TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

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John Morris
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#1 Post by John Morris » September 12th, 2017, 8:45 pm

Some of you may remember Matt Garretson from the Parker board days. A strong defender of big wines on the eBob board, he was a super nice guy, and I bought a couple of his wines back in 2007 to check them out. The first one, a 2003 or 2004 (my notes are inconsistent) Garretson Wine Co. "Mon Amie" syrah served blind in a California syrah tasting was shot -- with VA, sherry and other oxidized notes. As I recall, it had one of those plastic corks, which evidently caused problems for Matt.

He happily sent a replacement by FedEx-- a 2005 "Mon Amie" (4% viognier). In a later tasting, it showed its 14.5% alcohol conspicuously. It was not my kind of wine, but it was well made in its style. (After alcohol reached 4%, the fermenting wine was transferred to new barrels to complete fermentation, according to my notes.)

A few years later, the winery went out of business.

I also picked up a 2003 "The Aisling" Paso Robles 100% syrah (15.2%) (screwcap) in 2007, but Matt recommended that I put the Mon Amie in the tastings -- probably because he knew I wasn't keen on high octane wines.

The Aisling has been in cold storage ever since. I figured it might be a chemical class experiment by now and was waiting for the right occasion to pull it out. One of my groups did a 2009 syrah tasting tonight (everything from Gonon St. Joseph to Copain - Anderson Valley - Les Voisin -- the two that tied for first place!), and so I served this blind out at the end. It had been taking up storage space for a decade and I figured, what the hell, check it out; we can always pour it down the drain.

Well, surprise, surprise! Damn, if it didn't have a lovely, mature syrah nose. Served blindly, even the two big francophiles in the group liked it. I got a burst of heat/alcohol on the first sip, but it was balanced overall, with good fruit, quite archetypical syrah flavors, and enough tannin and acid to counteract the substantial alcohol. It faded fairly quickly in the glass, with the fruit seeming to oxidize and the alcohol coming to the fore. But a fresh pour from the refrigerated leftovers freshens it up and brings back the balance.

This was probably better five years ago. Would I seek this out? No, but it gives some real pleasure. I'm usually put off by alcohol burn, but this was just this side of my threshold, and would be fine with barbequed meats, as long as you keep the wine cool and don't leave it out in the air too long.

Someone here said a few years ago that Matt ended up in the liquor business in the Midwest. He was a super nice guy and I hope he's thriving.
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#2 Post by Markus S » September 13th, 2017, 5:03 am

Holy cow! Never thought I would hear You singing praises to Garretson wines.
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#3 Post by TomHill » September 13th, 2017, 5:23 am

John Morris wrote:Some of you may remember Matt Garretson from the Parker board days. A strong defender of big wines on the eBob board, he was a super nice guy, and I bought a couple of his wines back in 2007 to check them out. The first one, a 2003 or 2004 (my notes are inconsistent) Garretson Wine Co. "Mon Amie" syrah served blind in a California syrah tasting was shot -- with VA, sherry and other oxidized notes. As I recall, it had one of those plastic corks, which evidently caused problems for Matt.


Someone here said a few years ago that Matt ended up in the liquor business in the Midwest. He was a super nice guy and I hope he's thriving.
John,
After Matt folded up the tent for GWC, he moved to Mineapolis, MN. From there, he was the National Sales Director
for HighWest Distillery out of ParkWest, UT. He has just (within the last few months) opened a fine wine (and spirits)
distributorship there in MN by the name of Negoce.

Matt's wines, much like Matt himself, were sorta bigger than life. Over the top. The artificial/plastic corks were a disaster
and many of them failed. Once he went to screwtops, things were fine. His wines were very erratic in how they aged.
Some did very well, some turned into overripe/stewed alcoholic messes.
Tom

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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#4 Post by Ken Zinns » September 13th, 2017, 6:22 am

IIRC, the Aisling differed from Mat's other Syrah bottlings in that it was aged in American oak.
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#5 Post by John Morris » September 13th, 2017, 6:30 am

Markus S wrote:Holy cow! Never thought I would hear You singing praises to Garretson wines.
No one was more surprised than me.
TomHill wrote:Matt's wines, much like Matt himself, were sorta bigger than life. Over the top. The artificial/plastic corks were a disaster
and many of them failed. Once he went to screwtops, things were fine. His wines were very erratic in how they aged. Some did very well, some turned into overripe/stewed alcoholic messes.
Yes, I recall some photos that showed him to be very tall and broad shouldered -- sort of a linebacker build, right?

And, yes, I was expecting a stewed mess. So this wine was a pleasant surprise. I'd guess the screwcap served this wine well.
Ken Zinns wrote:IIRC, the Aisling differed from Mat's other Syrah bottlings in that it was aged in American oak.
Interesting. The oak has completely melded into the wine and the syrah character was evident on the first sniff.
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#6 Post by Al Osterheld » September 13th, 2017, 6:38 am

Yes, the Aisling was their only Syrah aged and barrel-fermented in American oak. It was also one of two Syrah wines they made that was from a blend of vineyards. I think the wines were all bottled in screwcaps starting with the 2003 vintage. So, if the earlier Mon Amie was 2003 or 2004, it would have been in screwcap.

-Al

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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#7 Post by slada » September 13th, 2017, 7:48 am

The whites were so much better than the reds IMO- all the reds seemed to have a pruny roasted quality while the whites were bright and freah
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#8 Post by John Morris » September 13th, 2017, 7:53 am

I found my old tasting notes.

The first bottle of the Mon Amie was 2003. I wrote that it smelled like grape jelly (i.e., Welch's) and then shifted quickly to oxidized scents and showed a lot of VA. In the glass, the flavors were of oxidation -- like dry sherry with a little port note. Sour on the finish. I'm 97% sure that Matt attributed the problems to the plastic cork, though I don't remember the cork at the time.

The replacement Mon Amie was a 2005. When I tasted that in 2011, I wrote that it was hot (16.8%!) and porty. I said it was surprisingly balanced but I scored it 78 points :)
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#9 Post by larry schaffer » September 13th, 2017, 7:57 am

Mat certainly made some interesting wines indeed. I remember picking up a bottle of his Rose and serving it at a BBQ event while at UC Davis, and I remember pouring some for Darrel Corti - well, you can imagine HIS reaction to a 15.5% alcohol rose!!!

Great guy who, as Tom pointed out, made wines that matched his personality.

Cheers!
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#10 Post by GregT » September 13th, 2017, 7:58 am

Nice to know that it aged into something interesting. I remember many years back when a mutual friend at PJs asked if anyone knew what the highest-alcohol still wine in the store was. Turned out to be one of those. I put a few in blind tastings - they were usually easy to ID. He seemed like a decent sort though and it's good to hear that he's OK.
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#11 Post by Drew Goin » September 13th, 2017, 9:36 am

Was the "Mon Amie" the sole Garretson wine without an unpronounceable Celtic name? ;)

I regret never tasting these wines, particularly...the Mourvedre.

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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#12 Post by John Morris » September 13th, 2017, 9:40 am

Drew Goin wrote:Was the "Mon Amie" the sole Garretson wine without an unpronounceable Celtic name? ;)
If you were Irish, I guess you'd say it was the only one with an unpronounceable French name. [snort.gif]
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#13 Post by Al Osterheld » September 13th, 2017, 9:46 am

Starting around 2002, the ripeness and heat of the GWC wines started creeping up. This was the era when Parker started giving huge scores to some Paso Rhone wines. FWIW, the 2003 Mon Amie was also 16.8%.

Tom Hill has tasting notes here on WB on the 2001 (plastic cork) and 2003 (Stelvin) Mon Amie wines. Owing to Tom's somewhat unique writing style, you have to search for MonAmie.

FWIW, Stelvins occasionally fail to achieve a good seal or have the seal compromised if they are dinged in the ripe place.

As far as the American oak on the Aisling, I think it does tend to change character and integrate with age, eg, with Ridge reds.

-Al

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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#14 Post by Al Osterheld » September 13th, 2017, 9:48 am

Mon Amie was pronounced Mon Amy (named after his wife).

-Al

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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#15 Post by Alan Rath » September 13th, 2017, 1:03 pm

Al Osterheld wrote:Starting around 2002, the ripeness and heat of the GWC wines started creeping up. This was the era when Parker started giving huge scores to some Paso Rhone wines. FWIW, the 2003 Mon Amie was also 16.8%.
I remember that as well. Mat's open houses were a nice opportunity for a Paso road trip, try a bunch of barrel samples, maybe hit some other area wineries. His futures prices were hard to pass up back then. The 2000 Aisling, for example, sold for $17! His Bassetti Syrah was quite nice, and one of the few bottles I think he sealed with real cork. I haven't seen a Bassetti wine in years.
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#16 Post by Frank Murray III » September 13th, 2017, 3:39 pm

I remember Mat and his wines. I drank a # of them. I recall drinking a 2002 "The Craic" back in 2007, and even at that time, when my palate had just started its demise into the shrill, acidic garbage I drink these days, I had put in my TN even then one should find a couch and check out after drinking it, as the wine (the wines) were huge in alcohol.

Big boy syrahs, fo sure.
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#17 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » September 13th, 2017, 8:06 pm

Wow ... a blast from the past, for sure. I had the pleasure of meeting Mat a few times --- once at his winery in Paso, and another couple times at our annual CdP tasting in MN. Talk about a true gentleman! Mat always struck me as man with a generous heart. I'm glad to hear he's doing well. [cheers.gif]
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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#18 Post by Al Osterheld » September 13th, 2017, 10:17 pm

His Mon Amie Syrah was from the Bassetti vineyard, it was closed with fake cork ,then Stelvin. He also was the winemaker for the Bassetti's own label for a couple of years. I think those had real corks.

GWC made two more expensive wines, white and red blends each called Reliquary (another non-Celtic name). Those had real corks in the years that I tried them (also with wax, or rubberized wax).

-Al

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TN ghost from the past: 2003 Garretson "Aisling" Paso Robles Syrah

#19 Post by Mike Grammer » September 14th, 2017, 5:23 am

Really fun to read this note, John. I had one visit with Matt at the winery many, many years ago. Concur, a wonderful guy to meet.

Mike
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