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!