Clark
Man, it was great to see you and to finally get the formal intro to Suzy. Here’s the customer feedback on some of the wines I bought. When I opened the case, i was a little nonplussed to see 03 and 05 Chard. i wasn’t worried about the old (96?) CF, and I gave it to a friend, anyway. As a valued gift, not to dump it. 05 Penny Farthing CH; I am one of the few who drink old Chard, and understand it. The wine is still there, but on its last gasp. i don’t think most people would understand it or like it. My advice is to quit shipping it, even though the 6-pak price is reasonable. Now, for the 03 Faux Chablis- fuck, it was wonderful. Certainly not a young wine, but totally alive. where does the smoke come from- heavy toast bbls? We had it with some very good Washington Blue Points, and it was superb! I don’t remember having a Chablis with that smoky oak taste, it was more like a high end Graves in that respect, but it definitely had the cool mineral thing and the pure Chardonnay fruit of Chablis. Why did the Penny Farthing crapout but the older Faux maintain? ML? Vineyard (terroir)? Fuckin A, i want a case of that shit.
02 Syrah- dude, what can i say? When i was trying to figure out what to plant on my dad’s lousy three acres in Coombsville, back in 1990, i drank a lot of Syrah, and decided to go with it. they were really consistently good, interesting, diverse. now, Syrah sucks. I remember the ojai, Edmunds St John, alban, Orion,Jade Mtn, and
Qupe- captivating, idiosyncratic, unique, interesting. So, I planted Syrah. Now, the variety has expanded exponentially, but it’s all banal, mediocre, boring shit. Even the good apellations make boring, overripe, jammy, hot, shit. And Monterey makes V8 cocktail. What happened? So, after my orgasmic moment with the Roman Syrah you brought to Long Beach ( or Riverside?) a coupla years ago, I felt bereft. The o2 Syrah renewed my faith. I want more. I am finally going to France, staying in Avignon for 2 weeks, and you bet I’m hitting Cote Roti and hermitage. I want to buy more of your Syrah, but it’s not on the website. What are my options? sincerely, mark. PS thanks for being so nice to my buddy, Frank, at the Long Beach dinner at DaVinci’s. He’s not part of this wine geek world, and he really enjoyed being down our little rabbit hole for an evening.

Mark:

Thanks very much for the note. There’s a big difference between the PF and WineSmith Chardonnays. The PF is a non-ML Macon style – golden delicious apples but with a kiss of French oak toast from good Boise France DCA chips – not really intended for ageing, so it’s included in the selection exactly for this comparison. However it does show that good acidity can hold a wine together longer than the overblown styles.

The Faux Chablis is grown by Steve Krebs at Napa College to prove that minerality and ageability are possible in Napa. There are no pesticides and only round-up on the berm, so we have a very healthy soil food web – lots of earthworms and mychorhizal fungi, so we are showing that we get good uptake (of what we don’t really know, but it’s clearly very minerally). That’s one leg of the ageability stool. We harvest at fully golden, which is why we have that nice lemon oil aroma typical of Chablis, and we lower the alcohol from around 14.8 so you can smell it and to prevent bitterness.

Second, there is good ellagitannin extraction from untoasted chips, around 5 g/L, which brings gallic acid, a wonderful antioxidant, into the wine, but also some astringency. To counter that and provide additional longevity, we stir lees twice a week for about nine months. Same as in Graves (except we stay out of barrels to prevent ML), so you have a good palate. Think champagne – same yeastiness. The 2005 was provided so you can see what the wine looks like before this character emerges after four or five years In the bottle. You will find that the 2005 is currently still quite tight. It will in the end be a better wine, but right now has quite an edge. It’s not acid – both wines have about 6 g/L and pH’s around 3.5.

I’ll check and see if we can find you some 02. I think there’s a case or two still around. This is also a very minerally wine, but also very tannic and closed, which we had to hold back and only released about a year ago. That’s why we decided to try using these grapes (Renaissance vineyard, all organic, 2200 feet, decomposed granite) for sulfite-free, and in 2003 changed to Roman Syrah. It’s been very successful, because the wine is its own preservative. The key to this wine is to form the tannins with lots of early micro-ox so they integrate the aromas and you get soulfulness instead of spoilage.

Clark