Friday, January 23, 2009

Varner tasting at K&L Wines

Bob Varner was hosting at K&L wines this evening, pouring a selection of their current releases. The annual release isn't until spring, so it was basically the same lineup that he poured at a similar tasting last April. It was interesting to see how the wines showed and how my views on them had changed almost a year after release.

The Spring Ridge vineyard in Portola Valley is planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Roughly half the Chardonnay is on its own rootstock; the other half, the "Bee Block" is grafted. The Varners take a "non-interventionist" approach to both growing and winemaking; the vines are dry farmed once they are established, the Chardonnay is harvested, crushed and pressed and allowed to ferment without the addition of yeasts; the Pinot is destemmed and also uses only endemic yeasts.

2007 Foxglove Chardonnay, San Luis Obispo County
An unoaked Chardonnay, that's a blend of Edna Valley and Paso Robles fruit. On the nose there's grapefruit and vanilla. On the palate it's smoothed out somewhat and is showing less bright fruit than I recall.

2006 Varner Bee Block Chardonnay
On the nose there's apple, gooseberry and honeysuckle. The palate shows butter, caramel, apple and pineapple, with vanilla oak on the longish finish.

2006 Varner Ampitheater Block Chardonnay
A nice aroma of pineapple and vanilla. More austere than the Bee block; less butter, more acidity and a nice finish of lemon peel and wet stone.

2006 Varner Home Block Chardonnay
Showing less vanilla on the nose than the others; more floral. Lots of fruit, particularly melon and lemon. A long, slightly bitter finish showing oak and again wet stone.

2005 Neely "Holly's Cuvee" Pinot Noir
Definitely the best showing for this wine so far. The nose is bright and smoky, the palate is richer and smoother than past tastings. It's now showing more cherry and less cranberry; the finish is tannic. Leave this alone and it may well come up trumps.

2007 Foxglove Zinfandel, Paso Robles
This wine was made from a vineyard that the Varners were considering sourcing fruit from. The wine was cellared and bottled by them. There's a nice nose of raspberries and cloves; good fruit on the palate but a slightly bitter finish. At 14.6% it's nicely balanced and at $14 it's well priced.