Monday, August 12, 2013

Birthday Wine

Image by Lolita
Denise and I don’t really count our birthdays, but we do celebrate them for the entire month.  She gets the better of the Birthday Month concept, though, with a date that falls near the end of the month.  Mine, on the first, tends to be forgotten in the swirling miasma that is life in L.A.  Hers is a constant beacon for us, offering four weeks of fervid hoping that every little event undertaken lives up to the expectation of Birthday Month.  It’s a tough act to follow once, let alone thirty days.  It makes for a lot of fun, though.

The 2013 edition of Denise’s official birthday celebration was held at Della Terra in Los Angeles, a nice little neighborhood Italian place.  Displaced New Yorkers will feel at home here, even more so if you are a Yankee fan.  That’s what they like to watch up on the big screen.  Denise, like everyone else with that name, has roots back east, so she enjoys the atmosphere there.

It was a warm evening, and a good time was had by all, despite the repeated disregard of the “no gifts” portion of the invitation.  Or maybe it was, at least partially, because of that blatant disregard.  At dinner, we enjoyed two wonderful wines brought by friends - a Hitching Post Pinot and a French sparkler.

The Hitching Post Cork Dancer Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County 2010 is made by the restaurant team of Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley.  Winemaking began as a hobby for them in the ‘70s, turned into a sideline for the restaurants in the ‘80s and has since blossomed into a full-fledged venture of its own.  They produce their incredible wines at Terravant, a production facility in Buellton which has a pretty fine tasting bar/restaurant upstairs.

Ostini and Hartley have a stated mission to, “put a slice of Santa Barbara in every glass and a piece of their soul in each bottle.”  That may sound high-minded to some, but only to those who have never had a glass of their wine.  Their handful each of Pinot Noir cuvĂ©es and vineyard designates give reason to celebrate whenever their corks are popped.

Cork Dancer 2010 comes from grapes grown in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley appellations, mostly from Bien Nacido and Rio Vista vineyards, two of the more storied plots in Santa Barbara County.  The aging occurs in French and Hungarian oak, 35% of which is new.  A bottle sells for around $20.

The wine has a very floral nose and showing dark fruit and spice.  A blast of lovely, tart cherries and plums hits the palate, and there is some very nice acidity to make a food pairing seem like a natural.  A dark, fruit finish really sets off the sip.  This Pinot is more Burgundian than Californian, showing a lot of restraint in the winemaking process.

Domaine du Moulin Brut is a non-vintage sparkler from the Gaillac appellation in southwestern France.  Winemaker Nicolas Hirissou makes this delightful bubbly from Maussac, the most predominant grape of the region.  It is a hard-to-find wine, but not expensive.  Marge found hers from North Berkeley Imports.

They offer some production notes: “Wine is made according to the ‘Gaillac method,’ also called the ‘ancestral method.’  Young wines are bottled before all the residual sugar has been fermented into alcohol; the fermentation continues in the bottle, releasing carbon dioxide.  There is no dosage. “

This brut gives up some fine bubbles and has a bouquet of earthy fruit and a crust of toast.  The flavor profile is quite fruity with a mineral streak a mile wide and melon on the finish.  It’s a fairly complex experience.  The gals thought it had a beer-like quality but I didn't get so much of that.  What struck me was the lovely sweetness, rather unexpected after the dark earthiness of the first sniff.  And with no dosage - the addition of sugar before the final corking - it’s all from the grapes.

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