The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2012

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 150 of 152

THE WANDERING SOMMELIER WHAT TURNS SOMMELIERS ON? GOOD QUESTION���AND ONE THAT WILL, HENCEFORTH, BE THE FOCUS OF RANDY CAPAROSO���S ���WANDERING SOMMELIER��� COLUMNS. ���ED. What a Somm Wants MENDOCINO���S BLEMISHED WINES by Randy Caparoso T A demonstration of vine trellis techniques to three visiting sommeliers. Left to right: Guldal Lindberg CS, International Culinary Center (Campbell, CA); Scott Turnbull, Four Seasons Hotel (Philadelphia, PA); Jake Fetzer (kneeling), winemaker/ owner, Mas��t Vineyards; and Daniel Rudiger CSW, Nikolai���s Roof (Atlanta, GA). PHOTO: RANDY CAPAROSO his past July, I accompanied 26 sommeliers, coming from as far away as Waikoloa, HI and Boston, MA, on a three day tour of Mendocino County. There is an enduring ���hippie aspect��� about this sprawling Northern California wine region, at least according to Bill Summerville, Sommelier of La Belle Vie in Minneapolis, who describes Mendocino as a place where winegrowers are ���living off the grid . . . making Napa Valley seem like Disney World by comparison.��� One of those growers is Deb Schatzlein of Bink Wines, whose Hawk���s Butte Vineyard sits atop a wispy fog-ringed 1,800-foot elevation hilltop in the Yorkville Highlands AVA. Schatzlein lives out of a trailer hitched between gigantic, woodpecker-pocked pines. The feeling is monastic��� serene and sublime���and the sommeliers were suficiently awed, especially after tasting two Syrahs���the 2006 Copain Syrah and Schatzlein���s own 2006 Bink Syrah���grown in the thin-soiled Hawk���s Butte. Margaret Golson CS, CSW, of Charlie���s L���Etoile Verte, in Hilton Head Island, SC, described the Bink as having ���layers of bacon, olives and lavender, with delicious balancing acidity.��� The earthier, forest loor-ish 2006 Copain Syrah, says Lisa Mroz DWS, CS, ���struck us dumb . . . as if the silence of the vineyard in the cool morning, with the fog sifting in and out, suddenly befell us.��� Another heady moment took place at Eagle Peak, a future Mendocino AVA located above Redwood Valley, deined by 1,200- to 3,500-foot slopes on two sides of a narrow pass. Although it was in a late summer afternoon when the sommeliers walked through Mas��t Vineyards, bone-chilling winds had them bundled up in jackets. Even more shocking was the 2010 Mas��t Pinot Noir, which every sommelier agreed to be the equal of any grown in Mendocino (including the vaunted Anderson Valley): silk textures, teeming red berries, coffee/cola spices, loam and trufle-like complexities. Mendocino Ridge is another one of Mendocino���s high-elevation AVAs, where grapes can struggle to ripen, yet reap dazzling rewards, like the ultra-fragrant, acidedgy 2010 Arista Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir, which winemaker Leslie Sisneros describes as ���delicate, and hauntingly beautiful.��� Our sommeliers were also wowed by Jason and Molly Drew���s 2009 Drew Valenti Vineyard Pinot Noir, with an electric-socket acidity typical of Mendocino Ridge. The more feminine 2010 Phillips Hill Two Terroirs Pinot Noir was transparently scented of pine and cherry perfumes, while the native yeast���fermented 2010 Baxter Valenti Vineyard Pinot Noir had touches of animal, �� la fran��aise, laced with nostril-tingling cranberry and clove. Mendocino, of course, is also a bastion of organic and Biodynamic winegrowing, and a visit to Frey Vineyards is a cultural experience in itself: one that Paige Bindel, CS of Pebble Beach���s Inn at Spanish Bay describes as ���going back in time to a communal attitude, like Big Sur in the ���70s.��� You do not go to Mendocino in search of ���perfectly balanced��� wines. What you can ind are wines with intriguing blemishes: strong earth tones, prickling acidity, stringy tannins, strange or exotic aromas, seemingly from another planet. But at least they are real���distinctly ���Mendocino������which is why many sommeliers are loving it! 150 / the tasting panel / december 2012 TastingPa

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - December 2012