Wild Willie and his Tasty Snobs

Bob Wills.jpgThe emergence of a newfound wine snob can be dangerous. Chances are things go the wrong way if the ingenue parrots all the same stoopid metaphors, failing in the process to represent a personal point of view. And make no mistake; it is the POV that matters. It also helps to have a tasting palate and to generally enjoy wine and good food. Things go well when the fearless taster is willing to share his point of view and can craft his own metaphors for what he experiences. Say hello to Wild Willie, a man who described a Sangiovese as “typewriter ribbon”. Now, he might have been having a little fun but the effort was strong. Refreshing as a bright fruity Albari√±o.
Speaking of new friends, tBoW was able to interview and taste the wines made by Hank Skewis of Skewis Wines in Healdsburg. Thanks to Palate Food+Wine for hosting another terrific “Sunday Session” at which Skewis was featured (along with the typically delicious and simply prepared lunch). He sources six vineyards in Northern California from Sonoma Coast to Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. Because tBoW has 20 years experience tasting Rochioli and Williams Selyem Pinot Noir wines he is a bit jaded about Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley [ed. a snob]. I have tried to describe this dilemma which wins absolutely no interest from others, including Hank Skewis, in these pages. In a sentence Rochioli has “too many notes” and Williams Selyem is too sweet for current preferences. Both wines are quite pricey, as well.
The opportunity to discuss wine, the wine industry and wine preferences with an accomplished winemaker is always a treat. Here is what we learned from Hank Skewis.
He has made wine for 30 years. He claims no prior career so suffice it to say he is stuck on wine. He first made wine for Lambert Bridge until the founder sold the winery and label. He did a crush in Mersault where he discovered Burgundy. tBoW asked for his view on our contemporary contrarian theme – Chardonnay is not very interesting. He acknowledged that the only Chardonnay he prefers is Montrachet. With his funds, he only makes Pinot Noir. His annual production is 1,000 cases and he is in his 16th vintage. The discussion turned to aging wines, another popular tBoW topic. Agreeing that aging wine is anything but uniform he mentioned the 1994 vintage remains one of the most fresh in his cellar! Interestingly, he features the 1994 label at his website. One of those in vino veritas moments, eh? [ed. we only have the 1994 label to show]
Here is what we thought of the Skewis wines we tasted.
skewis94.jpg2006 Skewis Salzgeber-Chan Vineyard Pinot Noir $40: Brick red color. Deep flavors,bittersweet chocolate, a bit beefy. Somebody said wet stone. Light to medium weight. 14%

2006 Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
$48: Muted nose, brighter red color. Perhaps a bit more alcohol. Again, kind of meaty in flavor. Light to medium weight. Good depth. A bit more liquer like. 14.5%
2006 Bush Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir $48: Gamey nose, elegant, balanced. Dark red color. 14%.
These are very nice wines. tBoW likes this style; not overripe, not too alcoholic, more elegant and lightweight in texture. The price is higher than $20 but he pays top dollar for the fruit (he confided his per ton cost can cross $4,000) so the price is justified in the most basic economic terms. While the opportunity for the consumer to purchase quality wines below $20 has never been better every cellar should have some premium wines that are frugally allocated. 1,000 cases is not a lot. These are wines worth owning, although given the current economy we have time to get on board. Hank Skewis loves what he is doing and does it very well. tBoW purchased which, after all, is the best praise.
Other wines recently tasted…
manzonibianco06.jpeg2003 Manzoni Bianco Marca Trevigiana $1: BING BING BING. Lifted from the closeout bin in a local haunt, the tasty snob rationally reasoned if it was priced at $4 he figured he could get it for $1. And he did. Here is the best news. The wine was good. Would we run out and buy a case for $12? No because it won’t be there. A blend of Pinot Blanc and Riesling from the northeastern corner of Italy which is the newest regional discovery for our infrequent Least Coast correspondent, Mouse, or as he prefers, the King. The wine is oxidized but not to the point of being offensive, rather it touches the caramel threshold and shows some butterscotch and anise. Online notes say the vines are 30 y.o. and the wine was slightly oxidized to begin with. Put this in a blind tasting and it would be a winner. 12.5%
2006 Morellino di Scansano La Selva
$11: Bargain bin Tuscan pickup that turns out pretty nicely. Medium weight Sangiovese (10% Merlot), light and fruity but with enough age to not be overbearing at all. Good fruity flavors. Easy to drink. Great with food. Light on its feet. Widely available in UK; more likely to find it on East Coast than West. 2005 was Gambero Rosso rated two bicchieri. 13.5%
5mileSyrahthumb.gif2006 5 Mile Bridge Syrah Margarita Vineyard Paso Robles $9: Wades Wines which has always been the go-to local vendor for Central Coast wines is loading up his bargain bin…with mixed results. This wine has a moldy nose but the flavors are simple and straightforward and without any rot. The winemaker sources the fruit from the Margarita Vineyard and has a website worth visiting. This is his second release. Deserves a second try. Admirably low alcohol for the region. 13.1%
1996 Chateau Soucherie Coteaux du Layon Chaume Vielles Vignes
~$25 online: A gift more than ten years ago. Never quite knew what to do with the wine until the generous giftor reminded me this was probably a good time to uncork it. Wasn’t he right. This represents everything tBoW thinks is great about wine. The price is very fair; in fact, for the quality it is a steal. The region is completely under-valued. The Chenin Blanc grape is under-publicized and unfashionable even though it has produced outstanding wines for centuries [ed. high snob appeal]. Read this web site description and you have to visit. “Domaine de la Soucherie is located in the village of Beaulieu sur Layon in the very heart of the C√¥teaux du Layon appellation just south of Angers. This quaint city traces its roots to early Roman times…” This is 100% Chenin Blanc dessert wine. It is qualitatively different than Sauternes. Where the great sweet wine of Bordeaux is heavy like syrup this is light weight. There is flint and chalk in the nose. Lychee in the exotic flavors, both sweet and sour and in balance. Honeysuckle, acidic, excellent balance. A pleasure to drink. Ownership turned over in 2007. Available online.

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