The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2015

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28  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2015 W hen most wine professionals think of Mourvèdre, they think of Bandol. There are numerous producers of excel- lence in Bandol, but still, when you think of Bandol you think of the Peyraud family's legendary Domaine Tempier. What's the big deal? Sommeliers such as myself, who first attempted to work with Bandol reds in the early 1980s, usually found these wines to be microbiological time-bombs—unstable, unpredictable and, ultimately, too risky or risqué for most restaurant wine programs. But during the late 1980s, when I finally got to work with imaginative chefs, Bandol began to make sense, especially the first time I tasted it with fish stews, such as Hawaiian interpretations of bouillabaisse, cioppino or pho hai san. How can a blunt, unruly red taste so good with briny, iodin- ous seafoods? Umami, of course. But in 1989, when I first saw Domaine Tempier for myself—and hit upon the fact that Bandol is a Mediterranean seaport—things finally began to add up: Mourvèdre is one of the world's most transparent grapes, and therein you unlock culinary quandaries. Here in 2015, I almost feel cheated. Now that I've retired as a working sommelier, we are finally seeing a bundle of California-grown Mourvèdres that are every bit as terroir driven as Domaine Tempier. A sampling: • The powerful, iron-clad, tobacco and garrigue-like sensations packed into the Neyers 2011 Rossi Ranch Mourvèdre, reflecting the red clay slopes of this organically farmed Sonoma Valley growth. • The saline and earthy/meaty dynamic in the Neyers 2012 Evangelho Vineyard Mourvèdre, sourced from 120-year-old, own-rooted vines growing in the beach sand and wind-shredded Sacramento Delta air of Contra Costa County. • The brambly, woodsy thicket of sensations in the Dirty and Rowdy Family 2013 Mourvèdre, channeling the air and fruitfulness of Amador County's Shake Ridge Vineyard. • The savory, granitic, forest floor-ish strengths of the Skinner 2011 Mourvèdre, growing in sparse mountain soils, 2,700 feet high in El Dorado County. • The wildly feral, dry-scrubby, yet sharply balanced Antle-Pinnacalitos de Chalone 2011 Mourvèdre, grown on a rocky, calcareous slope in the Chalone AVA. • A sensual essence of mulberry and black tea in the Kenneth Volk 2011 Enz Vineyard Mourvèdre, from 89-year-old vines growing in parched sandy lime- stone in San Benito County's little-known Lime Kiln Valley AVA. Perhaps most inspired of all? The Mourvèdre-based reds by Paix sur Terre in Paso Robles. Winemaker/owner Ryan Pease makes no bones about the fact that he finds, in the rugged, high-pH hillsides of Paso Robles's newly approved Adelaida District and Willow Creek District AVAs "a phenomenal correlation to Bandol." Says Pease, "I came to Paso Robles to find Mourvèdre, driven by the fact that Domaine Tempier was the very first wine that I ever tasted that went beyond simple fruit profile." In fact, if (fuzzy) memory serves, the terraced hilltop of Glenrose Vineyard even resembles the rocky terraces in Domaine Tempier. The Paix sur Terre 2013 "The Other One" is 100% Glenrose-grown Mourvèdre—purplish, brawny, with wild scrub, minerals, meat and cassis sheathed in soft, supple leather, completely unfettered by excesses of oak or any of the microbial issues (such as brett or acetobacter) once associated with the grape. A wine to ponder, and freely adapt to any number of culinary applications. From Bandol to Paso THE PROCESS OF DISCOVERING MOURVÈDRE'S MAGICAL TRANSPARENCY story and photos by Randy Caparoso Mourvèdre growing in the Antle Vineyard, Chalone AVA. Remains of a 19th-century lime kiln grace the Enz Vineyard in the little-known Lime Kiln Valley AVA, San Benito County. In the Antle Vineyard, (left to right): Bill Brosseau (grower), Hardy Wallace (Dirty & Rowdy; holding calcareous rocks), author Randy Caparoso and Kathy Antle Della-Rose (Antle Vineyard- Pinnacalitos de Chalone). Winemaker Ryan Pease of Paix sur Terre, in the Glenrose Vineyard in Paso Robles.

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