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03 August 2006

Californique?

Where A confession from me: I occasionally look at the sea of California vino in my wine shop and think of a single word - "homogeneity." Much of California's wine is full-bodied, fruity and monolithic in flavor.  However, this same charge could be leveled against many other wine producing regions.  There really is no reason for me to pick on/single out California when I bemoan the loss of nuance in the character of modern wine.  In fact, I've sampled a number of unique Cali wines -

- to name a few. I'm certain there are literally dozens, of highly unique, character-full wines in the golen state. So, please, help us all find them by answering this query:

What's the most unique California wine you've ever sipped?
(and yes; this will be very helpful to me in developing a wine class called, "Undiscovered California.")

PS - If you mention the words, "two-buck" and "Chuck" in your answer, I'll give you a wedgie.

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Comments

KatieP

Being a pinot junkie, I'd have to list two of my favorite CA pinot noirs here (think Burgundy without the cute French accents or the not-so-cute price tag): AP Vin's pinot and Aracadian's. They stand out against a sea of fruity fru-fru California pinots that have none of the earthy funk I love so.

KatieP

Oops...typo! I meant Arcadian.

Alison

I'm afraid I can't help you here. I'm on a Spanish wine kick right now. :)

p.w.

here are a few wines which don't reflect the homogeneity of many california wines. i've had all of them, and they really are fantastic:

1998 Hanzell Pinot Noir
'80s and early '90s Stony Hill Chardonnay
1997 Kistler Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot
1991 Dominus
Littorai Pinot, especially One Acre
2001 Marcassin Three Sisters Pinot Noir
Curran Grenache Blanc
1978 Clos du Val reserve cab
1987 Clos du Val reserve cab
1985 Laurel Glen Sonoma Mtn cab
1991 Spottswoode cab

with some age, many of these newer release, over-the-top wines may either dry out, or round themselves out and mature nicely.
only time will tell.

Steve R

Most unique? I have three suggestions: (1) Bonny Doon's sparkling low-alcohol Freisa, which is like strawberry soda for adults, (2) Girard's petite sirah, which is a blueberry bomb with strong structure and an amazing partner for braised beef (mmmm, mmmm), (3) Frog's Leap's Leapfrogmilch, which, while inconsistent, when it's "on," it is a fascinating blend of waxy chardonnay and spritzy riesling.

Hope that helps!

Jameson

Murietta's Well Zarzuela. It's from the Livermore Valley and is a blend of 43% Touriga Nacional, 40% Tempranillo, 10% Souzao, and 7% Touriga Francesca. Really good and definitely unique.

The Melville Inox Chardonnay is really unique as well.

As far as the best example of a wine that breaks the stereoype of California wines (boozy, extracted, etc.), I'd say pick up the 2002 Mount Eden Vineyards Cab (Santa Cruz Mountains) and the 2002 White Cottage Cab Howell Mountain.

Collin

2001 Spann Vineyards MoZin has to be one of the most unique California wines I have ever sipped. It is a small production wine with an affordable price & they do it all old school...hand picking & de-stemming & treading the grapes by foot. I wish I could find some more.
Cheers,
Collin

Kevin Erskine

O.K. Call me uncouth but in 2000 I discovered a great Chardonnay - sweet, rich and caramel.
it's name? Toasted Head.
I had people who didn't like Chardonnay drinking this stuff.

Unfortunately it got very popular, and the production went way up. It hasn't tasted as good as the 2001 since.

beau

WW - Aracadian, Arcadian, Aracnadian, it's all the same (sort of). 'Tis indeed a rare Cali Pinot that possesses that tasty earth.

Ali - There are worse kicks on which to be than a Spanish wine one..

p.w. - A great list of recs. I've heard good things about Littorai. Hopefully I'll be able to track one down.

Steve R. - Aha Leapfrogmilch. I love it. Sounds quite unique

J - I had the M.Well Zarzuela a while back. It is indeed atypical for Cali. I'm still searching for White Cottage.

Collin - An 'athlete's foot' wine. I can dig that. Imagine I'll have to visit Spann vineyards to have a sample.

Kevin - I had a number of friends hooked on Toasted Head. But then, like you, they drifted away from it a few years back.

Thank you all for the unique recs.

Trish

You know, I've tasted plenty of California wines that I like, but not too many I'd call unique. The Broman 2002 Sauvignon Blanc comes to mind, though. It's big and Californian, for sure, but with an unabashed taste of anise. Really pretty beguiling.

wineguy

Here are a few unique wines I have tasted lately:

Aqua Pumpkin 2004 Malvasia Blanca

Foxen 2000 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon (Rancho Sisquoc Vineyard)

I'll second the vote for Arcadian Pinot Noir -- it is unique in California as far as I know

Curran 2005 Grenache Blanc

beau

wineG - How I dig the name, "Aqua Pumpkin" - would make for a fabulous band name.

Matthew Schmidt

Hmmm, I have to somewhat question some of the comments here. Since moving to San Francisco from NYC, I am now bombarded with California wines left and right. While I agree that there is a lot of the same, I would argue that Australian wines are even worse as far as being high alcohol fruit-bombs.

However, living so close to the source, my wife and I have already found some wines that I think can stand up to some of the best Old World wines. I would first mention just about anything from Ridge (we are in their ATP club) - although I'm not a big fan of the Lytton Springs. You absolutely cannot go wrong with their Geyserville Zinfandel. In addition, I would mention Justin (Paso Robles - Central Coast), Larkmead Vineyards (I'm a big fan of the 2003 Firebelle blend) and we recently were very pleasantly surprised by the Provenance 2003 Rutherford Cab. For a smaller producer, at the Carneros Festival last November, we both really liked a few of the wines from Tin Barn (they are not normally open to the public).

I'm not sure where most of the constributors are from, but in coming up on our 1st anniversary as San Franciscans, my pre-move suspicions have proven true over time - I'm not a big fan of Napa. You almost always pay a premiunm for a bottle that carries the name and, when you visit, you always, always have to overpay for tastings and generally don't get the fee back when purchasing. Furthermore, everything is almost always packed - tour busses galore - and, to be honest, while I have mentioned a couple (Larkmeade and Provenance) Napa wines here, I find most to be overpriced and disappointing. If I was to be presented with a blind choice simply based upon location, I would go with Paso Robles, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley or Alexander Valley before Napa (in general).

beau

Matthew - you bring up some interesting points. Greatest among them is the premium prices levied on bottles from Napa. I understand the pricing to a point - certainly the outrageous real estate prices contribute. Still, as a consumer I don't like feeling as if I overpaid for something. Said feeling nearly always accompanies a Napa wine. Thanks for commenting.

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