Wine(s) of the Week:
J. Lohr Estates showcases distinctive character of Monterey County wines in 25th vintage
by Dwight Casimere
MONTEREY COUNTY, CALIFORNIA--J. Lohr Estates made the first vintage of its eponymous Roverstone Chardonnay 25 years ago. In honor of its first vintage, the winery has just released its 2011 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay ($14), which includes grapes from its original 1972 estate plantings as well as fruit from newer plantings. The result, from loongtime Winemaker Jeff Meier, is a wine of stunning finesse and elegance. The wine has a softness that brings out its more textural elements, the result of meticulous winemaking and the unique cool climactic conditions that mark the Central Coast region. "We'r not afraid of cool vintages,"Meier says. "Some of my favorite vintages are the coolest, but you have to understand them."
That is an understatement. Meier seems to not only understand the unique climate of the Central Coast, he's also devised a distinctive method of nurturing the gapes through the winemaking process to create a wine that has the full flavor of the fruit, clearly outlined with great definition, and rich, ripe flavors of apple, citrus and nectarine flavors, to create a wine with intense varietal character, yet with a significant palate weight and palate-cleansing acidity. This is the perfect wine to go with food, especially the types of light, summertime fare that emphasizes seafood dishes, such as scallops, bright pink salmon, shrimp and lobster and crisp, astringent salads, such as Caesar salad, Waldorf salad and that summertime classic, Cobb salad.
The wine has an attractive pale straw color and a slight perfume of roasted hazelnuts and a butterscotch bouquet all couched in a mouthful of citrus and fleshy yellow fruit flavor brought on lengthy barrel fermentation and sur lie (extended yeast contact) aging. The resulting layers of complexity reveal a yummy vanilla toastiness and silky texture that achieves just the right balance of fruit and acidity.
2011 J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Valdiguie, Monterey ($10) is one of the greatest values out there in terms of flavor benefit for an extremely great price! Its perhaps the most distinctive wine in the J. Lohr portfolio. As a conversation starter, ask the guests at your next garden party to blind taste it and guess how much it costs. Don't be surprised if they come in at numbers far beyond its actual price! Grown on J. Lohr's estate vineyars in the cold, windy Arroyo Seco (Spanish for "dry stream"), Valdiguie is a wine reminiscent of the "Crus" (first growths) of Beaujolais, only no where near the price. Red Winemaker Steve Peck did a mix of traditional red wine fermentation with whole cluster fermentation, to achieve a wine with a rare combination of softness and dark fruit notes. The wine is fresh and vibrant with the capability of being both a terrific standalone wine, to be drunk as an aperitif or a raw-room type wine appreciation exercise, or as a great accompaniment to a summertime meal of grilled meats or study, wood-planked or smoked fish. Pick any of your favorite strong cheeses, such as a hefty Roquefort or Blue Cheese or a hearty Stilton, and you'll see how this wine carries the day.
2011 Falcon's Perch Pinot Noir ($17) is another price-friendly creation that proves that California Pinot Noir doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to make a significant statement at the dining table. This under $20 beauty is long on flavor and is one of the most velvety expressions of Monterey County Pinot Noir out there. Distinct, with rich, dark fruit flavors and a velvety texture, it has the depth to take on a grass fed steak or smoky, spice-rubbed ribs with its deep concentration of flavors and fresh, clean acidity.
2011 South Ridge Syrah ($15) similarly accentuates the rich fruit flavors and strong tannins of this classic grape from the Paso Robles region. Its almost a perfect red wine with its hint of smokiness from aging in lightly toasted and just a touch of spice. The oak never dominates, but only serves to enhance the delicate fruit flavors and soft texture of this red wine that just bursts with red berry flavors. This wine is just brimming with ripe, whole berry flavor!
2012 J. Lohr Estates Bay Mist White Riesling ($10) is another value-priced wine that will stun the would-be wine experts in your immediate circle. The measured approach to winemaking heightened the fresh fruit flavor and bright color of the wine, creating an Riesling of outstanding taste and character. J. Lohr uses a Stelvin closure (screw cap) to preserve the freshness of the wine and lock in its spectacular fruit flavors. The wine is labeled with the International Riesling Foundation's Taste Profile Scale to mark the wine's place along the dry to sweet spectrum. J/. Lohr has been growing Riesling in the Arroyo Seco since 1972. The 2011 vintage is a testament to the two and a half decades of experience of Winemaker Jeff Meier and his team. you won't find a better tasting Riesling at any price!