Vintages Pre-Release Tasting—Alsace & California

May 26, 2011, Vendange Institute

Reported by Rod Story

Guild director Ian Duncan led the tasting. Thirteen wines shared, with five of the six Alsatian on offer, and four from California with a few from other points around the world.

First flight favourite was the Cattin Muscat, with a lovely floral nose rose petal and honeysuckle following through on the palate and less dry and acidic compared with the other wines. Shrimp with mango salsa was the suggested food match. Second favourite was Trimbach Riesling with a steely mineral nose and a rich fruit core on the palate, showing zippy acidity and tasting young perhaps needing up to five years to tame. The Tres Olmos Verdejo has a nose of sweet ripe fruit (pear, quince) with a lemon/ grapefruit palate – a food wine that would be great with salads. The Faller Geisberg Riesling was less popular due to sour notes and an awkward structure, suggesting maybe grapes picked immaturely— again perhaps time would tame?

Clear favourite of the second flight was the Hugel Pinot Gris. It had a nose of honeysuckle and light lanolin with good body in the mouth and clean lemon drop flavour, albeit a bit short. Ken Forrester’s Chenin disappointed with muted and rather nondescript nose and flavour, seeming somewhat out of balance. Best value of the evening was the Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc. This was second favourite but when price was revealed, everyone was impressed by the sweet nose of rich honeysuckle with surprising palate follow through richness and a medium finish considering price.

A “buy it and drink” wine, recommended with appetizers on the patio.

Our third flight was tainted by the Predator Zinfandel, which was badly corked. Why value producers won’t embrace screw tops is a puzzle. Some members thought it still showed merit and they’d try it nevertheless. Getting past that disappointment the group was equally but favorably split on the remaining two wines. The Cattin Pinot Noir, second favorite of the evening, was light in colour with candied cherry on the nose and a fine palate of sour cherry juicy acidity, recommending matching it with llight chicken and salmon. The Ardal was also popular, offering warm ripe berry fruit and cedar, with fruit following through on the palate with oak integrating balancing tannin and bright acidity typical of Spanish wines. Despite being six years from the vine it should develop over another three to five years.

Big wines arrived in the final flight. The group was equally split between the Fess Parker Syrah and Ridge Lytton Springs. The Ridge blend was opaque with a nose of blackberry, oak and cedar. The blackberry fruit came through on the palate with great tannins and sweet oak. It had great balance and finesse and should improve over at least 10 years. The syrah provided the greatest interest with a nose and palate of earthy herbs, white pepper and plum, though approaching 15% in alcohol not hot on the palate. It had a wonderful balance between the tannin, fruit, pepper and oak that should show well over the next 5 years. Pahlmeyer’s Pinot Noir was a surprising distant third, at nearly twice the price of the others and the evening’s most expensive wine. The earthy nose of ripe black cherry, and a rich and warm palate made for pleasant drinking but lacked the interesting complexities and sophistication of the other two.

Flight 1: Whites #1

  • Tres Olmos Lias Verdejo, 2009, Spain, #218354, $13.95
  • Faller Geisberg Riesling Grand Cru, 2007, Alsace, #225169, $20.95 Trimbach Réserve Riesling, 2008,
  • Alsace, #995316, $25.95 Joseph Cattin Muscat, 2009, Alsace, #224634, $14.95

Flight 2: Whites #2

  • Hugel & Fils Tradition Pinot Gris, 2007, Alsace, #118919, $22.95
  • Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc, 2009, South Africa, #231282, $17.95
  • Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc, 2009, South Africa, #158121, $11.95

Flight 3: Reds

  • Joseph Cattin Pinot Noir, 2009, Alsace, #224618, $14.95 Ardal Crianza, 2005, Spain,
  • Predator Old Vine Zinfandel, 2008, California, #219485, $17.95

Flight 4: Big Reds

  • Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir, 2008, California, #148536, $79.95
  • Ridge Lytton Springs, 2008, California, #982413, $43.95
  • Fess Parker Rodney’s Vineyard, 2007, California, #232546, $39.95