Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sutton Cellars: New Wines of Note

There are excellent value wines in California if you know where to look.  It may also make you very curious why one producer can offer artisanal, low production wines at such a good price when so many other wineries don't do so.  I don't have all of the answers, but throw my support and recommendations to those wineries offering quality wine at very reasonable prices. Especially when they are so delicious.

Sutton Cellars, owned by Carl Sutton and founded in 1996, is one such winery.  Sutton Cellars is now located in San Francisco and I have previously met Carl. You can read my previous article for more details on Carl and his winery.  In short, Sutton produces only about 3000 cases per year, half being a second label Table Wine.  The rest of his wines are produced in lots of about 100-300 cases, making them very low production wines. The wines are hand filled, hand corked, fermented with wild yeast, unfined and unfiltered. Most of the wines have less than 14% alcohol, high acidity and use less oak than many other California wines.   

Carl is down-to-earth, passionate and the type of person with which you would love to share a drink. Nick Martinelle, the wine manager and buyer at The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont, recently visited Carl's winery, tasting some of his new wines. This past weekend, Nick had Carl visit the store and present a tasting of seven of his wines, four of which are exclusively available at The Spirited Gourmet.  I attended the event, very much interested in tasting Carl's new wines as I enjoyed his previous wines so much. And I was not let down.       

We began with the Brown Label Vermouth ($17.99), a wine of which I am already a fan. This fine, dry and herbal Vermouth is excellent mixed with club soda and on ice.  Highly recommended.  Next up was the 2005 Table Wine Syrah ($14.99), with the grapes sourced from Bennett Valley (80%), Sonoma Coast (15%) and Ventana Vineyard (5%).  An easy drinking wine with a spicy finish, black fruits, restrained tannins, and good acid.  A great value and currently is an exclusive at The Spirited Gourmet.

The 2007 Carignane "Piferro Vineyard" ($17.99) is the second vintage that has come from this vineyard, which is located in the Redwood Valley. The grapes are about 70 years old, grow on red, iron-rich soils loaded with rocks and only 268 cases were produced. I previously reviewed the 2005 Carignane, from the Trimble Vineyard in Mendocino Countyand very much enjoyed it.  This new vintage is equally as delicious, with plenty of lush blueberry flavor and mild spice notes. It is an easy drinking wine, with some character, and is perfect with burgers, pizza, or even pasta. Highly recommended.

We then moved onto the single vineyard Syrahs. The 2007 Syrah "Contango Vineyard" ($24.99) is from a small, biodynamic farm in the Petaluma Gap of the Sonoma Coast.  The wine was started in barriques and after the second fermentation was put in stainless steel for nine months.  After that, it was placed into older French oak puncheons and only 187 cases were produced. It was intended to be in the style of a Northern Rhone, and they succeeded in that regard. Complex, black fruit flavors, intriguing spice tastes with some herbal notes. It also has an interesting gamey touch to it and is currently an exclusive at The Spirited Gourmet.

The 2007 Syrah "Corona Hill Vineyard" ($21.99) derives its grapes from a sustainable farm in the Petaluma Gap of the Sonoma Coast. Three Syrah clones were vinified separately, aged separately in New American oak and older French barrels, and then finally blended together.  Only 150 cases were produced.  This wine reminded me a bit of the Carignane as it had some similar blueberry flavors, though this Syrah had more red fruit flavors as well.  There were nice spice notes, mild tannins, good acidity and a very pleasant and long finish. Another wine I highly recommend and it is also an exclusive at The Spirited Gourmet.

Another compelling wines was the 2007 Syrah Noir "Londale Ranch" ($19.99), from the Sonoma Valley.  This is the first time that Carl has used this particular clone. The wine spends its initial 12 months in barriques and then spends 6 months in puncheons. Only 150 cases were produced and Carl considers this his most age worthy Syrah.  The most prominent flavor is graphite with ripe, black fruit, and a meaty taste. The tannins are stronger and the finish is very lengthy and satisfying. A complex and interesting wine, this is also highly recommend.  It is also an exclusive at The Spirited Gourmet.

All three of these Syrahs had significant differences, but were all intriguing in their own way.  They reflect cool climate Syrah, more reminiscent of the Rhone than Australia or the warmer areas of California.  I prefer this style of Syrah and Carl is certainly producing quality and compelling wines.  And at these prices, they are good values too.

The final wine was the 2007 Vino Genoroso Syrah Noir "Londale Ranch" ($22.99), a dessert wine which has an alcohol content of 18% and about 8% residual sugar. Though it has some sweetness, there is plenty of dryness as well presenting a nice balance. It has flavors of plum, black cherry, chocolate and black pepper. It was complex, has good acidity and a intriguing taste.  This would be a good choice for the holidays.

If you are not drinking the wines of Sutton Cellars, then you should be.  In short, they are delicious wines that make you crave more and they are very reasonably priced.  What more do you need?

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