This has unexpectedly become sommelier-turns-winemaker week.
First, we learned master sommelier Kevin Vogt is donning a vintner’s hat, and now we have two more sommeliers unveiling a new winery and some delicious new releases.
Monday’s blind tasting turned up a trio of reds and a white from Skylark. The wines are the work of John Lancaster, 47, and Robert Perkins, 41, both of whom work at San Francisco's great Boulevard restaurant. Both say they needed to fulfill a passion by making their own wines.
Turns out, this is great news. The wines are fun to drink, affordable and, while supplies are limited, they are obtainable. Team Lancaster-Perkins' wines will reflect their interest in Rhône Valley-style wines. The Syrahs, for instance, are more Northern Rhône in their intensity and structure. Red Belly will be their homage to Southern Rhône reds (though the debut 2004 is mostly Syrah).
Due later this year is a 2005 Syrah from Dry Creek Valley’s Unti Vineyard, which should sell in the $25 per bottle range.
“We wanted to get [the wines] out there so we can buy some more grapes,” Lancaster said. “It would be nice to hold onto [the 2005 Syrah] until fall, when it’s strutting its stuff,” but the money will come in handy.
Skylark’s pricing reflects a sensibility and sensitivity to high prices. “As a [wine] buyer, I see too much expensive wine,” said Lancaster, who has been buying wine for Boulevard for 10 years and has put together a terrific wine list there. “We want to earn our stripes. We want to make wines that are fun to drink—the kind of wines we like to drink—but we don’t want to start at $60 [a bottle]. We want to make wines that are approachable financially.”
That’s as refreshing to hear as the wines are to drink. Here are some notes from my tasting.
The 2004 Grenache ($27, 225 cases) comes from Eaglepoint Ranch in Mendocino. It’s effusively fruity, smooth and fleshy, with grapey blueberry and boysenberry flavors that fan out nicely on the finish.
The 2004 Syrah ($27, 125 cases) comes from Rodgers Creek Vineyard in Sonoma Valley and is similarly fruit-driven, with intense dark berry fruit and a little more structure.
The 2004 Red Belly Syrah ($19, 375 cases) carries a North Coast appellation. This wine is rich without being heavy, intense with a mix of cedar, fresh earth and blackberry fruit.
Pinot Blanc Mendocino County Orsi Vineyard ($18, 400 cases) is fresh and lively, with herb, lime skin and floral scents.
Under the Alouette label, Skylark produced a 2005 Chardonnay Mendocino Middleranch Vineyard ($17, 1,400 cases), which was fermented in stainless steel. The wine has fresh floral notes that are smooth and elegant, offering subtle pear, cedar, citrus and minnerally notes.
You can reach Lancaster and Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website (www.skylarkwine.com) to find out more about the wines and how to order them.
Jim Gallagher — Jim Gallagher — February 28, 2007 8:17pm ET
Thomas Gallagher — Napa, CA — March 1, 2007 2:44am ET
Delmonico Stkhse @ Venetian — Las Vegas, Nevada — March 1, 2007 1:44pm ET
Chris White — March 4, 2007 1:27pm ET
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