As you can tell by the look of the label, this wine has been a long-time member of my personal stash — a souvenir, if you will, from a somewhat impromptu pass through Paso Robles. When I ran into Maggie Tillman, the awesome chica who co-owns the winery with her father Bob, at a recent conference, she was so sweet to still remember me. I told her I still had the wine, that it was so special to me. She advised drinking it soon — her and Bob had recently opened one and it was just at the peak of its awesomeness. “Ah, well, I kind of want to save it for a special occasion,” I said. “Yeah, or a Tuesday,” replied Maggie. “When you’ve just had a day and need a goooood glass of wine.”
Yeah, life has been a roller-coaster lately. And Maggie was right. It wasn’t the day, the time, or the place that was of import. It was that I was able to chill-ax with my partner in wine (and life) crime and enjoy a solid Mourvedre, a delicious meal and, at least for a moment, forget about the twist and turns to come.
Winemake Bret Urness is a boots-in-the-dirt kind of winemaker and his wines speak to that. Sourcing from some of the best vineyards along the Central Coast (Ballard Canyon, Solpman, Duvarita anyone?, this guy makes some of the most earthy (but elegant) Rhone wines I’ve tasted — and yes that goes for the white wines as well.
I don’t know what made me stop in Tin City on a drive through the Central Coast. And I can’t say why, in particular, I walked into Bret’s urban tasting room. But I do know I’m glad I did and reliving that visit via this wine reminded me why I came away with a couple of bottles.
I came across Vino Noceto a few years ago, writing a travel article for the SF Chronicle. What I loved was the modern atmosphere of the tasting room that sits amongst the beautiful vineyard setting. This is in sharp contrast to what I loved about their wines. Light, delicate, youthful expressions of classically Italian grapes, it made me nostalgic for the days I spent in Italy. Even their more rustic blends are nuanced with site-specific characteristics and show very little winemaking interventions. But so much so for their single vineyard, single-varietal offerings, like this Sangiovese.
A Napa Cab that’s ready to drink straight out of the bottle? Yes please and thank you. Because sometimes you want a little rusticity, but not so much that the soil sinks in the bottle and the tannins are tacky on your tongue. Now this isn’t a varietal Cab, it is blended with a bit of Merlot and Malbec to help add a bit of softness and fresh acidity. Ah, Flora Springs…you’ve gone and done it again.
I am on a Chardonnay kick. Wait. Let me edit that. I am on a QUALITY Chardonnay kick. As in, recently, I threw out 3 bottles of Chardonnay after the first sip because they are still adhering to the old-new world expression: over-oaked, buttery spread. But trends are changing: everything that’s old is new again and that goes for the “Chablis-style” Chardonnay. I recently attended a panel discussion of winemakers making wine in this style (please read The Chardonnay Style Spectrum) and I am so pleased that the industry is headed this direction. And much of this is headed by the Oregon wine industry. Chardonnay may be the most widely planted white wine grape in California, but it is creeping up the Oregon ladder (currently still behind Pinot Gris) — and these guys are doing it right. Case and point: Panther Creek Cellars.