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Pelio Vineyard

Wines of Danger: Do You Dare?

by Laura Ness - HerVineNess on August 22, 2013

SabrinePoursSabrine Rodems, winemaker at Wrath, has a new label called Scratch. She thought it would be cool to get a group of young up and coming winemakers together to create a unique tasting for media and trade called Wines of Danger.

Cheryl Warner (McIntyre’s Sales Director) suggested The Press Club in San Francisco, and voila: a beautifully understated yet comfy venue combined with an engaging panoply of characters pouring wines that could be considered dangerous to some, and dangerously delicious to others. Not bad for a debut in an increasingly competitive landscape.pressclubvenuepressclub

Among the trends evident here were a leaning towards Rhones, a fondness for tongue-twistingly tweaky blends and a definitive move away from a whole lotta new oak. Dangerously good, smart and applaudable trends.


CityBottlesAmong the cheekiest blends were those from City Winery, where winemakers, Adam Del Carlo and Juri McCorkle presented a 2009 cab and Tempranillo duet, as well as a 2009 malbec and petit verdot combo, both of which screamed loudly for pasta with red sauce. AdamCityCellars

DangersignOverall, I thought I’d see more screwtops, but after all, this was “Wines of Danger,” and I suppose corks add that additional element of risk. As Sabrine says, “There are safe wines and there are Wines of Danger. We prefer the latter.” Fittingly, I did discover corked wines at this tasting, which further goes to show that cork walks a fine line between extended ageing and early demise.

ParoPatrickLooksGoodParo had their bets half covered with their whites & pinks sporting screwcaps, along with pretty punchy packaging.

Patrick Ridder of Farm Life has a sweet deal with Whole Foods for his solidly drinkable organic wines at a very fair price. Kudos to them.PatrickRidderFarm&Planet

Top Ten Dangerously Good Wines

  1. At the top of the list, hands down, no contest, was Chris Weideman’s 2009 Pelerin Pelio vineyard pinot, from a cool site 8 miles from the ocean in Carmel Valley, oozing with strawberry-rhubarb pie acidity and racy-lipsmacking cranberry and raspberry juicy goodness. So solidly well-made, you will want to buy it by the case when it’s released in November and tell all your pinot-loving friends this is “the bomb.”peliopelerinlabel
  2. Pretty close behind was the 2010 Comanche Cellars SLH pinot noir, my friend Rik’s second favorite wine of the day, and one he might even rank first. He loved the Comanche Tempranillo, too. The Comanche Cellars pinot is from Hahn, Paraiso, and sports lovely flavors of ollalieberry pie, strawberry jam on dark rye toast, and toasty flavors of carmelized pecans.ComancheLineup
  3. From Onesta Wines in Lodi, courtesy of winemaker, Jillian Johnson (who survived more years as Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon’s assistant winemaker than any other human to hold the position), came three excellent wines, all worth a gander. The crisp and refreshing 2012 grenache blanc (12.5%, $18), is done in stainless and filled with pear, ripe nectarines and hints of the tropics, while the 2012 cinsault rosé ($18), made from half saignéed and half “rosé on purpose” grapes, is brilliant in rosey color and gushing with guava and strawberry flavors. From the same 130 year old vines at the Bechthold vineyard in Lodi, the 2011 cinsault deserves special mention for its gorgeous flavors of pomegranate, cranberry, rhubarb and cherry: this is one flag-waving example of cinsault that could be a new alternative to pinot.OnestaWines
  4. Speaking of pinot alternatives, the People’s Wine Revolution 2012 grenache from Lodi is dangerously delicious, and so pale in hue, that it should have been labeled rose. But, no matter, it delivers the goods with flavors of strawberry vines and red licorice.
  5. Another gorgeous grenache hailed from Clements Hills, in the Lodi AVA, courtesy of winemakers Peter and Meg Heitz who make wine under the Shypoke label. The 2010 Shypoke grenache from a dry farmed vineyard, was done 30% whole cluster for excellent color, and the aromas of rose petal matched nicely with the cranberry and orange zest-laden flavors.Skypokewines
  6. Right behind this one I’d put Sabrine’s 2011 Scratch grenache from Arroyo Seco, which was done 50% whole cluster in Hermitage barrels, producing a rich and pretty nutty flavored take on the varietal.
  7. Moving into other than Rhone land, I’d choose Chris Weideman’s 2009 Pelerin Mesa del Sol sangiovese any day of the week for its fantastic texture, fabulous bright, rocket red bursting in your mouth flavors of pomegranate and cherry. This wine is raring to go, and will not stop til it finds just the right pizza – now, that’s a dangerous wine! Let me suggest my friend Rik’s Cicero’s Pizza: if you find yourself in Cupertino, this is a no brainer for its crispy crust and mouthwatering cheeses.ChrisWeideman
  8. Since we’re in the Italian zone, I have to plug the 2010 Shypoke charbono, from Calistoga, for its insanely beautiful aromas of blueberry and tobacco, and satisfyingly intriguingly contradicting flavors of rye bread and mint julep. The acidity is phenomenal, which explains why 5th generation winegrower, Peter Heitz, got no crop at all in 2011. His daughter already knows how to drive a tractor and loves helping him make wine. This family is solidly heading towards a bright future.PeterHeitzShypoke
  9. Speaking of bright, the 2011 Grow chardonnay from the Ruhl Vineyard in Mt. Veeder, made by Lars Bjorkman and Holly Hill of Grow Wines, is positively electric in its bright acidity, the uncontainably energetic flavors of lime and lemon treating your tongue like a trampoline. At $36, it’s probably dangerously close to being affordable for Napa chard.LarsBjorkmanofGrow
  10. Just because I don’t find that many petite sirahs that make me stand up and cheer, I have to give the nod to the 2008 Bea’s Knees petite from El Dorado county, nicely executed by People’s Wine Revolution. At $15, this flex tank-fermented pet endears itself to you instantly with its gorgeous perfume, creamy texture and lipsmacking flavors of blueberry plum buckle. This 720 case production winery is one to keep an eye on: they’ve got some dangerously good stuff going on.PWRscrewtops

BrianEdwardGalI’ll also admit to a fondness for the 20011 Brian Edwards chardonnay from Carneros, and the 2009 Brian Edwards Napa cabernet, although there was nothing remotely dangerous about them except that they are dangerously delicious! :>

To view all the wineries participating in this potential for masterful mayhem, visit