Tasting No. 228(Virtual) – March 29, 2021 – Red Blends from California North Coast

Tasting Overview:

  This tasting includes two red blends from California’s North Coast. California’s North Coast AVA is vast, covering more than 3 million acres (1.2 million ha) of land to the north of San Francisco. Its large size should not be taken as an indicator of low quality or a lack of regional identity, however – the area is home to some of the wine world’s most valuable and distinctive real estate. The Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Russian River, Stags Leap and Carneros districts – the aristocracy of American wine – are all located here in the North Coast.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Clarita Estrada y Jorge García-García

The wines are:

2016 Halcón – Esquisto Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County

NV Locations By Dave Phinney “CA” Non-Vintage

The menu is up to each participant discretion


: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jorge Claro, Clara Estrada,Michelle Fryer, Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Halcón – Esquisto Yorkville Highland, Mendocino County

The Wine: 

The 2016 Esquisto—a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah—is a little closed at present, opening with aeration to reveal notes of sweet red berry fruit, plums, Provençal herbs and underbrush that are quite marked by the blend’s dominant Grenache component. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, supple and somewhat firm and compact right now, with a fine-grained but firm chassis of tannin that asserts itself on the finish. After 24 hours, this bottle really opened up, so I have confidence recommending it—but a few years of patience will be required to realize all its potential. (Wine Advocate, April 2018) 92+pts

The Rhone blend of the estate is the 2016 Esquisto and it’s a rough blend of mostly Grenache with smaller amounts of Mourvèdre and Syrah. It’s a ripe, meaty, earthy barrel sample that offers serious intensity in its blackberry, blueberry, peppery herbs and earth-driven aromas and flavors. It’s tannic and structured, with plenty of fruit, and I suspect 2-3 years of bottle age will be its friend. (Jeb Dunnuck, July 2017) 91-93pts

Read more about the winery here: https://www.halconvineyards.com/

NV Locations By Dave Phinney “CA” Non-Vintage 

The Wine: This wine is a blend of Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Grenache.

Read more about the winery here: http://www.locationswine.com/




Recommended by Participants

2018 Conundrum Red Blends or Varietals “Red Wine Blend”

The Wine: This dark ruby colored wine from Conundrum opens with a black raspberry and milk chocolate bouquet with hints of spiced plum, cherry, vanilla and oak. On the palate, this wine is medium plus bodied with medium acidity. It is also balanced, juicy and round. The flavor profile is an extracted blackberry and blueberry blend with notes of integrated minerality, milk chocolate, spice and cherry. The finish is subtle and its flavors and mild tannins fade away nicely. The Panel suggested pairing this red blend with Peter Luger steak sauce marinated steak tips or just sip it by the firepit. Enjoy – KWGTP

Winemaker Notes: A deep cherry red, this vintage features vibrant, round scents that suggest what it will taste like on the palate. Aromas of fresh brewed coffee mingle with baked cherry pie, milk chocolate and freshly turned earth. Cherry pie flavors carry all the way through, along with a subtle smokiness, brown spice, light wood and a hint of black pepper. The weight and texture of this wine are perfectly balanced, with granular tannins providing both a smooth and grippy character on the complete finish.


Winery: CONUNDRUM/ Charles F. Wagner.

It all began at the dinner table. Charlie Wagner Sr. – who co-founded Caymus Vineyards in 1972 with wife Lorna and son Chuck – would mix wines to find the perfect glass to pair with his meal. No one blended wines back then, so his experiment was pretty radical. Fast forward to 1989, when Conundrum White was born, quickly taking off with its mysterious, tropical notes and amazing versatility.

Today it’s Charlie Sr.’s grandson and namesake, Charlie Wagner, who keeps Conundrum as inventive as ever. He launched Conundrum Red, a wine that is both lighthearted and serious. Charlie loves how there are no single-varietal rules when it comes to making these wines, and each has a unique style. They also showcase some of the best wine regions California has to offer, from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara County and many places in between.

A major force on the global playing field, California is the world’s fourth largest wine-producing region on the planet and the majority of land under vine here is devoted to red varieties, covering nearly double the vineyard acreage of whites.

While the state’s incredibly diverse terrain and microclimates allow for countless red wine styles, the one factor unifying all California red wine is the abundance of sunshine and a long, consistent growing season, which leads to well-developed and fully ripened fruit.

Conundrum  Red is a perfect complement to richly flavored or spicy foods like spaghetti a la puttanesca; Asian or Indian cuisine; Mexican food; and BBQ. The winemaker recommends drinking Conundrum Red slightly chilled – this not enhances the fruit profile and structure of the wine.


CV Members Rating: (TBA)

Technical Notes 

Compiled and edited by Clara Estrada and Jorge García

ORIGINS OF THE “LOCATIONS” IDEA. In the world of wine there are compelling Locations that exist where soil, climate and vines interact to produce grapes that uniquely express their Location through wine. These Locations exist individually within appellations for the new and old world, but are seldom combined across appellation, in the art of blending due to laws and restrictions that make it near impossible to express true winemaking freedom.

In Champagne, across appellation blending is a time honored and respected tradition- a tried and true method for producing premium and consistent wine that represents the best aspects of the Champagne region.  Why can’t this concept be taken wider – across country?  Why do the rules not allow this? Why are these rules accepted?

But what if it could be done.  What if one could blend across all of the major appellations, to produce a wine that represented a country of origin? What if one could do this across all of the major wine producing regions of the world.  What if there were no rules?  What if one had complete freedom to express whatever one believed.  Could it be done?

The question is – do you break the rules, and thousands of years of history and tradition, in pursuit of expressing freedom? WE BELIEVE SO.  WELCOME TO LOCATIONS.

I ended up buying this property in Maury (France), which now consists of 300 acres of vineyards.  After numerous trips and vintages making compelling single vineyard wines from this estate, I began to venture north, east and west within France.  From Bordeaux to Rhone, I saw incredible fruit from gifted sites.  I began to wonder, what if I could blend old vine Syrah from the Rhone with old vine Grenache and Carginan from my vineyard in Maury.  The thought quickly passed as I realized that was not allowed within AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) law and as such could not be labelled with a vintage and would be “relegated” to a “table wine” category.

Although this was disappointing to me, I had to just let it be.  But as time progressed, and our venture in Maury grew, I started to become more frustrated with the AOC laws and restraints on blending which I hold of utmost importance as a winemaker.

Just after the 2010 harvest, while waiting with my old friend curbside at the Charles de Gaulle airport, we began talking about wine.  My frustration was evident as we discussed labelling laws in regards to vintage dating and cross-appellation blending.  We joke about possibilities, imagining what if there were no rules.  What if you could blend across appellations. What if you could produce a blend that represented France.  What if there were no rules and fun would it be to travel this country to find great growers with old vines while experiencing the culture and people of this place.

As I said my final goodbyes, a taxi pulled curbside and I noticed the very distinctive “F” sticker on the license plate.  My mind exploded with thought and possibility.  What if I could take this idea and do this not only in France, but also in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Great wine is made all over the world.  What if I could produce a range of wines across all of the major wine regions of the world?  What if this could be done having a whole lot of und and by creating a team of some of the best people in each of these countries to produce a wine that pays homage to their home land without compromise and without boundaries. The concept of Locations was born.

Dave Phinney: A gifted Napa-based winemaker and hugely successful brand builder Dave Phinney sold The Prisoner brand to Huneeus Vintners in 2010 for $40 million. (Huneeus went on to sell it to Constellation for $285 million.) Then Phinney sold his next big wine project, Orin Swift, to E. & J. Gallo in 2016. He’s a major reason why Gallo soon bought Napa Valley’s large Stagecoach Vineyard, as Orin Swift was one of its biggest buyers of grapes. In June of last year, Gallo bought Phinney’s latest and greatest act, Locations, a joint venture with importer Aveníu Brands, a subsidiary of Codorníu Raventós. Locations makes wines that pay homage to a variety of regions: France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, California, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, Portugal, Corsica and Texas. Phinney will continue to make the wines. He also opened the Savage & Cooke craft distillery recently on Mare Island in Vallejo, California

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