A Spattering of California Wineries

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After I attended the Hospice du Rhone last April I spent a little time visiting a few wineries in California. I did not compile detailed notes on these visits, but many of the wines were quite noteworthy. Thus, I won’t provide my usual in depth look and insight into these wineries, but rather highlight them to suggest further exploration.

Linne Calodo is a “cocktail” winery. That is, they make huge, fruit forward wines that drink more like cocktails (in texture, intensity and alcohol) than wines made to go with food. They acknowledge this fact without shame. Luckily they do an extremely good job at constructing these sorts of beverages and I found considerable pleasure in their zin based blend Cherry Red. The wines are, unfortunately, overpriced, but are nevertheless impressive for what they are even if they aren’t wines I would drink on a regular basis.

 

Tablas Creek, on the other hand, made my favourite wines in Paso Robles. These are restrained wines focusing on balance rather than explosiveness. They are subtle, but also immediately enjoyable. These are nothing like Southern Rhone wines, but they do a brilliant job of reflecting the limestone soils of Paso and the unique climatic conditions of the western part of the region. Tablas also experiments with rare varieties and vineyard techniques and is moving to 100% head pruned vines, a first in Paso. The whites and reds are both phenomenal (in fact the whites are probably the best Rhone variety whites in the state), and the wines are extremely reasonably priced – showing, in fact, that California’s best really do compete at the upper echelon.

Paso Terroir and an Angry Cow

New Estate Plantings at Copain

Copain was another impressive visit. Located in Sonoma, Copain focuses on cooler site Syrah and Pinot Noir and is one of the leaders of the ‘restraint’ brigade now promulgating in California wine. These wines are tight in their youth, but with several years of age they are immensely expressive, aromatic wines that are very friendly with food. Copain embraces the weirdness of Syrah and is entirely true to what that variety can do in California. I highly recommend them if you get the chance.

My Favourite Syrah from Copain - beautifully fresh and pretty aromatics

Comments

  1. Matt
    August 17, 2012

    Thanks for the props! I think it is important to note that the Linne Calodo wines you tasted only represent a small portion of a diverse portfolio of wines that I produce. Cherry red 120 cases, Booker 80 cases, and slacker 150 cases. Can a winery have more than one style? I think yes, watch and taste. I would be completely bored if I had to make the same wine over and over. The funny thing is, when I make wine in a different style, I here the comment that this is not Linne Calodo. What’s a farmer winemaker to do? Pricing is based on quality, quantity, and demand. At 10 dollars a bottle it does not even come close to farming costs, at 40 it does not tell the story of vineyard site and quantities produced. 50-70 separates you, alienates and brings about scorn
    Keep it fun and interesting, Matt Trevisan

    Have fun, keep it interesting. Matt Trevisan

  2. Shea
    August 17, 2012

    Matt,

    Thanks for the comment. I understand that ‘overpriced’ is a relative term. I have no way of determining if your prices are ‘fair’ – a different consideration. I guess I am just comparing them to what is available on the market for the same price (Allemand Cornas, Marcel Deiss Grand Crus, 15 year old Nikolaihoff Riesling, etc).

    I did not realize you made another style of wine. Your tasting room staff, in fact, proudly took ownership of the ‘cocktail wine’ moniker. What are the other wines you make in different styles? And what styles are they?

    Nonetheless, as I said, I think your wines are very impressive and clearly the work of an extremely talented winemaker! I have no doubt many will and do love your wines. So thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Matt
    August 18, 2012

    The estate wines are high acid, high tannin, bottle aged 1 year prior to release. The wines really come to life after 3 years in bottle. Martyr is mourvedre based produced in 2005 and 2010, earth and texture driven. I’m bottling a 2011 Grenache blanc picpoul blanc blend later this month, fresh, bright and mineral. When we compare the wines to imports that have vineyards centuries in the making and productions large enough to be internationally distributed we are talking apples and oranges. I wish I could play in that league. ( not really) Give me 100 years, I’ll be 140, let’s talk then, or the next time you’re in paso.
    Cheers!

  4. Shea
    August 18, 2012

    Those sound fascinating. I agree it is an unfair playing field (e.g. I’ve often wondered how a winery like Lopez de heredia can sustain so much inventory). I look forward to a future discussion next time I’m in the area.

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