The Historic Vineyard Society hosted their largest-ever tasting at San Francisco's Press Club wine bar on Saturday, April 21. Thirty producers were present, both stalwarts and upstarts of the California wine scene. In the past HVS has hosted vineyard tours and dinners, but this year, they wanted to involve more producers, said HVS president Mike Officer.
The initial attraction for attending this event was the opportunity to taste 76 wines from some of California's most venerable vineyards and respected winemakers. The real reward was that a sub-level existed to this event: it was an in-depth study in terroir through a de-facto horizontal tasting. Among dozens of vineyards represented, multiple expressions of Wirz, Evangelho, Bechtold, Besson, and Mancini vineyards were poured by multiple producers. For a wine geek, there was no better chance to examine the nuances in winemaking than at this HVS event.
With 215 official attendees, the wood-paneled basement bar was stuffy. During the core of the event, I had to muscle through the crowd to get a pour, and limited table space made diligent note-taking a challenge. But popularity is a good problem to have. I hope HVS continues to host special events like this more frequently.
Of the 53 wines I tasted, here are the highlights.
Arnot Roberts 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Montecillo Vineyard, Moon Mountain District - Tobacco, bell pepper, gravel, subtle cassis, high but balanced acid, killer structure, tight but pleasant tannins. It's very old world style Cab; a beautiful wine that expresses terroir. - 10
Birichino 2015 Besson Grenache - Owner John Locke told me this includes some whole cluster fruit that was apassamiento dried for tannin concentration. It's a really lovely wine, big fresh red fruit up front, light stemmy tannins, and very complex on the palate. Among several Besson grenaches I've had, this is one of the most interesting. - 9
Calder 2015 Mendocino Carignane, Rivera Vineyard - Calder owner/winemaker Rory Williams told me this Carignane is grown behind a cemetery in Ukiah! Dark red fruit, medium plus acid, medium body, soft tannins, pretty juicy and elegant. It was among my top Carignanes of the day. - 9
Calder 2015 Evangelho Carignane - High acid, super fresh structure, incredibly bright red fruit with spicy licorice undertones. Evangelho Carignanges don't always do it for me. They tend to be made with overwhelming acidity. This was one of the more balanced expressions. - 9
Carlisle 2015 The Derivative White Wine - Made from a plurality of Semillon from Monte Rosso Vineyard, the oldest Semillon in the U.S. Great citrus aromatics, lemon curd on the palate, rich body, lanolin finish. The richness of the fruit gives the impression of some residual sugar. - 9
I. Brand & Family 2016 Enz Vineyard Mourvedre, Lime Kiln Valley - High acid, buried earthy dark fruit, stemmy tannins, elegant medium body with a long finish. - 9
Precedent 2016 Victors Zin, Lodi - Awesome textbook Zin with great balance, smooth body, fruit forward but elegant with structure. The best Lodi wine I tasted of the day. - 9
Reichwage 2016 Mancini Ranch Carignan - A new winery from Max Reichwage, the new owner of this historic RRV vineyard. Beautiful aromatics, round red fruit, white pepper, crazy musty/tarry character. - 8
Robert Biale 2016 Basic Black Heritage Blend - Killer depth, black fruit, spicy herbs, cocoa, lots of slate & structure. Solid wine from a storied Zin specialist. - 8
Stirm 2016 Zinfandel Cienega Valley - A lighter, brighter zin with white pepper, rose, cranberry, raspberry notes. Great acidity and a break from heavy zins. - 9
Stirm 2016 Riesling, Wirz Vineyard - Best Riesling I tasted from Wirz that day, some slight R/S giving body, great citrus fruit and plastic dust aromas (in a good petrolly way), medium plus acid, full fruit and full body on palate - 9
Stirm 2016 Cabernet Pfeffer, Lime Kiln - Lovely elegant body, crisp structure and tight tannins, candied cherry, white pepper and sweet cherry/rasberry finish, not as peppery as the name implies. Really quaffable, I could drink this all day. - 10
Turley 2015 Hayne Vineyard Zin - Super elegant body, smoky with deep blackberry notes, it's simply an outstanding wine, period. From Napa's most famous old Zin vineyard, this is the traditional Zinfandel style at its pinnacle - 9
Under the Wire 2013 Sparkling Zinfandel Bedrock Vineyard - The folks behind Bedrock wines also produce bubbly by Methode Champenoise. Amazingly balanced, mild bready notes, bright & crisp, white cherry fruit, loads of minerality. This is definitely not from Chard or Pinot and is a delightful detour. - 10
Favorite Producers: Calder and Stirm
These two newer brands headed by young winemakers blew me away. All of their wines were handled with balance and finesse. Each wine was also immediately drinkable but showed potential for moderate aging. Of course I love and respect many of the winemakers present at HVS who have long-established and consistently deserved reputations. But part of the fun of attending these events is trying new wines from emerging producers. From that aspect, Calder and Stirm rocked my palate with multiple wines.
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