Two Rhone-style, two from The Divining Rod, two from the Wine Liberation Society of Birmingham, AL

As I’ve just returned from a week-long trip to London* (this is Jennifer, by the way), thoughts of the Old World are on my mind. I toured several wine shops; most modern but one that was founded in 1698 and has retained the same location, family ownership and operation to this day, called Berry Bros. & Rudd. There I saw an unbelievable collection of numerous vintages and formats of wines such as all of the first-growth Bordeaux, other highly-collectible Bordeaux such as Chateau Petrus, Cheval Blanc, and d’Yquem, and a massive library of the practically impossible-to-get Burgundy producer Domaine Romanee Conti, to name a few, as well as ancient fortified wines, aperitifs, digestifs, and spirits (not to mention the empty bottles of invaluable wines that were used as decoration such as an 1854 Chateau Haut Brion). Although this does not relate to this week’s tasting at Spirits in any way, I did purchase some wine (and spirits) there including a bottle of their private label Pomerol (sourced from Chateau Feytit-Clinet) 2009 vintage that we will open at the tasting tomorrow night (it’s a bit young, but oh well!). My experience at Berry Bros. was truly inspirational; as family-owned and operated merchants ourselves, I can only hope to leave behind such a legacy.

For the tasting this Thursday we will try six wines in pairs- two Rhone-style including a white from Paso Robles and a Chateauneuf du Pape (rouge); two from The Divining Rod, a newly-available winery from California owned by Marc Mondavi, son of Robert; and two from the Wine Liberation Society of Birmingham, a “custom crush” that’s part of the portfolio of one of our Alabama distributors. Altogether there will be three whites and three reds, one from France and the rest from California.

We hope to see you this Thursday night!

The specific wines for the tasting are:

Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso Blanc 2010– Paso Robles. Estate bottled. 48% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, 16% Marsanne, and 16% Picpoul Blanc. “A white Rhone-blend from Paso Robles in Southern California. This area is well known for its skill with the Rhone varietals, in which fruit and earth combine to form a balance that is unique this style of wine. This acidity is firm but not abrasive, and the citrus fruit that lingers throughout is nicely coated by an oily texture and little notes of oak.” Halter Ranch is located in Paso Robles, in California’s Central Coast, and is neighbors to the well-known Rhone-style producer Tablas Creek (who is in partnership with Chateau du Beaucastel). They have a 900-acre ranch where all of their wines are estate grown and bottled. Tasting $19.99

Domaine la Roquete Chateauneuf du Pape 2008– Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone Valley. “A more feminine example from a region that often produces intense and powerful reds that require extensive aging. This wine, however, is soft and drinkable right out of the bottle after just a few years in bottle. Comprised of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre, the dark berry fruit is sustained to the finish and caresses the mouth with very polished tannins that give a silky texture while still providing structure.” 90 points Wine Spectator- “Juicy and long, with lots of plum sauce, fig paste and spice bread flavors carried by anise and graphite notes. Shows a twinge of the vintage’s raisined edge, but stays focused and fresh enough. A solid effort for the vintage. Best from 2012 through 2018. 4,700 cases made.” Tasting $37.99

C. Mondavi & Sons The Divining Rod Chardonnay 2010– Santa Lucia Highlands. “The conditions of the Santa Lucia Highlands are perfect for growing Chardonnay. Just the right amount of sunlight, fog, wind and of course, water, allow the vineyards to be transformed into a perfect sanctuary capable of growing world-class wines.” “Marc Mondavi grew up in the Napa Valley learning about vineyards and winemaking. As a teenager he discovered he possessed an unexpected, mysterious talent- the ability to locate underground water using divining rods. This git earned him the title “Water Witch” and enabled him to plant great vineyards throughout California. In fact, some claim that he “turns water into wine.” Tasting $15.99

C. Mondavi & Sons The Divining Rod Cabernet Sauvignon 2010– Alexander Valley. “The conditions in Alexander Valley are perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Just the right amount of heat, sunlight, cool nights, and of course, water, allow the vineyards to be transformed into a perfect sanctuary capable of growing world-class wines.” ““C. Mondavi has been in business since the 1940s and has only had two brands,” says Jaeger, formerly president of Wilson Daniels and Canandaigua Wines (Constellation), who joined the group last year. “But we now want to focus on growth—more than the winery has ever done in the past.” And grow they shall! C. Mondavi is adding The Diving Rod to the table in April, recently hired Stacy Clark as the new winemaker for Charles Krug, and renovating Redwood Cellars, a historic building that will be re-purposed as the vineyard’s tasting room and visitor center.” Tasting $15.99

Carta Nova Pinot Grigio 2010– Santa Berbara County. “From the cool growing region of Santa Barbara County, this Pinot Grigio exhibits good depth of flavors and mineral notes, has good acidity and a crisp finish.  The fruit was pressed and cold settled, then racked very clean into stainless steel fermenters to enhance varietal and fruit expression.  It was fermented slowly at low temperatures with minimal winemaking intervention. 225 cases produced.” Tasting $10.99

Schell Creek Pinot Noir 2010– Santa Rosa. Nice berry and sweet fruit aromas. Light, dry and juicy on the palate, as well as friendly and approachable; an excellent value. “Schell Creek is the Wine Liberation Society’s California appellation project.  A delicious group of wines that taste varietally correct and are pleasant, fruit forward and affordable.” Tasting $8.99

*Please excuse the brief producer information and “basic” tasting notes that are those provided by the wine’s websites, back labels, and/or wine critics. Due to my returning from London late last night, I’ve not enough time to write a more detailed email and original notes. Thank you for understanding, Jennifer Bologna

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