Keeping an open mind is often hard to do for wine lovers. Impressions become hardened, be it those that assume all California wine is over-ripe, oaky monsters or that all red wine from the Loire is insipid. That latter opinion had been mine for a while, but like most uninformed opinions it was based on erroneous assumptions. The fact is that, no matter what region you are talking about, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. Well, my prince has come in the form of Clos Roche Blanche. Completely guilt free wines, this producer was making wines organically before it was all the rage to do so and vinification is in a decidedly non-interventionist way. These wines deliver wonderful purity of fruit and food-friendly acidity at affordable prices (all under $20); what's not to like?
- 2005 Cuvée Côt - Great pure, plummy dark fruit excellently framed. Some licorice and white pepper add to the complexity to the nose. Great minerality. Still pretty dusty from the tannin even with a decant, but it showed impeccable balance and control for a wine this inexpensive. This is how Malbec should be done.
- 2006 Cuvée Côt - But for the fact that this is not the '05, I would have been pretty excited about this wine. Very good purity of fruit and some nice complexity, but I found it a bit hard and rustic. It still had the great minerality I've come to find in Clos Roche Blanc and good balance. This may blossom with a little more bottle time. In any event, it certainly makes a nice everyday, food friendly wine.
- 2006 Sauvignon No. 2 - A lovely, delicate expression of Sauvignon Blanc with a floral citrusy nose. It has an herbal quality of the Loire, although not the grassiness of Sancerre. With clean lines and great acidity, you forgive the lack of truly interesting fruit. I'd be shocked if this saw anything but stainless steel. A perfect wine to cook with and drink at the same time.
- 2006 Sauvignon No. 5 - More interesting aromatically than the No. 2, the No. 5 is not quite as focused and clean cut. That said, I loved the juicy tropical fruit it showed which seemed reminiscent of a good California Sauvignon Blanc, but with more minerality and acidity. Of the two Sauvignons it is the more creamy and full in the mouth leading me to believe this has seen some oak.
- 2006 Cabernet - I liked this OK, but it was probably my least favorite of the stable. Primarily Cabernet Franc with some interplanted Cabernet Sauvignon, it is fairly typical Loire. It had nice floral aromatics with a pleasant herbal quality over dark berries and pronounced earth and leather notes. It was much less interesting on the palate with mouth-drying, rustic tannins adding some mouthfeel to an otherwise thin wine. It did show nice minerality and a surprising grapefruit-like acidity. Ultimately though, it lacked the charm of the Côt or the '05 Cabernet.