It must be September, because I just received a shipment from “A Taste of Monterey” which we started years ago, back when Michigan was still a felony state for out of state wine shipments. By accident, we walked into their shop, did a wine tasting, started to lament about Michigan’s archaic wine laws and the person behind the counter checked and said that they could ship to us, that was probably around twenty-five years ago or so. We signed up for the “Private Reserve Club” which was the most expensive range, but I figured that I would get some wines that otherwise I would never see here, and I was right, and we are still doing it. I also noticed that all three bottles had no capsules covering the corks in the bottles.
The first wine out of the carton was KORI Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2020. This winery is a partnership that started in 2007 between grower Kirk Williams and his step-daughter Kori Violini. This is a dream winery, getting fruit from the KW Ranch & Highlands in the Santa Lucia Highlands. This is one of the respected vineyards that sells grapes to wineries like Wrath and Morgan. The vineyards owned by Kirk Williams is surrounded by other well-known estates like Gary’s Vineyard, Sleepy Hollow and Rosella’s (all vineyards that I have had the good fortune to encounter because of my wine club). I was a little surprised that in today’s computer era, I could find almost nothing about the winery or any production notes, other than an aging potential of five to six to eight years and a production run on one-hundred-fifty cases produced. The tasting notes furnished mentioned notes of dark cherry, vanilla cola, boysenberry compote. On the palate barely ripe blueberry, fresh violet and raspberry pie filling. Not my terminology or descriptors, but we shall see.
The second bottle was Folktale Winery and Vineyards Le Mistral “Joseph’s Blend” Single Vineyard Monterey County 2018. Folktale Winery and Vineyards was originally founded in 1982 by Bob and Patty Brower, as Chateau Julien Wine Estate and they wanted to replicate their wine experiences in France to the Carmel Valley. In 1996 they expanded the property and structures to ensure that they were making great wines, and my Bride and I visited Chateau Julien each time we had holidays in Carmel-by-the-Sea. In 2015, the property was purchased by local winemaker, Gregory Ahn, and renamed Folktale Winery and Vineyards; and as a side note, from what I gather the label Chateau Julien is still property of the Brower family. Earlier mentions of this wine identified Joseph as Joseph Phelps. Grapes for this vintage of Joseph’s Blend were hand-harvested from 5 different vineyards in our region. Each lot fermented in small batches and was gently pressed and racked to French oak barrels to age. After 6 months, all lots were tasted and a final blend was created. The wine spent another year in barrel before being bottled in Aug, 2021. In this year’s blend, Grenache came from Ventana and Mission Ranch Vineyards (Arroyo Seco AVA), Syrah from Cedar Lane Vineyard (Arroyo Seco AVA) and Tondre Grapefield (Santa Lucia Highlands AVA), and Mourvedre from Sandy Lane Vineyard (Contra Costa County AVA). Aging potential of six to eight years. The furnished tasting notes offered notes of plum, cherry, wet granite, worn leather, vanilla, cherry cola, red apple, fresh fig, cloves, red pepper and sage. On the palate bright and fresh currant with nuances of tea leaves, buckeye and baking spice.
The third wine in the carton was Pierce Ranch Vineyards Mal/Zin San Antonio Valley AVA 2019. A new winery for me, and a relatively new AVA for California, perched in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Range, roughly fourteen miles from the ocean and twenty-five miles from Paso Robles. The region was first recognized for wine growing by the missionaries of Junipero Serra with the establishment in 1771 of the Mission of San Antonio de Padua for sacramental wines. Pierce Ranch Vineyards is a small, family-owned winery of limited-run, estate grown wines with an emphasis on Spanish and Portuguese varieties. The wine is a blend of twenty-six percent Malbec, forty-eight percent Zinfandel and twenty-six percent Alicante Bouschet. The only production notes are that this wine was fermented in several small lots, using native yeasts and then blended in a mix of new and neutral oak. Only one-hundred-seventy-five cases were produced. The tasting notes said that this was the “sleeper” hit of the new releases, being somewhat rich and yet not heavy or overly tannic, with a combination of black fruit, spice and minerals (terroir) for a finish.