California Wine + 2013 My Essential French Rose
Matthiasson Vineyards (TENDU)
“The living soil and the annual rhythm folds infinitely in, cycles within cycles, defining the structure, the boundaries, and the possibilities. Cultivating the vines, their heads buried deep down in the earth, their bodies gathering the sun, requires both craft and awe. The fruit harmonizes all of the forces and influences, condensing them into wine—we are a witness to it, a medium, carrying the process along as best we can, from stage to stage. Our respect for this mystery defines our approach in the vineyard and the cellar. We invite you to share this ancient process with us.”
“[Tendu is] From Steve Matthiasson, who was named The San Francisco Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year in January, 2014. Matthiasson made a splash with his namesake label and as a consultant for some of the most important labels in Napa Valley. His white wine under the Tendu label got its own share of attention, and now the red is hot on its heels. It is made as a Barbera/Montepulciano/Aglianico blend and described as a “Beaujolais, but with Italian varieties.” It is packaged in a one-liter bottle with a crown cap similar to the everyday wines of Austria.” “Tendu’s grapes come not from Napa but from somewhere the Matthiassons knew would pencil out: Yolo County’s Dunnigan Hills, the same Sacramento Valley spot where Steve once worked for value label R.H. Phillips.”
“Tendu,” says Matthiasson, “refers to tension, or poise, and we wanted that character to define the wine. It is racy, zingy, alive. It is the wine to drink on a picnic blanket in Dolores Park, to take up to Lake Tahoe, or to toast friends while waiting for the grill to heat up”.”
Tendu California White 2013 1L
California. Produced and bottled by Matthiasson Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. Vermentino. Steve Matthiasson- “Consider this Vermentino Nouveau – a newly vinified interpretation of that Italianate grape, grown in Yolo County, meant for instant enjoyment. Bright citrus accents match a wheatgrass herbal side and ripe pear. An impressive concentration of flavor for a table wine, which I suspect was very much the point.”
Jen’s note- Very pale color. Fresh and lively lime and flowers, some minerality. Spearmint and sweet herbs emerge. Juicy acid, friendly, refreshing, tangy, bright; limey finish. Good*
Tendu California Red 2013 1L
California. Produced and bottled by Matthiasson Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. 46% Aglianico, 43% Montepulciano, and 11% Barbera. “The red wine is a blend of Aglianico, Montepulciano, and Barbera, harvested last August in the same vineyard as the white. It’s fermented in stainless steel, aged in neutral barrels, and bottled without filtration or sulfur. The alcohol level is just 12.5 % ABV, and the wine ends up fruity and fresh, like tart cranberries with a touch of star anise, just the thing to accompany sliders, 7-layer dip, and potato skins. It’s nice with a chill if you have space in your fridge.”
Jen’s note- Beautiful magenta color. Floral with black and purple fruits, sweet spice and flowers. Gentle entry/ bright and textured. Juicy *
Pietra Santa (Route 152)
“Pietra Santa is a family-run estate producing artisanal wines and olive oils in California’s Central Coast. The site was planted to winegrapes in the 1850s by Frenchman Theophile Vache who chose the location because of the maritime climate and unique soils.
Pietra Santa is 25 miles from Monterey Bay and benefits from cool coastal breezes that allow for a long growing season. The estate’s location on the San Andreas Fault creates soils rich with granite and limestone that naturally lower yields and add distinctive flavors to the wines. The winery was named PIETRA SANTA, Italian for SACRED STONE, in honor of these exceptional soils. In 2005, the property was purchased by the Blackburns, a family dedicated to preserving and building upon this magnificent winemaking history.”
“Take State Route 152 as an example. Running from Watsonville to just southeast of Merced, it was home for centuries to the Ausaymus Indians, who carved a pathway connecting the coast with the San Joaquin Valley for trade. Later, the route was traveled by mission padres and military forces. Then in 1848 the discovery of gold transformed the route into the main thoroughfare between the coast and the mines. In part to service the travelers, orchards and vineyards were planted, and a variety of small businesses were established. Today, the Pacheco Pass portion of Route 152 is home to Casa de Fruta, a popular rest stop for travelers that has grown into a major mail-order company for a variety of fruit and snack products. The Route 152 label pays homage to this historic transportation corridor, delivering abundant flavor and pure drinking pleasure.”
Route 152 Pinot Noir 2012
Central Coast, California. Aged in “assorted oak barrels. This complex, chewy wines offers impressions of sweet cherry, strawberry, red raspberry and toasty oak.” “This wine has a floral bouquet and bright fruit flavors of wild strawberries and raspberries with a hint of earthiness. It is medium-bodied making it easy to pair with a wide variety of food including grilled salmon, roast chicken or pasta.”
Jen’s note- Light brick color. Baking spice/dark notes. Tangy with juicy acid, some earth notes, dark fruit. Good value.
“Long time California wine- maker William Knuttel has concentrated on ultra-premium wine making for the majority of his wine career. His winemaking journey began at Saintsbury, where he was winemaker from 1983 to 1996, establishing that brand as an international leader in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Burgundian style. During that tenure, Knuttel founded and was owner/winemaker of Tria, producing fine Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel.
William Knuttel was Vice President & Winemaker at Chalk Hill Winery from 1996 to 2003, specializing in ultra-premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, and most recently he was Executive Winemaker for Dry Creek Vineyard, where he completely re-honed the styles and quality of that winery’s extensive portfolio from 2003 to 2011. Knuttel was also ZAP’s winemaker in 2005, producing their Heritage Zinfandel, and President of the California Cabernet Society 1999-2003.”
“William Knuttel produces hand crafted, small production Cabernet Sauvignon from both Napa Valley and (for the associated Robin K wines) Dry Creek Valley. Using traditional wine- making techniques that emphasize balance and elegance, William Knuttel is able to transform these carefully grown and harvested grapes into quintessential expressions of California’s most famous terroir. Robin K wines are crafted to be more feminine, easy drinking wines for every day consumption.”
Robin K Chardonnay 2012
Russian River Valley, California. “The Chardonnay is honed in classic Burgundian fashion. Crops in 2012 were bounteous, well utilizing the moderately warm growing season, but our blocks at Windsor Oaks Vineyard in the Chalk Hill region had been thinned on multiple occasions, and we harvested a crop only about 10% larger than normal. This fruit was blended with a small amount of Boeck Vineyard Chardonnay in Riebli Valley, an even cooler region than Chalk Hill. Hand-harvested clusters were pressed whole, to insure maximum flavor and minimal working of the skins. After pressing, the juice was settled for forty-eight hours before racking off the lees and inoculating with an Epernay strain for fermentation in 100% French oak. Malolactic fermentation proceeded spontaneously, and we allowed some lots to finish completely, while others were arrested to ensure retention of fresh fruit characters. The lees were stirred every two weeks during malolactic, then monthly during barrel aging. The various lots were master blended in May of 2013, and there was no fining of the final blend prior to filtration. The wine was aged entirely in French oak for eight months, with 30% of the oak being new barrels. This bright, expressive wine is well-articulated with flavors of lemon custard, tropical fruits, and orange blossom. A viscous, firmly-structured palate adds notes of nutmeg, ripe lemons and spicy oak, all merging in an elegant finish.”
Jen’s note- Subtle nose, tropical/floral perfume. Serious style. Firm acid. Good structure. Juicy finish. Great wine for money.
Robin K Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California. “Hillside vineyards are the backbone of this Cabernet Sauvignon, especially fruit from the Weinstock Vineyard at the extreme north end of Dry Creek Valley, and the Vogensen and Piccetti Vineyards in the northwestern hills of the Dry Creek Valley appellation. As usual with our Robin K. blends, small amounts of the other major Bordeaux varietals were blended to make the wine a seamless whole, from entry through to the finish. Traditional techniques were employed, including hand picking and sorting, gentle crushing to maximize whole berries in the fermenter, and extraction with both irrigated pumpovers and punchdowns at least three times daily. Extended maceration, with the grapes remaining in contact with the skins for up to six weeks, augmented the wine’s structure and depth. The master blend was racked quarterly during aging in French oak, nearly 30% of it new, for twenty-three months.” “Vibrant aromas of blackberry, black cherry, cigar box, caramel and creamy vanilla bean lead into the intense flavors, supple tannins, and lengthy finish.”
Jen’s note- Nice color- light plum/garnet. Pleasant aroma of dark fruit/sweet oak with spice. Full, friendly palate. Bright acid. Structured finish. Great value.
My Essential Wines
“After a long academic journey that included a BS, an MS and nearly a JD, Richard [Betts] finally found his way to his real love: Vino. While traveling in Italy, he fell in love with the country’s dining tradition and came to regard wine “as a grocery and not a luxury.” He was the wine director at The Little Nell in Aspen from 2000 to 2008. In the spring of 2003, Richard passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt, the ninth person ever to do so. He co-founded his first wine label Betts & Scholl in 2003 and also co-founded Scarpetta Wines and “cc:” Wines. Today, Richard is guiding his highly-regarded mezcal project, Sombra, as well as this wine project which includes “Saint Glinglin” from Bordeaux and “my ESSENTIAL” from California and Provence. Richard is also the author of The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert, a kids’ book for adults.”
“This is it – if you had to have one and only one, this is the one it should be. Making good on our mantra of “wine as a grocery, not a luxury”, we’re producing extraordinary wines that can be, and frankly, ought to be, consumed every day. In each case, we’re looking for the essence of the place and expressing it in an ultra delicious wine. So far, we’re doing a red and a rosé that we LOVE; after all, that’s the point. Heck, if you won’t drink it, we’re prepared to drink it all so we might as well make it how we like it. We’re also exploring other “essential” ideas around the world so who knows what is to come.” -Richard Betts
My Essential Rose 2013
IGP Mediterranee, France. A blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvedre. “The world over is making better rosé than ever but rosé is and has always been a French thing. When there was a funny White Zin craze going on, the French folk and their enlightened friends had the real goods all to themselves and were sipping (slurping) large quantities of beautiful pale pink, dry rosé while basking in the Mediterranean sun. Well, the gig is up and the world is now hip to how good their rosé is. It’s also why we make the long trip to Provence – because this is where it’s best. Importantly, there are at least two ways that rosé is made and we think one of them infinitely: better dedicating red grapes to the production of rosé. It’s not about stealing some juice from a red wine in process to make what’s left darker; it’s about saying hey, we’re going all in with this and we’re going to completely press these red grapes — their skins, seeds and some of the stems too — in an effort to extract a complete picture. The result is a pale pink wine that smells like red fruits and flowers yet is crisp, dry and ultra refreshing. One glass invites another, a wine that can very quickly become a bottle for one. Cheers.”
“From the South of France, just over the hill from Aix, a blend of predominantly Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. The idea is rosé as I love it; dry and refreshing, smelsl red yet tastes like a lip-smackingly delicious white. Importantly, this is not saignée, it’s all straight to press goodness. Pass the chalice and get after it.” -Importer