wines from California and Oregon
An interesting tasting of some eclectic, naturally made bottles from
the west coast
This was an interesting tasting. An
eclectic set of wines from California and Oregon, all of which would
fall under the rather loose banner of natural. This selection was
put together by Alice Feiring, and she chose well.
Saron: a small vineyard in the Sierra Nevada
foothills with interesting soils. High planting density modelled on
Burgundy, with organic farming (just a coupe of sulfur sprays a
season). Natural winemaking with no sulfur dioxide until bottling.
The home vineyard makes Pinot Noir. These special cuvees come from
bought in grapes.
Clos Saron Carte Blanche 2011
Organically grown Albarino/Verdelho/Chardonnay/Petit Manseng,
sourced in Lodi and south of Marysville. This is the first release.
Nutty, textured and rounded with rich, mineral pear fruit. Tangy
with real interest, and a lovely fruit presence. 93/100
Clos Saron Heart of Stone Syrah 2006
Savoury, tangy, spicy and mineral. Ripe and a bit reductive with
smoothness and firm tannins. Grippy, but showing real interest in a
ripe style. 91/100
Clos Saron Stone Soup 2009 California
First release of a Syrah from a vineyard a mile away from the
home vineyard. Savoury, slightly reductive mineral black fruit nose.
Ripe, dense and lovely with fresh plum and blackberry fruit,
together with earthy, savoury, mineral depth.
Clarine Farm: four
hectares of vines in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Winemaking is
natural: no new oak, added yeasts, added sulfur dioxide (save for a
little at bottling). Owners Hank Beckmeyer and Caroline Hoel started
La Clarine Farm in 2001. Initially they ran the vineyards
biodynamically, but have since become more influenced by Masanobu
Fukuoka's work, and in four years they have had to spray just once,
with sulfur. The vineyard is a field blend including Tempranillo,
Syrah, Tannat, Grenache, Negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon. They
also buy in some grapes from vineyards they really like.
La Clarine Farm Syrah 'Sumu Kaw' 2010
From the Sumu Kaw vineyard in El Dorado county's Pleasant
Valley. Whole cluster. Lovely aromatic black cherry and blackberry
fruit: pure and lush. Sweetly seductive with some black cherry notes
and real elegance. It flirts with jamminess but gets away with it
because it is just so pure and elegant. 93/100
La Clarine Farm Home Vineyard 2010
A difficult vintage resulted in a production of just 192
bottles. Lots of different red varieties including Tempranillo and
Tannat. Nice savoury edge to the pure, sweet black fruit. Lovely
purity on the palate with sweet black fruits and nice spicy depth.
So vivid and elegant; intense and grippy too, at the same
Project: Abe Schoener, an ex-college philosophy
teacher, now makes natural wines from select vineyards. He has a PhD
in ancient greek philosophy, and takes an unconventional approach in
the winery, with a focus on maintaining a diverse microbial ecology.
Scholium Project Prince in His Caves
A Sauvignon Blanc. Orange colour. Perfumed, pretty and ripe.
Smooth textured with notes of apricot and honey. Sweet and ripe yet
tangy with power, but also lots of detail and interest. 94/100
Arnot Roberts Syrah 2010 North Coast,
11.9% alcohol. Deep coloured, with a vivid, fresh, spicy,
savoury nose. The palate is fresh with ripe berry and cherry fruit,
as well as some peppery freshness, and reductive savoury notes.
Sweet, pure, fully ripe yet grippy: a lovely Syrah. 94/100
A Tribute To
Grace Wine Company: Kiwi Angela Osborne makes wines
solely from Grenache; Grace is her grandmother's name.
A Tribute to Grace Grenache 2010 Santa
14.4% alcohol. Half whole bunch. Pale colour. Sweet and smooth
textured with some ripeness but also a lovely savoury, grainy tannic
structure. Smooth with a seductive mouthfeel. Real intensity here.
Ranch and Vineyard: a vineyard in Los Alamos, farmed
biodynamically. It's rather strangely named, but the Martian is
actually a combination of the names of owner Nan Helgeland's sons
Martin and Ian. Natural winemaking with just a bit of sulfur dioxide
added at bottling.
Martian Ranch and Vineyard Ground
Control Grenache Noir 2011 Santa Barbara County, California
Smooth, supple, elegant and fresh with sweet, textured cherry
and plum fruit. Pure and beguiling with lovely seamless, smooth
Martian Ranch and Vineyard Red Shift
40% each of Grenache Noir and Mourvedre with 20% Grenache Blanc.
Tangy and a bit zippy with fresh, smooth, sweet black cherry fruit.
Ripe and sweet but quite elegant with nice fruit and lovely
purity, in a sweet style. 92/100
Martian Ranch and Winery Mothership
Grenache Blanc 2011 California
Lovely rich textured ripe peach, pear and melon notes, with some
spice and pepper notes. Sweet but fresh with a lively, precise
Vineyards and Black Cap: one of Oregonís pioneers, and
currently one of its finest wineries. Jason Lett is a thoughtful
winegrower who is experimenting with natural wine, hence the sans
soufre version of the Pinot Noir. But all his wines are pretty
naturally made. Black Cap is Jasonís own boutique label, made in
small quantities but separate from Eyrie.
The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2010
Taut, reductive nose is spice and mineral. Supple, elegant
reductive palate with silky fruit, real elegance and a spicy,
mineralic core. 93/100
The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir Sans
Soufre 2010 Oregon
Deeper coloured than the regular Pinot. Taut and reductive on
the nose. Thereís a mineral, spicy edge to the fresh black cherry
fruit, as well as some grippy structure. Still in a reductive state
at the moment but potentially really interesting. 93/100
Black Cap Chardonnay of Oregon 2009
Dundee Hills, Oregon
Tangy, appley and quite oxidative with some white peach and pear
notes. Great fruit precision, with real interest. Unusual but nice.
Black Cap Pinot Noir of Oregon 2009
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Supple, smooth, ripe and textured with nice precision to the
sweet cherry fruit. A bold style: rich, but balanced, with some
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