Fri (7/25) Tasting w/ KurtBeitler
I've known KurtBeitler for a fair number of yrs since he started making Syrah from AlRago's QueSyrah vnyd
back in the early '00's under the LaBoheme label. Kurt is a NapaVlly boy and the nephew of ChuckWagner/
Caymus. So wine is in his blood. When Caymus put in their Pinot vnyd on TaylorRidgeLane for their BelleGlos
line, Kurt was the vnyd manager for it. It is a very unusual vnyd in that it's up on a Trentino or pergola
system because they originally thought it would be difficult to ripen Pinot there.
Kurt makes his Burgundy-style wines under the Boheme label (bohemewines.com) and his Rhone-style wines
under the BodegoRancho label (www.bodegarancho.com
). His brother, Derek, is also involved in the operation.
Originally, the wines were made at the Caymus facility in the NapaVlly, but now they are made in PaxMahle's
old apple shed facility in Forestville. Currently, he is selling thru the 2010 vintage. Because of the difficulty
of the 2011 vintage (lots of rot/ripeness issues/etc), Kurt took the courageous step of declassifying the entirety
of his 2011 wines. The new 2012 vintage will be released (Viognier already released) this Fall.
For his Boheme label, Kurt takes fruit from the StullerVnyd, the TaylorRidgeVnyd (out on TaylorRidgeLane and
owned by VincentRago, AlRago's son), and the EnglishHillVnyd, located in the southern end of the old (before
Gallo moved the boundary South) RRV AVA, but also in the SonomaCoast AVA. Stuller and TaylorRidge are several
miles apart in the extreme SonomaCoast, west of Occidental and not far from the Pacific...definitely cold-climate.
Under the BodegaRancho label, he makes SantaLuciaHighlands Viognier and Syrahs from QueSyrah (way out on
TaylorRidge), ThieriotVnyd (PetalumaGap), and the VivioVnyd (BennettVlly); all definitely cold-climate vnyds.
The 2012 QueSyrah Syrah will be Kurt's last production from that vnyd. QueSyrah is now being managed by EricNeil
of AltaVnydManagement. Some 400 diseased vines of the Clone 877 vines have been pulled and replanted last Fall
to new Syrah on a different rootstock. The grapes will now go to Duncan & Nathan at Arnot-Roberts from the 2013
On my April trip to NapaVlly, Kurt was to join Margaux & I for breakfast in Calistoga, but that fell thru.
So I made sure we would connect up on this trip. We met up at the (fairly) new tasting room he has in Occidental.
Kurt harvested a few of the wines and we headed out to taste at the StullerVnyd on ColemanValleyRd. It's a beautiful
property of 6 acres, broken into two parcels. One sits down in a swale, the other is on a very rocky/thin
soil up on the ridgetop. While we were then, the owner, DianeStuller stopped for a brief chat. As we sat at the
picnic table overlooking the lower parcel, we tried:
1. Boheme Chard TaylorRidge 2010
: Light gold color; light toasty/oak fairly ripe/melony/lemony/Chard
slight smokey lovely/perfumed nose; fairly tart bright/spicy/melong/lemony/Chard some pencilly/toasty/Fr.oak
quite perfumed flavor; a lovely/lightly-oaked/balanced/spicy Chard.
2. Boheme PinotNoir EnglishHillVnyd/RRV/SonomaCoast 2010
: Med.color; fairly strong black cherry/Pinot
slight earthy/dusty some toasty/Fr.oak bit Burgundian rather fragrant nose; fairly tart smooth/balanced strong
black cherry/Pinot bit earthy/dusty/Burgundian light toasty/charred/oak flavor w/ modest/gentle tannins; a bit
bigger & simpler than the other two Pinots.
3. Boheme PinotNoir TaylorRidgeVnyd/SonomaCoast 2010
: Med.color; bit more toasty/Burgundian/oak lighter/
more delicate bright cherry/black cherry slight earthy quite aromatic Pinot nose; bit tarter light/delicate/
bright cherry/black cherry/Pinot some toasty/charred/oak flavor w/ bit harder tannins; a bit more delicate/
perfumed/brighter/nuanced than the EnglishHill; quite attractive/perfumed Pinot.
4. Boheme PinotNoir StullerVnyd/SonomaCoast 2010
: Much like the TaylorRidge in character; less toasty/oak
and much brighter/vivid/cherry/Pinot fruit; a bit more intense w/ more Pinot high notes; my favorite of
the three Pinots.
5. LaBoheme Syrah QueSyrahVnyd/SonomaCoast (13.5%) 2005
: This was a btl Kurt had opened the night before
at dinner. Very dark color w/ no bricking; very strong roasted/meaty/bacony/quite Rhonish/smokey very strong
peppery/cold-climate/blackberry/Syrah quite perfumed complex nose; fairly tart very strong meaty/smoked meats/
roasted/quite Rhonish/smokey/pungent strong peppery/blackberry/Syrah/blueberry bit floral/violets rich/smooth
flavor w/ modest/smooth tannins; very Rhonish in character w/ lots of cold-climate Syrah/peppery character;
in wonderful shape and should go out another 5 yrs; one of the best mature Syrahs I've had this yr.
Kurt's Pinots are very finely crafted/elegant/polished renditions of Calif SonomaCoast Pinots. They are not
Pinots you'd want to put up in a sumo-wrestling match w/ Kistler or Kosta-Browne. But for good-drinking Pinots
they are some of my favorites and quite reasonably priced at $49/btl.
The 2012's will be released this Fall and I look forward to trying them. It will be the last of a great run
w/ QueSyrah Syrah for Kurt. Sad to see that era end and will be interesting to see what Duncan/Nathan do w/ those
After tasting thru the wines, we headed off to the South and took a quick drive down TaylorRidgeLane for a look-see
at the vnyds there. Apparently, the Caymus vnyd there is no longer going into a BelleGlos TaylorLane Pinot because
of their increasing production. Kurt makes a quick stop at home there to retrieve a btl of the '05 QueSyrah
for a gift to our group to try.
We head on South for a stop in Freestone for a quick lunch. Only two choices here in this bustling metropolis.
The WildFlour Bakery is one of my most favorite bakeries in Calif. Well worth a detour from anywhere out there.
Instead, we opt for crepes at the Freestone Artisan Cheese shop (www.freestoneartisan.com
). Only open a year now,
it's a small shop w/ some excellent/unusual cheeses and very good crepes.
We then head yet further South for a look at the EnglishHillVnyd. This is on an old family dairy farm that
has an expansive view to the East towards SantaRosa far away. As Kurt was looking to expand his vnyd sources,
he managed to connect w/ the owners. He planted the 8.5 acre vnyd on the ridgetop to mostly PinotNoir, with some
small plantings of Chard and Syrah. Interestingly, he has a few rows of what he calls a Vosne-Romanee clone that
he got from UlyssesValdez. It has a pretty atypical growing pattern and Kurt is excited to see what kind of Pinot
it will eventually produce. Although this is probably the warmest vnyd Kurt takes Pinot from, it, like the
SantaRitaHills, gets pretty strong afternoon winds off the Pacific that moderate things.
After tromping the vnyd a bit, we head on back to Occidental. I rescue my car from the impending Occidental
FarmersMarket in the parking lot, and we bid adieu.
I then make a fast drive North to Healdsburg and a drop-in visit to DryCreekVnyd; getting there around 4:30pm.
Being a Fri afternoon, I thought sure all the folks would have left work. Not so. The tasting room was hopping.
BillSmart, Kim Stare-Wallace, and DaveStare all came down & we chatted for quite awhile and tried some wines.
Their new '13 CheninBlanc was annointed by DanBerger as the best white wine bargin in the marketplace. At $12/btl,
I pretty much have to agree. A very bright/lively/pretty wine at a great price. They also had open a btl of
an '84 FumeBlanc. I was amazed how good it was in a nutty/honeyed sort of way...still drinking very well. A couple
of older Cabs from the '80's-'90's were also available to taste. They, too, were remarakably good and still very
much alive. They also tried me on three news Zins that are to be released. They, too, impressed me. DryCreekVnyd,
with TimBell as their current winemaker, is really hitting on all cylinders these days. They don't get the recognition
for their Zins and Cabs they're producing that they deserve, I feel.
Dinner that night was at ZaZu over in TheBarlow in Sebastapol. DuskieEstes does amazing things w/ pig parts.
And the wine list is one of the best around.