This week a supplier stopped by the store on their way to an appointment in Asbury Park. A hip wine bar was opening and the beverage director wanted to sample some true boutique and artisanal wines from California. Since he had the bottles and the time, the idea was to share them with a fellow wine nerd (that’s me) who would be jazzed by what separates these wines from the mass market stuff.
We started with a Napa Valley Chenin Blanc with a couple hundred case production, that was sourced from a single vineyard, and aged in neutral oak. From the complex fruit on the nose you knew this wasn’t a Chardonnay, too soft to be a Viognier, which could pass for Marsanne but alas…no, Chenin Blanc. Opulent in texture and hefty in weight, I imagined settling into a bottle of this with Chicken Cordon Bleu and roasted vegetables. Ah, it is lovely to dream.
Next up was a Santa Barbara Syrah from a rouge winemaker who’s Rhone varietal focused wines don’t dance to the critics expectations or the changing fashions of the moment. Purity of expression, from the absolute best grapes that can be sourced, crafted into a wine of singular character gives the taster the impression they are experiencing one of the worlds rarest offerings. In a way it is so, a cult producer’s limited production wine is meant for a very select few. Practically purple in color, the silky texture belies the underlying structure that carries the complex mix of black fruits, with no discernible “pepper” characteristic so often defining the Syrah grape.
Micheal Dashe is assured a place in the vintner’s hall of fame for his tenure at the legendary Ridge winery. Now on his own he still specializes in Dry Creek Zinfandel. It was a pleasure to audition his “Wild Child” spin off project Mendocino County Zin. All sustainable and organic fruit is assembled and fermented with native yeasts in a purely non-interventionist method, resulting in a balanced, even feminine expression of the Zinfandel grape. Highlighting the raspberry and strawberry fruit characteristics, Dashe’s restrained 14% alc. was a refreshing alternative to the high octane versions that have become the norm.
These fascinating wines made for lively conversation and plenty of side notes summing up wine industry anecdotes till my vendor had to run to make his wine bar appointment. Left to myself in the store I mused what it would be like to offer these gems here at EZ. The part of me that considers myself a wine merchant says; “Of course you should represent these wines, they will set you apart from the chain stores.” while my experience tells me; “Don’t go sticking your neck out for an unappreciative customer base who wouldn’t support the labels anyway.” So these wines, all of which would sell for less than $25., will forever be possible wines, that could be found at EZ, but aren’t.