Saturday, March 13, 2010

Central Coast Viognier 2007 from Alban Vineyards

John Alban is one of the leading stars of the Central Coast. When he founded his estate Alban Vineyards and planted his first vineyards with Rhône varietals in the late 80s and early 90s, nobody really believed in him. The all said it was too cool in Edna Valley for these grapes, and that he for sure would fail. Now they all are of another opinion. Everybody admire him for his outstanding grapes in his 26.70 hectares of vineyards, and his wines belong to the most sought after in its style in California.
Thanks to the content of limestone in the soils, and the slightly cooler climate than most of the vineyards with Rhône varietals, his wines always show a fine balance of tannins and acidity, and they surely needs that – they are loaded with pure, rich and intense fruit flavors.
Although John Alban is more famous for his great wines of Syrah – the Lorraine, the Reva and the rare and outstanding Seymour – everything started with the aromatic Viognier. After tasting a wine from Condrieu, John Alban was hooked. Over the years that followed his epiphany over that wine, he tasted hundreds of wines of different Rhône varietals. Nothing could stop him from becoming a winemaker, and later one of the leading stars of the Rhône Rangers in California.
His total production has now reached 6 000 cases per year.

2007 Central Coast Viognier / 89 p
This is a pure Viognier, sourced both from his own vineyards in Edna Valley and from bought in grapes all over Central Coast, fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks and older and therefore neutral French oak barrels. It’s really a textbook Viognier, rich and intense with a lovely tropical fruit flavor, loaded with ripe apricots and violets and also with notes of black pepper that gives the wine a kind of interesting spicy personality. There are no obvious traces of the oak, which is a very positive detail! On the palate, the fruit is forward and somehow slightly sweet, but the long finish is completely dry, a bit spicy and surprisingly fresh (to be a Viognier), but there is also a relatively warm sensation from the 14.9 percent of alcohol. However, drinking it with food, the alcohol wouldn’t be a problem, but drinking it alone, the alcohol is for sure there in the finish. It’s really a very good Viognier, although not every wine consumer’s cup of tea, and it would be perfect to rich dishes of seafood and grilled or smoked fish, as well as many spicy dishes from south east Asia.

Drink it over the next 2 years.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Grenache 2007 from Denner Vineyards

Paso Robles is one of the most exciting wine regions in California. Over the last decade, the number of wine producers has more than doubled. There are now 180+ producers in Paso Robles, and more operations are expected to open up in the coming years. Most interesting is the Paso Robles West, the cooler and rolling landscape west of Highway 101, where Zinfandel and Rhône varietals thrive on the hillsides. In this region, you’ll find abundant of limestone or mudstone (a soil type rich in calcium) which is very rare in California. The soils and the cooler climate definitely add structure and personality to the wines. They are normally rich, ripe och huge, still with a good portion of tannins and a lively natural acidity.
Still the “old timers” (well, they’re not really that old) such as Justin Vineyards and Tablas Creek Vineyards, co-owned by Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, make wines of qualities that are anywhere from recommended to outstanding, and both of them make wines that are able to evolve well in the bottle.
Denner Vineyards is a new winery, founded by the business man Ron Denner, who spared no cost in the development of his fabulous vineyard and winery. It perfectly planned into the smallest detail. It’s really a hit! Denner sells most of the grapes from his 63 hectare vineyard and among the lucky winemakers who are on that list you’ll find Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo, another great Paso Robles producer (Matt focus on Zinfandel). They also sell grapes to Justin for their top wine Isosceles and to the highly recommended winery Villa Creek.
The wines of Denner are rich and intense, pure and very elegant, and with a lot of personality. I like to their lovely balance, their length, and (with some air on most of their wines) the almost French flavor profile. Production reaches around 4 500 to 5 000 cases annually, but the capacity stretches more towards 10 000 to 12 000 cases per year.

2007 Grenache / 91-92 p
This is a cuvée of approximately 85 per cent Grenache, 10 per cent Syrah and a splash of Couniose, and a fraction of the Grenache is fermented in whole bunches, which add a slightly herbacious quality to the wine. It’s so aromatic that the wild raspberry and sweet cherry fruit almost jump in your face, but still it is lovely and elegant and very true to its varietal character. Notes of black pepper as well as just a hint of licorice is also present, but the oak is extremely well integrated. On the palate, it’s as intense as on the nose, lush and ripe with silky tannins, good acidity (which is needed in a Grenache wine to make is elegant) and the taste lingers for a minute. Boy, this is a textbook Grenache, and it’s just delicious. I’ve tasted it a few times, and my recommendation is to not decant in too much in advance – the finest aromatic notes may then disappear. Pour it directly from the bottle, and enjoy how it develop in the glass.
Drink it 2010-2015.