Sunday, November 8, 2009

Michel Schlumberger Winery

This is a somewhat longer post than normal, so be forewarned. One of the highest points of the California trip was an impromptu visit to the Michel-Schlumberger Winery in Dry Creek Valley.

From reading their winery blog I had been interested in the winery, and having found only two of their wines in the local market I wanted to taste more. I very much liked their 2003 Maison Rouge and the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, both of which were discussed here last Spring.

We were heading north on West Dry Creek Road and passed A. Rafinelli winery and spotted Quivira Winery. I visited both of these wineries in the early 1990's and still think they make good wine, though the Rafinelli wines are getting a little high in alcohol. Winery Creek Road, which leads to M-S, was dead center between those two wineries. We made the left turn and drove the quarter mile to the winery, pictured above, and stopped unannounced.

We were greeted warmly, especially by Luke, the winery's 14 year old Tibetan Terrier who stayed with us for almost the entire visit. Sometimes it helps to smell a little bit like a dog and give good ear scratches and tail rubs.

The three of us tasted several wines. Let's not beat around the bush - I liked every wine I tasted. All were flavorful and balanced and had moderate alcohol levels. 90% of the wine I drink is with food and each of the wines tasted would be delicious with food.

The 2008 Pinot Blanc was tart and refreshing. It almost reminded me of a Vinho Verde from Portugal. It was well balanced and just cried out for a plate of calamari or a summer picnic.

The wine I was least looking forward to was the 2007 La Brume Chardonnay. Most California Chardonnays for the last ten years have been food disasters. They are big, buttery, oaky and high in alcohol - everything I don't like with food. The problem is that they sell in the market place. After the second sip of this wine I knew that the decision to visit here was correct. There was good fruit, sharp acid and only enough oak to make the wine interesting. There was a little bit of spice and a good core of Asian pear, sweet, crisp apple and it finished with a hint of minerality. Thank heaven there was no syrupy pineapple in this wine. It would be great with a pan seared chicken breast on a bed of butter braised leeks and pine nuts.

The 2006 Pinot Noir was also a pleasant surprise. It was medium weight with bright cherry flavors and a wonderful earthiness on the finish. Good wine.

There were two Cabernets up next, a 2001 Estate Cabernet and and the 2006 version of the same wine tasted side by side. The 2001 was fully mature and laid back with a bit of fresh mint on the finish that I particularly liked. The 2006 was young and tannic but had greater body. It had good dark cherry and blackberry flavors, wonderful acidity and a wonderful finish. The 2001 is for drinking now and the 2006 is for putting away for a couple of years.

The final wine was the 2004 Deux Terres Cabernet Sauvignon, the reserve wine. It was a definite step up into the special treat category. There was a lot of dark fruit in this wine, especially fully ripe black plums. There was spice and earth, particularly I thought I could pick out a hint of cloves. There was a slight smoky taste in the finish. This was a big wine, but it was incredibly balanced and food friendly.

By the end of this day I did something I have never done before, I signed up for their wine club. I've visited a lot of wineries in California and elsewhere over the years but this was the first one where I liked everything they poured. At most wineries I will find a wine or two that I like and several that aren't really my cup of tea. I always felt it was better to simply buy the few wines I liked in the local market and not bother with the ones I didn't care for. With the difficulty of finding their wines in this area it was time to make an exception.

As the visit ended Luke was kind enough to walk us back to the car and he got one more ear scratch before we headed farther north.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliments! We try real hard to give folks something different and special (and sustainable). Very glad to hear we're doing our job right.

Tony Wasowicz
Vineyard Biologist

p.s. You're gonna LOVE being a Wine Bench club member. We've got all sorts of cool stuff coming up just for you guys...

Jim said...

Hey Dan,

Thanks so much for the kind words. We love hearing comments about our winery and I am thrilled our great staff showed you a fantastic time. And I am honored to have you as a Wine Bench member.

Jim Morris
Director of Retail Operations
Michel Schlumberger Wine Estate