Thursday, January 18, 2007

Who knew? Powerful Merlot From San Diego County

In November 2005 we were on our way to the Wild Animal Park in Escondido, coming off of the 15 North at the San Pasqual Valley exit. It was about 11 am and we drove past a sign for Orfila Vineyards, and I mean past it. The wife, God love her, said "why not pop in for a tasting?" I kept driving, shocked by the thought. What could be more perfect than having a few tastes before taking two 3 year olds to the zoo? "You sure?" I asked. "Yep." You rock woman! Quick U and back to the winery, which sits on a rise overlooking its vineyards. I quickly situated myself at the bar and for $5 did the round robin of all the wines. Most were OK, a flabby Syrah, oaky Chard, tart grapefruity Gewurtz, but one wine was quaffable, the Reserve Merlot. Anyway, long story short I joined the wine club on the spot got a decent discount on the olive oil and such that the wife grabbed and ordered a case of the Merlot on futures, seriously, futures for a San Diego County wine! Can't remember what it tasted like then and I paid around $33 a bottle.

Now flash forward and I finally had the case delivered last week, though it was ready in late Nov '06. Let me get the technical stuff over with: 2004 Orfila Vineyards San Diego County Merlot, Ambassador's Reserve, Estate Hillside Vineyards--according to the winemaker, Leon Santoro, the grapes were harvested from 9/8/04 through 9/17/04 in two different lots. "Punch Down" and "Extended Skin Contact" [both his phrases] allowed him to extract maximum color and flavor. After full malo the wine was aged primarily in French oak [new? old? he doesn't say] and bottle on 10/10/06. Relatively small production of 962 cases showing notes of violets, spice, cherries and raspberries, deep, complex and tannic with vanilla and oak overtones [again, his words].

Anyway, I opened the bottle on 1/15, the day of the UPS Ground delivery. The wine still had travel shock and was tightly wound, almost closed, when I first tasted it. I let it sit upright on the counter (my kitchen is in the low 60s during the winter) for two days and tried it again last night. While still cramped and tight, the wine showed some game/beef notes, leather, blackberries and dark plum flavors and serious tannins. I never found the flavors that Leon mentioned but that might just be me. It had a very long fruit based finish and seemed almost like a decent Napa Cab. This is a real wine that needs to evolve and settle down in the bottle. I suspect that it will be drinking beautifully in 6 months or so and will pop another cork then.


Cheers, Barrld


Hayden said...

Dear Barrld,
You'll find that fantastic wines can come from very unexpected places. A fine example being Crushpad, an urban winery in San Francisco where they make customized wines. A hands on process where you can chose from 40+ vineyards, sort your grapes, punch down the cap during fermentation, press it, design the label and bottle your very own wine. Sounds like fun to me! Check it out at

Barrld said...

Thanks hayden, I've heard of crushpad but never checked it out. Now I will. Cheers, Barrld