I like to think that I know what is going on out there in the wine world, and compared to your average tall white guy, i am likely ahead of the game. But when I compare myself to other bloggers who are much more, um, well, respected than I (e.g., Jameson Fink, Joe Roberts, Alder Yarrow, David White, Elaine Brown), I realize that I have so much more to learn. It seems as though with every “new” winery that I “find” these other bloggers not only have pages of tasting notes on said winery, but there are countless pages of other producers that I had yet to discover.
And that is what’s great about wine.
The learning process never ends.
So when I was asked to review some wines from Westerly Wines–a producer that I was not all that familiar with–I readily agreed. Westerly is located in Santa Ynez, in Santa Barbara County and produces wines from several of the AVA located in the county. Researching the wines a bit, there were a couple interesting factoids that jumped out at me.
The winemaker, Adam Henkel, used to make wines at Harlan Estate–yeah, Harlan, home of the ridiculously expensive Cabernet that fetches many Benjamins a bottle. He worked there for eight years, where he certainly picked up a few tidbits on how to make wine. I will hopefully have a bit more on Adam in the future, including how a native of Kentucky was able to bypass Bourbon and instead make high quality wine.
The other thing that struck me was the precision with which they report the varietal breakdown of their wines. As a bit of a math geek, I immediately noticed that the percentages–drilled down to hundredths. Now, they could be just pulling our collective leg, but I, for one, appreciated the calculations that must have occurred.
2013 Westerly Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley: Retail $30. 85.14% Sauvignon Blanc, 9.89% Semillon, 4.97% Viognier. Fermented in both neutral oak and stainless steel. Quite fruity on the nose with pineapple, pear, and a bit floral (lychee?). On the palate this is a bigger type Sauvignon Blanc–bold flavors and round fruit. Perhaps lacking a bit in acid, but this is a big Sauvignon Blanc fan’s dream. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2013 Westerly Fletcher’s White Happy Canyon: Retail $30. 37.5% Sauvignon Blanc, 23.61% Semillon, 22.22% Roussanne,16.67% Viognier. A deep gold color leads to a full, round nose of pineapple, lemon and a touch of melon. Big and bold on the palate, reminiscent of a Rhône white blend, but different–more unctuous and fruitier. Certainly unique among the many wines I have tried over the years. Initially, I was a bit confused as I did not quite know where to place it. But as the bottle slowly emptied, I came around to really enjoy the wine. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Westerly Chardonnay Santa Barbara County: Retail $40. The first night I tried this, I was either not in the right frame of mind, or it was a root day on the biodynamic calendar (I will not get into that here, but some claim there are days when you should and should not taste wine–for me, I never consider abstaining, thus such a calendar is worthless)? Either way, I was less than enthralled. So I put a cork (actually a Vacu-Vin) in it and decided to revisit the following day. What a difference a day makes! Interestingly, as much as the oak showed on the Sauvignon Blancs, this is in the opposite direction–some new French oak was used, but it is certainly not at the forefront here. Citrus fruit and a bit of vanilla on the nose, the palate is enticing–fruit, balance, acid–it has it all. I have done a complete 180 on this wine in less than 24 hours. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2012 Westerly Côte Blonde Happy Canyon: Retail $45. 87.11% Syrah, 12.89% Viognier. A rather impressive nose–a lot going on here–quite floral with some anise, apricot, and a bit of black cherry. On the palate, this is a big boy–lots of fruit and then there is more fruit. But it is backed up by depth and some firm tannins on the finish. As I drank this, I peered longingly out the window at my grill (which was covered by 10 inches of snow) as this wine would pair exceedingly well with just about anything that would come of it–like a nice thick pork chop. It is Outstanding now, but there is no real hurry here–it will stick around well into the next decade. 90-92 Points.
Those are some really precise numbers! It’s a bit too much math for my head, but I always appreciate the breakdown.
I would make a crack about your Temple education, but that would be mean 😉
Thanks for helping share the word about a new winery. I think Adam is one of those precise people — it will be interesting to see what he does with his knowledge.
I have to say, each of the wines was a complete surprise and fun to drink. He seems to be doing some real out-of-the-box type things, particularly for the region!
Full disclosure: this winery is new to me. Also, maybe you can start scoring 98.61pts?
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Hmmmm. I like where you are going with this! It might be worth it just to see a few heads explode (except yours, of course).