Bottling Day at Bumgarner Winery

Sharing a moment with Brian Bumgarner

This past week I had the distinct pleasure of joining bottling efforts at Bumgarner Winery in Fair Play, CA.

I have been following winemaker’s work for well over a decade and have been collecting some of his oldest vintages. Brian Bumgarner’s style is more traditional. His are best described as dry, terroir-driven and age-worthy.

On this day we bottled the Many Hands Cuvee, his award winning Bordeaux style blend. You can read my review of the Many Hands Cuvee here. A a reward for helping out, the Winemaker grilled sausages and prepared a delicious charcuterie board for us.

Winemaking is not a glamorous affair. It is real. It is raw. It takes lots of hard work, patience, tenacity and diligence. It also takes family and community, both of which Brian has in relative abundance around him. This shows through his work. Brian’s wines have been the perfect punctuation to many moments over the years. Thank you for sharing your amazing wines with us all these years. I very much look forward to all your future vintages. This was definitely a moment to cherish.

Read more about Bumgarner Wines on WineSnob

Sierra Midnight (Lot #1) by Windwalker

Tonight’s Occasion: Sierra Midnight – Lot #1 by Windwalker, Fair Play, CA.

Dark opaque color. Thick aromatic nose out of the bottle with firm notes of dark plum, sawdust and a subtle but unmistakable tangerine peel. I remember while barrel tasting with Zach this spring, owner Jim opened one for us to try, this one note was haunting. We both obsessed over it for a while until we finally pinned it down – tangerine skins with a distant hint of all spice. As it breathes a soft licorice emerges, this wine’s sense of place. It only intensifies from here on.

Big, bold and beautiful. The body greets with a thick, somewhat viscous, silky if not slightly chewy mouth feel. Big fruit, matches bold fine grained dusty tannic structure. Ripe dark plums, blackberries and blueberries dominate. A subtle old wet wood leather permeates the entire experience. Gentle spice emerges midway, slowly intensifying through the finish. Transition to finish is seamless, ending with a slightly creamy, dusty, enduring tannic grip and spice heat.

Unshackled from time, this unique signature cross-vintage blend is an exercise in shunning the rules of rigid conventional thinking. Why not? Lot #1 is the first of its kind by this winemaker. After 10 or more years it has had time to integrate very nicely. Layers blend and transition together nicely. It is showing really well. It makes no apologies and embraces what this region is all about.

If you can get your hands on any of the Sierra Midnight lots, I highly recommend you lay them down for at least 10 or more years.

Nicely done Jim, Zach, Ryan and the entire crew at Windwalker.

2002 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyard

Tonight’s occasion: 2002 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyard, Fair Play, CA

Deep dark opaque, inky color. Out of the bottle, nose is a little shy, thick, warm, with a big, firm plum essence. A fine dusty granite lingers in the background. Swirling vigorously unlocks bursts of red vines licorice, damp woody leather, white pepper, spice. As it opens a distinct anise creeps forward – this wine’s sense of place. Hints of refined caramel linger in the distance, you’d almost miss it.

Big, bold, and beautiful! At almost 20 years of age, this wine greets with bold well integrated fruit, ripe plums, blackberries and blueberries, which create a firm, thick, monolithic structure. This is quickly accompanied by measured acidity and firm spice which both set the tone and create a vibrant stage. A thick viscous, creamy mouth feel emerges as it opens up. Transition to finish is seamless as an already massive tannic grip grows even more powerful, licorice and black currants jockey for second place. In the end, the palate succumbs to an ever tightening grip that lingers long after.

This is about as off the beaten path as it goes. For decades this Winemaker has been toiling away in this Vineyard, manifesting his singular vision for what is possible in this region. After almost two decades this wine shows impeccable structure, is surprisingly delineated, and remains vibrant. While tasting with owner/winemaker Jonathan this past weekend, I tried to imagine what the 2018 would look like and this 2002 confirms my thoughts. This Winemaker’s obsession with every detail shines here, from the vine to the wine. His wines make an essential study of this frontier of California Wine making. I highly recommend you take a look at his work.

Essentially a one-man show, he is very pressed for time and can only offer tastings by appointment only. Make enough time, don’t be late and enjoy a focused tasting of wines that represent the region in it’s truest form.

I’ve been waiting a few years now and I look forward to diving deeper into his wines here on WineSnob.

Nice work Jonathan!

2018 Eighteen Sixty One (GSM) by Skinner Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Eighteen Sixty One (GSM) by Skinner Vineyards, Fair Play CA

Deep intense semi-opaque color. Nose is a little shy out of the bottle with an unmistakable dusty old leather. Swirling vigorously unlocks a slightly heavy layer of dark cherries, cola, and blueberries. Leather turns from slight sawdust to wet wood. Distant hints of licorice could almost be missed. As it opens up, the cherry cola becomes more pronounced.

Body has almost no attack. It is balanced right down the line and greets the palate almost immediately with a soft plush light mouth feel. It brings a smile to my face because I know winemaker Adam Smith comes from an Oregon Pinot Noir background. The subtlety here bears an uncanny resemblance. Dark cherries are heavily restrained providing an unobtrusive structure. Minerality is subtle and has the effect of wetting the palate. Body is bone dry. If there is oak, I cannot detect it. I feel like I am tasting nothing but the grapes, the vines and the subtle parts of the terroir. Body and finish are almost one as wet an dry interplay on the palate, over a thin whispy cola.

Skinner for me has always been reference to the greater region. Adam’s style is precise, with clear vision and an unmistakable influence as a natural Pinot winemaker. For a region and Vineyard that easily makes some of the biggest boldest wines I know, this is a textbook exercise in restraint, balance and nuance. This wine demans focus and undivided attention of the intermediate to advanced palate.

Nicely done Adam and the entire crew at Skinner Vineyards!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Skinner wines delivered to your doorstep.

Shop Skinner wines on Wine.com

 

2019 Grenache by Windwalker Vineyard, Somerset CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Grenache by Windwalker Vineyard, Somerset CA

Beautiful clear ruby color. Out of the bottle nose is a little shy with notes of damp wood and cherry cola. Swirling vigorously unlocks a burst of cherry cola and slightly mineral leather. Faint hints of anise linger in the back. This is El Dorado after all.

Body is more viscous than it looks, greeting the palate with good balance. Restrained acid and subtle tannins in the form of dark, slightly ripe cherries are married together by a refined caramel creating a pleasant silky mouth feel. This quickly dances across a fairly unobtrusive structure, and gives way to a slightly bitter backdrop of cola and wet granite contrasted only by a crisp caramel that lingers on the palate. This marks the transition to a swift finish ending in a slightly moist yet dry palate and spontaneous ignition as gentle but firm heat re-emerges from deep within.

This is my newest favorite winemaker! His style mixes the bold and brash of the classic foothills with a touch of sophistication and daring. Starting pouring wine in the tasting room at a very young age and working his way to winemaker a few years ago, he reminds me of many of the top winemakers I’ve been following for over a decade. This is one to follow closely. This Grenache makes a strong statement.

Nicely done Zach and the entire crew at Windwalker.

Read more about this winemaker on WineSnob

WineSnob Calendar: Malbec Day

Did you celebrate Malbec Day? My good friend Shelly stopped by to help out. To celebrate we explored two Malbec wines from opposite sides of the world.

Have you had Malbec before? What are your favorites you’d like to see featured on WineSnob? Let me know in the comments below.

2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California.

Dark opaque color. Popping the cork releases a bouquet of dark berries and herbal essence. Eucalyptus and mint comes to mind. As it settles, a heavy tart plum is accompanied by a touch of sweet cherry. Secondary leathery granite terroir quickly makes its presence known. Swirl vigorously and unlock a burst of star anise unmistakable with this greater region. It is particularly reminiscent of a sweet Absinthe and lingers in the background. I love this. As you swirl, the nose turns sweeter.

Heavy, viscous, dark plum dominates the body. Firm acidity and bold tannin go hand in hand. Neither yielding to the other. Body is bone dry. Woody, berry, and earth notes combine to create a soft slightly creamy overtone. One of my favorite Snobs, Guy (@wine.alchemy | FootHillsWino) best describes it as Bacon Fat. Massive, deep rooted, fine grained tannins permeate the entire experience. Transition to finish is fairly seamless as tart plums cede to a relentless dry, dusty tannic grip. Black currants and a smoldering heat are all that is left to see your palate off on its journey to its long dry finish in the desert.

Skinner makes some of the best Syrah in my cellar. I keep several cases of various vintages as reference wines. They serve as fine examples of mature, well built, wines from the Sierra Foothills. I highly recommend Skinner for the intermediate to advanced palate especially. This 2013 is just now coming of age and should show especially well over the next 5 years and beyond.

Well done Skinner!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Skinner wines delivered to your doorstep.

Shop Skinner wines on Wine.com

2019 Grenache Blanc by Skinner Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2019 Grenache Blanc by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California.

Clear light color. Out of the bottle a gentle burst of floral notes, a touch of honey. This slowly dissipates to suggestions of tart stone fruits and a slate-like minerality punctuated by a touch of leather and citrus notes. Swirl vigorously to unlock the whole experience all over again. Very cool!

Body is very nicely balanced retaining moderate acidity while presenting a smooth, creamy and rounded mouth feel. The winemaker struck a perfect balance here. Stone fruits pull forward as floral notes fall back. You could almost miss the faint mineral leather. Transition to finish is seamless, only briefly punctuated by subtle dry tannic grip and a touch of spice which leaves the lips tingling. At 12.8% ABV, the palate can really explore this nuanced wine without being overwhelmed or fatigued. I like that.

I have been tasting some amazing white wines this summer from this region. This Grenache Blanc exposes the palate to new levels of excellence. There has been a clear attention to detail and forethought put into this wine. It is showing well now and should further integrate nicely over the next few years. I’d get a few, have some now and save some for later. Very nicely done Skinner!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Skinner wines delivered to your doorstep.

Shop Skinner wines on Wine.com

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon by MV Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Reserve) by MV (Miller Vineyards), Fair Play, California.

Last year our search for Winemaker Of The Year took us on an unexpected journey. We toured various California wine country but none left a an indelible mark like the Sierra Foothills. We were on the road almost every weekend of the year and tasting several times a week. We encountered so many amazing winemakers toiling away at their life’s passion. About half a dozen emerged as hands down in the class of their own, not just on a local or California stage but on a world stage. MV Vineyards was perhaps the most notable in this respect.

Tonight we look at a Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a distillation of what a big California Cab is all about. A true artisan work of art by a craftsman with absolutely no compromise and every possible attention to detail. Batches are so small you will never find this masterpiece anywhere else but in the little cottage at the end of the road in Fair Play.

Dark inky color. Big, warm, intense nose with caramel and marshmallows which quickly dissipate once it opens up. Subtle plum, blackberries, bramble bush and wild herbs take center stage. Terroir is very restrained an leans on the mineral sandstone side of the spectrum.

Body is measured. Well balanced from front to back. A measured dose of blackberries and plum carry over while retaining its dry overall posture. Herbs and wild bush remain in the back while bold well structured fine grained tannins take over the transition to a firm but restrained finish, capped with a healthy dose of spice. Simply amazing!

You cannot speak of California Wines and not have immersed yourself in art like this. This is the frontier, the leading edge of what made California wines what they are today. You will never find a corporate mass production wine that comes even close to this. This, like the others we have reviewed on here are worth a trip to California and the Sierra Foothills. Well done Mr. & Mrs. Miller!

2011 Syrah (El Dorado) by Skinner

Tonight’s occasion: 2011 Syrah (El Dorado) by Skinner Vineyards.

Deep rich color. Crisp nose greets you with lots of plum, a little cherry, subtle oak, and slight mineral. The heat and spice in this wine is more pronounced in the nose and diminishes through the rest of the experience. In the body, a subtle acidic attack is quickly overwhelmed by big buttery tannins giving it a noticeably chewy mouth feel. The finish takes an interesting turn with an abundance of wood as oak and vanilla turn into cedar with a hint of licorice.

One of the things that I like about this winemaker, is the wines are appropriately aged before release. They are not rushed to the glass. This way you can expect a quality, mature wine whenever you visit the winery. This vintage is almost 10yrs old. It is showing really well right now. I think this is what it was meant to be. It has just entered its peak and should be perfect any time over the next 4-5 years before its more nuanced characteristics start to fade. It is a great example of what is possible in this region. If you are looking to explore the most current frontier of California wine country, this is where I recommend you start. Well done Skinner!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Skinner wines delivered to your doorstep.

Shop Skinner wines on Wine.com icon