Rich, Concentrated, and Insanely Complex Central Coast Syrah

Today’s Story: Andremily Wines

Andremily Wines is a relatively young but very highly regarded producer established in 2012 by winemaker Jim Binns and his wife Rachel. Jim fell in love with winemaking while studying at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, also developing his passion for Rhône varieties by working with a number of small producers in California’s Central Coast. After he graduated, Jim joined the incredibly talented Manfred Kankl of cult producer Sine Qua Non. Jim spent twelve vintages with Sine Qua Non, honing his craft as one of Manfred’s prodigies as cellar master, before he and Rachel ultimately followed through on their dream by starting Andremily. Andremily is named as a combination of Andrew and Emily, their children, and Jim focuses on Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Viognier sourced from incredible sites including Bien Nacido, Alta Mesa, Larner, and White Hawk Vineyards. With low yields and insane attention to detail in all aspects of winemaking, Jim produces a flagship Syrah, a Mourvèdre, a Grenache, and a Rhône blend named EABA under the Andremily label.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Syrah No. 2

85% Syrah, 11% Mourvèdre, 4% Viognier; 15.2% ABV

The 2013 Syrah No. 2 is deep ruby in color and nearly black at its core. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following 2-3 hours. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry compote, blueberry, black plum, black cherry, black licorice, violet, sweet tobacco, incense, smoked meat, gingerbread, cracked black pepper, black olive, graphite, vanilla, and baking spice. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of crème de cassis, rich black plum, wild blueberry, blackberry purée, black raspberry, black cherry, sweet tobacco, anise, violet, smoked game, green peppercorn, cinnamon, gunsmoke, sandalwood, chocolate, and coffee grounds. This dry red is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium but well-integrated tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. Outstanding quality and insanely concentrated and rich. Still drinking pretty youthful but very well-balanced, especially given the ABV. While a tad rich for my personal palate, I still won’t be able to refrain from purchasing more.

Price: $250 (I paid $200 and allocation is closer to $100 I think). Market pricing on a value perspective is a little steep on these wines, I think thanks largely to their incredible reception by the press and consumers coupled with rather small production. I am patiently waiting on the waiting list, though, because at release pricing this is pretty solid value.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Fruity Châteauneuf-du-Pape Perfect for the Holiday Season

Today’s Story: Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe is a family-owned and operated wine estate located in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC of France. Tracing back to 1891, Henri Brunier gifted several plots of land to his son Hippolyte which, at the time due to their high pebble content, were thought to be nearly useless for viticulture. Nonetheless, Hippolyte planted vines on the plateau of La Crau and began the winemaking endeavors of the Brunier family. When Hippolyte’s son Jules joined the family business, he extended the estate to 42 acres and gave it the name we know today of Vieux Télégraphe.

Following WWII, the estate was in desperate need of revival and fourth generation Henri quickly took up the baton. Henri grew the estate to 136 acres and then shifted focus toward creating a “signature style” for his wines and marketed them abroad. As the 1980s came around, control of the domaine fell to Henri’s sons Frédéric and Daniel who now farm 247 acres in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and an additional 49.5 acres of IGP Vaucluse and Ventoux AOC. They are not without extra family help, however, as sixth generation Nicolas and Edouard remain dedicated to the family business as well.

Vieux Télégraphe farms all of their vineyards adhering to sustainable practices, though in reality they practice organic viticulture. From the winter months with pruning, spreading organic manure and compost, and plowing to the spring and summer months with manual debudding and thinning, the team works tirelessly to guide healthy fruit. Come harvest, the fruit is picked by hand and sorted in the vineyards twice before a third sorting at the winery. The winemaking team doesn’t follow a particular process set in stone, outside of course making sure they adhere to AOC rules and guidelines on the process. Instead Vieux Télégraphe moves through the winemaking process led by the fruit, helping to tailor each wine to the vintage conditions, its structure, and terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Piedlong Châteauneuf-du-Pape

90% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Piedlong CdP is translucent medium garnet in color with ruby hues in the bowl of the glass. I decanted this for 2 hours, though it really started opening up around the 1 hour mark. The nose showcases bright red fruits of raspberry, strawberry, and bing cherry alongside red licorice, rose, dried gravel, slight smoke, and oak. There is some slight heat too, but it does start to blow off a bit and should integrate with bottle age. Moving onto the palate, I get more vibrant fruits of stewed strawberry, black raspberry, boysenberry, and blood orange with violet, dried green herbs, crushed rock, thyme, and mild spice. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium length finish. A very easy-drinking CdP that’s loaded with red fruits and berries, which would have been perfect for Thanksgiving.

Price: $60 (I found it for $50). This isn’t necessarily my style of CdP (I prefer the more terroir and mineral driven bottlings) but I can see this being widely enjoyed. I don’t really see this as good value, and though I don’t see it as too overpriced either I’d really like to see it around the $40 mark.

Another Delicious Bottling From Jolie-Laide

Today’s Story: Jolie-Laide

Today I return to another bottling from Jolie-Laide, a boutique winery established by Scott Schultz in Forestville, CA that I have written about several times already. If you missed my prior posts, my review of the 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache linked here contains the most in-depth background on Jolie-Laide and Scott, and I encourage you to check it out. If you would like to read my reviews for the 2019 Trousseau Gris and 2016 Halcon Vineyard Syrah to augment your knowledge of the portfolio, they are linked here and here, respectively.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Shake Ridge Vineyard GSM

Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Viognier (no tech sheet); 13% ABV

The 2017 Shake Ridge GSM is mostly opaque medium purple/ruby in color with pale purple variation at the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, anise, violet, slight barnyard, stemmy underbrush, and granite. On the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, brambleberry, tart wild blueberry, lavender, tobacco, gravel, herbs, black pepper, and mild spice. This is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $38. I think this is a good value GSM blend, and while it comes across slightly bigger than other Jolie-Laide wines I’ve enjoyed the same quality and focus on an honest wine is still starkly apparent. Pair this with venison steak, grilled lamb, or charcuterie.

Beautiful Paso Robles GSM

Today’s Story: Epoch Estate Wines

Epoch Estate Wines, located in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, was established by Liz and Bill Armstrong in 2004. Liz and Bill are geologists by trade, and knowing the importance of terroir in winemaking they settled on Paso Robles for its weather, rugged terrain, breadth of soils, and fruitfulness for Rhône varieties. The couple purchased the Paderewski Vineyard in 2004 and later expanded with the Catapult Vineyard in 2008 and York Mountain Winery in 2010. Paderewski is composed of limestone and calcareous rocky soils, Catapult of shale, clay, and silt rocky soils, and York Mountain of sand and fragmented sandstone. Though very different in climate and soil composition, all Epoch vineyard sites have one thing in common: they force the vines to struggle, reach deeply for nutrients, and produce concentrated and quality fruit. Across these incredibly diverse vineyards, Epoch plants Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon for the red varieties and Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Picpoul Blanc, and Viognier for the whites.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Veracity

47% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, 19% Syrah; 15.4% ABV

The 2015 Veracity is opaque medium purple/ruby in color. I gave this 2 hours to open up, but the wine really started showing beautifully an hour or so in. The expressive nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, violet, cigar box, graphite, smoked game, black pepper, and chocolate. Once on the palate, this wine displays notes of blackcurrant, spiced black plum, black cherry, anise, tobacco, rocky soil, ground pepper, clove, and coffee grounds. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $65. This is very fairly priced, and one of the better GSMs I’ve had from Paso Robles save for Saxum (but there’s a significant price jump there). This Epoch is very well-balanced, expressive, and the high ABV goes unnoticeable. Pair with herb-roasted lamb, barbecue pork ribs, or mushrooms.

Chuggable Rhône Blend

Today’s Story: Ad Vinum

Ad Vinum is a small natural wine producer established in 2016 by Sébastien Chatillon, a former sommelier at Le Chateaubriand in Paris. Sébastien was not always interested in wine, however, and after dropping out of college he worked as a candy salesman, stablehand, and rock band member amongst other odd jobs. Sébastien’s interest in wine actually stemmed from partying with his friends in one of their father’s wine caves, thanks to his realization that he truly loved the beverage and wanted to learn more about it. After his time at Le Chateaubriand and taking a deep dive into natural wines, Sébastien moved to Vallabrix in the Gard department of southern France with the goal of making his own wine. Ad Vinum’s fruit is all organically farmed and hand-harvested, with the fermentation process accomplished spontaneously with only indigenous yeasts. Some of the wines also see carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration. Practicing restraint in the cellar, Sébastien wants his wines to speak for themselves and the terroir and he bottles them unfined, unfiltered, and with zero added SO2.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Bim!

Blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre (no tech sheet); 12.5% ABV

The 2018 Bim! is mostly opaque pale to medium purple in color. Once this opens up, the nose becomes incredibly aromatic and fresh with aromas of blackberry, candied plum, stemmy red berries, violet, crushed rock, black pepper, and bright mineral. On the palate, this lively wine displays notes of blueberry, boysenberry, brambly raspberry, strawberry licorice, sweet tobacco, green underbrush, and rocky mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $35. This is a delicious, highly chuggable wine that can be perfect for those branching into natural wines. Bim! is wonderfully balanced and made with carbonic maceration and spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel tanks, providing a beautiful freshness to it. Pair this with grilled lamb, spicy Mediterranean chicken, or barbecue.

Wildly Fun California Mourvèdre

Today’s Story: Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery

Dirty & Rowdy is a small, family-operated winery founded in 2010 by couples Hardy & Kate and Matt & Amy with the goal of producing minimal intervention “honest wines.” Known for their range of Mourvèdre bottlings, Dirty & Rowdy also produces Petite Syrah, Chenin Blanc, and blends that include a GSM and Semillon-dominant white almost all with 100% whole cluster native fermentation, either zero or minimal SO2 added, and no filtering or fining when bottled. Dirty & Rowdy sources their fruit from vineyards in Mendocino, Monterey, Contra Costa, El Dorado, and Amador Counties, with most vineyards organically farmed or at a minimum “responsibly” farmed and unique.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Familiar Mourvèdre

100% Mourvèdre; 13.2% ABV

The 2018 Familiar Mourvèdre is opaque pale purple in color with ruby hues near the bowl of the glass. I decanted this for about an hour, and the nose displays aromas of blueberry, sweet blackberry, plum, violet, dried green herbs, smoked meat, wet gravel, and a hint of oak. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of tart blueberry, black raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, licorice, smoke, red and purple florals, wet granite, and stemmy underbrush. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 100% whole cluster native fermentation with organic grapes, bottled unfiltered and unfined with minimal SO2 added. 700 cases produced.

Price: $30. This is a really fun, well-made wine to drink and something that broadens the palate of most of today’s wine drinkers. If you’re looking to explore, check out these wines. Pair this with herb-roasted lamb, duck breast, or I imagine this goes quite well with Dirty & Rowdy’s spicy fried chicken (which I will hopefully try one day).

Delicious Mourvèdre from Bandol

Today’s Story: Domaine de la Tour du Bon

Domaine de la Tour du Bon traces its history back to 1925 when a couple purchased a working farm that consisted of vast countryside and olive trees. During the 1930s, the property hosted pigs, sheep, bees, fig and olive trees, and vines that would ultimately take over more and more land from the olive trees. Though wine production began, it wasn’t until 1955 that the name Domaine de la Tour du Bon was registered and the first bottle label was established. As the domaine expanded wine production, they built a large farmhouse between 1960 and 1962 that houses a cellar and helped increase capacity for vineyards. In 1968, the Hocquard family took ownership of the domaine after working a crush and the birth of three children during the 1970s helped lay the foundation of the estate becoming a family operation. In 1990, Agnès Henry (Mr. and Mrs. Hocquard’s daughter) made the domaine her home and workplace and functioned as winemaker where she remains to this day.

Domaine de la Tour du Bon is located at an elevation of 150m above sea level in Le Brûlat du Castellet which lies in the northwestern corner of Bandol. The land here requires great determination to farm and planting the vineyards was no easy feat thanks to the soil mix of limestone, clay, gravel, and red subsoil (some of the rock pulled to plant the vines even went into building the farmhouse). Agnès practices organic farming methods (she began exploring biodynamic methods a few years ago) on her 14 hectares of land and all fruit is hand-harvested to produce six different bottlings. Agnès produces Bandol Blanc, Bandol Rouge, Bandol Rouge Saint Ferréol, and Bandol Rosé from 11 hectares of vines averaging 38 years old, as well as a Vin de France “D’Ici” from 0.5 hectares of vines planted in 1970 (Grenache) and the En Sol from 0.2 hectares of vines 45 years old (Mourvèdre).

Today’s Wine: 2017 En Sol

100% Mourvèdre; 14.5% ABV

The 2017 En Sol is an opaque deep purple color with some deep ruby variation near the rim. I let this decant for about an hour and the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, plum, cherry, smoked meat, tobacco, eucalyptus, nail polish remover, mint, and a hint of chocolate. Once in the mouth, this wine shows notes of juicy plum, blackberry compote, smoke, violet, anise, loamy earth, game, gravel, and green herbs. This is a full-bodied Mourvèdre with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. I was surprised how elegant and soft this is for a Mourvèdre, especially one this young.

Price: $80. This is an outstanding Mourvèdre that for its elegance and finesse makes me very excited to see where it will go with more bottle age. Pair this with game, beef, lamb, or pork.

Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

Today’s Story: Domaine du Gros ‘Noré

Domaine du Gros ‘Noré was founded in 1997 by Alain Pascal, though he and his father Honoré grew and sold grapes on the property beforehand. Born in a small house surrounded by the vineyards in Bandol, Alain grew up to become an amateur boxer (thanks to his burly build and bear-claw-sized hands) and avid hunter but he always wanted to be a farmer. Though Alain and Honoré sold most of their fruit to Domaine Ott and Château de Pibarnon, the father and son duo also produced wines for their family’s enjoyment without estate bottling and commercializing it. After his father’s death, Alain shifted focus and founded Domaine du Gros ‘Noré (named after his father) which quickly helped catapult him to the forefront of winemaking in Bandol.

From the very beginning of his domaine, Alain sought to create wines through minimal intervention. Part of this vision includes fermenting his wines with only indigenous yeasts and not filtering them before bottling. Though he first became recognized for ripe and full-bodied wines thanks to his practice of allowing the grapes to mature fully on the vine before harvest, over the years he tried shifting toward wines of freshness and complexity by harvesting slightly earlier. The resulting wines offer both power and silkiness while depicting the sunny hillsides of Provence, its clay soil, and terroir in beautiful clarity.

Domaine du Gros ‘Noré consists of 16 hectares of vineyards, which Alain farms with help from his brother Guy. Alain’s vineyards are predominantly clay with some limestone, and the Mediterranean microclimate brings warm weather and full sun that culminates into expressive fruit.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Cuvée Antoinette

95% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache; 15% ABV

The 2010 Cuvée Antoinette is deep ruby in color with bright ruby rim variation and slight particle presence in the glass. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of ripe cranberry, cherry, red and purple florals, leather, cured meat, cigar box, loamy earth, graphite, and wet gravel. I also get a bit of heat on the nose, likely due to the relatively high 15% ABV. On the palate, this wine shows notes of cranberry, raspberry, dusty blueberry, smoke, tobacco, charred earth, mushroom, underbrush, and chocolate. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish dominated by dark fruit and earthy tones. While drinking beautifully right now, there is definitely another decade to enjoy this wine.

Price: $82. I paid a bit more than this here in the USA’s Midwest, but I think $82 is a great price-point for the wine. This is a beautiful representation of Mourvèdre and was a library release directly from the domaine. Pair this with gamey meats, especially venison or buffalo and bison.

For the Bold and the Daring

Today’s Story: Domaine Leon Barral

Domaine Leon Barral was founded in 1993 in the Faugères appellation, which lies within the heart of Languedoc-Roussillon (the Languedoc). Didier Barral, the proprietor today, is the 13th generation of his family to grow grapes though he is the first to start estate bottling his own wine under the domaine. From the domaine’s beginning, Didier devoted his 30 hectares of vineyards to biodynamic farming practices and is seen by many as a pioneer and visionary. For instance, one of the very unique aspects of Didier’s farming is his use of cows, horses, and pigs that roam the vineyards during the winter months to graze on cover crop while naturally fertilizing the soil. These animal helpers bring with them mushrooms, earthworms, ants, flies, toads, larks, and other lifeforms that all help aerate and add nutrients to the soil. For pictures of some of these helpers, check out the domaine’s website here.

If you couldn’t tell by now from what is written above, Didier is a naturalist winemaker. While it certainly starts with his biodynamic farmings practices, Didier utilizes very stringent practices in harvesting and in the cellar. During harvest, all grapes are harvested and sorted by hand and are sometimes destemmed and other times left whole cluster (depending on variety). The wine is vinified by gravity in large cement tanks, it is fermented with only natural yeasts, and maceration takes place for 3-4 weeks with manual punchdowns. Didier’s wines are also never racked, fined, or filtered and only a small dose of SO2 is added if necessary at bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Faugères Valinière

80% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah; 14.5% ABV

The Valinière is Barral’s smallest production cuvée, coming from 4.3 hectares of vines 15-30 years old. Like all of his vineyard land, these vines are planted in schist. The 2011 is deep, opaque ruby in color with garnet rim variation. There is sediment in the glass thanks to this being unfined and unfiltered (and possibly due to age). Once this opens up, the intense nose showcases aromas of blueberry, plum, black licorice, violet, nail polish remover, smoke, leather, damp soil, and a hint of barnyard. In the mouth, the wine shows notes of ripe black cherry, blueberry, red licorice, game, black pepper spice, wet rocky soil, and vibrant minerality. The 2011 Valinière is full-bodied with high acidity, dusty medium tannins, and a very long finish.

Price: $79. This wine is NOT for everybody. It is not for those who like big jammy, fruit-forward wines; it is not for those who like elegant, easy to drink wines. This being said, I was greatly impressed and enjoyed this wine (though my palate can become quite tired of the people-pleasers or the wines you can find anywhere). This is one of the greatest representations of “place” I have had to date (remember the farm animals). Pair this with grilled game meats or a dry-aged steak.