"Tasting New Wine"
Lum's very own Cote de
Freeway bottles from 2002
- 2005 each uniquely
different in taste.
January 2, 2006 -- A dozen professional winemakers from San Diego County
assemble at 7p.m. to hear Lum Eisenman speak on "Tasting New Wines."
Alan, who's completed his degree at the University of California Davis School
of Enology, has told me about the meeting, and I e-mailed The Master for
permission to attend, which was generously granted considering my amateur,
sophomore status. Earlier that afternoon I use the turkey-baster (one of my
best capital investments in 2005 along with the press) to suck-up a sample of
new Merlot (recently transferred to the French Oak barrel) and a sample of new
2005 Nebbiolo from one of the 5-gallon Arrowhead water bottles. I can't help
taste the Nebbiolo and I am pleasantly surprised. It is strikingly jammy. (This
has nothing to do with the winemaker, and everything to do with the grapes.
These were very special grapes.) I hate to count my wine before it's bottled and
The Spectator has rated it 96, but I have a strong feeling this wine is going to
Lum has prepared for us four bottles of Nebbiolo to sample: a 2005, 2004,
2003 and 2002 all made by the same winemaker (himself), all grapes from the
same vineyard, all grapes made in the same winery (his) using the same
yeast and techniques. His label is "Cote de Freeway" named for his first
vintage which he gleaned years ago from remnant vines gone wild along the
freeway cutting through Rancho Cucamonga, CA, once a major grape growing
region. Next to each bottle The Master has listed brix (sugar content) and
acidity. (Notice how the professional documents vital statistics.) I am
especially curious to taste his 2005 because we used the same grapes. The
first thing that hit me with Lum's 2005 wine was a taste missing from my
Nebbiolo ... I'll call it "the fruit" for lack of a better term from my limited
vocabulary. (This is not necessarily a desirable taste ... but it's something I
notice.) The second thing I'm hit with has something "bubbly" about it (also
missing from mine). I ask Alan about this: "What's the word to describe that
"Do you mean "spritzy"? He says the spritziness is from undergoing malolactic
fermentation. (Mine obviously was not.)
"Why is this important?"
"It gives the wine more complexity," he says.
"I thought my wine underwent malolactic fermentation during the secondary
fermentation," I say showing my sophomoric knowledge. "How do I ensure
malolactic fermentation takes place?"
"You inoculate the barrels," he says, without adding duhh (this is a supportive
group). Given the fact that we washed, and scrubbed, and scalded our oak
barrel in 2004 to destroy any possible source of contamination, I suspect it's
likely that we also eliminated any strains of yeast that would have caused
malolactic fermentation. Just a hunch.
I humbly greet The Master and thank him for letting me attend. I am Robin
before Batman. Little Grasshopper from the "Kung Fu" drama before his
Master. I offer Lum a sample of my Nebbiolo which he gracious inspects. The
Master approves. I note that this tastes different than his. Length on the skins?
Nope -- both of us about 6 days. Type of yeast? Could be. He used Prize de
Mike is here, the winemaker with the Merlot vineyard, and I offer him a taste of
the wine I made from his grapes and he gives me a sample of his. It's spritzy.
A dozen winemakers each with two samples of wine. Do the math. I'm thinking
it's time to call a taxi. Lum brings us each a mini spitoon, and I don't hesitate to
use it by the time we're half-way through, or else I won't be able to drive home
Eric, whom I met at the Belle-Marie crush last year who purchased the
Orphelia Winery, is there with a Chardonay. You can taste "the bananas"
popping out of this wine! Good job Eric.
Since I've brought a sample of the 2004 Syrah I share it with the group and
explain it was from Currey Vineyards in Temecula. A gentleman winemaker in
attendance also bought a ton of fruit from the same vineyard in 2004 and is
preparing to bottle his.
We taste the first vintage from a recently planted vineyard and it tastes as good
as you could expect. Comments heard: "It's thin", "not much alcohol", "not
much fruit". That sample finds its way into the spitoon.
We tasted a Tempranillo with lots of tannins and our mouths puckered.
Jerry, whose label is Arroyo Dolche, brought us a Meritage made from Malbec,
Petit Verdut and Cabernet. You could smell the "bell pepper". Lum said it
smelled like a Bordeaux. I noticed the spritz. He was on to something.
Someone brought a first-crop Chardonay. My nose noticed slight essence of
skunk. "Tastes like a 'wet dog'", Eric said. "A nice wet dog." This is a polite
The growers from Ramona share with us that "Ramona Valley" has been
officially approved as an AVA -- that is, a certified American wine growing
region. Watch out Napa Valley!
I kept notes as the meeting progressed but as I look at them now, they're
eligible. What a great way to begin the New Year!
January 3rd -- We receive our "first order" over the Internet for the Syrah. Eric
D. from InFocus technical service department makes a $50 donation through
our website for the Helen Woodward Animal Center (one of Bluey's favorite
charities) and we ship him a bottle of the Syrah. Turns out not only is Eric an
animal lover, but he's a great fan of Napa Valley red wines and we're waiting
for his evaluation. Alan sent me an e-mail about a wine tasting contest with the
suggestion I enter. I begin thinking about "award winning" wines. Paw crafted,