A. I love going to wineries in the spring. Almost every one you walk into will have a stack of cases on the floor marked way down, as late-winter/spring is the time when cellarmasters go through stuff, organizing, cleaning, moving stuff about, getting new barrel programs in line and racking for bottling. Everything is in anticipation for the new vintage. At some point, someone inside goes, “Wow, we really have to move this stuff, NOW. CLEAN IT OUT!!!” My favorite time for tasting–and finding such deals–is usually February-March. This it typically when you find the deeply discounted cases. But it will often carry on into the ‘doldrums’ (in the cellar) of April through June.
B. Whenever I actually go out tasting–which is rare–I started something years ago called the ‘New Thing’. Just kidding–it really doesn’t have a name, just a principle of going to ONE PLACE in the day you have either a) never heard of in your life or b) have driven by a million times and never stopped. It runs about 10/1 quality-wise. Usually there is a REASON you have never stopped there, but still… it is fun to think outside the box now and then. We all get hung up on stereotypes in wine and regions. Sometimes it is the tiny hard-scrabble mom-and-pop place and sometimes it is the huge edifice to tourism we stop at. Rarely does it work out. Usually we roll our collective eyes and walk out.
Last week while showing a friend the Santa Maria Valley, we drove by Tres Hermanos between Riverbench and Foxen and I decided THIS would be our ‘try’ of the day. Small family winery, old ranchers in the area, estate syrah, wines do not show well young, everything in-house, wife behind counter. This one of those WIN stories–not only of quality and substance–but in this case: DEAL. Tasted through all the reds and was very impressed, and then I noticed the cellar-sale. 6-packs of Syrah for 78$ and cases for 120.
Math is hard.
While I would pay double for this, 10$/bottle in mid-June comes as a refreshing alternative! The Syrah/cab is the first to open at home. Again, this is not tourist-wine. Ripe, but not cloying. Huge musky nose blows off with air or decant, turning into cinnamon and clove and round, warm fruit. Just the right touch of alcohol-presence in the nose. Headed towards garnet, but still with bright clear edges. Ample acid and wonderful tannins rounding up the long finish. Just fabulous fruit. They make their syrah straight, and also blend it with cab and sang in two other bottlings. The three bottlings make up both the 6-packs and the case-lots. This is really well-made, balanced wine. 14-2 and solid ♦ wine. Above average. Perhaps does not come with the multitude of nuances expected of a really high-end vineyard-designate in the area, but all-in-all a completely wonderful, well-made bottle. I would pay full-retail for it. But the cleaning-house-sale is just icing on the cake. You just can’t find Syrah of this quality for these kind of prices. Check it out.