This is not an article on the 2011 vintage. It is a bit too early for that discussion, having had only the Beaujolais Nouveau of 2011 being widely distributed thus far. This is a review of two favorites released in 2011. These two wines, one white and one red, are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but similar in that they are not typical for their varietal style.
First the white…this selection is a California Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey, which has none of the characteristics of the traditional buttery, oaky Chardonnays of the Golden State. This Chardonnay is unoaked, a trend that is gaining popularity among producers. Well if not completely unoaked, the trend is to lighten up on the oak exposure to allow the fruit to shine through. The choice that best demonstrates this clean, crisp wine is the 2010 Mer Soleil Silver. This wine is easily recognized by the silver-colored ceramic bottle. The bottle is reminiscent of the concrete tank fermentation and aging. Produced without oak contact or malolactic fermentation, the citrus and mineral notes are apparent from first aroma through the finish. The experience of removing the oaky mask from Chardonnay will change your perception of this wine. Mer Soleil Silver is widely available at all of the area wine retailers for about $23.
The second selection is the red. This wine is also not what you would expect from the main grape present in this blend. The wine is 80% Grenache, which typically is medium-bodied and can be lighter color. But, this pick is from Orin Swift, so light or medium-bodied is not an option. In typical Orin Swift fashion, this is a big, bold wine, dark purple in color. The D66, 2009 Grenache is the inaugural release from their new Maury, France winery and vineyard. Many of the Vineyard’s vines are sixty years old or more, adding to the complexity of this wine. The balance of the grapes in this blend are Syrah and Carignan at 12% and 8% respectively. Up front, there are oak and floral notes, followed by a palate coating of plum and cherry flavors, and most of all, a spiciness that makes your tongue want to do a dance. The finish is smooth and long. There is so much going on in this wine. Your reaction to the first, and perhaps the second sip is wow! D66 sells for just under $40 locally. Availability is limited, so check with your local wine monger.
As 2011 comes to a close, make a resolution to try some new wines in 2012. Don’t be intimidated by the vast selection, ask the wine experts at your local retailer for a suggestion. You will expand your palate and enjoy the variety that is available.
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