Tasting Notes by
George Heritier



his report could have been filed under at least a couple of recurring titles, including Following Up and (Not Just) Flotsam & Jetsam, and it would have worked; most of the wines noted here are from some of our favorite producers and they come from various far flung wine regions. However, my partner in crime here at Adams, Heritier and Associates suggested that I come up with a new header instead of recycling the same old ones, so I accommodated her wishes. Here�s hoping that no delicate political sensibilities are offended�

2004 Edmund St. John Rocks and Gravel California Red WineWe�ve become fans of Steve Edmunds� wines over the last few years; it�s just too bad that we didn�t discover them a lot earlier, because he�s been practicing his craft for some time now. One of our more memorable experiences with an Edmunds St. John wine was one we never chronicled. Alan Kerr, aka Canadian Zinfan, in his infinite wiz-dom picked up a bottle of an ESJ red on close-out that obviously had some years on it during one of our annual sojourns in Toledo, but it had lost all indication of vintage on back and front. I don�t know why �97 sticks in my mind, it may have been on the computer generated invoice, which of course was discarded. Whatever the case, we cracked it one night a few years ago along with a 1999 E. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape, the so-called � 2002 Wine of the Year,� according to one influential wine publication. The short story is this: the Kerr-dog and I weren�t bothering with taking notes that evening, but the ESJ was a dead ringer for something from the southern Rhone, all earthy and leathery and just a real treat to drink, while the Guigal was a very plain, ordinary red that showed very little in the way of Chateauneuf du Pape character.

I�d offer the qualification that the Guigal may have been an off bottle, although it saw perfect storage on release (I got it at the original Michigan price of $34.99 from a retailer with a temp-controlled cellar), but I�ve read more than a few similar impressions regarding this one. I guess my point here is that �Wine of the Year� awards can be suspect (can you say Cinq Cepages, boys and girls?), while Steve Edmunds quietly goes along making excellent wines that may not win many awards, but continue to make friends and devoted fans along the way.

2002 Edmund St. John Rocks and Gravel California Red Wine, 65% Mourv�dre, 25% Counoise, 10% Syrah, 13.8% alc.: The �relatively� light ruby dark garnet color gives some indication of the somewhat lighter character of the wine itself; it lacks the depth and structure of the 2001 we enjoyed late last summer, but that�s not to say that it�s not a very good wine. It offers earthy dark plum and berry shaded with iron, smoke and iodine in both flavor and aroma; medium to medium full bodied, with good structure and length. Due to the total lack of Grenache in the blend, owner winemaker Steve Edmunds likens this more to something from the C�te d�Or than Provence, and while I suppose that I can taste that, to me, it still shows more southern Rh�ne character or even a Languedoc-like something or other, and those impressions are not based on a 2 oz. sample; we drained the bottle. Mourv�dre, Counoise and Syrah sourced from Rozet Vineyard, Paso Robles; Syrah also came from Bassetti Vineyard, Cambria, Durell and Parmelee-Hill Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, Wylie and Fenaughty Vineyards, El Dorado County. Open-top fermentation followed destemming, with 2-4 daily manual punchdowns over a 15-day cuvaison. At dryness, all wines were pressed directly into 15-20 year-old French casks. First rack after malolactic and settling, (usually March to April following the vintage), one or two subsequent racks, then the wine was removed from wood to stainless prior to subsequent harvest, and bottled in May of '04.  Find this wine

2004 Edmund St. John Rocks and Gravel California Red Wine, 38% Grenache, 34% Mourv�dre, 28% Syrah, 14.5% alc., $18.99: Ruby dark garnet color, and a bit shy on the nose, while offering elegant flavors of dark plum and berry with a soft leathery complexion; medium full to full bodied, with fine, fine tannins and balanced acids. Drinking well right now, and it should improve over at least the next few years, but so well mannered, I�m having a hard time keeping my hands off right now. Grenache sourced from Rozet Vineyard, Paso Robles, Eaglepoint Ranch, Ukiah, Fenaughty Vineyard, Placerville, Mourv�dre from Rozet Vineyard, Paso Robles, and Syrah from Parmelee-Hill Vineyard, Sonoma and Wylie and Fenaughty Vineyards, El Dorado County. Fermentation in open-top tanks and bins, with manual punchdowns; average cuvaisons: 12-15 days. Pressed into 20-25 year old French puncheons with spontaneous malolactic in barrel. Racked in May of '05, and put into tank September '05; bottled in June of '06.  Find this wine

2002 Edmund St. John California Syrah �The Shadow�2002 Edmund St. John California Syrah �The Shadow,� 13.9% alc., $11.99: This ruby dark garnet is a declassified blend from some of the state�s best Syrah vineyards, and after tasting it, it�s not too hard to see why A.) Steve Edmunds couldn�t find a lot to get excited about with the fruit that went into this wine and B.) why he made no single vineyard Syrah from 2002. Not a �heavy� wine by any means, it displays a soft leathery character with plum and beetroot underscored with some subtle earth. Medium full bodied, and moderately structured for current consumption, this could be mistaken for a decent Crozes-Hermitage or even a Languedoc red, but like the �02 Rocks and Gravel, it lacks the kind of structure and depth that earlier vintages have led one to expect from this producer. It�s good for the money, but that�s all; drink it with various lamb dishes and hearty stews. Fruit sourced from Durell and Parmelee-Hill Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, Wylie and Fenaughty Vineyards, El Dorado County, Bassetti Vineyard in the Central Coast and Rozet Vineyard from Paso Robles. Average cuvaison 10-15 days in open-top stainless steel, with manual puchdowns. Pressed at dryness into old French puncheons, racked to stainless steel in May of '03 and bottled in June of '06. Find this wine

It�s been a while since we tried the following wine from Sean Thackrey, so what better excuse to see how it�s faring than during a visit from a fellow fan, our own Cousin Larry Meehan?

2001 Sean Thackrey Sirius Old Vines Mendocino Petite Sirah Eaglepoint Ranch2001 Sean Thackrey Sirius Old Vines Mendocino Petite Sirah Eaglepoint Ranch, 14.7% alc., $45: Still pretty inky in color, this exudes effusive aromatics of earthy sweet plum and berry that show just a bit of the barnyard; the luscious flavors echo and expand, trading the poopy character in on some mint, and as it opens, some subtle leather. Rich and ripe, but not over-ripe, with excellent intensity and good structure that doesn�t interfere with tonight�s drinking enjoyment. We poured this blind for Larry, who described a �fine powdery, chalky texture, and because of the mint, characterized it as �Thack-nerian,� adding �I have no real guess what grape this might be; it�s sort of an omni-grape.� He was quite pleasantly surprised when we revealed the identity of this mysterian wine, and it was given thumbs up all around. Give it some air and drink it now or hold it up to five more years and beyond; either way and you�ve got a winner.   Find this wine

We�ve made no secret of our fondness for almost everything from Charles Back�s South African projects, so when we got our hands on some upcoming releases from Fairview, Goats do Roam and Spice Route, we didn�t waste any time seeing what they had to offer. The first selection was new to us, but we hope to rectify that with more bottles down the road.

2003 Fairview Paarl Shiraz The Beacon2003 Fairview Paarl Shiraz The Beacon, 15% alc., $35.99: Obsidian garnet in color, with a stingy nose initially that only gives a little oak and black fruit, but gradually opens to include some sea air as well; in the mouth, it�s sleek, but not lean, offering dense, full bodied dusty black plum and berry shaded with just the right amount of oak, a nice note of cola, some saddle leather and subtle earthy undertones. This really evolves with air, showing more of what it has all the time, and while it has the depth and structure of a ten year wine, don�t be afraid to open one now, because it is one truly fine world class Shiraz. Sourced from a dry farmed vineyard planted in 1995, using Shiraz clone SH9A grafted onto rootstock R110. The deep Glenrosa soil type retains soil moisture well, and ripens the crop early without stress during the long hot summers. Planted in a northwesterly facing rocky outcrop, the vines are pruned to a �bosstok� or bush vine. Depending on the growth, the vine is pruned to between 3 and 5 bearers per vine. Summer canopy management includes a topping, which will reduce wind damage and green cropping at 80% veraison to ensure even ripening. The vineyard is regularly visited during the ripening period and tested by tasting, visual and analytical examination to determine exact picking date. Harvested fully ripe at 26�B., destalked and lightly crushed. The must was then chilled and cold soaked for two days. Fermentation in open 500 litre new French oak barrels, with manual punch downs conducted three times daily. Post fermentation maceration for six days, then the wine is pressed, and malolactic fermentation was completed in barrel. Racked, lightly sulphured and returned to 40% new French oak, with the remainder in used French oak barrels. The wine spent a total of 16 months in oak. Find this wine

2006 Fairview Coastal Region Pinotage, 14.5% alc., $14.99: Dark garnet color, with plum, strawberry and ash on the nose, following through on the palate with the plum clearly dominant; medium to medium full bodied, with moderate to medium tannins and a slightly vacant mid-palate. Decent for $15; not great, not even really good, just decent, and not up to the 2005 model that we liked so well six months ago. Maybe it just needs some time in the bottle, so the jury�s still out on this one right now, but the other new Fairviews are drinking much better. Harvested mostly from bush vines, some over 25 years old, and supplemented by a small amount of fruit from a younger trellised vineyard at Fairview; the vineyards are at three sites, Malmesbury and Agter Paarl with their dry farmed vineyards on deep soils and the Paarl fruit grown on sandy soils. Harvested over a number of days at sugar levels between 24� and 26� Balling. The bunches were destalked, and lightly pumped through the crusher with the rollers full open. After malolactic fermentation was completed in stainless steel, the wine spent ten months in used French and American oak barrels, before blending and bottling.  Find this wine

2005 Fairview Coastal Region Shiraz, 14.5% alc., $14.99: Dark garnet color, fading to pink at the rim; tarry on the nose, bordering on raw petroleum, with earth, black plum, blackberry and black currant in support, all of which follows through on the palate with plenty more of the same. Full bodied, yet lean, with no fat, and well structured; with a little air, some of the tar morphs into a leathery character that adds complexity and interest. This is an obviously young wine that will not only benefit from a few years in the bottle, but really needs them, so check back in two or three years and see what you have, because it shows very good promise. Harvested the 2nd week of February 2005; grapes were destalked but not crushed, and Rhone yeasts were used for fermentation; malolactic fermentation completed in stainless steel tanks, then the wine was racked and put in barrel (predominantly French oak with a touch of new American oak for seasoning) for 14 months.  Find this wine

2005 Goats do Roam in Villages Red Wine, 14.5% alc., $14.99: Dark garnet color from rim to rim, giving tarry black plum and berry on the nose that echo and expand on the palate with hints of tobacco and ash that become accentuated with air; good depth, structure and length. We liked the �04 model a lot the first time we tried it, and perhaps a little less so the second. Happily, this one gives us plenty to like again, as it�s certainly engaging, and it opens and improves for as long as there�s some left in the bottle. A blend of Shiraz (90%), Pinotage (6.5%) and Mourvedre (3.5%). Find this wine

2005 Spice Route Swartland Mourv�dre, 14.2% alc., $19.99: Ruby dark garnet in color; medium full bodied, with oaky cola, root beer and spice over dark berry and currant. Moderate tannins and good acidity, but lacking the depth of really good Mourvedre while trying to compensate with oak and mirrors. Not a wine I would drink or recommend and not just because it had the misfortune of being directly after the real thing, namely the 2000 Tempier Bandol noted directly below. Sourced from from dryland vineyards in the Swartland region with oakleaf and koffieklip (coffee stone) soils. Hand harvested at 25�B., destalked and lightly crushed into 5 ton open concrete fermenters, then pressed and transferred to barrel for malolactic fermentation. Following malolactic, the wine was racked off and sulphured and sent to 2nd and 3rd fill 225 liter American oak barrels for 12 months.  Find this wine

Fairview, Goats do Roam and Spice Route Wines are imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

We love good Bandol, even if it�s young Bandol, so we�re always game to see what any of the ones with great track records have to offer, and it usually starts with Domaine Tempier.

2000 Domaine Tempier Bandol, 11-14% alc.: Deep dark garnet color; drinking very well right now, with earthy, leathery beetroot and black currant flavors and aromas. Full bodied and still a decent dose of tannins here, but toned down to the point where it pairs nicely with some grilled, smoked leg of lamb. This one's come along quite nicely since we last tasted it during the big blackout, and there's probably at least two or three years of improvement in this, but don�t be afraid to open one soon if you�re a fan of Tempier in particular or Bandol in general.  Find this wine

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

2001 Bastide Blanche Bandol, $21.99: We�ve been fond of Bastide Blanche for some time now, so when I saw this one at The Andersons on Talmadge during our latest Toledo adventure, I picked it up, brought it home and opened it up knowing full well that it is nowhere near its prime. It�s an inky garnet in color, with some pink at the rim, offering subtle herb, prune, beet root, earth and leather flavors and aromas; it�s well structured, with big tannins and plenty of acidity, and while it�s good with a nice cut of tri-tip steak, it really needs at least another five years in the cellar, but have no fear, patience WILL be rewarded. I�m especially jealous of the $15 price tags reported by some Internet sources�  Find this wine

A Peter Weygandt Selection; Imported by Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, PA

2003 Igor Larionov Selections Slapshot Shiraz South AustraliaIt�s no secret that I�m a BIG Igor Larionov fan. He played a major role in helping the Detroit Red Wings win three Stanley Cup Championships between 1997 and 2002, and as previously reported, he went into the wine business after he retired from professional hockey. The following wine is quite popular here in the Detroit area, and not just because Larionov�s name is on the label.

2003 Igor Larionov Selections Slapshot Shiraz South Australia, 15% alc., $12.99-14.99: Deep, dark garnet color, fading to pink at the rim; sweet, spicy black plum, blackberry and black cherry flavors and aromas, with good structure, depth and length. To call this fruit forward would be an understatement, as the sweet fruit overpowers the obvious tannins and acids, and it�s obviously a good choice for fans of that style. If I have one minor complaint, the 15% alcohol is somewhat obvious as well, but all in all, there are plenty more positives than negatives, even if it�s not our favorite style of red these days; it�s hard not to like it for the excellent value it offers. This is sold outside the US as Killikanoon The Lacky Shiraz, made of course by Killikanoon�s Kevin Mitchell.
Find this wine

Imported by Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, PA

Reporting from Day-twah,


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� George Heritier May, 2007