On the birth of a winery

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past year or so, you know that I’ve ingratiated myself  become friends with the Cellar Rat (@cellarrat), Alan Baker, and his partner Serene Lourie (@slourie), who have launched their new brand, Cartograph Wines.  Morphing out of Alan’s previous project, Cellar Rat Cellars, which was some damn fine Pinot Noir & Syrah, Cartograph is truly a labor of love – and it shows.  (You can read my previous review of Cellar Rat here)

This was my third time tasting the wines in barrel, and it is a joy to watch them grow and develop over the course of the past 9 months.  Much like a new baby, these wines change and grow, becoming something special as they integrate in to the finished product.

The first wine we tried was the Gewurztraminer.  I have a growing love affair with this dry & racy white wine, and this had flavors of lychee, grapefruit, tropical fruit, hay and subtle guava notes.  I also tasted Tuscan melon.  .  The wine is made from the first harvest of the planting, and is fermented in stainless steel.  It had just a hint of spiciness and was a great alternative to other whites for the warmer summer months.

Next, we tasted the 2009 Perli Vineyard Pinot, from Mendocino Ridge.  This AVA is known as the “islands in the sky” since it is the only AVA that is non-contiguous land.  Instead, the AVA dictates that the land must lie above 1200 feet, which is the vertical fog line.  This is one of my favorite Pinots, and I tasted creamy strawberries, cloves, nutmegs and rhubarb with a smattering of black cherry and Dr. Pepper.

From here, we moved on to some of the different clone and barrel selections, and we tasted through to help decide what the blend should be.  I lost track of what was what, but it was fascinating to taste the difference between barrels, particularly when we got to the point where barrels of of the same wine, made from wood from different forests, but made by the same cooper from the same area.  I do know that I did find that the 777 clone in 25% new oak was my favorite, with black cherry and spicy cloves finishing with rich black raspberry.

One of the things that I really appreciate about the Cartograph line is the label design.  you can see from the front label, that there are five points on Alan & Serena’s journey in to wine, From France, Minneapolis and Washington D.C. to San Francisco and Healdsburg.  The back label design shows you the wine making process, and allows you the consumer to take part in the experience. The five points in the wine making process mirror the five points on the front, as you go from budbreak through bottling.  Bottling incidentally for the 2009s starts any day now, so I can’t wait to restock my cellar with smoe brand spanknig new wine!

If you’re in Healdsburg, give them a shout.  You won’t be sorry!  If you like Pinot, and you like small handcrafted wines, run out and buy some today.  While you’re at it, grab some of the Gewertz.  You will be happy you did, and your tastebuds will thank you!

A pinot that doesn’t fail!

I first found MacPhail Wines at a tasting held at San Francisco Wine Trading Company last year, at the recommendation of my friend.  Since i know he is a bigger wino than I am – NO!  It’s true Alex you are! – I couldn’t miss it, and I knew that I would be blown away.  BOY was I not wrong!  At the time, I was pinching the employment pennies and only walked out with one bottle of the Sonoma Coast which I am treasuring like a pot of gold.

Recently, my wino friends Jim, Shana, Vicki and Lil and I snuck in an impromptu visit with James and his dog, Zuni.  I am in love.  Pure, magical, pinot love.  One was better than the last, and the last was better than the first!

MacPhail Family Vineyards was founded in 2002, with a directive to create passionate Pinot Noir from the best Sonoma and Mendocino County sources.  To that end, here are my yumyumyummy notes from our visit!

2008 Rose of Pinot Noir was a deep rose hue, and smelled of rose petals, hibiscus and cranberry.  I tasted the cranberry and hibiscus as well, along with  red ziner, rich red fruit, and grapefruit.

2007 Sonoma Coast is a blend of two vineyards, the Pratt Vineyard and the Goodin Vineyards, both of which are located in Sebastapol.  These wines were vinified separately, and then hand picked for the single vineyard wines.  The remainder was blended in to this treat, which showed spicy clove, dusty cherry, black cherry, even a touch of blackberry, followed by Dr. Pepper,  and dark rich intense flavors.

2007 Anderson Valley Toulouse Vinyeard is a combination of a the Dijon clones 115, 667, 777, and 2A.  MacPhail is one of the premier examples of a Toulouse pinot, and one of the first.  This is a big pinot for Anderson valley, and was full of bright strawberries, salty creamy berries, lots of earthy bark and cinnamon.  It had a lighter body and color and was zippy.

2007 Sonoma Coast Goodin Vinyard had a rich, deeper color.  I loved the rich, spicy earth flavors.  Lots of Dr. Pepper and black cherry.  Dark delicious ruit.

2007 Anderson Valley Vagon Rouge was a very special wine indeed!   Only 8 barrels were made, and it had wild strawberry, rich intense fruit and bright red berries with a nice balance.

Strictly speaking, I loved ALL of these wines.  I left with 3 bottles to add to my 1 at home, and I will remember my visit for a long time.  I look forward to coming back and tasting again next year!

 

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