Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Delicious Delicato – Fog Head wine series

Working almost exclusively with fine wines, I have to admit that I very rarely get moved by wines from the large wine companies, who more seems to seek for best buys than wines with a great and true personality. However, there are exceptions at many of the big wine companies. On my visit to Delicato Family Vineyards in the impressive San Bernabe Vineyard (sometimes described as the largest single vineyard in the world), I came with no expectations at all. Actually, I saw the appointment as one of those I have to do – to know, to understand, and to have done it. I spent two hours, tasting a lot of average wines, but also some surprisingly good!

Since the vineyard is so huge (I drove more than 20 kilometers back and forth in the vineyard, before I found the right house!), there is a lot of different soil types, altitudes, exposures to sunlight, winds and coastal fog. There is also a wide variety of grape varieties, clones and rootstocks, so the material the winemaking team has to work with is almost a never ending story. For that reason, the team has since 2005 made small volumes of quite delicious wines under the label Fog Head. And they are not expensive – that’s the good news!

2008 Fog Head Highlands Sauvignon Blanc / 84 p
Harvested at moderate ripeness, this cuvée of Sauvignon Blanc with a splash of Chardonnay and Viognier (to add some weight and flavors) from some of the cooler blocks in San Bernabe Vineyard is very fresh and dry. The juice is fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks to almost dryness (there is still almost 3 grams of residual sugar, very typical of the wines from Delicato), and it has a very fine nose with lemony and grassy qualities.
Drink it 2009-2010.

2007 Fog Head Limestone Ridge Chardonnay / 88 p
The grapes for this wine, comes from a cool block with almost white limestone soil in the San Bernabe Vineyard, and you can really smell and taste the mineral notes from the soil – which of course adds complexity to the wine. Fermentation is taken place in French, but also Hugarian and even American oak barrels, a small fraction of new barrels but most of them one to two years old. You will of course notice the oak, but it is very well integrated, and the personality of the wine is more the cool climate fruit with just small notes of sweeter tropical fruits. On the palate, it’s dryer that any of the wines from Delicato, which I find to be very good (and which also adds some extra points!) and it is indeed a much better chardonnay than you’ll find at much higher prices at a lot of much more fancy wineries than Delicato. It’s really a great choice! 1600 cases were made.
Drink in 2010-2011.

2005 Blow Sand Syrah / 85 p
There is two red wines under the Fog Head label, and although the Hillside Pinot Noir is acceptable, it is the weakest of them. I prefer this syrah that is picked from selected blocks in the San Bernabe Vineyard. Compared to the other Fog Head wines, this is the most Californian, and its alcohol has reached 15 per cent. Still there is a good portion of finesse here, and although the fruit is quite rich, dark and intense, you’ll also find some complex notes of licorice and dried herbs on the nose, and the oak is well integrated. Also, there is a fine acidity to balance the richness and the tannins. 600 cases were made.
Drink it over the next 3-5 years.

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