California Wine: Well Written Wines

I hate the term "entry-level wines." I understand its origin and how it seems useful, but I think it sells people short. But I do understand the classification.

These are wines that read like poems when compared to those that unfold like epic tales. A poem wine can be beautiful, thought-provoking and emotion-eliciting, while doing so in a short period of time. I love these wines. They often say something profound in just a few notes. Fruit, flower, spice, acid and before you know it, it's gone.

That is not to say that these wines are lacking when compared to their multi-paged brethren. It is more that they possess the power of a man of few words.

A wine can say something profound without having to say too much. Good producers make wines that span the gamut of literary length. There are certainly many heavy tomes full of secrets and surprises on every page that do well to establish their creator's reputation. But truly great winemakers can also craft wines with few words that hold a reader's attention and still leave them feeling satisfied. Some wines are Hemingway, some wines are Tolstoy, some wines are Bukowski, full of dirty notes and heavy phenols making one feel both violated and thrilled with golden scraps of wisdom buried in their crusty folds.

One winemaker that can write wonderfully well in long or short form is Sashi Moorman. Sashi has been making wines for years for Stolpman Vineyards, Evening Land, Holus Bolus, and his own project Piedrasassi. The Piedrasassi wines are rich full-bodied fascinating wines with layers of flavor to discover. They can range in price from $40 retail to upwards of $125.

However, there is also the Piedrasassi P.S. Syrah from the Central Coast. In this wine you will find the rich delicious fruit of blueberry compote spread with a knife that was just used to cut through fat-laden peppery pork. Smooth velvety tannins settle into your tongue like a party guest who's had one too many sinking into a well-weathered couch. But before you can tire of this mouth-filling magic, a bracing wave of acid washes it all away, making you want for the next sip.

This is not an entry-level wine, it is a wittily written introduction to a world where each bottle is more interesting than the last.

The Piedrasassi P.S. Syrah retails for about $17 a bottle.

[Photo by the Piedrasassi tasting room from their website.]

Los Angeles resident Michael Newsome, a wine buyer for Whole Foods and a Certified Italian Wine Specialist, joins us every Tuesday for an exploration of California wine. See his previous posts here.


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I spend my life eating, drinking, cooking, brewing and traveling.
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