A Candlelit Flight

matchbookIt was an incredibly blustery Monday. It was so windy, the power at Matchbook Winery had been blown out as easily as a small flame.

The darkness of the barrel room didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the day. It actually added an alluring ambiance as candlelight danced upon the five wine glasses lined up in front of each participant. We would each get the opportunity to enjoy two flights, exploring the process of how Matchbook’s staff settled on its blend, Tinto Rey.

The winery is nestled in Yolo County’s Dunnigan Hills. The native grasses, lupin, and wild mustard plants that were roiling in the wind that day, tossing like a choppy lake, made their presence known within the wines we sampled. They brought a subtle, unifying characteristic to the juice that was produced just outside of Zamora. Not everything we would sample was from the Dunnigan Hills, but those that were all held the same lovely, delicate flavors of the rolling hills.

The first flight included two Tempranillos, a Syrah, a Graciano, and the base blend derived from a combination of the four. The first Tempranillo had black pepper, spice, and cedar on the nose with chocolate and fruit on the front of the palate. The second Tempranillo, slightly older but also utilizing the native yeasts like the first, had a hint of cocoa and a touch of mint on the nose with a rounder palate that held vanilla and red fruit.

The 2010 Syrah’s nose was of black pepper and white sage. It was robust and structured with flavors of black cherry.

The fourth pour, a 2010 Graciano, had wild mustard, dill, and yeast on the nose with tart cherry, mocha, and a hint of musk nestled in its nice tannins.

The base blend, a combination of 49 percent Tempranillo, 36 percent Syrah, and 15 percent Graciano had chocolate, vanilla bean, and black cherry when sniffed and presented flavors of mocha and blueberry within a wine that had good structure and a nice finish.

Matchbook owner John Giguiere is a fifth generation farmer who started with RH Phillips and Toasted Head. After those successes, he decided to create a winery around the wines he enjoyed and started Matchbook.

“Everything is driven by our agriculture first,” he explained of his process.

Along with grapes, the farm is also growing olive trees and will soon host its own tasting room.

The second flight began with the last glass from the previous flight, the base blend. The winemakers explained that they were looking for ways to “bring it up a notch” and in so doing, brought out their “tool box” wines. They included a 2010 Tannat, the base blend plus Tannat, and a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. These would be combined to create the final blend, 49 percent Tempranillo, 27 percent Syrah, 15 percent Graciano, three percent Tannat, and six percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Tannat had a lot of tannins, a touch of bret, and leather character. With the base blend and the Tannat married, coffee and black currant presented themselves in the nose while the palate held a nice, chewy wine with red fruit and blueberries. The Cabbie was a fresh bowl of rising bread dough in the nose with nice tannins and a hint of green bell pepper in the glass.

A good bottle of wine results when the left and right hemispheres of the brain work together, creating an experience that utilizes all the senses.

“The art is knowing when not to use the science,” explained the winemaker.

When all of those lovely, though somewhat disconnected, parts were combined in just the right amounts, I was presented with brambleberry and cocoa aromas and a robust glass of red fruit, chocolate, spice, and black tea with wonderful tannins that will be quite the sought-after blend when it’s available in a year and a half’s time.

It was quite a charming day spent surrounded by wine barrels and nice people, everyone so excited by wine and its characteristics – bliss!

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