Wine Review: 2008 Kenneth Volk Enz Vineyard Mourvedre

11 01 2012

The bottle looks exactly like it tastes: black label, black wine.

How many old-vine, single-vineyard, 100% Mourvedre wines have you ever heard of coming out of North America?  Before last month, my number stood at zero.  Then my best friend Marc, a burgeoning wine lover himself (I’m working on it), got me this bottle for Christmas; it was one that he had tried at a party and couldn’t get out of his head, leading him to hunt it down and grab one for each of us.  It was about the most intriguing Christmas gift that I got this year — obviously I do good work in picking friends.

While most California winemakers would shy away from grapes like Mourvedre in favour of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and other varietals more recognizable to the general public (and therefore more sellable), Kenneth Volk seems to immerse himself in them.  While his company Kenneth Volk Vineyards also makes the classics, it produces a special series of “Heirloom Varietals” wines that examines and honours “underappreciated rarities” that don’t often get their day in the sun in the US.  Mourvedre certainly qualifies — while I’ve seen it in a GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre) or two from my home continent, I’ve never seen it get the spotlight to itself domestically until now.  This particular Mourvedre is from the Enz Vineyard located in the tiny Lime Kiln Valley AVA in central California:  it can be found just southeast of San Jose, about 1/3 of the way south from San Francisco to LA.  Interestingly (or crazily), Lime Kiln Valley finds itself immediately beside the San Andreas Fault, one of the more tectonically unstable places in the world (you want interesting soils as a winemaker?  Plant in an earthquake zone!).  Even cooler, this bottle comes from one of the oldest grapevine plantings in all of California:  almost 90 years old, the Mourvedre vines in Enz Vineyard were planted in 1922.  Think of all the wines that come out of California.  Now think that, pre-dating almost all of them, before “California wine” meant anything to anyone, there was this lone patch of Mourvedre planted in this obscure valley close to the coast.  Who would plant Mourvedre in California in 1922?  Who knows?  But that decision let me, almost a century later, crack open this mysterious and alluring bottle, because it had previously worked its magic on a great friend.  Wine rocks.

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Wine Review: 2008 Juan Gil Monastrell…and Is Kraft Dinner the Perfect Wine Food?

20 03 2011

Old-vines Monastrell...or Mourvedre...or Mataro...or whatever.

Super interesting Sunday night wine tonight:  the 2008 Juan Gil Monastrell from the lesser-known Jumilla wine region in eastern Spain.  This wine comes from grapes grown on 40+ year old vines; the older the vines, the less fruit they produce, but the more concentrated and complex that fruit is (the wonders of Mother Nature), which is why producers trumpet Old Vines if they have them.  Monastrell is a grape of many names, all of which strangely start with M:  apart from its Spanish name, it is known as Mourvedre (and sometimes Morastel) in France and Mataro in Australia.  I don’t know if there’s any kind of movement afoot to create an Esperanto-like universal world wine language, but if there is, I would sign the petition.  What makes the Juan Gil interesting is that Monastrell/Mourvedre/Mataro is usually a blending grape that gets added to wines made predominantly of other varietals in lesser quantities to boost the blend’s colour and structure; very rarely does it get to be the star of the show in a bottle of wine, but this Juan Gil is 100% pure Monastrell, front and centre. Read the rest of this entry »








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