Saturday, May 9, 2009

UCLA Recent Grad Reception 2009 - Wine Party on Campus

My weekend of wine tasting started right after work on Friday. Well, “right after” if you include the hour of bumper to bumper traffic and twenty minutes of getting lost between me and the vino. My friend invited me to the Recent Grad Reception at UCLA, which this year had a wine tasting theme. I was expecting a few tables with some generic wine – but let me tell you, my alma mater knows how to throw a party.

In addition to a couple crowded beer brewery tables, there were thirty wineries pouring over one hundred wines. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get to all of them in the space of two hours, and with a long drive to Santa Ynez ahead of me, I didn’t even try.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a few wineries from my home town, so out of a sense of duty and pride, I hit those first. Dragonette Cellars did justice to the Valley’s reputation for producing impressive Pinots with their 2006 Pinot Noir, and the next table over was Los Olivos-based Demetria Estate that practices the highly questionable “biodynamic” method of winemaking.

What excited me however were the new wineries testing out their first few vintages—the “recent grads” of the vines, if you will. Terravant Winery is opening a new wine tasting facility this summer in Buellton that will have spaces for five local wine makers to pour their stuff, and two of them were at UCLA: Thorne Wine, predictably pouring a Pinot, and Pacific Ridge.

The 2005 Pacific Ridge Pinot was good, but the strong tannins could use a year of storing to soften the edges. The 2006 Pinot, however, had a sweetness that balanced the tannins and was – oh god, I’m going to say it – quite quaffable. Ok, now I’m laughing at myself. Who actually says that? The best part is that Pacific Ridge Vineyards is owned by a UCLA alumnus, and I think I heard him correctly when he said there might be a discount for his fellow Bruins.

The stand out of the evening was Malibu Solstice. It’s so new that they don’t even have a website up yet, but their Cabernets are so full of energy that my eyes went wide at first sip. They were pouring their 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons. All came from the same vineyard, from the same grapes in Malibu – but they were worlds different from each other. The owner said the differences were solely due to the weather each year. The 2004 and 2005 were conventional, the owner and I agreed on that. But the 2006 was exceptional with fruit that bowled me over and a dark plummy floral nose. Well balanced and full of personality; nothing light about it. The 2002 was all about the plums, round and full-bodied, and a little sweet. The 2003 was like sucking on a good cigar – I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a wine that screamed CIGAR on no uncertain terms. I’ve licked butter slathered oak trees masquerading as California Chardonnays, and I even got a nose of skunk and Santa Maria fertilizer (again, in a particularly unfortunate Chard), but I have never tasted a Cigar in a glass of wine. It’s like the vintner used the wine cave as a humidor. Fantastic. I love wines that are unapologetic about what they are, and that is what Malibu Solstice specializes in producing.

Today, I'm taking time to rest and do some research for my next article on the less expensive tasting rooms in the Santa Ynez Valley, and tomorrow, it's more wine tasting.

1 comment:

Lauren :) said...

He definitely did say discount :)