Rule #1. Sustenance is key.
[Tea from clever avian tea set.] (more…)
See that bottle with the brown label tucked away in the top-right corner of the above photo? That is also a Pinot Noir, the Block F5 to be exact, also from Cuvaison. That will probably be the last bottle I drink from that particular row. It’s the best of the lot—I thought that 2 years ago when I was still a grounded Pinot Noir fan.
I can only imagine what I would think of it now. My goal is that, by the time I get to it, I will be be an official Cuvaison club member and detaching from this particular bottle will be a breeze. But, forget all that. The Estate Pinot is absolute bliss. I wish I had more. (more…)
I came across Two Barrel a few days ago in my favorite Saratoga wine store, which is literally brimming with amazing California wine these days. There is never a day where I don’t find something new and exciting while I motor a miniature shopping cart around endless cases of the latest juice.
Having spent some time at Alexander Valley Vineyards on my honeymoon, I was thrilled to see, yet again, another release, which up till now, I have had only seen at the vineyard. The 2002 Two Barrel is not an expensive or exclusive wine by any means, but rather a full release version of a limited production Syrah/Merlot joint effort originally released for the enjoyment of wine club members.
I recently reviewed a similar blend from Cuvaison and specifically tried to unravel the unique working relationship between Syrah and Merlot, as well as to speculate the minimal availability of the blending of these seemingly two high-profile grapes throughout the greater wine world.
Two Barrel carries similar aspects of balance, mouth feel, and acidity, as does the Cuvaison Arcilla I mentioned earlier. While working as a 50/50 partnership, there is no questioning which grape wears the pants in this relationship. The Syrah naturally dominates, offering rich, extracted black fruit, including blackberries, black cherries, and blueberries. Cracked black pepper rocks the nose, palate, and mouth feel, while wonderful smokey characteristics ebb and flow through Two Barrel’s lengthy body. Cloves, cigar box, and a charcoal-like minerality really make for a pleasurable and risky experience. A wonderful acidity keeps this wine spirited and bright, and usher the dark fruit and spice perfectly.
The Merlot presence in this wine is understated, adding a nice degree of depth while rounding sharp corners and contributing very gentle mocha undertones. Two Barrel is an easy wine to enjoy, displaying peak drinkability after only about 30 minutes of breathing time. Enjoy!
Tonight is a special night, so, which will it be? A 2003 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, or a 2006 Cuvaison Arcilla Syrah/Merlot blend? After determining that the Silver Oak could benefit from a few more years of bottle aging, Carey and I anxiously settled on the Arcilla. Even though these two wines aren’t really comparable—by either price point or grape variety—they are both sentimentally rich wines. The Silver Oak was an engagement gift and the Arcilla is the first bottle from a mixed case purchased on our honeymoon at the Cuvaison tasting room in Calistoga, CA. Either way, tonight called for a special bottle: as of Wednesday, my amazing wife, Carey, beat the odds in a tough economy and landed an amazing job.
The Arcilla Syrah/Merlot blend is an unconventionally amazing example of progressive California winemaking. While not the most pricey wine Carey and I sampled, the Arcilla grabbed us both instantly, and stood out through a strong showing of the Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir offerings Cuvaison proudly unleashed upon us at 10:00 in the morning.
Arcilla sits vibrantly dark in the glass, with the color of a deep bruise on the rim. The aromas are stunning. Waves of black fruit, vanilla, and caramel introduce the aroma profile and lead the way for almond, pepper, and coffee ice cream. The soft creamy characteristics are nicely controlled by a slight spice and astringency that offer great complexity.
The complexity of the nose is only enhanced by Arcilla’s depth of flavor. Sweet tobacco, allspice, and leather push this wine past the singular jammy barrier of lesser wines, and display flavor and textural characteristics that are incredible. The fruit is rich and round, and include blackberry, cherry, plum and raspberry. A restrained tannic presence and astringency tickles the nose and lingers in the mouth perfectly, combining harmoniously with the silky qualities of the fruit and oak.
Arcilla is an inspiring blend, from primary players that don’t usually share the same bottle; not only does the result work, but the concept works well too. Syrah is a noble grape which produces a lush, spicy wine packed with distinctive dark fruit, earth, and characteristically displays a supple mouth feel and a firm tannin structure allowing for great aging potential. Syrah is renowned for its blending ability and history of producing world-class wines, as well is Merlot. But interestingly, the structural and flavor intensity, as well as the aging potential, of the Syrah grape seems to lend itself well to the Merlot grape, where these characteristics are weaker. Merlot, on the other hand, has a wonderful smoothing ability, softening and balancing otherwise harsh or heavily tannic wines.*
For about $20, the 2006 Arcilla is the kind of wine all wine lovers search for, a true game changer. I just wish I had more than 2 bottles left.
*After continuing my search regarding the varietal makeup of Arcilla (the label lacks the information), I came across a bit of misinformation from a reliable site that had me confused and doubting the accuracy of my blog, I gave the tasting room in Calistoga a call to settle the matter. I was informed that Arcilla is predominantly a Syrah/Merlot blend, but with the addition of Malbec as well. This certainly fits perfectly into the aroma and flavor profile of Arcilla, and contributes the soft plum, leather, and earth notes, as well as serving as a great intermediary between the larger Syrah and the smaller Merlot.
The lady I spoke with also informed me that Arcilla is a sporadically produced club wine, which explains the lack of information online.