Posted by: tomciocco | March 30, 2014

CALIFORNIA DREAMING…OF THE LOIRE…

If you page back through any of my previous posts about wines from The Golden State, you’ll likely be able to read a mini-screed about how California, a place that is a veritable paradise for the grapevine but is unencumbered by centuries or even millennia of stylistic traditions and equally long-term allegiances to local grape varieties, should be focusing on blends made from the furthest flung vine varieties from Portugal to Georgia as long as they are well adapted to the local terroir, rather than imitating any number of celebrated Old World wine styles. Well, that’s what we’ve got here this evening (sort of).

This evening’s wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Franc and 7% Gamay Noir that is not grown and vinified in one of the most famous California wine regions at the extreme  western, Pacific Ocean-influenced counties like Napa, Mendocino, or Sonoma, but rather in eastern El Dorado county, roughly due east of The Bay Area, but hard by the Nevada border, and not too far from Lake Tahoe. The El Dorado A.V.A. (American Viticultural Area) ranks as the California wine region with the highest average vineyard elevations (between 2,000 and up to 3,000 feet above sea level) in the entire state, and the vine varieties found growing here can, and indeed do conform to this much cooler climate, hence the Cabernet Franc/Gamay blend as opposed to the all-too-common “Meritage” (read “Bordeaux”) blends that proliferate in the aforementioned wine counties, not to mention the Languedoc or Zinfandel/Petite Sirah combinations found in really hot zones like Lodi.

So even though this wine is not a throw-the-“rules”-out-the-window mix of Tempranillo, Barbera, Tannat or something similar, this wine does represent a rarely-seen-in California Loire-style blend – and a somewhat peculiar one at that with the addition of the Gamay which is a transplant from Burgundy – that perfectly suits its cooler, less sun-drenched climate. Would that there were fewer growers who had decided to plant all that Chardonnay in hot, hot Napa 25 or 30 years ago…

I put this very well-balanced and well-made wine with a first course of a rice salad with a kitchen-sink mash-up of Spring veggies, followed by a main course of a take on chicken-fried steak with vinegar-soured sauteed onions on top, and a pile of pearly hominy grits on the side.

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Aha Wines El Dorado County “Bebame” Red 2012

Just translucent, medium blackish/purple/garnet color. Clean and gregarious nose of blackberry, prune, and red currant preserves with underlying aromas of coal smoke, black licorice, cake crust, honey, cumin, allspice, and very subtle notes of barnyard funk. In the mouth the wine is medium-full in weight, with a plush texture that is very well-countered by a prominent acid/tannin structure that beautifully supports clean but textured and fairly complex flavors of black cherry, blueberry, bitter orange zest, rose water and a fairly intense stony minerality. Long, “sweet” and slightly peppery finish. Nice stuff.

 

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