Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cuvée Indigène 2007 and 2008 from Peter Michael Winery

At Peter Michael Winery in Knights Valley, six chardonnays are made. One of them, Point Rouge, is a top selection, another one, Mon Plaisir, is sourced from Jess Jacksons vineyards in Alexander Mountain further up north, and three wines are vineyard selections from the steep vineyards above the winery of Peter Michael. Then there is a chardonnay called Cuvée Indigène, introduced as an experimental wine by the former winemaker Helen Turley to discover if and how wild fermentation could add a greater sense of terroir in the wines.
Today, when all wines are fermented with the indigenous yeast and the winemaking team knows more about the terroir in the different vineyard blocks, this cuvée has become a wine of its own. The intention is to make a powerful, yet elegant chardonnay. Grapes are predominately sourced from the Upper Barn Block in Jackson’s vineyard in Alexander Mountain. It is wild fermented in brand new French oak barrels, it undergoes full malolactic fermentation and stays in the oak for a year, with bâtonnage once a week. Production reaches around 500 cases per year.

2007 Cuvée Indigène / 93 p
Golden straw color indicates a rich and barrel aged wine with the first signs of maturity, yet the nose is youthful and fruit driven with notes of pineapple and lemon peals, and there’s also a fine buttery and creamy quality that adds intensity, plus a slightly roasted note of nutmeg from the oak barrels. On the palate, the wine is rich and ripe, again with a creamy texture and sweet notes of lemons, but there is enough acidity and mineral notes to make a fine balance. The oak adds a certain nutty complexity to the taste, and the alcohol (14.5 percent) gives warmth in the end of the taste. Even if the first sip gives a slightly sweet sensation, the finish is dry, very long and elegant. Wines like this should be served at 10-12 degrees Celsius.
Drink it 2010-2012.

2008 Cuvée Indigène / 92-93 p
The overall characteristics are quite alike those of the 2007 vintage, but the color in this wine is paler and the structure more firm and marked by acidity. Although the body is almost as rich and silky, the taste is drier and the notes of minerals are much more evident, which adds a greater complexity in this vintage. Still, there are lovely notes of nutmeg, hazel nuts, honey, sweet lemons and acacia. I have a slight preference for the 2008 vintage, just because of the mineral notes and the finer texture. It should be served at 10-12 degrees.
Drink it 2010-2013.

Friday, May 14, 2010

2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat

The Bien Nacido Vineyard is one of the greatest in California. It’s situated on a long west facing slope in the northeastern part of Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County. There are no estate wines made from this vineyard, which is owned by the Miller family. Instead they farm approximately 365 hectares of vines here, predominately Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to sell the grapes to more than 50 wine producers all over California. Some of them, like Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat who built his warehouse looking winery in the northwestern corner of the vineyard, farm their own contracted blocks. Jim works mostly with K Block in the inner parts of the vineyard, planted to Chardonnay, but he also buy Pinot Noir of both Dijon clones and old Californian clones from different blocks in the vineyard.
Jim Clendenen is one of the pioneers for pinot wines in California, and his philosophy is strict and based on old school burgundian techniques. Hi insists that the his grapes, whites or reds, should not be harvested at higher maturation levels than 24.5 Brix, which results in wines with a moderate alcohol level (normally around 13 percent) and a lively natural acidity. Grapes are fully destemmed, and after a few days of cold soak, the juice starts to ferment with its natural yeast, and he utilizes remontage in the early stage of the fermentation and pigeage to the end to allow a more gentle extraction from the skins. Fermentation temperature reaches 35 or even 37 degress Celsius, which is relatively high, but not unusual in Burgundy. The wine is then transferred into French oak barrels of 228 liters, and only from the cooper François Frères, for malolactic fermentation and 12-20 months of ageing.

2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir / 91 p
As all pinots of Au Bon Climat, this wine has a classic structure and aroma profile. Still young, it’s a bit closed on the nose, yet lovely with a fine perfume of both sweet and sour red berries, as well as a more earthy and complex note. Oak is never, or at least rarely, found in the wines from this winery, and there is no exception from that rule in this wine. On the palate, it’s young and intensely fruit forward, still dry and with the typical elegance, fresh acidity and silky body that is so significant for Jim’s wines. The structure is quite burgundian like, and even if the tannins are silky and very elegant, the lively acidity and (and not overripe fruit) will make the wine keep, and even develop into gracefulness over the coming years.
As we decanted this wine a few minutes before serving it, and also used a typical large Burgundy styled glass, it really opened up after just ten minutes. Serving temperature should be at 15-16 degress Celsius to capture the finesse of the wine.
Drink it 2010-2018.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 2005 Experiment No K 1.5 from Ovid

Planted by David Abreu and Andy Erickson in 2000, the Ovid Vineyard on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley is a source of some of the greatest wines in Napa Valley. How much I would love to jump 20 years into the future, to taste what will to come from this great site with more age of the vines. Even today, from just five year old vines, the wines are profound!
Since 2005, the first vintage at Ovid, winemaker Andy Erickson has crafted some experimental wines (one in 2005, and two in 2006) from grapes that didn’t fit the cuvée of the premium wine. These so called experimental wines also shows the greatness of this vineyard.

2005 Experiment No K 1.5 / 91 -92
This lovely wine is a blend of 73.5 percent Cabernet Franc, 21.9 percent Petit Verdot, and just s splash of Merlot (3.5 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (1.1 percent). All grapes are harvested in the vineyards of Ovid, up at Pritchard Hill. It’s not really a second label to the magnificent Ovid, although the experiment wines are made from grapes not used for the top wine, it’s definitely a wine with its own personality.
At first when poured into my Bordeaux shaped glass från Riedel, and even decanted almost two hours earlier, it was youthful, a bit closed and also quite oaky and fiery from its (as told on the label) 14.5 percent of alcohol. These negative notes disappeared after a while, and paved the way for a great nose, stuffed with dark ripe berries like cassis and blueberries, a kind of floral notes also to be found in the Ovid bottling, and also lovely nuances of grilled red bell pepper and just a hint of grass. On the palate, it’s rich and silky, the mineral notes that derives from the poor, red volcanic soil adds complexity in the relatively long taste, and as in the nose, it’s packed with dark ripe berries, yet elegant.
Drink it 2010-2020.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2004 The McNab from Bonterra Vineyards

There is no question about the popularity of ecological wines. At one of the pioneering wineries, Fetzer Vineyards, the production has increased almost tenfold since early 90s. They were early into this field, when they founded Bonterra Vineyards in 1983. By 1996 the production of ecological wines had increased to 75 000 cases per year, just to see a production of 160 000 cases the year after. Today the production has reached almost four million cases!
Bonterra wines are honest, well made but seldom very exciting, although the quartet of Bonterra Roussanne, Bonterra Chardonnay (a big seller), Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon (a great value) and the sweet Bonterra Muscat are very good indeed.
Around 153 hectares is under vine at Bonterra Ranch in Mendocino, and it is all farmed either ecological or biodynamic. Since 2001 they also own the 51 hectare McNab Ranch, in the 1800s a sheep farm but since 1996 a certified organic vineyard, and now also by Demeter certified as a biodynamic vineyard. Form here, they make their prestige wine with the same name.

2004 The McNab / 86-87 p
This is a blend of approximately 65-70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15-20 percent Merlot och 15 percent Petite Sirah, the latter grape from 45 year old vines. It’s made in a traditional way, with fermentation in stainless steel tanks with is natural yeast and regular remontage as the method for extraction. After fermentation, the wines are transferred into French oak barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation and maturation during 22-25 months.
It’s relatively dark, still youthful with a slight purple rim, and the nose is rich and intense with loads of dark berries with some notes of raisons and currants, also with a typical vanilla note from the oak. On the palate, it’s lush and fruit forward with notes of dark berries, fine but not lively acidity, well integrated oak flavors and a moderate alcohol. It’s a good wine, but it lacks the complexity of a great wine, and also the aftertaste is somehow a bit short. Still, it’s delicious with steaks or venison. I would decant it half an hour before drinking it, and serve it in a glass of Bordeaux type.
Drink it 2010-2016.