Wednesday, August 27, 2008

La Honda Winery 8/26

My friend Dave Tong invited me to join him in his appointment at this "new" winery. Dave blogs about local wines at and has built up a database of local wineries and vineyards (, to which I contribute a very small amount.

They also have a sister business, doing vineyard management for 25 vineyards, all on the eastern side of the mountains. They are located in an industrial area of Redwood City and have actually been there quite a while. What's new is they have begun participating in public events and placing their wines in a few restaurants and retailers.

This place is huge, gorgeous, functional and state of the art. For crush, they actually drive the truck in the front door and out the back. With the layout it seems Ken Wornick was able to design his ideal winemaking facility. Ken also has his philosophy well thought out. I kept hearing him say things I've thought ideal. From pricing based on quality, to making wines to his taste, in a style that best reflects the grapes, to focusing on local customers, starting small and feeling out the market, and just plain having fun.

Only one of the current releases on their website is from the SCM, but there's a few more available at the winery and a couple more to be released this winter. Going forward, the vast majority of their wines will be local. We tasted four wines:

'06 Syrah (SCM) $19
This is entirely Los Altos Hills fruit, mostly from the Quarter Moon Vyd. (Apparently it's very common for LAH vyds. to be on extremely sleep slopes.) 13.2% alc.
The nose is shy with rich dark fruit, a hint of vanilla and a savory character. This is brambly, meaty, smoky, with black lum, blackberry and mandarin zest. Excellent.

'06 Pinot Noir (SCM) "Black Capsule" $34
This is a blend from 4 vineyards, from Los Altos Hills to Woodside.
Nose has a rich McHenry-esque earthy character, dark fruit and some sweetish red plum. This has tight, grippy tannin and grapefruit zest dominatingthe smoky, brambly blackberry that's in the background at this point.
I got to take this bottle home. 28 hours later the black fruit is showing better. The is a good structure of dusty tannin and acid. There's still a lot of zest, a lot of extraction is showing, but now there's char, tobacco, rosemary and violets. (A bit of this appeared at 4 hours, but not so well, and there was a prominent pine resin and astrigency.)
I got the impression they picked this a little later than they'd like and are a little uncomfortable with it. My uncertainty is gone. This is a good wine, needs several years or a lot of air to show it's best. Pick a little earlier and this can be right up the with Woodside and Mount Eden, as a great dark fruited east-side Pinot.

'06 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chalone) "Naylor's Dry Hole" $26
Nose shows warm, rich Cab fruit, a hint of red clay, and maybe a little VA.
Smooth redder fruit, mouth watering, very fine dusty tannin, clove, some blackberry and black plum. I liked it (and think that's a fair price), but wasn't thrilled the way Dave was.
Maybe I'm jaded. My benchmark for the Chalone red clay character was the '95 Graff Mourvedre. There was a pretty good intensity to the best Pinots I've had from this region, too. I suspect the '07 version of this will have darker fruit and call louder to me.

'05 Viognier (Napa Valley) "3.8% residual sugar"
Nose is grassy, with white peach, very tight.
Wow! An explosion of sweet peach, vanilla and apricot. Very intense. Hints of tangerine and zest on the finish.

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