Hugh Johnson, in his memoir A Life Uncorked wrote about how wines are not just scores but are of the time and place when one drinks them. To quote " however good wine is, sentiment makes it better." When I think back on the wines I remember, it is not the scores that they received but the experience
-My first bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in college when the idea of spending $50 on a bottle was unthinkable, except for a very special birthday
-Tasting Chateau Y'quem by the glass at a business dinner with a woman scheduled for a c-section the next morning
-The first glass of wine after my daughter was born: rose at Chez Panisse Cafe with my mother as my daughter napped in her car seat
-House rose in Bandol at a small restaurant offering one item a day after visiting Domaine Tempier
-Pinot with the man who broke my heart (twice)
-Zinfandel on a roof in San Francisco with another man who would break my heart
I could go on and on. I'm thinking about this today as I sit here to write about my visits on Monday to two very different wineries this past Monday with my friend Lo.
We started off the day at Audelssa. I had tasted their wines for the first time a few months back on a tasting day with @winebratsf. I had enjoyed what we tasted, but was excited to learn that along with the Bourdeaux blends we tasted that day, they make Rhone blends as well. After tweeting about this, I was contacted by Gloria Schaefer who invited me up to the vineyard to taste the Rhones, so long as the weather was good. As we drove up the winding private road, I understood why. At the top of a steep hill with views of even San Francisco on a clear day, it is not a place to visit n the rain. But to taste the wines, while looking at the grapes in the company of the very charming Gloria and Dan Schaefer, is an memory to cherish
The wines that we tasted were their rhone blends:
2007 Zephyr is a blend of syrah, grenache and mourvedre in the style of the classic gsm of the Southern Rhone. Concentrated and lush, it has tastes of plum and ref fruit. It is very accessible now and will continue to develop over the next few years. The Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blocks that produce the fruit that goes into this wine are situated at the very top of the vineyard at 1800 feet above sea level, above the fog line. Volcanic soils and the inherently rugged terrain of this site consistently contribute to unusually small berry sizes, especially for these three varieties, which in turn lead to concentrated, fruit-driven expressions of this classic blend.
2007 Tempest is a Cote Rotie style blend with 98% syrah and 2% viognier. Medium bodied and elegant it featured dark fruit, earth and dried herbs. It continued to improve with time in the glass.
We then headed over to Tierra Roja. I had met Linda Neal at Wine Entre femme a few weeks back and she had invited me up to visit. Tierra Roja Vineyard is in the Oakville Appellation of the Napa Valley, California. The vineyard was named for the rich, red soil that gives the red wines from this region their intense flavor. Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle’s Maya and Joseph Phelp’s Bacchus are just a few of the neighboring vineyards you may know.
Linda is a grower and tasting with her involved sitting in her yard in the sunshine talking about farming, organics, biodynamics, books, and the plans for a new vineyard in the Sierra foothills.
All the while, of course, sipping the Tierra Roja 2006 Cabernet which was powerful and elegant, balanced and complex. Although not widely available, it is a wine to seek out. Linda does not welcome drop in visitors so be sure to call or email first. When I called to double check directions she was up the hill pruning.
The picture, btw, is of a table and chairs set up by neighbors about halfway up the hill to Audelssa. Not the most glamorous furniture, but an incredible view.