As Sam Cooke says, ‘A change gonna come’. For me, the change begins with some details I have modified from last month’s review format. Why the departure? Because we are evolving. For starters, I have pulled back on the features of the wine review chart. After further evaluation, I just felt it read a bit over the top. Something a sommelier would ponder with hypercritical detail; much like a gambler would analyze the horse racing form. Instead, I’ve honed in on five main characteristics of wine reviewing.
As collectors will tell you, whether it’s classic cars or My Little Pony dolls, the more passion the person has for the ‘thing’ they are collecting, the more crazy they are about it and the more particular they will get when trying to explain the importance, the value, every minute detail.
Take for example - the early release of the 1989 Porsche 911 over the 1989 mid-year release. Even though when ‘the non-enthusiast’ looks at both, to them they are the exact same car. But are they really? The passionate enthusiast, the true collector, the genuine aficionado knows nothing could be further from the truth. They are in fact two completely different, unique and distractive autos. And I can tell you personally that the 1989 mid-year is the one you want. It is probably the best year of all the oil-cooled 911’s ever produced.
See what I mean? Forgive me while I digressed for a moment, but I really do have a ‘thing’ for Porsche and I’ll save that discussion for another time; maybe another column. So, back to the wine at hand before I get caught up on a wild Henry Miller tangent.
My intention is to keep this column (your column) unpretentious, witty and above all educational, all without over doing it. My thought is that by keeping to those points I mentioned and ‘giving’ you great content and absolute candor in every review, you just might keep coming back each month. And that is certainly my desire.
My dear readers, please join me for a wonderful glass of California Pinot Noir this month. We are going to ponder with our nose gay, view the hues of red, quaff our palate, gently swallow and bathe in the finish of a worthy wine.
Bear in mind there is one caveat I should tell you about, or rather a bit of ‘warning’. In addition to reminding you to ‘always drink responsibly’, I feel it is most necessary to point out that as you expand your palate and as the wines you drink become more reputable, richer and smoother in every way, it may in fact become harder to drink lesser quality wine. And a lesser quality wine almost always equals a lesser priced wine. I say this to you only because I am speaking from my experience and because if happens to you, I want you to know that it is ‘not lost on me.’ I say this because each month when I open the American Express bill and notice that my wine purchases for the month have nearly doubled from the month prior, not to mention that at this rate, I will soon be matching my wine tab with my mortgage payment. But alas, I am indeed a collector of wine. It is my passion, my darling, my 1989 mid-year 3.6 liter red 911 Porsche with camel interior obsession. And I so happily and humbly share it with you.
Belle Glos – Pinot Noir - 2010
Produced by: Wagner Family of Wines
Winemaker: Joe Wagner
This month’s wine of choice shares something in common with last month’s ‘Conundrum’, the wonderful white table wine. What this month’s delightful over the top pinot noir shares with last month’s white is that they are produced by the same family with one main difference. Joe Wagner, the son and grandson of the famous Caymus winery founders, is a 5th generation winemaker and a few years ago Joe stepped out on his own and has been producing Belle Glos through three different vineyards ever since. The winery’s that give him his distinguishing edge are Taylor Lane, Clark & Telephone and Las Alturas. Our focus this month will be the Clark & Telephone vineyard.
Clark & Telephone Vineyard is located near the corner of Clark Avenue and Telephone Road in the Santa Maria Valley. Well, that makes perfect sense to me. The name Belle Glos comes from Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, who is Joe’s grandmother as well as one of the main founders of Caymus; which I will be reviewing for you in December. And if I may take a slight segway at this juncture and say, “Whatever else you do, be sure Caymus is on your holiday list. Make room for it on your credit card and you will not be disappointed, because during the festive holiday feast, having a bottle (or 2) of Caymus on your table is all kinds of right! And yes, it absolutely pairs flawlessly with your Roast Beast.”
Review Note: I was trying to acquire a 2009 vintage for this review and could only locate the 2010. What is the difference? 2009 was/is a tremendous year for California grapes; near flawlessness across the state. 2010 is close and many varietals have been opening up well, but 2009 will be talked about for years. It is the vintage legends are born from. A point you will want to remember the next time you are out shopping for a really great wine, just remember California 2009. Also Bordeaux 2009 is also unbelievable.
From the unique wax cork wrapper that resembles Maker’s Mark to the minimalistic stylish design of the label; “Belle Glos you had me at first glance. You come from a family of exceptional wine makers and the way your deep ruby glow lit up the glass is a great way to begin.”
The aroma that peaked as the wine began opening up was wild berries, dry grass and a whiff of distant peach [note: As I sniffed the wine I was distracted by my dog and actually tipped the glass too far back and yes I inhaled the wine into and down one of my nostrils. Strangely enough that was when I noticed the peach aroma]. The flavor of this wine was exactly how I imagined it from the bouquet. The suitable high alcohol danced on the front of my tongue and then with a few swishes the wild berries began and once I swallowed the alcohol mellowed and what lingered was very pleasing sandalwood. I knew this wine needed a few more minutes so this review is based on consuming the entire bottle over the course of 45 minutes. [Note: I do not recommend such a task unless you are a trained professional].
Every ten minutes or so I approached a fresh glass and slightly new berry zest came to the front; strawberry came from the first glass and by the end of the bottle blackberry remained. The sandalwood finish that I first noticed opened up to a dry, but very subtle cinnamon and the slight tannin was gone by the time the bottle was empty.
Overall Belle Glos is a brilliant Pinot Noir. What this wine will develop into in time will be nothing short of exceptional. I would suggest looking for the 2009 or later, but also grab as many 2010s and hold for another year to 18-months, when it has had a fair chance to mature. But if you must consume now, let it breath for at least one to two hours prior. Like most Pinot Noirs, I do not recommend aerating as you would likely lose the fullness that makes it a most excellent choice.
Winery: Belle Glos
Location: Santa Maria Valley
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appearance (Color): Ruby
Aroma (Complexity): Wild Berry, Dry Grass, distant Peach
Body (Texture and Weight): Medium, fully balanced
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Strawberry, Wild Berries, Sandalwood
Finish (What lingers): Sandalwood moving into a dry Cinnamon
Food Paring: Mexican, Thai, Joe Wagner suggests Peking Duck
Final Rating: 91
Drink now through 2020
My rating system is based on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.
Wine points How good the wine is
95-100 Classic: a great wine
90-94 Outstanding: wine with superior character & style
85-89 Very good: wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
70-79 Average: drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69 Below average: drinkable wine but not recommended
50-59 Poor: undrinkable wine, not recommended
Wine Trivia –
Q: How many grapes are in a 750ml bottle of wine?
A: For most wines produced today it takes nearly 2.5 lbs. of grapes to produce one bottle or 600 – 800 individual grapes.
John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine aficionado, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry. He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science. With a desire for writing he switched to Creative Writing and then finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California as a graphic designer / sculptor. For over six years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals. For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noirs, but his true love is the Italian Sassicaia. As a way to pay for his wine collection he works as an online marketing manager / designer for an adult sex toy company. He is also training to be a certified master sommelier.