TNs-Mike on Tour, Small Vines, Dirty & Rowdy, Carlisle, Inman, dinner with friends, May 22

Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
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Mike Grammer
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TNs-Mike on Tour, Small Vines, Dirty & Rowdy, Carlisle, Inman, dinner with friends, May 22

Post #1  Postby Mike Grammer » May 23rd 2015, 11:02am

More of a variety spectrum today, it was yet another fun, exciting and very educational day, starting with Small Vines in the morning. (see post 2 as well please!)

SMALL VINES

To my delight, Paul Sloan was back from a trip and able to meet with me, and I was introduced to Greg, who has signed on to help them at the winery. Paul and Kathryn are great people and we had a marvellously organic discussion over lots of wines. When I asked him the $64k question, he said that his philosophy hasn't changed but his skill and experience has improved. Everything from when to rack to use of stem inclusion--with Paul citing that if you can't dry farm, stem inclusion doesn't work for him. He also believes more in tasting your way to the right levels, kind of along the lines of what John Holdredge discussed with me the day before.

They ran out 1450 cases for 2013 and plan on 2500 in 2014.

2013 Small Vines Estate Sonoma Coast Chard

Kistler Mt. Eden and Hyde Wente clones. He used Sirugue 36 month and Atelier 30 month barrels for this, and made a most interesting comment---that Atelier steam-bend their staves instead of using fire. 10% new, 10% stainless. Fresh and pretty, gingerbread, a little hint of banana, and custard. More replays, custard, some light white pepper bite. The wine needs time but I like the overall profile.

2014 Small Vines RRV Rose

The PN for this was harvested at 19-20 Brix. Press (which needs to have at least 1 ton, didn't know that!) was 3 hours, soaked skins in some free run juice. Then to stainless. Pomegranate nose, floral too. It's *almost* bitter, it talks on one level with raspberry--and it really does taste like Pinot Noir. I like that it's different. He added that he blended in a small amount of pinot juice and a tiny bit of Chard as well.

2013 Small Vines Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir

13.6%, 35-40% stem inclusion, 14 months in 30% new oak. Almost a selectione massale, but mostly 115 and 777 clones. Strawberry, a little bit of lemoncurd and maybe orange marmalade. Some specks of clove. Crunchy, tensile, I agree with Paul there, but there's some underlying pillow-plush to be accessed. Nice array of florals and red fruit and an end of coriander.

2013 Small Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.9%. Again, young vines, no stems here. Darker fruit here, bits of earth, even a dash of farmyard. Definite grit on the tongue, like fine sandpaper, umami which Paul describes is good. Potpourri, savoury rosemary and a decent purity of fruit. Should have some small amount of growing still to do.

2013 Small Vines MK Vineyard Pinot Noir

Paul thinks this is the best MK he's made yet. 50% stems in 35% new oak, 15 year old vines now. Sophisticated aroma, small berry, some plum, lavender and some dry mustard. Stern now, it does kind of have a gamey side, earth and tart berries. It has 10-15 years of promising development, green peppercorns at the back, there's tons of interest here and although I am loath to do comparisons, when they come to mind, they come to mind, and I am thinking of similarities to Gevrey Chambertin when I taste this wine

2013 Small Vines Baranoff Pinot Noir

Mostly Calera clone, he did 75-80% stems this year, 20-25% new oak, checked in at 12.1% alcohol. Picked at 21.8-22 Brix. This has strawberry and cherry, baking spices and violets are secondaries. In the mouth, tremendously vibrant, masculine wine. Dark cherry, blackberry and currant. Crunchy and chewy, earth and pepper underneath. Be patient.

2012 Small Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

20% new oak, no stem inclusion. Very strawberry coulee with touches of earth and citrus in bouquet. Brighter, slightly thicker, denser, more about the fruit--cranberry, strawberry and a light brush of tomatillo at the back. Again, fixing the pattern of the vintage in my mind.

2009 Small Vines Baranoff Vineyard Pinot Noir

Boy oh boy, am I glad I bought one of these earlier on this trip. Some of the best money I may have ever spent. Fun for Paul, he hasn't tasted this in about 2 years. Baranoff is 95% Calera clone. Whoo--ee, redolent cardamom, deeper cherry, some cocoa. And oh, my. This *brings* me to my knees---because this is stunning, revelicious, *haunting* wine. So crystal-clear in expression, the black forest cake goes on forever and yet it's curled around by fresh berries of all kinds and beautiful tannins and structure and feel. Everything you'd ever want to have in a California Pinot Noir will be found here. 94 points and it is a) arguably the best California wine I've had on the trip (which when things like a 1998 Marcassin Marcassin Pinot and a 1991 Ridge Monte Bello are on the dance card is sayin' something) and b) certain to be in the running for overall top 5.

2007 Small Vines MK Pinot Noir

14.3% alcohol, spices, cocoa, some other fruit, cherry and plum pie. Quite settled and sweet in comparison, has real umami feel, soy, Paul cites mushroom component, truffle. Light-ish feel of dark berries. Quite good but nowhere in the class of that Baranoff.

Great to learn from and taste with this fine fellow of a friend.

DIRTY & ROWDY

From there, a switch of gears to visit Hardy, who has been a good friend from his days at Kodak when he'd visit Toronto often. I have been proud of his journey in the wine world and things are only going up from here, as we got together to taste bottles and barrel samples and talk about lots of good things in life. Even funnier, he's working out of Punchdown and Pearl Morissette's California wine operation is also out of there!

He's not quite 6 years along in making D&R, but Hardy's change is he's happiest now because he can devote 100% of his time to this now. The wines worked with have also increased 15-fold, as they make 15 wines from 12 vineyards now. Focus and learning the vineyards are the other changes.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy Familiar Mourvedre

5 vineyards were combined for this, 100% whole cluster, some in 600L barrels, some in regular barrels of very neutral oak. Meant to be drunk quickly, the Beaujolais of Mourvedre. Plenty of plum and blue and purple fruit. Those chocolate-suck candies that you get at hallowe'en too. It does have a unique freshness, currant, some blueberry and chocolate pudding, but quite bracing. Hardy reveals a very interesting closure he's using for this---sugarcane based cork.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy Especial Mourvedre

100% whole cluster, vineyard is 3200 feet up in Santa Barbara, limestone and clay. 20 year vines. Very short maceration, pressed off half the fermentation, about a week more and then into a concrete egg. Came in at 21.8 Brix and pressed at 10. Violets, potpourri, cinnamon-tinged strawberry. Again, light, has some of the Mourvedre coffee and cocoa but here there's citrus too. Hardy likes this because it fits in the middle of red and rose--lighter bodied and food friendly.

2013 Dirty & Rowdy Antle Mourvedre

One of the seven SVDs they do. Chalone AVA, limestone and granite soil are together. Has same phenolic ripeness as the Especial. 12 year old vines. I get a sort of roasted sugarcane along with cocoa and mineral-chalkiness. He notes the grape isn't a low PH grape--antithesis of Pinot. And this has some say--puckers the mouth, burly and dusty fruit with plenty of dark unsweetened chocolate. Needs 9-10 years. Very brambly on aftertaste, 13.3%, came in at 23 Brix.

2012 Dirty & Rowdy Semillon

This is from Tom Gamble's vineyard and close to Conn creek. Full Malo, 100% Sem, all done in the concrete egg. 75% of the fruit was fermented on the skin, skins on for 12-18 days. Other 25% whole cluster standard white ferment in the egg. 18 year old vines. Honey bouquet comes up, light melon but not particularly sweet. Waxiness. Sedate, but not flabby--just gets to midpalate and sits there, some tactile chalkiness and waxiness with a dry mustard tick. Young yet.

2013 Dirty & Rowdy Semillon

Same process for this version, honey, lanolin and..fennel, a good catch by Hardy. Pine nuts too. By contrast, this is in its puppy stage--bouncy, exuberant, zingy, lemon and citrus. Again, has the tactile feel, appley this time. Hardy's reference point is Hunter Valley Sem.

2013 Dirty & Rowdy Alder Springs Chard

Alesia makes wine from the same plot. 100% whole cluster press, 76 and 96 clones. 2400 feet, mostly decomposed sandstone, 600L made, in egg for 8 months then racked on lees to neutral barrels for another 8 months (we talked about whether it'd be interesting to try reversing the process). They actually moved the barrels outside and in from the cellar because the egg was too cold and the fermentation process had been slowed, and they needed to finish it.

Fragrant--lilac and lime juice and definite acacia wood for me. This is so nice, just-so sweetness, acidity in the middle and butterscotch, vanilla, lemon and tropical fruit at the back. It just needs one year to knit it all together. But yum.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy Antle Mourvedre in neutral Taransaud barrel

lovely small berry and mulberry aromatics and cedar closet fragrance too. Elegant balance already, buoyancy, plenty of mineral. Darned tasty Mourvedre.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy Skinner Stony Creek Mourvedre in neutral Remond barrel

El Dorado location, 2000 feet of elevation from 10 year vines. Chocolate raspberry combo, some cookie dough. Hardy gets pomegranate too. This is less formed, more "dynamic" with peppery and chickoree and berry and sweetmeats.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy Shaker Ridge Mourvedre in neutral Demptos barrel

Volcanic, granite and quartz soil. 18 year vines. Youthful, vibrant nose, blue fruit. Light espresso element with cracked pepper. Hardy expects this to check in at 13.4% or so. Already fairly sweet and at same time raspberry with coriander/cilantro nuances. Bright and fresh at the same time. Let's see where it goes.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy Evangelo Mourvedre from neutral barrel

In Contra Costa county, these are 125 year old vines in sandy soil. He feels this is one of the two best sites and this early sample is hard to argue against. Focused red fruit aromatics, red pepper and nutmeg for sure. And FOCUS is the name of the game on the tongue, driving, with acidity and aromatic replays. It has the most interest and I keep tasting to keep up the conversation. If this plays out into the bottle, the other Mourvedre guys--even the guy I'm visiting next and that fine Larry fellow down in SB, had better watch their tailfeathers if this shows up in a competition.

Just splendid to see Hardy again, you get lifted by his unbridled energy and optimism.

CARLISLE WINERY

Confession--it's very hard to keep on time, and doubly so when you take a wrong turn on directions. I was very lucky that I got to the winery just as Mike was thinking of needing to leave. He was wonderful with me and we were able to spend 45 minutes together. This is my first time meeting him and it's a meeting I'm not likely to soon forget.

For him, 6 years have brought the reality that although he never thought he'd be bigger than 5k cases, here he is at 10k cases. The "optics" of colour, smell, taste which he used to focus on are now things that come much more naturally and his focus has switched to the "texture" of his wines. Off we went to the new facility on the winery to barrel taste through a bunch of stuff. My sincere thanks to Mike for sharing all this with me.

2014 Carlisle Papera Ranch in old Billan barrel

Overall, he tends to use about 17% new oak. These are 80 year vines. Blueberry and macerated plum already, brambles too. This is 96% Zin and 4% Carignane. Already big and bright.

2014 Carlisle Carlisle Zin in neutral Nadalie and 3-year barrel

Mike blended this for me on the spot, the vines were planted in 1927, this spends 16 months in oak. More cool fruit, brighter, cocoa. Same in mouth, snappy but less up-front-ness. 88% zin, the rest FORTY or so other varieties. Fun! For Mike, how fruit looks and feels is an important factor now (echoing Paul's take on things at Small Vines, Hardy too, for that matter)

2014 Carlisle Montafi Zin in neutral barrel

88% zin here, about 7 other varieties, including some Alicante. Already enticing fruit, with blueberry, blackberry and perfume in the bouquet. To taste, sweet, plush, plum cake and cherry and spices. Sweet and fine and velvety, the site is closer to Santa Rosa and higher up.

2014 Carlisle Hayne Zin in neutral Ermitage barrel

Almost all Zin here, 240 cases, deep black fruit, espresso, chocolate and black tea all have an aromatic voice. Even genmaicha. Deep--yum--almost wild with kirsch and cassis and even some mint backing. Not a shy wine, as you'd expect from Hayne.

2014 Carlisle San Lorenzo Zin in neutral barrel

Mike tells the story of how this was planted in 1890 and bought for 10 gold coins. Alexander valley. Grand Noir, Alicante, Negrette and Petite Sirah join the Zin here. Red fruit nuzzie and...saffron, for sure. On the brambly and boysenberry side dans la bouche. Much growing to do.

2014 Carlisle Pagani Ranch Alicante in neutral barrel

Mike was able to find a half-barrel within reach to try me on this special treat. 13.3%, starts reductive but blows off quickly, presents spiced coffee and black plum. Kinetic, full of structure and mineral/iron. Needs much time, rugged and (Mike thinks so as well) probably this half-barrel is destined for a blend.

2014 Carlisle 2 Acres Mourvedre in neutral Francois Freres barrel

1910 vines, and they're still there. Salted meat element to the red fruit scents. Reductiveness comes in and out. Dried berry. Velvety smooth, bountiful fruit. One to track.

2014 Carlisle Papa's Block Syrah in neutral barrel

Fascinating! Pencil shavings. No foolin' Mixed with pine needles and blue fruit. Some herbs---marjoram. This can easily be a 10 year wine, sweet and rich and full. My friend Deb would probably love this stuff.

2014 Carlisle Rosella's Syrah in old Remond barrel

Excellent nose and mouth already defines cherry and plum fruit but with cocoa and herbs background and swathe of cardamom.

2014 Carlisle Palisades Petite Sirah in barrel

Can't remember if Mike served this out of neutral or new, might've been new. 50 years dry farmed. This has a "length" on the nose that many P.S. wines do not, chocolate fruit torte, a lot of blue plum, I do find light shake of pepper lurking. Again, even at this early stage, a roundness of tannins, expanding at the back of the throat. Excellent food wine, very flavourful with delicious milk chocolate finishing things off.

One very insightful comment he made when discussing the 14 vintage (and what he thinks may happen this year) is that it was a compressed vintage in terms of harvest, and he tracked back the logic chain to the fact that all the varieties flowered at the same time in the Spring.

A most enjoyable visit!

INMAN FAMILY WINES

I knew Kathleen had back-to-back appointments, but she was still able to share a few bon mots with me, and left me in extremely capable hands with Kim and Jon.

2013 Inman Family Pinot Gris

As always, from the Olivet Grange vineyard. 15 year vines now, all stainless. Peach, light ginger and grapefruit grace the sniffer. Palate is fresh and straightforward, peach and some pear.

2013 Inman Family RRV Chard

12.2%, Jim Pratt's vineyard in Occidental, this was done 40% new oak, 60% stainless. This has quite the mango and kiwi side to buttered pineapple. Le gout is not uber-complicated, but is instead light and balanced with citrus, pear and light tropical replays.

2014 Inman Family Endless Crush Rose of Pinot Noir

They have 4800 cases in 2014, and a third of it is this. All estate this time, 3 hours on the skins, a white wine cycle, all stainless. Classic-for-her strawberry, crabapple, apple skin. Smooth and delicious, goes down too easy and very definite pinot character for this, with raspberry, pomegranate and apple skin replay. Has some carry and stays on the tongue with pure watermelon on aftertaste. A lot of rose.

2011 Inman Family OGV Pinot Noir

14.2%, kinda wow for Kathleen. 22 months in oak. Sous-bois, mushroom, tiny bit of green olive all mix with dark strawberry scents. On the tongue, it is for me definitely the richest thing she's made bar none---it's still not crazy, still has the femininity that marks all her wines, but this is the wild child some, with wild strawberry and high activity level. Still the OGV sweet herbs and bright red fruit.

2012 Inman Family Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir

I think this is the last year from this vineyard (though Kathleen is very excited to be getting wine from Pratt Sexton Road Ranch and Pratt Vine Hill vineyards for, I believe, a new blend). Very reticent bouquet, roses and hinted red berry fruit. This is tight, despite much swirling, plenty of acid, earth, cherry pit. Needs years and years.

2012 Inman Family RRV Chard

Lemoncurd, limestone and chalk here. Buttered sweet corn and sweet peas too. Minerality is quite deep here. In the mouth, tangy, mineral follow, stones, lemon, unripe kiwi, extremely fresh. Very good.

2013 Whole Buncha Love Pinot Noir

So what's this? A fun experiment for Kathleen, she decided to make a pinot styled after a Cru Beaujolais. 100% whole cluster, 4 tons of fruit went into stainless tank. NO CRUSH other than natural release of juice from the weight of the fruit on itself. On day 4, Kathleen began pump overs 4 times daily of the small amount of juice to keep the grapes moist. Each time the grapes were topped with dry ice and a lid was placed on the top to limit the O2. 30 days after harvest, Kathleen pressed the grapes in a basket press. After settling, the wine spent 15 months in neutral barrel. It apparently pairs wonderfully with spicy food. I could also see radiccio salad. Extra sweetness is there for the 14.1% alcohol and it does have some gamay tangy cranberry side and sugared plum too--brown sugar. Not my thing, but interesting.

2012 Inman Family Brut Rose

12%, all from OGV. Fruit-forward nose and then very light and sweet strawberry fruit. Really sweet. A dessert sparkling Rose? It's close, although only 0.8g/L RS.

This is another always must-stop and I'll hope to see Kathleen and the crew again soon.

DINNER WITH FRIENDS

Really good friends Daun and Jeff, and we had a pretty special 5 hour night talking about almost everything. Jeff cooked a fantastic meal of vegetable frittatas and short ribs, Daun made a great salad and homemade ice cream with fresh peaches. What could you ask more? Huge thanks to them for spending time with me.

We tasted the 2013 Kutch McDougall which was really singing after a couple hours in the glass. Daun also loved the 2005 Spring Mountain Elivette I shared out, my own taste confirming the essence of Spring Mountain. I took no notes, but we also had a fresh and bracing 2012 Rochioli SB, which I'll never turn down.

We also had:

2006 Lillian Syrah

This was tighter, a bit, than the bottle I had in November, but has the nose and mouth of cool-side syrah that is very attractive in this well-made wine. Good tannic hold, lots of black fruit and nips of cocoa. Interested to see how the rest of it does today.

2011 Juslyn Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Popped and poured, also one I'll check on again today, but last night it spoke cherry and slight herbal outside notes without any real complexity. I felt this contained the core of what Juslyn does, but was missing all the frills, bells and whistles that usually make the wines so interesting.

2003 Sorella

A meritage from Washington, this was a very nice pull by Jeff, and my first one. This I like very much as a different expression from what California is doing, bright fresh and a very consistent nose-to-mouth experience that centres on plum and milk chocolate, which we all sigh and get. It is smooth without being plush or overbearing and a fine, fine wine.

Life is good. Or have I said that on another of these threads?

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Post #2  Postby Mike Grammer » May 24th 2015, 4:40am

I do want to sincerely thank both Hardy and Kathleen for gently correcting me on some mis-statements on their wines, edits completed above. I do certainly apologize for inaccuracies, which I don't like ending up in the post, so glad to have those changes. It also occurred to me that I should have been more careful in my choice of wording when describing the Brut Rose---the impression may be that I am dissing the wine---I'm not, I did like it and it has complexity and interest, it just surprised me with what I perceived, after a long couple days of tasting, as an elevated level of sweetness on the palate.

Again, thanks to both of you.

Mike
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Post #3  Postby Drew Goin » May 24th 2015, 10:17am

Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your tastings!!!
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Post #4  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » May 24th 2015, 10:22am

Small Vines PN remain some of my favorite CA Pinots. The 07 & 08 MK are really good now and the more recent Baranoff bottles are just beginning to take off.
"Never lose sight of the fact that it is just fermented grape juice" - a winemaker and negotiant in Napa Valley, CA
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Post #5  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » October 11th 2015, 4:08pm

Mike Grammer wrote:2009 Small Vines Baranoff Vineyard Pinot Noir

Boy oh boy, am I glad I bought one of these earlier on this trip. Some of the best money I may have ever spent. Fun for Paul, he hasn't tasted this in about 2 years. Baranoff is 95% Calera clone. Whoo--ee, redolent cardamom, deeper cherry, some cocoa. And oh, my. This *brings* me to my knees---because this is stunning, revelicious, *haunting* wine. So crystal-clear in expression, the black forest cake goes on forever and yet it's curled around by fresh berries of all kinds and beautiful tannins and structure and feel. Everything you'd ever want to have in a California Pinot Noir will be found here. 94 points and it is a) arguably the best California wine I've had on the trip (which when things like a 1998 Marcassin Marcassin Pinot and a 1991 Ridge Monte Bello are on the dance card is sayin' something) and b) certain to be in the running for overall top 5.


So we opened a strange one and I'm guessing corked. Had a nose of cheese rind for awhile and not completely uninteresting wine but like no fruit. Later on nose disappeared and wine showed poorly. I still kind of liked it more than another 09 CA PN we uncorked, which was delicious but HOT on the finish.
"Never lose sight of the fact that it is just fermented grape juice" - a winemaker and negotiant in Napa Valley, CA
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Post #6  Postby Marc Hauser » October 11th 2015, 4:50pm

Mike Grammer wrote:I do want to sincerely thank both Hardy and Kathleen for gently correcting me on some mis-statements on their wines, edits completed above. I do certainly apologize for inaccuracies, which I don't like ending up in the post, so glad to have those changes. It also occurred to me that I should have been more careful in my choice of wording when describing the Brut Rose---the impression may be that I am dissing the wine---I'm not, I did like it and it has complexity and interest, it just surprised me with what I perceived, after a long couple days of tasting, as an elevated level of sweetness on the palate.

Again, thanks to both of you.

Mike


I love that brut rose, and never really found it too sweet. The Chardonnay is also really something special.

Thanks for the notes. Sounds like a tasty trip.
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Post #7  Postby Mike Grammer » October 13th 2015, 9:10am

That does sound strange, Glenn----let Paul and Kathryn know...they want to know these things.

Marc, absolutely, and there's no telling whether my tastebuds had been skewed by the culmination of four or five (or seven or eight) very busy days of tasting, so that's a factor too, as mentioned.

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