Posts Filed Under kick-ass wines

Wheels Keep Turnin’ (Red Car Recent Releases)

Vinted on May 21, 2015 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, wine review

I have (among other things) been described as peripatetic.

Red Car vineyard 1That adjective is apt, but as peripatetic as I can be, I pale in comparison to Red Car‘s tall, thin, and quick-witted General Manager Peter Willmert. Willmert, along with winemaker Carroll Kemp and vineyard manager Adam Carter live, breathe, and seemingly sleep (if Willmert actually settles down long enough to do that, I mean) all things Red Car from their small spot on Graton Road in Sebastopol.

Like Willmert (who is fond of jumping quickly from topic to topic, somehow without losing an ability to take deeper dives along the way), Red Car has been in more or less constant motion in its relatively brief history.

“I like the acidic, crisp style,” Willmert told me when I visited. “One part of the [ Red Car ] evolution was getting out of the Central Coast; we’ve left a trail of warmer vineyards, and moved everything to the Sonoma Coast. Since the 2000 vintage, the wines have been pretty consistent.” It helps that they’ve got dedicated vineyard staff (as he put it, “I’m a control freak. And Carroll’s a control freak”). Somewhat ironically given Willmert’s penchant for rapidly bouncing between topics, Red Car’s wines have arguably never been more focused and singular of purpose.

What he means is more lithe, energetic, and focused on premium. Much of the source material for Red Car’s wares come from vineyards that are surrounded by orchards and redwoods (and gophers), within spitting distance of the sea, in areas that were long though too cool to house “serious” viticulture. Judging by the wines I tasted, those early pronouncements were dead wrong…

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A Winemakers’ Winery (Amici Recent Releases)

Amici's John Harris & Joel Aiken

Amici’s John Harris & Joel Aiken

“This is a winemakers’ winery.”

That Amici’s Associate Winemaker Bobby Donnell was speaking truth to me – and not just laying out the typical wine country cliché – was evidenced by the total lack of anything resembling Napa Valley “Why, yes I DID!” pomposity in Amici’s vinous Calistoga hamlet.

Maybe it’s due to owner John Harris’ down-to-earth influence, consulting winemaker Joel Aiken’s humility, or the winery’s somewhat-off-the-beaten-path location (or all three), but the Adult Wine Disneyland factor is pretty much approaching the zero line when it comes to graphing the esprit of Amici’s Cabernet production. Their reds are certainly Napa-esque fruity and powerful, but they’re also often tinged with energy, depth, and nuance. They wear lace in all the right places. And based on the asking prices, they got the laces at a discount (by Napa standards, anyway).

Amici trailer

Trailer, but not trash

But the above is also a nice way of saying that when you visit Amici, you’ll see… trailers. With barrels and space heaters in them. That’s where Aiken and Donnell house “a whopping ten tons” of production using whole berry fermentation, mostly for experimentation (though some portion now makes it into the Napa Valley Cabernet and Reserve Cabernet production). The reason? Outside trailers are the only room that they have left.

As Donnell put it, “the nickel tour involves bathroom, too!”

For my dinero, though, that’s all just fine. A lack of showcase winery adornment is more than made up in the experience that you’ll have in the bottle of typical Amici Cab, which offers the better aspects of NV red with a number on the price tag that’s about 33% lower than what we ought to expect from something that has Napa printed prominently on its label.

Yearning for lofty marble columns, classical music, and pomp and circumstance? You’ll have to look elsewhere. Fancy classic rock music playing while a smoker servers up BBQ fare out back beyond the trailers? Then Amici is your place, and these just might be your wines…

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Highlights From #Vino2015

Paneling wine + music at VINO2015

Paneling wine + music at VINO2015

I am, as I’ve noted ad nauseam lately, insanely behind on my producer/feature write-ups. That streak continues unabated at the moment, but this time it’s in favor of actually bringing you some vino recommendation (you’re welcome!).

I recently had the great pleasure of being a panelist speaker at the enormous VINO215 Italian wine trade and tasting event in NYC. I’ll get to some highlights from the tastings in a few moments, but first I wanted to tell you with as much humility as I could muster that my panel TOTALLY KILLED IT. I mean, look… we had… THIS:

That’s just Awesome with a capital A, (in the words of Martin Short’s Ed Grimley) “I must say!

Which is, of course, my humorous attempt to tell you that I thought that my fellow panelists and moderator totally killed it in talking about the intersection of wine and music, and that I was basically just trying to keep up with them.

Of course, VINO2015 was chock-full of enough tasting opportunities to pickle all of your livers several times over, and so here are my takes on a few that turned my wine-geek-critic-type-guy head (with apologies in advance to the VINO2015 organizers, who focused on Southern Italy, while I apparently focused on Northern Italy, as you’ll soon see). Also, for those of you complainy-pants who constantly moan that I never talk about inexpensive wines, this your chance to bite it! (I mean that respectfully… I think…)…

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