One cannot beat a wine tasting at Tesse in West Hollywood. Such was the case with Golden State Wine Co. Spring Portfolio Tasting. Mike Miller’s portfolio of wine takes one to some of the best wineries in Spain, France, Italy, and the new world, including Oregon and South Africa.
The appetizer selections from Tesse were marvelous and enhanced the tasting. Co-owner Jordan Ogron’s love of wine and food always comes through with each bite.
Although there were many excellent wines to sample, two wineries at this portfolio tasting, unfamiliar to me, stood out, Parés Baltà in Spain and Ken Forrester representing South Africa.
This winery represents the old world but with a new world twist. Parés Baltà dates back to 1790, when the first vineyards were planted on the property. Located in the Penedès today, the third generation, Joan and Josep Cusiné, own the winery. Their wives, Maria Elena and Marta, are the winemakers. They both fell in love with the brothers while learning about the world of wine. Maria Elena, a chemical engineer by training, and Marta, a pharmacist, both studied enology at the University of Tarragona.
The two have brought innovation to the traditions of the past. Besides practicing organic and Biodynamic farming, the two women incorporated techniques such as green harvest in some of our best vineyards. In the cellar, make many wines in clay amphorae or demijohns.
Behind all winemaking is this motto, “We believe that a glass of wine should only contain fermented grape must capable of transmitting emotions. To achieve this, we must treat the vineyard as a living being. Only in this way will we be able to produce a wine with vitality, lively and expressive.”
Parés Baltà Wines
NV Pink Cava Brut, which I found a very lively, bright, and flavorful wine. Strawberry was a dominant flavor of the Cava.
Cosmic 2020 was a fun wine because it combines the native grape of Xarel-Lo with Sauvignon Blanc. The wine delivered fresh and bright nuances that accentuate flowers, white fruit, and citrus on the nose and emphasize the florals and citrus on the palette.
Xarel-Lo “Amphora” 2021: After fermenting in clay amphorae, the wine ages in demijohns, glass jugs, for about four months. This wine displays fruit qualities with a touch of toasted almonds.
Mas Petit 2018 a red wine that combines Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon and ages in large barrique for 1.5 years. The wine is youthful and fruity with cherry flavors.
Ken Forrester Vineyards
The winery started by Ken Forrester, whose background as a restaurateur plays a part in the wines produced. Some call Ken the King of Chenin Blanc, and they definitely reflect his love of the variety.
Although I sampled several different varieties from Ken Forrester, it was the Chenin Blanc that wowed me. In this case, I tried three different Chenins. Between all three wines, I found a consistent balance.
Petit Chenin Blanc 2021 is created from younger vines. The grapes are picked earlier for freshness and ferment in stainless steel. I found crisp flavors of apple and pear.
Chenin Blanc Old Vine Reserve 2021 showcases Chenin Blanc, which is near the ocean, which gives the wine some saline qualities. The wine is well integrated and light yet not overpowering. The wine comes from 40-year-old vines that see two pickings.
FMC Chenin Blanc is Ken Forrester’s favorite. FMC stands for F**king Marvelous Chenin and aptly describes the wine. The grapes are picked at seven different times and fermented in barrel followed by aging in 30% new oak, with the rest being neutral
Old Favorites From The Golden State Wine Co. Portfolio Tasting – Spain
La Rioja Alta, no matter what vintage, is always worth sampling. From Rioja to the Rias Baixas and Ribera del Duero, the rich flavors and smooth textures define the wines.
Vega-Sicilia, located along the riverbanks of the Duero, represents the Ribera del Duero in a unique way. The vineyard was initially planted with Bordeaux varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec, alongside Tempranillo. The two wines from Vega-Sicilia that stood out at this tasting were the 2017 Vilbuena, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Tempranillo, and the 2018 Aliôn.
Abadia Retuerta is another winery that defines the excellence of Ribera del Duero. Abadia Retuerta is a destination, and when I first tasted the wines, I commented, “If the winery, accommodations, and restaurant are as impressive as the wines, it is a special place to visit.” I still feel that way. Today the vineyards are planted with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Petit Verdot and are composed of 54 distinct plots that vinify separately.
A favorite at this portfolio tasting the 2018 Selección Especial, a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. I consider the wine a Spanish rendition of a Bordeaux with the addition of Syrah.
More Favorites From The Golden State Wine Co. Portfolio Tasting – Spain
Clos Mogador‘s owner and winemaker René Barbier is considered the father of Modern Priorat. Having sampled both the 2020 Nelin Blanco and the 2020 Clos Mogador Gratallops, I was reminded of the excellence of these wines. Nelin represents the white version of Priorat’s most popular varieties. The wine combines Garnache with Macabeo. I love the playful label that represents the youthfulness of the wine. The Clos Mogador Gratallop combines Garnacha, Cariñena, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine reminds me of a Grand Cru of France. The wine defines the Priorat region.
Espectacle Montsant is another winery co-owned by René Barbier in Montsant. This wine exemplifies the character of 100-year-old Garnacha vines from a steep higher altitude vineyard.
René’s hand is in yet another winery in Montsant, La Universal. The 2020 Dido Blanc, created from the Macabeo grape, displays bright, fruity, and tropical qualities. The soils contain decomposed granite, and the lack of organic matter results in a wine with ripeness and fruity flavors.
Old Favorites From The Golden State Wine Co. Portfolio Tasting – Italy
Podernuovo A Palazzone is located in San Casciano des Bagni, which lies in the southeast portion of Tuscany. Recently I sampled the wine of Podernuovo during a dinner at Tesse Restaurant. The wines were excellent. The goal is to intertwine old-world winemaking with modern-day techniques by respecting the terroir and reducing its carbon footprint. One of my favorites the NicoLeo, a wine named after Giovanni Bulgari’s two sons, Nico and Leone. Like his two sons, the wine blend combines Grechetto with Chardonnay. The result is a creamy and buttery wine with flavors of lemon and lemon curd, minerality, and viscosity.
New World Favorites From The Golden State Wine Co. Portfolio Tasting
Illahe Vineyards in the Willamette Valley brought back memories of visiting the winery and seeing the Percheron French Draft horses at work. Illahe means earth, place, or soil, which best describes this winery concept. It is about the soil and sustainability. The philosophy is natural and pure and includes dry farming the vines once they are mature, and the horses mow and bring the grapes to the winery during harvest.
Located in the Eola-Amity Hills of the Willamette Valley, one cannot miss Illahe’s Pinot Noir. Both the 2021 Pinot Noir Willamette Vally and the 2020 Pinot Noir Bon Sauvage were excellent. I preferred the body and complexity of the Bon Sauvage.
Golden State Wine Co.
Although I could not taste all the wines from the Spring Portfolio Tasting, I always look forward to my subsequent encounter with Golden State Wine.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted portfolio tasting with Golden State Wine Co. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.