Archive for May, 2012

Three New Beauties from Tablas Creek

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Over the years, we’ve developed a very short list of favorite wine producers from California; you can literally count them on one hand, and running neck and neck with Mr. Ridge at the very top is Tablas Creek Vineyard. Tablas Creek has established a very distinctive “house style” over the years, and it’s one that is much to our liking. We recently took possession of three new offerings from our favorite Paso Robles winery, and as is always the case, they give great pleasure and we recommend them highly. Here are our impressions:

2011 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc Paso Robles, 45% Grenache Blanc, 34% Viognier, 18% Roussanne,3% Marsanne, 13.5% Alc., $20: As previously reported, Patelin is roughly translated from the French slang for “country neighborhood.” Patelin de Tablas designated wines are the only TC offerings that may use fruit sourced from other than estate vineyards. Most of these vineyards are planted with TC cuttings, and all are farmed sustainably, many through organic or biodynamic principles. Pale gold in color; rich and ripe in flavor and aroma, with a melange of white peach, green apple, pear and just a hint of pineapple, all underscored with some nice minerality. Full bodied, almost viscous, with good acidity and nice length on the finish. Retains that white Rhone character, but with a new world accent. Delicious. 2900 Cases Produced. Find this wine


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Mr. Ridge Comes a-Knockin’

Master Sommelier Robert Jones came to Day-twah recently to promote the wines of Kysela Pere et Fils, LTD, for which he serves as National Sales Manager. Robert and I go back some years, and in that time, he’s noticed that we have a special place in our hearts for the wines of Ridge Vineyards, a passion which he shares. He contacted me in advance of his visit, wondering if we’d care to share a magnum of ’97 Ridge Geyserville that he’d been cellaring for some years, and of course, we responded enthusiastically to the affirmative. We convened at Gang Central for Mr. Ridge and lamb-sickles on the grill, and we were joined by Rebecca Poling. We started things off with the last bottle of an old friend that had been resting comfortably in the Cellar from Heck.

2004 Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie Le L d’Or, 12% alc., $18.70: Despite its relative youthfulness (it gives the impression that it will continue to develop and give pleasure for many years), this clean, medium colored beauty is drinking very well right now, with the typical chalky wet stone minerality that one expects, along with a nice core of under-ripe apple and quince; Robert adds an impression of anise-seed-licorice on the nose. Medium bodied, with the requisite acidity and very nice length; sure wish we had a few more of these… Find this wine

1997 Ridge Geyserville, 74% Zinfandel, 15% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah, 1% Mataro, 14.9% alc., 1.5 L: Deeply, darkly colored, with nary a hint of bricking; this has that nice, funky 15-year old Geezer thing going on, with earthy mushroom and what Robert rightly describes at that “autumn forest floor.” There’s still a big core of fruit here, with plenty of plum, raspberry and black raspberry, and as it opens with air, it keeps getting better and better, showing more “Draper perfume” all the time. Big, rich and oh-so-lovely, this is a perfect example of why you lay Geyserville down for 15 years and more. This one is in no danger of fading any time soon, and will probably improve for at least a few more years, especially if you’re fortunate to have some in magnum, like this. It makes a great match for grilled, medium rare racks of lamb. Find this wine

1999 Ridge Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley, 70% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane, 3% Mataro, $30, 14.5% alc.: Not quite opaque garnet in color; Robert’s first impressions are “pencil lead, cedar shavings and a bitter green herbal” quality, while Rebecca adds impressions of tobacco and smoked meat. This is still a big, deep and, yes, hard wine; Robert calls it “a brooding beast,” and the difference between this and the ’97 Geezer is like night and day. As it opens and evolves with air, it evokes more descriptors from Mr. Jones, including “high-toned pine, rosemary and thyme.” There’s a huge core of dense, dark plummy fruit, and after an hour’s worth of air, it does open and become more generous. Full bodied and structured for at least 5-7 years of further improvement, so there’s no need to be in any hurry to open this; it’ll only get better and better. Find this wine

After dinner, I kept a promise to Robert to offer up some of my recent original tunes. Because the ’99 Lytton needed a little air, Rebecca opened the 2000 Champagne Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon that she’d brought, and while I was totally focused on hitting all the right notes and remembering words, I took no notes whatsoever. I can vouch for its quality, however; it is a delight to drink, and will continue to improve for many years. I have no doubt that it brought out the best in my performance. Find this wine

Many, many thanks to Robert and Rebecca for bringing such wonderful wines to share with Kim and this taster. It was a memorable evening indeed!

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

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Tasting Leelanau 2012 – Tandem Ciders & Left Foot Charley

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I first noticed Tandem Ciders on someone’s Facebook posting, and with just a little bit of investigation, realized that this would have to be must-visit for Kim and this taster. We’ve found that we have an affinity for artisanal ciders, and the scuttlebutt about this Suttons Bay producer was all positive, so it made our short list of places to stop in.

Owners Dan and Nikki Young met in 2000 over opposite sides of the bar of The People’s Pint pub in Greenfield, Massachusetts.  They got real chummy, toured England by tandem bike during the summer of ’03, and thus came the name for their future establishment. It was during that tour that they discovered hard ciders and just how good they can be. After returning to the US, they married, moved to Michigan and worked towards their goal of establishing their own operation in the heart of Leelanau fruit country. Superior apples from area growers are turned into juice with a traditional rack and cloth press, then fermented using traditional styles.

We arrived a few minutes before noon at the Tandem tasting room/cider making facility with the bicycle-built-for-two hung above the front door. We had hoped to get a few minutes with Dan for an interview, but the tasting room filled up so quickly, he was pressed (pun intended) into duty trying to keep up with tasters’ thirsty demands. The ciders are very good, however, and they speak for themselves quite well. Visitors can sit and leisurely sip pints and half pints of draft cider for $4 and $2 respectively, along with snacks such as a Leelanau raclette cheese plate, pickled eggs and peanuts. Regular ciders range between 5-7% alcohol by volume. Dan told me that about 4,000 gallons (1,600 cases) were produced in 2011, and that they hope to double that this year.

We wasted no time in bellying up to the bar and tasting through everything being poured that day.

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Tasting Leelanau 2012 – Verterra Winery

We don’t need much in the way of coaxing, convincing or cajoling to get us back up to northern Michigan wine country. It seems like every time we visit Traverse City and the nearby Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas (we’ve been going since the late ‘80s), we find at least a couple more good reasons to want to go back. And so it was that when the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association invited us to attend their annual Media Weekend in late April, we started to plan our trip right away. We were especially interested in checking out two new operations that did not exist when last we were up that way, Verterra Winery and Tandem Ciders. We always stop in to see our friends at Left Foot Charley when we’re in Traverse City, and, of course, there was the Saturday night media event, so we had plenty to keep us occupied during our day and a half by the bays. We started at Verterra on Friday afternoon.

L-R: Shawn Walters, Skip Telgard, Paul Hamelin - click to enlarge

We first caught wind of what would eventually become Verterra Winery back in the spring of 2007. While we were enjoying a fine dinner at the Bluebird Restaurant and Bar in Leland, proprietor Skip Telgard told us excitedly that he was involved in a vineyard planting project. That project turned into Verterra Winery, owned and operated by Telgard and Paul Hamelin. The first planting comprised of 18 acres, which has been expanded to 33 acres currently being farmed. Harvested grapes are delivered into the capable hands of French Road CellarsDoug Matthies and Shawn Walters. The wines have been winning medals and awards in various competitions from the get-go, so this operation was at the top of our short list that we wanted to investigate during our return to the Leelanau Peninsula. We tasted with Telgard, Hamelin and Walters on a fine, bright Friday afternoon at the Verterra tasting room in Leland. Find Michigan wines

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