In this video interview, I speak with James MacPhail, owner and winemaker of Tongue Dancer Wines—a boutique winery based in Sonoma, California. Warning, we do get a little wine-nerdy and chat about everything from clonal selections, Sonoma Coast topography and microclimates, and winemaking techniques. A full list of the wines are below the video, along with my independent tasting notes and critiques.
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2018 Pratt Vineyard Chardonnay
Appearance: medium lemon
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—lemon, lime, cherry blossom, green apple, green melon, cantaloupe, just ripe white nectarine, lime leaf
Palate: high acidity, medium alcohol, medium body, medium (+) intensity of flavors—all of the above add a touch of lemon grass, add a hint of toast and flint
Finish is medium (+) in length
Conclusion: This wine is technically very good, but I’m making the argument for outstanding despite the fact that the finish falls just shy of long at a medium plus. The refreshing fruits that are primarily in the citrus/green fruit family are held up front and center by the mouth watering acidity. It’s a cool, crisp, refreshing wine, in contrast to the first’s bodacious voluptuousness. Though more linear, it’s no less complex, as noted by the hints of flintiness, that touch of smoke. Again, I think there was some lees contact here, perhaps less or no stirring so as not to impart overwhelming flavors or give that richness as seen in the above expression. There is that drying phenolic grip that, in this case, does end the wine sooner than the above. However, in this case, I feel that shorter finish is an inviting one—as in it invites you to take another sip. And the wine is light and lively enough you can do so without feeling excessively weighty or heavy on the palate (or, I suppose, in the body).
2018 Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay
Appearance: medium lemon
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—lemon, chamomile, yellow and green apple, dewy grass, wet stone, just ripe white peach and nectarine, vanilla, toast, cream, biscuit, pastry
Palate: medium (+) acid, medium (+) body, high alcohol, medium (+) intensity of flavors—all of the above add just a hint of light caramel
Finish is long
Conclusion: Outstanding. While I sense there was some percentage of ML, time on lees, and perhaps some oak aging, none of these secondary characteristics overwhelm the palate. Instead, they work to give the body a rounded texture, a center-palate weight, and a lifted expression of those primary fruits that extend into a long lingering finish. Additionally, there’s just the slightest phenolic grip that does not in anyway impart bitterness, but adds an extra textural component lending to some intrigue for both the tongue and brain and the overall complexity of the wine.
Though it’s only a 2018, I’m even getting hints of things to come with its development, specifically that note of caramel and there’s almost a nutty quality if you allow the wine to linger on the palate and listen to what your back breath is telling you after the wine is gone. Structurally—acid, alcohol, the touch of phenolics, all lend itself to age-ability. While white wines are not classically considered ageable wines, I’d be curious to see what kind of decadence this one develops five or more years down the line.
2017 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Appearance: Pale ruby
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—smoke/toast, chocolate, red cherry, black cherry, red raspberry, wild strawberry, vanilla, black tea
Palate: medium (+) acidity, medium fine-grained tannins, high alcohol, medium (+) intensity—all of the above
Finish is long
Conclusion: This is a very good wine that shows ripe expressions of primary fruits carried along nicely by the relatively high acidity. This intensity is carried through to the finish, which is long and lingering with those floral black tea notes in conjunction with the ripe red fruits, namely that wild strawberry and rhubarb. The delicate use of oak, complements the primary flavors with subtle, but decadent aromas and flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and a hint of toasty smoke. While the wine is overall well balanced with wonderful intensity, complexity, and length, I am making the argument that the high alcohol is just a touch too high. It brings on an immediate warmth to the palate and carries through along with the wine through to the finish. While this doesn’t completely overwhelm the tasting in any way (indeed, I’m sure many would not even notice this minutia), it is a factor that I feel is slightly out of balance and, thus, I am calling the wine as very good and not outstanding. But it is, in fact, very good.
While this wine may have the capacity to age, I believe its best enjoyment is in the immediate future, within the next three to five years, but no longer.
2018 Putnam Vineyard Pinot Noir
Appearance: medium ruby
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—blackberry, boysenberry, marionberry, chocolate, black cherry, vanilla, hint toast/smoke/charred wood, hint tomato leaf, fresh violets
Palate: high acid, medium body, soft and fine-grained medium tannins, high alcohol, medium (+) intensity of flavors—all of the above add cranberry
Finish is medium (+)
Conclusion: This is a very good Pinot Noir that shows ripe expressions that span both black and red fruits. While the alcohol is relatively high and does impart a warmth both in the palate and in the chest, it neither overwhelms the flavor profile nor the finish. The tannins are a solid medium and well-incorporated into the wine with the fine-grained and soft texture. There’s a bit of decadence here, imparted not only by the voluptuousness of the ripe fruits, but also with addition of the oak that adds a background of chocolate, vanilla, and a kind of smoky/charred wood sensation. It is a hardier expression of the variety, best paired with a meal than enjoyed on its own. And, yes, I think the wine does have the capacity to age given its structural components (acid, alcohol, tannin, and good intensity of flavors/aromas), though I wouldn’t recommend it for long-term extended aging (beyond 7 years), and I do not blame you if you want to enjoy it now. (I am.)
Wines were received as samples in conjunction with this tasting and interview. For more information about Tongue Dancer Wines, James MacPhail, and to purchase his wines directly, please visit tonguedancerwines.com
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Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**
Great interview! Thank you for sharing this.
Cheers! Thanks for reading and sharing!