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Cindy Lemos
 
June 30, 2015 | Cindy Lemos

Introducing ... Lily Rock Cellars

There's a new wine label in the Middle Ridge family and after trying their debut wine – the Lily Rock Cellars 2009 Merlot – I have to admit, I am smitten. Also known as Tahquitz Rock, this huge monolith of granite rises over Idyllwild and was made legend by native tribes who told tales of disappearing maidens and boulder battles between braves and an evil chief that tore deep holes in the earth, forming the local lakes.  Today it is a favorite of rock climbers as the sheer granite pitches rival some of the challenging climbs found in Yosemite.

Merlot is my favorite wine grape, bar none.  It was disparaged for no good reason by Miles in the popular wine flick Sideways, which led to a real life collapse in Merlot sales.  However, it turns out his coup de grâce 1961 Cheval Blanc that he opens at the end of the movie is made from Cabernet Franc and yes, MERLOT! 

Merlot is a sibling of Cabernet Sauvignon, and both share Cabernet Franc as their proud papa.  It is one of the five grapes of Bordeaux that can be used in any combination in the popular American Meritage blends.  (Note:  Pronounce Meritage like “heritage”.  After all, we are Americans, not stuffy French oenophiles!)

Merlot's mother is a little known, but prolific grape varietal called Madeleine de Noire Charentes.  She also begat Malbec, another of the five red grapes of Bordeaux blends.

The fruit in the Lily Rock Cellars 2009 Merlot hails from the esteemed Russian River Valley, and I was hooked by the first sniff.  An intoxicating bouquet of cherries rushes your senses and is carried through in the taste of this delightful wine.  It is silky smooth with lush Bing and bright red cherries, and it finishes with a strong undertone of well-developed tannins – no bite here!  There's a hint of northern California produce throughout, reminiscent of baby spinach, which adds to the complexity of this wine.

It is the perfect match for a bacon-wrapped filet mignon with grilled asparagus.  It also would be stellar with a salad of baby spinach sprinkled with dried cherries, roasted walnuts, and a bit of crumbled Mexican queso fresco, all generously coated in a warm bacon dressing served with crusty sourdough garlic bread. 

Cheers!

Time Posted: Jun 30, 2015 at 7:20 AM
Cindy Lemos
 
June 29, 2015 | Cindy Lemos

Nothing Sweet About This Rosé

2014 Vin Gris of Pinot NoirNormally, when a rosé is poured into my glass, I expect a sugar rush to accompany the first sip.

Not the new Middle Ridge 2014 Vin Gris!  The color is a beautiful salmon pink and it is decidedly on the dry side.  Winemaker Chris says it has aromas of pear and lychee – I'm unfamiliar with lychee so I looked it up.  It is the sole member of the Soapberry family. {wildly unhelpful!}  I also see that it's popular in southern Asian cuisine.  As I have no experience with it, I'm putting it on my shopping list to check out.  However, the pear on the nose is unmistakable.  

Rolling it around in my mouth, the pear is still there and is joined by a burst of strawberries, finishing with a smooth cranberry love bite. 

This is a blush of Pinot Noir.  It retains earthy undertones of the varietal and I immediately went to the refrigerator to pull out some gorgonzola.  That was a bit too much, so I added a wedge of brie, put both in the microwave to warm them up and voila!  The melding of sharp and creamy cheeses pairs perfectly with this wine and really brings out the strawberries in this delightful rosé. 

The fruit for this wine was sourced from the Santa Rita Hills, home to the Pinot Noirs made famous in the movie Sideways.  The region's fruit has always been stellar, however, Pinot Noir is extremely finicky and hard to grow.  It is a thin-skinned grape and needs the cool ocean breezes and almost perfect soil to reach its potential.  It's a wimp of a grape really ... you won't find Pinot Noir clinging to a steeply terraced hillside like Cabernet Sauvignon.  Then even with the best fruit, it requires a talented winemaker to create a truly exceptional wine. 

Hence, you'll rarely find a rose made from a Pinot Noir.  Most winemakers simply aren't up to the challenge.  Our Mad Scientist from Idyllwild was not daunted.  Nor would he knuckle under to popular thought which would dictate a sweeter wine in the finished product.

The result is a smooth, dry, crisp rosé with gorgeous color and perfectly balanced acid.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled salmon or a juicy pork chop – either of which would be awesome with a savory pear sauce.  I plan to enjoy another glass with some bacon/gorgonzola/brie stuffed mushrooms on a bed of greens with pear balsamic vinaigrette.

Cheers!  Oh, and while you're enjoying a glass of Vin Gris, read more about it in the summer newsletter, including an interview with Winemaker Chris.  Carry on!

Time Posted: Jun 29, 2015 at 7:50 AM
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