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Thanksgiving - Final Musings About Wine
updated: Dec 01, 2012, 2:00 PM

By Marc Liberts

After much debate, research, digging through boxes of wine I hadn't seen in years, I made my final wine picks for the Thanksgiving 2012 dinner pairing. I had high hopes for many of the wines, and was unfortunately disappointed more than elated. Maybe I kept some of these wines too long. Maybe I shouldn't have bought them in the first place back then. In either event, it was interesting to taste my wines with the Thanksgiving Dinner guests and tally up the votes and pick the winners.


PINE RIDGE, 2009 Chenin Blanc + Viognier - bright and crisp with a nice waft of tropical banana on the nose and palate. Clean and enjoyable - 90 points.

QUPE, 2007 Bien Nacido Cuvee, Santa Maria Valley - This wine is a blend of 67% Viognier and 33% Chardonnay. I took it to a party about 2 years ago and it was delicious. This bottle was no good. It tasted tired and worn out. Perhaps it was held too long. Angst and bitterness - 71 points.

BREWER-CLIFTON, 2010 ‘3-D' Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills - I love this wine because it is dry, it reminds me of French Chardonnay, it has nice salinity, and it has no oak or butter. Unfortunately, the general drinking public didn't respond to it as I had hoped. I think when the average wine drinker grabs a Chardonnay, she is expecting toasty, oakey, and buttery elements. However, Chardonnay on its own, without the manipulations of oak and chemistry, is fairly quiet and tame with nice minerality and quiet fruit. This wine was very good, extremely well made, and worthy of at least 91 points.

ALBERT BICHOT, 2010 Pouilly-Fuisse, Le Clos - Delicious inexpensive French Chardonnay. I picked this wine to show the tasters what French Chardonnay tastes like, and to show how similar the Brewer- Clifton was in style to this one. Unfortunately, the tasters didn't react well to the Brewer-Clifton, and they were equally and unfortunately un-impressed with this wine. However, this wine was more compact than the Brewer-Clifton, with bolder mineral and loamy earth notes. Delicious and smart - 90 points.

BRANDER VINEYARD, 2010 Cuvee Natalie - Brander Vineyard won the Santa Barbara Independent's 2012 reader's poll for favorite white wine, and this wine showed why. The Cuvee Natalie is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio - all done in stainless steel. The wine has the snap of the Sauvignon Blanc, the sparkle of the Riesling, and the playfulness of the Pinot Grigio. Good and fun wine - 89 points.

BRANDER VINEYARD, 2010 Cuvee Nicolas - Another entrant from Brander, this wine is 100% estate Sauvignon Blanc and is aged in oak in the Bordeaux style. Fuller and more refined than the Natalie, this is a good and classic example of Sauvignon Blanc. The tasters disagreed and revolted against this wine. They shouldn't have because it is excellent and well made - 89 points.


BRANDER VINEYARD, 2009 Merlot, Santa Ynez Valley - Light and fruity, I thought this would be a nice start to the red wine flight - wrong. The tasters wanted something denser and stronger. I thought it was light but easy to drink and had no vices. Pretty and appealing - 87 points.

BERGEVIN LANE VINEYARDS, 2006 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Deep and dark, I thought this wine would get the red flight rolling, but again the tasters pushed back against it. I wasn't sure if they were revolting against the heavy American Oak treatment or the perceived lack of grip, but they were in revolt against this wine. I thought it was ok - too much cheap oak and not enough fruit to balance everything out. Might be a year or two past its prime also - 87 points.

EPOCH ESTATE WINES, 2009 Tempranillo, Padereweski Vineyard, Paso Robles - I threw this one in because I thought it would be fun to watch people taste something they might never have tasted before. Tempranillo is famous in Spain as the backbone for Rioja wines - I explained to the tasters. ‘Oh, so this is Spanish Wine?' they asked. ‘No - this is a grape that is famous in Spain that we're now growing here in the US'. ‘Oh, OK - I like Spanish wine now!'. This wine was by far the favorite red of the night. It is very well made with great balance, nice fruit, and really pretty herbal and spice notes on the palate - 92 points.

AMPELOS, 2007 Epsilon, Dornfelder, Huber Vineyard - I loved this wine when I bought it at the Santa Barbara County Wine Futures event in 2008 because it was plump, velvety, and different than most other wines. It is still good today, but I now wish I would have had it when it was younger and plumper. The tasters didn't recognize the velvet as a good thing and generally didn't like it. I thought it was interesting and different - 88 points.

ALAPAY, 2004 Rebekah - a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. I really enjoyed this wine when I tasted it at the Alapay tasting room in Avila Beach many years ago. It is still nice, but there is an obnoxious amount of bell pepper and vegetal notes that detract from the overall character of the wine. However, the tasters really liked the bell pepper, so who am I to say? Interesting wine - 85 points.

MELVILLE, 2009 Syrah, Estate- Verna's - Always good - bold fruit with nice pepper and spice notes. The tasters tolerated it, but didn't really groove on it as I had hoped. Their mistake as this wine is solid and a good example of what Syrah from this area should taste like - 89 points.

WINNER OF THE REDS: EPOCH ESTATE WINES, 2009 Tempranillo, Padereweski Vineyard, Paso Robles

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