Gang of Pour.com
Walt’s Wild Ride
last day out left was a special one. Larry Meehan had made
arrangements to visit Camp Meeting Ridge,
and asked if we’d like to tag along with Mary and him. Talk
about a no-brainer question! Jon Cook joined in as well, and
after a quick lunch in Bodega Bay, we were retracing
our route from last summer north on Highway 1 to Meyers Grade Road
and on up to Flowers Vineyards and Winery.
We were no less in awe of the stunning vistas this time than we were the
last, and as we pulled up to Walt and Joan Flowers’
beautiful home, we could feel the magic all over again.
Joan and Charlie the Golden Retriever were there
to greet us once again, and after chatting for a few minutes,
Walt asked if we’d like to take a drive up to the new ranch.
We were anxious to see how it was coming along, so of course we
said yes. After a twisting, turning, bucking bronco ride,
we were back among the crowns known as Mt.
Baldy and Upper Heavenly.
The progress was obvious, as we stood among the year old Pinot Meunier
vines on Baldy.
Then, as we drove on up Heavenly, we noted that the water level
in the reservoir seemed fairly low, but Joan assured us that
there was an ample amount for their needs. As co-winemaker
LaFollette (who will be cutting back to consulting status at
year's end) puts it, they walk the edge, giving the vines just
enough water to keep them going. I resisted the urge to
ask if we could stop and take a swim, knowing that it was not an
it was back down to Camp Meeting Ridge, where we watched the
bottling process taking place. Joan told us that no
pumping took place in this procedure; it was very gentle so as
not to beat the wine up. As we reported last year, the
winery is state of the art, and no expense is spared to produce
the best product possible. While we were watching, we were
introduced to co-winemaker Hugh Chapelle (left), who
now runs the day-to-day activities at the winery. Hugh is a good friend of Greg’s and
has spent the last seven years at Madrona
in the Sierra Foothills. The arrangement with Flowers has
LaFollette serving as Consulting Winemaker the equivalent of one day a week in 2001.
that, we adjourned to the house, where Walt said there would be
some wines to taste. There were wines to taste all right,
five of the brand spanking new ‘99s, all bottled within the
previous three weeks! We took seats around the central
island in the Flowers’ spacious kitchen, with five Riedel
Burgundy stems each, and our host poured a nice sample of each
wine in consecutive glasses, while Joan served slices of toasted
baguette spread with goat cheese and a sun dried tomato/pesto
blend. Then we began to taste the wines.
Flowers Perennial, 14.2% alc.: This pinky ruby garnet
is a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Zinfandel, and just a
splash of Chardonnay, and shows pretty berry/cherry character
with spice and chocolate nuances. Richer, more intense and
much better than the ’97 version that we tasted in January of
’99, Walt said, “Don’t analyze this to death, just
drink it and enjoy.” That we did, and it is delicious!
Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.2% alc.: This
dark garnet contains fruit from Nobles,
and Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyards;
it exhibits deep spicy, smoky black cherry/plum flavors and
aromas with medium full body, good acidity and unobtrusive
tannins. It has the most oak of the bunch and that’s not
a bad thing. Probably the best Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot
Flowers Sonoma Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard, 14.1%
alc.: Dark garnet with even deeper, spicier smoky black
cherry/plum/chocolate than the previous selection, as well as
“earth and minerals” according to Bigdog; huge
character here, and again good acidity, unobtrusive tannins and
a long finish. We’d heard from Russell Bevan aka
Bacchus that Flowers has come a long way with their tannin
management, and the proof was right here in what we were
tasting. Just a wonderful wine.
Flowers Sonoma Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard, 14.3%
alc.: Kim commented that this dark garnet is “sweeter,
fruitier,” and we were told that it was because it was made by
a different process, being gently pressed and then finished
fermenting in barrel. It shows big chocolate over black
cherry, with some cedar box according to Joan. This
is a lovely wine, more immediately accessible that the ’98.
Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Camp Meeting Ridge,
14.3% alc.: Not as effusive on the nose as the others, this dark
garnet “will take longer to come around, will need more
time,” according to Walt. It is a bit tighter,
but still the spicy, smoky black cherry/cola flavors are
expressive and lovely, though not as concentrated as the Sangiacomo
or Van der Kamp.
However, one only needs to consider that the vines on Camp
Meeting Ridge are six years old, while those at Sangiacomo are
thirty, and it is not hard to understand why. Pretty maple
syrup emerges on the nose with air, adding appeal.
got a devilish look in his eye as we sipped and savored this
last wine, and disappeared into the cellar, returning shortly
with a “mystery wine.” All we could tell for sure was
that it WAS a Flowers red, and it WAS dark garnet! It has
an almost menthol aspect to the bouquet, and the fruit isn’t
as bright as the first five we tasted; it seemed a little stemmy
by comparison, with black cherry flavors and aromas and plenty
of acidity. Larry mentioned “incense and
chamomile,” while Jon noted “cardamom and a
juniper thing goin’ on.” Jon then nailed this,
based on what he called the similarities of bouquet, and it was
revealed to be the 1998 Flowers Sonoma
Coast Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard, at 13.9%
was getting late and the Meehans and Kim and I had
to think about catching the red eye back to the Third Coast or
there abouts that evening, so we began to say our goodbyes and
thank Walt and Joan for their warm hospitality, but Walt
disappeared into the cellar again, returning a minute later with
two more bottles that he insisted we enjoy with our dinner.
like our last time at Camp Meeting
Ridge, we were sorry to have to leave. The
Flowers are two of the nicest people you could ever hope to
meet, and they’re so very fortunate to be making their dream a
reality and so very generous to share some of it with us.
We made our way back down to Bodega Bay, dining at the Tides
Wharf. The food was forgettable, but the two bottles
of wine were very special, and we oohed and aahed over them
1996 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Camp Meeting Ridge “Moon Select”, 13.5% alc.: Dark garnet in color, this is deep, dark and delicious, with smoky black cherry/plum/ chocolate flavors and aromas with a splash of cola to jazz things up. Dense and velvety, the acidity is at the perfect level for this taster, and tannins are resolved to the point where this is eminently drinkable, and continues to open and improve as long as there is some left in the glass. Just a lovely, lovely Pinot Noir.
1998 Flowers Talmage Bench Mendocino Zinfandel, 14.8% alc.: Very much as we remember it, this dark garnet shows big spicy overripe extracted raspberry/plum/pomegranate character with acidity that continues to mellow as the months roll by, and a long, lingering finish. One of the very best '98 Zins we've tasted.
With that, we bid the Meehans and Jon a warm so long 'til next time, making our way back to SFO, and eventually Day-twah.