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A Southern California Wine Council Gathers for an End-of-Summer Review

The lovely tropical garden of two of our members’ home in San Diego was the recent setting of Wine Council’s end of summer review of wines.  We tasted a Pinot gris and a rosé from Cameron Hughes and a Pinot gris and a rosé from Mount Beautiful, plus three Pinot noirs from Talawind Ranch. Each member was assigned a wine to research and was asked to bring an appetizer or dish that would pair well with his or her assigned wine.


We started our tasting with the two Pinot gris.  Cameron Hughes is neither a vineyard nor a winery, but rather a wine trader that sources its wine, in bottles or by the barrel, from various wineries all over the world. This 2017 Pinot gris Lot 631 came from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Lot numbers are assigned by Cameron Hughes to each wine they acquire - they began over ten years ago with wine labeled Lot 1.  This medium-bodied wine is made from 100-percent Pinot gris grapes and was aged in stainless steel.  The color in the glass is a pale straw; aromatics are pear with subtle tropical hints. On the palate, I found flavors of apple, pear, and a touch of minerality.  Paired with shrimp ceviche, the wine took on touches of citrus flavors.  ($12)

Our second Pinot gris tasting, a 2017 Mount Beautiful Pinot gris, is from North Canterbury, New Zealand. The first thing that stands out about this wine is its lovely golden champagne color.  With a floral bouquet and flavors of juicy pear and crisp apple, it was a favorite of the council.  The savory antipasto pairing contrasted nicely with the wine’s fruity notes. ($18)  To learn more about this winery, read my article Exploring New Zealand's Mt. Beautiful Wines.

Two rosés were next on our tasting agenda.  The 2017 Cameron Hughes Rosé Lot 639, from Arroyo Seco, Monterey County has a lovely pink-coral color.  Made from the Valdiguié grape traditionally grown in the south of France, this wine has a floral, strawberry nose and flavors of ripe strawberries and crisp apples. This is a dry rosé with a hint of honey. Paired with crab stuffed mushrooms, its fruitiness was balanced with the saltiness of the seafood and the earthiness of the mushrooms.  We all agreed this Valdiguié varietal was especially enjoyable.  ($13)

A 2018 Mount Beautiful rosé tasting followed.  Made from 65-percent Pinot noir and 35-percent Pinot gris, it has a soft salmon color and a rose floral bouquet.  The dominant flavors are strawberry and melon.  The crisp, dry finish was contrasted with the creaminess of the paired selection of soft imported cheeses.  ($18)

We ended our council review with a vertical tasting (ordered by different vintages of the same wine type) of three Pinot noirs from Talawind Ranch Vineyard. Located in the middle of the Russian River Valley, Talawind Ranch was originally a 20-acre horse ranch, named after the previous owners’ Arabian horse, Talafire.  Patrick Melley of neighboring Russian Hill Estate Winery purchased the ranch and planted the majority of the land with Pinot noir grapes; three acres were planted in Sauvignon Blanc.  The Russian River Valley appellation lies in the heart of northern California’s Sonoma County.  Warm summer days that cool off in the early evening from fog that rolls in from gaps in the coastal mountain range, along with rich alluvial soil (eroded sediment deposited by water), make this cool climate especially conducive to growing Pinot noir grapes. 

2016 Talawind Ranch Pinot noir:  The color in the glass is a deep ruby – darker than expected for a Pinot noir. Aged in French oak barrels, it has aromas of spice and root beer.  On the palate there are flavors of berry and dried red fruit.  The nuanced earthy finish was complemented by the prosciutto and pear flatbread pairing.  ($30)

2015 Talawind Ranch Pinot noir:  Medium ruby in the glass, this wine is noticeably lighter in color than the 2016.  Aromas are herbal and fruity.  This is a medium-bodied wine with soft tannins and flavors of black cherries and red berries. The paired grilled peaches stuffed with homemade ricotta balanced the wine’s dark fruit flavors.  ($30)

2014 Talawind Ranch Pinot Noir:  This wine was aged in new French oak.  With notes of black cherries and baking spice, this medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine has flavors of black cherries and purple plums.  Structured with silken tannins, this wine paired well with creamy hummus and fresh tabbouleh.  We enjoyed all the Pinot noirs, but this vintage was a favorite.  ($30)


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