Saturday, November 16, 2013

...And silver fountains mud.

Until Caymus Vineyards were sued by Napa County, and the amount of wine they actually produce was revealed, most folks, that I have at least spoken to about wine over the years, considered Caymus to be a premium, family owned winery. (For family owned here, read exclusive and small production, that's the common perception).  The details of the lawsuit, made public this past August, revealed that Caymus bottled 830,000 cases of wine in 2012: some 788,000 cases in excess of their use permit which allows for a mere 42,000 cases to be bottle per annum.  Talk about having your cover blown!  I was shocked upon hearing this, after all Caymus is the winery that gave us Special Selection, a wine that frequently scores high with wine critics (don't get me started on scoring).  Really just how special is Special Selection?  In all fairness, under the Wagner Family of Wine, the makers of Special Selection also produce several other wine labels.  Which brings me to a particular Chardonnay I tried recently.
The Mer Soleil, 2011 Silver Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands), is an unoaked Chardonnay.  In fact it is fermented, and aged, in stainless steel and small Nomblot cement tanks.  Then it is bottled in a stone bottle, or as the winery's website puts it, "...unique ceramic bottle is reminiscent of the cement fermenters."  Okay.  Overall, the producers have a very lofty opinion of this wine.  "We believe that the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation in Monterey County is the best appellation in the world for producing Chardonnay."  Of course they would say that, wouldn't they?  But I'm thinking they'd lose an argument, and badly, with the growers of, oh I dunno, let's say Corton-Charlemagne.  Just saying.
Anyway, back to the wine.  I can't began to describe my experience with this wine.  The nose had something a little tropical going on, but it was sort of a clumsy jumble of over ripe fruit.  On the palate I got a sweet-mystery-fruit, hay-baley, briny-flabbiness that kind of flapped around my mouth like a floundering fish.  Briny?  Floundering fish?  Maybe thoughts of la mer were muddying my tasting experience because, in the end, my poor palate was just so confused.  However, I am going to give this wine the benefit of the doubt and I'm going to say that perhaps this was just a bad bottle...because I can't for the life of me believe that the folks at Caymus/Mer Soleil intended the wine to taste this way.  At least I hope not. 
The moral of this tasting?  Not every bottle has a silver lining - and this bottle isn't even recyclable.  Utterly confounding!

6 comments:

Dennis Tsiorbas said...

Vinogirl, great post!
I've had $7 Chardonnay I enjoyed better than their 2010 Silver! It was a big disappointment!

Vinogirl said...

NHW: Can't say I was disappointed, I wasn't expecting much, but it didn't impress me.

Thomas said...

I'm surprised the stone bottle didn't produce "minerality" in the wine.

As for the revelations: in all my years in the wine business, I've spent most of them secretly laughing at the people who pay money for certain products. Of course, only an insider could know. A dedicated follower doesn't want to know.

Do Bianchi said...

Vinogirl, sorry I haven't been commenting lately. But I've been following along as always.

This post... wow! I had no idea... As the founder of the Italian communist party Gramsci said, the truth is always revolutionary... wow... great post...

thanks for your excellent blog. I learn so much about California wine here...

Vinogirl said...

Tomasso: I found my original tasting notes after I finished this post and no where did I mention even a smidgen of minerality. (Other words that came up were; cumbersome, cloying and unbalanced - amongst others.)
I had wondered how much the consumer is paying for this packaging...working at a winery I get to see the true costs of making wine.

2B: Hello there! And thanks for the kind comments as always.
I think I can safely say that you would not enjoy this Chardonnay :)

Dennis Tsiorbas said...

VG: Yes indeed you occasionally post on Chardonnay, and as an update: recently I met this woman, and this one is her fave. Different tastes make the world go round, but I'm with you on this one.