Ok, so this Core Wine Company Ground Around 2007 showed up in a few of my wine clubs over the past month.
I’ve known Dave Corey and his Core Wine Company brand for a while now and we shipped a wine of his back a few years ago, this year offered a nice chance to circle back and see what else he had to offer.
Dave’s an interesting guy and runs the type of winery that we so often want to support: small and family owned. He makes the wine, often sells it himself, while his wife helps in so many ways, including handling bookkeeping and all the day to day operations which make a winery, making 2,000 cases or so per year, run effectively.
The wine in your glass is unusual in a few respects. So start, if you have a look at the back label, you’ll notice pretty quickly that it’s broken up by vineyard and not by varietal. That’s something we see more often on the central coast than we do elsewhere, but I thought it was worth it to note before moving on. The folks on the central coast notice more differences from one vineyard to another than does any other region in California (IMO). The differences between grapes grown in the highlands of Santa Barbara barely resemble those grown in Paso Robles.
Before I go any further, I should mention, the wine in your glass is largely Tempranillo, but not enough to be labeled as such. There’s 64% Tempranillo here and you’d need 75% in California in order to use the grape name on the label. There’s an additional 18% Syrah and 18% Grenache. Dave tends to keep these as moving targets in each vintage, trying to reach a specific style as opposed to a set requirement.
This wine features fruit from three vineyard sources, here’s a note on each of them:
Alta Mesa: It’s geographically just a bit further up the hill from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard (see below). It’s damn, damn hot in the summer. It’s also up at altitude, over 3,000 feet actually. This isn’t a spot to grow Pinot or Merlot: instead it’s one of the few places on the Central Coast where you can adequately ripen Spanish varietals (like Tempranillo). The acidity in these wines shows up because of both the altitude, as well as, the fact that the fog tends to find the vineyard by about 2pm, daily.
Laetitia: It’s owned by the winery of the same name and one that I drove past in college numerous times, before realizing that the wines were much higher end than I expected by it’s location (seemingly in the middle of nowhere directly off the 101 freeway somewhere north of Santa Barbara). Originally planted to Burgundian varietals exclusively, the addition of others has been much more recent.
Santa Barbara Highlands: Of almost any vineyard in Santa Barbara County, I think this tells the tale of why the wines of the region taste like they do. I’d love anyone to have the chance to spend an hour or so in the vineyard at about 2pm or so. You’d experience driving up the mountain to get there and having to pump the AC in the car. Upon arriving you’d see some fog, but within an hour, you’d be completely and utterly fogged in to the point that you’d want a jacket. The locals refer to the fog and the coastal breezes as turning on the AC outside. In any case, like Alta Mesa it’s pretty high for a California vineyard, so high in fact that until the last 25 years or so, it wasn’t considered an area in which you could grow grapes.
So to circle back to Tempranillo, I want to give you some idea how rare this is in the state of California.
You’ll have to squint to see it. There’s about a thousand acres in total planted in the state.
It’s interesting to note that Tempranillo, is thought of as this overly jammy and almost stringent wine. But, in Rioja, it’s thought of as so much more. The process of making Tempranillo in Rioja is so much different of course, they tend to age these wines in the barrell for 5 years, instead of the standard two and that helps to integrate the wood more so than what happens here in the state’s. Sometimes we think of the wine industry as monolithic and that wine is made the same way everywhere, but really we have to think of the world as split into groups. Most countries follow the lead of the traditional French winemaker and winemaking technique, but there are outliers and Spain with their Tempranillo is an outlier.
If you don’t age these in barrel for so long though, how do you get the wine to mellow out a bit? The other option of course is age in the bottle.
Another aspect of the wine industry that no one wants to talk about. We think of wine bottles are being impenetrable, but that’s not really true. Cork is slightly porous and does allow a small amount of air in over time. Not much, but a tiny fraction of air. That air works to oxidize your wine, which in the case of Tempranillo helps it to chill out a bit.
Lastly, a word on stylistic choices here. I want my wine clubs to tell the tale of what’s happening in the wider wine industry, to show you what people are talking about and what’s next. While there’s a very real movement toward lower alcohol wines and gentler winemaking techniques which doesn’t seem to jive with Tempranillo as a whole. There are some things which we should be aware of here. First, the spots where Core Wine Company is sourcing this wine from are relevant in this newer and lighter style of winemaking. Second, there is an increasing emphasis on lesser known varietals. A lot of winemakers that exist outside of Napa Valley feel like the Cabernet Sauvignon market is awfully crowded already, so why not try and juke when everyone else is trying to jive, or however that old expression goes. So, this month I’ll juke and send you a California Tempranillo which I think you’ll see….is pretty rare indeed.