lulu, hillsider companion

lulu, hillsider companion

Friday, December 4, 2015

Snow on Lassen and Shasta, winter rain for the Valley; 2012 Mt. Tehama Shiraz (another base hit); and preparing for El Nino...

Wow! We're finally beginning to see some normal seasonal weather, complete with cold rain, a little sleet, and some snow in the higher elevations of the foothills and mountains, so far mostly at 4,000 feet and above, and it feels most of you know, it's been a while for us here in California, particularly here in the far North Valley. Looking out the window, both to the north and southeast, I can just begin to see that the patchiness of the snow fields on Shasta and Lassen have been smothered over with significant levels of new white stuff, but whether wet or powder is a mystery at present. The ski resorts were hoping this storm would dump enough to get them open and humming after a couple of disastrous seasons, and skiers and boarders all across this part of the state are packing into cars, vans, and SUVs at this very moment and heading out to try their luck. Hope it goes well, folks. Happy snow!

Pleased to say that we (I) finally got focused enough to locate a wine we've been looking forward to trying for some time now, that being the 2012 Shiraz from Mt. Tehama's winery in Manton, near Shingletown. I've been trying for a couple of months to find time to make the relatively short (and pretty) drive from here in Redding to the winery, but still haven't been able to pull it off as of today. I'll make a point of it within the next few weeks, though, and report back here after I've done so; I'm very impressed with the two wines I've tasted to date, those being the 2012 Petite Sirah, reviewed here several months back, and now the Shiraz, and I'm looking forward to meeting the man behind the effort, Alain  Teutschmann. Alain and I have been in fairly regular contact for a while now, and I'm intrigued by what he's accomplished to this point, particularly since I have a fondness and attachment for Rhone-style reds that goes back more than 30 years, having been a long-time friend of Sonoma's Foppiano family, makers of what I condider to consistently be one of the half-dozen best red wine values in Calidfornia, that being their estate Petite Sirah. Don't misunderstand: I'm not ready to put Alain's wines in that category yet, but one day he might find himself there if he keeps doing what he's doing. After all, the Foppianos have been making their wines at their home just outside Healdsburg for more than 100 years, so they have a sizeable head start.

Having said that, let's get to the Shiraz. First, it's important to remember that although they sound very much alike, and share some basic characteristics, particularly their typical deep color and depth of flavor, Petite Sirah and Shiraz (or Syrah) aren't the same and shouldn't be judged by the same yardstick. Nor, for that matter, should Australian Shiraz be directly compared to French Syrah, because the traditional vinification styles differ and the final products, though usually recognizable as brothers and sisters, are different, as most brothers and sisters are. So, having thoroughly muddied the waters, let's proceed. Mt. Tehama's 2012 Shiraz is a very nice wine, and will be even better in the future; I'm sure of that. It is deeply colored, literally purple-black, and richly scented with black fruit notes and some vanilla and allspice. There's still a little heat in the nose, which lingers for the first half hour or so, so it's best to get the wine into the glass to breathe for a bit before you get into it seriously. Decanting would be a good idea if you had the time, but certainly isn't necessary; the wine begins to soften and open in the glass before you know it, but retains the Rhone-ish earthy bite in the finish all the way through the bottle. A bit more bottle age will moderate that particular characteristic.
The dark fruit, particularly a ripe plumminess overlaid with strawberries, is the dominant profile on the palate, and the wine finishes with some oakiness overlaid by the same dark fruit beam that runs through the entire wine. Very nice now, and, as we said, will continue to improve for a while in bottle. I'm not sure which of the two I prefer, or even if I do favor one over the other; they are both very good, and well worth seeking out. The price is right, too. For those of you working on winter wine lists, especially by-the-glass, this is an opportunity to tag a wine that;s right for the seasonal fare your kitchens are going to be producing, and to show your customers/members that you can do something other than follow the herd.

As promised in our last letter, we're about to launch our series on North State tourism attractions; first one (Mt. Lassen and surrounds) will be up this weekend. Also, I hope we can coax Chef Dan into providing something for next week...we had some great feedback on his White Cheddar soup, so I know there are several folks out there waiting...


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