How did I miss Albarino Day–and the accompanying festivities which stretched for a week?
Because as much as I love Albarino, the food friendly white originally from Galicia Spain, I had a good reason–I was backpacking in a remote area of Yosemite National Park and had no cell or internet access!
But I made up for it! On my way from Yosemite to the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, I parked my van first at Twisted Oak Winery, located in the Sierra foothills near Murphys and specializing in Iberian wines like Albarino!
Twisted Oak has two tasting rooms, one at the winery and one in Murphys; both are family-friendly, pet-friendly, and wine-lover-friendly, and there’s even an Enchanted Garden behind the Murphys Tasting Room! The Winery Tasting Room (and Concert Venue) is located at 4280 Red Hill Road at Hwy 4, Vallecito, CA and is open Monday-Friday 11:30-5:30, Saturday & Sunday 10:30-5:30. There you can see where they make the wine, see the iconic tree, and enjoy the amazing views!
In addition to tasting Albarino with the resident frikken (that’s cross between a Calaveras County frog and a Twisted Oak chicken), I tasted 12 wines, white and red, and spoke with owner Jeff Stai as well as the winemaker Mark Kunz. And I had a fun time staging photos of some of the wines with Twisted Oak’s iconic rubber chickens!
Mark Kunz has been the winemaker at Twisted Oak for only a few years, with this being his fifth harvest, but he’s been in the wine business for over 30, starting in Sonoma and then moving to the Sierra foothills about eight years ago following opportunities including working closely with one of his favorites, grenache or garnacha. He’s also a big fan of tempranillo and mourvedre, making this a great match!
Here are some quick tasting notes on a few of the Twisted Oak wines with the 20% discount price for wine club members, “the Twisted Few”:
2015 Verdejo, Grant Vineyard, Calaveras County $17.60:
Lovely aromatics, white stone fruit, fun and fresh!
2015 Albarino, Metate/Dragone $17.60:
apricot kernel, refreshing, bright, lively, great price for the value
2013 Viognier, Tanner/Dalton $15.20:
lush, fragrant, easy drinking; this is a steal at this price and no wonder it’s almost sold out!
As Mark likes the roundness that neutral oak adds, all three of the whites I tasted had this quality which makes them different from ones I have tasted from Spain. I appreciate his more gentle approach to his use of oak in the whites as well as the reds. Regular readers of this blog will know that heavily oaked wines make us wonder what is being masked!
2014 %#&@! Red Hill/Tanner $17.60
Also known as “Potty Mouth” this is the wine that got me hooked on Twisted Oak! This GSM blend (56% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, and 22% Grenache) is as good as ever.
For having such a profane name, it is refined, balanced, elegant.
In June, I opened a 2003 to celebrate our son and the sons of friends turning teenagers. And just like we as parents are holding up over the years, so did this wine. Now I just wish that I’d bought more bottles of it to put away back then –so I will be making up for this by buying a few of this one while I can! It’s a fun, but memorable wine to share, and a wonderful value too.
2013 Torcido Garnacha Red Hill Estate $31.20
Surprisingly not as pink in color as typical, and light as well. While not a heavy-bodied wine, it packs a perky punch!
2013 Carignane Tanner $31.20
This mouthwatering wine has a little more oak than the other reds but it is still subtle. Currants and cassis.
2014 Tempranillo $17.60
This very affordable Tempranillo reminds me of Ferdinand the Bull, from the children’s book: it seems like it might be a monster but t’s very friendly.
2013 “Zilch” Tempranillo, Rolleri/Red Hill $23.20
Classic briny qualities similar to ones from Rioja, this wine is made in part from Red Hill estate and from head trained vines from Rolleri.
2012 “Spaniard” Tempranillo Red Hill $39.20
The nose on this Spaniard is only part of what makes this wine so distinct: floral notes remind me of walking in the cork forests in Portugal surrounded by fields of wild lavender and other herbs. And the finish just goes on and on and on and on…
It lingers in your memory like a great story.
This is what Tempranillo aspires to be. This is a statement wine. And I’m grateful there’s a bottle of this in my cellar waiting for that special day!
If you are a Tempranillo fan, you’d be in heaven at Twisted Oak! And if you’re not already a Tempranillo fan, you will become one!
2013 Murgatroyd $23.20
60% Petit verdot? 20% Cabernet Sauvignon? 20% Petit sirah? Heavens to Murgatroyd, it works! And it’s good! Don’t let the rose petals on the nose fool you, this is the wine to choose for that New York steak hot off the grill. It’s integrated, but with plenty of blue fruit and backbone too.
2013 Ol’ Chumbucket $31.20
I found a lot of red fruit including cherry, but sources swear that while this is a kitchen sink blend, it’s not necessarily cabernet Sauvignon giving it that tart cherry flavor! I’m betting on a fair amount of Tempranillo, plus Petite Sirah and Petite verdot too. As you can see, it is a deep rich color… and wine too. There’s a lot going on here!
2013 Syrah Tanner $17.60
Last but not least, I tasted this Syrah from Tanner vineyards. This one is very intense with lots of black pepper and oak with a quick finish.
I wish I could stick around longer for the next concert at Twisted Oak Winery: The Claire Lynch Band will play hilltop in Vallecito on Saturday, August 27th! But no. I have to get back to teaching…
But before school starts next week, I head to Amador county in hopes I will be able to join a pre-conference excursion! Here’s what’s in store:
A Kennedy Mine Progressive Dining Experience tonight, then tomorrow “In a vineyard setting, engage with the stewards of Amador’s Historical Vineyards of Zinfandel in one-one conversations with pioneers who maintain the quality and love of heritage growth dating back to 1870’s. Sponsored by eight wineries, enjoy featured tastings of wine founded in Amador tradition by each winery.” In the afternoon, is a session called PIONEERING MODERN WINE : FACILITY EXPERIENCE – ( Andis Wines ) where we will “Get to know your winemaker hosts in a casual setting at a seated luncheon featuring specially selected wines and lively conversation with the engaging personas of eight wineries in the backdrop of a modern facility as you soak up the incredible stories of how Amador winemakers blend respectful tradition with modern fluidity, evident in their flagship and award winning wines.”
Later tomorrow I will be in Lodi for the Wine Bloggers Conference, and speaking of Albarino and Lodi, a while ago Sue, Annie, and I tasted:
Cantara Cellars 2010 Albarino Terra Alta Vineyard Clements Hills Lodi $26 retail
The citrus here is diffused and complex. The color is a nice sunny yellow, mellow, honey, floral, jasmine. Annie says it’s a “bella” wine. Babcock peach and apricot. Refreshing and comforting. We could see this as a wine you might want to just keep in the fridge all the time, especially in the summer, to grab and take on a picnic to clear your head. We loved it with the raw oysters…but when we put some pesto on the oysters, well, that would definitely make you forget a bad day!
We think if more people tasted Albarino, whether from Twisted Oak, Cantara, or Spain, they’d be looking for more Albarino! It’s not an easy find as not much is grown in the US, but it is worth the search.
If you’re passing through Camarillo (between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles), stop by Cantara Cellars–it’s open to the public Thurs.- Sun. 11 AM- 5:00 PM (805-484-9600). This is where they make about 3000 cases of wine produced from fruit transported from the Lodi AVA. http://www.cantaracellars.com And if you’re lucky, you might be able to take home some Albarino!