A Snooth Interlude: Murietta’s Well Tasting

A few days ago, I did an online tasting with Snooth, focusing on the wines from Murietta’s Well, which is located in the Livermore AVA in California.  It was my first experience doing an online wine tasting; the center point was the winemaker, Robbie Meyer, on video chat talking about his wines while we all sipped along and inquired about the processes and ideas behind each wine–something I enjoy doing rather often with local winemakers over on podcasts at The Arizona Wine Monk wherever possible–the main difference was in the distance, and tasting with a group of others was particularly fun.

All the wines from Murietta’s well are small lot (though larger lots than anyone in Arizona, by and large), and wild-fermented, which is fascinating.  Wild fermentation can be difficult to do well, after all, as wild yeasts can be a bit… Well, cantankerous to deal with, to say the least.  Overall, these wines had a more Old World feel to them than most wines I’ve encountered from California.  Here are the wines we tasted, and some thoughts I had about each.  The next podcast episode will load in another six days–we will stick to the every tenth-day cycle which has worked so far. (There won’t be any Riesling to miss it, so stay tuned.)

muriettas well tasting
Here is their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc which was fermented in neutral oak; resulting in something very like a Sancerre. This was nothing like the over-bearing oak bombs I usually encounter with California Sauvignon Blanc. Notes of pear, apple, gooseberry, and apricot intermingled with crisp minerality and high acidity.

 

muriettas well tasting
Next up was The Whip (2016), a blend of 33% Sauvignon Blanc, 29% Semillon, 21% Chardonnay, 12% Orange Muscat, and 10% Viognier. This was a well-balanced white blend that really struck me as quite sophisticated and versatile. What was particularly interesting for me was that I could pick out the role of each grape in this blend, which is always a fun exercise. The Viognier provided the strong apricot character, the Sauvignon Blanc provided most of the skeletal structure, while the Semillon provided the heavier body to this blend, and so on. I honestly wanted to pair this wine with Pad Thai, which is odd to me because I normally don’t want to pair white wines with this sort of body with such spicy food.  (I also think it could work well with enchiladas, but that’s just me.)

 

Third up for the tasting was their 2016 Dry Rosé. This was a well-structured, high acidity savorfest blend of 42% Grenache (farmed specifically for rosé), 39% Counoise, and 19% Mourvèdre. Watermelon/Cotton Candy notes imparted by the Counoise were especially prominent,. intermingling with the bright strawberry notes imparted via the Grenache. Overall, this wine was evocative of some of the heftier rosé blends from Provence or Bandol. This wine was probably tied for second out of all the wines. I really do wish more winemakers played with Counoise.  I would serve this wine as it is–no food needed–it is a great summer sipper.

 

muriettas well tasting
The rosé was tied with The Spur (2015) for second place in the tasting as far as I was concerned. This was a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. Livermore Valley is apparently well-known for Petit Sirah, which adds in a dimension of place, according to Robbie Meyer.  Apparently, it is pretty common in the Livermore Valley to blend in a bit of Petit Sirah into otherwise “Bordeaux-Style” blends there. (This aspect made me think of how often in my homeland of Arizona, we add in Petit Sirah to our GSM-style blends for color and tannins.)  The 2015 vintage of The Spur (named, of course, for a part of the grapevine) was savory, fruity, and well-balanced, with an elegant scaffold of tannins. Nothing was over the top here on this vintage, which again struck me as unusual for most California “Bordeaux-style” blends which usually require me to decant extensively to enjoy them in any form.  This elegance will lend this wine to being paired with a wide variety of foods–I ended up pairing the rest of this bottle with a crockpot pork roast with root veggies and green chili and it worked fantastically.

 

muriettas well tasting
My favorite wine of all the Murietta’s Well vintages was the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a pre-release preview. Now, I normally do not like California Cabernet at all; I find them generally to be too brusque, masculine, and inelegant. I usually find that I either need to decant wines of this sort for three hours, or smoke a cigar with them, to peel back the insane use of oak that seems to be the de jure style.  I am convinced that many winemakers in Californa use this insane level of oak to hide flaws that are resulting from potentially shoddy winemaking, or to hide an otherwise unexciting vintage.  Now, that being said, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Murietta’s Well was completely the opposite of that.  I was amazed by this wine.  This was an elegant, balanced, well-structured and sophisticated vintage–sort of like a well-dressed professor in tweed. Notes of olives and Connecticut shade-grown tobacco wrapper intermingled in this wine with earth, vanilla, cassis, and blackberry, alongside hints of lighter fruits such as plum and raspberry. It is, I think, a wine well suited for a New York strip steak and a nice cigar like an Ashton Symmetry. I was deeply impressed by this wine and was sad when I finished it off. If I didn’t already have all of my wines lined up for the California episodes of this podcast, I would have used this bottle in a heartbeat.  It is everything that a California Cabernet Sauvignon *should* be.

 

 

 

 

Episode 10: Illinois

Welcome to the Tenth episode of the Make America Grape Again podcast, showcasing Illinois.  Today’s wine is the Blue Sky Vineyard 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc, from Blue Sky Vineyards in the Shawnee Hills AVA.

The Midwest is a pretty active wine region, overall, as I am constantly reminded by visitors to my tasting room for my day job. The Shawnee Hills AVA is a thriving wine scene in Southern Illinois that currently has about 55 vineyards and 300 planted acres, and is booming. Already, this AVA has dramatically improved the economic setting of the region. The soils here in this area, thanks to the lack of Pleistocene Glaciation. This wine provides our first brief encounter with how local geology affects the terroir of a wine region.  While a Cabernet Franc, this wine is very different from the Colorado vintage in our previous episode; this wine is a lovely fruit bomb with the classic Midwest musty character.

This bottle was acquired thanks to Scott Albert, who is the winemaker for Kite Hill Vineyards, also in the Shawnee Hills AVA.  He was kind enough to do a bottle trade for some Arizona wines when he approached me when I first announced this podcast over on The Wine Monk.  Thanks, Scott!   I was really impressed by this vintage and am looking forward to recording more episodes with the wines you have contributed.

Cabernet Franc Count: 3

blue sky vineyard cabernet franc
The 2014 Estate Cabernet Franc from Blue Sky Vineyards was a delightful fruit bomb.

Episode 9: Colorado

Welcome to Episode 9 of the Make America Grape Again Podcast; in this episode, we will be exploring Colorado for the first time!

Colorado is a land of extremes, with everything from towering mountains that scrape the heavens to high plains and deserts. It is also a land with some fascinating viticultural potential, producing both vinifera and fruit wines. The Palisades region, also known as the Grand Valley AVA, is perhaps the central point of the thriving viticultural industry in Colorado. Our wine of the day, the 2015 Colorado Cabernet Franc from Sutcliffe Vineyards, is sourced from this AVA.

This episode provides an introduction on how to approach making wine tasting notes, and Old World versus new world approaches to viticulture, as we were all gathered to help my friend Jen Condon (who provided the bottle) with some homework for her classes in the viticultural program at Yavapai College.  An entire podcast featuring Old World vs. New World wines and their approaches will be posted on my other website in the near future.

Cabernet Franc Count: 2

The 2015 Colorado Cabernet Franc from Sutcliffe Vineyards was sourced from the Grand Valley AVA. Here it is at dusk.

Episode Six: Idaho

Welcome to Episode 6 of Make America Grape Again! In this episode, we visit Idaho and meet up with one of the most abundant styles of wine blends: the Bordeaux Blend. Blends in this style, often referred to as “Meritage” blends in the New World, typically are a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, with additional grapes associated with the Bordeaux AOC of France in these blends. The wine in question is the 2014 Seven Devils Red from Hells Canyon Winery, located in the Snake River AVA.

This wine provides us with an introduction to a region associated with Wine Gags (Like Arizona, Idaho has been subject to a number of gags over the years). The 2014 Seven Devils Red is also a fantastic introduction to the nature of Wine Flaws–are they always bad, or can they provide additional points of interest into a wine? (In this case, the flaw was VA–volatile acidity.)

Again, sorry for the choppy audio quality in this episode– Audacity was being difficult. This bottle was purchased for this podcast by Gary Kurtz, my erstwhile cohost, while he was on vacation.

Cabernet Franc Count: 1

Episode 6
The focus of Episode 6 is the 2014 Seven Devils Red from Hell’s Canyon Winery, located in the Snake River AVA.

Episode Two: Nevada

In Episode Two of the Make America Grape Again podcast, we will look at Nevada.

Nevada is a bit of a frontier in winemaking, due to the unwieldy nature of legislation focused on winery and vineyard production in this state.  Indeed, Nevada serves as an excellent example of the often ridiculous and Byzantine nature of alcohol legislation that can be a major challenge to winemaking in the United States; something we will explore in this episode.

The wine in question for this episode is the 2015 Silver State Red, a blend of eight different red varietals from Nevada Ridge winery; a label focused on Nevada-grown grapes found at Pahrump Valley Winery.  In this episode, along with exploring a textbook example of viticultural legislation as mentioned above,  we will also be examining the practice of blending wines, along with a discussion about what exactly makes a “good wine.”

This bottle was acquired directly from the winery by myself while visiting Pahrump Valley Winery with a dear friend of mine last year.

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Wine Number 2: 2015 Silver State Red, Nevada Ridge Winery