I took a trip to San Luis Obispo and the associated wine country for Labor Day Weekend. While I didn't take comprehensive notes, I'll include a few highlights from each winery. Tastes were all in the $5 to $10 range with most closer to $5. A lot of wines were dumped along the way here, to be honest, except at Wolff, which had a 100% success rate. Not that the wines were great--they just were not abusive to the mouth as some earlier in the day. But dumping is a good policy anyway, and I suppose a little help from less compelling wines is a good thing!
Laetitia: Should have stuck with just the sparklers and Pinots here. The Roussanne was fat and oily with a seeming surfeit of oak. The Pinot Blanc had a fresh nose, but was light on flavor. The '06 Nadia Red, a Bdx blend, smelled like cherry liqueur and was simple and super-ripe. Tasted the Brut Blanc and Cuvée M sparklers and true to form, the blanc de blancs was higher in lemony acid while the Cuvee M was a bit rounder in apple and toast flavors. Both were fruit forward in CA fashion. Five Pinots, five impressions. The '08 Reserve was a bit oaky and extracted, but had good typicity and depth for a fair $35 price. The single vineyard Pinots each displayed a specific character; I enjoyed the 2007 La Colline most for its freshness and purity. La Coupelle and Les Galets were both more masculine and extracted, albeit it good in their style. At $60 per bottle, though, they're about $10-$20 above the competition per my experience. A clone 115 Pinot was also tasted, which seemed more fruit-forward.
Phantom Rivers: This was an underwhelming tasting. I did like their 2007 Larner Vineyard Mourvedre enough to buy it as it had gaminess and dark fruit, but the wines seemed otherwise lackluster. Their Pinot showed a sweet-sour quality with very ripe fruit but also some obvious green aromas and flavors. The Cab and Zin both had that liqueur-like quality and were simple, fruit-forward wines. Whites were typical--oaky Chard, feline Sauvignon Blanc.
Talley: Another disappointing tasting, albeit more due to style. The Chards were uniformly oaked into oblivion. It wasn't just butter from ML and body from sur lees aging, but overwhelming toast and splintery flavors. One of the higher end single vineyard Chards (Oliver's, perhaps) was better balanced, albeit by higher acid, better flavored fruit than a reduction in the oak regime. I did like their 'basic' Estate Pinot, though it seemed a bit attenuated aromatically to justify the $35 price. The higher end Pinot, '07 Rosemary's, was more extracted and oaky, albeit reasonably good for the style. At $70, though, easy pass. I ended up enjoying their $10 '06 Rock Sold Red the best. It smelled like roasted bell peppers, jalapenos, tobacco and more generally a vegetable recycling bin. Quite drinkable, and reminiscent of a cheap Chinon or Bourgueil in the excessive herbaceousness. By far the wine with the most character in Talley's lineup despite its severe imbalance.
Wolff: Small winery with a fairly large vineyard. Again, a fairly rustic style in general. Chard and Riesling both seemed a bit off-dry despite being listed as dry. The reds were fairly nimble and acidic. Not a ton of depth, but good qualities as tables wines. The $20-ish price point is just within the acceptable range for food wines like this. The Syrah and Pinot were both keepers (and quite light in color for their respective varietals), though the Pinot hinted at an unexpected bell pepper quality. The Petite Sirah is a cool climate one and quite distinctive. It needs years to unwind, though the cigar box quality on the nose is quite intriguing.
Day 2 to follow in my next post.
Day 2 to follow in my next post.