Sta. Rita Hills on the up. Tyler – La Rinconada 2014
For anyone who enjoys lunacy as a past time, blind tasting is there or you to occupy your spare hours and potentially drive away any potential spouse. I do sympathize with people in this pursuit though as it’s a great way to truly understand wine. However, for anyone willing to go further and attempt the Master Sommelier exam, I find you a different kind of crazy, especially once I heard about the “Fuck You Wine”.
As if the idea of an exam to test you on the microcosms of “classic” wines (think Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Napa, etc.) wasn’t hard enough, it’s become a well-known fact that there is almost certainly a wine of the “Fuck You” variant in there as well. What exactly does this mean? Well, it’s a wine that you’re probably not going to be able to figure out and it could easily derail your tasting as you bumble around as to what it can be because the “Fuck You Wine” will very much seem like many wines yet will be none of them.
I’ve learned that apparently my beloved Priorat wines can come up in this section. For anyone who knows them and loves them (if not get the books), you’d probably think, “What’s the big deal? Surely Priorat is singular.” Unfortunately, it’s not as the styles of the wines change, as well as the blends, and the villages can have a massive influence on the resulting wine. Priorat wines are in fact very, very hard to identify blind and they’re the exact kind of wine a Master Sommelier exam would toss at you to say, “How bad do you want this little gold pin?”
But, “Fuck You Wines” aren’t just reds and as the winemaking world evolves, sacred cows of style are more readily duplicated than you might think, such as the case with Santa Barbara and especially, Sta. Rita Hills; an AVA that’s not even two decades old, yet has exploded in quality. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines coming from this region, while still sprinkled with a bit of New World dust are reaching a profile closer to the wines of Burgundy with each vintage than anywhere else.
When I was in San Francisco last year, I picked a bottle of this Tyler Winery single vineyard Chardonnay and tossed it into my blind tasting wines along with some from Burgundy. It was exceptionally hard to pick out and ultimately it was only vintage differences (this is a California ’14, the Burgundies were ’15) that would sometimes allow me to essentially guess which I had in front of me. If I’d had perhaps higher quality Burgundy wines, the differences would have probably have been clearer, but then again, so would my wallet.
There is a great deal of comfort in these wines reaching the quality levels they have though as if you love Burgundy character, they’ll be a lot more accommodating in terms of price. This is doubly so given that this particular wine is Californian which, while $60 locally, is a hell of a lot more affordable than any wine from a vineyard that ends with “Montrachet”. You will however have my sympathies if you get it blind on an exam. Probably just better to enjoy it like I’ve heard normal people sometimes do, in a glass, during an evening.
La Rinconada 2014
Green apple, frothy lemon juice and peel, gunmetal flint, a touch of reductive notes, chamomile, leesy, brioche and toast, light waft of vanilla. Crisp lemon on the palate, very zesty, generous yet not blatant oak use, very refined with high acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Chardonnay 13% $60
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
Clos Henri - Petit Clos Pinot Noir 2016 92
Earthy, red cherries, young, crisp cranberry, light herbal notes, leafy, minor chalk. Medium tannins and medium plus acidity as well as length. Light sweetness on the palate but with a very pleasant, lingering structure and lightness to it.
100% Pinot Noir · 13.5% · 16.50EUR
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Rouge 2015 92
Medium ruby. Fresh red cherry, raspberry, and young strawberry, lifted and breathy, saline tinge along with light stoniness and rosemary and garrigue. Fresh red fruit on the palate, medium acidity but still light on the palate, fresh, and while the alcohol sticks out a little, holds and excellent, long finish.
Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre · 14.5% · 20EUR
Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%