I've been wanting for a while to start a section where I can post about other wines that I've tasted that have made an impression on me. The world doesn't need another wine reviewer, and I'm not in the business of assigning points or using lots of fancy wine jargon. But, at the same time, I've wanted to be able to post on wines that I have found memorable, and (when appropriate) turn a few people on to them as well.
The first wine in this series is the Varner "Hidden Block" 2004 Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz mountains. It is easily one of the best Pinot Noirs I've ever had from California. I was fortunate to stumble upon it; a friend from college who has been completing his pediatric residency at Stanford brought it down on a visit he made with his family earlier this spring. We didn't open the wine while they were in town, and it wasn't until a couple of months ago that we opened it up. It was a revelation: rich but focused, vibrant with fruit but not jammy, with nice acids and good structure holding it all together.
I did a little research on it, and became even more impressed. The brother team of Jim and Bob Varner work in many ways similarly to how we do at Tablas Creek: estate fruit, organic farming practices, native yeasts, minimal intervention in the winemaking, and a push, whenever possible, for producing wines that express the place in which they're grown. I flat-out loved the wine, and consider myself very lucky to have gotten one of their last cases before they sold out. If you want to learn more, you can read a little at www.varnerwine.com.