A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a comprehensive tasting highlighting the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs distributed by Swirl Wine Brokers. Of the many companies selling wine in Northern California, Swirl is arguably one of the finest. Their corral of powerhouse producers includes Pisoni, Brewer-Clifton, Copain, Roar, and Kongsgaard to name a few. With two dozen wineries pouring close to 100 wines, it was a fabulous opportunity to taste new releases of perennial favorites as well as hunt for hidden gems.
I was also able to get a sneak peak at some of the wines that won’t hit the marketplace until next spring as well as grill numerous winemakers on the state of this year’s harvest. On that last note, the synopsis is that yields will be way down while quality will be dependent on the ability of vineyard managers to mitigate rain induced mold issues and foster the grapes to ripeness in a growing season that has been quite cool.
Here are a few highlights from the tasting that can currently be found on our shelves or purchased though our website:
Sourced from a small knoll within the Poseidon’s Vineyard in Carneros, this wine is age entirely in tight grained Hungarian oak barrels for 21 months. It is a beautifully detailed Chardonnay with aromas of white flowers, blanched almond, apple tart and spice. The mouth feel is structured and precise with vivid green apple flavors, a splash of minerality, great acidity and a subtle toasty nuance that lingers through the finish. Only 197 cases were produced.
My favorite thing about this wine lies in the wine making. Here we have a wine that is vinified in 50% stainless steel, 50% neutral oak and untouched by malolactic fermentation. This allows the essence of the grape to shine without the accoutrements of the winemaker’s hand. The aromatics reveal a lovely tropical fruit note along with flavors of white peach and caramelized apple. There is plenty of textural concentration as well as a vibrant acidity which helps to make this wine an agile food paring candidate.
With winemaker (and Beltramo’s alum) Ed Kurtzman in the cellar, this winery has been quietly turning out delicious wines for almost a decade. Their most recent release of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir showcases all the character of the 2009 vintage for this area. It is a wine with bright acidity, tightly wound structure and beautiful depth of fruit. The aromatics are a lively mix of pomegranate, sweet spices and rosewood. The expression on the palate is a bit more reticent but the long finish reveals layers of subtlety indicative of future gratification.
Roar winery owner Gary Francioni is also the owner of the fabulous Rosella’s vineyard located in central portion of the Sana Lucia Highlands. Coincidentally, this is another wine showcasing Ed Kurtzman’s deft hand with Pinot Noir, although in a very different style. Effusive aromas of dark cherry, spice and savory herbs are backed up by a lush and seamless mouth feel. It is certainly a more robust style of Pinot, but solid acidity means the wine never falls out of balance or becomes cumbersome on the palate.
Mike Janeway – Domestic Wine Buyer