Thursday, November 12, 2009

2007 Alonso Family Vineyards "Adrian" Tannat California

Hmmm...Wine Expo is certainly an interesting place. There doesn't seem to be many places that are selling Tannat, much less Tannat from a vienyard located just about an hour outside of Los Angeles.

For those not familiar with Tannat (and I'm guessing that's probably 99% of the wine-drinking public, myself included), it's a grape that originated in the Basque country of Spain. It's also the grape that makes up the French AOC of Madiran, which is located next to the Basque country in Spain right along the Pyrenees. Basque settlers brought the grape to Uruguay in the 1800's, where it's become the leading grape. Tannat was first brought to the US by professor Eugene W. Hilgard, who grew it at UC Berkeley. In the 90's, Bonny Doon and Tablas Creek started to use it as a blending grape in some of their wines. It's still pretty rare; as of 2005 there were only 140 acres. California has over 400,000 acres of vines, so that isn't a lot.

This particular wine comes from Camarillo, CA. For those of you not familiar with Los Angeles, that's right outside of Thousand Oaks. Within an hour of Los Angeles. Alonso Family Vineyards is owned by Juan Alonso, who owns the restaurant Le Chene. 14$ at Wine Expo. Initially on opening this wine, I was greeted with what I can only describe as one of the most off-putting aromas I've ever experienced in a wine. It wasn't corked--just seemed very green--so I dumped it into a decanter for a couple of hours and shook it up quite a bit. Eventually, the wine exhibited aromas of licorice, mint, and cassis, which were followed up by fairly sweet fruit, more herbal notes, and a plush texture. Despite the fact that this wine is made from Tannat, it isn't overtly tannic--it's plush and fruity. Not too much of a finish. You know, I really wanted to like this wine. It's local, it's weird, and it's way off the beaten path.  It's not bad, but it isn't a good deal, and it isn't that exciting other than the "I'm drinking Tannat! From Los Angeles! WTF?" factor. C-/C   


CabFrancoPhile said...

You've been on a tough run recently. It's been educational for me, though. This reminded to try my Tannats sometime, an Irrouleguy and a Madiran, both with a decent splash of CF in them. (And not to try CA Tannat!) The problem is I get these obscure things, then hoard them because they are hard to find locally.

Camarillo is a fairly cool location, I think. Given where Tannat is grown in France, it's a curious choice.

Jeff said...

No, I don't think it's been a tough run. It's always educational. This wasn't bad, it just wasn't anything all that great.

Camarillo is kinda warm I think. Right by Oxnard? I guess it's maybe a little higher elevation wines. Anyways, it says on the website that they told the guy not to plant vineyards but he did it anyways...the wines are interesting. Local, you know?

Jeff said...

Dude you should try one of those Tannats tonight. Always a good time to try something different.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Oxnard, in terms of the city, has a pretty much direct path to the ocean, no mountains. So it should be pretty similar to Santa Barbara as far as weather: usually 60s and 70s with tons of fog. Pinot, Syrah and Chardonnay grow in similar conditions in Lompoc. But a hearty grape built for continental weather like Tannat probably likes 80s and 90s (and tolerates 100+). Rhone reds in SB and Paso are generally grown behind the coastal ridges, at least.

I've also read that sun exposure eliminates the 'green' methoxypyrazine aromas and flavors. With marine layers and the short summer days relative to higher latitudes like basically all of France, that might explain the offensive aromas in the Tannat. (Incidentally, I think this is related to high alcohol in SB wines, they harvest later to get more sun exposure, but sugar also goes up in the process.)

I know, I need to get on the Tannats. I'm worried the tannins will be insane, though. My girlfriend doesn't tolerate tannins like I do.

Jeff said...

Dude. You're totally right. I just looked at the average temps for Oxnard. Pretty temperate. Weird. I thought since they grow so many strawberries and stuff like that it would be a lot hotter. Plus, every time I've driven through there on the way to SB, it's been super hot...but I guess that was the summer.

This one wasn't too tannic, but I've heard that others are. So you're girl friend doesn't like tannin? Well, if it makes you feel better, mine doesn't like Riesling. Lame.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Yeah, things bake during heat waves, but those are sporadic. I'll often look at the weather and it'll be like 90 in LA and 75 in SB, though.

Chics, man. My girlfriend loves wine, too, but she definitely prefers lighter wines. Maybe a Pinot or a dry rose would be her dream wine. She's basically right that tannins can dominate the other flavors. But sometimes you just want a tougher wine. And it's our fault if we drink it too young, anyway.

Riesling hate, that's tough to understand. Is it the kerosene smell?

Jeff said...

I live in Manhattan Beach, but work in Commerce, which is SE of LA. (It's a total shit-hole...all zoned industrial.) Anyways, there have been days just like you said where it's 75 in MB, and almost 100 in Commerce. Crazy stuff. I am in love with the marine layer...

Yeah, she hates the Kerosene smell and also doesn't like the slightest bit of sweetness. Sounds like your girlfriend is a lot more discriminating. Mine likes wine, but she isn't really into it all that much. She likes Pinot too, but we don't drink a lot of it. Generally really expensive.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Yeah, Pinot is too expensive to drink. We buy them sometimes, but they get put away for holidays, etc.

I forgot Viogniers, she loves those, too, mainly for the bouquet. Sometimes they're a bit clumsy and alcoholic to me since they usually harvest pretty late to get the jasmine, honeysuckle and apricot aromas.

I can understand the anti-RS sentiment. But there's a big difference between an off-dry Kendall Jackson Chard and a good off-dry Riesling. One is kind of cloying, while the other is balanced by high acidity.