I like surprises and when it comes to wine California continually surprises me. For the vast majority of people California wine is Napa and Sonoma. For those who like somewhat independent films, Sideways introduced the Santa Ynez area. Those of us who get around a bit have found certain specialty areas in both central and coastal California (Amador and Mendocino immediately come to mind) and living in San Diego I have tried to be an honest cheerleader for Temecula Valley. So when my friend Bairbre Aine told me of her sister's winery opening a public tasting room in Ramona I was immediately intrigued. Ramona? As in "somewhere between Poway and Julian, that Ramona"? Yep. A little research showed me how limited my overall knowledge of California AVAs is. Just take a look at the number of members in the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association. So with me firmly put in my place I was off to the opening of the tasting room for Edwards Vineyard and Cellars.
It was definitely worth the trip. I was introduced not only to Victor and Beth Edwards but several other local wine makers in the area and it was an education listening to them talk trade. That alone would have made the trip worth it, but for this blog it's all about the wine so let's get to that. Simply put, they do not make bad wine here and there is a detectable style preference in the use of oak. From what I can tell at this point in time they a focus on three varietals: Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. While all of the wines were expressive none would be what I call big (Beth used the expression "the softer side of big" and I agree). For the opening here is what we tasted:
Valley Of The Sun Red, Red 2005: This is a Syrah/Petite Sirah blend that is medium intensity red with a broad core in the glass. The wine is quite aromatic giving me notes of blackberry, violet, and hints of smoke. Medium bodied with smooth tannins that have a slight grip at the finish and nice acid you get some oak spiciness carrying through a medium length finish. I can see this being a good summer BBQ wine. Should hold up well through 2012.
Syrah 2004: The first of two offerings of Syrah we again got a medium intensity board core wine in the glass. Here I got a mix of blackberry, "smoky meat", and a underlying floral tone with a touch of spice. Medium bodied the wine is expressive in the mouth delivering black fruit, medium acidity, smooth tannins and peppery spice in the medium/(+) length finish. Easily drinkable I think it will continue to taste well into 2013.
Syrah 2005: The slightly younger sibling we get somewhat what we would expect, a little tighter version of the 2004. For me it was showing to be a touch more fruit and spice forward than the 2004 and showing the similar components as the 2004. Quite nice now, give it another year to ramp up and I would expect easily a wine that will do well through 2014/2015.
Petite Sirah 2005: From those who know the Edwards offerings there was considerable excitement about what was coming up next. Limited in supply they knew what they were going to get. Quite a nice offering of a Petite Syrah giving us notes of blackberry, violets, a touch of cherry and peppery spice, solid but smooth tannins, nice acidity and a dry med/(+) length finish that begs to be paired with roasted meats. I don't think supplies will last but if you can find a bottle through 2013 you should be quite happy.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: Not yet released this is one that I will definitely be looking for when I hear it is. Ripe black fruit, currants and blackberry, hints of spicy vanilla that all get delivered with smooth tannins and nice acid with a little nip of spiciness at the end of a pretty long finish. A good example of a warm area Cab I can see this easily holding its own through 2014.
So if you're around Ramona make sure you stop by and give them a try. I'm definitely looking forward to further explorations in is area.
Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 15