take on an almost familial flavor, with many of the attendees regular participants. On this particular evening, a trio of Stanford-affiliated winemakers—Mats Hagstrom of Travieso, Chris Loxton of Glen Ellen’s Loxton Cellars, and Michael Muscardini of Sonoma’s Muscardini Cellars—all showcased their array of Syrahs from Sonoma and from the Central Coast. As per usual, these vintages were juxtaposed against a pair of representative imports—here a pair of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and, as is frequently the case, clearly outshone their European counterparts, according to my palate.
The international contrast was even more pronounced later in the week, as I attended Crushpad’s farewell outside event in San Francisco, Bottlenote’s Around the World in 80 Sips. Despite its billing, however, this event seemed predominantly focused on wines from California, with distributors for imported wines manning tables that featured a potpourri of their selections. Not that I’m complaining—the more wineries I can discover that fit Sostevinobile’s criteria makes it a win-win proposition all around.
My friend Alyssa Rapp assembled a wide span of participants for this event, ranging from large-production labels controlled by the large conglomerates to little-known high-end wines that I had yet to encounter. Wineries like Cellar No. 8, Clos du Bois, Francis Ford Coppola, Frei Brothers, Rodney Strong and William Hill were probably familiar to most attendees. Others like Cannonball and Foggy Bridge seem almost ubiquitous presences at San Francisco wine tastings. From my previous incarnation in the wine business, Spring Mountain and Trione (which had spun off from its Geyser Peak holdings over a decade ago) were comforting presences to revisit. Likewise, Ackerman Family, Château Montelena, Fisher, Corison, and Skipstone have all graced this blog with their intricate wines on one or more occasions.
I am surprised whenever Bottlenotes’ The Daily Sip newsletter uncovers a California winery I have yet to discover, and so it was a pleasant revelation to be introduced to a number of wineries at this event. Chamisal Vineyards from Edna Valley featured a delectable 2007 Pinot Noir. As Jimmy Durante so often said, “Everybody wants to get into the act,” and so, too, Bottlenotes itself debuted their own vintage, the 2008 Notoriety Pinot Noir Doctors Vineyard. Vineyard 29, which customized the bottling for Bottlenotes and shares a winemaker (Philippe Melka) with Skipstone, scored with their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena. I liked the 2008 PAX Roussanne/Viognier from Donelan Family, while the organic vineyard of Garden Creek, with its quaint “One Red. One White. One Family. One Vineyard” motto impressed with its five-varietal 2004 Bordeaux Blend. Hawkes Wine, which fortunately has no affiliation with my major nemesis from graduate school, offered an amiable pair of 2007 Chardonnay and their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, while both Healdsburg’s Stonestreet and Geyserville’s Munselle Vineyards matched a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon with a 2007 Chardonnay.
Kelley & Young is an offshoot of the acclaimed Robert Young Estate Winery—a case of Father Knows Best totally unrelated to the TV series; nonetheless, this startup production showed glimpses of its pedigree with their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and 2008 Merlot. Stryker Sonoma is an equally lean organization that balanced its offerings with a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and a more modest 2006 Zinfandel.
Our two northern neighbors each made a token appearance at this tasting. Washington’s DiStefano Winery held its own with a 2004 Cabernet Franc, while Archery Summit, the Oregon sister to Napa’s Pine Ridge, clearly lived up to its billing with their 2007 Pinot Noir. A label that enjoys incredible fanfare and a cult-like following, Scholium Project, fired on all cylinders with three of its renowned bottlings, the 2008 Naucratis Lost Slough (Verdelho), the 2007 Choêphoroi Los Olivos (Chardonnay), and the 2006 Tenbrink Babylon (Petite Sirah). In addition to the opportunity of finally meeting Scholium’s guru, Abe Schoener, this tasting afforded me the chance to sample the 2007 Chardonnay he made for Tenbrink Family Vineyards’ own label.
I did taste a number of the other wines, partly in deference to Lisa Perkins of New World Wine Imports, Inc., who, besides supplying the Northwest wines, had furnished me with a ticket to the event. OK, but I’m not about to revamp Sostevinobile’s focus.
The following Monday, I paid one of my occasional visits to California Wine Merchant, where Robert Pepi showcased his Eponymous label’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley and its Bordeaux-style kin, the 2005 Red Wine MacAllister Vineyard, alongside his wizardry for Soñador, an Argentine label producing Malbec and Torrontés.
On very rare occasions, I actually get it wrong. I had originally intended to attend In Vino Unitas in Carneros the following day, but received an invite to the Swirl tasting at Jardinière for the same afternoon. I then changed my RSVP to attend In Vino Unitas on Wednesday at One Market in San Francisco and overwrote my calendar entry for Tuesday. Unfortunately, I neglected to switch the times as well, and so had slated the Swirl tasting for 1-4pm, the hours for In Vino Unitas, instead of the correct times of 11-3. My fashionably late arrival left me with less than half an hour to race through the tables, instead of the nearly two hours I had anticipated!
The good news, however, is that Sostevinobile had previously connected with many, if not most, of the wineries present; I was able to make the acquaintance of all the others I had not met previously, except for Maldonado (an omission I will surely rectify on my next swing through St. Helena). Certainly, I would hope Crocker & Starr, Elizabeth Spencer, Hollywood & Vine, Kapcsándy, Kobalt, LaTour, Favia, Lindstrom,and Revana feel no slight in my having bypassed their tables on this visit—my appreciation of their wines has been cited in this column on numerous occasions. Meanwhile, I did manage to taste an impressive 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley from Alondra, the sister label of Skylark. Somewhat of a misnomer, Anomaly also impressed with its 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a 2003 vintage of the same from it library.
Admittedly, if I had known my time was so constrained, I might not have lingered quite so long sampling the various vintages from Fritz Hatton’s Arietta Wines. Still, this music-themed label offered a number of mellifluous Bordelaise blends, including the 2008 On the White Keys, a combination of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, the Merlot-dominant 2007 Quartet, a more traditional 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, a less orthodox Merlot/Syrah blend entitled 2007 Variation One, and his premium 2007 H Block Hudson Vineyard, a cross between Cabernet Franc and Merlot. At the next stop, Gary Brookman and Jack Edwards delineated their Rhône and Bordeaux varietals, pouring their 2006 Brookman Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the 2008 La Diligence Marsanne Stagecoach Vineyard and the 2007 La Diligence Syrah Stagecoach Vineyard.
Regrettably, she may no longer be Celia Welch Masyczek (fellow members of La Società delle Cognome Italiane Pentasillabe and certain other readers know how much I revere intricate surnames), but her superb 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon for Corra Wines was no maiden effort! Another inveterate Napa winemaker, Karen Culler, offered equally tantalizing 2006 La Palette Cabernet Sauvignon and the 23% Syrah-infused 2007 Casaeda Cabernet Sauvignon from her eponymous label. I had sampled several of Rob Lawson’s sundry permutations at Wine Entre Femme back in February, but not his 2007 Blueline Vineyard Merlot from Hourglass. And though I had sampled numerous wines from Vineyard 29 only a few days before, their 2007 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon was a new discovery.
Another revelation during my truncated visit was Julianna Corley’s ever-so-aptly named Jules Mélange; her eclectic blends included the 2008 Vin Blanc, a combo of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat, and the 2007 Vin Rouge, another Cabernet Franc-Merlot marriage, rounded out with 19% Syrah. By now, the event had ended, but fortunately some vendors do manage to be a bit remiss in clearly their table. Tricycle Wine Company, which bottles under the Molnar, Kazmer & Blaise, and Obsidian Ridge labels, dawdled long enough for me to taste their 2007 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Red Hills, to contrast 2007 Molnar Chardonnay Poseidon’s Vineyard with the 2007 Kazmer & Blaise Chardonnay Boonfly Hill, and to luxuriate equally in the 2007 Molnar Pinot Noir Poseidon’s Vineyard and the 2007 Kazmer & Blaise Pinot Noir Primo’s Hill.
I suppose I, too, could linger here and jam this entry with my next investigative foray, but the new constraints of Go Daddy’s ineptitude and a redesigned interface to which I am just now adapting dictate that I draw this chapter to an abrupt close and resume momentarily…