I came across Barton Family Wines during my most recent Paso Robles visit. It’s absolutely one of my top recommended wine stops when visiting the area. Winemaker and proprietor, Joe Barton, took me through a full line up of his current releases (including those in his Grey and Grey Wolf line). I loved that his Chenin Blanc had actual body and substance; appreciated that his rosé still had a bit of tannic red wine quality; and was impressed by his confidence to bottle a single-varietal (face-puckering) Tannat. But what truly turned me on, the wine I walked away with, was the Barton Family Wines Hot Blooded — a single-varietal bottling of 100% Counoise.

About the Wine: A little inside info: The name “Hot Blooded” comes from the fact that Counoise is one of the, if not the, last grapes picked at the end of harvest. By then, the farmer is tired, cranky, ready to be done. And Joe, who works quite closely with all his grape growers, says at that point, he doesn’t even want to come near his Counoise farmer — he’s so “hot blooded.”

Counoise is a rare grape to find 100% varietal bottlings. It’s often blended in Rhone-inspired wines, adding a peppery notes and a good kick of acidity to red blends. So if you find one — done well — snatch it up.

The Barton Family Wines Hot Blooded is made from 100% Counoise grapes harvested from Glenrose Vineyard in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles. The juice was fermented with 50% whole cluster to complete dryness. Secondary, malolactic fermentation took place in barrel. The wine aged for 18 months in 100% neutral French oak.

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Peel off the wax seal and pop the cork of this deliciously mysterious wine. Immediate aromas from the bottle bring to mind dark, dried red fruits, smashed berries, and a floral bouquet of soft-petaled pink and red flowers with just a hint of green grass herbaceousness.

In the glass, Barton Family Wines Hot Blooded is a dusty, rusty purple and, yet, you can see right through the glass — I believe a nod to the wine’s dual complexity and ease of drinkability. The aromas, once poured, are quite similar to those found from the neck of the bottle with an added element of damp dirt with micro herbs just beginning to sprout. Swirl and take one more deeper breath and there’s just a bit of heat, warm spices, reminiscent of the baking spices used in an apple pie.

The palate is plush, lush, pillowy even, with a good acidic line from beginning to end — with just a kick up one notch towards the finish, lingering with just a bit of heat on the tip of the tongue.

Flavors are perfectly balanced: plump black cherries, baking spices, and dark forest greener — a well-rounded cohesion of sweet to savory to earth.

The tannins are a solid medium. It’s enough to keep that lush, plush mouthfeel, but not enough to grip the tongue with any seriousness. Once the wine opens up a bit (about 30 minutes), there’s an added oaky element that’s reminiscent of walking into a winery’s barrel cellar. It’s still subtle and, thus, quite pleasant in the context of the flavor profile and mouthfeel.

The finish — is just perfection. It’s reminiscent of a home-baked cookie: dried black cherries, pure dark cacao, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander.

At the end of the day, these flavors are so engaging, and the body light enough (a good medium-light) that you really can’t stop drinking. And I think that’s ok.

Food Pairing: I have the perfect pairing for you. Moroccan-spiced salmon and a quinoa pilaf (quinoa, sautéed butternut squash and leek, dried cranberries, and toasted almonds).

The wine is so light it can take on a fully-spiced, meaty/oily salmon. The quinoa, squash, and leeks pull on those earthy elements. The nuts and the cranberry play with that “cookie” aftertaste. I’m telling you it was just perfect. I don’t even want to suggest an alternative. Seriously.

More Info: I received my bottle of Barton Family Wines Hot Blooded as a gift. (Cheers, Joe!) Read more about my experience at Barton Family Wines and about winemaker Joe Barton on my article Winery Review: Barton Family Wines & Grey Wolf Cellars.

Because the Counoise is a limited release, sales are limited to club members only. To find out more about Barton Family Wines and to purchase any other of their quality wines directly (or to become a member!) please visit the Barton Family Wines website.

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1 Comment on Barton Family Wines Hot Blooded: 2014 Counoise

  1. nice….Counoise is one of those obscure varietals we don’t see much of in CA…I actually have a couple from another central coast producer that I may open soon as you have “uncloaked” the mystery….thank you..

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