Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thomas Fogarty

Skyline Boulevard runs for about 40 miles along the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains, from Route 92 in Redwood City down to Route 17, south of San Jose. It's a nice road to drive; very scenic and winding.

About 5 miles south of the junction with Route 84 sits Thomas Fogarty Winery. Dr Fogarty was a surgeon who invented the Balloon Embolectomy Catheter. In the 1970s he took up home winemaking, and in 1981 he established the winery.

The tasting room inside the winery overlooks Portola Valley; on a clear day you can see the bay. Unfortunately right now smoke from the various local fires blocks part of the view. There are two tasting flights; one costs $6, the other $12. Each flight includes six wines. I did both flights side-by-side so as to compare similar varietals.

2005 Estate Chardonnay ($35)
A rich, slightly oaky nose. On the palate it's lemony and, well, gravelly - like sucking small pebbles. There's some vanilla oak and good acidity. Nice finish.

2005 Gist Ranch Chardonnay ($45)
Very similar to the Estate. Perhaps slightly higher acidity and I detected some pear. that wasn't in the first, but it didn't seem significantly better. Maybe with some bottle age it'll show more; for now I'll stick with the Estate.

2006 Gewurztraminer, Monterey County ($18)
Great nose, typical Gewurztraminer; very floral. Fairly dry (0.4% residual sugar), fruity and light in acidity. Good value. Bottled under a screw cap.

2006 "White Harvest" Pinot Noir ($22)
Almost too pale to be considered a Rose, this sits on the skins for less than an hour. Very faint, floral nose; crisp and dry. Interesting, but way overpriced. The Gewurztraminer is by far the better value.

2006 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains ($25)
I tried this at Pinot Days recently; as I said at the time it's a great value. Good cherry flavour and nice acidity; it's drinking great right now.

2006 Michaud Pinot Noir, Chalone AVA ($45)
Much more open than my last tasting, also at Pinot Days. A very nice nose; floral, with cranberry and spice (cinnamon?). On the palate it's rich and spicy, with cherry and cranberry flavours. The finish is good, turning dry and tannic. A few years in the cellar would pay dividends.

2003 "Barbiolo"
A blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo. A jammy, oaky nose. On the palate my first impressions were of bacon and saltines crackers. Notes of blackberry and liquorice followed. This wine would to great with cheese.

2004 Barbera - Fiddletown
Rose hip syrup on the nose. Seemed slightly oxidised. On the palate it was surprisingly sweet - perhaps some residual sugar? It reminded me of a gummy candy called "Wine gums" that I enjoyed as a child.

At this point I realised that I was short of time, consequently the last four were just quick impressions.

2003 Estate Merlot, Razorback Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains ($45)
This was tight and tannic, not giving much up. It deserved more attention from me than it got.

2004 Martella Syrah, Camel Hill Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains ($55)
The only non-Fogarty wine of the flights, this is winemaker Michael Martella's own label. A smoky, heavy, serious Syrah. Certainly needs cellar time.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains ($50)
More elegant than the Napa; the tannins were finer, the fruit less pronounced, the acidity higher. Surprisingly the (stated) alcohol level was higher - 14.2% as opposed to 13.9% for the Napa offering. I'd have guessed it was the other way around. Good cellaring potential.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vallerga Vineyard, Napa Valley ($50)
The Vallerga Vineyard is located in Yountville. This rich, fruity cab had good flavours of sweet blackcurrant backed by oak and some fairly strong tannins. A long finish. Nice.

In summary, there are several very good wines, and very good values here. The $12 tasting doesn't really do that much to justify its higher price; if you are only doing one flight then the $6 option is the best.