Thus far I’ve reviewed every wine The Withers has to offer, but saved Mr. Burgess for last. Why? Syrah heavy, it was probably the most intimidating of the Rhone style red blends the friendly winery produces. And a tasting back in January at trade and media event seemed to prove my perceptions correct. So I was hesitant to finally pop Mr. Burgess open for myself — but when a meal is just aching for the intensity of this style, one must cast fears aside…
I haven’t had Croatian wine since I actually visited Croatia. And that was some time ago — long enough ago that I can’t recall what kinds of wines the country produces let alone what individual bottles tasted like. (This was pre-wine note-taking.) So I was thrilled when fellow bloggers/wine-sellers/good friends John and Irene Ingersoll of topochinesvino.com offered to send me one of their favs. This wine, paired with a mouth-watering Croatian-inspired meal, was the perfect way to take me back to the Mediterranean.
I can’t think of a better way to introduce this wine than with the story of how it got its name…
From Yorkville Cellars Founder, Ed Wallo:
Richard I was the King of England from 1189-1199. Along with the kingship of England, Richard also inherited Dukedoms and Counties across Europe too numerous to list here, one of which was Aquitaine, known to us in modern times as Bordeaux, in the south west of France. Richard is famous for spending very little time in England, preferring to spend most of his time fighting. However, he understood that his war machine required one very important thing: top quality wine.
In 1199 Richard signed a charter that granted, for the first time, self governance to a group of the King’s subjects. The city of Saint-Émilion on the Gironde River, just northeast of what is now the city of Bordeaux, received the right to govern itself in exchange for quality-control checking every barrel of wine that was shipped from their port to Richard’s troops. If the sampled barrel passed the taste test, the side was burned with the King’s royal seal. If it didn’t, it was hurled into the river.
The six Noble Red grapes that were planted in Richard’s time are some of the same ones we have planted in our vineyard at Yorkville today. Those same varietals all blended together (as in this blend) was the wine Richard, with his refined palate, was gulping down after the heat of battle.
Cool story, no? So let us taste with our refined palates, this most royal of red blends…
The Withers Winery crafts some bodacious (yes, I just used that word) Chardonnays and some elegant Pinot Noirs. But their passion — if not their claim to fame — are Rhone-inspired wines from the self-proclaimed “Rhone Zone” of El Dorado County. They craft some excellent single varietals including the somewhat obscure Counoise, but I just love how they play with the classic GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend. In fact, when I received my shipment of The Withers wines, I was delighted to see three different takes — each one highlighting a different grape. So while the previously reviewed Bel Canto was more of a GMS, this 2014 Ruben is more of a MSG (but the good kind) — highlighting my favorite of the three ingredients, Mourvedre.
I’m not going to lie — I’ve heard mixed reviews about Justin Winery. It seems my fellow wine enthusiasts either absolutely love or will have nothing to do with this big name winery. But when I decided to do this week-long series dedicated to Rhone, I couldn’t ignore this Paso Robles icon.
When Justin Baldwin first purchased his piece of Paso in 1981 he — like so many others back then — orginally intended to work exclusively with the classic Bordeaux varieties and craft Bordeaux-style blends. Of course, as we all know, Paso Robles is kind of California’s mini-slice of the Rhone Valley and vintners there can’t help but at least have one or two Rhone-inspired wines in their portfolio.
Interesting enough, when I was studying for my recent Rhone article (Read Where We Rhone), I found out that, as odd as it sounds, blending Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon is not that uncommon — in the New World or the Old. And so it is that I decided to include Justin’s Savant red blend in this series.