When I head out on a tasting appointment, I spend some time preparing for the visit. Rarely do I jot down any questions to ask as I try to allow the context dictate the conversation—sticking to some pre-formulated questions feels rather artificial and forced; It certainly works for some, but not for me. When it is my first time visiting a winery, there are always a few awkward moments initially, but there are a couple of things that almost always occur: There is always a bike question (“Where’s your bike?”) and a comment about my height (“Boy, you’re tall”).
The first question produces a laugh, the second a bit of angst.
To paraphrase a certain green frog, it is not easy being tall.
I’m not saying that height does not have its advantages—I rarely need help to reach the top shelf, it has been some time since my view was obstructed in a movie theater, and it is fairly easy to photo-bomb (if I were into that kind of thing).
There are also a host of disadvantages—I bump my head a lot, airplane travel is a nightmare, it can be very difficult to find shoes my size, and it seems as though height intimidates people.
Most of the disadvantages are surmountable, except the last—there really is no way to know how people are going to react to my above average height.
[I am two standard deviations above average (for those of you keeping score at home), which means that I am taller or as tall as 95% of the male population.]
So whether real or not, every time I go to a new tasting, I am conscious on how my height might influence the conversation.
When I walked into the tasting room at Frick Winery, I knew immediately that one of my bigger fears would not come to pass—Bill Frick is a tall man, clearly as tall or taller than I am.
I have no idea if Bill shares the same view of his height as I do, but I would be shocked if he intimidates anyone; Bill is one of the more soft-spoken people I have met.
I was cautioned by a few people when they heard I was headed up the Valley to meet him that he is rather reticent, but I did not find that at all.
You can just make out the tasting room to the right of the large oak tree.
What I found was a man who, while far from boisterous, is thoroughly committed to making great wine. Bill is virtually a one-man show—after harvest he is alone in the winery, undertaking all the work of crafting his wines himself. He is the only staff employed in his tasting room, handling crowds of twenty with aplomb.
While it is true that Bill shies away from self-promotion (he is only attends one trade event—the Rhône Rangers in San Francisco), there is no doubt that Bill is one of the more talented wine makers in the Valley. I don’t think many would classify him as “chatty” but occasionally, his quick wit and engaging smile would come through, revealing his vibrant spirit with a hearty chuckle, which came through often while tasting through more than a dozen of his wines.
We started with the varietal wines…
While all of the whites were Very Good to Outstanding–this was the one that I bought.
2012 Frick Winery Grenache Blanc: Retail $27. Rich and full. Great mouthfeel. Melon and peach with a bit of pineapple. On the big side. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Frick Winery Viognier: Retail $27. Floral and tropical fruit with a bit of nuttiness. Full and viscous. Great finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Frick Winery Cotes-du-Dry Creek White: Retail $27. 60% Grenache Blanc 40% Viognier. There are really three elements to this wine: the two separate varieties as well as their interplay. As Bill says they “really dance with each other”. Great fruit and white flowers, with a chalky finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2012 Frick Winery Mouvèdre Rosé:
Retail $22. Ever want to get my heart racing? Serve me a dedicated rosé—a rosé made from grapes that were picked destined to become a pink wine (in other words, not
). Very pale with red berries on the nose. Completely dry with bracing tartness. I felt it was served a bit warm which may have accentuated the acid a bit. Still, my heart was happy. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2011 Frick Winery Mourvèdre Red: Retail $26. Cherry, a bit of cola. Nice balance and great fruit. A deal at the price. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2010 Frick Winery Grenache: Retail $26. Big and toothy with dark red fruit. Really big. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2011 Frick Winery Cinsaut:
Retail $26. Wow really good. 100% Cinsault. Strawberry and cherry good depth and finish. For me, the best of the reds to this point (and that is saying something). Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2009 Frick Winery Carignane: Retail $24. Big and chewy. Wow this is tannic and still needs tons of time even though Bill holds the Carignane longer in the bottle than his other wines before release. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
We then moved on to a few blends and Bill intimated that his biggest problem with the blends is coming up with a name for the wine. He has several more blends in mind, but he can’t come up with what to call them, so he has yet to make them.
Frick Winery Garibaldi Field Blend: Retail $27. This wine comes from the oldest block on the property, and is a field blend of numerous varieties (many of them obscure—Valdeque, Burger?) and it takes two vintages to get enough fruit to “make sense”, thus this is a blend of two successive years. Big, and a more typical Zin-type wine (even though Zinfandel is no more than 15% of the blend). For the “traditional Dry Creek Zin” lover, this is right up your alley—not over the top, but nice and juicy. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2011 Frick Winery C² (C squared): Retail $24. 60% Carignane 40% Cinsaut. The predominance of the Carignane comes through (noticeable tannin), but the Cinsaut more than keeps it in check. A fun wine. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2011 Frick Winery C³ (C cubed): Retail $24. 40% Cinsaut, 40% Carignane, 20% Counoise. Fruitier than the previous wine, but lacking a bit of depth, perhaps. Another fun wine nonetheless—pair with pizza, grilled meats, barbecue. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2010 Frick Winery Cotes du Dry Creek Red: Retail $24. Syrah 40%, Grenache 40% Cinsaut 20%. Bill replaced Mourvèdre with Cinsaut since it makes a wine that is a little less tannic and a little rounder than a more “traditional” GSM blend. Fruity and a bit on the big side, still with some noticeable tannin. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2010 Frick Winery Lucia: Retail $24. Cinsaut 45%, Syrah 33%, Counoise 22%
Named after the longtime winery dog, Spicy, earthy and tasty. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2008 Frick Winery Syrah:
Retail $24. Only 70 cases produced and still $24? That’s a bit crazy. And so is this wine. Before he poured it, Bill stated that it was reminiscent of a Côte Rôtie from the Northern Rhône. Had I not tasted through the previous dozen wines, I would have been skeptical. The wine was just that, however. Big and meaty, with great fruit and balance. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
After the tasting Bill reluctantly posed for this picture out in the vineyard where we tried just about every variety from the vines. Are you kidding? Walking the vineyards with Bill Frick? A great experience…