Awhile back I had the opportunity to visit Amador County, located along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and explore what this humble wine country had to offer. When I was given the assignment, my editor said to me “What do you think about Amador County?” My response: “I don’t know what that is.” Thank God I was sent on that assignment because what I discovered was a little nook in California where ancient varietals, old-fashioned winemaking, and family-owned farming live on. The humble attitude, along with the respect for tradition, is what makes the place, the people, and, yes, the wines stand out.

You can read the full Amador article, published in the SF Chronicle, in the link.

About the Wine: The Amador Cellars 2012 Reserve GSM is made from 37% Grenache, 32% Syrah, and 31% Mourvedre all harvested from the Amador Cellars estate vineyards at 1,500 feet elevation in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley. The vineyard is primarily comprised of decomposed granite, and the region as a whole enjoys a Mediterranean-like climate.

All of Amador Cellars wines are unfined and unfiltered and, interestingly, the winery — which is own and operated by the Long family — is one of the only wineries in California still using a basket press for all their wines.

15% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Amador Cellars 2012 Reserve GSM and breathe in smoke wood chips, night time air, and macerated boysenberries. The wine appears rusty rouge-pink on the pour — and is immediately aromatic as it flows from bottle to glass. Once settled into the glass, the GSM presents a darker, brown-maroon shade, but is still completely see through.

Initial aromas are of black cherry, cherry wood, deep rose petals, and a certain acidity. Swirl and open up a floral perfume of violets and a hint of lavender. Add to those initial fruit scents a bit of black plumb, a background of currants. Lift those nose above the mouth of the glass and just breathe — breathe it all in because it is beautiful.

The palate of the Amador Cellars 2012 Reserve GSM is immediately full, but plush and pillowy. The acidity rises and as it does, so do the tannings. The tongue slightly dries toward the finish, but the acidity keep the tastebuds at attention for a borderline heat-like sensation. Dominant flavors are of oak wood, basil, black cherry, a hint of sassafras, and a paprika-level of heat on the finish (though not necessarily the flavor of the red pepper).

Overall the body is medium, maintaining an open texture with a solid finish. The acid is a solid medium, providing that touch of heat just around the perimeter of the mouth. And the tannins are present, working, providing just a touch of texture, but ultimately solidifying the structure of the GSM as a whole.

Food Pairing: I paired the Amador Cellars 2012 Reserve GSM with a herb crusted lamb rack and pea-mint purée, with a side of beetroot salad tossed with craisens, onion, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

This wine loves a meal like this. The gamey-ness of the lamb meat along with its rendered down, crispy fat bits perfectly paired with the earthy elements of the wine and helped round out the palate, calming the tannins, and providing a more seamless textural sensation in general. Meanwhile the herbaceous pea purée, as well as the salad, did well to lift the floral notes in the wine, while the vinaigrette specifically elevated the acidity and, thus, the fruits found in the wine.

More Info: I purchased the Amador Cellars 2012 Reserve GSM at the tasting room. Price: $36. Currently sold out. For more information about Amador Cellars, their wines, and to purchase their available wines directly, please visit the Amador Cellars website.

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