Last week brought me to two very different types of wine tastings. The first was the Wine Warehouse trade tasting catering to retailers and restaurants at the Century City Hyatt in Los Angeles. I was lucky enough to attend but in a little different capacity. I accompanied Mario Marino from Marino Ristorante in Hancock Park. The second tasting was a private tasting from Alluvial Wine Inc. at the Angeleno Hotel’s West Restaurant and Lounge. This tasting was with the West’s General Manager and Sommelier, Jonathan Mitchell. Although I met Ben Doren at the Wine Warehouse tasting, here he was representing boutique wineries, you might call Garagistes.
What was exciting for me about attending Wine Warehouse was that Mario assisted me in discovering some of the French and Italian producers that my familiarity was at a loss. Upon entering some of these tastings, one can find it daunting not knowing where to begin, especially when it comes to European wines. I in return shared my knowledge of the California wineries
Here are the wines that captured my fancy at the Wine Warehouse tasting.
The most intriguing portfolio of wines were those of Paolettii Estate Winery. Every wine was outstanding, consistently balance and smooth with an almost a velvety silk finish. A favorite was the Bella Rosa is a Rosé made up of 90% Malbec and 10% Grenache. The winery is located in Calistoga but many are familiar John and Lilia Paoletti as they are the owners of Peppone Restaurant in Brentwood.
Classical Wines represented both the wines of Spain and Germany. There were two Spanish wines that stood out Martinsancho 2012 Verdejo and the very balanced herbaceous 2012 Can Feixes Blanc Selecció. There were three intriguing German wines, the 2011 C.H. Berres Riesling Estate Mosel, a dry Riesling, C.H. Berres Pinot Blanc Urziger Wurzgarten Mosel, 2011 and the 2011 C.H. Berres Riesling Kabinett, Urziger Wurtzgarden. The later was aged since bottling in the winery's cellar in the Mosel making this a very unique wine.
I did discover a couple new California wineries worth noting. Neyers Vineyards featured an unoaked 2013 Sonoma County Chardonnay “304”. The flavors made it made it appear to be aged in oak. The 2012 Vista Luna Zinfandel was a very balanced wine and the Sage Canyon 2012 Red was a fabulously smooth GSM with the addition of Carignan.
Niven Family Wine Estates representing the Central Coast’s Edna Valley with several labels. The highlight was the Zocker 2012 Riesling from winemaker Christian Roguenant. The wine is crisp, refreshing with its melon and peach flavors.
Morgan Winery’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc had an interesting twist. One percent Albariño is added to the Sauvignon Blanc. This softens the wine given the wine some wonderful tropical flavors.
If you are a lover of Rosé don’t miss Curran 2012 Santa Ynez Valley Grenache Rosé. Another wine not to miss is the 2009 Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine speaks to the longevity of Heitz’s reputation. The Trefethen Vineyards 2012 Estate Oak Knoll District Chardonnay although aged in oak tasted as if it was unoaked. The 2013 Oak Knoll District Dry Riesling was a wonderfully refreshing wine with hints of green apples.
After the immensity of the tasting at the Hyatt, the intimacy of sitting in the relaxed atmosphere of the West Lounge, tasting the wines of several different boutique wineries was a more engaging way to be introduced to some exceptional California wines.
Alluvial’s focus is on those wineries that are small but also biodynamic, organic or sustainable in their practices. They primarily represent California wineries although we began our tasting journey with a French non-vintage Pinot Meunier cuvee. This Collet Brut Champagne aged longer on the lees has light small bubbles making for a fantastic wine to toast any special occasion.
Next we moved to Baker & Brain’s 2012 Grenache Blanc. Baker & Brain is located in San Luis Obispo and is SIP Certified. The wine is light and refreshing with hints of apples and grapefruit. This wine is softer than most Grenache Blanc.
The white wine that blew me away was the 2010 Chronicle Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. This wine is balanced goes through full malolactic fermentation and aged in neutral oak. With a lower alcohol level of 13.1 the wine has aromas of butterscotch and might be described as old world meets new. This cold climate Chardonnay displays flavors of stone fruits.
Chronicle also has a wonderfully fragrant 2011 Pinot Noir. . The nose is cocoa and licorice while the flavors are currants. This wine is an excellent example of the Sonoma Coast cool climate Pinot Noirs and symbolizes this winery’s emphasis on the new California wine style.
Tallulah Wines, located in Napa is named after winemaker Mike Drash's daughter and his distant cousin who happens to be Tallulah Bankhead. The winery specializes in single vineyard wines utilizing sustainable and organic practices. There is no fining or filtering in the Tallulah wines. The 2011 Como is a blend of Marsanne and Viognier. The wine is aged in 50% new oak. The floral honeysuckle personifies the aromas of the Viognier. The wine is co-fermented and very herbaceous. The Syrah comes from 35 to 40 year old vines making it a wine with huge tannins. What was most impressive was the 2010 MD2 Cabernet Sauvignon. This earthy 100% Cabernet wine comes from a vineyard in Coombsville, a cool area of Napa Valley. The wine is rich and balanced.
Although I enjoyed the wines at both tasting, my preference was the Alluvial tasting. There is something about discovering the new innovators who have emerged onto the California wine scene.