I don’t know if you’ve seen my deep dark dungeon where I store my wine. Ok, it’s a coat closet. This COVID thing’s got me like “When can we finish construction on the awesomely designed—and legit—wine cellar?!?!?. Ah well, like Indiana Jones, I lit a torch and ducked beneath the dusty remains of corpses who traversed these parts before me. Wine to the left, wine to right, wine all around me. How…how am I to know which is the right bottle for tonight? I can barely see. Quickly…quickly I must make my choice before the walls collapse around me and a bolder of a wine cask comes rolling towards me. Grab something! Grab anything! Now Run!!!!
In my most recent, very generous allocation of Panther Creek Cellars wines, I received samples of each single-vineyard bottling of the winery’s estate Pinot Noirs. How does one choose which vineyard to taste from next? I simply went with the name. Let’s face it, we’re all quarantined/shut-in-place and *probably* feeling a tad bit more lazy than usual. Or is that just me?
I came across Crystal Basin Cellars during an industry event—actually it was a bit more like an informal gathering—of grapegrowers and winemakers in El Dorado County. The topic of discussion was lesser known varieties that thrive in this portion of the Sierra Foothills. We tasted some really interesting (and delicious) wines that day. A lot of what you may call “rustic” reds actually have an excellent “cool-climate” expression due to the colder air that sinks down through the Sierras and settles along the vines in the foothills. Indeed, Mourvèdre, a fun, funky grape that can be as carnal as you like it from one terroir but as delicate as a flower petal from another, has found a good home here in El Dorado, maintaining its innate structure, achieving full phenolic ripeness, but holding on to the much needed acidity to lift the beautiful fruit flavors on the nose and on the palate.
Who likes a cool-climate Syrah? *Raises hand.* Syrah is one of the varieties that my partner in wine crime and I don’t agree on—meaning, he always wants it and I’m way picky about it. It was when I was working on an article for Edible Silicon Valley, discovering the Rhône wines of the South Bay (read: Where We Rhône: Wine Trends In Silicon Valley) that I discovered the broad range of styles that can come from the Syrah grape. And it was during an interview with renowned winemaker Ross Cobb that it dawned on me that I truly gravitate toward the subtle, but undoubtedly structured, Syrahs grown in cooler climates. “We’ve always known that this area (Sonoma Coast) is an outstanding place for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” Cobb said. “But I’ve always thought that it’s also an outstanding cool Northern Rhône climate here.” He’s right. (Read more: Technical Review: Anaba Wines).
Well, today I bring to you that experience—that experience of subtlety, finesse, structure, and a small snippet of the Northern Rhône with a taste of Radio-Coteau’s 2014 Las Colinas Sonoma Coast Syrah.
My latest shipment from Panther Creek Cellars came with single-vineyard Pinot Noir from each of the winery’s estate vineyards. Super fun. I had the chance to compare the vineyards last year, so was so pleased to get to experience the 2017 release this year. The new kid on the block: Maverick Vineyard. In fact, this vineyard, located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Oregon was only planted seven years ago, in 2013. For those of you unfamiliar with a vine’s growth cycle, typically the first three years of a vine’s life does not produce any fruit (or at least not enough or enough quality fruit to make wine). So, I imagine, 2017 was really the first harvest that yielded enough fruit to make enough sellable wine. And even then, only 150 cases were produced. So, how did the new kid fare?