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.
I was introduced to Telaya when I was at an Idaho wine tasting at the El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, California. Yes, you heard me right. Idaho. I wasn’t as skeptical as you’d think. In fact, I was mostly just intrigued to taste from a region I’d never tasted from before.
You can learned more about what I learned at that event in this article. But, on a more personal than professional note, I have to say that my favorite wine of that day was the Telaya Wines 2016 Turas. The representatives of Visit Idaho who were also present at the tasting, were kind enough to send us away with a small bag packed with “a taste of Idaho,” if you will. And I was pleased to see that it included Telaya Wines varietal Mourvedre. This is that wine…
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.
Earthy, muddy, murky, funky. These are the words I think of when I think of Mourvedre and the qualities that endear the variety to me. Even in its rosé form, there’s something rustic, even animalistic, about it.
As my winemaking friend Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines notes, “Warner always produces a darker, more brooding style of Mourvèdre…this ‘funks’ the wine up a bit and gives it spice and structure.”
And yet my winemaking friend Steve Grower from Crux Winery said, “I’ve been tempted to say ‘Mourvedre has a je ne sais quoi‘ to avoid having to actually describe it.”
Indeed to pin Mourvedre down to a single style — well you shouldn’t tame a wild thing I suppose. All I can say as an introduction to this Mourvedre based on my experiences…