Highs & lows

pelicanAlta Maria – A pure drop-in, at a winery (it might be slightly more correct to call this a project) of which I’ve never heard after the beyond-enthusiastic recommendation of the behind-the-counter guy at Qupé.

Unfortunately, his description does not fully, or in fact even partially, conform to what I taste. The wines aren’t bad at all, for the most part, but there’s nothing particularly special about most of them either. Euphemasia quickly sets in, and by the end there’s also a sort of strange fascination…like being tied to a chair while watching a Michael Bay film.

Alta Maria 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley) – Grapes. This tastes like grapes. Mixed apples, crisp enough but softening residual sugar (not, analytically, much at all…yet it’s quite detectable), and grapes.

Alta Maria 2009 Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley) – Green fig, ripe tangerine. Good acidity and a deft use of wood. Long and solid.

Alta Maria 2009 Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros (Santa Maria Valley) – Blood orange and plum. Medium-bodied. Central Otago-ish. I like it, but it’s a bit of a stumbler.

Native9 2009 Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros (Santa Maria Valley) – Big and leathery, with just about the darkest fruit one can extract from pinot noir. Very long, with steady and impenetrable density throughout. This is massive, but it’s also a very good wine.

Native9 2008 Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros (Santa Maria Valley) – Liquorous cough syrup heavy on the menthol, plus massive tannin that hasn’t quite escaped its green stage.

Alta Maria 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Ynez Valley) – Were this from a more recent vintage, the appellation would apparently be Happy Canyon. A mix of ripe and green tannin…and if the first thing I write about a wine is a description of its tannin, one can assume they’re prominent…chocolate, and cloves. Note, also, that I haven’t actually mentioned anything in the fruit realm; between tannin and barrel, there’s not much else to this.

Autonom 2008 “Rhône Cuvée” (California) – The winery web site’s description of this wine:

A subtle Violettes de Toulouse aroma is captive to a prominent Chambord and white pepper presences which makes this wine appear like a beast. On the palate, however, the Grenache and Mourvedre expand the richness of the Syrah to create salivating flavors of strawberries, pomegranate and cranberry relish which all transition into a brandied char which gives lift and added dimensions to the finish.

While I suppose I can’t top that (and why would I try? it sounds disgusting, like someone let an arsonist loose in a speakeasy), I also can’t endorse it. Can I? My notes speak of chocolate, booze, chocolate, spice, chocolate, blueberry and blackberry syrups, chocolate, jam, chocolate, makeup, and chocolate. So, actually, maybe I’d prefer their version.

Autonom 2008 “Law of Proportions” Syrah (California) – Smells like breakfast: bacon, blackberry syrup, brioche. Pretty good acidity (hmmmm), spice, and berry skin tannin in pulsing waves. An assault rifle of a wine.

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