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What's new in iJamming!...
Thu, Oct 3, 2002
FEATURED WINE:
Ridge Coast Range 2000
Last of The Summer Rosês: Goats Do Roam, Vin Gris de Cigare and Rose of Virginia.
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE WHITES
Featured wine region 4:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE ROSÉS
Previously...
FEATURED Wines5
FEATURED Wines 4
FEATURED Wines 3
FEATURED Wines 2
FEATURED Wines 1
Featured wine region 2:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
The Geography
The Villages
Featured vine:
VIOGNIER:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.

Now with updated reviews
Featured wine region 1:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE
Featured wine web site:
HONIG
WINE AND MUSIC:
What wine fans and music devotees have in common.
Featured wino: TIMO MAAS
Featured party wine:
CLINE's Cotes d'Oakley
And how Cline does it
Featured wine web site: VIGNOBLES BRUNIER
The full iJamming! Contents
2 MANY TASTINGS:
the iJammming! Wine Round Up:
OCTOBER 2002 (continued from Pt.1)
PINOT NOIR

Burgundy's red grape is the rising star of the USA's west coast. As befits this most fickle yet fascinating of varietals, there's much attention being paid to terroir, that combination of soil, climate and other growing conditions that makes some stretches of land so much more suitable for a grape than others.

Up in Oregon the Williamette Valley is already famous for its Pinot Noirs, and I tasted interesting 1998, 1999 and 2000s from Adelsheim Vineyards, two excellent if rather expensive 2000s from Archery Summit (the Premier Cuvee was a particularly big wine built for the long haul) and the impressive (and at $36, not atypically expensive) Willakenzie Estate Aliette from 2000.

In California, the reputation of Sonoma County's cool climate Russian River Valley was evidenced by the DeLoach Estate 2000, the Davis Bynum Russian River 2000, and even more precisely so in a trio of single vineyard wines, the currently tight Davis Bynum Allen Vineyard 2000, and Bynum & Moshin Vineyards 1999, and the superb Freestone Hill 2000 from Dutton Goldfield, which opens up the inherent spicy quality of the best Burgundy. In Oregon and Californian alike, the 2000s are noticeably more forward than the austere 1999s, even though the latter is supposedly the better vintage; if you're new to these regions and their wines, maybe go for the less expensive and readily drinkable 2000s to see if you like what you're tasting.
RHÔNE RANGERS

Syrah is California's rising red grape, along with Pinot Noir; there are those who produce it in addition to the more 'conventional' cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay, and there are those who produce it as the backbone of an entire Rhône range. Garretson Wine clearly falls into the latter camp. The Gaelic-obsessed, Style Council influenced Mat Garretson makes a Glimigrin table blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache for around $16, and three pure Syrahs, only one of which he was pouring last week. The Paso Robles 2000 Syrah 'The Aisling' undergoes a complex fermentation and blending to give out a vibrantly spicy, almost Burgundian nose; at around $30, it's up there with the most expensive St-Josephs but less than a Hermitage or Côte-Rôtie.

Garretson Wine's Spunog Cnoc Viognier. The color of the label is a tribute to the Style Council.
Garretson's two 2001 Viogniers are different both in style and price. The $20 'Spunog Cnoc' (Gaelic for the Spoon Hill corner of his Paso Robles vineyard) is hedonistic in an old-fashioned Condrieu style, with some residual sugar left that renders the wine off-dry but "not sickly-sweet". This is the Mae West/Dolly Parton wine, blanc and big-breasted. The Table 62 Santa Ynez, despite humble name, is more expensive ($30) and expansive; it offers q precise balance of up-front aromatics, white fruit flavors and intense elegance for which great Viognier is famed, and Matt likens it to Ingrid Bergman.

In the same price bracket, Garretson is also pushing Roussanne, a Rhône white grape lesser known than Viognier (or indeed, Marsanne), and which has in many Californian cases actually turned out to be Viognier to begin with. (It's a long story, but it involves Randall Grahm and erroneously identified Roussanne root stock smuggled into the States from France.) Garretson's 'The Limoid Cior' 2001 is definitely Roussanne, and it carries its 14.5% alcohol well, with high acidity announcing a honeyed texture that speaks highly from the grape's potential on the west.


Another interesting Roussanne is the Jaffurs Santa Barbara 2000, which has good floral fruit and is keenly understated. Jaffurs makes a Viognier I didn't taste, and several Syrahs of which I enjoyed two: a Santa Barbara County 2000 that includes 5% Viognier in an imitation of Côte-Rôtie; and the 14.7% alcohol Melville 2000, an extremely impressive single vineyard wine that is tender, fleshy and curvaceous. (And at $33 is indicative of Californian Rhône prices.) Jaffurs' Rhône obsession continues with an impressively understated Mourvèdre 2000 Stolpman: given the tannic intensity of many a Mourvèdre-dominated Bandol from Provence, this is the reverse of the usual California-France paradigm.

Finally, at least for now, the 2000 Viognier/Marsanne from Treana does right by both varietals, with the Marsanne offering weight and backbone to the aromatic delights of the Viognier. A little bit of new oak helps build stricture to this approachable – and, at only $15, highly affordable - wine.

SOUTHERN FRANCE

You'll know by now that I'm prejudiced but still, at both the professional tastings I attended, the south of France just seemed to offer the most flavor for the best values. I sampled almost impenetrable Cahors (mainly Malbec) and Bandol (primarily Mourvèdre) from the ripe 1999 and 2000 vintage, each of which appellations can warrant many years cellaring and which are affordable from the off. (The 1999 Château Lamartine Cahors Cuvee Particuliere is notably outstanding for its $14 price tag. You can get it in the UK for a similarly impressive £9.) I tasted an approachable Grenache-Carignan blend from Collioure (the Domaine de la Rectorie Le Seris 2000) and my favored old vines Mourvèdre from Château La Roque in Pic Saint Loup (the 2000 seeming more forward than the 1998 of which I wrote about previously).

From the northern Rhône, where Syrah dominates, I tasted two classy, smoky wines that represent the best of St-Joseph (the 2000 Offerus from JL Chave) and the 1998 'L'Arzelle' from a trio of the region's top wine-makers going by the name Domaine Vins de Vienne) and a couple of forward, fruity Crozes-Hermitages (the 1999 Domaine les Chenets and the 2000 Domaine du Murinais). The St-Josephs retail for over $25, or around £12 in the UK (get the Chave here); the Crozes, at $15-$20 offer better, more forward value for quality northern Rhône reds.

From the southern Rhône, there were all manner of fine blends from Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas , and the Côtes du Rhône(s Villages) from across the last four vintages. Of particular note was a 1997 Châteauneuf du Pape by the little known Clos St Jean that has only just been released: it's got a brooding coffee/tobacco-like quality to it that renders it a big blockbuster ready for immediate consumption –especially given that the 1998s are mostly shut down right now. 1999, 2000 and 2001 have all been wonderful vintages in the southern Rhône, and especially among the inexpensive Côtes du Rhônes, it's hard to go wrong.

Sadly the 2002 vintage in the Côtes du Rhône has been decimated by floods, which explains why the wine-makers were absent from these tastings – that and the fact that most of them are simply more concerned with making the wine and living the traditional life than engaging in a hard sell over in New York.

ZINFANDEL.

The warm, brambly, dark berried, chewy, spicy and lush flavors of Zinfandel make it one of the most identifiable wines in the world, its exclusivity to the USA ensures we know it as 'America's Grape' and the preponderance of pre-Prohibition vines in California allow for some remarkably concentrated juice - yet the grape's affinity to warm weather climate and the growers' over-enthusiasm often makes for unbearably high alcohol. Too many old-vine zins either taste hot and unpleasant or are famously 'port-like', best reserved for after-dinner imbibing. And such has been the surge in prices that too many of the affordable everyday examples lack flavor.

But if you're willing to go above $15, there are excellent examples to be had from producers like DeLoach, Fife's charming 'Mendocino Uplands' 2000, and from the hot climate of the Alexander Valley, from Quivira (though the Dry Creek 1999 sees too much oak), the previously-reviewed Seghesio's basic bottling, and the Dry Creek Heritage Clone 1999 (see left) which has received rave reviews across the board; it has a warm and friendly approach with fruit and alcohol in balance and none of zin's occasionally abrasive qualities.

Higher up the scale, both in price and alcohol, the grapes in the bottle tend to be from single vineyards, ancient vines, and often blended with small amounts of the earthy Petite Sirah and/or Carignane. There were so many being poured at Winebow I could have done nothing but drink zin all day (and there are worse, if more sober ways to spend one's time); among those I got to and which impressed me were Pezzi King's Zinfandel Estate and Old Vine 1999s, both Dry Creek Valley and built to last; Seghesio's Home Ranch 2000 (from 107 year old vines in Dry Creek, with some Carignane and Petite Sirah) and the Seghesio Old Vine 1999 (each $30), a big and lively wine that I'd already picked up and plan to open in a year or so; the Hartford Court Russian River and Highwire 1999s, tight taut wines with big Indian-like spice flavors that, at 15.8% each might prove too harsh for most palates; the surprisingly accessible El Dorado 2000 from Rombauer , and the Dusi Vineyard 2000 Paso Robles from Stephen Ross.

Given what we've learned about the Russian River Valley's cool climate, it might seem like the heat-friendly zinfandel would suffer in such a cool climate. (You don't tend to see cabernet sauvignon or syrah from this AVA, for example.) Yet some of the very best zins hail from the Russian River; these wines continue to be high in alcohol but thanks to something in the weather (the morning fog?) they're much more balanced on the palate. The aforementioned and affordable DeLoach is a prime and affordable example, just 13.5% with all that ripe dark plum and boysenberry flavor that's unique to zin. But if you can afford to search out something remarkable, then look for Tin Barn Vineyards, whose 2000 Russian River Valley Jensen Lane Vineyard ($30 or under) delivers the requisite fruit and spice in an enormous 16% wine, yet wraps it with great finesse. (The 2001, not yet released, is up to a ball-busting 16.8%.) Finally, Dutton Goldfield, whose wines across the board are nothing short of superb, have a Morelli Lane Vineyard 2000 made from 100 year old vines on a 1.5 acre parcel. Not surprisingly, it's packed with a chewy density and the taste of rich, spicy, wild berry fruits with a tongue-coating inkiness and a warm sensation of pure hedonism that mark the best wines from the every day wines. There's only 240 cases of the stuff (as opposed to 650 of the Tin Barn) and it would cost you about $40 a bottle assuming you could find it. I know that's a lot to spend on a single bottle of wine and more than I like recommending you to do so. But should you come across either of these extremely potent examples of a particularly unique varietal, you might just want to splurge for the one-off experience. In the mean time, I feel privileged to have had my taste.

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