Archive for February, 2008

images1.jpg Larry Turley and winemaker Ehren Jordan are well known for their Zinfandels from Napa Valley vineyards. Their Zinfandels tend to be made in a big, ripe style. Their 2000 Atlas Peak Zinfandel weighs in at 15.7% alcohol — and I do get some heat (ok, quite a bit of heat, but it softens with decanting and some air time) on the nose as well as some candied fruit and stewed cherries. Very new world in style — dense, extracted, rich and concentrated. Dark berry jam, cherry, some tobacco, oak…impressive balance for its size, silky tannins and a nice finish.

This wine was made from grapes grow organically in red volcanic soil. 500 cases produced.

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thackrey1.jpgWe need more winemakers like Sean Thackrey — and we certainly need more people like him as well.

People often like to pose the question — if you could invite anyone from any point in history to dinner, but could only invite so many people, who would you invite? Sean Thackery is one of my people. Considered by many to be a maverick, a rebel and an eccentric — but also one of the most philosophical, intelligent, soulful and gifted people in the wine industry.

Thackery did not get a degree in viticulture or enology, he studied art history. His wines are made with his intuition, what his palate tells him and tips from his collection of ancient oenological texts (the world’s largest such collection in his opinion).

He has been making wine in a Bolinas eucalyptus grove for more than 20 years. The first wine he produced was a Cabernet Sauvignon, but quickly moved to other varietals. Today, Thackrey says he hasn’t bought a Bordeaux or a Napa Cabernet in 25 years. “They’re just too damn polite for me,” he says. “Why drink a wine that you wouldn’t like if it were a person? It’s like sitting next to someone and everything they say has to be so proper.”

Tastings of his wines reveal consistently powerful, intense flavors and rugged tannins — and there is a signature minty, eucalyptussy component as well. His wines are thought provoking and complex. Unlike almost every wine in the world, Thackrey believes his taste better the day after they are opened — and I actually might agree.

“My wines are like a person,” he says. “They talk, they change, they tell you something different every sip. They taste different from one day to the next, from one hour to the next. That kind of complexity is what makes wine interesting.”

Thackrey certainly has his followers and his critics. There are those that love his wines and others who do not — and many of his thoughts do not find a lot of acceptance from some in the industry.

His operation is quite small (3,000-5,000 cases annually), only recently adding a forklift and a bottling line. He didn’t learn how to make wine by going to UC Davis — and has both feet firmly planted in the art, only sticking his toe into the science (but understands it does have its place in the process). Thackrey often notes that there is no word for “wine-maker” in French, adding that if “chefs were trained the way wine-makers are, you would rarely eat out.”

Thackrey says that each time he gets back from harvest, he turns off the engine, opens the cab, and looks back at the truckbed stacked with grapes, tons of them, in hundreds of boxes. He just looks; and after a very particular moment of silence, says to myself, “OK, Sean, there it is. Do something.”

The first thing he does first is very interesting. After the grapes are picked, he lets them sit and “rest” at least 24 hours outside his home, a technique that one UC Davis professor says nobody else does today. Thackrey says the idea goes back at least to the Greek poet Hesiod’s book “Works and Days” (circa 700 B.C.).

“(Letting the grapes rest) is commonplace in wine literature until the middle of the 19th century,” Thackrey says. “That’s what impressed me about it. It’s a lot of work to do this, so they must have thought it was accomplishing some sort of useful purpose.”

Thackrey does use a machine to crush the grapes, but he pours the juice into open-top vats to ferment beneath the stars and eucalyptus trees — a technique that fell out of fashion more than 200 years ago.

Thackrey reads 7 languages. In addition to making wine, he is also creating an online archive of original texts that document the history of wine and wine making. He has personally transcribed all of these documents and the library currently contains about 100 transcriptions. He hopes this will be one of his huge contributions to the wine world, but his contributions go well beyond — and he is so deserving of more attention, respect and adoration.

Visit his website to learn more about the man, his wines and his online archive of original texts.

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27906.jpgThis wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Sangiovese (30%) and Petit Verdot (10%). Nice raspberry, cherry and dark berry components with a little graphite, tar — and a bit of damp forest floor. Ample body with lush, silky tannins. 13.5% alcohol. 1,650 cases produced.

96 points and number 29 on the Wine Spectators 100 Top Wines from 2005. Very nice wine, but more along the lines of 91-93 points in my book. Certainly not a great value, but an enjoyable bottle of wine.

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Ash Hollow is a small boutique winery in Washington state. It is an up-and-comer that produces great Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer.

Ash Hollow is headed by managing partner John Turner and consulting winemaker/partner Steve Clifton. great-grandfather homesteaded a farm in Walla Walla County in 1870 which is still in existence and farmed by family today. John’s wife, Jacqui, and her family are also fourth generation farmers in the Walla Walla Valley. Clifton was a brilliant choice as winemaker given his experience and having gained some serious respect from his peers. In the December 2001 issue of The Wine Advocate, Robert M. Parker Jr. named his 18 wine personalities of the year; 3 of them were American; and one of them was Steve Clifton. Parker listed Steve as one of the three great North American winemakers for the year stating, “the Brewer-Clifton offerings were the single greatest revelations of my 2001 tastings.”

I bought this wine after seeing it reviewed on an episode of Wine Library TV. It was also rated 90 points by the Wine Enthusiast.

It’s classic Gewurtz spice and candied fruit on the nose and palate. Lemons predominate on the palate — reminded me of filling my mouth with an entire box of lemonheads — really beautiful citrus. This wine cries for seafood. Great balance, acidity and a nice body with a slightly oily and creamy texture. Crisp and lingering finish. Stunning wine and a great value.

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I have been looking for this for quite a while — yes, it was like $70 a bottle when released — but still the best deal around.

The Wine Exchange just got an allocation — this will probably be the last of it — I am sure it will be sell out very quickly.

You can buy it here.

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18038.jpgThis is indeed from Spain, but could be easily mistaken for a great wine from Southern France. Some berry (a little jammy), a little kirsch, white pepper and chocolate on the nose. Beautiful balance and medium body with raspberry, some graphite, stunning minerality and some white pepper. Great mouthfeel with a clean and solid finish. This is really a lovely wine and great value. Recommended.

Parker notes

The Wine Advocate From a vineyard planted in pure slate, the 2002 Seleccio Vinyes Velles is an unfined/unfiltered blend of 60% old vine Grenache (50-80 years), and the rest Carignan, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. An intense, fragrant bouquet of raspberry and blueberry jam intermixed with a liquid minerality jumps from the glass of this deep ruby/purple-colored 2002.

The beautiful aromatics are followed by a medium-bodied, elegant, precise, well-delineated, fresh, lively red. This singular effort demonstrates the potential of this little-known Spanish viticultural region. Drinking well now, it should age nicely for 5-6 years. Wow! What a discovery broker Jorge Ordonez made with these terrific wines from a sub-appellation of Ampurdan in the Costa Brava. Could Costa Brava be the next Priorat?

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randalls_1985_45785899.gifI thought it would be interesting to go back to a 2000 Bordeaux given that it was the last good Bordeaux vintage prior to the 2005.

Old world Bordeaux on the nose, nice fruit though a bit lean — cherry, currant, licorice and a little toast and some vanilla — tannins have started to soften a little — but still quite firm, nice balance and lingering finish.

I think Tanzer rated the 2005 91-93 points (which is quite high for Tanzer) and I think it is also selling for about $60-$75 (and moving hire…) a bottle. I would say the 2000 is a few notches below (88ish….maybe), but I think I paid about $20-$25 a bottle when I bought it.

They say that in 2005 everyone made good wine in Bordeaux — and it might be worth buying some of the wines in the $18-$26 range if you can find them — I expect prices moved up a little this week with the Spectator rating of the Bordeaux vintage. There aren’t many opportunities like the 2005 Bordeaux. Unlike many other parts of the world, they can’t irrigate, it is against the law — so they really are more prone to inconsistency — and while the 2000 vintage was very well received, there was not the depth in quality that marks the 2005 vintage.

About Chateau Lagrange

The vineyards at Chateau Lagrange comprise 157 hectares, although only 113 are actually planted up at present, including four hectares of white varieties. The vineyards are situated on two mounds of Gunzian gravel, which include the highest point in St Julien.

The grape varieties include 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. Vinification of the fruit, which is harvested by hand, is fairly typical, employing temperature controlled stainless steel equipment. There may be a cuvaison of up to 25 days. The grand vin, Chateau Lagrange, of which there are 23,000 cases produced, sees 60% new oak each vintage.

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