Archive for the ‘Santa Lucia Highlands’ Category

Free Range Wine and Yo La… wait, what now?

July 18, 2013 1 comment
Behold the fampersat!

Behold the fampersat!

Wow, it’s amazing how opening up a wine shop in Brooklyn can disappear six months of ones life. So, for those of you who don’t already know, I am now the proprietor of Free Range Wine & Spirits at 355 Atlantic Ave, here in Brooklyn, NY. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop in and say hello.

Also, for those of you who don’t already know, Maxwell’s– Hoboken’s greatest (only relevant) rock club- is closing its doors forever. Recently, the Pastels were slated to play there, with the Condo Fucks (Yo La Tengo’s alter-ego, playing mostly garage covers) opening. While it was sad that the Pastels couldn’t make it stateside for the show due to visa issues, it was glorious kismet that it ended up being an acoustic Yo La Tengo set opening for the Condo Fucks. The show was beautiful and profound and heartbreaking, and was far better assessed by Yo La Historian, Jesse Jarnow, in his review for Spin which you should read. I shot a fair amount of video footage of both sets, much of which is posted on my Vimeo page HERE. Apparently my footage of the very last song will appear tonight on Fuse News, Fuse TV’s 8pET music news show. Once that segment is posted online, I’ll link it.

More soon!



self Pisoni close

While We’re Talking Garys’ Vineyard…

June 25, 2011 Leave a comment


While we’re on the subject of Garys’ Vineyard, I recently tasted another 2001 produced under the now defunct Lorca label, which was an early victim of the simultaneous market saturation in CA and economic downturn. Still they sourced grapes from some of the vey best and made a nice pinot, while they lasted. Previous bottles from the same parcel came off swampy and as somewhat oxidized, but this last of its kind in my collection showed no such affectations.

The Lorca Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard 2001 shows deep garnet in the glass, tapering to a thin yellowish, watery edge. The nose is somewhat muted, but more concealed by alcohol. 45 minutes in, the alcohol blows off to reveal a faint minerality, predominantly red fruit, cherry, soft earth. The palate is more lush with the same red fruit around which many of the secondary flavors seem to be fading, leaving a light to medium bodied wine, wholly pleasant, but shorter of finish than expected. There is a lingering wisp of spice on the aftertaste. The final glass is raised to the memory of the label.

Brief Notes on Vision Cellars Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard 2001

June 24, 2011 Leave a comment

For those that have read here before, you know that I am a great proponent of the fabulous fruit from Garys’ Vineyard and of *most* of the vintners who are smart/lucky enough to work with the Garys’ remarkable grapes. Upon last tasting, over a year ago (two+?), Vision Cellars‘ 2001 Garys’ Pinot was still, shockingly, a little stiff with a slightly astringent acidity, and I have been hoarding my tiny remaining stash, awaiting its summit on that ideal age plateau, ever since. It seems we’re there.

Properly aged and near perfect.

In the glass, this wine is light, but bright translucent ruby, browning slightly at the edges. The nose is initially somewhat muted, but soft and sweet, and slightly floral, like wildflowers, long since hung upside down and now bone-dry. The palate is soft, but full and round, almost buttery, led by copious red fruit, slightly overripe raspberry and pervasive bright red cherry off of which the supporting flavors- and hint of spice- drape. There are simply no hard edges left anywhere in this medium bodied 2001 Vision Garys’ Pinot. The long(ish) tapering finish begins with just a touch of damp, earthy funk, and ends with a wholly pleasing nutty dryness. Vision Cellars continues to do impressive things with both single vineyard and regional blends of CA pinot noir. I’m certainly not the first wine nerd to sing their praises, but take my word for it, Vision is worth a taste, especially if you can locate some older bottles.

With a Heavy Heart, Notes on Loring Pinot Noir

March 17, 2011 1 comment

A few days ago, I sent out some reasonably disparaging tasting notes, in the form of a tweet, regarding Loring Pinot Noir The Llama ‘03. These were, to date, my harshest words toward any wine I’ve bothered to mention which is because I review wine the way I used to review records. I would rather not take the time to review something I didn’t enjoy at all. And I’d like to think that this is why so many latter day wine reviewers seem to rate on 100 point scales that start at 88 points. I only write a truly scathing review if the finished product is so unpleasant that I want that amount of time of my life back (as well as the money spent). Every Loring Pinot Noir to cross my palate to date has left me with this feeling.

Nose of aging pumpkin and wet dog.

While I am neither sommelier, winemaker, nor grape grower, I have tasted thousands of wines, most specifically, I have taste wine made from Garys’ Vineyard grapes by almost every winemaker who has ever worked with them, going back to 1999. Wine from this fine fruit made by Lucia, Arcadian, Miner, Capiaux, Lorca (RIP), Novy, Vision, Antiqv2s, Roar, Copain, Morgan, Siduri, Tantara, Testarossa, Pessango, Ryan, and even the shockingly overpriced Kosta Browne are amongst the finest American pinot noir and syrah ever to pass my lips. In the right hands, this fruit is simply magic.

Like the label image, the wine is scattered.

In fact, I first started buying Loring Pinot Noir specifically because they buy grapes from some of the best growers in the country, but I have been perplexed by Loring’s expression of every vintage of Garys’ vineyard grapes. Before writing this, I consulted Loring’s own website where I found that they recommend these wines be enjoyed in their youth, which is a dubious claim that many wine producers use to better sell their most recent vintages. But perhaps in this case, it was true, and I decided to purchase a couple of bottles of ’07 Loring Pinot to taste, given that this was an outstanding vintage for Pinot Noir in that region and it’s still a relatively young bottle. Then I did the math on how much I’ve spent on Loring Pinot against the enjoyment gained and decided to just open the most recent bottle from my favorite vineyard that I already own.

Being St. Patrick’s Day (when everyone is drinking and you couldn’t pay me to enter Manhattan), I stayed home and opened a Loring Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard 2005 at 1:02pm to find a slight Burgundian funk barely apparent under the burning throb of alcohol. The palate had some nice components to it, but they seemed rather disparate, causing the mouthfeel to come off as somewhat biting. After significant breathing time, the alcoholic nose subsided a bit, to reveal some faint earth tones. The palate is still somewhat sharp and is showing little sign of noticeable integration, though some red fruit is present. It’s not a terrible wine, but given the quality of the fruit from Garys’ in ’04 and ’05, this one just isn’t worth the price. Everyone’s palate is different. Loring Pinot Noir just doesn’t jibe with mine.

If anyone out there enjoys these wines, I’ll gladly pass off the rest of my Loring collection with a reimbursement below original cost. Look me up.

Anybody Interested?


Wine Tasting over World Class Pizza at Motorino Brooklyn

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

For those of you who live in the greater NYC area and have not yet been to Motorino, there really is no excuse, and you are simply missing out. I know that hyperbole is the source of all web content but there are far too many varieties of pizza available in Brooklyn, let alone NYC, and it would be futile to claim any one as the best.

Pretty bottle, prettier wine.

That being said, Motorino Brooklyn makes world class pizza. The quality and consistency of the crust, the brick oven firing, and every ingredient used is as high as can possibly be expected, per dollar spent. Food-wise you cannot go wrong on their menu, and besides the legendary Brussels Sprouts and Pugliese pizzas, the meatballs w/ pizza bread app is fairly profound in it’s comfort-foody simplicity. However, for a pizza place (even a really good one) without a significant wine program, $25 corkage fee per bottle of outside wine is a little high for Brooklyn. But on to the wine tasting.

Gotta dig the nerdy font and label design.


Our first wine of the evening was the Lucia Chardonnay Sta Lucia Highlands ’07. I simply can’t say enough about the quality of fruit grown in this relatively recently designated AVA. The Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay produced in this region are as much a player on the world stage amongst their finest international counterparts as is the pizza at Motorino. The ’07 Lucia Chardonnay is bolstered by those particular ripe, round characteristics that so many CA wines of the ’07 vintage are displaying in their youth.

It’s pale/white gold in the glass with a soft, somewhat muted, but undeniably burgundian nose. The acidity strikes first (with a memory foam pillow rather than a 2×4), embracing the palate and unifying the flavors. The palate is rich and buttery through the ample, bordering on vast, mid-palate, tapering into a lightly sweet strawberry finish. As beautifully and firmly as an ’02 of the same wine showed not long ago at my table, I’ll likely put the rest of these ’07s down for a few seasons nap. While tonight’s “I only drink white” reveler stuck with the Chard, the rest of the table moved on to Pinot Noir.

Barnyard capsule art.

The Orogeny Pinot Noir Sonoma Green County 2002 was by far the most unusual of the lineup. With a somewhat murky nose of coffee and black fruit over the slow burn of the alcohol, this wine currently comes off more like an unfiltered field blend twice the age than a Sonoma Pinot Noir. Somewhere into the second hour after opening, the initially sharp mouthfeel softened and broadened to reveal a complex palate dominated by black and red fruit and culminating with pepper and ash. Given the weight, the ’02 Oregeny really should’ve been batting clean-up, rather than playing opening act (not to mix mediaphors). It’s unique enough in it’s moment that I can’t honestly be sure if this wine is nearing the back end of it’s drinking plateau or just settling into itself. Perhaps we’ll talk again in a year or so.

Our last wine of the evening was EIEIO Pinot Noir Broadley Vineyard 2005. I’ve been buying and drinking EIEIO for some time now, and am particularly fond of their Swine Wine and Cuvee E and Cuvee I Pinot Noir. Some of their single vineyard offerings get a little pricey, but they are all hand-crafted wines made from some of the region’s finest vineyards. As indicated by the label, pictured below, I excitedly snatched this one up at a recent end of bin sale. I’ve always enjoyed the artifact that is a bottle of wine almost as much as the glorious juice it protects and I admire both the whimsy and visual design of EIEIO’s capsules.

Attractive capsule beheaded, cork removed, and the initial pour reveals a purposeful pinot that perhaps wasn’t ready to awaken from it’s nap. The nose is muted and the palate unwinding, but blackberry over cool earth is apparent, and there’s just a hint of spice peaking out from under the weight of alcohol. Across the board with OR Pinot Noir, the ’05 vintage has further to go than the average ’06, ’07, or ’08, and this ’05 seems to corroborate.

After it’s had a breath, the EIEIO Pinot Noir Broadley Vineyard ’05 is an attractive pinot of reasonable depth and complexity (and sonorous color). After an hour and then closer to two, the palate broadened considerably and the red fruit and trace minerals became more prevalent. Still it seems not yet fully mature, and significant personality should emerge from further integration from bottle age. If I had another, I’d give it a taste in about 2 years. So, if the fine folks at EIEIO would like to send me a bottle around this time 2013, that would be very much appreciated. Talk to you then!

End of bin labels don't affect the wine inside the bottle.