2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Heirloom Compagni Portis – $24.00
This wine is a field blend consisting of about a dozen different varietals from a vineyard planted in 1954. This is how wines used to be made before people wanted to see a specific grape on the label.
I joined the Bedrock mailing list to get my hands on their red wines, but with every bottle of white wine I open, I am more convinced they are making some of the best white wines coming out of California.
In 2009 I took this vineyard not really knowing what to expect. Yes, I had tried the excellent wines made by my friend Will Bucklin, and yes, I was besotted (as I often am by plants from California’s viticultural antiquity) with the nearly 60-year-old, dry-farmed, vines of varieties of many different hues and shades: However, I was not expecting to fall in love. For me, the odd combination of field-blended whites yields a wine that offers a glimpse at the white wines of yore in California. Rose, lychee, and spice come from the Gewurtzraminer, while brightness and enough backbone are given by the Trousseau Gris, Riesling, Berger, Green Hungarian, and whatever else is out there. For me it has exactly what I am looking for when it comes to an heirloom wine — it is a sporadic, seemingly random, assemblage of varieties that can only be found together here in California’s oldest vineyards and makes a wine more indicative of place than variety, spacing, farming, or anything else. That said, farming is important, and this winter I decided, as many men do when their emotions get in the way of their better senses, to lavish the vineyard with some viticultural bling. Decades of minimal farming (and who can farm when getting $1200 a ton!) had rendered a vineyard full of blackberries and poison oak, dead vine limbs fraught with eutypa and bot canker, missing vine positions, and limited vigor. This winter vineyard manager Phil Coturri, the Compagni Portis family, and I, started a rejuvenation project. Gone are the blackberries and poison oak stealing the vines water and causing pricks and rashes. A pyre of the fungus ridden vine arms slowly killing the plants was set ablaze. In their stead are a set of new wires, a full conversion to cane pruning to increase the number of spur positions and potential clusters (I love concentrated fruit but .9 tons per acre is simply economically unsustainable), and in the fall the first set of cover crops will be put down to add nutrients back to soil and increase friability and tilth. What does this mean? It means that Bedrock dropped some serious coin, but that we have taken the first step in making sure the vineyard will be around for another sixty years. I say this as preamble to the raise in price from $20 to $24 dollars per bottle for the wine so you will know that I am not simply trying to line my pockets — in reality, selling all six barrels of the wine at this new price will only pay for half of the improvements. Rather, I am hoping you will be willing to join me in preserving this one-of-a-kind vineyard from a bygone age. As for the winemaking, this is a vineyard where I believe simplicity is key. The wine was whole-cluster pressed and then fermented in stainless-steel and neutral oak barrels with native yeasts. The richness of fruit and spice in 2010 prompted me to halt malolactic conversion to retain brightness to leaven the opulence of the fruit. I am unquestionably pleased with the results. Six barrels produced.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a bright golden yellow color. The wine has an outstanding nose with beeswax, fresh flowers, peaches, apples, pineapple, flint, stony minerals, and spices. This has light to medium body with crisp acidity. On the palate the wine displays layers of fruit and spice with some nice minerality in the background adding considerable depth. There is a long, lingering, flavor filled finish. This is an outstanding effort and a big bargain at $24. (92 pts)
2006 Shafer Relentless – $42.74
I decided to open a Relentless to honor the fact the 2008 vintage of this wine was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year. I had a bottle about a year and a half ago just to check it out before giving it some cellar time. I’ll probably open a bottle every year and a half over the next several years.
Shafer Vineyards traces its beginnings to 1972 when John Shafer left a 23-year career in the publishing industry and, with his family, moved to the NapaValley to pursue a second career in wine. After purchasing a 210-acre estate in NapaValley’s Stags Leap District, the Shafer family faced the arduous task of replanting the existing vineyards, which dated to the 1920s, and terracing the steep and rocky hillsides, eventually expanding vineyard acreage to its current 50 acres.
Evolving from grape growers to vintners, the Shafers crushed their first Cabernet grapes in 1978 and began construction on their winery a year later.
The first Shafer Cabernet became a benchmark, winning the acclaimed San Francisco Vintners Club taste-off upon release and, over a decade later taking first place in an international blind tasting held in Germany, where it outranked such wines as Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Palmer.
Doug Shafer became winemaker in 1983 after graduating from the University of California at Davis with a degree in enology and viticulture. A year later Elias Fernandez joined the winery as assistant winemaker. Together Doug and Elias have worked closely to forge the Shafer style of quality, consistency and elegance.
New vineyards have been added over the years, with acreage acquired in the Oak Knoll, Stags Leap and Carneros districts, bringing the total Shafer vineyard acreage to over 200 acres. Winery facilities have been expanded and extensive caves carved into the hillside for aging wine.
In 1994, Elias was appointed winemaker, and Doug took over the reins as president when John became chairman of the board.
From a modest beginning of 1,000 cases in 1978, the winery has grown steadily until reaching its present size of 32,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah. Today Shafer wines are available in major markets nationwide and in many foreign markets.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a deep, dark, inky purple color. The exotic and enticing nose has blackberries, fresh ground dark roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate, melted licorice, black pepper, smoke, black cherries, tar, and violets. This is full bodied with solid, ripe tannins and good acidity. On the palate there are layers of fruit and savory elements that thoroughly coat your mouth. The finish is fairly long and again is loaded with flavor. Not a lot of subtlety here, just massive amounts of flavor, that are held in check by the outstanding tannic backbone and acidity. (93 pts)
2005 Meritxell Palleja Priorat Nita – $16.74
I’ve been a big fan of the rugged, rough and tumble wines coming out of the Priorat for a number of years. Generally these are not fruit forward wines, in a lot of cases they aren’t even fruit driven. These are generally loaded with spice, dried herbs, minerals, and earthy elements.
Following the family tradition, Meritxell Pallejà started off in the world of viticulture by studying oenology and assisting at wineries both in the region (Vilella de la Cartoixa, the Cooperativa Agrícola de Capçanes and Álvaro Palacios) and also in the Napa Valley and the French Burgundy (on that occasion at a biodynamic winery that would influence her own way of working). NITA is her first wine (brought out in 2004 and called Cal Nita, named after her grandmother’s house in Falset). It saw the beginnings of her biodynamic project that takes into account the lunar calendar not only in the production process but also in recommending the most opportune moment for drinking the wine.
The lunar calendar shows the relationship between various activities, such as the grape harvest, racking, bottling and even trying and tasting the wine, and the differing positions of the sun, planets, constellations and signs of the zodiac. This means that it can be ascertained when wines are at a more or less active stage (a waxing or waning moon) or how a plant’s general health is being affected, which will come through in changes to colour, potency of aromas, flavours and essential properties. For example, the wine will display its floral and fruity attributes to better effect if we drink it on “flower” or “fruit” days on the lunar calendar, and that is precisely when Meritxell suggests we open a bottle of her Nita.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a ruby red color, much lighter at the edge. The old school nose features crushed rocks, blackberries, scorched earth, dried herbs, licorice, leather, tobacco, underbrush, and dried flowers. This has medium body with sold tannins and very good acidity. On the palate the initial fruitiness is quickly brushed out of the way by solid minerality, dried herbs, and earthy elements. The long finish leans on the savory elements with the fruit in the background. The finish is like a mouthful of crushed stones and dried herbs with one solitary blackberry providing some sweetness. This is still on the young side but if you don’t mind solid tannins, it’s in a great place right now. (92 pts)
2004 Adriano Marco e Vittorio Barbaresco Basarin – $34.80
I’ve had three bottles of this wine in the cellar for close to 4 years. Every time I check my inventory for an Italian wine, this is the first wine I see, since my inventory is sorted in alphabetical order on the wine name. It’s probably still on the young side, but it’s time to check in to see how the wine is coming along.
The Azienda Agricola Adriano Marco e Vittorio farm is located in the heart of the Langhe, at Frazione San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, over the beautiful Alba, producing wines with the unique characteristics of the territory. It is a family run company, who has been producing wine from its own grapes for generations. At the beginning of the 20th century, Giuseppe, the grandfather, who was share-farmer, started his activity of growing grapes. Later on, he purchased a small farm and together with his son Aldo, expanded the family property planting new vines. The grandsons, Marco e Vittorio, continued this expansion, introducing big changes as the wine-making and the bottling of their own production. The farm has currently an extension of 22 hectares of vineyards of NEBBIOLO for BARBARESCO, BARBERA, DOLCETTO, FREISA, SAUVIGNON and MOSCATO; 8 hectares are dedicated to the hazelnuts, typical from the Langhe region and 10 hectares are divided in meadows, fallow land and forests where the famous White Truffle from Alba can be found.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a medium to dark ruby red color. The very enticing nose has cherries, earthy underbrush, baking spices, fresh ground espresso, dark chocolate, dried herbs, and fresh flowers. This had medium body with fairly solid tannins and very nice acidity. On the palate the earthy, savory notes command center stage with dried herbs and fruit on the sidelines. The finish has nice length and again highlights the savory elements. This is still very young but tasty. (90 pts)
Getting a few random offers with Holiday offers, mainly for wines I either already have or passed on earlier.
Wines bought or received this week
It was a busy receiving week.
(6) 2005 Frenchman Hills Red Wine Sentinel Gap Vineyards
(6) 2001 Weinhofgut Anton Zimmermann Bernkastel-Kueser Weisenstein Riesling Auslese
(6) 1998 Weinhofgut Anton Zimmermann Bernkastel-Kueser Weisenstein Riesling Auslese
(3) 2010 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage
(4) 2011 LoringWineCompanyPinotNoirRussianRiverValley
(4) 2011 Loring Wine Company Pinot NoirSantaLuciaHighlands
(4) 2011 LoringWineCompanyPinotNoirStaRitaHills
(3) 2011 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard
(3) 2011 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard (375 ml)
(6) 2011 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard (375 ml)
Remember to support your local wine store!
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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines. I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar. I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com. Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear. There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.
Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase. I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive. I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount. Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges. None of the prices include the sales tax.
All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.