17 Apr 2007

Deer-View Ranch

SINGLE ESTATE coffee, just roasted, brewed on the ranch terrace of my new friends, replete with deer view, brought the day gently into focus before a busy voyage tasting.
Determined Pinotphile Windward's '05 hazily unfiltered Pinot Noir pranced like peppered strawberries in light honey.
Midnight Cellar's Late Harvest Zinfandel had an astounding nose with the whole range of Wilkinson breakfast jams surging through the naughty alcohol.
Stephen's Cellar '04 Chardonnay was lean, with lemon pith whilst their Encell '04 Pinot Noir blossomed like a firework.
Lone Madrone's Zin of Steel '06 served cool, had an identity crisis, feeling like a bright beaujolais but with a high octane ABV. Uncastrated madness, but worth a punt. Their '02 Cabernet Sauvignon from York Mountain was very smart in comparison; it had come 'dressed for dinner'.
The very personal eleven year-old Bristol Cider was bounteous, like a Somerset version on growth hormones.
Zinfandel specialists Turley wowed me with their dangerously drinkable '05 Dusi Vineyard, even if the representative needed to be shown how to operate a corkscrew. It was an equilibrate, slightly green (geranium stalks) charmer.
L'Aventure's Optimus, a slightly stand-offish, French financed foray ('Rhone meets Bordeaux'), was the most inky wine encountered thus far, with putty, muted berries and a 'gliding' texture.
An eye-opening tour of a brave venture - a former Robert Mondavi vineyard comprising some 900 acres connected to a brand new winery, shocked me to the core with its scale. Gregarious winemaker, Mike Sinor (who also makes a small amount of wine under his own label, Sinor La Vallee) is confident of establishing an affordable brand with such tools at his disposal. Pictured, a tremendously effective mobile bottling line operated by Mexicans, arguably the labour backbone of California's agricultural success.
Barbecued pork loin with brocolli and gorgonzola filo parcels bevelled the day beautifully. I also relished a sample of the freshest olive oil I have ever encountered, locally produced.
A number of winemakers in this area are bashful when it comes to alcohol levels. It is not uncommon to find ABV's of 16.6p/c. One told me: "...big wines can still be balanced. That's what it comes down to. I've had a 12.5p/c Chardonnay which was hot as hell".