Nat Komes, General Manager of Flora Springs (and son of founder John Komes), and I have a few things in common — a love of Halloween and a love of good wine. Nat put his hands together when he created the Skull Ring Red Blend under Flora Spring’s sister label JN Wines. You may see the label and think “gimmicky;” you may read the blend — Syrah and Petite Verdot — and think “scary.” But I tell you to cast these assumptions aside because if there’s anything I know, it’s that Flora Springs crafts excellently balanced wines, especially when it comes to their red blends. And this crazy Skull Ring is no exception…
Just in time for the holiday season, Cindy Cosco — owner and winemaker of Passaggio Wines — is about to release 7 new red wines. In fact, if you’re in the area, you should join Cindy for her Fall Holiday Wine Release Party this coming November 11 and 12. But, if you just can’t wait for something amazing from this passionate winemaker, then you’re going to want to connect with this red blend — available to purchase and ready to drink — now!
I present to you Passaggio Wines 2015 Connect Red Blend…
Hello Cinsault, you are usually blended with Grenache, Syrah, and/or Mourvèdre. Because of your light skin, you’re a fun grape to blend into a Rhône-style rosé (often using the saignée method), adding a bit of funky-perfume to the mix. Hello Cinsault, meet Mr. Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines — he loves you just as you are.
“I refer to this wine as my ‘MTV Unplugged’ wine,” says Larry, “It’s like a young singer sitting in the corner playing acoustic guitar and singing unmiced, more of a ‘whisper’ of a wine – it does not scream like so many other red wines do.” So…let’s jam shall we?
Mourvèdre is a funny grape. It thrives in warm weather, is a late bloomer and, thus, is usually the last variety picked in the vineyard (and is often the bane of a grape grower’s existence). What’s more, the grape clusters are quite compact, making it more susceptible to disease and mildew. But it’s these somewhat frustrating qualities that give the Mourvèdre wine its signature tastes and textures: high alcohol and high tannins. Wonky and somewhat imbalanced on its own, Mourvèdre tends to serve best as a blending ingredient (most notably as the M in Rhone-inspired GSM blends). But every once in awhile, if the weather and the harvest are just right, vintners can craft a Mourvèdre that can stand on its own.
What I love about Marsanne is it’s anti-white-wine attitude. Native to the Northern Rhône valley, it’s most commonly associated with its counterpart, Rousanne, creating the classically-styled white Rhône blend. Most often, the dominant varietal in the blend is, in fact, the Rousanne, which brings out a bit more fruit and floral flavors, along with a smooth, rounded texture. It’s Marsanne, however that highlights more of the “meatiness,” if you will — often with a bit of nuttiness, spices, and a textural mouthfeel. In other words, it gives the white blend its substance.
However, we don’t see a lot of Marsanne bottled on its own. Despite being a seemingly “strong” wine, the grape is a hard one to grow — one must not pick it too early, lest the grape is underdeveloped and lacking in flavor, nor can one pick it too late, lest it over-ripen, producing a funky-colored skin and a perceived sweetness with flavors like honey or even raisens. So how do you get this Goldilocks of a grape “just right” — with the proper ratio of flavor to texture — and produce a stand-alone, single-varietal wine? Let’s ask an expert, Larry Schaffer, of Tercero Wines who (spoiler alert to this review) definitely got it just right.