Issue link: http://digital.copcomm.com/i/101724
SMALL-PRODUCTION Gathering Cult Status GARAGISTE WILLIAM ALLEN ROUNDS UP RHÔNE VARIETALS AT TWO SHEPHERDS WINERY by Suzie Rodriguez / photos by Damon Mattson W illiam Allen, the founder and creator of wines at Rhônecentric Two Shepherds Winery, has only made wines commercially for three years. But from his irst 175-case vintage in 2010—which included a richly complex Syrah/Mourvèdre blend and a spectacular Grenache Blanc—he's been acclaimed for gently shepherding into existence wines of elegance and Old World balance. "His wines are just amazing," says Winemaker William Allen with Sondra Bernstein, owner of Sonoma restaurant The Girl & the Fig. Sondra Bernstein, whose Sonomabased restaurant, The Girl & the Fig, offers only Rhône varietals and blends. "His Grenache Blanc in particular is really special, balanced and with a lot of complexity. If he gives it to us, we sell it." Allen, 48, was born and raised in the pink-sanded paradise of Bermuda, 46 / the tasting panel / january 2013 received a B.A. in political science/sociology at Alabama's Auburn University, and left the Ph.D. track for a marketing/ sales job in technology. That's when he irst began to discover wine. Allen followed a classic learning progression from that point, eventually discovering Napa and "great Cabs, Merlot, all the big reds." But it wasn't until visiting Sonoma County's Russian River Valley—where he lives today— that he felt at home personally and viticulturally. "People were making very small lots, working their own vineyards, pouring tastings in old barns. And I found Pinot Noir, an elegant and nuanced wine— very different from the over-oaked, huge reds I'd been drinking." Allen continued his progression, until, about a decade ago, he became a garagiste winemaker. He later started an inluential, highly-popular wine blog, Simple Hedonisms. Six years ago Allen experienced an epiphany with Rhône wines. "I had come to be frustrated with the wine world's emphasis on single varietals," he said. "What I love about Rhône wines is that they're best expressed as blends—the varietals have so much breadth, such dramatic diversity." The decision to make blends necessitated more space, and he moved his "garage" activities to a professional winery. One thing led to another, and in 2010 he went commercial with Two Shepherds. The tiny 2010 vintage gained so much attention that Allen was forced to limit restaurant distribution. Production in 2011 more than doubled, to 500 cases, and 2012 will come in at about 650 cases. With demand far exceeding production, Allen could well charge higher prices. The 2011 Grenache Blanc, of which only 100 cases were made, sells for just $24. Tasting Notes Two Shepherds 2011 Grenache Blanc, Saarloos Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley ($24) Complex citrus ﬂavors with touches of ripe pear and pepper; high and bright acidity complemented by a lingering softness on the tongue. A superb creation. Two Shepherds 2011 Viognier , Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($24) Extremely fresh and bright, noticeable acidity and a sensual mouth feel, notes of grapefruit, apricot and melon. Two Shepherds 2011 Pastoral Blanc, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($24) Like a superb jazz quartet, this well-integrated Rhône-style blend (45% Roussanne, 20% each Marsanne and Viognier, 15% Grenache Blanc) brings out the best in each player. A sip becomes a small but complex symphony. Will age well because of the wine's minerality and balanced acidity. Two Shepherds 2010 GSM, Russian River Valley ($32) The grapes in this blend (50% Grenache, 25% each Syrah and Mourvèdre) were grown in cool climates, ripened slowly, and picked at lower-than-usual Brix—producing spicy notes of strawberry and raspberry, generous minerality, nice acidity.