Storyline and Tasting Notes:
George Heritier

George Heritier
GeoStar 45

Wines with Blackout



Wines with Blackout

Wines with Larry and Mike

MoCool 2003

A Taste of Chile

Tasting South Africa

Wines with califusa


I was drinking water and selling wine at the well-healed retail establishment where I am gainfully employed; once the power blew, wine sales went through the floor. Fortunately, said retail establishment had a powerful emergency generator, the only business in the neighborhood with such foresight. A steady flow of people walked through the doors to stock up on staples, but no one seemed to be looking for that special Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio to get them through the coming debacle. We sold over 100 cases of bottled water in an hour and a half, clearing out the entire stock. 

I clocked out at my regular time, 8 PM, telling the
management that I had to attend to an out of 
town guest from Napa, which was true enough.

Allan Bree aka califusa
had arrived in town the night before for our annual 2001 Garretson Santa Ynez Valley Viogniersummer’s debauchery. After negotiating a succession of ersatz four-way stops, I arrived home to find the aforementioned Left Coast Correspondent and my beautiful wife, Kim slouched lethargic in the CRV parked in the driveway, listening to the radio news station and drinking a 2001 Garretson Santa Ynez Valley Viognier (Vogelsang Vineyard – Table 62), slugging on it straight from the bottle. Fortunately, it was still well chilled and not much was gone, so I grabbed glasses and poured some all around whilst it was still fresh and free of floaties.

The wine showed a pale golden color, and exuded a peachy apricot bouquet with honeysuckle overtones. Flavors more than echoed, and in the mouth, it had a nice, almost oily density, with enough acidity to keep it going right along, and not showing its 14.2 % alcohol content. "Not as light and floral as these can sometimes be," was Bree’s comment, and Kim added an impression of "almost unctuous." It received three enthusiastic thumbs up.

By then, darkness was encroaching, so candles and the Weber kettle grill were lit, and we set about preparing lamb burgers and a melange of fresh vegetables from the garden, sautéed in a wok on the Weber. Bree just raved about those lamb burgers, as it was clearly apparent why we’ll not be buying ground beef again anytime in the near future, and his choice of wine to accompany them was a fine one indeed.

2001 Garretson Central Coast Syrah "The Craic," 94% Syrah, 6% Viognier, 14% alc.: The term `Craic' (pronounced `crack’) means good fun and this dark garnet was certainly that. Medium full bodied, it didn’t give much in the way of aromatics when first poured, but showed a nice concentration of red fruit on the palate, all plums and berries. Bree found it "almost reminiscent of a Zinfandel, but without the spice, so it shows this wonderful purity of fruit." It was deftly balanced, with just the right kiss of oak, and like the Viognier, received three thumbs up.

We were finished with dinner, but we weren’t finished with wine, and since one good Syrah seemed to deserve another, Bree pulled a second bottle from his bag of tricks for our back deck blackout enjoyment, explaining, "These are the wines that Mat Garretson paid me to stay away from his bottling line."

2001 Garretson Paso Robles Syrah2001 Garretson Paso Robles Syrah "The Luascáin" Rozet Vineyard, 94% Syrah, 6% Viognier, 14% alc.: Kim commented that this dark garnet had a cherry stick quality about it, but it also showed a flavor profile that was more in the black fruit spectrum than "The Craic," with a lovely perfume that was much more prominent than the preceding selection. Medium full bodied, it was also more structured, with "more of a unique personality," according to Bree. He also opined that it had "a faint mustiness, not unlike TCA" (but it was NOT corked), and that it was "decidedly Mediterranean as it opened." It finished with notes of tar and the promise of leather, causing califusa to twitch with anticipation, as we once again gave three thumbs for another nice wine from Mr. Garretson and Co.

With those wines drained, we went at some distributors samples I’d brought home to try, all three of them dogsh*t French wines. The first two shall remain nameless, and were dumped in short order, but a 2000 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage proved to be acceptable, if only just. It showed more than a modicum of fruit, but that was dominated by earthy, rotting vegetal qualities that were neither charming nor entirely offensive. I was able to down a glass of the stuff, but I wouldn’t recommend spending over $4.99 on a bottle. I didn’t hear any comments from Kim or Bree, one way or the other.

Yet more bottles were opened afterwards, but things got a little foggy, and no notes were taken. The next day, one taster would admit to not remembering the ’87 Geyserville, whilst another had no recollection of the Thackrey Plaeides XI.

Obviously, by the end of the 1st night of the unfolding drama, there were blackouts of another kind here at Gang Central…

We woke late the next day, to some kind of hell. The heat and humidity were through the roof, and we were torpid in our Speedos and Jockey briefs, dozing on and off throughout the afternoon. It was nearly 5 PM before I stumbled across the street, drawn by the sound of the neighbor’s generator, mooching just enough juice to grind coffee for that day and the next. Being the good Samaritan that he is, Tony only charged me five bucks, and we were soon on our way to some semblance of wakefulness. By 7:30, we were ready for anything, and since we had some good Costco duck for the grill, it was obvious that we needed some good Pinot to go with it. I lit a candle, descended into the cellar and returned with a couple of likely candidates.

1998 Renteria Napa Pinot Noir Carneros, $50, 13.3% alc.: Kim brought this smoky tinged ruby garnet back from a fact finding mission to Sonapanoma a few years back, and it was high time to find out what was in the bottle, and what was in the bottle was very nice indeed. It exuded a lovely, perfumed smoky black cherry bouquet that followed through enthusiastically on the palate, with a lot of bright acid and mostly resolved tannins, all balanced very nicely. There’s a lovely purity of fruit here, making for a very attractive Pinot Noir, which is exactly what we were looking for, given the price tag.

1999 Dehlinger Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Goldridge Vineyard1999 Dehlinger Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Goldridge Vineyard, $38.99, 14.3% alc.: A smoky ruby dark garnet in color, this showed deeper, darker fruit than the Renteria, with its smoky black cherry and plum character. It wasn’t too tannic, had good acidity, and was eminently drinkable, in the words of Kim, who added, "God, this is pretty!" Bree, who is no stranger to Dehlinger, said that the Goldridge bottlings are "the most fruit forward of their pinots," and one wouldn’t argue that point after a glass or two of this. Very nice indeed!

The power came back at around 10 PM that evening, as we were finishing up with the Dehlinger. We drank a little more wine afterwards, but nothing was recorded, so it’s been lost in a hazy blur. All I know is that we survived with no losses beyond several bottles of wine and a fat batch of brain cells.


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© George Heritier  October 2003