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Domestic Portfolio Tasting 2011

Elizabeth Pressler of Elizabeth Spencer

Tuesday’s Domestic Portfolio Tasting at the Union Square Ballroom marked the passing of the Domestic baton at TEW.  From the hands of Patrick Burke, who now takes singular charge of our French Portfolio to the palms of Brian Pilliod and Juerie Park, our Domestic Portfolio, as shown on Tuesday, demonstrates a foundation of talented winemakers from California and the Pacific Northwest.  From 11:00 to 4:30, the crowds flowed in with rain on their shoes.  It was an excellent showing and we wish to thank all the winemakers and tasters who came by to celebrate the launching of another great year.

Elizabeth Spencer, whose first commercial vintage appeared in 1998, was represented by the winery’s president, Elizabeth Pressler who poured four wines, including her flagship Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  “We’re trying to exhibit the purity of each varietal and region,” said Elizabeth.  “All of our wines are single vineyard wines, with the exception of our Cabernet Sauvignon, which is made from five vineyards.”  Working with growers who grow to specifications, Elizabeth Spencer is intimately involved with the production of their grapes.  “We don’t own it [the vineyards] but we control it…we’ll bring in workers if the growers don’t understand what we want.”  On Tuesday, the Elizabeth Spencer Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2010 was particularly well received.  With only ten barrels made, the Chardonnay is fermented in new and older French oak barrels, which lends the wine a beautiful expression of green fruit that is elegant and balanced.

Joey Tensley of Tensley Wines

Joey Tensley, who appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, came to town to pour his wines, including the Tensley Syrah “Tierra Alta” Santa Barbara County 2009, which is made from vines that grow in volcanic soil at 1000 feet.  A vineyard with cool temps at night, the grapes yield an earthy, funky wine that’s lean with great berry fruit acidity.  “We age our reds on the lees and don’t add sulfur until bottling,” said Joey, “we don’t beat the crap out of them…we press and leave it, giving [the wine] time to soften.”  Also pouring Deux Terres and Detente, Joey said that his current harvest shows a cool vintage with low yields due to frosts.  “There won’t be a lot of wine,” from the vintage, he added.

Teresa from ZD Wines

Family owned for three generations, ZD wines has had only three winemakers since 1969.  “They’ve all worked side by side,” said Teresa, who came to pour as she spoke about their current harvest.  “This will most likely be the latest harvest in 40 years,” she said.  With cooler weather resulting in lower yields, “We’re hoping to get everything ripe and balanced before the harvest…that’s the challenge.”  And after tasting their Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from 2008 and 2009, including the Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros, which was released in 2007 when ZD’s founder Norman de Leuze passed away, we have no doubt that 2011 will yield another integrated, well-balanced vintage.

Holly Anderson with Vineyard 29

“One thing we’re known for,” said Holly Anderson of Vineyard 29, “is our high tech practice, starting with everything in the vineyard so we can be hands-off in the winery…If you start with amazing fruit, you don’t need to do a lot to it.”  Employing gravity flow to crush, transfer, and rack, Vineyard 29 is “big on measuring results to improve the next year’s vintage.”

Frieda Guercio of The Donum Estate 

Representing Pinot Noir, the Donum Estate uses estate grown fruit from their 146 planted acres.  “Paving the pathway for the ‘revitalization’ of the Stemmler brand, which was purchased by the Moller Racke family when Robert Stemmler retired,” said Frieda, Donum Estate cultivates three vineyards, all of which are uniquely suited to Pinot Noir.  Speaking of the current harvest, Frieda said that it is “slowly coming…[with] late flowering and spring rains, we had to manage the canopy.  We’re about three weeks behind,” she added, looking to harvest in “late September, early October.  The brix are now at 19/20.”  In step with all of our other west coast producers, with low yields, we anticipate another great vintage.

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