Wine Swines Tasting Recap – April 1, 2017

Steph and Gord were going to do a Lodi winery visit on Sunday and post, but Steph has come down with the plague this weekend and is not feeling well. Too sick to drink wine – no, seriously, this is not an April Fool’s joke. Thank goodness there was also a monthly WS tasting last night, so I have something to write about to fill the void.

The tasting was hosted by myself (Gord), and I was joined by 8 other eminent Swines. The topic of the night was “unusual red varietals”, and I think it really hit the mark. After sampling a glass of Norton (2010 Enoch’s Stomp from Texas) as a warm-up, palate cleanser, whatever you want to call it, the group moved onto blind sampling of 6 wines.

The starter wine – Norton

The only clue provided was the theme, and the origin of the wines (5 different countries). Notes are mine (mostly):

Wine # 1 – this wine was a medium deep ruby. It had a strong stalky, herbal nose. Some described it as green pepper or asparagus. A love it or hate it sort of thing – I love this nose. The palate had close to medium acidity, relatively soft tannins, with a red currant/cranberry fruit. Medium plus body, with a dry astringent finish. 15 pts (out of 20)

This wine was the 2010 Bodegas Los Bermejos Lanzarote, from the Canary Islands. The grape is Listan Negra. It also came in a cool bottle, which means that it got snagged by one of the Swines, before I remember to take a photo. Here is an image I found online:

Wine #1 – Bodegas Los Berjemos Listan Negra

Wine #2 – this wine was medium deep ruby, with a garnet rim. Nose was dark cherry, with some vanilla. Some thought this wine had a little volatile acidity. Palate had lots of acid (medium plus), with less tannin, and a strong cranberry attack turning to sour red cherry in the mid palate. There was a mineral bite on the finish. Overall, the wine was rustic, and some felt that the wine was somewhat flawed. Definitely not something you would find on the local shelves. 14 pts.

This wine was the 2010 Gonzales Bastias Pais, from Chile. Annette (my fabulous better half) and I bought this wine in 2014 at the winery, after a three hour excursion from the town of Talca on highway 5 towards the coast along a dirt road hugging the side of the mountains, where we were never quite sure we were headed in the right direction. When we got to the town of Gonzales Bastias and were worried that we had found the town instead of the winery, a local shopkeeper assured us we were in the right place. Then he had us follow him down to the Maule river, whereupon he rowed us across in a small rowboat, and pointed us up the hill to the winery.


Gord and friends on the rowboat

Quite……..unusual. The couple that run the winery (Jose Luis Bastias and Daniela Lorenzo) are dedicated to preserving the traditional varietal – Pais – and the traditional techniques.


Jose – the winemaker
Gord and Annette in front of Winery

The vineyard was planted in the early 1800’s and has been in the family ever since. All farming and vinification is biodynamic and without the use of machines. Fruit is pressed by hand over bamboo zarandas into open top cement vats, and the wines are then aged in either barrels or amphora.

Gord with the concrete vats

Nothing is added, not even sulfur. The wine is truly unique.

Wine #2 – Gonzales Bastias Pais

Wine #3 – this wine was inky. It had a tight nose, with notes of toasty dark fruit. Quite a departure from the two previous wines. Low plus acid, low/medium tannin, with a sweet chewy dark berry fruit. Not overly oaky. This wine is really ripe, some in the group felt it was overdone. 16.5% alcohol! Very California style. Big wine that was similar to a big ripe zin. 14 pts.

This wine was a 2010 Sierra Ridge, a winery that has a tasting room in Sutter Creek. The varietal is vranac, which is indigenous to the region that includes today’s Montenegro, part of Serbia and southern Croatia. The grapes for this particular wine were grown in Amador County in the foothills.

There had to be a California wine!

Wine #4 – this wine was medium plus ruby. It had a light cherry, slightly herbal nose. The palate has low acid, low to low/medium tannins, with a palate of red cherry fruit and herbs. The wine was fairly well balanced but did not seem to have alot going on. It improved as it sat. 14+ pts.

This wine was a 2013 Domaine Comte Abbatucci Cuvee Faustine from Corsica. It’s a blend but is primarily Sciaccarellu – try to say that after a few glasses. I find Corsican wine, red or white, often goes well with seafood. I think this wine, with its light body and herbal somewhat minerally character, would have worked with salmon or some other fairly full bodied fish.

Ahhh, finally the Sciaccarellu!

Wine #5 – this wine was dark to very dark ruby. The nose was cherry and dark berry, with a herbal note. Low plus acid, l to low/medium tannin, earth red berry flavors with an acidic finish. The finish overall was a bit odd, but I liked the attack flavor and the nose. 14.5 points.

This wine was a 2014 Chankaska, from Minnesota. I picked it up when I was in Minneapolis last year, on the recommendation of staff at a local wine shop. The varietal is Marquette, which is a complex hybrid with more than two varietals in its lineage. Marquette actually has eight different Vitis species in its lineage.  In addition to Vitis vinifera, there is also Vitis riparia, labrusca, aestivalis, lincecumii, rupestris, cinera, and berlandieri, all of which are different North American species of grapevine. One of its grandparents, the vinifera in the mix, is Pinot Noir. Why all this cross breeding? It gets kind of cold in Minnesota, so hybrid grapes are typically planted to withstand the winters.

The Minnesota entry!

Wine #6 – this wine was slightly less than dark. It had a herbal, salty nose. A lot of people said pepper, some white and some black. I didn’t get that, but I am not good at smelling pepper. My pepper sensitive people seemed to be getting it loud and clear. The palate had low plus acid, similar tannins, with earthy soft red cherry flavor and an almost cheesy/earthy note near the finish. Pepper was more obvious in the palate. This wine got better as it sit. 15 pts.

This wine was a 2013 Chateau Feuillet Torrette from Valle D’Aosta in northwest Italy. The varietal is Petit Rouge. This varietal is thought to be indigenous to this area. This wine was somewhat mercurial, with several people announcing their distaste upon first sampling. This immediate reaction was recanted later in the tasting, however, as the wine shifted and improved. This was my favorite wine of the flight, it had lovely balance and light flavors.

The favorite – for me and for the group

Overall, the group preferred #6, followed by #1 (matching my scoring). #3 was the least favorite of the group. My least favorite was #2, although I did not really dislike any of these wines. They were all different and unique, which was the point of the tasting in the first place.