A Cabernet from a vineyard situated on the backside of the Mayacamas Range some three miles from the intersection of Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties that compares to 90 point Napa Cabs (depending on where you sit on the current Palate Press point system debate) selling at twice the price. The nose is a bit misleading at first, with seemingly dried out fruit and alcohol. But it does a vinous striptease in the glass (about a half-hour show), slowly unveiling its charms as the tannins give way to luscious blackberry, allspice, and currant fruit on the palate. The finale of the show is lingering and rich. This won a Best of Class Award at the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, held earlier this year in Sonoma County. A real keeper.
It is almost Burgundian, rather like a light Pommard. Nose of earth, cedar, and lingonberry. Opens up on the palate with vibrant flavors of dark cherry. Finishes a tad short, but still a superior Pinot Noir—far, far better than a lot of the insipid wines touted as “good Pinot.” Great with lamb.
A special Malbec indeed. An opulent nose with black currant and licorice with some oak (but not overwhelming) at the back. A lively follow through on the palate with soft tannins singing low harmony to a higher range of slightly bittersweet chocolate and dark plums. Finishes with perfect pitch. Very approachable now, should get even better with 2 or 3 more years on it. Match with grilled steak, just as they would do in Argentina. A lovely wine and a superb value. Kudos to the composer—er, winemaker.
A knockout of a red wine from the somewhat obscure Jumilla region of Spain. Made from Monastrell, known in France as Mourvèdre, it is high in alcohol (15%) and presents a heady mix of lush and brawny characteristics. Lovely nose of crushed blackberries with tones of vanilla and Indian spice, primarily turmeric. It situates well on the palate with a solid tannic structure to hold it up. Finishes a bit hard, but that will likely soften with time. I really like this wine, and the price is right. Try it with classic Spanish tapas, like a nutty manchego with Serrano ham.
The organizers call it “Cochon 555”—a lovely name, to be sure. But the event could have far more evocative labels, like “Porkstock” or “Pigapalooza” or “Swine Lake.” Okay, that last one I stole from a hilariously famous episode of “The Muppet Show” with ballet star Rudolf Nureyev and a chorus line of dancing…well, you know.