A few weeks ago, I was out in the Dry Creek Valley for a couple of days. I stayed at Grape House, the wonderful Bed and Breakfast at Goodkin Vineyards on Dry Creek Road. On my first evening there, Donald Goodkin organized a tasting with a few of the growers/vintners in the Valley.
After we got through with the introductions, it was time to get down to some tasting. The assembled crew had gotten together and decided the best order to taste the wines that they had brought over with them. We first tasted through Erik Miller’s Kokomo Winery bottles.
Next were the wines made by Gerry Pasterick of the Vineyard of Pasterick. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had met Gerry earlier that day at his winery, where he gave a brief tour of the property and his hillside cave. It is a beautiful spot and the cave is magnificent. We did not sample any wines at that point, which was a good thing. Since if we had, I might never have left.
Yeah, they are that good.
What can I say about Gerry? Perhaps more to the point, what can I remember that Gerry said? Gerry was to my immediate left as we sat down, and he kept me laughing the entire evening: One liners, quick vignettes, and a couple longer stories. It did not matter the genre–they were all funny and all followed by Gerry’s infectious laugh. Except when he talked about his wines. Make no mistake, Gerry is a nice guy, a chatter, and hilarious, but he also knows wine. Above all else? He is a serious winemaker.One often hears about “small” or “boutique” wineries or “limited production” wines. Many aficionados feel that smaller scale wineries produce better wine since it receives more individual attention. As wineries get bigger, so the theory goes, more of the process becomes mechanized and the wine becomes more “manufactured.” This is not always true, of course, but there seems to be a trend in the industry–as the bigger producers are getting bigger and bigger, many more wine consumers are searching out smaller producers. There is far from consensus as to at what level of production would a winery no longer be considered “small” but there seems to be some agreement that anything below around 8-10 thousand cases of wine produced every year is “smallish.”
No matter what the threshold, everyone would concede that the Vineyard of Pasterick is a tiny operation–the annual production is right around 800 cases. In other words, Pasterick is about 1/10 the size of a small winery.
The bulk of Gerry’s production is Syrah, but he also makes a smidgen of Viognier. It seems like there is a lot more talk about Viognier these days, but there are not many available. The reason? Viognier, according to Gerry, is “hard to grow and it never does what you think in the cellar.” For me, the center of the Viognier world is Condrieu in the Rhône region of France. The apogee of Condrieu is one of the smallest appellations in France: Château-Grillet. I have only had one bottle of Château-Grillet: it was a 1983 vintage (not a great year) that I drank back in 2008.
And it was phenomenal.
Why do I bring this up? Well, as I mentioned, Gerry knows his wine, and he certainly knows Condrieu and Château-Grillet. Now, I had that 25-year old Grillet six years ago, and the 2013 Vineyard of Pasterick Viognier (Retail $34) was a barrel sample. I am not going to compare the two, but…. The Pasterick was big, unctuous, and wonderful–floral and honeyed, with a rich mouthfeel. As Gerry suggested, despite being fermented to dry, this would be a great pairing with foie gras. Or on its own, by yourself, because you really do not want to share it. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
Gerry then moved on to his Syrah (although I was honestly craving just another little splash of the Viognier). Gerry says he listens to the grapes to let him know when to pick. When I asked what he meant, he flashed a big grin and said: “They say ‘Pick me, squeeze me, make me wine!'”
After the laughter died down (I could not determine if they were laughing at Gerry’s line or at me for blindly stepping into it), Gerry added in all seriousness with Syrah you need to wait until the grapes start to wrinkle and the seeds inside have turned brown–then they are ready to be picked.
As is common in the Rhône (and becoming increasingly common in the U.S.), Gerry co-ferments the Syrah with about 3% Viognier to add an aromatic floral quality to the wine. He ages the wine for three years in mostly used French oak (20% new) since, as he said, “We want the fruit to speak.”
And boy does that fruit speak. The 2008 Vineyard of Pasterick Estate Syrah (Retail $48) is big and bold with a multitude of aromas and flavors. I know it is a bit cliché, but I could have simply sniffed that wine for an hour: blackberry, earthy notes, a bit of smoked meat, and white pepper. Wow. On the palate it did not disappoint either, with great fruit upfront, and a depth of flavor that is rare. The finish was long and lingering. While it is drinking very well at the moment, this has a very long life ahead of it. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
It was certainly a treat tasting Gerry’s wines and listening to his comments. Believe it or not, we are only halfway there! Next up, perhaps Gerry’s opposite when it comes to personality, the reticent, yet confident Ray Taldeschi.