Slave to the Vine: Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand
by Darren Delmore
Wine. It makes us feel so cool — sipping at home next to a roaring fire; ordering something unpronounceable at a the latest Michelin-starred restaurant; being seen, glass in hand, at the local hipster tasting room. It’s unfortunate that in this life-is-a-constant-photo-op day and age, wine has become a prop, a fashion-icon even. And for wine drinkers (as opposed to wine appreciators or wine students), the story stops there. To those wine drinkers I say: You know nothing.
What we pour into our glass is not a drink. It is a story — a story of a farmer who planted his parcel to vines; a story of climate and soil; a story of farmhands who pruned, picked, and sorted; a story of cellarhands who pressed, pumped, and racked. Forget the bottle, forget the label, forget your crystal stemware. Wine’s story is rustic, it’s dirty, it’s gritty. Wine’s story is a story of hard labor and hard decisions. Wine’s story: If you haven’t lived it, you don’t really know.
Darren Delmore has lived it and shares his story here.
Workman/Ayer is the story of a couple who shares a passion for California Central Coast vines and wines. They’re an extremely boutique operation, with just 100 – 200 cases each of their current releases (which at the moment consists of one white and one red wine). So when Michel Ayer kindly sent me a bottle of each, I was eager to learn a bit more about the man and woman behind the bottle — and honored to taste what was inside.
When visiting Paso Robles, you’re pretty much in Rhone Ranger town. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre are as common here as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are along the Sonoma Coast. But if you’re looking to break away from the Paso-norm, maybe try a few obscure varietals, and have some outdoors-y fun while you taste, then your next stop is the family owned and operated Castoro Cellars: You’re in for some “Dam Fine Wine.”
Bailiwick Wines is a fun little secret discovered by a friend at a local supermarket. What this small-lot producer’s wines were doing at a South Bay grocer, I do not know, but I am thankful that it happened. And as much as I like keeping a good secret all to myself, I also believe that good wine is worth sharing. So, I’m going to share my bottle of Bailiwick Wines Sonoma County Pinot Noir with you…but you have to promise to keep this secret between us.
About the Wine: Bailiwick Wines is a very small-lot winery, producing as little as 40 and no more than 470 cases per bottling. It’s owned and operated by brothers Paul and Brian Vias who, after years of making “basement wine,” finally left their high-tech careers to focus on Bailiwick Wines full time as of 2009. They source their grapes from all over California but use Old World winemaking techniques they learned while traveling and studying abroad. And what they produce are classically-styled wines that express the flavors of the New World — it’s an aesthetic balance that’s hard to execute, but they’ve seemed to master the art (at least when it comes to this Sonoma County Pinot Noir).
The Bailiwick Wines 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from 4 separate vineyards: Juul Vineyard (Green Valley AVA, Sonoma County), Silver Pines Vineyard (Sonoma Mountain AVA, Sonoma County), Chileno Valley Vineyard (Marin County), and Kendrick Vineyards (Marin County).
The grapes were harvested and fermented separately, blended just before barrel aging. The wine aged in French oak barrels (37% new) for 17 months.
Flavor Profile: From the bottle the Bailiwick 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir emits immediate scents of purple grapes, red strawberries along with a bit of burnt rubber in the background.
In the glass, the wine looks like a true fall flower: a dusty rose with light-yellow petal perimeter. The initial aromas are a fun combination of cherry candy, red flower perfume and that warming sensation from a good hit of alcohol. Swirl and sniff again, some of that initial alcohol will blow off and you’ll get the most subtle essence of a fog-filled ocean breeze.
For all the fruit and floral on the nose, this Pinot Noir is quite earthy — dusty earthy, like sinking into the warm sand at the beach. Let the wine linger and the mid-palate will bring forth some beautiful baking spices (I’m thinking nutmeg, cardamom, and hints of vanilla), which leads to a finish reminiscent of fresh baked cookies. In fact, after you swallow, if you close your lips and breathe through your knows, you’ll get a internal scent of blood orange and chocolate chips that perfectly complement those baking spices. On the palate, the wine leaves a twinge of heat (you know adding a dose of chili is all the choco-chip rage), which gives the finish its solidity.
Tannins here are medium, never over powering the flavor or texture; acidity is a thin, thin line from start to finish, but present enough to pull forward all the different flavor elements.
Food Pairing: I enjoyed the Bailiwick 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir with a cedar plank salmon glazed in a homemade honey-ginger balsamic, served alongside an her-based salad dressed with mandarins, feta, and dried cranberries.
What I loved about this pairing was how the fruit elements in the salad pulled those fruit aromas, sensed on the nose, forward on the palate. Meanwhile, the very light, dusty-earth texture of the wine perfectly cut through the fats and oils of the salmon, perfectly balancing the weight of the meal as a whole.
More Info: I received this bottle of Bailiwick Wines 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir as a gift. (Cheers Dave!) Suggested Retail: $36. For more information about Bailiwick and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Bailiwick Wines website.
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California Sangiovese can be a hard sell to hard-core Italian wine lovers. Can the climate and terroir of our sunny state create wines that pay true homage to the rootstock from whence it came? There are more winemakers producing Sangiovese in California than at least I certainly realize. And I’ve tasted quite a few — at various events and tastings around town — and I can say with confidence not all Sangiovese is made alike. It’s kind of a “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” situation. But if you’re going to try a Sangiovese that isn’t from the motherland, then I encourage you to seek a producer who’s focused on Italian varietals and Italian winemaking methods.
Say hello to Luna Vineyards. And to those of you only familiar with the Luna you see on the grocery store shelves, say hello to Luna’s elevated line — their Black Label. Say hello to Luna Vineyards Sangiovese Classico.