Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wines I'm Drinking: Tasting at Wine Spectrum (Veraison, Krupp Brothers, Blackbart)

I recently attended an interesting wine tasting at the Wine Spectrum wine shop in Santa Rosa, near Railroad Square. Michael Heliotes, of Krupp Brothers, was showing wines from the Blackbart, Krupp Brothers, and Veraison labels. I tasted a 2006 Blackbart Marsanne/Viognier/Chardonnay blend from fruit from the Stagecoach Vineyard called "Black Bart's Bride;" the 2006 Krupp Brothers "The Doctor," a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon, from Krup Vineyard and Stagecoach Vineyard fruit; the 2004 Veraison "Synchrony" (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot), also from Stagecoach Vineyard fruit; a 2005 Veraison Cabernet Sauvignon from Stagecoach Vineyard fruit; and a 2006 Blackbart Syrah, also from Stagecoach Vineyard fruit.

I went into the tasting with a great deal of skepticism. Frankly, I can't remember why I decided to attend this one (usually the word Napa turns me off), but, despite my prejudice against Napa wines--which, in my view, are far too often overpriced--I was impressed by all of these. Michael was hands-off, but available for background information and a lot of fun to talk with. His enthusiasm for the wines shows.

The 2006 "Black Bart's Bride" had a peachy nose with hints of caramel at first, later developing scents of roses and peach cobbler. There was also a sappy sort of scent that reminded me of Roero Arneis--a very pleasant fresh vegetable-like scent that nearly all the wines had in the background. Very concentrated on the palate. Powerful. Tasted of peaches and ginger. Very rich, concentrated wine with a long finish. More finesse than a lot of California Viognier wines have. I suspect the addition of the Chardonnay helped to boost acidity and keep this fresh, despite its oomph. Can't imagine what you'd eat with this--créme brulée comes to mind--but a very interesting, tasty wine.

"The Doctor" was not quite like anything I've tasted before. It is mostly Tempranillo (37%) but is 28% Merlot and 21% Malbec, finished off with 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. A nice medium ruby color. The nose was fairly closed at first, but suggested dark berries and something volatile that I couldn't quite pin down. After a few minutes it began to strongly suggest cinnamon, or, more precisely, cinnamon balls. Rich, sweet, and fruity on the palate. The wine didn't taste like any of the grapes I knew to be in it--I'd call it more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps most striking was its balance. Good fruit, good tannins, and just the right amount of acidity. Poised, I would call it. With a little time, it began to develop some slightly exotic scents. I was reminded of ginger, crabmeat, and toasted coconut (yes, I changed my glass after the Viognier-based wine). Not my favorite of the evening--I found myself wanting a more familiar flavor profile, which is more a fault in me than in the wine--but a very well made, solid offering.

The 2004 "Synchrony" had good color--again a medium ruby red. Pronounced meaty scents and cinnamon again. Later, it suddenly smelled of anise and the meat scents became more specifically suggestive of roasted game. Remarkably well balanced. A bit lighter than the "The Doctor," but with a beautiful, pure, core of fruit. It seemed almost ethereal--floating on the tongue. Light tannins, but just enough bite. Began to suggest blueberries on the palate. Had the fresh, sappy scents I noticed in some of the other wines. Delicious. Of all things, this reminded me of Australia's Grange Hermitage (now just called Grange), from Penfold's. It would have made more sense if the Syrah had done so, but life often makes no sense, I've found. In any case, a very tasty, well made wine. Along with the Syrah, it was my favorite of the evening.

The 2005 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was much deeper in color than the "Synchrony." The nose suggested roses, green peppers, and cinnamon. There was a rather heady, alcoholic tone as well. Rich, sweet on the palate with considerable tannin. Rather closed overall, but later developed chocolate flavors and something spicy. I had trouble with this one. While I enjoyed it, I find it hard to describe. I suspect it will reward patience. I'd like try this again in about five years.

I generally dislike California (and Australian) Syrah. If I want Syrah, I try to drink wines from the Northern Rhone. Too often California Syrah seems sweet (in a cloying way), too fruity, and it has no real character. It tends to be a Kool-Aid wine. I expected to dislike the 2006 Blackbart Syrah.

I didn't. It was delicious. No Kool-Aid here. Clearly an adult wine. Very deep red. Gamey on the nose, in the best sort of way. Hints of citrus--blood oranges, I'd say, because of something bitter in the scent--, and later hints of blueberries. Wonderfully clean on the palate. Again, very nicely balanced between fruit and tannin. If I had to quibble, I'd ask for a touch more acid, a little more brightness, but this wine was notable for the same sort of clarity of fruit that I enjoyed in the "Synchrony." Delicious. I jokingly said to Michael "Your winemaker must be Australian" just from looking at the blends. Turned out I was right. Kudos to winemaker Nigel Kinsman. All five of the wines I tasted were delicious.

I didn't ask the prices. I'm sure I can't afford them. If you can, they're probably worth it. All in all, another fun evening from Pat Moore and the staff at Wine Spectrum (with which, for the record, I have no connections except as an occasional customer).

Images courtesy of the Krupp Brothers Web site.

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