The return of wine from 'The Mind Behind', a side project from one of Virginia's best winemakers where each tiny batch is his effort to push the potential of Virginia wines forward. While many would consider referring to wine as art or artistic a bit melodramatic and overly precious, in the case of the r wines it's very appropriate. These wines are not built for the hopes of mass appeal, high scores from reviewers or critical acclaim. They are built purely to express one person's interpretation of what wine can and should be, our role is simply to experience and react, positively or negatively. Many of the techniques used in past r bottlings have been moved forward into the main winery's regular production, others remain experimental. Every element of the wines is hand wrought, from the vineyards to the bottling, and this year necessity even required pressing some lots of grapes with his bare hands. There is even an air of mystery to this year's bottling as the grape variety used is being kept a secret; there are some strong suspicions, but ultimately the element of trust comes into play and we have to leave ourselves in the hands of the artist/creator. We will also have the winemaker in tomorrow afternoon to help with the tasting, as well as answer any questions you may have short of 'What's the grape?'. Instead of tasting notes, we will leave you with the words of 'The Mind Behind':
"This is my debut release under the "Lone Ranger "series.Meaning from here on out they (these small lots) will all bear names that will not include varietal context,they might even include some of my personal linoleum cut art on front labels. This is the "clean slate "that I was working towards from day one when r was started.The only rule that I will adhere to is ,all wines by r is made from the Monticello Appellation. The key factor as always is to initiate great conversation about wine to engage like-minded people about what I have observed about a particular grape variety and its performance under our conditions. There for I can only ask your great wine stewards to sell this as a Monticello red wine and let the wine provoke the true dialect from there. Hopefully "r "has reached that goal in trust by the people that have purchased it over the years.
So again, I as a broke artist thank you and the wine warehouse staff kindly, to use your studio to exhibit my work."
INSIDER'S PICK: 2015 IDLE WILD 'THE BIRD: FLORA & FAUNA' RED MENDOCINO COUNTY (Vinous 89-91 points)
One of the most exciting things about Californian wine making over the years has been the opportunities to experiment with the ways things are made. There is such a diversity of climates, soils, and grapes to be had, almost any conceivable wine style can be created by the right motivated and industrious winemaker. Some of the most interesting new wines are coming from 'reclamation projects' of old vineyards planted to unique grape varieties in remote areas of the state, fruit that at one time were sold off in bulk to the mass market jug wine blends, but now are making top flight wines with just a little bit of love and attention. Idlewild is a new project started by a young winemaker with lots of old family knowledge from their owning Marietta Cellars, most famous for their old vine 'Californian field blend' reds. This project focuses on traditional Italian varieties that are found scattered around the more remote counties of California, mirroring the success of his family and the Italian traditions by creating blends as well. We featured the white blend earlier in the year when the wines first arrived, called 'The Bee', and now with cooler weather ahead (we assume) it's now time for the red.
The Bird is Idlewild's interpretation of a Langhe Rosso from the Piedmont, blending Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto; whole cluster fermentation is used for all the varieties before blending to help bring out the earthier, more savory fruit character without making it too tannic or astringent. While not quite as gamey as the Langhe versions, the aromas are definitely old school with lots of dark cherry skin and herbal tones behind the red fruit aromas. On the palate the texture is impressively rich for the varieties used but not thick or jammy, mostly plum and savory spice with a bit of chewy tannins on the finish. Though it isn't as low in alcohol as some wines in the style, there is no sense of over-ripe extraction here, and fans will love having this at the dinner table this Fall and Winter pairing it with hearty comfort foods.
One of the great things about Pinot Noir can also be the most frustrating for many consumers. Pinot tends to perform the best in growing areas whose conditions can push the fringes of dependably ripening and succeeding season after season. When it works, the wines can be magical and capable of producing some of the best wines in the world. But natural changes from season to season can also produce more variety from the exact same vines year to year than almost any others, which makes many Pinot Noir fans more vintage picky. The back to back vintages of 2013 and 2014 in Oregon's Willamette Valley are prime examples: steady rains arriving in the middle of the 2013 harvest forced early picking and a lighter less alcoholic style with more natural acidity from most, while one of the warmest growing seasons on record brought about very early ripening grapes that NEEDED to be harvested earlier. Fans of a more elegant, 'prettier' Pinot Noir may well prefer the 2013 vintage and want to start filling up while some are still available. If you prefer the juicier side of the spectrum, however, 2014 is going to be YOUR vintage, and there should be a fair amount of it as the yields overall were fairly high.
As a very nice 'basic' bottling from a smaller producer, this sees lots of the same care as the nicer, single site bottlings but is built from younger vines and does not see as much oak aging. Bright and deep ruby color in the glass, the warmth of the vintage shows in the aromas with lots of cherry and bright red fruits that even show a hint of sweeter spices. Cooler vintages will tend to have more savory, earthier aromas since the sugars in the grapes don't develop as quickly. On the palate the fruit comes across a bit darker, but the texture is super juicy for the price point, with super fine tannins on the finish that bring a touch of dryness to the deep black cherry tones. If this is the type of Pinot that makes you happy, you will be singing and dancing all the way through the 2014s that come through the store.
The Best of the Best.
We offering free tastings on these wines in the store every Thursday and Friday, and a 10% discount off the retail price through the duration of the day. Come on by and give them a try!