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At “Wines of Danger,” some gems



Carlos Danger didn’t show up, but that was probably a good thing, for we could concentrate on the task at hand: tasting wine, at this trade and media “Wines of Danger” tasting, held Monday at San Francisco’s tony, modernistic Press Club.

Why they called it “Wines of Danger,” I couldn’t say, except that it seems like every event needs a catchy moniker these days. At any rate, I took BART into the City, for there were (a) a few winemakers I already know and wanted to see, and (b) quite a number of wineries I’d never heard of and wanted to discover.

Part of my job for Wine Enthusiast is to make sure that “not a single sparrow can fall to the ground” [Matthew 10:29] without me knowing it. I obviously can’t taste everything in my region of California (the coast), but I can try and be aware of new wineries. So here are a few of my discoveries. I am not assigning numerical ratings, as I do at Wine Enthusiast, although, if I did, all these wines would score highly. While these are not formal reviews, I do hope the winemakers will add me to their samples lists.

Paro. The owner/winemaker, Patrick Murray, works at Fieldstone for his day job; Paro is his own baby.

2010 Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir ($30). Nice, Burgundian touch of earth and mushrooms to the cherry pie and cola. New oak not yet integrated; needs time.

2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($30). From the Laguna area, deep, dark aromas and flavors of cola, rhubarb, black cherries, highlighted with brisk acidity. Classic Laguna, but needs 8-10 years.

2011 Tudor House Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($30). So different from the others. Softer, almost sweet, but complex and fruity. The alcohol is fairly hefty.

2012 Jasper Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($30). Just bottled. Tight, but very rich, a full-blown Burgundian Chard, barrel fermented and 100% malolactic fermentation. I would buy this.

People’s Wine Revolution. One of the owner/winemakers is Matt Reid, who makes the wine at Ballentine. The brand name refers, not to politics, but to Matt’s desire  to make wine affordable.

2008 Bea’s Knees Petite Sirah, El Dorado County ($15). Rich and full-bodied, with sweet blackberry, licorice and cedar. Give it a breather.

2011 Massa Ranch Syrah, Yountville ($18). After a bit of swirling opened to reveal bacon, black pepper, mulberry and cedar. Needs a few years. Good price.

2012 The People’s Viognier, Salem Ranch, Yountville ($15). Classic varietal, with tropical fruits, peaches, limes. Crisp, acidic and rich.

Site. Owner/winemaker Jeremy Weintraub makes the wines at Adelaida; this was his first showing ever of his own brand.

2012 Roussanne, Santa Ynez Valley ($40). Huge amounts of tropical fruits, honey, buttered toast, but balanced with acids. This is a blend of the Stolpman and Larner vineyards.

2012 Larner Vineyard Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley ($25). Almost blowsy, with sweet tropical fruit, citrus, white flower (honeysuckle), but saved at the last moment by acidity and minerality.

2012 Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah, Santa Maria Valley ($50). Very tight and youthful, rich in acids, blackberry jam and coffee notes. Not ready. Better towards 2020.

2012 Larner Vineyard Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley ($50). Gorgeous aromatics. Black pepper, blackberry jam, dark chocolate, roasted meat. A sensation. Drinkable now despite the tannins, but will age.

2012 Larner Vineyard Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley ($50). Extraordinarily rich, with raspberry, mocha and cedar flavors. Almost sweet, but pulls back into dryness at the finish. Give it 4-5 years.

  1. Oh no! It’s Patrick Murray who makes Paro. Patrick Ridder makes Farm Life. Both Patricks are dear friends and great guys. We’re sad you didn’t make it over to our side for some Eclectic wine. Maybe next time! We’re glad you came!

  2. Wendy, thanks. The official Wines of Danger program, which I depended on, lists Patrick Ridder as the owner/winemaker for Paro.

  3. Appologies from me to Patrick Murray….I erroneously put Patrick Ridder twice in the program. I knew there was a mistake out there waiting to find me, but since no one said anything at the tasting I thought “wow”…..I guess I did ok…..I hope he accepts my appology….thank you Steve for showing up and showing support! We small producers need and appreciate your attention.


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