Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Report from … Jonata Tasting - November 7, 2012

Today it’s a tasting of one of California’s newest premier wineries, Jonata, with estate manager, Armand de Maigret.
Armand de Maigret, Jonata Estate Manager
Interesting notes on the winery …
Vineyard is all sand and was thought not to be conducive to growing good grapes, French flying winemaker and consultant Michel Rolland thought property would make a great golf course - (though he did decide to work with them).  Others thoughts it great for growing asparagus.  
NB: Other sandy vineyards around the word include Lafite (50%) and Vega Sicilia

They thought they would start with 10 varieties and then ripe out then graft back what is growing well ... turns out that all the varieties are doing well (here’s what they grow by acreage):  Cabernet Sauvignon (19), Cabernet Franc (12), Merlot (6), Petit Verdot (~5), Sauvignon Blanc (6), Syrah (22), Viognier (2), Grenache (1), Sangiovese (5), Semillon (2), Petite Sirah (2) … there are 82 acres planted out of 600 available.  They crop at around 2 tons to the acre, max is 2.2

Wines have to be perfect before they go in the bottle - at times they will not make the wine if it is not up to their standards.  Second label is called "The Pairing" – these are “barrels that don't behave properly” ... and those that don’t fit at all are sold as bulk.

Wines are all named - even if they could be labeled as a straight varietal ... thus Jonata can hedge their bets in case of a bad vintage with any one grape variety.

The name Jonata means "tall powerful live oak" and is pronounced Honata.

Their AVA is part of the bigger Santa Barbara ... smaller is Santa Ynez ... specifically, Ballard Canyon

The Wines …
We tried 10 or so wines – here are my picks of the bunch:

2008 El Alma ($149 - #218925) - 75% Cabernet Franc / 10% Merlot / 10% Cabernet Sauv / 5% Petit Verdot
name means "the soul" – quote: “we have to sell our soul to the devil to make this wine”
A nose of dark chocolate with cigar notes, spiced raspberry, black cherry; there's a certain sexiness about it, a palate that has smoky, tobacco, silky-ish tannins, big on black fruit, blackberry, cassis - hints of leather, and cigarette smoke on the finish (****)

2008 El Desafio ($145 - #218933) - 84% Cabernet Sauvignon / 10% Petit Verdot / 4% Cabernet Franc / 2% Merlot
"the defiance" - named for those who had no faith in the project and told them to grow asparagus
This wine is big and defies description, big spice and black cherry, cassis, spiced cranberry, hints of chocolate and framboise ... lovely dark fruit on the back palate, red fruit entry, big tannins, gritty and delicious – quite age-worthy (****+)

2008 Todos ($59.95 - #218941) - 67% Syrah / 15% Cabernet Sauvignon / + others
Name means "everything" – I suspect you can figure this one out
A nose of raspberry and white pepper leads to a palate of peppery, smoky, dark chocolate, cassis, and other dark fruit with gritty but well balanced tannins, great spice and pepper to the finish (****+)

2008 Sangre ($150 - #220517) - 98% Syrah / 2% Viognier
Not the most pleasant reason to name something: "blood" - colour also has plenty of dried meat / bacon - meaty notes, so the name is a play on that.
Aromas really scream out of the glass: floral, raspberry, white pepper and smoked meat; the palate is a real beauty: silky mouth feel, touch of floral, white pepper, black cherry, cassis, nice acidity ... this is a fantastic wine with great structure, mouthfeel and nice tannin balance; finish of bacon and chocolate, and who can go wrong with that. (**** ½)

2007 El Desafio ($145 - #218993) - 95% Cabernet Sauvignon / 5% Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot
This wine comes from a warmer vintage than the 2008 above and has a huge difference in the grapes that went into it
Smells are quite alluring, chocolate, blueberry and cherry - lots of red fruit flavour, with hints of chocolate and cedar, vanilla, cinnamon, good robust tannins (****+)

2007 Fenix ($95 - #253237) - 84% Merlot / 10% Cabernet Sauvignon / 6% Petit Verdot
The first mostly Merlot offering … they thought Merlot was one of the grapes they were going to get rid of but as it turns out …
The nose pulls you in and the palate, well let's not get too far ahead of ourselves … let’s start at the nose: creme de cacao, rasberry jam, touch of mint, black and blue berries.  This is a lovely wine that has a smoothness to the mid-palate but with aggressive tannins on the finish ... it’s the fruit that makes this wine; lovely and oh so right there, almost creamy in the mouth.  This is one outstanding Merlot, it’s a pretty wine with great longevity for a Merlot and wonderful mouthfeel; big and beautiful. (*****)

2006 La Fuerza ($89 - #221168) - 100% Petit Verdot
There's a heck of a lot of spice here, wrapped with blackberry and cassis notes, but it's the peppery spice that hits you at the end, drying the mouth out with tannins galore (****)

The Pairing 2009 Pinot Noir ($33.95 - #218958)
Fruit is not from the estate
Nice ripe raspberry, cherry and cranberry cocktail, juicy character. (****)

The Pairing 2007 Red ($33.95 #218909)
Pleasant fruit, red in nature with red licorice, especially on the finish.  Not as big as its brother but still with some ageability, 5+ years (****)

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