A New Zealand Pinot Noir Comparison – Jules Taylor vs Oyster Bay


JULES TAYLOR 2012 PINOT NOIR TASTED IMG_1125AGAINST THE OYSTER BAY PINOT NOIR 2011

The leaner Oyster Bay Pinot Noir comes from a leaner soil:  more rocks, and you can taste the minerality in this wine.  The fruit is brighter.  The wine is lighter in texture and in color.  The result?  A marked difference in style to the Jules Taylor.

The Jules Taylor Pinot is bigger, with perhaps riper fruit, but the alcohol is 13.5% for both.  Where does the fuller mouthfeel come from?  From the darker fruit and most probably, without looking at the technicals, from a different oak treatment.  Structure has to do with the tannins, alcohol, glycerol, and flavor elements.  Different soils will also make for marked differences in the wine, especially when the grape is Pinot Noir.

Try to describe what it is that makes these two wines from the same region and the sameIMG_1123 grape so different, if a difference is what you detect.  Don’t forget, they are from different vintages.  Style, rather than vintage, has more to do with the difference, since I have tasted other vintages and the same differences appear.

We all need to know what style we like best. The discovery process should be pure pleasure.

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What Did You Taste – Jules Taylor 2012 Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Did you smell strawberry or raspberry?  Someone says strawberry and someone else says raspberry.  Whose right?  Probably both.  That’s not because a Pinot Noir can offer both IMG_1125flavors.  Its because our detection of aromas, although very capable, may recall strawberry to one person and raspberry to another.  Both aromas are berry smells.  But the wine is not pure berry, one or the other.

I detect other aromas in the wine.  Try it.  What do you get?  To me this Pinot is more raspberry in its fruity notes.  But I can also detect vanilla and that is changing the raspberry note and deepening it.

Humans don’t taste the whole spectrum of flavors.  We are all less able to detect one and more able to detect another.  One person could be more accurate in detecting berry flavors, for example.  What we had to eat or drink last might be still affecting our detection devices because we are already leaning toward those flavors and our memory has not “put them away.”  We also can detect aromas or flavors (I’m using the words synonymously here) at different intensities.  What if an element of the raspberry aroma is not recorded at equal intensity by another person?  That could account for their insistence that it is strawberry.

So, please don’t get into a fight about aromas.  The pleasure should be in what you smell, not in accuracy.  Now if we want to be more accurate, then we must train our noses.  Le Nez du Vin is a set of vials containing aromas that are detected in wine.  One can sharpen his ability to detect the aromas by using the vials daily.  Our olfactory neurons are renewed every 30 days or so.  Therefore, we can train our delicate detection devices.

Back to the wine, which I recommend as a great example of a Pinot Noir from Marlborough and that is richer, darker and comes from heavier soils than, say, the Oyster Bay Pinot Noir.  Try the two Pinot Noirs together (They won’t break the bank!) and see what I mean.  We will return to discuss the differences in these two Pinot Noirs in the next blog.

Jules Taylor 2012 Pinot Noir is 13.5%ABV.

Rating 90

Emotional rating, if you like the darker style of Pinot Noir, could be around a 95.

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Col Solare, 2009, Red Wine from the Columbia Valley

Col Solare

Antinori’s Super Tuscans, Solaia and Tignanello, and his marketing of Sassicaia helped turn the Italian wine industry upside down in the 1970s.  Partnering with Chateau Ste. Michelle, he created Col Solare (Italian for “shining hill”) in the Red Mountain AVA of the Columbia Valley, Washington.  Red-hued native grass that grows on the slopes of Red Mountain gives the mountain its name.

The 2009 Col Solare is rich, full of flavor, offers aromatics, and tastes of “crushed berries, cassis, black fruit, and tobacco along with a rich and silky palate and a lingering finish”  — according to the winemaker, and his description is right on target.  However, for a wine that costs (at time I purchased it) $75, it has one disappointing feature that may have an explanation but is still something I want you to be aware of in a wine.

Served at 61 degrees, the aromas were very impressive when the cork was popped, but they began to fade a little in 30 minutes and continued to disappear over the next two hours.  Two other comparable wines did not.  Col Solare seemed to “tighten” more as time went by.  True, gripping tannins frame this wine’s rich flavors, and it may be that they were hiding the fruit.  More age will soften the tannins and perhaps allow the fruit more freedom of expression, so taste this wine in a few years.  It may also be that this vintage was not the best for the microclimate.  The finish is long and all signs of quality are there except for the one described above.  Oh, so wonderful and promising on its opening, but a quality wine should hold its aromas longer, in my opinion, if they are so full and rich for the first 30 minutes.  We must wait and see what happens as it ages.

I like this AVA.  The small berries and ideal terroir combine to produce the possibility of wines of great distinction.  Watch this winery too.  It could unfold to be one of the best in the nation.

Did I enjoy the wine?  Yes, very much.   Share and drink it with rich food to compliment its richness but, as of now, don’t expect it to be the same the next day.

Details: 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec.  14.5% alcohol. 

Rating:  90.  It would have been two points higher if it had kept its powerful and rich first impression.

No emotional rating yet.

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When a Wine’s Aroma Entices and It’s Smooth Mouthfeel Seduces, It May Be Rousanne

Ojai Vineyard Tasting RoomOjai, Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard, 2013 Roussanne 

There are few places on earth in which the Rousanne grape has found great favor.  The recent surge in its popularity both in France and in California is due to its enticing aroma and smooth mouthfeel.

This wine will demonstrate how a wine can add to its attractiveness by offering something different or more to the taste, and even on the finish, from the aroma.

The aroma is haunting, capturing you with reminders of pear, peach, and apple.  The acid and alcohol lie in the shadows, waiting their turn to reveal themselves and allowing the fruit to take center stage.  Then on the taste, the alcohol begins to play its part, offering a fullness behind the creamy texture.   The mouthfeel is soft and the fruit has blended into a pleasant, fresh, stone fruit impression.

On the finish is where the acid at last comes to the fore and leaves you with a vibrant experience.  Overall, this bright gold wine is very pleasant and is a great example of the Roussanne grape.

Rating 90

Emotional rating:  Will depend on what type of wine you love, but if you love appealing aromas and vibrant finishes this wine will shine.

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Sassicaia and Super Tuscans

SassicaiaThe wine world has been shocked more than once by unexpected achievements.  In the 1970’s, a wave, described by some in Italy as an advance and others as a horrifying departure from tradition, shocked the wine world.  In the last 30 years or so Italian wine has undergone huge improvements and won international attention in a way it never has before.  The wave (the emergence of the Super Tuscans) added a new name and spurred this surge in quality of Italian wine.

Marketed by Antinori, these wines, in particular Sassicaia and Tignanello, won world-wide acclaim in a hurry.  In 1978, Sassicaia won first place in a prestigious international tasting conducted by a no less prestigious magazine, Decanter.  That Italy would beat French wines and those from 11 other countries created quite a stir.  This is a highly priced wine, but the lessons we can discern from tasting it need to be learned, at least from reading — better still from tasting.

  1. Wines are built for aging or for immediate consumption and this wine, along with its counterparts in Bordeaux, is made for the long haul.  I tasted it young and was not disappointed, but wait a few years and the wine will be much more giving.  We can tell a wine is made for aging by the power of its tannins and the firm structure of the wine, among other things.  When young it will usually be tight — a word tasters use to suggest the wine has much more in terms of flavor and aroma that is hiding behind the strong tannins and has not yet been released.  When the tannins soften, the flavors will pop.
  2. When you encounter a wine that is tightly wound but you want to enjoy it now, serve it with some rich protein — in this case with a rib eye, perhaps — and the tannins will be softened somewhat by the protein, releasing more of the fruit.
  3. When you taste a great wine, the tannins will no doubt be fine, not course and rough in texture.  Strength and texture are two different qualities of tannin to be observed separately.  Compare this in your memory with a black tea that has been brewed for 5 or more minutes and you will not mistake the textural difference of the tannins in the wine and the tea.  Fine tannins make for a better wine.
  4. This wine is a perfect example of a great European wine.  It is not made to be a fruit bomb or even to focus on the fruit.  Fruit, tannin, acid, and alcohol are all balanced beautifully with the obvious addition of minerality, which is like the finishing touch on an Old World wine.  Therefore, it may seem to some to be a little more austere when it really is not.  It is waiting for its debut a few years out.  As it ages, the wine’s elements will marry, softening more and producing a wine that changes with its age much like humans mellow and change.
  5. Great Old World wines can also be said to be both soft and aggressive.  This is one of the pleasures of drinking the best of the Old World.  The wines both attack and soothe.

If you have a chance to taste this wine, note these lessons and any others that you might discover as you taste.  You will have been treated to a measure of what a very great wine from the Old World is meant to be.

For those who are curious, here are a few of my notes:

Firm tannins and structure, tightly wound.  Perfectly balanced and stimulates the mouth with a velvety touch.  Citric and lactic acids dominate because of the malolactic fermentation.  This also means the wine can be approached while young without pummeling your senses.

The flavors are many:  blackberry, blackcurrant, toast, cedar, dark chocolate, and already hints of leather with some coffee beans and their slight bitterness (what the Italians call amore) from the tannins (but not in any way offensive).  Cabernet Sauvignon 85%, Cabernet Franc 15%, 24 months in French oak barriques.

Rating: 94

Emotional rating: 94 and rising!  Salute!

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Grapes Don’t Come with a Guarantee

Colorado Grape Growers have suffered severe losses.  Of the last 5 vintages, only one has

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

Vineyards of Palisade, CO in the Grande Valley AVA

been a good crop due to winter kill and the need to cut the vines off at ground level,  retraining the new canes that sprout from the unaffected root system.  For the 2014 vintage, even Canyon Wind received some damage, which is unusual. But Colorado is not alone.

Burgundy and Bordeaux have had their devastations too.  A recent report on winesearcher.com details how for the last two years, Burgundy growers have suffered very poor crops and this year all hopes for a great vintage were high, only to be devastated by “machine gun” hail, ruining whole areas and creating losses estimated to be up to 90%.  Even their trusted hail cannons, which fire silver iodide at the clouds to dissolve the potential hail stones, did not work.  Some growers are concerned whether they will be able to continue.

All agriculture is a risky business.  Devastating weather and diseases can wreak havoc on any crop, but usually not to the extent that grapes suffer.  Why?  Except for a few ideal locations that could not support the demand for good wine, the best grapes grow on the edge of climatic possibilities and there the struggling vine produces its precious fruit, full of flavor and potential for the winemaker.  A certain cyclical pattern seems to bring times of hardship and times of plenty and the hopeful grape grower awaits the return of some great harvests.  The wine industry has always been aware of the importance of vintages for these very reasons, one in five being an apparent average for Bordeaux.

Don’t give up on Colorado wine.  Some growers are very pessimistic, but we must wait and see what the future holds. When Colorado has a good year, the wine is good — yes, very good in the hands of Colorado’s best winemakers.  I’ll keep you informed of the best as the wines are released and flag you about some affordable but excellent wines from elsewhere around the globe.  As usual, each blog will be another lesson in understanding and appreciating great wine.

Next:  expect an education in Super Tuscans and the famed Sassicaia.

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Amphora Wine: Columbia Crest Reserve Viognier 2013

Here is a wine you have to try just because a portion of it was fermented in amphora pots.  We can applaud wineries that indulge in such experimentation.  Why are amphora pots so

Columbia Crest Reserve Viognier 2013significant?  Because it is a return to the past — innovative to us, but commonplace to the folks of two millennia ago.  Wine was fermented, stored and transported long distances in amphora.

This wine from the Horse Heaven Hills is a very pale straw, clear and brilliant.  Apple pear and stone fruit aromas emerge willingly from the glass in a delicate and complex nose.

The mouthfeel is satisfyingly full, creamy, and velvety to the touch coating the mouth with a long-lasting viscosity.  Feelings help us call to mind the meaning for us of this tactile experience and if is not too far fetched, the word exotic comes to mind.  That’s what we want to happen when we savor wine — or anything for that matter.  Meanings that come to us in words help us define the significance of the experience.

To me, it is a perfect example of the effect of “micro-oxygenation,” which is achieved by a tiny amount of oxygen passing through the amphora into the wine just like it does when wines are placed in cask and the oak, being porous, achieves the same result.  So many wines today are fermented in stainless steel tanks to keep the flavors of the wine fresh that they lose this important treatment.  Oxygen rounds a wine; too much oxygen destroys it.

The winemaker feels the amphora vessels accentuate the terroir — a point to which I cannot speak.  In the creaminess of the after taste is a spice that is mellow, adding character to the wine.  The fuller, richer flavors of the tropics are accentuated too.  Paula Eakin, the assistant winemaker at Columbia Crest, feels that the hotter fermentation that takes place in the clay pots draws out these warmer flavors. She is likely right if we apply theory to our conclusions, and our tasting certainly verifies the facts.

It is one of the softest wines I have tasted.  Its finish is seamless (nothing standing out and shouting at you as it slides down your throat).  The delicate flavors last and last.  True to the grape, the alcohol is up there at 13.8%.  This is a wine to impress your wine buff friends and one that you will enjoy, not only in summer but even the cool dark days of winter.

Serve this wine and wow your friends with talk of clay amphora and spice-laden Viognier.

Rating: 92

Emotional rating:  To those who are sensitive to the meanings of touch, this is a winner — 98

Although the aromas are more delicate than many Viognier’s, it loses nothing of its memorable appeal.

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Antipiano – A Vineyard and Winery In Infancy

Antipiano Vineyard Cab SauvThis small, family-owned and run vineyard and winery outside of San Diego in the Highland Valley Wine Country is planted in 2,600 vines from Brunello Italy and 1,100 other vines.  The vines are in third leaf so it is obvious that not only are the vines young but so is the wine.

There is no pretense here, only a sincere attempt at making wine and pursuing a mission to produce good quality, fine wine.  The winemaker reports, “The 2010 harvest yielded small amounts of these wines so there’s not much bottled inventory. The cab was blended with Hellanback Ranch and Paciello cab and is still developing in the bottle.”

It is always fascinating to taste during the development of a winery from its earliest days and see how the winemaker comes out of the gates.  At first, winemaking can be a nervous endeavor, but the innate artistry of the winemaker should be evident somewhere in the wine to be tasted.

The wine was opened at 59 degrees and tasted over the period of an hour as it took its deep breaths of oxygen and presented some of its evolving characteristics.  The color is deep — almost opaque, with a young ruby meniscus and a healthy glycerol ring.  The oak has not yet married with the wine and features as the top note.  The senses are quickly impressed by the fruitiness and richness of the wine — tastes like California.  It is not hugely tannic.  One might expect more tannin in its youth.  The acids are dominant on the palate and the finish and are a little sharp on the edges.  The fruit is strong enough not to be overpowered by tannin or acid in its future development, but it is not a wine with a certain promise of a long future.  Drink now and in the next few years.  As a food wine, it is very promising, holding good acid to the finish with a clean cut.

Antipiano Vineyard and Winery: Cabernet Sauvignon, California, NV 13.5% alcohol

Rating 85-86

Emotional rating would climb with food.

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