Medlock Ames just doesn’t disappoint. This 2002 Cabernet Sauvigon is extremely well balanced. The robust structure never overwhelms the dark delicious blackberry and blueberry fruit. And the forest floor earthiness is reined in but present. We were delighted to see the sediment on this unfiltered wine.
Coastview Vineyards had a directive to create a wine label that spoke to adventure and the idea of hidden treasure, in a Jules Verne style of thinking. Each label references a journey or traveler and speaks to the uniqueness not only of the wine but the vineyard where it was grown. The winemaking practices are a combination of classic Bordelaise and Burgundian techniques combined with all the advances in modern enology for consistently high quality and vineyard expression. The grapes all come from an area near Chualar, California. Coastview Vineyard is located in the Gabilan Mountains on the east side of the Salinas Valley, on an exposed ridge top between 2200 and 2400 feet of elevation. Just under 30 acres of this convoluted 2600 acre property are under vine with plantings of Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cinq Cepage of Bordeaux varietals.
We stopped by their new tasting room in at 19 Carmel Valley Road #H, in Carmel Valley Village where they were pouring several of their current releases including the lovely 2013 Rosé of Syrah. Here are my notes, you are in for a delicious journey! Read on…
The 2013 Rosé from Coastview Vineyard is a gorgeous garnet color and has a distinctly floral nose, reminiscent of white peaches and delicate flowers. On the palate there are immediate wild strawberries, red currents and raspberry flavors that merge in a well balanced finish with good acidity.
I loved the 2009 Chardonnay also from Coastview, was luscious and not over oaked or heavy on the toast. On the nose it has aromas of warm roasted peaches, nectarines and other stone fruits.That transfers into these flavors on the palate along with crispness and additional mineral support offering a real taste treat. It is also extremely well balanced and leaves a fantastic lasting finish. Delicious.
The 2011 Chardonnay is very different for the ’09 in that it has more of tropical fruits such as guava and papaya and warm buttered bread. The palate flavors come together in a rich pear tart melange, with additional butterscotch and spice. Well balanced and good acidity.
2011 Pinot Noir is a deep garnet color with strawberries and cream, very fragrant. On the palate there is a lovely blend of cherry cola, spices and good tannic structure resulting in a balanced wine.
2009 Red Blend is also an exceptionally successful wine. In the glass this classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Abernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec is a deep dark red. The nose expressed the aromas of herbal, cedar, mineral and spices with the flavors of ripe dark fruits, including plums exploding on the palate. A very sexy wine. IMO.
2008 Syrah, Bold on the nose with dark berries, black and blue nice acidity and cinnamon spice notes. Medium bodied and luxurious on the palate with a chocolate finish, it has aged really well and would go perfectly with BBQ.
The fantastic Medlock-Ames winery is producing some of the best wines, from grapes that are sustainably grown on the lovingly cared for Bell Ranch in Alexander Valley, California. Their vineyards are farmed organically with no insecticides, chemical fertilizers or herbicides and solar power provides the energy they need to run. Only 55 out of 338 acres are farmed, the majority of land has been left in a natural state – reserving the majority of the acreage for oaks and wildflowers, not vines. Innovative and traditional methods are used to farm this boutique vineyard where vegetables, olives and wildlife also flourish. The portfolio includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Red Bordeaux Blend, estate bottled olive oil, verjus and preserves. Last week we had the good fortune to get a tour, with our guide being the fabulous Stacy Sheridan, and taste some of the wines. We met Ames and are grateful that he graciously agreed to answer a few questions. Keep on the look out for an in person audio interview with Ames, where we get in deeper and taste some new releases.
Here are the questions and answers:
How did you come about becoming a winemaker, and what and who influenced you? 19 years ago I was living in New York City, and I remember very vividly drinking a glass of wine (Talbott Diamond T Chardonnay, which is from your neck of the woods), when I had an epiphany. I was suddenly fascinated, obsessed with the magic that allowed dirt, sunlight and water to create something so ethereal in the glass, and from that moment, I knew I had to become a winemaker. Within two months I had quit my job and moved to California to follow my dream. I’ve had so many influences. My father is a farmer and tends a farm that has been in our family for 8 generations. That really taught me what it means to care for land so that it cares for your family indefinitely. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala working with people who have been farming the same land for 10,000 years. That is the definition of sustainability. I have had some incredible professors at UC Davis, Andy Walker in particular. I really admire winemakers who have been so passionate about their beliefs that they have risked everything with single-minded purpose. Josh Jensen of Calera comes to mind.
What styles are you particularly interested in exploring? We farm organically and I feel that is the best way to care for the land. I have a minimalist intervention approach to winemaking as well, but I am fascinated with natural wines. The term is not really defined, and many have their own interpretation, but in general that means not adding anything. I have tried some of these wines and find them so completely different from everyday wine. Many make fun of these “orange wines” and they sometimes feel like the latest trend in winemaking. Sommeliers and “cool” winemakers love them as they are not ordinary. Their commercial success is dubious, but I still want to my hand at making them!
How challenging is it to stay organic and sustainable? For me, it’s a bedrock principle, so it’s not hard. There are plenty of decisions that I fret over because I don’t know what the right direction is, but farming without chemicals, farming in a way that works with nature rather than against it is so ingrained in me that I don’t really think about it that much. 2010 & 2011 were very challenging vintages as they were so cold and wet. Disease pressure was dramatically higher than normal. If there was ever a time to make a grower question organics it would have been those years, but as an organic grower, we are always worried about disease pressure, so we are constantly monitoring for it. We fared better than most conventional growers that year.
What new wines are you looking forward to making? A few years ago we planted a tiny amount (less than half an acre) of Malbec. From its first harvest it quickly became the darling of the winery. We use it to blend with several of our other wines and it just makes everything better. We were so pleased with what this variety does on our vineyard that last year we budded over another acre to Malbec, and in a few years we may bottle a varietal Malbec. I would love to show what this variety is capable of in the Alexander Valley.
Thank you, Ames!
Tasting Notes on a few Medlock-Ames wines:
2012 Lower Slope Chardonnay Luscious.
Boëté makes exceptional wines. They are big, bold, delicious and rich. The grapes are grown locally in Carmel Valley. This 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception and expresses incredible dark red fruit flavors, spices, earthy herbal aromas within a round and full mouth-feel, all within a perfectly balanced acids and tannic structure. Pretty much a masterpiece in my book. But this is a slow drinking wine, with almost 15% alcohol. Really best served along BBQ, slow braised beef, lamb or pork. It stands up to strong flavors and just mellows. Just an incredible wine.
Recently we drank these two wines and they are both remarkable and very characteristic to the grape and the wine making style. They are truly delicious. #rave
So here we go:
Anytime I have a chance to have a Foppiano Reserve wine I am right there. The wines are profoundly rich and full, well balanced and have real body and flavor.
The Foppiano 2009 Reserve Petite Sirah is predictably fruit forward for a big wine like this. It is rich, syrupy, jammy with that lovely cherry, blackberry taste and a seriously inky color, the nose is foremost dark fruit, it is also very well balanced acidity with structured tannins. A wine with “cajones”, a wine that is thought provoking and worthy of poetic ravings. It pairs really well with BBQ meats, intensely flavored and spicy foods.
Looking for organic and sustainably produced wines? Well , Medlock Ames is your go to then. Located in Alexander Valley, California, they are committed to producing fantastic, gorgeous wines that are made 100% from grapes with no pesticides and on land that is as close to biodynamic as you can get. The 2011 “Kate’s and B’s” Cabernet Sauvignon is reminiscent of Margaux wines and has complex flavors of ripe and dried fruits with tannins that hold up the taste without getting lost in the fruit. The tannins are sexy enough to allow movement into the well balanced palate of chocolate, smoke, bacon and leather nuances smoothing out into a welcome velvety finish.
2011 Malbec Nicely layered, integrated nose with fruit forward notes of freshly crushed blackberries/cassis and rounded notes of sweet oak and cedar. Bright, explosive mouth feel with sour blackberry and cherry being predominant. Medium-light body with light tannins and a crisp fruity finish. This zesty Malbec is a perfect example of how lovely and fruity this wine can be while still having enough tannin structure to hold up to any type of beef dish from barbeque to filet mignon.
Extremely rich, layered aromas of cassis, black cherry, custard and vanilla butter cream. Also, look for toasty oak and dried herb undertones. Very flavorful with an excellent food friendly tanginess and balanced tannins. Lively dry-yet-fruity body with a tangy blueberry pie finish. Complex minerality carries throughout palate from start to finish. Serve with any number of red meat dishes and grilled game.
Big, bright mouth feel with explosive blood orange and cranberry sorbet acidity. Layered, intensive amounts of berry’s abound — black, rasp and boysen. Ripe tannins grip appropriately throughout and the finish is fruity but extremely dry. A solid and fruit driven Petite with mounds of complexity that will pair lusciously with a flavorful lasagna or any exotic game.
It has aromas of spice paired with subtle floral notes of rose and violets. Also look for a lovely earthiness paired with freshly picked cherries. Bright and lively with a cherry core and medium-light body. Refreshing cranberry juice and sour cherry pit finish with dusty tannins. Also, notes of pepper and cedar mingle with elegant minerality. Enjoy this classical Pinot with a lovely wedge of Comté cheese, trout with bacon or a nice mushroom risotto.
Interview with the wine maker, Rich Tanguay
CTN:How did you come about becoming a winemaker, and what and who influenced you?
CTN:What styles are you particularly interested in exploring?
CTN:How difficult is it to stay organic and sustainable?
CTN:What new wines are you looking forward to making?
There are some many great wines and I have some really gorgeous ones to share with you. These are all outstanding wines and I recommend them so highly. they’re from some of my favorite wineries and winemakers, you cannot go wrong with any of these. Let’s start with a little known, except around here, winery called Boëté. They have astonishingly good wines, mainly reds. They do Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc exceptionally well. Here is the 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, that is, of course, a knock-your -socks off delicious wine. Big fruit, earthy, savory and well structured. It has a tremendous complex finish, that lasts and lasts with notes of leather, violets, dark fruit and warm earth.
Next, a fantastic 2009 Petite Sirah by Scheid, rich and smooth with lovely dark plums and cherry fruit flavors, supported by robust tannin structure, the finish is like cherry cola, vanilla and smoke.
Always a fan of Pinot Noir over here. I love these two wines from Amphora and Joyce which are very different in style, but totally delicious. Amphora wines are always big on flavor and a full mouth feel. Rick balances the wines beautifully and this one is no exception. I just love how chewy it is and well developed. Big fruit: raspberries and blackberries, spice, slightly syrupy. The 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is that substantial wine you look for to have with stuffed portobellas or pork roast.
On the other hand, you might want something a bit lighter, such as the Joyce 2012 Tondre Vineyards Pinot Noir. This is a nectar like wine with delicious juicy strawberry, raspberry and red fruit flavors, supported with spice, cocoa and a nice firm tannic structure. A truly wonderful wine recently awarded 93 points by Robert Parker for Wine Enthusiast.
One unseasonably lovely Sunday in February we sat down with winemaker-elf Rick Hutchinson at his winery, Amphora Wines, in the Dry Creek region of Sonoma and proceeded to go on a wine wild ride. He was incredibly generous with his time and his wine; and we were blown away.
Even though there are constant demands for his attention and advice, he still managed to focus and really be present when speaking about his extraordinary wines and describing the terrior, the soil and the foundation for his wine making philosophy and style.
We tasted right in the room where all the wine magic happens. Amid French, American and Hungarian oak barrels, we sat at a table with a white table cloth and embarked on an unparalleled wine adventure.
The first wine we tasted was a 2009 Chardonnay from Peter’s Vineyard (the palate prep) in the Russian River Valley. Aged in French Oak, the wine has a rich full smooth feel on the tongue (some call that buttery) with just the right amount of acidity and the delicious flavors of stone fruits and apples. Nectarines and peaches come forth especially creating a bouquet of luscious warm scent. The soil at Peter’s Vineyard, Rick explained is loamy and sandy, giving notes of flint and minerality to the wine balancing and giving it depth. It is no surprise that this wine took the Gold Medal at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition.
Next we had the 2009 Pinot Noir, also from Peter’s Vineyard. This is a classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a delicious berry palate; really definitive of the Pommard clones. Even though there are these distinctly strawberry and cassis flavors the wine still has a backbone and a fullness that is so desirable.
It was followed by another 2009 Pinot Noir, this one from the Sapphire Vineyard. A 777 clone depicts an apparent difference from the previous Pinot, coming from the location of the vines, the climate, as well as the soil. This Sapphire Vineyard wine was bright with raspberry fruits had a drier quality with some hint of rubber note that was so interesting but not repelling at all.
Rick definitely has a true artist’s heart and this is what he listens with in the whole creative process of wine making. For him it is an entirely organic process, unfolding and developing as the grapes grow and mature and then are harvested and the fermentation and aging begins. They are the canvas that the wine takes shape on.
The 2009 Lakeville Vineyard Pinot Noir is a clone combination of 777 and the Pommard (50% each). The soil base there is marine and saltier resulting in a delicious jammy fruit forward, superbly rich and smooth wine. The fruits are fermented separately and blended 50/50 according to Rick’s taste profile.
Three Pinot Noirs, three distinct wines. All wonderful.
From Pinot Noir we went to the Land of Spain for the Grenache or Granacha grape and sample the 2011 Clarksburg Grenache. It is a newer grape for Rick along with the Mourvedre, Syrah and Alicante Bouchet he’s using now. This wine wakes you up with ripe, tart berries and silky smooth mouth feel, well structured tannins support and balance the substantial fruit profile.
Rick is also passionate about showcasing the characteristics and personality of the grapes in each wine. No grape is ignored. Like the grapes, these wines are highly individual and fascinating in their own ways.
He then brought out the 2009 Carignane, from the Forchini vineyard. These are very old vines and are dry farmed (meaning they are watered sparingly) to produce the most concentrated of flavors. Here almost cotton candy like tastes mesmerize in this deliciously creamy, low acid wine. Open tank top fermentation employed.
The 2010 Merlot from Timber Crest Vineyard has wonderful floral notes in the nose and the intense berry flavors were fresh tasting and mouth watering. It is structured and it finishes so nicely with vanilla and soft spice.
Cabernet Sauvignon has been, in my opinion, really over produced and has lost some of it’s uniqueness but not Amphora’s 2007 Clone 7 from Dry Creek Vineyard. It is a fabulous and complex wine, giving the taster a complete experience of distinct dark fruit, tobacco and violets with a strong but not overwhelming tannic foundation.
The 2010 Barbera from the Heringer Vineyard was iconic with rich brambley, chocolate, currant and dried fruits. As always with Rick’s wines the tannins are so well structured and balanced that even in the Cabernet and this Barbera they do not overtake the wine.
Next Rick brought out the 2011 Tempranillo from the very established Heringer Vineyard in Clarksburg. Tempranillo is a gorgeous grape and this is an elegant, perfectly balanced wine with tart fruit, crisp clean flavors and medium tannins. He never takes a rape for granted and this is so evident in this Tempranillo.
Comparatively the 2011 Mourvedre has raspberry and red berry flavors with a lovely mouth feel and balanced tannic structure.
Rick affectionately calls the 2009 Teroldago, also from the Heringer Vineyard, “Black Beauty” due to it’s prominent black fruit flavors, black berries, dark, dried sweet cherries, and gorgeous inky color. It’s just amazingly delicious and for a grape that is rarely produced in California, probably a huge hit.
The 2008 Cabernet Franc from the Pedroni Vineyard was also expectedly pleasing with Cherry Coke flavors and a vanilla richness that I kept tasting long after the last drop was gone.
Following that we had a 2010 Petit Verdot from the A. Forchini Vineyard. This is a sophisticated wine with dark cherry, black currants and plum flavors on the onset, then it opens up with herbal flavors, white pepper and barrel aroma. A grown up wine with powerful fruit and a strong tannic structure. Not for whimps.
My boyfriend then casually asked Rick what was his oldest vintage or first wine and Rick immediately scampered off and returned with a 1998 Syrah. He opened it and before it really had time to breathe we tasted it. The first taste was disappointing; it tasted like old hay and seemed flat. But then Rick, who had run away again, arrived with a platter of gorgeous sliced Italian salumeria, cheeses and bread. After eating we tasted the wine again and magically it had transformed!!! It was incredible. It was rich and flavorful, the delicate dark berry flavors had come out, there was complexity, forest flavors and the tannins suddenly woke up. This was the most educational tasting I had ever been to.
But wait!!! There’s more!. …I know!!!
After that incredible tour de force Rick began introducing his Zinfandels. The first was the 2009 Tre Torrente. It had delicate pine notes and is low acid, with classic dried fruit and dark plum flavors. Next the 2009 A. Forchini Vineyard Zinfandel presents with large fruit and cherry jam and a good tannic backbone. Then came the 2009 Dry Creek Valley blend with grapes used from both Tre Torronte and Dry Creek Vineyards. Also, delicious, smooth and bursting with big fruit. Finally the Zin tasting came to a close with the 2009 Timber Crest Vineyard vintage, this presented classic dark fruit flavors balanced with clover honey, lavender and raspberries, a real meadow blend.The stiff tannins make this wine absolutely balanced.
Finally we ended this amazing journey with the 2011 Aglianico from the Heringer Vineyard a six generation farmed vineyard. It was magnificent, true alchemy. Robust and powerful yet a variety of delicious fruits both light and dark balanced by developed tannins and a lovely finish.
We are so grateful to Rick for providing us with this extraordinary experience. One I will definitely never forget.
Next post will be all about Rick Hutchinson, the mad genius behind all these wines.
In the middle of November I found myself an opportunity to go to Sonoma County on my own and it was a lot of fun and a revelation. I enjoyed traveling by myself (once I got over my initial fear). During my travels I met a lot of neat people and tasted some really fine wines. Then at Thanksgiving I went back this time with my partner, and had another wonderful experience. I just love it up there, and while I adore my home base on the Monterey Peninsula, it would not take much to convince me to move up to Sonoma.
So onto the wines! I arrived Friday evening in Healdsburg and stayed at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn, which for that type of chain was surprisingly good. I recommend if you choose to stay there to get a luxury room as they are much better than their standard accommodations. I went out to dinner to a wine bar restaurant called Zin and sat at the bar. After ordering a flight of Zinfandels to taste and compare, I asked Christian, the wine-tender, for some suggestions for wine tasting the next day. He was so helpful and thoughtfully recommended about ten wineries, way more than I would ever go to in a day but enough to keep in mind and visit upon my return, which I was already planning. 🙂
Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast at Costeaux Bakery (you must visit!). my first stop was Trione. This is a gorgeous estate winery, with a fantastic tasting room and beautiful grounds. I was intrigued since I am usually more interested in small wine production, these fancy wineries leave me cold but I was so happy Christian recommended it and that the grand appearance did not dissuade me.
At Trione, family owned and run, there is great care taken in making their wines; which are well balanced, elegant and full bodied with a distinctive rich flair. The top 3% of the fruit grown in their vineyards across Sonoma County is painstakingly culled to ensure an extremely high quality end result. Then Scot Covington, the winemaker since 2005, does his magic thing.
I tasted everything and even did a side by side tasting of two Syrahs. All of the wines are characteristically well crafted and it is a challenge to pick a favorite. I chose two that I thought were the best representations of what Trione does really well.
Briefly, we’ll touch upon the excellent whites, the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2009 Chardonnay. The crisp floral and tropical Sauv. is absolutely delicious and one of my favorite white varietals. It has a lovely finish and would be perfect with pasta, seafood and just by itself. The Chardonnay is very clean yet velvety rich creamy with baked apple flavor, with a bit of minerality and crispness. Still the mouth is full bodied and layered.
My attention was undeniably captured by the reds. They were consistently good and memorable. Especially the 2008 Syrah, which comes on powerfully; fruit forward (like I adore) berry flavors with jammy plum and dark currant richness with spice completes the complex profile, the well structured tannins make sure the wine holds up to the lingering and excellent finish.
I am partial, however, to the exceptional 2008 Red Wine, because it is just so well done. Yes, it is a classic Bordeaux blend, but with so much personality. At the same time that it is earthy, it is also uplifted by the delicious dark fruit palate intensified with black currant, rich berries and good, strong well structured tannins. Lovely smooth finish with a lasting taste. A great blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
They do it well at Trione.
Very delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is a complex grape, the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France. Many varietals are thousands of years old. However, in my humble opinion, it is a grape which has been totally overdone in Napa and possibly all of California and made weaker through popularity. While Cabernet Sauvignon can grow in a variety of climates, its suitability as a varietal wine or as a blend component is strongly influenced by the warmth of the climate. The vine is one of the last major grape varieties to bud and ripen (typically 1–2 weeks after Merlot and Cabernet franc and the climate of the growing season affects how early the grapes will be harvested. Many wine regions in California give the vine an abundance of sunshine with few problems in ripening fully, which increases the likelihood of producing varietal Cabernet wines. In regions like Bordeaux, under the threat of inclement harvest season weather, Cabernet Sauvignon is often harvested a little earlier than ideal and is then blended with other grapes to fill in the gaps. In some regions, climate will be more important than soil. In regions that are too cool, there is a potential for more herbaceous and green bell pepper flavors from less than ideally ripened grapes. In regions where the grape is exposed to excess warmth and over-ripening, there is a propensity for the wine to develop flavors of cooked or stewed blackcurrants.
A good Cabernet will be well balanced and have a fresher quality rather than the dusty taste that some of these have a tendency to develop.
Maintaining a long finish and consistent flavor is paramount in importance to me. This is a lovely wine, but it does have that tendency to flatten out. Might be better with a bit of aging.