American Wine Day 2015. The slimmed down version of the catalogue still extends over seven pages and lists more than 80 importers and far more producers and vineyards. It feels as if the West Coast just gets more and more interesting from a vinous perspective! How to attack such a trade show? I choose to focus on Pinot Noir, partly because I want to see what the status is in US pinots and partly because I’m starting to become more and more interested in this grape. Go West!
The first stop is at Firesteed whose Riesling I tried before and which I liked very much. I would say that they are doing a typical US Riesling: good acidity, clear minerality, balanced fruit, and slender. My experience of American Riesling, West Coast style, is that they are distinct food wines. In comparison with the German GGs, I think they do not have the same laser sharp acidity and concentration, but they still have a clear acidity that makes them need food to come into their own.
I also think that they are not quite as round and full, but they tend more to the tight, sleek style. The thoughts usually go to Alsace, but where Alsace wines are a bit too dry and tart the American Riesling wines keep on the right side of the border. In my opinion.
A year ago I had the opportunity to taste through parts of Ponzi’s riesling range and as Maria Ponzi, who led the tasting, emphasized her sister and the winemaker, Luisa Ponzi, look toward Alsace for inspiration for her Riesling wines.
Anyway. This time I choose to try Firesteed’s three levels of pinot noir. The entry-level pinot has a fresh acidity, good fruit. Nice wine. One level up the fruit a little darker, a little tighter. More American? Where the first wine was almost a bit rough, this is rounder and sweeter. Firesteed’s top pinot is the Centurion, that is only made good years. Really nice! Lighter, frersher, more Burgundian. The middle pinot wins points for its round and accessible style, but the Centurion is the one I want to explore more of.
I make a small detour to Grgich Hills Estate, whose Fumé Blanc is nice but a bit too much barrel. The Merlot was all the more glorious (wow, what a nose!), the Zinfandel is dense, balanced, quite ok, the Cab is dense, classical, needs food. A good producer, I’ll happily drink the merlot again.
The next interesting pinot noir experience is at Twomey. Super Nice! This was probably one of the fair’s best pinot noirs. Dark, dense, not too acidic, good fruit, complex but still pretty straightforward. Feels like a typical American pinot noir. At the same table are Silver Oak’s Cabernet Sauvignon, but here it was both shut down and closed. Check back in ten years.
Vinopia Wine and Spirit imports a number of interesting wines and here I taste from County Line, Paul Lato and Hansen Cellars. County Line: delicious! This I would like to explore more of. The others were quite ok, Hansen Cellars little sweeter, Paul Lato a very peculiar wine with personality. Different, to say the least. I also taste Roederer Estate, real nice.
A quick stop at Johan Lidby Vinhandel and I let myself be seduced by the Copain wines. Really, really good! Then Bonny Doon, which is very impressive. Most impressive is Bien Nacido. Again, I’m no syrah fan but at certain moments it is easy to re-evaluate that position. Like now.
I conclude the fair at Roberson with two fantastic pinot noirs: Kutch and Domaine Eden. Sweeeeet Jesus, how good! Kutch is tighter and cleaner, Domaine Eden a little dirtier. But amazingly good, both. My favourite, and perhaps my winner of the fair, is probably 2012 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir. Incredibly good!
Ulf Bengtsson writes about wine under the pseudonym Red Scream on his blog Red Scream and Riesling, on wine, food, photography and other things that are important in life. Like detective novels, taking long walks in Stockholm and the occasional burst of exercise. He is also on Facebook.