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.
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.
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.