Cult winemaker Sweetanos back in business

February 13, 2012

The Polar Bear weekend was a nice success this year. Fun program activities last Friday and Saturday. The crowd was impressive. Initial results claim $650,000 was raised for Special Olympics. Way to go Bears!!

Fans of Panacea productions, a Cali standout, will be delighted to hear Chris Sweetanos is back in biz. Chris is a cult winemaker worth looking into for those who “get” wine. Chris had Twenty Rows initially and lost it. Next he got caught up in a trademark hassle over the branding of Panacea. He was awarded a federal trademark registration in 2007. Sadly, the research was flawed. Another registration was overlooked, causing him to be shut down. He and his wife are back in business as C.S. Cellars.

C.S. Cellars' Vinditta 2009, a 60 percent Zin blend with petit sirah, syrah and cab, is dark colored. The nose is of oak and dark fruit.  Vinditta is picked up on the palate by black raspberry, black cherry, coffee and a slight earthiness. All are carried by smooth tannins and proper acid. Finishes long, smooth and clean. May be tough to locate, but I found some for $20. Sweetanos is a name to jot down on the ”winemakers to watch” list.

Grand Cru Chablis fanciers, look into the Jeanne Moreau “Valmur” 2007 written here February, 2010. Rated 93 by WS and Burghound, it was on list at $71 and was showing a touch of SO2. Ready to drink in 2013-25. The sulfur is gone and the price is in the $550/case range. Two price points for buyers under $600/case. Bernard Moreau Chassagne Montrachet 2007 at $42 is decent and for those on a tighter budget or who enjoy drinking white Burgundy (Chardonnay) frequently. Bernard Moreau Bourgogne Blanc 2009 is all barrel fermented in older barrels. Complex bouquet of apple, pear, lemon, apricot and earthiness, with a touch of vanilla. A good food wine, it is acid crisp, juicy, has appropriate tannin and a long, focused, clean finish. Drink it now-2018; 89 points if bought under $240/case. This is a lot of wine for the price. Avoid the 2008 - too much rain.

Cheap and Pinot Noir are words rarely seen in the same phrase. I just sampled Pleasures OPN Cali Pinot Noir 2010. Cherry, raspberry, strawberry, with a hint of oak in the bouquet Pleasures is a pleasing wine with a full, fruity palate and a nice soft finish that echoes the aromas. Drum rolls puhlese!! $9.99. My pals at Gary have recommended this and it is a high-value wine that will be tough to locate. Jon Visser Gary’s wine buyer is talented at searching out great inexpensive wine.

I received an interesting question from Rick. He carefully read the Dal Piaz articles on building a $2,500 cellar for less than $50 per week.  Asked me why JJ Prum uses so much SO2.

Short answer, the moisture in the region from mist is extensive and the SO2 holds down mold. Many drink German river valley wine way too young and are put off by the slightly sulfurous aroma. The better German whites, for the most part, are made for extensive cellaring. SO2 is absorbed over cellar time and disappears. Most low-alcohol, high-acidity Germans, however, are made to be drunk early. They are picked young before the lazy hazy days of late summer and early autumn when the mists are more pronounced.

Spatlesen and Auslesen are those where SO2 nose is most often detected.

Beerenauslesen and Trockenbeerenauslesen actually use this mold (botrytis cinerea, noble rot or Edelfäule auf Deutsche) and this moisture that induces its growth plus hand selecting the berries to develop.  Eiswein production uses freezing and thawing to achieve the desiccation without the flavors Edelfäule adds. Eiswein grapes must be frozen at least -8 degrees C., holding the temp through the press so the water that has crystallized into ice remains behind allowing a slight amount of very concentrated sugar-acid amalgam to be extracted for wine production. This water loss and the resultant small production levels are the primary reason for the high prices. The grapes are picked in bunches rather than hand-selected.

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