All roads lead to Carneros…

Carneros-roadies1.jpgThe tBoW tasting team returned to Carneros for the post-Thanksgiving-day wine sojourn. It’s a family tradition, y’know. This year it was me, the missus and Aunt Betsy with the naughty clogs. carneros-late-fall.jpgThe regional choice was Livermore or Carneros. Much as I would like to visit another California wine region…with McKenzie-Mueller (M-M) beckoning the choice was easier than a Trojan win over the Bruins.
The wines reviewed below were purchased in Berkeley at North Berkeley Wines (NBW), Kermit Lynch or in Carneros. North Berkeley Wine offers a strong selection of Verget wines. Verget is a negociant who buys juice and produces only white Burgundy wines. Quality is high and pricing is very fair. Classic NBW selection. If I am going to visit the Bay Area then I am going to visit Kermit and NB wine merchants. They are covered plenty on this blog as they are in this post. However, I am not going to review M-M since I did a few weeks past. I will say once more that Bob and Karen M-M are expert hosts, and Bob makes absolutely wonderful wines. NBWine-store.jpgDo not overlook Carneros next time in Napa. We tasted on Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day, T-Day, and the day after.
Another family tradition is making sure everyone at the turrkey table learns how to taste and enjoy wine. So the tasting can become a descriptive free-for-all which is reflected in some of the notes.
The good news is every wine (except the Adastra) is a U20.
vergetstbris02.jpg2004 Verget Saint Bris $U20: Recommended by John at NBW. Sauvignon blanc from Burgundy! On the nose we get oak and green apple. On the tongue and in the mouth sour kiwi lime and lemon. Some green bean and cucumber. You taste the coolness. On the finish I thought of the tennis-ball sized rough skinned crab apples I ate as a kid. Here is a link to a wine/travel blog that covers St Bris. Recommended surfing.
2004 Verget Bourgogne “Grand Elevage” $U20: Green gold color. Sold as “de-classified Mersault” which is always a good pitch when dealing with the Duke and Dauphin. We never ask the obvious question – why was it de-classified? Is the war over? Did somebody important die? Was a handful of radical vintners granted amnesty? While we pondered these question we waited for the wine to open up. As might be expected from a young premium white burg this took hours. The first sniff and taste was oaky, soapy, tannic, even musty. Aunty B mentioned cow pie and she would know (Michigander farm girl). A couple hours later when the tasters were also a bit more friendly they suggested sandalwood, currant berry blossom and scented candle. 13%. NBW

2003 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre $U20
: Another sauvignon blanc. Green gold color (even though it has enough years to turn yellow). Nose is lime, mineral, acid, bright. Flavors are sweet and fruity apple. Honeysuckle and hydrangia. Flavors are green, earthy, oak. Distinctive taste with waxy cheese and peach stone.
2004 Vincent Dureil-Janthial Bourgogne Passetoutgrains $U20: Are you ready for a red gamay pinot noir blend? Dave Corey of Core Wines (a Santa Barbara/Paso Rhone guy) always got a chuckle from me when he described pinot as a nice blending grape. Well, Mr. Corey must have known that Passetoutgrains is a traditional field blend in Burgundy of the two grapes. So now we know it too. Raspberry flambe’ and smoky chocolate on the nose. The gamay is quite noticeable. Liked it plenty. My choice with the bird. NBW.
chatdutrignon.jpg2005 Chateau du Trignon Cotes du Rhone $U20: This was excellent red village Rhone. Color is purple. Nose is sweet, doughy, dusty, with pepper. Tannic, strawberry-kiwi jam. The strawberry-kiwi is there in the mouth. Medium weight, slight tannins. Grenache fruit prevails. Turns to granny apple cider after a couple hours. Bold effort and terrific wine. 14%. Kermit.
Here is an article that describes this particular wine as well as asks the question why are there not more wines like this one made in California. Good question.
After visiting at M-M we walked across the street and said hello to the vineyard manager at Adastra. A retired physician and family run this tiny 1500 case operation in wine country. Blippin hot winemaker Pam Starr is the highly touted “soil translator” (read her October 07 interview here). We tasted five wines and purchased two. The style is high-tone rustic. Well-made wines that are balanced but show minimum handling. If you can visit you should. I have posted a couple of photos FYI.
Adastra-05-SYR-tilt-small.jpgAdastra 2006 Syrah $56: Syrah production in Carneros is small so we were quite interested in tasting this one. This is the winery price, of course, which is 100% retail. But at ~150 cases where would one find it anyway? Very fruity reminiscent of Santa Rita Hills with more lean fruit. Cold weather fruit. Not plump. 16% alcohol! When I mentioned our host said we would not have known without looking. He was right. 100 cases.

2005 Pinot Reserve Proximus $36
: Ripe style, rustic, not melded. Tannins floating like particles. Just a visual, not actually. All good components. 200 cases. 14.5%.
The Adastra wines need to lay down awhile. These are the kinds of bottles I pull from the cellar in five years. I know I will be pleasantly surprised recalling the 40 minutes memorably spent there. And I bet I will say this is pretty good.
A bonus wine…I discovered this in my cellar and have been opening and enjoying it the past month.
2002 Beckmen Cuvee le Bec ~$14
: Current release is the 2005. The blend is classic Rhone style. In this vintage it is almost half Grenache, one quarter Mourverdre and one-fifth Syrah and 10% Counoise. The 2005 blend is 52% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, and 5% Counoise. I prefer Grenache and Mourverdre to Syrah so the blend suits me fine. I find California syrah to be ripe and fruity. Domestic grenache seems more restrained and earthy without sacrificing fruit. Mourverdre provides the bold meat flavors I like in Rhone wines. This blend after 5 years in the bottle and three in my cellar is quite presentable. Soft, tannins have blended in. More fruit than pepper and earth. The wine is perfect for any evening and almost any meal. By the way, this blend is featured in that SF Chronicle article (above) as proof that a good tasting well-priced Rhone blend can be made in California.


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    Elizabeth (Aunt Betsy) Johnson says:

    I have to say you have two fine covergirls for the latest posting. The beauty of the countryside that day definitely contributed to the high quality of the tastes!

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    bacchus says:

    Aunt Betsy – Thanks for posting a comment. I get so few! I know folks are lurking and viewing. Who’s that major mama in green with you? It was a GRAND day.

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    martin glasser says:

    More white Rhone ranting from Mouse!
    Three News Year’s Eve treats, listed here in ascending order of preference.
    1. 2005 Moillard Vin de Pays D’Oc Viognier Hugues le Juste. $11. Monsieur le Juste was a 13th Century Cathar knight fleeing church persecution during 4th Crusade. He is believed to have drunk from a spring that runs thru this vineyard, located near Bezier. Fun. The wine is a bit hot, but nicely floral and easy. (Moillard usually bottles Burg) Doesn’t get a Mouse, though.
    2. 1999 Jean-Luc Colombo Hermitage Le Rouet Blanc. $12 Connecticut close-out (silly price). 80-20 marsanne-roussanne blend. Have bought about 25 bottles in past year. Honeysuckle peach blossom pear pie. Two mice.
    (Hermitage oldest known French vineyard.)
    3.2005 Isenhower Snapdragon, 55-45 roussane-viongier blend. From Washington’s Columbia Valley. This blew us away. Two finicky grapes – one that ages, one that doesn’t – working side by side. Purchased for $17 in Falmouth, Cape Cod. Not available in Cal. Two solid Mice.

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