One of my favourite Rhone variety whites is the Chapoutier Chante Alouette Hermitage Blanc made from pure Marsanne. This is unusual because with the exception of Condrieu, based on single varietal Viognier, Rhone whites are normally blends creating finished wines that are almost always greater than the sum of their parts.
Another fine wine in this mould is the Roussanne 2015 from Southern Australia, where the d’Arenberg winery, established in 1912, has been tending vineyards for four generations. Chester Osborn oversees the wine making where Roussanne grapes were gently basket pressed and fermented in stainless steel, finishing at 13.4 Abv.
The quaint name originates in the vineyards where the harvesting of the first vintage of 2000 was cancelled due to swarms of money spiders that were found in the fruiting bunches. Consequently, they were spared and thus the 2001 represents the maiden vintage instead.
Tasting Note: Now this is an exotic, aromatic beast. The nose unfurls in layers of perfume and fruit. Rich crunchy yellow peaches, stem ginger, toasted almonds, tangerine citrus pastille fruits, green honeydew melon and seductive honey suckle fragrance. The palate is rich, unctuous, fleshy and voluptuous but with a very contrary, nervy vein of acidity. It thoroughly tantalises the senses. The concentration is profound but is so beautifully balanced with pithy marzipan spice, caramelised green figs, and a long sweet – sour finish. A wine with real presence and interest at a great price.
A big day of tasting on day 4 of our epic California trip, started at the iconic Francis Ford Coppola estate of Inglenook and ended with a tasting and dinner at another iconic estate, Silver Oak Winery in Napa Valley.
Film director Francis Ford Coppola has lived at the estate since the early 70s, raising his family there, slowly piecing the Inglenook entity back together again and restoring it to its former historic glory. Head of winemaking is the famous Philippe Bascule, who was chief winemaker at Chateau Margaux for several decades.
Philippe’s first vine to bottle vintage at Inglenook was the 2012 vintage. But with the sad demise of Chateau Margaux’s Paul Pontallier on the 28th March 2016 at just 59, it was fully expected that the call would come from the Mentzelopoulos family to recall Philippe back to Bordeaux to take up the wine making responsibilities at Margaux again.
So Philippe will remain the de facto head wine maker with Chris Phelps acting as the full time man on the ground overseeing future Inglenook production on a day to day basis. Chris made over 10 vintages of Dominus back in the day and now also produces a small amount of super premium Napa Cabernet on the side under the Ad Vinum label from fruit from the “Sleeping Lady Vineyard” in Yountville.
Inglenook Rubicon 2013
13.8 Abv,. Beautifully fragrant and classical nose with sweet tobacco, chocolate mocha spice, espresso, buttered brown toast, and sweet leafy cedar nuances. Unusually, the Rubicon 2013 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but certainly does not lack any complexity. Very precise, elegant and focused, this wine oozes class and finesse. Texturally seamless, this wine has Bordeaux in its roots, with intense black berry fruit framed by fresh, vibrant acids. Very fine breadth as well as depth, this is definitely a wine for cellaring.
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Inglenook Rubicon 2015 (Cask Sample)
14.2 Abv,. Rich, lush and very intense, the nose is powerful and extrovert, with layers of vanilla pod spice, sweet blueberry, black cherry, kirsch and fleshy black black currant pastille. Tannins are sweet and round and finely balanced. A beautiful work in progress, there is more immediacy and overt generous fruit than the 2013. The finish is very salty and spicy with black liquorice length. Superb!
(Wine Safari Score: 95-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
14.2 Abv., 87 CS, 8 Franc, 3 PV, 2 Merlot
Very taught, broody and restrained, you need to coax the black, spicy graphite fruit out the glass. Subtle cedary, spicy dusty chalk notes create a very classical feel. Touches of dark chocolate and black berries linger on a very harmonious palate where the acids are soft and incredibly integrated. Slightly shy now, this wine shows great potential.
Owned by Diane Miller, Walt Disney’s daughter, and ex-NFL quarterback husband Ron Miller, Silverado’s winemaking success has been firmly rooted in their six vineyards, allowing them all to express their own inherent quality characteristics. Since opening in 1981, the winery has grown to nearly 162 hectares which are all farmed organically and sustainably, from which Silverado Winery produces Estate and Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay wines.
Sadly my buddy Russ Weiss, the Silverado President, was not around when we tasted, but as always, it was great to get an early snap shot of the new vintages that will be heading to the UK later in 2017. I’ve always been a big fan of their wines which thankfully are sold at very reasonable prices in the UK. If you have not tried these wines, seek them out and discover an elegant, pure, supple, restrained expression of Napa and Carneros.
Vineburg Carneros Chardonnay 2015
14.5 Abv., 4% neutral oak, no malo, French puncheons. Dusty, dry lemon, pithy citrus. Chalky and dusty leesy, the palate is vibrant, bright and fresh, packed full of white stone fruits. Classical interpretation.
(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
88% CS, Merlot & Petit Verdot – 14.6 Abv., Rich creamy nose of blue berry crumble and black berry confit. Plenty of graphite and cedar spice with attractive violet perfume. Palate is sleek, linear and fresh, light on its feet and super elegant. Very polished and precise with super creamy sweet tannins. A real beauty.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Solo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
14.2 Abv., Big dark fruited dusty nose with classic Cab notes of violets, tobacco, black current and graphite. Massive rich intense unctuous core, wonderful balance and fresh vibrant finish. Tannins are creamy and dense, with plenty of power and concentration. Impressive wine, one to age in the cellar.
I drank a beautiful bottle of Pierre Yves Colin Morey Chassagne Montrachet Les Maltroie 2014 on Sunday night, and this beautiful Kistler Les Noisetiers just reminded me of PYCM’s taught, steely, determined Chardonnay style.
I admit an unusual comparison, but these 2013 California Chardonnays, of which I have drunk a few over the past few days, have such cut and tension twinned with pithy lemon and lime intensity and pure limestone minerality. Complete palate austerity… (a good thing!) with so much energy, freshness, and restraint. There is plenty of nervy textural palate richness with a touch of new oak vanilla spice, but I’ve not had a Kistler Chardy this mineral since 2010! Rasping, pithy, mineral and dry… this is so, so classy.
The Institute of Masters of Wine is delighted to announce four new Masters of Wine. The new Members of the Institute are Mark Andrew MW (UK), Jeremy Cukierman MW (France), Emma Dawson MW (UK) and David Forer MW (USA).
The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) is a professional body with an unsurpassed international reputation. The Masters of Wine (MWs) hold the most respected title in the world of wine. The IMW promotes excellence, interaction and learning across all sectors of the global wine community. There are currently 356 Masters of Wine today, working in 29 countries. The Membership encompasses winemakers, buyers, journalists, shippers, business owners, consultants, academics, and wine educators. There are over 340 students in the MW Study Programme from 40 countries.
The new Members have proved their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing the Master of Wine Examination, recognised worldwide for its rigour and high standards. The MW Examination consists of three stages, including Theory and Practical Exams, and culminates in the submission of a final Research Paper, an in-depth study on a wine related topic from any area of the sciences, arts, humanities, or social sciences.
THE NEW MASTERS OF WINE
Mark Andrew MW
Mark is based in Bloomsbury, Central London, where he is co-founder of Noble Rot magazine and the wine bar / restaurant of the same name. The magazine was launched in early 2013 as an alternative to traditional wine media, and is now distributed in over twenty countries around the world. The wine bar/restaurant followed in 2015 and won ‘Best Wine List’ at the National Restaurant Awards and Harden’s Awards within a year of opening. Before launching Noble Rot, Mark was Head Buyer at London-based retailer and importer Roberson Wine for eight years, where he developed deep affection for the traditional, artisanal, terroir-driven wines of the world. Before that, there was a vintage in Burgundy and three years of running the wine program for a group of London restaurants to whet his appetite for working in the wine industry.
Research Paper: How can dry Assyrtiko from Santorini establish itself as a recognised ‘fine wine’ in the eyes of London’s premium on-trade?
Jeremy Cukierman MW
Jeremy Cukierman MW was born and raised in Paris. After a short experience in advertising agencies, the passion for wine quickly prevailed. Co-founder and co-CEO of Des Mets des Vins, Jeremy runs two wine shops in Paris, a wine event agency and a wine school. Through his wine business he is working with more than 200 top producers. He also consults for private customers and wine companies, lectures across all levels of WSET certification and trains future wine professionals in customised courses. He is writing for the French magazine Vigneron and for his own blog (www.intothewinewithjeremy.com). He is married, with two children and particularly loves Northern Rhône, Burgundy, Riesling, Italian and fortified wines.
Research Paper: The prospects for Syrah in the vineyards of Hermitage: A climate assessment in the Northern Rhône AOP
Emma Dawson MW
Emma Dawson MW entered the wine world after a first career in film and media. Learning about wine started as a hobby. But this changed after she took a chance move into the retail world and started working in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Whilst completing her WSET diploma she joined their wine department. She was awarded two scholarships from WSET during these studies; the Champagne Academy scholarship and Worshipful Company of Distiller’s scholarship. She also started to run a new type of wine tasting called the ‘Naked Grape’ for charity. From then, Marks & Spencer asked her to join their team as a buyer and she was offered the WSET Derouet Jameson scholarship to study on the Master of Wine Study Programme. In the seven years since she joined Marks & Spencer she has worked in several buying areas; across wine and spirits. Among her specialism is a focus on lesser known wine regions, bringing new wines to their range from; Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Georgia, Turkey, Bolivia, Japan, India and Brazil. She also buys Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy, South America and Fine Wine for the company.
Research Paper: How did Lebanese wine emerge as a territorial wine brand in the 25 years that followed the civil war ending in 1990? Mistakes made and lessons learnt
David Forer MW
A San Francisco resident, David’s intense passion for wine was propelled by that city’s close proximity to California’s best wine regions and by his involvement with the local community of wine and food professionals. Catalysed by passing the WSET Diploma with Merit in 2011, David became increasingly active in the wine industry through projects like consulting for on premise wine programs and creating exclusive tours of Napa. He helps everyday consumers enhance their enjoyment of wine by providing guidance on grocery store wines as founder of DaveTheNeighbor.com. More recently, influenced by the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, he focuses on unique ways to connect people and wine by utilising technology. David is also working on a book about cult wines of the world all while maintaining a full time career in the pharmaceutical research industry.
Research Paper: An analysis of the impact of declining farm labour immigration on vineyard operations in Sonoma and Napa counties over the last decade
A very interesting first visit in Carneros en route to Sonoma. Ram’s Gate Winery was built in 2011 but have been making wine since 2008. Using a dynamic fruit growing and sourcing philosophy, Ram’s Gate grow approximately 20% of their production and buy in contracted fruit for the remaining 80%.
Ram’s Gate have embraced a fairly unique sales and marketing approach, selling almost all their wines to their “members” and a handful of restaurants in 7 states. None is sold to retailers. There is a very inventive marketing policy as the winery engages with its consumers and doesn’t “sell” wine but prefers to look at their sales policy as “placing wines.” Easy to do when demand outstrips supply.
Wine maker Luke Stanko, runs the show and sincerely expounds his belief in minimalist intervention, terroir focused winemaking. With 12000 cases produced annually, Ram’s Gate is a winery that is rarely quoted by critics and almost never scored, but is most definitely a must visit spot on your way out of San Francisco to Napa. By appointment only, ring ahead to book one of their amazing food and wine matching tastings.
2013 Carneros Chardonnay
13.3 Abv. Only 510 cases of this wine is produced from Clone 4 and Clone 96.
Aged 11 months in one-third new French oak. Real lemon and lime sherbet nose with a subtle lick of butterscotch oak spice. Cool, plush soft textured, showing beautiful harmony, plump lemon fleshiness and cool crisp framing acids. Beautiful elegance with full malo breadth.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2014 Sangiacomo Green Acres Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
14.6 Abv. 263 cases, Aged 11 months in French oak, 40% new. Made from virused Wente Clone, the aromatics are dominated by green apple Bon bons and liquid grey slate dustiness. Plenty of classical restraint. The palate is where the peacock fans its tail. Rich, intense and ripe, there is textured depth and spicy intensity. Weight and power, with a lemon and green apple pie finish with subtle vanilla pod charisma.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2014 Hyde Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
15.1 Abv. 793 Cases. Aged 11 months in 40% new French oak. A grand vineyard that shows fine complex aromatic finesse and notes of honey dew melon, cream soda, white peach, honeysuckle, green apple purée and leesy biscuit richness. Broad and powerful concentration, but rich, juicy acids and fine nuanced minerality. Real pedigree evident here.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2013 Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5 Abv. 2,122 cases, Aged 11 months in French oak, 45% new, only one parcel used stems. Very expressive nose bursts with cranberry, pomegranate, red cherry, blood orange and boxwood spice. Also lovely spicy, peppery notes, hedgerow and cinnamon spice. Such plush, seductive textural harmony, potpourri spice infused cherry confit and black berry compote. Very alluring, and inviting.
(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2014 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.9 Abv. 512 cases, Aged 11 months in 66% new French oak from Clone 777. Very lifted fragrant nose that’s thoroughly graceful and feminine. Intensely perfumed, there is rose water, violets, jasmine and and a complex earthy, forest berry note. Very reminiscent of Marlborough Pinot Noir, the seductive smokey nuances meld with blood orange, macerated cherries, and milk chocolate complexity. Very elegant, powdery tannins that are finely composed, and a real pleasure to drink.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
2014 Bush Crispo Vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir (Sole purchaser of this vineyard)
14.7 Abv. 513 cases, Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak from 115 and Pommard Clones. A more exotic, rich, expression with black berry and plum, mint chocolate and eucalyptus notes. Full, plump and generous, this is beautifully round, harmonious and textural. Plenty of spicy stewed plums, soft sweet tannins, and an opulent, harmonious bramble fruited finish. A real class act.
For the past 10 years I’ve tried to make a habit of visiting the US wine lands of either California, Oregon or Washington State at least every 2 years to keep up to speed. With my last two trips being in Washington State and Oregon for Pinot Camp, it’s great to finally make it back to California.
Along with the French classics, Italian wine and of course South African wine, I have a massive passion for American wines. I love their precision, polish, opulence, structure, and age worthiness. I rarely ever meet a customer who does not enjoy a mature Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, Russian River Pinot Noir or Sonoma Zinfandel!
So today was Day 1 and touch down in San Francisco ahead of a jam packed schedule of lectures, visits and tastings in Napa Valley and Sonoma. What a beautiful city it is too. Much excitement awaits in the week ahead.