Sunday, September 18, 2011

Report from … Tasting in Carmel, California (part 2) - September 16, 2011

Bottles of Bernardus wine

Our next stop along the way was to Bernardus, a winery that began because of the owners love for red wines of the Bordeaux region.  The family fortune comes from the owner’s father who became the exclusive importer for German cars (VW, Audi and Porsche) after World War II.  The vineyard area consists of about 300 acres spread over six estates, of which 58 are planted.  Bernardus is not available in Ontario, so you’ll have to live vicariously through these notes.  Stanley, our wine jockey and lexicon about all things Bernardus (and, it seems, Monterey County) took us through a tasting of a dozen or so wines with a real enthusiasm for each and every one, and he was not afraid to point out his favourites along the way and tell us why.  Best White: 2009 Sierra Mar Chardonnay ($40.00) a wine made from grapes in only their third leaf, aged 10 months in a 50/50 blend of new and used French oak.  For a wine made with such young grapes this wine shows some real finesse and delicacy, not overpowered by the wood, there is a real suppleness on the palate and lovely fruit; the piece-de-resistance is the Wurther’s candy finish that just keeps going and going and going (**** ½).  Best Red:  hands down it was the single block, single vineyard 2004 Swan Block Merlot ($125.00), this is a real unique wine for this winery as they do not expect to ever be making such a wine again, but the fruit was just so good this year that the winemaker insisted.  Aged 20 months in a 50/50 blend of oaks (new and used) and then rested 2 years in bottle before release.  Very smooth with blackberry, blueberry, cassis and milk chocolate, still has some nice tannins on the finish (**** ½).  Only 350 cases produced.
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Bernardus 2010 Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc ($16.00) - *** ½
Bernardus 2010 Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($20.00) - *** ½
Bernardus 2009 Monterey County Chardonnay ($22.00) - *** ½
Bernardus 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($40.00) - *** ½+
Bernardus 2008 Ingrid’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($40.00) - ****+
Bernardus 2009 Sierra Mar Chardonnay ($40.00) - **** ½
Bernardus 2007 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75.00) - *** ½+
Bernardus 2007 Marinus - Cab Sauv/Merlot/Petit Verdot/Cab Franc ($28.00) - ****+
Bernardus 2004 Swan Block Merlot ($125.00) - **** ½
Front of Morgan's tasting room
Inside the Morgan Tasting room

From there we left Carmel Valley Village and made the drive to Morgan’s tasting room that was located in an open-air mall just outside of Carmel (The Crossroads Shopping Village).  Established in 1982 Morgan is another of the Monterey wineries that specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but also has quite a love-fest going with Rhone-style reds too.  The mall tasting room does not have all the wines produced by Morgan but they have a great cross-section of what they are producing. Deborah, the manager at this location, took us on a tasting tour from light to “heavy” starting with the Sauvignon Blanc and ending with the estate Syrah.  Best wine: 2009 Cotes du Crow’s ($18.00) a 50/50 Rhone-like blend of Syrah and Grenache; lovely raspberry fruit dominated this one from start to finish, soft and easy to drink this one also had silky tannins that made it a pleasant sipper for any time of day (****+).
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Morgan 2010 Metallico Chardonnay ($20.00) - *** ½
Morgan 2009 Highland Chardonnay ($26.00) - *** ½
Morgan 2009 Double L Chardonnay ($36.00) - ****
Morgan 2009 Twelve Clones Pinot Noir ($32.00) - *** ½+
Morgan 2009 Cotes du Crow’s ($18.00) - ****+
Morgan 2008 Syrah ($20.00) - ****
Morgan 2008 Double L Syrah ($40.00) - ****

Now it was time to head back to Carmel and see if those tasting rooms were finally open … we started at Galante, and for the second time found the door locked (this time for a bank run), so we hightailed it two blocks over and a block up to Wrath, also located in a mall-type setting, right beside a place called the Cheese Shop on the lower level.  Wrath’s original name was San Saba Vineyards, but the son took it over and was looking for a re-branding of the winery and came up with the rather interesting and memorable name of Wrath, I liked the look of the label but I suspect they get that a lot.  They are mainly a Pinot and Chardonnay house with a smattering of Syrah.  We approached Amy with an hour and a half left in her day and perused the wine list … quite long and very interesting, but we lacked the time to try it all, especially since we had one more tasting room to get to that closed at the same time.  I asked Amy to picked the best of the three kinds of wine they made, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were delightful.  Chardonnay:  2008 San Saba Chardonnay ($49.00) aged in 70% new French, this is the estate vineyard which still keeps the original name; lovely mouthfeel with nice spice on the back palate – tropical fruit, vanilla bean, hazelnut, caramel and lots of sweet buttery notes (****+).  Pinot Noir:  2009 McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49.00), a whopping 14.7% alcohol here but it does not show on the nose or the palate.  The nose is blueberry, cherry and cocoa laced with spice and dark fruit on the palate, robust tannin structure and a great long finish seals the deal after every sip (****+).
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Wrath 2008 San Saba Chardonnay ($49.00) - ****+
Wrath 2009 McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49.00) - ****+
Wrath 2008 Doctor’s Vineyard Syrah – ($39.00) - ****
Wrath 2008 Noble Wrath – late harvest Sauvignon Blanc – ($35.00 / 375ml) - *** ½+

The door to Galante wines
We left Wrath and wondered into the cheese shop for a few minutes to take in the ambiance and try some cheese … imagine if you will a full cheese shop up front with cheeses from around the world, and a well stocked wine shop in the back … the store was equally divided, linking wine and cheese together in the consumer mind.  From there we made the 2 block-1block trek back to Galante for the third time, and this time the door was open.  Here we came in contact with the jovial Ian who already had ‘em lined up at the tasting bar.  He ran us through the Galante history:  J Frank Devendorf, the great great grandfather of the current owners, was the founder of Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1903, their 700 acres was a cattle ranch (and still is to this day) but also grows grapes on 33 of those acres (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir).  We tasted through 6 wines, 2 Pinots, 2 Cabs, a Sauvignon Blanc and the Petite Sirah. Best Wine:  2010 Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($25.00), which sees a little wood action (10% of the wine into new French oak for two months).  This was probably the best Sauvignon Blanc I tried the whole trip.  The nose had just a slight whiff of vanilla amongst the grassy lemonade aromas and the palate kept some nice bite from the retained acidity along with melon, lemon, vanilla and grapefruit (****).  Interesting Wine:  I must also mention the 2008 “Cowpoke” Pinot Noir ($12.00), the grapes for this wine are grown some 1800 feet above sea level and 2008 was the year of the Basin fires, the smoke cloud passed over the vineyard during veraison (where the grapes start to change colour), the grapes and subsequent wine took on that really smoky character to a point that is really all you can taste and smell in this wine, great for bbq.  This unique wine defies a score.

That should have concluded my winery tasting in California, but little did I know my days of tasting in California were far from over.

Next up: A Taste of Monterey, wine store and tasting bar.

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