I heartily recommend the Saturday tastings at the Austin Wine Merchant. They’re free and feature interesting, stylish wines that you probably haven’t heard of or tasted before. I have a slight infatuation with the shop right now, I’ll admit, which will likely fade as I start putting out my wine shop feelers closer to my new workplace, Anderson and Mopac. Yes, I know: Grapevine. We’ll see; I could have been much more impressed the last time I was there.
I tasted 6 wines at the AWM last Saturday, all from the Pellegrini Family Vineyards in California. Robert Pellegrini and Moreno Panelli were there, representing the winery, as was Alison Smith of Texacali Wine Company, who represents Pellegrini in Texas. Ali is a fellow blogger, writing about her experience running her small wine sales and marketing business at the Texacali Wine Trail. She’s a charming woman who reps an interesting portfolio, and it was a pleasure to meet her.
Wines are listed in order of tasting:
Pellegrini Olivet Lane Chardonnay 2005 ($22): Pretty yellow straw in color. Hazelnut, cream, some butter and lots of ripe pear on the nose. Nice tart apple and spice on the palate. Great mouthfeel & long, pear-influenced finish. No pronounced acidity, but some mild mineral character gives it good balance. One of the better chardonnays I’ve tasted lately.
Pellegrini Olivet Lane Pinot Noir 2006 ($35): This was my favorite of the 5 wines tasted that day. Clear, light garnet in color. Rose, strawberry and cherry on the fetching nose, with just a hint of herbal character. The palate shows great earthy character (enough for structure, but not so much that your mouth looks like an Orbit commercial), with flavors of macerated cherry and tannins that grasp once and then let go immediately, acting as a gentle forcefield of flavor. I found this wine to be very elegant, bright and charming.
Pellegrini Carignan 2005 ($18): Deep ruby in color. There’s a slight floral cast to the raspberry, strawberry and brambly fruit. The grippy tannins taste a little green, with savory bacon notes and a thin slather of jam. Slightly austere, but crunchy-chewy-tasty. The grapes for this wine are purchased from the Piferro Home Ranch in Mendocino. The vines were planted in 1934 by Ric Piffero’s grandfather (or paw-paw, as we say in Texas), and this is actually a field blend of mostly Carignan with some Barbera and Zinfandel. Considering that the vineyard yields only slightly more than 2 tons per acre, this wine is a pretty decent value.
Pellegrini Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($27): Big earthy nose, with lots of dirt, coffee, tobacco and black fruit. Medium- to full-bodied, with tannins evident but balanced, and excellent deep cassis fruit and hints of dark chocolate. Lengthy finish of black raspberry and thyme. This is a preferred style of Cabernet for me: less fruity-bo-booty and more earthy than many. The Cloverdale Ranch is in Alexander Valley. When I went back by the AWM mid-week, I was told that a customer had bought out their entire stock of this wine (it looked like about 4 cases), assumedly for a party. I’m sure Alison will get them more supplies soon, but just so you know.
Pellegrini Milestone 2005 ($45): Plum, cassis, vanilla and earth on the nose, with blackberry and dried herbs as well; the nose is very integrated, like a good Bordeaux, and very distinctive and perfumed. I found green and black pepper on the palate, with tobacco notes and ripe bramble fruit. This wine has a great, sunny character, but with good structure; the fruity warmth and tannic backbone are well-balanced.
The Milestone was made to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the winery, and contains all five Bordeaux grape varieties (those being Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot). Bob Pellegrini said that he’d wanted to make a meritage blend for a long time; he had St Emilion and Pomerol in mind when blending this mostly Merlot-based wine. He tentatively figures this wine to age for 6-10 years.
Bob told me he cut his teeth in the wine business with Alex Lichine, and developed a real love for Bordeaux and Burgundy. His grandfather told him years ago that when he got older he’d prefer younger wines, and he’s found that to be true, although he was a collector in his youth. The photo, which I borrowed from Ali’s wine blog, is of Bob and Moreno in Luckenbach, Texas, where everyone’s somebody.
If you’re a state patriot, you’ll be happy to know that Bob’s wife’s family is from Johnson City. Classy wines from almost-Texans at Pellegrini!