We sat down with a Sonoma Coastian the other evening. A Cabernet from a promising county and a well respected year, known its for toasty qualities. For cabernets in this price range, it really could go either way; which we love to discover, and discover we did.
2010 Olema Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County – $16
A deep, granite and candied nose with a great deal of floridity. In the mouth the Olema has a noticeably thin appeal: a sweet front, a powdery back end full of tannins. However there was nothing to be found in the middle of this wine. You could say the wine lacked interest, and didn’t know where exactly to go with itself. It had a lost taste that bored by the end of the bottle. Characteristically, this is a weak example of Cabernet Sauvingnon.
This ’09 hails from Portugal and is a blend of 40% Aragonez, 30% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Trincadeira, and 10% Cabernet Sauvingon. I’m proud to say I know what one of those grapes is. This wine is one of the most interesting we have come across, so it’s really easy to give this clichéd bit of hackneyed praise: it’s 100% amazing. The Mariana is from southern Portugal, deep in the Alentejo region from a winery that got their start in 2000.
It be nice to explore what these grapes are, and what they led to making the quality that we hopefully picked up on below:
Aragonez: i.e. tempranillo, tinto del pais. Yes, it is the gusty grape with a backbone that we all know and love in our Rioja, also the grape so well known from the Rubeira del Duero.
Alicante Bouschet: Alicante hails from France where it was used primarily as a blending grape that gave a startling and bold color to the wines. On the plus side, it’s an easy grape, proliferating easily in many vineyards around the world.
Trincadeira: or, trinta amarela, is primarily a wine meant for port. So, we can dedce that it has a sweet and medicinal quality.
2009 Herdade Do Rocim Alentejo Mariana – $ 14
Dark berries and earth on the nose. Very pretty; floral notes abounded. In the mouth the wine came off as simple and straight forward. I wrote down: “This is the first simple wine I’ve ever loved.” The wine never stopped evoloving––so in effect, it was all rather complex. It just never leaped at us. First there was a blueberry note…a heavy one at that. Then it was as if the blueberry had had coitus with a coffee bean, and you were then tasting the (ugh, I know) the remnant fluids of said exchange. Fascinating. Before the bottle was all finished up, a burst of orange was festooned on our tongues. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong, uncanny, sense of tropical linger so well integrated with everything else you would come to expect with a solid red wine. Superb.
This is an easily affordable wine that will bowl you over with its evolution. Let it decant for an hour or so, give it time, to rest, to brood, deepen.
Dog Point Vinyards is located in the majestic Marlborough region in New Zealand with a vineyard that has a northerly “aspect,” allowing for a great deal of cool air to sweep over the vineyard. Their current vintages include Sauvingnon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a white mix they call “section 94,” which sounds ominous if you’re a Trekkie––but it is a wine, so it’s got to be fairly clear of any moral ambiguities.
2008 Bouldevines Pinot Noir Dog Point Vineyard – $22
A sizzling nose full of wet stone, game and blackberry. It looked dark, complex, and red, no thinning on the glass. In the mouth the Dog Point started fresh and light with hints of blackberry and cherry. Once it opened up, however, it exploded––in the best way possible. Although I have to note here that this is very much unlike your typical pinot noir. This was a pinot that wished to be a grenache, a temperanillo, a sycophant for gusty varietals. Dark tannin with a hint of saddle wood; tannins that will bowl you over, feeling like it had all the alcoholic weight of new age California zinfandel. I was lip-smacking my way to the finish line, glad for this assault against normative presumptions of delicacy––even if it is what I truly want out of pinot noir. Bah! with expectations. The wine’s a great deal of fun.
Is it right for a wine to go astray from what is expected from the varietal? Is this ultimately misleading for the consumer purchasing a wine they expect to be, say soft, but instead open something more akin to the “new world” ideal?
I loved the wine; can’t say I care about answering the question.
Proviso: But I am a pacifist.