Drinking to Remember: Memory and Wine #MWWC34

Memory and wine make odd bedfellows.  We drink to forget, right?  Those hangovers from downing two buck chuck definitely did not build more gray matter.  That second (or third) bottle certainly wiped out a few evenings.

But good wine, hell, even just unique wine, can be a time machine.

Just today, while showing bottles to restaurants, begging them to buy anything, I opened a near-forgotten favorite: Aurélien Verdet’s, Le Prieuré, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits.  This 2014 Pinot Noir costs $33.  The appellation lacks prestige, coming from a soil-stripped, wind-swept, hill top in Burgundy, France.  The best fruit grows midslope.  But this little 10 acre Le Prieuré vineyard matters.  It went AB Organic in 1971. Ten years later, Aurélien was born. He grew up tending it, inherited it in 2005, has grown his holdings, and continues to make brilliant things.

Aurelian Verdet Hautes Cotes de Nuits Pinot 2014

But today, while I rattled off those facts to a wine buyer, my nose got stuck in the glass. A fire of white wood, black raspberry, clove, chalk, and stem burned through my nostrils.  My brain plunged three years back.  I forgot, but I had sold this buyer Verdet’s 2010 three years ago. Hell, I even wrote about it three years ago (read here).

Aurelian Verdet Hautes Cotes de Nuits 2010

My wife and I had just bought our first house then. And I felt fancy and had opened it to celebrate.

The account moved on to other wines. But my head kept trickling back. Like a sports’ bracket in reverse, it ambled to the first Hautes-Côtes anything Burgundy I had ever tried: Nuiton-Beaunoy’s, Le Mont Battois, Pinot Noir, Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, France, 2010 (read here).

Images flashed of my wife and I, exhausted, returning from vineyard hikes to that dingy little hotel in Beaune.  A 10 inch TV hung from the ceiling.  Everything was colored beige. It was 2012, winter, and we were midway into our seven month EU Austerity Drinking Tour.  €12.00 on a wine was a splurge.  But Nuiton-Beaunoy had a lot of words on the label. It must be good.

It wasn’t.  I had written, “very lean, sprightly, but needs a roast turkey or chicken. The extreme strains of growing high up Beaune’s slopes denies this wine premier cru status, let alone standard Beaune AOC status. It is good (3 of 5) and completely true to its place and price, but not compelling.”

Ouch! Who is this jerk?

Nevertheless, it taught me to remember what an Hautes-Côtes was.  Aurelian Verdet’s 2010 and 2014 share that hard-etched thread of edginess.  They brought me right back.

Who hasn’t had a smell, sound, color, or voice flood back related, if disjointed, memories?

Now bear with me, but my Master’s thesis was on memory.  Specifically, I tackled ancient Roman methods of remembering, known as the ars memoriae or Art of Memory.  Basically, pompous elite men like Cicero memorized their fancy speeches by training their brains. They set up spaces with items, associated each item with a quote, phrase, or topic, and then walked through using the order of the objects to recall the entire speech.

Cool huh? Teleprompter’s and scripts are for the weak!

Our brains associate things, smells, tastes, appearances with memories to survive. Evolution demands that our heads work efficiently, otherwise, we would keep eating that poisonous plant and all die.  But if we had every moment at our fingertips we could not function.  Instead, we compartmentalize memories into groups, prioritizing them, like putting colored tabs on important recipe pages in a cookbook.

Wine can work the same way.

Now, I am not suggesting building vertical, memory-association flights (although that would be cool).  But, right now, allow whatever wine you have to take you back.  It need not be a specific wine memory (because I have no life, “wine memories” are all I have left #sad).  Instead of thinking, “it tastes like raspberries”, wander a bit, and maybe, it tastes like that nervous first date, or that winter cabin retreat, or your one-eyed dog Scurvy.

We hold a library of memories.  Each wine can be an index card to our past (or at least a google search keyword for you youngins).


This is my Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC34) submission on the theme memory. Do not forget to vote for it once it goes live August 1st at https://mwwcblog.wordpress.com and thanks!

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Cave Winery Tour at Jarvis Estate Napa Valley

Our Napa Valley tour continues.  After an extravagant whole day at Opus One (read here), we continue to dip our toes into this gilded pool with a stop at Jarvis Estate.

William Jarvis went from the Navy, to college and much travel, to found his own telecommunications company (you may have heard of HP) in Silicone Valley.  Loaded, living part-time at his Chateau in France led him to wine.  As one does, he bought an 1,320 acre retreat in SE Napa Valley, near Coombsville, and planted 37 acres of vines over ten years.

But Jarvis faced a dilemma.  When swimming in money, he could not just build any old winery.  SE Napa is hot, hilly, and dry.  His solution, instead of buying an AC unit: put his barrels in a cave like the ancient French.  Caves stay cool and damp year round, which barrels prefer. However, Napa lacks natural caves.  So, dig it and they will come.

Jarvis cave entrance napa valley

Just a little door in a hill. Nothing to see here.

Remember those Chunnel diggers that connected France to the UK?  Well, they also dug 45,000 square feet, aka an acre, of Jarvis cave into Vaca Mountain.  That matches a Borders’ Books or large grocery store.  Why so large?  Well, it not only ages barrels, but crams the first whole winery underground: from fermentation, barreling, to bottling, even boxing.

Jarvis entrance

Looking for troglodytes.

But what is it like inside? Actually, quite elegant and alien.

Jarvis Aaron Bronze Doors

Finely crafted bronze doors lead to intertwining, parabolic arched tunnels, lined with barrels.

Jarvis Money Shot

Let us take a walk through:

Their rotary fermentors are pretty cool. Their spinning allows for gentle and constant extraction of skin tannins, colors, and flavors that punch downs or pump overs merely mimic.

Rotarty Fermenters Napa Valley Jarvis

Offices lay just past the tanks.  I expect to find the Mole People, Batman, or at least a Bond villain.  But inside we find winemaker Scott Morrison hiding behind a picture of winemaker Scott Morrison wearing nearly the same plaid shirt.

Scott Morrison Winemaker Jarvis

Not the best way to hide

Once I know which Scott to talk to, the real one walks us through his process, which by necessity is intricate given their limited 37 acres, extended aging program, and 100% varietal wines.

To prove Jarvis has its own in-cave bottling line, ta da!

Jarvis Bottling Machine

In a rare moment of normality, we find stock-standard crock pots used for wax-capping bottles.

Wax Capping Crock Pot

humble yet cool

But to remind us we are still peasants, we pass through those automatic bronze doors and enter the crystal hall.  The ceiling doubles in height.  Paint goes from beige to white.  Crystals the size of people load its nitches.

Jarvis Crystal Collection

And this is just the entrance to the Inner Circle Ballroom… OK. Pause.  I need to ask a question.  Does all this extravagance make good wine? We head to the ominous-sounding Associate Vintners’ Chamber to find out.

Jarvis Associate Vintners Chamber

Subtle?

I will rank them as we go:

#6 Jarvis, Estate Chardonnay, Finch Hollow, Napa Valley CA 2014

Jarvis Chardonnay Finch Hollow Napa Valley 2014

Finch Hollow is a shallow soil plot. APPEARANCE looks bright, golden, and leggy. Moderate AROMAS of honeydew mellon, pineapple juice, and vanilla smell pleasant. The PALATE feels so fruity I could swear it was off dry. The body is medium. The viscous texture feels decently lifted but a touch too warm. FLAVORS are intense including nectarine, pineapple, and salted butter that last a medium plus length. It is very good (4 of 5). A nice glass to drink now, not needing food, or hold for five years.

Their Unfiltered Chardonnay is even fruitier, plusher, and more tropical if you can imagine that.

Ooh! Tempranillo, cool right?

#5 Jarvis, Tempranillo, Napa Valley CA 2013 $85

Jarvis Tempranillo Napa Valley 2013.jpg

A clear, purple core runs to a pale purple rim. AROMAS smell packed with spice, leather, cigar box, turpentine, and back up vocals of boysenberry and cassis. The PALATE is dry, with a boost of acidity one medium tannins and alcohol making for a lean, raw silk textured wine. FLAVORS chat about dried cherry skin, orange juice, cranberry, and flint.  Jarvis’ Tempranillo is lean, lifted, and dusty: very good (4 of 5).

Will, son of William Jarvis, in eighth grade cooked up a Cab Franc blend and small barrel-aged it until legally old enough to drink it.  Iconic consultant Dimitri Tchelistcheff loved it enough to put it into production.

#1 Jarvis, Will Jarvis’ Science Project, Napa Valley, CA 2013 $140 95% Cab Franc 5% Merlot

Jarvis Science Project 2013 Napa Valley

A deep purple core with a lean wash make up the APPEARANCE. Notable AROMAS and FLAVORS glow with warm cranberry sauce, raspberry, mocha mint and tomato leaf. The PALATE feels dry with amped up acidity, tight lean dusty tannins, a medium body and silky slippery finish. Of all the wines, this needs food: lean meats, young brie, charcuterie. Fascinating, complex, and very good (4 of 5).

#2 Next, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) Napa Valley CA 2012 $160

Jarvis Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Napa.jpg

The APPEARANCE looks a bold ruby with inky legs. AROMAS crackle with toasted toffee and hazelnut, vanilla overlaying blue and blackberry jams and a dash of mint and an odd orange peel finish. The dry PALATE has synced fresh acidity, muscular tannins, alcohol, and a medium plus body. It feels like thick velvet. Jarvis’ 2012 Cab is classic Napa Cab: very good (4 of 5) drink now or to 2020. But it ends oddly citric and falls apart over time to merit perfection. So close!

#4 Lake William Red, Napa Valley CA 2012 $180 42% Cab Sauv 30% Cab Franc 26% Merlot 2% Petit Verdot

APPEARANCE show a deep ruby core that runs to the edge with tears. AROMAS and FLAVORS seem shy right now with moderate mocha, fresh plum, cassis, tobacco and dry forest. The dry PALATE jumps with surprising acidity, woody tannins, medium alcohol and body. Lake William is very good (4 of 5) but needs five years.

Lastly, #3 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) Napa Valley CA 2007 $260

We loved the earthy 2007 Opus One. How is Jarvis’ 2007? Only two of the last five vintages made the cut. 25 months in barrels expand it.

The APPEARANCE looks a rich ruby with tinted thick thick legs. Intense AROMAS and FLAVORS exude dried rosemary, forest floor, cocoa powder, petrol, and tomato leaf that all hang over a core of black raspberry compote.  The PALATE has enough acidity, extra tannins, and a pretty full body.  2007 is a tertiary takeover, all earth and spice and very good (4 of 5). It lacks that something though, the finish does not persist enough and it feels ever so slightly hollow.

So, like choosing children: #1 Science Project Cab Franc, #2 Cab Sauv, #3 Reserve Cab, #4 Lake William Red, #5 Tempranillo, #6 Finch Chardonnay

They are all very good, interesting wines. But none moved me. Maybe the extravagant space made me expect too much. Such a cool cave context should foster extremely unique wines, right?  The batcave has Batman. Who knows.  Maybe overly safe methods, or the SE Napa vineyards do not lend themselves to either perfection or that intangible quality.  More likely, this trip has spoiled me irrevocably.

But if you like rarity, Opus One’s 25,000 cases of one wine make Jarvis’ 5,000 cases seem like an island in a sea. Break that into eleven wines and you have real rarity. To succeed on such a small scale, Jarvis allocates most to members.  Their descriptors hope you “make those you share it with feel privilaged”: aspirational drinking at its height. To amp up exclusivity, only members can attend the biennial Inner Circle Ball held in the deepest, largest cavern. And yes, it is mask optional.  Jarvis knows its audience.

 

 

 

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A Second Round of Opus One

My job has flung me back to Opus One. A year and a half ago my wife and I paired our eighth anniversary with a visit. After three hours, we left impressed but confused. Can a single wine, no matter how good, merit a whole facility and army of employees?

Well, time for the prodigal son to return.

I am here with Cru Artisan Brands salespeople from Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. The market quakes with new markets abroad and millenials moving away from their parent’s cult wines. We need to know what will keep Opus relevant. To accomplish this, we will spend the whole day here. Yes, a single wine winery from 9am until 9pm.

A year has changed little. The sun still bleaches the white stone spaceship structure: its limestone arcades wrap the central court like a mini modern Vatican. Grass and vines glare green. Elegant staff still slip smiling from reception desks to doors to glassware.

Baron Rothschild and Mondavi’s revolutionary bridge between Bordeaux and Napa now tips on a turning point. Both men are dead. The Mondavi family left. Rothschilds still hold onto half. Their winemakers continue to ping pong between France and California, cross-pollinating each coast. Opus still pulls $1 million acre fruit from To Kalon vineyard. Yet even Opus, in all its grandeur, shakes as it steps off the shoulders of its past parents.

They set the bar with Krug Champagne:

Krug at Opus One

Krug in a room with Bonnard and Mondraine…well played Opus.

Opus knows what they’re doing. After intros, half sipped flutes clank back onto the glass table. We shift into the tour.

The 2007 vintage Opus awaits us. It was cool and caught in the middle of a dry farming switch. Vines fought to produce their best.

A deep garnet core glints with brilliant ruby highlights that tear down my swirled glass. AROMAS glow with orange peel, pomegranate, brine, shredded clove, dried vanilla bean husk, and tobacco leaf. The PALATE feels dry but lifted, acidity dinging like a triangle. Dusted tannins prickle a medium plus body. Intense, open FLAVORS ring with orange peel, ruby pomegranate juice, framed in tobacco, chanterelle mushrooms, earth, mocha, and ginger snap cookies.

A decade after harvest, 07 finally sings full chested La Boheme: earthy, complicated, vibrant, and ever struggling. It is outstanding (5 of 5), ready to conquer the world, yet with years ahead of it.

We ponder 07 while Napa’s sun bakes us before the vineyard.

Opus One Vineyard

The view West from Opus to To Kalon.

We learn of their ever-evolving trials into biodynamics, five clone Cabernet biodiversity, dry farming, and replanted blocks. Four plots make up 170 acres for Opus.

Once thoroughly cooked outside, sipping warm cab, we head in.

Inside, we cool down, pass the lab and enter Opus’s grape sorting second story. A lonely vine hangs crucified and split at its graft:

Opus One Vine

Enter a caption

We ponder a possible tattoo. The graft point alone is bigger than my fist. Yet, quietly, on a side table, sits a baby graft-to-be and cutter:

 

Opus One Vine Graft Puncher

Geek-out moment!

This now standard practice makes for metaphor at Opus: here, American roots allow European grapes to thrive. Without us, phylloxera would have ended French wine. Without Bordeaux, Napa’s path could have veered any direction.

Opus 2010 fills new glasses. This was their biodynic vintage, before they stepped back to sustainable farming.

Ruby rims a more youthful, purple heart. AROMAS and FALVORS jump, young, angry, and dense with all spice, tomato leaf, black currant skin, anise, petrol, tobacco, and a green eucalyptus. Cedar tannins splinter throughout the packed PALATE and full body.

2010 is outstanding (5 of 5). But be wary, it is all punk rock. Decant it, age it a few more years, or tame it with old cheddar or steak.

We check out the tasting room construction outside and vineyards running East. The elephant in this grey hall is the berry sorter.

The Grape Sorter Opus One

Jealous?

Small trays of grape bunches head to hand sorting, deleafing, shaking, and blowing into a net then rolled into a destemmer. Next a programmed digital vistalys system analyzes each berry by visual criteria, air jets shoo away a quarter of fruit to mulch, break the best berries, and then trundle the best fruit into pods, which wheel over tanks and and dump into them below our feet.  What an efficient racket it must all make.

We step down to the tank rooms. It feels cool, calm, and dark. Plump stainless tanks gleam flanking unused barrels and presses:

Opus One Fermentation Crushing Barrels

But the barrel hall awaits: a crescent, windowed hall that wraps around a tasting table.  It echoes the exterior. Barrel rows, striped red, run like beads around its neck.  Here wine ages eighteen months before another year in bottle.  They are top notch. Opus drops barrel suppliers if they look off. That red band is patented and antimicrobial. Reeds on the rim drive off bugs. No barrel gets used twice. After aging they are sold to the highest bidder.

Wayward Wine at Opus One

2013 OPUS ONE tints new glasses an intense purple that runs right to the edge. Turbo-powered AROMAS of red fruits like cranberry sauce, Bing cherry lead to blood orange and vanilla all in one shout. The PALATE feels dry, chewy, tannic, warm and full, with enough lift but tight packed. FLAVORS slam with cedar, cherry, boysenberry, heat, and dried mint leaf of medium plus length.

2013 was a warm, dry, shortened vintage. This wine is all flesh and grip. It can be drunk now, but demands protein, and may not age as long as 07 or 10 can, but is no less outstanding (5 of 5).

We head out back. Dressy tables shade beneath oaks framing Napa River. A babble of French and American accents hover ready for lunch. Today, winemakers and staff from Opus, Bordeaux, and beyond dine with us.  Michael Silacci, both winemaker and viticulturist, leads proceedings.

Opus One Lunch

Feeling a bit special

We get two wines, Opus’ multi-vintage blend Overture and Mondavi’s Sauvignon Blanc: a nice nod to their past. We quietly give thanks for the white, since the amazing multicourse lunch feeds us summer fare: caper salads, creamy salmon, fried chicken, and strawberry parfait: not muscular Cabernet territory.

Opus One Backyard

Opus One’s backyard: not the most glam

Fat and happy, we return for our final tasting. This time we taste yeast. Well, wines made with different yeasts.

Three different strains line up beside three blends.

Opus Yeast and Blend Tasting

The 2015 Coyote strain comes from famed To Kalon vineyard a cross the street. DNA testing found it hybridized between native and winery yeasts used there. The resultant wine looks clear pretty deep and purple. AROMAS flex with blackberry compote, cedar, flint, black pepper, dried mint, iron oxide, musk, and herbs de Provence. The PALATE powers with intense acidity, tannin, heat, and edge. With FLAVORS of dried blackberries, iron oxide, pepper. This is a power punch that can handle Opus’s aggressive oak regime.

Next 2015 Wolf a true wild yeast. The wine looks deeper purple. Calm AROMAS waft up mellow caramel, gingersnap, and bramble fruits. The PALATE feels less acidic, more tannic, but leaner with dark fruits driving FLAVORS and orange peel.

And then I become that guy. I grab for a cracker, tip, and catch my last glass, flinging half of its expensive ounces all over a lovely rep from Alaska and myself.

Humiliated and daubing frantically, I move to the 2016 KS strain. Think pie: all-spice, boisenberry, cinnamon, and dried cherry skin AROMAS glow. The PALATE has tannic structure but pales mildly compared to the wild ones before. This would fill out the lean Wolf strain.

Winemaker Michael Silacci finds us again and remains somehow oblivious to my tie-dye experiment. So vineyard blocks and yeasted tanks ferment separately. He then narrows blends until reaching the pyramid pinnacle.  We try three trial 2016 blends:

2016 Blend 2: AROMAS smell quiet, herbaceous, with orange peal. It is dry, with medium acidity, some tannic structure but quite round, fat. 2 is very good (4 of 5) but has no place to go.

2016 BLEND 6: AROMAS smell of blackberry, cassis, and mint. The PALATE balances even acid, tannin, and warm alcohol into integrated smoothness. It is very good (4 of 5) ready now but would collapse after a year or two in new barrels.

2016 Blend 9: Vibrant and complex AROMAS of woody cedar, earth, orange peel, brine make me almost forget there is fruit in there. But a blackcurrant syrup ripples beneath. The palate is grippy, warm, with chunky tannins. It is only very good now (4 of 5) and honestly not enjoyable as a drink but as something to analyze.

I prefer 6 now, but 9 will become Opus One 2016. Only years of practice could give the likes of Silacci vision to see the wine post barrel.

By now we assume it has finished. But Opus is not done with us.  We meet at Farmstead Restaurant. A lackluster grower Champagne and an endless parade of appetizers flow:

Farmstead Oysters Opus Dinner

Good start.

Then bottles arrive. Opus served as the Rothschilds’ summer home. Well, they had a bit of a collection stowed away.

2003 Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux

A moment of silence

2003 may be the 150th anniversary of Château Mouton Rothschild, but 2003 was also a brutally hot vintage. It made monsters. The whole harvest crammed into ten days. But how does Opus’ French-er half fare?

Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac France 2003…. $520 gotta review it.

The APPEARANCE looks a deep garnet framed by thick legs. Intense AROMAS chunk into life: dusky, flinty, briney, with pruned black boysenberry, fennel, and pepper. The PALATE still cracks with rich dry tannins but a checked medium acidity, alcohol, and body. FLAVORS glow with berry fruit leather, prune juice, dusty barn for a medium plus length. Five years ago, this ’03 was probably once outstanding, but the tannic frame feels hollow. CMR still drinks very well (4 of 5), complex and all class, that compared to any 2003 amazes me.

But we came for Opus: the mind child of Mouton and Mondavi. Tasting 2013 again, now with Farmstead’s biscuit meat-fest, it forms a complicated, shouty, perfect chorus. They get along like siblings, energetic, and flaunting their best for our attention.

CONCLUSIONS

Back to our initial question: can Opus continue to matter past its parents? Well, we know 2013 works with food. 2007 has aged gracefully. 2010 has years to go. Even without knowing the methods and madness, objectively, these are impressive. But so are many wines.

Near $300 a bottle, few can afford Opus One. New markets have begun to collect it to prove their status.  But today, fewer Americans cellar wines like this. Also brand-for-life loyalty is fading as a new generation buys for value, variety, and immediate gratification.

So I ponder the label. Mondavi and Rothschild’s blue, blurred profiles now float like ghosts, both deceased, faded shadows of decades of triumph.

Opus One 2013 Bottle Shot

Yay with food

But beyond former glory, Opus still strives to be the standard, bent on perfection, with little ceiling on expenses. Who else only buys new barrels for one use?  Who else avoids distractions like providing a “range” of wines.  Winemaker Silacci could stand on the shoulders of giants and just coast. But the wine world never stands still. Each vintage and trend presents new challenges. Luckily, Opus continues to manage brilliance by tirelessly tweaking and rebuilding itself.

Opus One matters most because of its relentless, monoptic focus. And you can taste it.

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Wine Review: Collab Spritz Rose Pink Heater Allen Brewery Cameron Winery

Beer and wine. Only in this melting pot of America can we mash traditions so freely. My wife even fermented beer in a Pinot Gris barrel and won with it (read here). Lucky for us, Heater Allen (one of our favorite Oregon breweries) and Cameron Winery (an icon of winery restraint in the Willamette Valley) decided to pair up for something interesting.

Here’s why:…?

Ok, so Oregon had a monstrous harvest in 2016. With a glut of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, Cameron Winery collaborated with Heater Allen to create Spritz Rosé: a beer-capped, 355ml-bottled of pink wine with fizz at only 9% alcohol.

Cameron Winery Heater Allen Spritz Rose Wine

The APPEARANCE looks a pale rose pink with mixed-sized rapid bubbles.

AROMAS smell of medium intense rose water, melon, grapefruit juice, and a whiff of funk, wax, and salt.

The PALATE feels dry, steely, and zippy. Alcohol hovers at a low, 9% abv. The body is lean and light.  High acidity and streaming fizz makes our mouths water.

FLAVORS taste clean, tight, and mildly of lemon pith, melon, and steel that lead into salt, yeasty, and wax musk that hang for a medium length.

This is strange. It hardly tastes like your average Pinot Noir rosé, heck even blanc de noir tastes different. I would not claim it a resounding success. But as an experimental collaboration by brewer and winery, I would say it checks enough boxes: sessionable, refreshing, light-food-friendly, decently complex to merit it a very good (4 of 5). Buying a 355ml bottle at $7.99 might seem like a stretch. But past the cost, the wine is delightful fun. Think Vinho Verde, Picpoul de Pinet, and any other petilent but dry sparkler and you will enjoy Cameron’s Spritz.

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4th of July Wine Review: Flowers, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast California 2016

So July fourth once again hoves into view. If you live stateside and feel even vaguely patriotic, you might want to celebrate America’s independence with alcohol. But it falls on Tuesday. Most of us work the next day. So alcohol bombs and bourbon shots might lead to undesired fireworks the morning after, while at your office desk, involving your recycling bin.

Local beer can be light and right. But allow me to suggest another American drink that you can quaff while the grill rages, children swarm, the sun bakes, and guests talk your ear off:

A Pinot Noir Rosé grown on the Sonoma Coast by Flowers Vineyards and Winery:

Flowers Pinot Noir Rose Wine Sonoma

Hello Summer!

Now, I get it, “Flowers Rosé”: probably just some name made up by marketing teams to tap into female demo, right?  Well, no.  Flowers is the family name of Walt and Joan. They left their plant nursery in Pennsylvania, drawn by a classified ad, and bought 321 acres in Sonoma in 1989.  They planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay high on Sonoma’s coastal cliffside, two miles from the water, higher than any sane person would: 1,150 to 1,875 feet.  Extreme elevation and the fog-laden cold climate kept Pinot and Chardonnay happy.

The Flowers’ 2016 Rosé is 100% Pinot Noir and comes from their edgy Sea Ridge View vineyard and a few neighboring farms.  2016 was a mild year.  They did not use saignee method (a bled off, secondary wine that like a lot of rosé producers use to beef up their reds and pay the bills).  No. Instead they chucked Pinot, whole cluster, into a gentle press and let it settle into tanks.  A native yeast but controlled ferment occurred in stainless tanks and neutral barrels.  Cold halted malolactic fermentation.

What does this all add to?

Flowers, Rosé, Sonoma Coast, California 2016 $32

The APPEARANCE looks a brilliant, bright, light salmon color with gold highlights and a medium clear meniscus.

AROMAS and FLAVORS echo light, fresh rose petal, lychee, wild strawberry, and briney sea salt.

The PALATE feels dry, with crisp but controlled acidity, a classic, mild alcoholic warmth (12.5% abv), and a medium body. Yet this wine is all about texture: crackling yet viscous, round yet bright.

Flowers’ 2016 Rosé will tame any hot dog, corn cob, dull conversation, or firework emergency with complexity and grace.  Think of rosé from Provence or Sancerre and this won’t disappoint you.  No Californian rosé is more restrained.  It is refreshing, present, and lengthy and pretty damn near perfect: outstanding 5 of 5.

Happy Independence Day America. Sorry British Empire, better luck next time.

 

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