Today is Beaujolais Nouveau release day, and of course there will be plenty of attention paid to that in a lot of places. We're in the mood to let people taste on the 'true' Beaujolais, the Beaujolais that you should be thinking about the other 364 days of the year, the Cru Beaujolais. Each of the ten Beaujolais Cru sites have their own distinct soils and characters to them, but Moulin-A Vent (named for the iconic old windmill that stands above the vineyards) is probably the most famous. The perfectly situated vineyards have a distinct soil heavy with pink granite and manganese that seem to infuse the Gamay grapes with a bit more intensity and structure than those around them. This is the Cru that has the best reputation for being age-worthy, and has been the home for many of the legendary producers over the last 40+ years of the region's renaissance. This bottling plays a fine tribute to the legendary pink soil ('Terres Roses'), and with a few vintages already in the bottle is in a prime drinking window right now. A Burgundian looking deep ruby color in the glass, the aromas are of dusty cherry and rose petals that gain a little bit of juiciness and game as it's opened. In other words, quintessential Beaujolais. The palate is fairly full with a tangy, almost racy note and surprisingly firm dusty tannins that stay persistent all the way through the finish. There's no banana and bubble gum here found in all the commercial Beaujolais, this tastes all of the place and of the grape, A true food wine, at its best with a charcuterie plate, salty meats in general, and of course your Thanksgiving dinner.
A great wine under a seemingly nondescript label (unless you're a Nathaniel Hawthorne fan, in which case it's downright scandalous) made by a farm-first family winery, all ingredients for an outstanding under-the-radar value. The Alfaro family has made a tidy name for themselves in the Santa Cruz Mountains, not only for the work they do on their own estate vineyards but on some famous properties they help to manage. For example they have helped to make Trout Gulch vineyard one of the most sought after names in the mountains for the signature style of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir it can provide. On their own home properties that they have been working for nearly 30 years now they have more varietal diversity, but still farm them beautifully and provide textbook examples of their coastal mountain climate. Syrah can have a distinct 'cool climate' aroma versus a 'warm climate' one, a savory blueberry and bluer fruits combined with a meatiness (some may say bacon or beef blood, depending on how much of a carnivore they are), and this certainly has it thanks to the fog that so often rolls over the Santa Cruz Mountains from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The palate is nice and weighty with tannins almost as fine as a Pinot Noir, but have a nice dustiness to them that bring out the blue fruit skin notes on the finish. Perhaps not as elegant and refined as a Northern Rhone Syrah, but definitely inspired by it, and impressive for the money and worthy of pairing with any great cut of beef or gamey meat dishes.
Even though the grape is the same, the style of Cabernet Sauvignon can vary tremendously from region to region. The stark differences between Bordeaux and California Cabs are fairly apparent, especially with them being about a third of the world apart. But even the distance along the West Coast between California and Washington brings out fairly noticeable differences, and people can have varying opinions on which is better. The Washington Cabs tend to be plumper, juicier and more darkly fruited than those from say Napa Valley or Sonoma County, perhaps less structured and capable of elegance as they age, also a bit chewier on the tannins. What you do find plenty of in Washington is value, and if you like their style then you get a looooot of enjoyment for your money. The Matthews Estate pulls fruit from some of the best sites in the Columbia Valley, like the Red Mountain and Royal Slope AVAs, and creates a wide range of vineyard specific wines, while their Columbia Valley designated wines deliver a broader snapshot of the region. This is quintessential Washington Cab, and you would be hard pressed to find any from California that deliver as much character for the money. Dark in color and pouring out loads of deep plummy fruit on the nose with plenty of currants and dusty cocoa notes that get spicier as the wine opens. Youthful and inky on the palate, and the plum and cocoa notes really persist, but the tannins are well tamed and finish with more of a bitter chocolate note than being astringent. Great with a big meal, but also as a slow sipper in front of a Winter fire.
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!