California Wine: The Other Side of the Coin


Often times when partnerships dissolve, the parties involved go their separate ways angry and bitter. Less frequently, the people once bonded part amicably and go on to grow more separately than they did together. This is the case of Peter Hunken, once winemaking partner to Sashi Moorman.

Together, the two made wonderful wines while working at Stolpman Vineyards and with their joint effort Piedrasassi. Now they put the bulk of their energies into their own projects and it clearly shows. Peter has joined up with his wife Amy Christine to form Black Sheep Finds, under which a number of wines are produced.

Heading in a different direction then their contemporaries, Hunken and Christine seem to be out to have fun. The labels are playful and inviting -- representative, I'm sure, of Peter's fine art background -- and the wines are fresh and full of ripe delicious fruit. There are bottles depicting octopi and some with turn-of-the-century bicycle daredevils. But one that stands out is the illusionist-adorned Hocus Pocus.

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In the world of wine there are many bottles that require heavy thought and serious contemplation to enjoy. Many times older wines have lost the juiciness of their youth and leave behind only secondary and tertiary notes to appreciate. The pure gustatory and immediate pleasure of these wines is gone. This is not the case with the 2010 Hocus Pocus Syrah. The wine speaks with the same jovial tone of its label, and much like the depiction of a magician hovering above a crowd, this wine is a kind of magic.

Made from a blend of cool climate fruit from the biodynamically-farmed Presidio and Watch Hill vineyards and warmer climate fruit from the Harrison-Clarke Vineyard, it has the range of a great opera singer. Bursting with blueberries picked off a dew-covered bush, this wine is juicy, refreshing and ready to go. Moderate alcohol levels and bright acidity make this a thirst-quenching quaffer. That is not to say that this wine won't evolve, developing even more savory notes, inviting the wine to linger both on the tongue and on the brain. It is simply that at the moment, this wine is pure pleasure. And when served at cellar temperature, it disappears as quickly and mysteriously as a coin in the hand of a skilled magician.

The 2010 Hocus Pocus Syrah retails for about $19 a bottle.

[Photo of the Black Sheep Finds coin-like logo from their official 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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