It’s been about six years since we last had any of Sean Thackrey’s non-vintage multi-varietal red blend. Pleiades XIX wasn’t quite up to previous versions of what Kim once used to describe as “my wine,” and maybe that’s why we stopped buying it, along with the fact that the price kept creeping upward. By the time Thackrey’s wines finally became available at retail in Day-twah a few years ago, the prices were just plain stupid. I saw a bottle of Pleiades (probably XXII or XXIII) about a year and a half ago in an area wine shop priced at around $43, and I just shook my head.
Since that time, Thackrey changed distributors, and Little Guy Wine Company has the wines priced much more reasonably, so when I saw a bottle of the Pleiades XXIV on the shelf at Mudgies a few weeks ago, I figured “what the hell” and picked one up for Kim and me to find out what was going on with it. I’m pleased to report that this one has a lot more stuffing than that XIX we were only lukewarm towards.
Sean Thackrey “Pleiades XXIV Old Vines” California Red Blend, 14.5% alc., $29: Clean, dark color; mint gets the better of a little barnyard over black and red plum and berry on the moderately expressive nose, and a hint of cereal sneaks in with a little air. Very much in the same style and character as all of those from the past that we remember so fondly, being intense and well-structured. The multi-vintage solera-styled wine shows earthy, leathery and, yes, slightly funky black and red fruit. Good stuff here; this is a wine that can age and develop for several years, and I’d actually lay it down for another 3-5 years before opening another. Tannin pigs’ mileage may vary. Bottled in April, 2015, a blend of Sangiovese, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Mourvedre, “to name a few.” Find this wine
Reporting from Day-twah,
Since filing my report on the delicious 2013 Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, I’ve been checking out a few other Zins, and found two that really caught my fancy.
I’ve enjoyed several selections from the Terre Rouge/Easton lineup over the years, but, oddly, I’ve never posted any notes on them. Allan Bree aka califusa reviewed some of Bill Easton’s Terre Rouge selections for us back in his Rhone Ranger Tasting 2000 report, and Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan had good things to say about the 2011 Easton Amador Zinfandel (a wine I recommended and sold LOTS of in my retail days), but by and large, these wines have not been given the attention they deserve in these pages, an oversight I plan to rectify in the coming months. I’ve never met Bill Easton, but we are “Facebook friends,” and I’m guessing we’d get along quite well, because not only am I a fan of his wines, we’ve also had friendly back-and-forths on more than just wine-related subjects on that social network site.
2009 Easton Zinfandel Fiddletown Rinaldi Vineyard Old Vines, 14.5% alc., $28.99: Clean and dark in color, with a pure, effusive Zinfandel nose, all spicy black raspberry; plenty more of the same on the palate, with enough earthiness underneath to make it more than just a fruit bowl kind o’ wine. Full bodied and well-structured for several years of further development. This one pushes the envelope for what I’ll tolerate in ripeness, but never crosses the line or goes over the top, thanks to that earthy anchor. I like this wine, and have no doubt that my partner in crime, Canadian Zinfan, will too, and I have another stashed to open with him the next time we get together. Aged in French oak. Find this wine
We received a package from our friends at Vineyard Brands a few weeks ago. In it were five bottles of recently released wines from Tablas Creek. We’ve reviewed wines from this producer many times over the past several years, and I can’t remember a single one that we didn’t like a lot. That’s probably the reason that they’re on a very short list of our favorite North American wineries, the wines are that good on a very consistent basis.
This particular package contained four whites and one red. We gave them a little over a week to rest from their cross-continent journey, then we tried them one by one over the next week and a half. We started with one from what is essentially TC’s entry level Patelin de Tablas range, their only wines that don’t use grapes exclusively from estate vineyards, but also include fruit from some of Paso Robles’ top Rhône vineyards.
2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc Paso Robles, 56% Grenache Blanc, 23% Viognier, 12% Roussanne, 9% Marsanne, 13.5% Alc., $25.00: Clean, medium color; somewhat pungent on the nose, with flavors of citrus, white tree fruit, some mineral and a hint of lanolin, being ever-so-slightly musky, yet very refreshing. Full bodied and fairly dense; rich and intense, with excellent acids and length. I love the way the refreshing citrus quality plays off the muskier element. Very fine indeed.
25% Grenache Blanc from Coyote Moon Vineyard in Estrella District
23% Viognier and Grenache Blanc from Fralich in El Pomar District
18% Marsanne and Roussanne from Cass Vineyard in Geneseo District
10% Grenache Blanc from Adelaida in Adelaida District
9% Viognier from Clautiere in Geneseo District
6% Grenache Blanc from Dawson’s Creek Vineyard in El Pomar District
3% Viognier from Glenrose in Adelaida District
3% Viognier from Paso de Record in Estrella District
3% Roussanne and Marsanne from the Tablas Creek cerified organic estate vineyard
Find this wine
I happened upon these two little delights a few weeks ago whilst strolling through Plum Market to pick up some victuals for the holiday weekend. We’d not had either previously, but the prices are very pocketbook friendly, and you pretty much can’t go wrong with wines from either importer. Happily, they proved to be just the kind of Chardonnay we like to drink here at Gang Central.
2014 Henri Perrusset Mâcon-Villages, 12.5% alc., $15.99: Clean, medium straw in color; the mineral and beeswax aromatics echo on the palate, gaining green apple and wet stone, being almost funky, and that’s a good thing. I love the wet stone, as it really sets the tone to the character of the wine. Full bodied, with balanced acids and nice length. Best of all, it offers terrific QPR (quality-price ratio) at this price. Find this wine
Imported by Kermit lynch
2014 Collovray & Terrier Domaine des Deux Roches Mâcon-Villages Tradition, 13% alc., $13.99: Quite different from the Collovray & Terrier Mâcon-Villages Tradition I reported on last year, this shows a clean pale-to-medium straw color, with more than a hint of burnt matchstick on the nose that follows through on the palate, with a solid core of green apple and pear fruit laced with underlying minerality. Full bodied, with excellent acids and good length; a little richer than the Perrusset, with a bit of a citrus-like zing to it, and like the previous selection, it offers terrific QPR. Find this wine
Imported by AHD Vintners, Ltd., Warren, MI
We like these both a lot, and you can bet your sweet bippy that we’ll be going back for more of both. No fat ass low acid California Chardonnay for these Gangsters.
Reporting from Day-twah,
So these three bottles were sitting on the shelves at Western Market in Ferndale for several months, not quite languishing, and I’d see them and say to myself, “I really should take them home; they’ve got a little age on them, and as devoted Doon-heads, we owe it to ourselves to see how they’re coming along.”
I finally bit the bullet in June. It then took us another few months to actually get to them, because I was looking for just the right occasion, which finally reared its pointy little head last week in the form of a certain annual celebration.
2008 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard, 57% Roussanne, 43% Grenache Blanc, 14.3% alc., $22.99: Clean medium color with a tinge o’ lemon; all mineral-driven white tree fruit and lanolin. The nose is still lively and the flavors still expressive, with somewhat toned-down acids that nevertheless do everything they need to do. No secondary action here as of yet, just an enjoyable 8-year old white Rhone blend that gives testament to the age worthy nature of this bottling. Made from biodynamically grown grapes, this is one of my very favorite California whites, vintage in and vintage out. Find this wine
I think I’d be safe in hazarding the guess that when many causal wine drinkers hear the term “Oregon wine,” the immediately think “Pinot Noir.” Some of the savvier might add “Willamette Valley,” but, of course, Oregon produces many more varieties than Pinot alone, and in other appellations as well.
One such region is Applegate Valley, a sub-appellation of the Southern Oregon AVA, and that’s where Troon Vineyard is located. Troon is by no means a new operation; Dick Troon started planting vines back in 1972. (Dick sold the winery to his good friend Larry Martin in 2003; you can read a brief history of Troon here.) Over the years, the focus has centered on seemingly unlikely varieties such as Vermentino, Zinfandel, Malbec and Tannat, to name just four. Sustainable farming is the practice (estate vineyards are L.I.V.E. and Salmon Safe Certified), with grapes crushed in the old school method, by foot. Natural yeasts are employed in fermentation, and they don’t do much in the way of using new oak or sulfur. In short, the wines are produced as naturally as possible, which is always a good thing, in our not-so-humble opinion.
Troon has been making something of a splash lately, not just because the wines are, for the most part, very good, but also due to the fairly recent addition of Craig Camp to the General Manager position. I’ve been virtually acquainted with Craig since before he took on the GM job at Cornerstone in Napa back in 2009, when we crossed paths and traded notes on various wine forums. Along with his many other considerable skills, Craig totally gets social media, and knows how to use it to promotes his business concerns; he demonstrated that during his tenure at Cornerstone, and, if anything, he’s doing so even more adroitly at Troon. Wine samples have been sent to a whole host of wine and food blogs, and the feedback has been quite positive, with more than a few rave reviews
2014 Troon Vineyard Blue Label Vermentino Applegate Valley, 80% Vermentino, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 12.5% alc., $24: Clean medium color; green apple citrus flavors and aromas, with some underlying mineral. Good intensity in the mouth, and while it shows good acids and length, for me, it lacks just a little of the zippy edge that I like; I thought the same thing on the second night. Still, it’s pleasant, enjoyable and nice with chicken, spinach and feta sausages. Find this wine
We’ve made a lot of friends and acquaintances via the internet since Gang of Pour first went online in 1996, and a fair number of those folks are winemakers. Some, like Brian Loring and Jim Lester were making wine well before we met, and some were enthusiasts who followed through on their passion and picked up the craft after we got to know each other. One of the latter is a fellow by the name of Vincent Fritzsche, who is doing good things in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with his eponymous Vincent Wine Company.
We first met Vince at Zap ’99; he even contributed a page of notes to our report from that festival. He and his family moved from the Bay area to Oregon several years ago and he established his winery in 2009, after years of apprenticing with producers in California and Oregon. A few months ago, Vince sent us 6 of his wines to try, and here are our impressions of them. The grapes are sourced from sustainably-farmed vineyards in the Willamette Valley and made in small batches at Grochau Cellars in the Eola Hills.
We tried the four Pinot Noirs in pairs, and the two whites individually.
That rascal “Backroad” Bob Summers showed up at Gang Central on his motorcycle at 8 AM in the morning on July 4th, looking for some breakfast and a place to lie low for 24 hours or so. We had an idea he might be coming, since he’d sent a box of wine the week previously, so we couldn’t very well turn him away. I should clarify that the “box of wine” was a 6-pack of really good shit, not a Franzia 3 Liter; Bob’s pretty good about those kinds of things.
We first met Bob back in 2004, at a memorable “offline” tasting in Cincinnati; we renewed acquaintances three years ago when ol’ Backroad showed up at my gig at The Bluebird in Leland, and then again two years ago around this same time of year when he spent a few dazzling days with us here in Day-twah.
It turned out to be a fine 4th of July indeed. We enjoyed a succession of fine foods, we drank our share of amazing wines and we drank some of your share too. There were two that stick out in my mind; both were northern Rhônes, 17 years old and were retrieved from Backroad’s 6-pack. Here are my impressions of each.
We don’t drink near as much Zinfandel as we did back in the day. We cut our wine teeth on some beautiful Burgess Zins back in the ‘70s, and we discovered Mr. Ridge at around the same time. I reported on the 4-day ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) festival in 2003, when my enthusiasm for the variety was still high, but after that, our interest started to drift more and more towards red Rhône varieties, and Zins showed up less and less in our reports. These days, we’re most likely to pull the cork on one of these when we get together with our partner-in-crime, Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan. (Click on images to enlarge.)
Case in point; a few weeks ago, Chef Kerr let it be known that he’d be in town for one night, and I thought it would be fun to honor his Gang moniker with something good, so I stopped by Holiday Market in Royal Oak and found a real beauty languishing on the shelves with a very affordable price tag affixed to it. As far as I can tell (or remember), the last time we tried an Edmeades Zin was in 2003, and that one was so enjoyable, I figured, “How bad can this one be?”
It turns out that it’s every bit as good as that 1998 model.
2013 Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, 15% alc., $18.99: Clean and dark in color, with a lovely, rich “zinberry” nose; rich and creamy chocolate textured on the palate, with a ripe core of fruit anchored with earthy undertones and accented with shades of briar and bramble. My notes read, “This is Zinfandel the way I like it;” it’s big, more old school than otherwise, and just a pleasure to drink. It’s also a terrific value; in case you didn’t notice, this one costs $2 less than that 1998. It has the structure to age and develop for several years, and both CZ and I have invested in four bottles each. I plan on buying more so that I have a few to drink in the near term while the others rest in the cellar. (I’d LOVE to get my hands on some of their single vineyard offerings to see what they are all about!) Find this wine
South Side Story; the wines of Southern France are the feature of the June 25th release and it’s Canada day on July 1st. Thus there are a few (some exceptional I might add) wines from both Niagara and British Colombia up to toast the holiday.
Wines of the month.
450155 TAPIZ ALTA COLLECTION MALBEC 2013 Mendoza, Argentina $19.95: Pure essence of blackcurrant with support from the likes of black raspberry, blueberry and Dutch licorice. Juicy and ripe; the palate is creamy, echoing the fruit that runs all the way to the long and well balanced finish. Find this wine
325076 CAVES D’ESCLANS WHISPERING ANGEL ROSÉ 2015 Côtes de Provence, France $26.95: Lovely aromas of bright strawberry, citrus, white tree fruit and mineral. Dry styled, plenty of red fruit and nectarine flavours with enough acidity to keep it in tune. Find this wine
SOUTH SIDE STORY WINES
177584 DOMAINE LES YEUSES LES EPICES SYRAH 2013 Pays d’Oc, Midi $15.95: Very fruit forward at first, but with some encouragement, aromas of cave air and wet forest floor appear. Ribena streaks across the palate, and some cherry notes are present as well. It has good structure, nice blackcurrant acidity and enough tannin to hold it for a year or two. Find this wine
295949 CHATEAU EUGENIE CUVEE RESERVEE DE L AIEUL CAHORS 2013 $22.95: Black toffee with dirt, dust, mocha, plum, blackberry, clove and star anise. The palate has a creamy texture, filled with mocha, plum and dark fruit. There are tannins to deal with too, but give it time, it will be tasty. Find this wine
446138 DOMAINE DE L’ALBA L’ERMITE 2013 Corbieres, Midi $17.00: Little if any fruit on the nose. Instead it shows off tree bark, sweet black licorice, wet earth and a strange metallic note. However, the palate is different; it has plenty of juicy plum and sweet cherry flavours, while the earthy side still shows its presence. Acidity is clean and the finish has all the fruit plus a helping of Christmas cake spice. Find this wine
712174 MAS DES BRESSADES LES VIGNES DE MON PURE CABERNET/SYRAH 2013 Vin de Pays du Gard, Midi $21.95: Blackberry takes centre stage and is supported well by a cast of both Szechwan and black pepper, charcoal, damp soil and mineral. It is ripe, the fruit is a powerhouse, but acids are low, the texture is globby and heat on the finish is discernable. Find this wine