First Things First (Inaugural Releases From Prime and Black Cloud)

Vinted on December 2, 2009 binned in wine review

One of the perks of wine blogging is that you have no editor.  Actually, you do have an editor, it’s just that the editor is often the same person as the principal writer, reporter, photographer, website designer, webmaster, and tech support person.  Of course, not having an editor is also a curse, but that’s fodder for another post (my editor just told me that I won’t have enough space in this article to cover the topic that he and I are actually the same person).

Anyway… the perk is that I get to chose the topics – and wines – about which I write.  Occasionally, things work out and the wines that you (more or less) randomly select from the stockpile of wine samples turn out to be especially enjoyable, or especially interesting, or especially positive portents of things to come.  Or,when you’re really lucky, all three.  [ Also, I get to go on a tirade about the term “brambly” if I want to (more on that later). ]

My first post-Thanksgiving raid of the sample shipments had me pair up two such promising triple-player wine ‘firsts’: Prime Cellars’ first Napa white wine offering, and the first-ever offering of any kind from Canada’s Black Cloud (in this case, Pinot Noir).

To be totally honest, those wines were actually serving triple-duty: 1) subjects for review, 2) food-friendly wine pairings for herb-roasted chicken, and 3) lubrication to help me not completely lose my mind as I tried to assemble a wooden toy kitchen playset for my daughter.

Missions accomplished…

First of the firsts is the first white wine from Prime Cellars in Napa.  Prime is the brainchild of Jarvis’ Ted Henry, who is no stranger to our virtual pagesTed’s inaugural Chardonnay (2008)is a crowd-pleaser with potential, in that it’s a big California Chard that also has purity of fruit and the ability to compliment food.  My guess is that this has quite a lot to do with how Ted approached making this wine – fermenting it on the lees (with weekly stirring) and foregoing malolactic fermentation (so it’s creamy without being too buttery) and then splitting the treatment in thirds (1/3 new oak, 1/3 neutral oak, 1/3 stainless steel) resulting in very good balance overall.  I’m also guessing that it’s the inclusion of the stainless steel really let the Chardonnay fruit character to shine through, and helped preserve some mouth-watering acidity.  Only 101 cases were made, and you’ll need to order it online.

Our second first comes from the Great White North, and is the inaugural (2006) release of Black Cloud, a new Pinot Noir producer from Okanagan Falls (for more on the recent success of that region, check out Sommelier Journal).  The winery website is all but useless unless you’re looking for the winemaker’s e-mail and mailing address; fortunately, that winemaker happens to be Bradley Cooper, who is one of the most active (and one of the funniest) winemakers on twitter.  He’s also active in the blogging community and has been chronicling the birth of Black Cloud at

Black Cloud’s Pinot is a bit like a study in contrasts.  It’s a solid and food-friendly Pinot, with the typical red berry fruits, but it’s the secondary aromas that give the wine its elegance – earth and hints of spices. The primary red berry fruit aromas are very approachable, down-to-earth and… brambly.

Which brings us to my tirade.

I’m sick and tired of hearing that people don’t know what “brambly” tastes like and that it’s a useless descriptor when it comes to wine.  That’s bullsh*t.

Almost everyone reading this knows exactly what brambly means in the context of taste, unless you’ve lived in urban environments your entire life and have never, ever tasted raw edible berries off of a vine in the woods somewhere.  Brambly in wine is nothing more than the difference between those raw-off-the-vine berry fruits and those that you’d find in the store; or, the difference between, say, a homemade blueberry pie and a blueberry dessert prepared at a posh restaurant.  I’m sorry to those who hate the term brambly, but I consider people smart enough to get that difference.






  • Karen

    Funny, I just posted my own rant on samples…and am curious about what you think. When choosing which samples to review, do you only write about the wines that you like? I myself question the value of writing about negative experiences with wine. Does this negative perspective serve to balance what might otherwise come across as reviews that are too blindly optimistic and cheery? (I'm not writing this in response to any of your reviews, but rather as an extension of my thoughts on the subject.) What do you think??
    PS–I DIG brambly!

  • 1WineDude

    I *usually* post reviews about wines that I find enjoyable. On occasion, which is really like once every blue moon, I write a negative review. More often than not, the negative reviews have another angle to them for which the wine becomes an example (extremely high booze content, alternative packaging, that sort of thing). I'm not afraid to say that a wine sucks, but at the same time I don't usually want to just say that a wine sucks for the sake of saying that it sucks.


  • Ted

    Thanks Dude for the kind words on the Chardonnay! Glad you didn't find it brambly (which I've been using a lot to describe Petit Verdot by the way :)

    Ted Henry
    PRIME Cellars

    • 1WineDude

      Well, I sure hope you didn't throw any PV into that CHard! :)

  • Bradley

    "the website is all but useless. . ." I loved that. Well, not for long. Me and the VIN65 guys are drinking and poker buddies and we're going to get that site smoking very soon. In the meantime, folks should contact me direct and chat direct with the wine maker before I get all famous and puffed up. Or maybe sell out to Constellation.

    • 1WineDude

      Just remember the little guys when you break big, ok?

  • ann miller

    Mmm. Will remember brambly. Good descriptor. Now I know.

    • 1WineDude

      Use it with caution. :-)

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