It’s been a great few weeks on the tasting front. Lots of Burgundies to begin, then some terrific wines from Oregon and then to cap this week off a series of explosive wines from California. YES! California. As many of you know, California wines are generally not high on my love letter list. But in the interests of forever expanding my wine horizons I agreed to an early morning tasting with Joshua Klapper.
Joshua has quite the resumé. As the youngest sommelier at Sona Restaurant in Los Angeles he won the coveted Wine Spectator Grand Award for a restaurant wine list in 2004. He then worked, in the field, for two icons of the Californian wine world - Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat) and Bob Lindquist (Qupé)., before setting out on his own to create his own wine ‘music’.
Timbre is the name of his winery - pronounced tamber, it means the ‘color’ of music; it is what makes two voices different even as they sing the same song. As Josh says: “It is why two winemakers, working with the same vineyards, make unique wine. As a terroir-driven winery, we make wines expressive of the places and times from which they came. As winemakers, we channel those sites through our experience, adding our own mark- our TIMBRE- to the resulting wines.”
Josh’s vineyards are in the Santa Maria Valley in the Santa Barbera AVA. This has always been one of my favorite AVA’s along the Californian coast. It is one of only two sites along the entire western seaboard where the valley, and hence the mountains, lie west to east. This orientation harnesses the cool ocean fog and air to keep the daytime temperatures low, and coupled with historically low rain falls, creates a situation where the vineyards benefit from a very long growing season. One of our most popular wines, both at Wine at Five and at the Red Pony, the Presqu’il chardonnay and pinot noir come from this AVA. And, I discovered, Timbre source grapes from the Presqu’il vineyard! They also source from such acclaimed vineyards as Bien Nacido and Riverbench Vineyard.
Let me preface my reviews by explaining what I want from a Californian wine. And if you can relate to these tastes then I think you too will love these wines. For chardonnay I am not averse to oak. What I hate is for a winery to fake bad fruit with a saturated oak taste to mask the deficiency of the original fruit. Rather than make a bad wine tolerable they just make it even more disgusting. They should think of changing careers and becoming a politician possibly. When oak is used as a storage vessel, when it is used to mellow out a wine, round it, then it can be a delicious additive. I also want a chardonnay to taste like chardonnay. I want yellow stone fruits, acidity, balance; texture and completeness. I want to be romanced by the wine. Josh’s ‘Opening Act’ chardonnay ($28.00) is such a wine. He somehow managed to source from two of the most famous vineyards in the valley - Bien Nacido and Sierra Madre. These legendary vineyards gave Josh the tapestry to create an amazing chardonnay. Mineral driven, zippy, globs of white flowers and a silky, viscous texture. The length on the palate is reminiscent of great Chassagne Montrachet.
For a pinot noir to win me over the wine has to be ‘temperate’. By that I mean it shouldn’t require a 20oz T-Bone steak to make it drinkable. It should be elegant, mineral bound, complex. It should not smother me with saturated fruit or oak; should not make me think I am drinking Bourbon, and if I taste anything resembling saccharin that’s it.
Josh makes two pinots. The first is ‘Supergroup’. We actually tasted both his new release - 2015 and his 2014. I preferred the 2014 ($35), not just because it had the extra year in bottle, but it was less ‘in my face’. It was calmer, less vocal! The fruit was delicious and blended seamlessly with the high-toned acidity. There was plenty of kirsch cherry and rose petal and then the acid came through in the form of cranberry with a tinge of cinnamon. This was pure music in a glass.
The second pinot we tasted was his “Lead Vocals Bien Nacido Vineyard 2012 ($48). The grapes are sourced from a tiny area of the Bine Nacido vineyard that was planted back in 1973. The ‘own root’ vines and the vine age seem to create a complexity and stuffing rarely found in American pinots. I loved the age on this 2012 - smoky, earthy, foresty (is that a word?). On the palate, resonant dark cherry, roast plum, strawberry and cranberry adding lightness and acidity. The color is a beautiful brick red. This wine was intoxicating, and I can’t wait to drink it with a roast leg of lamb. Delicious.
I really want you to try each of these wines. I want you to invite a few friends over for dinner and open each wine in turn. Savor these wines with food, friends and great music.
To that end here is this week’s combo:
Box set of 3 - 1 Opening Act, 1 Supergroup, 1 Lead Vocals
Box set of 6 - 2 of each wine
I do not have much inventory in store - I bought all the Supergroup 2014 and all the Lead Vocals 2012 left in NYS. I have a bottle of each of the pinots open today, so if you want to try before you buy please stop in today.