Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Another Renaissance, and Another

A recent, small flood of Renaissance Vineyards wine has compelled me to open two floodgates, lest the dam burst.

First up, a short and easy note about the 2004 Renaissance Syrah, which I brought to my friend Paul's dinner party, at which he made a bacon-flecked quiche. This is a relatively early, easy drinker compared to the 2002. Its acid core is less mighty, its essence slightly less profound, but it's still nothing less than terrific. It features roll-your-eyes-back-in-your head aromas of meat and spice and all the dark, lively fruit you could hope for. And it's pure, motherscratcher, thanks to the clear Sierra skies, the thin granite/diorite soils, and the organic viticulture. Now, I didn't spend as much time with my wine as I might have, as the dinner party was a lively ricochet of conversation, but I noticed it, secretly and otherwise. Yes, I noticed.

The 2000 Renaissance Cabernet Sauvignon, which I drank at home over the course of three days, is one fascinating time trip. The grape is typically not my thing and I wasn't bowled over by this wine, but it is most definitely alive. The first day, it's a massive, impenetrable wall of black and blue fruits, a hint of espresso, and tannins. Although it was obviously not overextracted, overripe, or overoaked, I could only taste youth and climate.

It's shocking to me that a 2000 California cab can taste so young and primary in 2008, but that's part of the story here.

This was a different animal on day two. Hello, red fruits! The nose was dusty dark cherry as if it were Sangiovese in drag. I was not expecting this. The robust acidity was delivered with well-structured red fruits of pomegranate, cranberry, and cherry, and if the finish was still a bit short, it had a nice, high presence at the midpalate, and it went nicely with my Middle Eastern food.

On the third and final day, secondary characteristics of leather and spice box emerged. The cherry flavors flagged slightly yet maintained some refreshing acidity, while the tannins likewise softened without losing all sense of structure. Time to break out a brisket.

Renaissance claims that due to their low yields (1-1.5 tons per acre on average), their production costs are anywhere from 5-6 times the Napa/Sonoma averages. If Napa averages 4-5 tons per acre, the math isn't quite there, but no matter: the drinking satisfaction is exponentially higher; and yet this Cab cost just $30, a bargain compared to many a slop pail sloshed out in Napa.

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