This past July, as many of you know, I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Buellton, California. I rented a car while I was out there in order to visit a few wineries after the conclusion of the conference. Perhaps the visit I was most looking forward to was the relatively new tasting room that was a joint venture between the Loring Wine Company and Peter Cargasacchi.
I have never met either Brian Loring or Peter Cargasacchi (no, I do not consider being “friends” on Facebook as “meeting” them), but I have been a fan of theirs for a while–I have tried several of Brian’s wines and a few of Peter’s and although they are different in style, I have found their wines particularly well made and, well, tasty.
Since I started blogging, I have learned to contact the winery ahead of time to see who might be around and if they might have time for a visit. For whatever reason, I neglected to contact either of the aforementioned vintners, but I stopped by the tasting room nonetheless in the hope that one (or both) might be available.
The tasting room attendant, Angela, informed me that neither were currently there “but you never know when they might drop in.” Since I had a bit of time to kill, and there were open bottles of wine from two of my favorite producers, I cozied up to the bar. There were already two other tasters in the room, and after pouring their next wine, Angela returned to me and got me started.
2012 Point Concepciòn Pinot Grigio Marea Solis: Retail $18. Light and bright. Some kiwi and stone fruit. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2012 Point Concepciòn Chardonnay Caponera: Retail $20. Really nice. Pineapple, peach and just a hint of oak. Great mouthfeel and long finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Loring Chardonnay: Retail $24. Bigger fruit. More oak. Sierra Mar and Rosella’s Vineyards. A bigger style for which Brian is known. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
After the first few whites, the original couple left and I was then joined by a group of older, but boisterous, couples from Australia that were out in the region for a “bit of a holiday.” Angela seemed to quickly assess the group’s relative experience with wine and altered her approach, if ever so slightly, to help walk them through the tasting, without dampening their infectious spirit.
After getting them started, she returned to me to pour the main attractions (at least for me): the Pinots. She handled my geeky/technical questions with aplomb, and was not shy to acknowledge when the proper response exceeded her experience.
2011 Cargasacchi-Jalama Pinot Noir:
Retail $22. Only sold in half bottles. Took a while to open up but the expected cherry and blackberry. I wish it was sold in bigger bottles…. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2011 Cargasacchi Vineyard Pinot Noir: Retail $44. Bigger style. Lush red fruit with a bunch of darker fruit as well. Noticeable tannins and great finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2012 Loring Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Retail $24. Big cherry up front and center with great acidity. Not many tannins to speak of on the lingering finish, and a steal for the price. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
The Aussie couples left with a few bottles and were almost immediately replaced by a single pair, who were clearly members of the wine club. Angela switched gears again with yet a different approach, pouring only a few wines for the two before they were gone after picking up their club shipment. Me? I kept going.
2012 Loring Rosellas Vineyard Pinot Noir:
Retail $52. 1/3 New French oak for 10 months. Bright Bing cherry with depth. Raspberry comes in half way through. The finish? Incredible. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2012 Loring Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir: Retail $32. Darker fruit, including cassis. Not as complex and a bit thin on the midpalate, but a good price to have some classic Loring. Interesting that this came after the Rosella’s. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2012 Concepcion Tranquillon Red Blend: Retail $24. Rich and fruity but with ample acid to keep it in line. $24? Easy. Buy it. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Cargasacchi Celestina Pinot Grigio:
Retail $19. Angela was quick to point out that this was not a rosé, but an orange wine given the prolonged contact of the juice with the skins (about three days). A pale pinkish orange with various stone and citrus fruit on the nose. Good acidity on the finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
In the end, I spent the better part of two hours in the Cargasacchi/Loring tasting room and witnessed several configurations of tasters pass through while I was there. As a wine writer/blogger, I tend to get too focused on wine makers and owners and far to little on the real backbone of the direct to consumer relationship–the tasting room. As I was thinking about this article, I reflected on the countless tasting rooms that I have entered and the different personalities that I have encountered. While some tasting room staff can leave one a bit wanting, Angela was engaging when she needed to be, reticent when not. She seemed to assess and address the needs of the guests quickly and provide an appropriate experience.
Cheers to Angela for a wonderful tasting, few, if any, tasting rooms are in better hands than Cargasacchi/Loring.