I think that most people that start a wine blog, anticipate a deluge of wine samples and that they will never have to buy another bottle of wine. That was the least of my thoughts back in May of 2012. I remember back in the dark ages when I had a reputation as a clothier, I waited on a gentleman, whose wife was a famed restaurant critic for one of the two daily papers in Detroit. I said to her that it must be a great job, and she looked at me and said, “it is the worst job in the world, because if someone has a bad day and I pan a restaurant, think of all the people that I can potentially put out of work, and how that would affect their families.” I was devastated by that answer and I guess that it has been with me ever since, even when I make a casual remark about a restaurant. We had a wine tasting dinner and we invited The Wine Raconteur, Jr. and his wife for dinner and wines.
Which all leads me to a sample request from Whatever Vineyards. Jason Hallock had a circuitous route from Michigan to California and he always wanted to be his own boss. He eventually met his wife Kamie through a friend and she was from Michigan. During their honeymoon in May of 2001, driving up the California Coast to Sonoma Wine Country, they became “true winos.” He had started an accessory company called “Whatever” and in 2019, they moved into a manicured vineyard in the Malibu Coast AVA. The previous owner had wanted someone interested in wines, and they got their wish and Whatever Vineyards began. We started the tasting meal with some Baked Brie with an Onion Jam topping and some Bacon Wrapped Scallops. We started off with a bottle of Whatever Vineyards Viognier Templeton Gap District, Paso Robles 2020. Templeton Gap District AVA is one of eleven sub AVAs of Paso Robles and located just below the passes of the Santa Lucia Range and gets the maritime climate and the slight elevation on a soil of bedrock. The soil is high in calcareous material with a deep soil profile, so the vines grow deep. The other great feature of the maritime climate is the heavy fogs which allows this area to have almost two additional weeks of ripening as compared to Paso Robles. The area has been very successful for Bordeaux style wines, Zinfandel and Rhone style wines like Viognier. The wine was fermented in Stainless Steel to maintain freshness and fruit. I am sorry to say, that we had such a great time, that I forgot to get a photo of the wine next to the bottle. A very soft golden-yellow wine with a soft nose of white fruit and honeysuckle. On the palate the wine offered tones of pear, honeysuckle and traces of nuts in a really rich and full-bodied Viognier with a nice finish of terroir. The table was unanimous for this wine.
For the dinner, we had the famous Caesar Salad, that she has been making since our honeymoon. She also decided to go with our new craze of Roasted Cauliflower with an abundance of cloves of garlic, Dijon Mustard, EVOO and Reggiano di Parma. The main course was a marinated roasted Pork Tenderloin and Armenian Pilaf. The wine for dinner was Whatever Vineyards Syrah Malibu Coast 2019. Malibu Coast is a large AVA, long an area for wine, but only an AVA since July, 2014. Of the forty-five-thousand-acres of the AVA, only a couple of hundred acres are planted to vine, and the best have been Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. The region is known for great sun during the day, and cool evenings, which slows the ripening process. The soil is largely slate, shale and sandstone with good drainage. This wine is aged for twelve months in neutral French Oak, of which thirty percent is new. I was touted by the winery to give the wine a slight chill, and when I opened the deep- ruby wine, notes of black fruit, vanilla and pepper opened up immediately. On the palate, I was expecting a softer wine, because of my lack of knowledge of the district, but I was proven wrong; notes of black currants, spices and black pepper with velvety tannins, balanced acidity and a nice count finish with more pepper and some terroir. I usually refrain from wine with salad, but the two women were gushing about how it even paired with the dressing, of course, by that time, there was no more salad, for me to try. I and the rest of the diners all enjoyed the wine immensely and the two bottles were both drained. Two new AVA districts for me, and trust me, I will look for more.