Saturday, October 24, 2009

Triumvir Wines: A Virtual Winery

Can a virtual winery compete with actual wineries? Can a virtual winery produce high quality wines? At the Wine Riot 2, I discovered at least a partial answer to these questions. And what I found was very positive.

Triumvir Wines is a Crushpad virtual winery, and I know from previous news stories that some of these virtual wineries have done very well. Triumvir is a collaboration between three friends, and I got to meet two of them, Mike Castle & Brian Blomerth. They certainly seemed to be passionate people to me. And they have chosen a challenging road for themselves.

They only produce about 25 cases of each of their wines and the wines are only sold online or through their wine club. Plus, the wines are not cheap, typically selling for $38-$44 a bottle. At this time, they are only producing Pinot Noir and Syrah. They have received a bit of a boost as the Wine Spectator reviewed their 2007 Pinot Noir and gave it 92 points.

I tasted three vintages of their Pinot Noir, from 2006 to 2008. The grapes come from the Amber Ridge Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, an excellent place for Pinot. This particular vineyard is located on hilly terrain in the central Russian River Valley. "The vineyard is characterized by cool morning fog which yields to warm afternoon sun. Overnight temperatures cool significantly which is favorable to achieving perfect ripeness in the grapes."

The 2006 Pinot Noir ($42) was my favorite of the three vintages. It had a very pleasing nose, subtle fruit smells of strawberry and cherry with a touch of earthiness. On the palate, it was velvety smooth, with very mild tannins, and delicious red fruit flavors punctuated with spicy notes. It was very Burgundian in style and very much impressed me. Its lengthy finish was very satisfying and I could easily drink this on its own or with a nice meal of duck. This wine is worth the price.

The 2007 Pinot Noir was left in contact with the skins for a bit longer so it had more concentrated flavors and was also spicier. It did seem a bolder wine and I enjoyed it, though my personal preference was the more subtle 2006. The 2008 Pinot Noir had only recently been bottled and really needs some more time in the bottle before it is ready, but I could detect the promise in its taste. At this point, it reminded me of the 2007 than the 2006.

I got to taste two vintages of their Syrah, 2006 and 2007, which come from different vineyards as well. The 2006 Syrah ($38) is from the Eaglepoint Ranch in Mendocino County (also where Sean Thackrey gets some of his grapes). The Syrah was a big, bold wine with intense black fruit, pepper and spice flavors though it was also complex and well balanced, with a long finish. This is definitely a food wine, something for a thick steak or a roast. This wine impressed me and I believe it is worth its price too. The 2007 Syrah is from the White Hawk Vineyard in Santa Barbara and is an even bigger and bolder wine, though maybe it will mellow a bit with some aging.

So, Triumvir is making some delicious wines, obviously of high quality. But, as the wines are only available online, what does that mean for the poor Massachusetts consumer, barricaded by our oppressive wine shipping laws? Fortunately, Triumvir can legally ship to Massachusetts so we are in luck! Such great news. I will be ordering some of their wines and strongly recommend that you check out their wines as well.


The Wine Whore said...

I think the answer to your second question comes down to the source of the grapes... using grapes from the RRV is a great foundation.

As far as the first question, as you have stated, these wineries are going to be at a slight disadvantage. Creativity in marketing and sales will probably make the difference between a virtual winery that succeeds and one that falters.

Should be interesting to see how these wineries do over time.


Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Randy:
Thanks for your comment, and I do agree with you. MArketing and sales will be a significant challenge for these virtual wineries, and hopefully those making quality wine find ways to get it out there, available to the public.