Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2005 Alexander Valley Vineyards Two Barrel

Empirical data trumps analysis.

Rating: Though not a blockbuster, apparently good enough to disappear before it had a chance to open up.


The rest of the story:
Full disclosure: This wine was a gift from a Winethropology reader.  We are embarrassed to say that we do not know who it came from, so if it was you, please let us know so we can thank you properly.

It's funny how you can think something through only to realize that - no matter how much sense you think you're making - all evidence points to the contrary.  Such is the lesson learned reviewing this wine.

We taste wine a very particular way - most of the time.  This was not one of those times.

The analytical tasting went a little something like this: A bit lean, some good fruit, but not the Alexander Valley character we know and love, medium bodied, drinkable, nice color, blah-blah-blah...In other words, a lot of hedging phrases that would leave you with the impression that this is an okay-nothing-special-take-it-or-leave it wine.

But the practical (quaffing) review went like this:  Hmmm.  Nothing like that great 05 Cab these guys turned out, but not bad.  Could probably use some air.  Think we'll have another pour.  Nice color.  50/50 Syrah-Merlot?  Yeah, you can taste that.  Boy, this could turn into something given a little time to mellow and breathe.  Okay, we've got a little bit of structure here.  Let's try it again...Hey, what happened to the wine?  It's all gone!

We discussed the phenomena of comparison tastings in a recent post and mentioned the importance of which bottle empties first.  And while this wine was not tasted with others, it sure did empty fast.  Too fast.  We cannot ignore that fact.

We spoke with Dale in the tasting room there who explained that this wine is made entirely from estate fruit.  He also went on to tell us that the Two Barrel, which originated as a project between wine club members and the winery, is (sigh) being discontinued. (Actually, that decision is not final - see Andrew Fegelman's note below).

But how about this background story from their website: Two Barrel was originally inspired by our Wine Club. Each spring, club members would come together to create their own special blend. The wines were made in small quantities and generally available only at the winery. To bring the concept to a larger audience, we conceived Two Barrel, proving that the whole is just as brilliant as the two parts.

How fun is that?

The Wetzel family, proprietors of Alexander Valley Vineyards, are long time residents and winemakers in the Alexander Valley.  Despite being a family-run show, this enterprising winery turns out around 20 different wines from 11 varietals, and bottles them under 8 distinct brands.  Wow.  And that's for a total of 100,000 cases.

Sounds like they're a pretty busy crew over there.

We've seen this wine priced anywhere from $13 to $22.  Obviously we like it more at the lower end of that bracket, but we do want to try it again - next time hopefully we'll exercise some discipline and give it time to breathe.  We’re also looking forward to reviewing some of their other offerings soon. Stay tuned.

In response to this review, Andrew Fegelman, Director of Retail Sales & Marketing said:
Thanks for the good word on the Two Barrel. As we can tell from your tasting session, it is definitely a quaffable wine. I’ve had similar sessions where I take a sip with friends and not too long after we start, we find out we’ve emptied the bottle. One of the strengths of this wine is how food friendly it is. I think it combines the best of two worlds, the richness of the Merlot with the structure of the Syrah.

One thing I want to correct is that the wine is being discontinued. We did not produce Two Barrel in 2007. However, we are in the middle of evaluating our vineyards and our portfolio as all good wineries do from time to time, deciding what to do for 2008, 2009 and beyond. What happens with Two Barrel is part of that evaluation. One exciting thing that is happening here as we celebrate our 35th anniversary next year is the Alexander School Reserve program. These are small production wines from our best vineyards. We are about to release a single vineyard Cab from the 2006 vintage (which is killer by the way) and will follow that with an Old Vine Grenache and a Big Barrel Syrah.

Thanks for the interest in Alexander Valley Vineyards and if you have any questions, let me know.


We'll look forward to trying those new wines!