Thursday, January 21, 2021

Matthews & Mullan Road

This week we got in a couple cases from our favorite domestic wine venue, Columbia Valley, Washington.  Both are sourced from the same new AVA (American Viticultural Area), Royal Slope, which is just north of Wahluka Slope in north central Columbia Valley.  Mullan Road Cellars sources from the Solacksen and Stillwater Creek vineyards there.  Matthews Winery sources most of their juice from a few locations there but then goes to Rattlesnake Mountain and Yakima Valley, both to the southwest of Wahluka, for additional juice.

Mullan Road Cellars is the brainchild of Dennis Cakebread of the forty-seven year old Cakebread Cellars of Napa.  You have to respect this guy.  He started Mullan Road because he felt Cakebread Cellars had fulfilled its destiny.  They had maxed out the quality per-their-acreage there and chose not to risk losing that quality by continuing to grow.  Like I said, you have to respect his ethics.

Mullan Road makes one wine every year.  It is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux Blend that is both bold and elegant, which in my opinion exceeds what Cakebread does in Napa.  But that shouldn't surprise anyone since we know the Cakebread Napa wine style and we have yet to learn how great Columbia Valley can be.  The typical Mullan Road blend includes Merlot and Cabernet Franc supporting the base Cabernet Sauvignon.

Matthews Winery was established in Woodinville, Washington in 1992.  It is family-owned and run with certain principles in mind.  They boast an inspiration from Bordeaux while being grounded in Washington heritage, which includes New World energy and innovation.  They market a dozen different wines using Bordeaux varieties that are hand-harvested and sorted in the winery; a nod, no doubt, to Bordeaux.  

The Sauvignon Blanc that we have in the store is actually a Sauvignon/Semillon blend that sees six months of aging before it's ready.  93% of it is put in stainless steel; 7% gets French oak.  The wine ends up with a flavor profile to include minerality, lemon, honey, gooseberry and herbs.  The finish doubles down on the minerality.  Once again, textbook Bordeaux.

So why are these here?  Both wine distributors sold me on them.  We were told the Mullan Road is better than Cakebread Napa.  The Matthews is supposed to be the closest thing to Bordeaux from this continent.  

This Saturday afternoon, the 23rd, we will be tasting a French Vouvray, Spanish Monastrell, Paso Robles Red Blend and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  Please call 770-287-WINE(9463) or email if you would like to taste.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

California Red Blends

Generally speaking, there are two types of red blends in California: Some use the noble Cabernet Sauvignon to create a Meritage or Bordeaux blend; others use the more utilitarian varieties like Syrah, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel in what may be called a field blend.  But that's an oversimplification.  By definition a red blend can be anything the winemaker wants it to be.  He may even include a few white grapes.  The options are wide open and that's a good thing considering the straight jacket the mass marketers have foisted upon American wine lovers.  For them it seems everything has to fit a poll-tested profile and if it doesn't, it will be amended to make it conform to the model. 

Last month two red blends did particularly well here at the store.  The Rutherford Ranch Two Range Napa Valley Red Wine is a blend of Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  The Arborist from Vina Robles of Paso Robles has Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Tannat in its makeup.  Coming from Napa where Cabernet is king, the Rutherford Ranch resembles a Meritage wine with an exception.  The Arborist is a Rhone style blend by way of the Iberian Peninsula model.  Both significantly include Petite Sirah (the exception mentioned above) which is an unsung hero in California winemaking.

Differences between the two wines center primarily on the flavor profiles.  The Napa blend emphasizes red fruit flavors; the Paso Robles, black fruit.  Another difference between the two concerns the age of the wines.  Our Two Range Napa is a 2015 vintage meaning much of its vibrancy has mellowed out.  The Arborist is a 2018 and it shows its youth in its big forward mouthfeel.  Also the Two Range comes from the Napa Valley floor while the Arborist comes from a much hillier terrain in Paso Robles which may provide for cooler environs. 

Food affinities for these two wines would probably overlap.  The older vintage Two Range Napa Blend would probably work with a greater variety of meals while The Arborist may be more of a steak wine.  Both would be nice cocktails for any California red lover.

Our store hours currently are 10 to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday.  Please stop in.