Some weeks are what I call ‘lottery’ weeks. This is one such week. Coming off the Pahlmeyer dinner Monday and Mike Hirby last evening, I can’t help but think how much of a lottery winner my group and myself really are.
Mikes wines have a sensibility and focus that I have not found in too many other labels. Since his days at Rockledge and Realm I have been a fan and while he has mad skills with my favorite grape, I believe is his real strengths are in his Rhône’s, whites and Pinot. I know he is a passionate about everything he does, but with an early background as a sommelier, his love for the full spectrum 'must be' and 'is' obvious. I like that his Chardonnay has booted the superfluous varieties and become purer and closer to its Burgundian roots. His Petite Sirah is deftly made and is not ponderous and his Pinots are focused and pure. His respect for ‘site’ is second to none. It is for these reasons that coming behind Pahlmeyer only emphasized and broadened the contrast of how lucky ‘us’ lovers of California wine truly are. There are so many great wines and fantastic vintages in our front yard at this moment in time that we don’t know where to turn first. These wines tonight are a good start.
As usual the staff at North Square did a great job although I sent my steak back; this is the first time in about 35 dinners something went back. It was too well when medium was requested. Problem rectified quickly.
We started with an interesting broad ranged flight of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Red Rhone Blend.
2011 Relic The Sage Chardonnay- this was pretty and focused with wonderful notes of fresh cut lemon grass, pain grille with a deft use of oak. Wonderful texture and liltiness that is refreshing. Count me as a fan.
2011 Relic Wines Pinot Noir Kashaya- Initially this was tight and slightly unyielding. Within 10 minutes it seemed to come alive and just explode from the glass. The nose showing pretty spring flowers and pure red raspberry notes. Its presence was lofty and lilty all at one as balance was spot on. I got tiny notes of earth and spices. A conveyor belt of all things great in Sonoma Coast Pinot. Love it to death.
2011 Relic Ritual Red (Rhone Blend) - An interesting wine with some dark red fruits of raspberry and black cherry. Some nice notes of olive tapenade, rosemary and river stones really added to the dimension of this rich and focused wine. Initially showed a slight dry note in the mid-palate but that went away fast and cohesiveness took control. This had a great finish. One to watch.
2010 Palm Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon- The second wine of Husic, this showed some sweet and sour fruits up front. There were hints of vanilla and cedar. A red/black fruited wine that seems slightly unfocused at the moment. When I tasted the Husic, I got ‘it’.
2010 Husic Cabernet Sauvignon- Black fruited profile with a stroke of elegance and finesse. Deep and layered, this was a more complete and enjoyable Cabernet. I love richness and this was rich. Somewhat masculine with complicated tannins. The finish went on and the black cassis, currant and black plum remained in play. Fantastic.
2010 Sarocka Red Wine- A new acquisition (client) for Mike. This was started by Helen Keplinger. Black fruits of currant with cola, graphite and fresh rubbed leather. I got a sense that Mike might choose a different oak going forward as this has a wee bit sweet vanillin twang that seemed out of place with Mike Hirby Cabs. This had some elegance and a bit of show with a long finish.
A tale of two D.R. Stephens Cabernets
2010 D.R. Stephens Moose Valley Cabernet- Initially a bit subdued and quiet. Its sibling was in control. This had some black currants, hints of cola and a bit of sassafras. The thing is once food arrived it came alive and the tables were turned. It was a totally different wine. Interesting.
2010 D.R. Stephens Walther River Block Cabernet- Mikey (me) likes it; it’s fragrant and pure with a slight middle gobbiness that is endearing. (In a good way that is!). More the wine you want when food is not around. (See above). A well made Cabernet that has some intensity and focus. Very nice.
2010 Relic Wines Prior- Cab Franc (blend? Forgot to note it) - Having had exposure to Russell Bevan’s Cab Franc has given me confidence in spotting a well made one. He does it right. This Mike Hirby bottling is right up there, truly. It’s silky and soft textured with many layers of blue/black fruits. Balance is spot on, tannins intricate and finish impressive. In its class it is a QPR and one to seek out. Wow
2010 Relic Wines The Artefact Cabernet Sauvignon- What a fascinating wine. This is intense black cassis, blackberry and plum with crème de cassis interlaced throughout. Wonderful structure houses so much good stuff, I’m in love and found my WOTN. Interesting notes of cardamom and framboise with a small berry mouth feel that grabs your attention and does not let go. Finish is amazing. Wow. This is one I will seek out when it is released.
2010 Relic Wines Petite Sirah Old Vines- Forget everything you ever knew about Petite Sirah. No need for labels aptly named ‘Muscle Man’ etc. This is a new direction petite; deep dark and packed with blue and black fruits but magically it has ZERO heaviness and not a sign of ponderous in sight. It floats across the palate and leaves a coating of fruits in its wake. A true party in your mouth. It’s perfectly balanced; tannins complicated and acidity in check. A deft mid-palate with some nice freshness never numbs the tongue. Impressive. I am a believer. No matter what, I will put these into my cellar as soon as I could. All my friends will be jealous.
A big thanks to Mike for sharing these with the lottery winning group named CLONYC.
If you have never met Mike, you must make it a point to when you visit the Valley. I don’t think I have met a more humble and passionate wine guy in my life. If you have met him, you know what I mean, so just nod.