Every now and again you get to meet a rock star. I got to meet one tonight at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants. Pam Starr. Rock star. She’s got a resume that’s as long as all of our arms put together. She’s got stops at Sonoma-Cutrer, Edna Valley, Carmenet and one of my favs, Spottswoode. She teamed up with Charlie Crocker and is doing some amazing things. More important, she’s fun and engaging. The guy I was chatting with wasn’t a Sauvignon Blanc fan. She makes two and cajoled him into trying both. Two damn fine Sauv blancs. She has a second label, I think it’s Bridesmaid? I want to call it Brideshead. Anyway the Crocker Starr one was the one that I loved. The Bridesmaid was a more typical Sauvignon Blanc, but also a very good one. The CrockerStarr was fully developed with lime on the front and she called it sea shells and it really fit, sea shells on the finish. It’s minerally and has this essence like you just shot an oyster. Just that last bit. Yeah, like that. She makes a Cabernet Franc that’s out of this world. It’s damned near chewy it’s so thick. I got Dr. Pepper, clove, spice and thick ripe fruit on the palate. A nice long finish. We agreed that it was the kind of wine that was so good you would drink the whole bottle by accident, just because it felt so good in your mouth. Amazing offering. The final wine was her Stone Place, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. This bad boy needs a little more time in the bottle to me, but it is going to be unparallelled when it’s done. Currently it’s a little tight on the finish like all well made California Cabernets, but there’s something about this one that’s going to blow everyone away someday. Currently it’s got dark fruit, coca cola, coffee, chocolate, leather all that good stuff, but the finish is a little tannic. Give it a couple of years and all the good stuff will have mellowed into an elegance that I dare say any one else got in 2006. I wish I’d gotten a bottle of it, but I came home with the Cabernet Franc, which I don’t regret one iota.
My wine buying capacity was deeply hindered by this.
From this point forward the lean green machine will be known as That Punk Ass Bitch of a Car. Really. You had to lose your fuel pump on the highway? Yeah, I need that. I coasted to the side of the 24 and thanked my lucky stars that I had AAA and a father who taught me common sense with cars. The bitch of the whole thing was I was about a mile from the shop, on the road to the shop, pointed right at the shop, heading to the shop and I couldn’t make it. The boys at M Service did a great job of hooking me up on this one. Dante got in there and crossed a few things off of the list that were fine on my car and didn’t need to be done and got me back on the road for the number I told him he had to get me back on the road for. I was planning on doing the radiator next week, but on the way home from the City on Wednesday it started doing something funny. I called them the next morning and was on my way to the shop, but she insisted on dumping me on the freeway. It’s the second time she’s dumped me on the freeway this year. Me and that car are heading to the Big D and I don’t mean Dallas.
Why was I in the City? I went down to Biondivino on Wednesday night for their Brunello tasting. She specializes in Italian wines. And she’s pretty good at it.
They had Altare in from the Piedmonte region of Italy. Altare’s winemaker, Silvia Altare showed up too. It was a week for women in wine, that’s for sure. Silvia is a charming woman. I would guess she’s in her 20’s or early 30’s, she’s got that great Italian skin so who knows. She didn’t stay behind the table, she grabbed a bottle and worked the crowd. And she makes some damned fine juice. They had 9 bottles open. The first one, which to me was the strangest was the Campogrande Cinqueterre 2008. Now, we all know I have a pretty decent palette. I cannot tell you how they arrived at their $77 price point on that one. To me it drank like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I can almost consistently spot what they’re talking about not on this one. Anyone care to explain it to me, I’d be pleased to listen. The Elio Altare Dolcetto d’Alba 2007 at $25 made a heck of alot more sense to me. It was bright and fun. Silva said you could serve it cold in the summer if you so chose. It was like a good Nuevo Beaujolais. She had two Langhe Larigi, the 2005 and 2007. I think the translation is kitchen sink. Actually they are Barberas. Very good ones as well. I preferred the 2005 with it’s intensity and gentle tannins. They had a vertical of the Altare Barolo 2004, 2005, 2006. I liked the 2006 best. It had brighter fruit, a nice ripeness to it. The Elio Altare Barolo Arborina is her big boy wine. It clocked in at $130 a bottle. And she brought two. The 2005 and the 1998. The 2005 was a bright and lively wine. Dark ripe fruit, leather, smoke and a little bit of anise on the finish. Now here’s the rub. The 1998 had some elegance to it that time in the bottle will produce but it was still very tannic on the finish. Her wines can and should be laid down for literally YEARS.
I think Silvia has taken an old Italian tradition and made it sexy. I don’t know a ton about Italian wines, but I know Altare wines are like a rave in your mouth. And as they mature, they have that elegance of a maturing artists who still likes to bite back once in a while, because youth is wasted on the young.