Monday, November 24, 2014

Elyse Winery - C’est Si Bon 2010

Every time I open a bottle of wine, I imagine that I’m going to have a great time enjoying a little vino whether I’m with friends or alone, out or at home, having dinner or sitting on the patio unwinding. Every bottle has the potential to dazzle me. Some do and some don’t. One that has dazzle written all over it is the Rhone style blend from Elyse Winery aptly named C’est Si Bon which is French code for It’s So Good.
I was invited to dinner with friends at one of their houses and the lovely hostess was gracious enough to tell me what she was preparing for the evening meal. She knew I was a wine aficionado. Well, her exact words were ‘wine nerd’, but I knew what she meant. She wanted me to bring something that would go with pork loin with a tart cherry sauce, wild rice and braised carrots. As soon as my mouth quit watering, I started going through the mental Rolodex of wines I keep in my memory. Cab, no. Merlot, no. Malbec, no. OOH! GSM! That would be perfect, but which one? There are some pretty tasty Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blends out there, but I wanted something that would live up to the meal that I was going to be dining on in the very near future. I also wanted to retain my status as everyone’s resident wine ner…expert.
C’est Si Bon is, as I said before, a GSM. Luckily for some people, they provide the blend on their website. It is 43% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 17% Mourvèdre, 10% Cinsault, 7% Counoise, and 3% Viognier. Do you know what that means to the average wine drinker? Absolutely nothing. What does that mean to vino geeks? Deliciousness! The Grenache gives the wine a great fruity base, the Mourvedre adds depth with tannins and earthy flavors, and Syrah provides a touch of spice. Overall this wonderful wine has the flavors of plums, dark red berries, and hints of chocolate, pepper, and terroir/petrichor. (Petrichor is the aroma of earth after it rains.) This wine has a medium tannin presence, a wonderful bright acidity, and an even fruitiness which gives it a well-rounded, magnificent flavor. As luck would have it, everyone at the table thought it was the perfect wine to have with our glorious meal. Everyone agreed that the master chef was the queen of the evening. And they also agreed that I am, in fact, a wine nerd. As long as I keep finding wines like C’est Si Bon, I accept that title with pride.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Banshee Pinot Noir 2012

California. Dr. Dre and 2Pac said California knows how to party. It may know how to party but it didn't know how to make a decent Pinot Noir. For a long time, I  had a problem with California Pinot Noirs. Mainly because I was a French wine snob and didn't like venturing outside of Burgundy to find a Pinot that suited my taste. As my ignorant prejudices about Pinot Noirs from the rest of the world have relaxed, I have started finding jewels from here and there that even satisfy my desire for a nice Bourgogne. Oregon has some outstanding Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. I'll review a few of those in the near future, but for now, I'm going to focus on my previous nemesis, California.
My main problem for so long with California Pinot Noir was what makes it difficult to grow; the climate. Pinot Noir are finicky grapes. They will certainly grow in the middle of California, but the quality of them tended to wane with even the slightest miscalculation in the growing process.  A little too much rain, a little too little rain, or possibly even the wrong flock of ducks flying overhead would all have detrimental effects on Pinot grapes. This led to inconsistent and shallow wines which, for me, is a bigger turn off than name dropping. As growers learned how to better grow theses grapes in the climate they had, the better the wine became year after year. Sonoma County also let the learning process develop naturally rather than forcing the issue. Unlike its neighbor Napa Valley, Sonoma is a laid back farm area that happens to grow incredibly good grapes. To me, Napa is a bit like the white collar version of the wine business and Sonoma is the blue collar. Both have their place. Both produce great wines but Sonoma does it in a My Morning Jacket concert t-shirt and jeans. Believe it or not, this relaxed atmosphere can be apparent in the wines produced there and it can lead to a more natural wine experience.
Three friends started the Banshee Wine Company. Noah Dorrance, Baron Zeigler, and Steve Graf were all in places other than California, but each developed a love for wine. One day they all converged on San Francisco, met each other, and decided to get into the California wine business. I'm sure the events were a little more drawn out than that, but I don't have all day to give their life stories. They have it on their website. (Link Below) They pooled their money and released Banshee Pinot Noir with great acceptance from California wine drinkers. Jump forward a couple of years and they released another outstanding Pinot Noir, their 2012 which I sampled this evening.
I love to eat turkey. A giant bird at Thanksgiving is certainly a thing I look forward to every year. As is my habit, I spend the entire month of November sampling wines that will perfectly fit my Turkey Day meal. More often than not, I'm dining with some people that won't drink red wine and some that won't drink white wine so I try to find one of each. The Banshee Pinot Noir will probably be my choice for red wine this year. It is a dark ruby hue like cranberry juice but the flavor is far from the tart cranberry. It has the wonderful aroma and flavor of a black cherry, a juicy Santa Rosa plum, and hints of kola nut and petrichor. It finishes clean and sharp with a slight tingle on the back of your tongue. Since I'm a turkey nerd, I had a breast on hand so I took a couple of slices and drizzled them with a special recipe of dark fruit puree before I baked it. What a combination! I loved it. The wine is rich and tasty, but it didn't overpower the soft flavors of the turkey or the fruit. Exactly what I was looking for in a Thanksgiving Day wine. Maybe it's exactly what you're looking for too. Cheers.

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