An old friend of mine (also a Belizean chef and retauranteur) was in town over the weekend, and we spent a little bit of time exploring a few Oakland shops, including the new wine bar and retail shop Ordinaire near Lake Merritt, which carries some pretty esoteric wines with an emphasis on organic, biodynamic and 'natural' wines.
Many of the labels were as unknown to me as they were to him. My friend asked me how I keep up with everything in the wine world. My short answer was, "I don't. It's impossible." And it is. The world is too big, and there are far too many wines to really stay on top of. Even covering an area as geographically small as Napa Valley is a full-time job. New labels and wineries pop up all the time, and grape sources and wines produced can change from vintage to vintage.
All a freelance writer like me can do is to keep tasting wine and try to find new things that capture my attention for all the right reasons. And from time to time, people send me their wines just in case they might inspire me, as Napa Valley's Gallegos Wines did recently.
And the two wines that this small winery sent me were pretty impressive. One was an exotic, but not overoaked Chardonnay from Charmer Vineyard in Yountville, Napa Valley, and the other a lovely Pinot Noir from Boekenoogen Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands district of Monterey County.
As impressive as the wines are, Gallegos is one of those wineries where the family story is just as compelling as the wines themselves. Here is a link to Paul Franson's excellent article about the Gallegos family from the Napa Valley Register. A true underdog story about a family that came to California to work in the vineyards, built their own vineyard management business and now makes their own wines.
Here are a few notes on the two wines they sent me:
2012 Gallegos Charmer Vineyard Chardonnay Yountville, Napa Valley ($29). Made in an opulent but not overoaked style, it has rich mango, peach and quince flavors with a hint of mint and an interesting underlying salinity. Good acid levels keep it on track, and it doesn't show tons of new oak That's a plus, by the way... A terrific Napa Chardonnay with real personality. After inquiring I was told it sees only 25% new oak.(90 points)
2012 Gallegos Boekenoogen Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands ($40) Every year there are a few new producers that show up on your radar that really surprise you in a pleasant way. They seem to deserve to be part of the present discussion of class. I think Gallegos will be one of mine for 2014. The 2012 SLH Pinot Noir has lovely dried rose, violet and mild spice aromas and a lithe, lively and flavorful mid-palate that shows the finesse that SLH is capable of in the hands of the best vintners. Blueberry, raspberry, red currant fruit, suble earth and coriander spice flavors, and a supple, elegant finish. Lightly structured, I wouldn't age it too long, but it's a formidable wine. (92 points)