Forgive me, Julian, for I have sinned. It has been some ridiculous amount of time since my last
confession tasting note. That being said, it’s a new year, a new site (thank you for your hard work), and it’s high time I pulled my own weight around here and contributed something. Right! Off we go: Last year, I was fortunate enough to have drunk several very, very good bottles of wine with this guy named Tom. Tom and I work for the same company, but at relative opposite ends of the totem pole: I’m a humble support tech, and he’s the capo di tutti support services at the company. Better yet, the guy has a seriously good sense of taste when it comes to wine… and he shares. Now, Julian, you may remember that we used to joke about how those of us in the colonies have an amusing habit of referring to anything exceptionally good as being world class or having European styling; this is of course also very, very true in the wine world. If a wine’s especially good, well, then of course it’s world class. To name one example, there’s a very fine, very exclusive winery called in the Santa Rita Hills AVA called Sea Smoke. Support tech that I am, I’d heard of them, sure, but I’ve never actually seen a bottle of theirs, much less tasted it, until Tom cracked one open. Sure enough, just as the <TITLE> tag of the Sea Smoke website claims, it’s world-class: rich, generous, unobtrusively oaked, with fine grained tannins and impeccable taste. There’s a reason it’s mailing list unobtainium and much sought after, and as much as I wanted to find fault with it (being so close to Los Angeles, surely it would have a touch of vulgar Hollywood surgical amplification about it, n’est-ce pas? But no, it’s pure class.)
But I digress. The wine I have in front of me is superficially similar and at the same time not the same thing at all. This is from a small, family-owned vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, not a larger, long-established, well-known winery. Although it’s presumably grown with the same care in a similar climat, and also raised in new French for quite a long time, it’s a relative steal at forty-six bucks, or about four times the price of an oak-chipped monstrosity from the California Central Coast. So: Is it worth it? The short answer is thankfully fuck yeah.
Let’s start with the look of this wine. As rock sage Nigel Tufnel once said, it’s none more black, reall. Unlike Oregon pinot, this one isn’t lacking in the anthocyanin department, no sir. This is the kind of manly pinot that screams Hey ladies, check out my excellent taste in wine as well as my bank balance, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. On the nose, it’s got everything you could hope for in a pinot: soft, fragrant oak just hanging out like Neal Cassady at the Salinas Greyhound station, crisp saline air drifting in from the coast with just a touch of smoke from the Spreckels plant down the road. Mixed in with very pretty strawberry-cherry notes, there’s also just a little bit of something very Robert Smith in there as well, serious as a heart attack, nervy and tense, tightly coiled. It’s very, very groovy.
Finally, the taste of the stuff? Yeah, pretty much what you’d expect, but better. Magically, it’s light on its feet in the mouth, not heavy or syrupy as California pinot sometimes tends to be. The French oak is a bit more noticeable on the finish – for my taste, I could stand perhaps a touch less, but then again, this is very much a la mode and it’s absolutely spot on for the local style. It finishes with some very smooth, fine grained tannin and a lingering soft, cedary note that unfurls into a wonderfully refreshing, acid-supported vibrancy that has a real way of making you wonder why you don’t drink this kind of wine more often.
Really, why don’t you?
Welcome back Chris. Must confess too – it’s been do long I’d started to see it as “Julian’s” site. All the best 🙂
Something I’ve yet to come to grips with, not having tasted widely enough, is the taste of California, if there is such a thing. Of Californian Pinot, Zinfandel, Cabernet, all of it. When you enthuse over Californian wine, Chris, it just makes me yearn to taste more and better. I hope to further my education when we meet up in June. 🙂