Posts Filed Under elegant wines
Well, folks… sh*t is definitely real right now.
Unusually for this extrovert, I had to celebrate my birthday in self-imposed sequestered fashion, a precaution taken to help practice social distancing and hopefully do a small part in flattening the curve of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Thankfully, due to the ever-expanding wine sample pool (yes, I’m still getting deliveries during the pandemic), I’m in no danger of running out of wine any time soon. Toilet paper and soy milk, maybe; but wine, no way, not by a long shot.
Sometimes that sample pool is good to me. Occasionally, it’s very good to me. And in rare cases, it’s exceptionally good to me, as was the case for my (at home!) birthday dinner wine selections, both of which will cost you a pretty penny but neither of which will give you an iota of buyer’s remorse (and may even dull the sting of your encroaching cabin fever)…
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Adam Lee at Gary’s Vineyard (image: Adam Lee)
Recently, I caught up with iconoclastic winemaker Adam Lee, to see what he’s been up to since transitioning his well-regarded Siduri brand to Jackson Family Wines, for an interview published on the Napa Valley Wine Academy website.
Adam is a great sport and an equally great interviewee, as you’ll no doubt be able to quickly discern when reading the interview. What we didn’t get into in the NVWA piece are the gritty details on one of his new projects, Clarice Wine Company, a brand he named after his grandmother, Clarice H. Phears. Interestingly, Lee’s Clarice project is a wine club of sorts for the brand’s wines, but also an online community capped off at 625 members.
After Adam and I reconnected for the interview, he sent along samples of the Clarice offerings, and I’m now able to tell you that he’s created something L-E-G-I-T…
Clarice Wine Co. Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands, $90)
Lee has been sourcing from Gary’s Vineyard (located just about smack-dab in the middle of the Santa Lucia Highlands) since its inception in the late 1990s. This is a vineyard source that has no shortage of accolades already, but might just be hitting its adulthood stride in full force only now, based on this beauty.
There is sooooooooooooooooooo much going on here. Dark fruit, red berries, bramble, tea leaf, truffle, cedar, and various baking spices to start the nose, with incredibly deep, dark, plummy fruitiness and black raspberry freshness all over the palate. The acidity and tannin are really neck-and-neck here, balancing one another out just as one seems to be slightly overtaking the other at any given moment. Somehow, there’s a harmonious interplay of bramble (and, I mean, a metric ton of different wild herbs) and elegance throughout. It’s a red that has more personality than the entire cast of most TV sitcoms. Yeah, it’s expensive. But it’s worth it. Every. F*cking. Penny.
Good old Austria… a land with white wines as steely, reserved, and imposingly austere as the (often slightly oversized) architectural wonders that grace its cities and towns.
Let’s wrap up the coverage of my Austrian media jaunt (yes, from back in May 2019… screw you, punky, I’ve been busy!) with a look back in time at how those steely, reserved, and imposingly austere wines get a little bit less steely, reserved, and imposingly austere given some time of repose in the botltle.
Austrian white wine spirit animal
C’mon, don’t you want to know what happens to high-end examples of Austria’s signature Grüner Veltliner over time? Don’t you want to know if they’re worth the time, expense, and patience? Don’t you want to read several extremely similar tasting notes about a single grape variety?
Of course you do, you wine nerd!…
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“I think… we’re now more precise.”
According to manager Vincent Bache-Gabrielsen, that’s the secret behind the revitalization of Saint-Estèphe’s Château Lilian Ladouys.
If Bache-Gabrielsen’s name feels familiar, it’s because he also manages Château Pédesclaux, the Pauillac property that the Lorenzetti family purchased just one year after picking up Lilian Ladouys, and which their team also revitalized. If you’re sensing a theme here, don’t congratulate yourself, because, bluntly stated, the theme is pretty friggin’ obvious. And – spoiler alert! – the results are basically the same: an ailing Bordeaux producer weaned off of life support, and now celebrated as doing the rarest of all Bordeaux wine tricks: over-delivering for its price point (you can find their main red for well under $40/bottle).
Backtracking for a bit of history: the Château Lilian Ladouys property dats back to the 1560s, and was revitalized once before in the late 1980s. Like skinny ties and jams shorts, that `80s endeavor was ill-fated, as Ladouys found few buyers for its at-the-time much-elevated prices. Periods of what Bache-Gabrielsen called “irregular quality” followed, until the Lorenzettis saw potential in Ladouys’ Saint-Estèphe terroir and decided to buy it, with the understanding that to turn things around “we have to work!”
While 2009 saw immediate improvements that Bache-Gabrielsen termed “interesting,” it wasn’t until the soils began to really improve in 2010 that the team felt that Ladouys was turning the corner. They’ve since been engaged in the selling an acquisition of various plots in the region, replanting to maximize proper rootstock usage, and favoring gravelly soils over limestone in an effort to significantly up the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blend. About 2/3 of their property has since been exchanged in some form or another, and as of 2018 they now have about 80 hectares of vineyards from which to draw, with half of it devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon (the rest being Merlot, Petit Verdot, and a tiny portion of Cabernet Franc), and 80% of it on gravelly soils.
“It’s really different from Pauillac,” Bache-Gabrielsen told me during a live video tasting, “the subsoil is the same, but you have more clay here, and the limestone is much deeper in Pauillac.” This suits their new house style, which is focused on taming extraction and emphasizing aging potential. “We tend to make epicurean wines,” he explained, ” approachable young but that cab age well. We try to balance the power of Saint-Estèphe with freshness….”
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