A White From Carlisle? That’s Right!

Monday, June 13, 2016 5:59 PM

The Derivative from Carlisle
I like to boast about the fact that The Wine House started carrying Carlisle wines from the very first vintage whenMike Officer, then a customer of ours with a taste for Rhônes, began making small lots of Zinfandel. Eighteen vintages later, we continue to still stock Carlisle wines only now their repertoire has expanded to include several single-vineyard and appellation-designated Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah (to name a few) and of late, white wine too. The 2013 The Derivative is a complex blend of several white grape varietals from multiple vineyard keeping in line with Carlisle’s zeal for sourcing old-vine fruit.
Semillon at Monte Rosso Vineyard
The base of the wine is Semillon, about half of the blend, from the famed and historic Monte Rosso Vineyard.Monte Rosso Vineyard is named for its rich, red volcanic soils and lies on the last high flank of the Mayacamas Range. The Semillon grown here was first planted in 1890. To this Mike adds Muscadelle from three different vineyards, and Colombard from Mancini Ranch. At the corner of Piner and Olivet Roads just west of Santa Rosa,Mancini Ranch was planted by Lucca Mancini in 1922.The Colombard adds a significant acid component, adding lift and zip to the wine. Only the Semillon was fermented in oak and of that, only 20% was new. The rest of the grapes were fermented in tank. Phew, that was a lot of information I realize, but I find it interesting to know how the pieces fit together to make a harmonious, complex wine. The wine is golden-hued with honey, grapefruit and beeswax notes. It has firm structure and the acid is notable and pleasant.
Saitone Ranch
On a recent Monday morning, Peter said to me “guess what I drank yesterday?”. I of course had no idea, but my best guess was “Bordeaux”. Nope, he drank a glass of The Derivative with Sunday lunch at a restaurant. I hadn’t tasted it yet, so I asked what he thought of it. He told me he liked it very much and that it reminded him of White Bordeaux. Hmmm…that sounded intriguing to me. The winery notes on The Derivative specifically suggest that fans of White Bordeaux would find this wine “right up your ally”. I have to admit that when I took the wine home to try for myself, because of the percentage of Semillon, I had in mind a much different flavor profile. I expected it to be oily and round, but what I tasted was far more stealth and lively … like White Bordeaux. The grapefruit and spearmint flavors are followed by a slight oxidative note reminding me of the bottles of 1998 Domaine de Chevalier I polished off just a while back. In flavor and in structure, this wine suggests it will age quite comfortably. I would be curious to know how this wine evolves over time. For right now though, it is pretty delicious.
Mike Officer
I siphoned off a bit of The Derivative into a vial to share with the guys at the store. I served them a taste blind just to make it more interesting. Chris, David and Pete liked it immediately and with some deductive reasoning, Pete recognized the wine as being the one he had at Sunday lunch. Chris remarked that he wished he could taste the wine with food, thinking that it would perhaps show differently. I got excited by his comment because I knew it to be true. As the cliché goes, The Derivative is a food wine.The Derivative takes on a much broader flavor spectrum with food and its acidity cradles rich, creamy flavors to higher heights. I write this because I know – at home the glass I tried became far more opulent and showy when I drank it with my dinner.
2013 The Derivative
Over the last eighteen vintages, I have witnessed the evolution of a winery go from a small unknown to one widely recognized as being one of the finest producers in California. An online wine forum that I follow from time to time – they claim to be “The World’s Largest and Most Active Online Wine Community”- even has a thread that reads “Which Carlisle are you drinking”? The thread has over 6,000 posts. Not just any winery can command that much interest and devotion.
School’s out for Summer! Alice Cooper’s lyric looped inside my head as I drove my daughter to her last day of 6th grade. I think I may be more excited than she is about the start of summer. I am hoping to slow down the pace, go outside, explore. As someone wisely said in a movie I watched with my daughter (her choice) last weekend, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Anya Balistreri
Storybook Mountain Vineyards’ Zinfandels are my kind of Zinfandels. I like to be able to taste the fruit.  All too often in the attempt to extract as much power as possible, Zinfandels are pushed overboard so that alcohol and structure mask the intrinsic charm of Zinfandel – its fruit. A Zinfandel that doesn’t bowl you over isn’t necessarily a wimpy wine or one lacking in concentration. A balanced Zinfandel will, however, reward the wine drinker with nuance, layers of flavors and compatibility with food. The 2009 Mayacamas Range from Storybook Mountain is such a Zinfandel. A welcoming floral note greets the senses and moves on to cool dark raspberry fruit, hints of soil and juicy acidity on the palate. It is a silky Zinfandel that glides on and on. 
Owner/winemaker Jerry Seps explained to me that the unique soil of his vineyards along with their eastern exposure and location in the coolest part of the Napa Valley, in the hillsides north of Calistoga, all contribute to the retention of vivid aromatics and the snappy fruit of his wines. The Aiken series clay soil that is found at Storybook Mountain Vineyards is quite rare in Napa and has a distinctive red color. The clay is volcanic in origin and rich in magnesium and iron. The Seps farm without herbicides or insecticides and are certified organic. Dr. Seps’ approach to winemaking, just like others whom I admire that work intimately with the vineyard, is to preserve the freshness of the fruit by basically standing out of the way. I was overcome by a feeling of familiarity when I last tasted the 2009 Mayacamas Range Zinfandel, like I was catching up with an old friend I haven’t seen in years – quickly falling back into laughter, inside jokes and intimacy. I think this emotional response comes from tasting a wine – one I’ve tasted many times over the years – that is sight specific and expressive of place. It tasted familiar because the Mayacamas Range Zinfandel from Storybook Mountain Vineyards will always have a constant at its core despite vintage variations. It’s no wonder Wine & Spirits Magazine has named Storybook Mountain Vineyards one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World nine times! 
School’s out in a few days, summer is just around the corner and I’m starting to plan my next patio party. I’ll likely have my hubby grill something up, while I’ll handle the salads and sides. To complete my summer dinner party, a bottle of Zinfandel must grace the table. I won’t want one that will assault my senses. No way! That’s why I’ll be taking home a bottle of the 2009 Mayacamas Range Zinfandel from Storybook Mountain Vineyards. Sounds heavenly! —Anya Balistreri

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