Carl Kanowsky: California and France at Matter of Taste


My last column covered some of the outstanding wines we had from Italy and Argentina at Robert Parker’s excellent Matter of Taste.

Wines from Spain, New Zealand, Australia, and Chile were also being poured. But the two other regions that really shined were California and France.

Peter Michael is a real powerhouse. The winery is justifiably famous for its proprietary red blend wine known as Les Pavots. We sampled the 2014 vintage, and it was amazing. With a bouquet of mint and baking spices and aromas like something tasty baking in the kitchen, Les Pavots featured cherry and blackberry tastes along with nutmeg. Terry loves this wine, rating it a 98 now, saying in time it will be a hundred. The other thing that Peter Michael does brilliantly is Sauvignon Blanc. The 2016 was being poured and it was delightful. Tropical fruits, banana, and grapefruit on the nose and a lemon and spicy, lush finish made this a delicious wine. It was cold and crisp and right in your face.

Paul Lato also showcased Sauvignon Blanc, pouring both a 2014 and a 2015 of the Le Jardin Secret Grimm’s Bluff Vineyard. I love when a winery does that. Gives you a chance to see if there’s enough substance in the wine for it to evolve into something more as it ages. Well, I can tell you that the 2014 was a winner. While there wasn’t a ton of bouquet, it did offer great fruit like a tart apple and pear. It begins to show what Sauvignon Blanc can be.

We were introduced to O’Brien Estate and really enjoyed it. Their 2013 Merlot featured cherry taste, along with a rich black and blue berry and Cherry bouquet. Their 2014 red blend called Seduction was also quite tasty.

The two other stars from California were Pahlmeyer and Pride Mountain, both being full-bodied red blends. Terry and I agreed that the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Pride Mountain scored a 96 to 98. With berries and other fruit on the nose, the wine featured pepper and balanced tannins. The Pahlmeyer 2014 red blend offered a unique bouquet of gardenia along with different types of black fruit. The taste was berry and licorice and was quite voluptuous.

I got to tell you, that when I go to some Bordeaux tastings where they’re pouring wine that’s only been in the bottle for a year or two, I begin to wonder why anybody would pay money for it. The tannins are often overwhelming, masking what hides behind the sensation that’s drying out your mouth. But then, you give the same wine a half dozen or more years, and it can become a treasure. Just such an example of this maxim was the 2001 Clos de Sarpe. Most wines with an age of 17 years will have lost any attraction. The Clos de Sarpe was quite contrary to this. Brick red and a heavy berry bouquet, this wine is amazing and beautiful. With notes of leather and blackberry, the winemaker was able to achieve a balance of acid and tannins such that the finish was outstanding.

Next time Matter of Taste comes to California, make a point to go. It’s well worth the investment.

Two excellent wine tasting events in May and June: The Napa Valley Wine Auction (THE party to celebrate California wines: and Elevating Zin (a great introduction to Zinfandel, a tricky varietal:

© Carl J. Kanowsky
May 7, 2018

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