The Fourth of July name game
For this special weekend for folks that hail from the United States, I will discuss wines only from their country – wines that have also been given a special name.
As the laws of this nation require that a wine must be at least 75 per cent made from the grape variety listed on the label, and as their wines are often now blends, many wineries have just adopted unique names.
This gives the winemakers much more freedom with their blending ratios. For instance, they may wish to make a 77 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 23 per cent merlot one year, but a 70 per cent and 30 per cent the next; this all depends on how each variety has developed during a single year. The first version can be labelled cabernet sauvignon, but not the second.
Our 2018 Six Sigma Ranch Diamond Mine Cuvée hails from Lake County, a beautiful and rapidly developing wine area north of Napa Valley. A couple of weeks ago I was enjoying a glass of wine with Kaj Ahlmann, who heads up this 4,300-acre ranch with his family team consisting of wife Else, son Christian and daughter-in-law Rachel. He was paying us a visit as he has done numerous times due to his life in the reinsurance business.
Kaj is a fan of the Spanish grape known as tempranillo, and for this wine his team has blended it with 33 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 7 per cent petit verdot. I quote the site 1,000 Corks: “An elegant wine driven by dark fruit, Bing cherry, tobacco and leather. Medium weight overall with dusty tannins and extra ripe raspberry. Thanksgiving cranberries and cocoa powder. A stunning wine that would cost twice the price if the word ”Napa“ was on the label. This wine will satisfy the staunchest wine critics as well as the casual weekend sipper.” Try with Mexican, Italian and barbecue, it works with them all! $36.15 (Stock #5903).
Now we move on, and down — to the Lodi district of California — and pick up a bottle of 2019 Michael David Freakshow that consists of 82 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 14 per cent petite sirah, 3 per cent merlot and 1 per cent cabernet franc. The first star in the Freakshow series, this cabernet sauvignon is bold and muscular with poise and grace. Raspberry, plum and toasted vanilla aromas open the show leaving you wanting more. Full-bodied, showcasing flavours of red cherry, hints of floral and dark fruit with tannins coming through the lasting, oak-kissed finish. The Wine Enthusiast awarded it 92 points and said: “Charcoal and woodsmoke aromas melt into nicely concentrated black cherry and dark chocolate flavours in this full-bodied, moderately tannic wine.” I am thinking barbecue here. $29.65 (Stock #7100).
Let’s put some syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, zinfandel and petite sirah in the press and stir up some trouble as we start the process of creating Austin Hope Troublemaker Lot #14 from California’s Central Coast. This intensely rich wine is deep purple in colour and radiates aromas of black fruit, cherry and spicy black pepper. On the palate, loads of vanilla, caramel and black current gracefully evolve into soft supple tannins and a signature zing that balances the wine. $28.30 (Stock #8029).
Our 2017 St Hubert’s The Stag Paso Robles Red Blend rustles up a very credible 90/100 from the Wine Enthusiast, and this review: “There's a powerful boysenberry core to the nose of this bottling, which also offers brown spice and smoke on the cohesive nose. It lands quite rich on the palate, where dark berry flavours meet with lavender, caramel and French toast." Would you like to know the grape blend? Utter honesty requires me to say, “me too”, but I cannot find any reliable evidence, so I will leave it up to you to taste and figure out. A clue is that I suspect very flavourful Rhone grape varieties in the mix. $31.75 (Stock #6347).
I would be remiss if I did not mention a wine that, back in my time at the helm, accounted for one of the most successful new wine launches and it is still so popular. I refer to Apothic Red. We are selling the 2020 that will cost you $22.75. Here is their winemaker’s opinion: “This is our first daringly original blend of Californian red grapes. Zinfandel leads the blend with silky layers of blackberry, black cherry and a hint of black pepper. Syrah and merlot deliver undercurrents of ripe blueberry, boysenberry and a soft, plush mouthfeel. Cabernet sauvignon adds more dimension with notes of black currant. The finish is long and smooth with lingering notes of vanilla and mocha.” (Stock #8684).
Although these blends are delicious and excellent party wines — especially for an outdoor cookout — I suspect that I may be a bit of a prude and open a bottle on the day of a grape that is identified by the grape that dominates it but it is uniquely American! I refer to the 81 per cent zinfandel and 19 per cent petite sirah that is 2018 Dry Creek Vineyards Sonoma County Heritage Vines Zinfandel. These heritage vines were created at Dry Creek by grafting cuttings from very old, pre-prohibition vines on to newer vines. This passed on some of the complexity and personality of very old vines.
Their winemaker describes it this way: “It is delicious and wonderfully balanced with alluring aromatics of boysenberry, black cherry, and raspberry with nuances of toasty cedar, warm spices, and cocoa powder. On the palate, brambly flavours of dark berries come forward. The wine is complex, with bright acidity complimented by deeper notes of mocha, white pepper, and wild sage brush. The tannins are silky and smooth to lend a round, rich mouthfeel. From start to finish, this remarkable wine offers refreshing acidity paired with excellent structure.”
Critic Jed Dunnuck says: “The 2019 Zinfandel Heritage Vines showed beautifully, with a pure, upfront, silky and textured style as well as classic plum and berry fruits, notes of incense, pepper, and orange blossom, supple tannins, and a great finish. Drink this charming, pleasure-bent beauty over the coming five to seven years. 92 points.” If travel was easier, my wife and I would be there this month for their 50th birthday party, but we still harbour fond memories of attending their 25th. Happy birthday, our old Dry Creek friends! $32.95 (Stock #6507).
• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at email@example.com. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm