Last week, Two Terrier Vineyards hosted a prestigious group: The McNabb Family of England. Old friends from way back, the McNabbs are also very knowledgeable about wine. Knowledgeable as in lifelong oenophiles with two members (Paul and John) being graduates of a prestigious and difficult wine course in France which I understand is aimed at training top level sommeliers.

You may ask if we were nervous having such distinguished palates at Two Terrier Vineyards. That is given that it was just a few seasons ago we created our first wines (with somewhat disastrous results.) In reality, this year is probably the last one for awhile where we can confidently expose our efforts to such a knowledgeable audience. You see, grapes don’t even come to the first hint of maturity for at least three years. Due to a late rainy season when we planted, our grapes are only two-and-a-half years old. The result, the wine we made this year, if good, can be attributed to our skill and innate winemaking ability. If bad, well, the grapes aren’t ready yet. That excuse will fade with the coming seasons, so this is the time to have experts expound with minimal damage to the ego.

So last Wednesday, with McNabbs in tow, we headed to Two Terrier Vineyards for a professional barrel tasting and analysis of this year’s vintages.

The tour got off to a slow start as John became enamored of my fathers old Winchester rifle. As a former British Army man,  John might be a valuable ally in my war against the foxes and gophers that are sabotaging my fava beans.

The tour got off to a slow start as John became enamored of my father's old Winchester rifle. As a former British Army man, John might be a valuable ally in my war against the foxes and gophers that are sabotaging my fava beans.

Then a brief detour of the architectural delights of the ranch — given that we haven’t yet gotten around to building traditional human dwelling places.

Here Andy (center) explains to Paul (left) and John about the amphitheater which is built with stones from the property.

Here Andy (center) explains to Paul (left) and John about the amphitheater which is built with stones from the property.

Then a foray into the vineyards themselves to inspect how the vines were tied and trained.

Paul and John pronounced the vineyards First Rate.

Paul and John pronounced the vineyards "First Rate".

Finally, the moment of truth: the tasting. Reverently, samples were drawn from the oak barrels where most of our wines are currently resting.

This is what a serious tasting looks like. Can you sense the hushed tones?

This is what a serious tasting looks like. Can you sense the hushed tones and concentration?

Again, no trepidation on our part to expose our wine to these distinguished palates. If it’s bad, we can just blame it on those immature grapes.

The verdicts were:  the Cinsault was appley and too young, but John thought it may develop very nicely. The Grenache was ” just okay”, but the Mouvedre was deemed better. and the Cabernet was thought to have potential although too much woodiness. Unfortunately, that was our lowest yield grape, without enough to fill an oak barrel so it rested in stainless steel with the inferior method of adding oak chips.

Then in an interesting twist, John and Paul decided to take two of our Rhone varietals and make a Rhone style blend. They mixed two-thirds of the “just okay” Grenache with one-third of the better Mouvedre. The result: added structure to a wine that we will have to call “McNabb Blend”.

In our book, as completely self-taught novices, this was a major thumbs up.

But the best was yet to come. At lunch at Sonoma’s Girl and the Fig restaurant, Paul uncorked two gems from his extensive wine collection: a 1994 Chateauneuf du Pape white and a 1994 Pommerol. Some would say, these are two of the best wines in the last two decades.

As we oohed and ahed over this special treat, Ruth, John’s wife, finally spoke up: “Actually, these wines are fine, but I prefer Andy’s.”

Thanks Ruth. You’ll be writing the tasting notes on the label!

Paul shoots Ruth the kind of look you would expect from a wine expert who has just heard someone declare=

Paul shoots Ruth the kind of look you would expect from a wine expert who has just heard someone declare that Two Terrier wine is better than some of the best the French have to offer.

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