2006 Cuvee Christie
Santa Barbara County
What we say
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Mission Codename: Guilt by association
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Locate a delicious Rhone-style blend from the
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Tercero Wines
Wine Subject: 2006 Cuvee Christie
Winemaker: Larry Schaffer
The Southern Rhone Valley in France is famous for its Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault based blends that dance on the palate with a range of flavors, richness and elegance. With the popularity and awareness of such wines, more and more California producers are trying their hand with proprietary Rhone style blends. While these blends do not have to adhere to the strict AOC restrictions, they do capture the style very well. Today’s selection, from the hills Santa Barbara County, is a perfect example.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A perfectly clear ruby red, with color concentrated to its glistening edges. When swirled, the wine shows a speedy surface that keeps moving long after you’ve stopped swirling – leaving behind densely-packed, chubby legs thattake forever to emerge before they creep slowly down the glass
Smell – Layers of Rhone floral and fruit with dark and sweet flavors of candied strawberry poptart, sweet Rainier cherry, sweet pipe tobacco, herb rubbed smoked meat, mint and minerals
Feel – A really interesting attack that starts off creamy and then becomes tangy. The tannins are sweet and medium firm and the wine takes a moment before coating your mouth, especially at the rear palate
Taste – Sweet and fruit-forward with ripe cherry, toasted oak, plum, soft tamarind, smoky blackberry and raisin with mild licorice and a hint of toasted oak
Finish – Medium long and semi-dry, with plummy oak and an herby minerality
Conclusion – A sweet and tasty fruit bomb of a wine, I am pleased by its floral nose and sweet fruits. If you are a Rhone Ranger and love big floral and big fruit, this is a new world and distinctly California example of a classic Cuvee. Best suited as an aparatif or dessert wine would likely go great with a fat slice of chocolate cake or chunk of dark chocolate.
Some people believe in the notion of guilt by association. In the case of today’s winemaker, the association is his work as an associate winemaker for Epiphany Cellars and Fess Parker Winery, both in Santa Barbara County.
The guilt? Well, in this case, its a guilty pleasure. Larry’s Cuvee Christie is a sweet and juicy near dessert of a wine!
We fell in love with the Fess Parker and Epiphany wines that we featured earlier this and when we dug into the backgrounds of the winemaking team, we discovered Larry.
We made immediate contact, procured samples and tasted through his line. We liked what we tasted and we decided to cellar a few bottles, on a hunch that a few months in the Spy Cellar would only improve the wines. Our patience paid off! The Cuvee Christie was especially improved. Today, we declare Larry’s Double C (our name for the wine, not Larry’s), a fruity-sweet wine that is a perfect aperitif or even a companion to a nice piece of dark chocolate.
With its creamy feel, this wine is not exactly port-like in its feel or style. Instead, present here is great California fruit, making this a real wine that is plenty fun to sip and savor – or frivolously gulp.
Thanks, Larry, for diligently reminding us to revisit your wines! I’m sure that our Operatives with enjoy your wine as a unique treat.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Named for my ‘partner in crime’ (who also happens to be my wife and best friend), this is the first of many ‘blends’ we plan on producing. It is made up of 60% grenache, 30% syrah, and 10% mourvedre. Each component was fermented and aged separately, and the final blend was ‘combined’ about a month before bottling.
It’s been described as ‘liquid cherry fireworks in your mouth’; as a combination of rhubarbs and liquid tar; as ‘big and fruity’; as Dennis Schaefer described in the Santa Barbara News Press – Perhaps the top of the Tercero line is the 2006 Cuvee Christie, a grenache, syrah, mourvedre blend that has plenty of flavor action with additional dark fruit underpinnings but also shows restraint and balance to become a complete red wine.; And lastly, how James Laube from Wine Spectator, just stated in a review last week: ‘Smooth and complex, with layers of dried berry, black cherry, mineral, and savory herb notes that are fresh and lively.’
From a winemaker’s perspective, this was and is simply a fun wine. I fermented each of the components separately – the Grenache from Rodney’s Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley and Watch Hill Vineyard in Los Alamos; the Mourvedre from Camp 4 Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley; and the Syrah from Camp 4 Vineyards and Tierra Alta Vineyards in the Ballard Canyon area. All were aged for approximately 18 months in 1-3 year old French oak. Each component was racked only once during its life prior to blending. The final blend was put together about a month before bottling – each of the components was put into a tank, mixed and allowed to ‘marry’, and then put back to barrel until bottling.
This wine has changed dramatically in the 6 months since bottling, taking on much more weight and complexity. The fruit forward aspect of the wine is still present, but is now sharing the stage with complex aromas and flavors of dried herbs, licorice, dark chocolate, and a touch of ‘something extra’ . . .This is a dichotomy of a wine – something to enjoy with pizza with friends; something that can be enjoyed at the end of a meal with some dark chocolate (yep, I tried this and it really is a great combo!); or something to sip on its own, allowing it to open and change in the glass over time.
In other words, give it a shot – I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
About The Winery:
Tercero Wines is not only a business but a passion as well – it’s a labor of love to be able to produce these wines and put together a package that does honor to the inputs mother nature has provided (and we have as well) to end up with the final wine. This is why we’ve chosen to use the packaging that we have – all screw caps, simple bottle designs, earth tones on our labels, etc.
Our main goal with this label is to provide wines that you’ll enjoy drinking – whether you want to open them today or years down the line. We also want to ensure that each wine be unique and stand apart from all others that we produce – you can be assured that the 2 grenaches offered, for example, are very different from each other (but both are yummy!).
We are committed to developing strong relationships with you, our customers. Please stay in touch and let us know what you think of our wines – your feelings upon tasting them, impressions of our package, what you’re pairing the wines with. We will post some of these on our blog and will strive to keep the flow of information steady.
Appellation: Santa Barbara County, California
Vineyard location: Multiple Throughout Santa Barbara County (see above)
Grape Varieties: 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre
Cases produced: 190
Suggested retail: $28.00 / bottle
Release date: June, 2008