if i were a beaver and went to a californian wine tasting, i would be a happy beaver
I went in to this trying to be positive. I tried. But I'm sorry I just don't get it. And I don't think they really get it. Just look at my tasting notes. For the whites, too much wood, not enough acidity. Which one to buy? The cheapest cuz they all taste kinda the same. Wood with pear, wood with apple, wood with caramel, wood with water.... get it? For the reds, too sweet, too chewy, too vanillalee. Big fat woody viogners with little or no acidity.... over-ripe, gunky sauvignons and don't even start me on chardonnay. As I said to the lovely and voluptuously charming Connie at the Esser table.. you are cursed with good weather. But here are the ones that shone, sort of.
White Wine (all quick sips)
Monterey Chardonnay 2001, Morgan Winery Nice touch of exotic fruits followed by a bit of toffee. French Oak, so you can maybe see where I am headed here.
Chardonnay 2002, Markham Very fresh, classic entry level chardonnay... green apples, slightly florale, probably really old barrels so the wood just rounds out the corners.
Chardonnay 2002, Arroyo seco, Riverstone Estates, J. Lhor This one surprised me. A nice mix of green apples, melon and exotic fruits, florale and reasonably oaked.
Chardonnay 2001, Cuvée Sauvage, Carneros, Franciscan Oakville Estate My favorite white of the day... could it be the cooler micro-climate? Burgundy-esque but with that caramelly richness that kills so many Cali Chards. Here it works because of the acidity, it stays fresh despite the richness.
Dolce, Far Niente Winery I can't tell you the year because the guy pouring the wine was to quick to through it back under the table. At $125 the 375ml, i can understand, but at least let me see the bottle. Dude. Enobled by botrytis, it has the classic semillon exotic twang, rich and sweet mixed with that wonderful odor of decay that botrytis adds to the best dessert wines. Not Yquem, but pretty impresssive.
Merlot 2001, Napa Valley, Franciscan Oakville Estates Another great effort, nice concentration of blue and blackberry, just slightly jammy, and slightly spicey on the finish.
Merlot 2001, Napa Valley, Duckhorn Vineyards Must admit that i have a penchant for cali Merlot, but only if the jam is counterbalanced with a bit of tannin.The Duckhorn had a ton of fruit (plums, strawberry, blackberry), a hint of chocolate, a touch of herbs with a finale of roasted caramel.
Profile 1999, Merryvale Expensive at $160 a bottle but with length and elegance. Another of the under the table bottles, but most of my buds that i shared with all thought i had snuck a bottle of Bordeaux into the tasting. It had a bit too much warmth for Bordaeux, but the tanins are real... I bought a couple to see how they'll age.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Napa Valley, carneros, Shafer The best true Cali cab that i tasted, loads of vanilla, blackberry jam with a beautifully spicey finish. Cool.
IO 2000, Rhone Blend, Santa Barbara County, Byron Vineyard This type of wine makes sense for California... the assemblage of Syrah, grenach and Mourvèdre bring loads of pepper, a hint of fennel and rich, integrated tanins. One whiff and you can feel the Mouvèdre ripening.
Pinot Noir... no one really got it right, either too much wood for the meager acidity or just way too much fruit for the meager amount of acidity. The Schug Carneros 2002 or La Crema Russian River 2002 were probably the best.