I'm a history buff and last night's tasting here has served as another opportunity to discuss the California fine wine industry in historical terms. In 1976 when this young and undeveloped, insular, naive and uncertain business was getting its legs in northern California, I was doing likewise in my first position in a retail wine shop in Berkeley, California. Now from my current 2013 Gaineville, Georgia perch, I can now see how the maturation process in fine wine production has worked, at least in these examples at hand. Whereas thirty-five years ago winemaking prospectors in California were gambling that they could make this winemaking project happen, now individuals like William Knuttel (Robin K) and Pam Starr and Drew Neiman (Bridesmaid) know how to do just that. It just took a few decades and amassing a few friends along the way.
William Knuttel began his winemaking career making wonderful Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays with Saintsbury of Carneros/Napa from 1983 through 1996. From 1996 though 2003 he led Chalk Hill of Sonoma with an expanded line of fine varietals before turning around an underperforming Dry Creek Vineyards (2003-2011). Knuttel had a diversion in the 90's with Tria wines and in 2005 with Zap but, by way of overview, what he accrued in knowledge was fundamental to what he does now. Knuttel uses his practical experience, scientific background, and instincts to produce what he calls "Wines of Intensity and Finesse" at his eponymously named winery. Robin K is the second label for William Knuttel Wines. Mrs. Knuttel is Robin, by the way.
The Robin K 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon we poured here last night is reviewed as "black cherry, blackberry, cigar box, caramel and creamy vanilla bean, supple tannins, and a lengthy finish". I forgot where I read that and I didn't get a chance to taste it since it sold out so quickly. Robin K retails under $20.
Now for a confession: High-end Napa Cabernet is not my thing and while I have tasted many and I acknowlege their greatness, I just have other preferences and I haven't tracked this end of the business in a long time. Call me a heretic. So with that said, the 2010 Bridesmaid was the high-end red on the table here last night and it was luscious. It is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot, a Bordeaux blend, if you will.
Pam Starr and Drew Nieman each have resumes that include stops at some of the finest wineries of Napa and they have both made their share of ultra-premium luxury wines along the way so with that said, let's stay with the here and now for this one. What we have here is an assemblage of excess juice gleaned from colleagues at similarly high-end operations in Napa. This is juice that was originally intended to complete someone else's high-end centerpiece wine but was not used and then became available to someone like Ms. Starr and/or Mr. Nieman. Needless to say, the proprietary blend for Bridesmaid will necessarily change every year with this modus operandi.
Robert Parker said about this wine: "The first credit for this wine should go to the buyer of the juice. The second credit should go to the blender." Since we don't know the individual roles of the Starr/Nieman team, accolades to all for this well-knit ultra-premium assemblage.
This Thursday September 19th from 5 to 7pm, Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage rejoins us with a presentation of European whites and domestic reds. The whites include: Lo Brujo Macabeo from Calatayud, Spain, and Lanzos 50% each Viura/Sauvignon Blanc and Ermita Veracruz Verdejo both from Rueda, Spain. The reds include: Solar de Randez Reserva Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain and a couple noteworthy domestic red blends. These wines are a must-taste so be here Thursday for that one.