Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, May 30, 2011

The End of the Road Less Traveled

I have traveled this road less traveled many times, but I have never gotten to the end of it. That's because I always get distracted at the tasting rooms in Los Olivos and then only get part way up Foxen Canyon Road. Canyon is sometimes abbreviated to Cyn in California which always makes me think of the Welsh word "cyn", so then I am  hoping to get there "soon." Unfortunately, some canyon roads are too long to get you anywhere soon. This time I left early and drove almost straight through with a brief stop at Foxen winery. They now have two tasting rooms - the original "Sideways" one and a brand new modern building. This time I stopped at the modern one where they were serving up mostly cooler climate grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2009 Bien Nacido Chard was light, fresh, and tart. The 2009 Tinaquaic Vineyard was round, balanced and medium bodied - two very distinct styles. The 2010 Rose of Mourvedre had a very fruity nose and sweet strawberry flavors. The 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir tasted of sour cherry, while the 2009 Tinaquaic Syrah was spectacular with great color and  fabulous fruit.

On to Riverbench winery, no longer really in Foxen Canyon, but sitting on the south river bench of the Santa Maria river, home to the best commercial strawberries grown in the U.S. First out of the shoot was a nice 2010 Pinot Noir Rose that was fresh and fruity and tasted of... strawberries. Next up the crisp and citrusy, stainless fermented 2009 Bedrock Chardonnay followed by the oaked 2007 Estate Chardonnay which had a very nice nose and was balanced and round with a nice touch of vanilla.The 2008 Estate Pinot Noir had a nose of smoke, tobacco, and leather followed by rhubarb flavors. The 2008 Reserve Pinot was light in color with cherry flavors and leather accents. The 2008 Mesa was the standout, again with light color, and round full fruit flavors - here is an Oregon style Pinot to go with your locally caught salmon.

Several years ago, I tasted a Kenneth Volk Chardonnay that made me want to taste more from the former owner of Wild Horse winery. Now, out on his own, Ken seems to be brewing up a storm. I counted approximately twenty different wines on the list. Ken seems to love to experiment with different varietals, Verdelho, Negrette, Touriga, and Aglianca for example, The wonderful 2008 Verdelho reminded me of figs, the 2009 Viognier was round and fruity, the 2009 Rose of Grenache, very fruity and sweet, the 2008 regular Grenache light and pleasant, a good patio or hamburger wine. The 2008 Negrette had a sweet mouthfeel like a perfect French Aperitif. The 2008 Touriga had the feel and flavor of Port , but without the sweetness - a perfect Port for diabetics? The 2006 Tempranillo also had the same sweet mouthfeel. Ken appears to have a distinctive signature of full roundness and fruit with some "sweet" mouthfeel. He certainly leaves his mark on the wine. Among my faves were 2008 Mourvedre, Enz Vineyard which had a fabulous nose and the 2006 Sierra Madre Chardonnay  which really expressed and benefited from Ken's stylistic preferences with its full creamy mouthfeel. The highlight, though, was a comparison tasting of two very different 2007 Pinot Noirs - same vintage, same winemaker, but different clones, different styles. The "Old School" Pinot made from Pommard clones was light, elegant and silky on the palate with complex fruit flavors - very Oregon in style, perfect with salmon. The "New School" Pinot made from Dijon clones was big, spicy and full, - very California in style, perfect with buffalo steaks. The New School" reminds me of a good Nuits St. Georges, while the "Old School" is reminiscent of a Savigny Les Beaune. Kenneth Volk's prices in the 20s and 30s are very reasonable these days for what you get. It was definitely worth it to finally get to the end of the road. BTW, Kenneth Volk is very close to Cambria winery whose excellent Chardonnay is widely available, frequently at Costco for a very reasonable price. On to Paso Robles!


  • At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Joanne Saliby said…

    Good writing. Light, entertaining, with excellent brief descriptions of the wines. I dislike wine notes filled with every adjective in the writer's vocabulary. We know the area and the difficulty in getting very far because of all the tasting rooms which beckon. Unfortunately, we don't get there very often anymore. We love Paso Robles and Tablas Creek, among others. Many thanks for this post.


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