Thursday, October 16, 2008

Visit to Renaissance, Part 3 - Barrel Tasting

After completing the tastings from bottle (see part 2), John Brooks and I drove back up to the winery to taste from barrel. We were greeted by Shawn, the cellar master, whose wine revelation came from tasting a 1988 Beaucastel. Now he gets to work hands on with many of the Rhône varietals that Beaucastel uses alongside the Bordeaux varietals.

As you can see from the photos, Renaissance ages much of their wine in barrique. Most barrels are 2-4 years old, although there's a smattering of both neutral and new oak. But they also have some old German oval barrels as well, which if my memory is intact was used for aging riesling in the old country, although Renaissance is not afraid to use them for cabernet and syrah.

Shawn was kind enough to run around during a busy time of year — the cabernet and syrah had only been harvested from the Granite Crown the day before — and as the barrel tasting session was quick, my notes were sparse. So I apologize for the brevity. Anyway, I only use proper nouns below when I am sure that I was tasting what will end up as-is in bottle.

semillon from 2008
Still cloudy like glacier water, as you'd expect from a wine just put to (neutral) barrel, this is already showing very well: it has terrific acidity and the minerality is strong.

sauvignon blanc from 2008
Renaissance no longer bottles a varietal sauv blanc, to the dismay of their older customers. And considering the length and spice I found here, could I blame them? I have a feeling that the Bordeaux blend, the Carte d'Or, will really be something in '08.

cabernet sauvignon slope 1 from 2008
I'll just admit right now that I can't say anything insightful; I am too inexperienced to taste such a young red to know where this is going. But it did strike me as good material. Sourced from slope 1, which I understand is not a source for the top bottles.

Syrah Vin de Terroir 2006
This stuff is absolutely phenomenal, with great balance and depth. This needs plenty more time, but already I'm getting violets for days on the nose.

Clos Saron Black Pearl 2006
Renaissance winemaker Gideon Beinstock has his own label, Clos Saron — more about this in the next post — and the Black Pearl is a blend of cabernet, syrah, a bit of petit verdot for richness, and possibly some other grapes (Beinstock has used sauvignon blanc in the past for this blend). This is a beautiful and multidimensional wine: like a great short story, I can come at this from many directions, although the minerality stood out for me.

Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Terroir 2005
There's a lot to chew on here; my response to this is intellectual for the time being. It certainly has the potential for great harmony, as everything is in its place. Though it may not be released for many years, I will eagerly seek this out.

Granite Crown 2005
This cabernet/syrah blend is more approachable now than the above cab, and it's beautiful stuff. The licorice notes that are not uncommon in Renaissance wines are already apparent. It seems to me, based upon this wine as well as the '99 Le Provencal, that these Granite Crown blends are earlier drinkers when compared to the Premiere Cuvee or Vin de Terroir bottles. So stuff that info in your back pocket and keep it handy. Unless, of course, I'm wrong.

Up next: a visit to Gideon's own winery and vineyard, Clos Saron. It may be but a mile away from Renaissance, but it has its own story...

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