The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2012

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Page 46 of 128

WINE NEWS Under the Steele Umbrella JED STEELE PROCURES FRUIT J FROM TOP QUALITY VINEYARD SITES THROUGHOUT CALIFORNIA ed Steele has been around the block. The vineyard block, that is. After graduating from U.C. Davis at the top of his class with a Masters in enology in the early 1970s, he worked and consulted for top winemakers and then, in 1991, left a corporate winery position to start Steele Wines. "Jed got away from machine-made wines to make the handcrafted kind," says Steve Tylicki, longtime GM and Viticulturist at Steele. "He likes to play with a lot of varieties." Today, Steele pro- duces 47 different bottlings, sourced from regions spanning from Santa Barbara to Washington State. Tylicki and Assistant Winemaker Joy Merrilees (whose business card reads, "Crazy Chick in Rubber Boots") met up with us in Lake County at Steele's winery headquarters, where we tasted through the current vintages. —Meridith May Steele Assistant Winemaker Joy Merrilees. Tasting Notes The Steele umbrella shelters several labels, some from estate vineyards, some sourced. Appellations include Lake County, Mendocino County, Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County. Writer's Block 2011 Roussanne, Lake County ($16) is produced by Jed's son, creative writer Quincy Steele, whose winemaking approach helps bring about the crisp wine's broad minerality and spiced lemon-peppered grapefruit notes. A smidgen of Viognier is blended in. The label depicts Shakespeare in a modern vineyard setting. Jed Steele's Shooting Star 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County ($14) is Joy Merrilees's "baby. " In 2010, Jed gave her the oppor- tunity to change the technique on this wine, using the same batch of grapes with three separate fermentations and three different yeasts. She also added Sauvignon Musqué. "Lake County has gotten a good reputation for this varietal," Merrilees offers. Here, the floral notes meld with candied pineapple, and a subdued grassiness shines through (she explains this is due to a South African strain of yeast). It shows off a suppleness while also managing a tart, refreshing quality. A true star! Steele 2009 Pinot Noir, Carneros ($18) is a cuvée from three different growers and three separate sites in Carneros. Its black cherry cider nose and palate picks up a cinnamon-white pepper red tea and sweet tobacco middle. Steve Tylicki, GM and Viticulturist for Steele Wines, is photographed against the backdrop of Clear Lake in Lake County, the largest natural lake in California. Mt. Konocti , a 4,500-foot extinct volcano sits on its shores. 46 / the tasting panel / august 2012 Stymie 2009 Founder's Reserve Syrah, Lake County ($50) comes from the Kelseyville Bench, an applied-for but not yet approved AVA with red volcanic soils. Named for the famous mid-20th-century American racehorse (Jed's father was a part-time bookie and newspaper writer), this gorgeous berry/ meaty creature is lengthy and fierce. Its firm body runs down the middle of a clay track, positioned to win with a big heart. PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY PHOTO: JOHN CURLEY

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