Last week’s Temecula Thursday (henceforth Temecula Tuesday) post featured a Pinotage, a grape that we found was a cross between the beloved Pinot Noir and something being called Hermitage. We also discussed that that grape is actually the red Rhone Valley varietal, Cinsaut. Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper into this varietal with a comparative tasting of two Temecula wines that it plays the starring role in.
Other than a small percentage used in some Rhone style blends, Cinsaut is rarely heard of. It’s often considered a work horse varietal,more valued for the fact that it can grow in the baking sun of the Rhone’s most inhospitable environments than for its unique characteristics. That same resilience is extremely valuable in the Temecula Valley, where temperatures can soar and the sun can be scorching. However, as this tasting will show, there is much more to Cinsaut than it’s adaptability.
Wine #1: Mount Palomar 2005 Temecula Valley Cinsaut
I kinda hate to review wines like this. This one is really interesting and it brings great quality for the price, but the winery’s website shows that it is sold out, which means that no matter how great this wine is, it’s gonna be tough to find. That said, this is still a wine worth checking out. It’s a blend of 90% Cinsaut and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate produced, and aged for 22 months in French, Hungarian, and American oak.
Visually there is a slight rusty orange tint to this wine’s edges, something I typically expect to find in something like a Sangiovese. I thought that it was interesting the wine looked that way because I picked up on some pretty strong old school Tuscany, Sangiovese-like aromas on the nose too. The aroma is soft and delicate, but with a rustic, desert-like quality to it that makes a very interesting paradox. It’s somewhat sweet and warm, with ripe berries, a kiss of vanilla, and some dry, dusty decomposing granite tones. It’s strangely floral and desert toned at the same time, like a cactus flower (that’s really more of an image that comes to mind than a real tasting note. I have no idea what cactus flowers smell like, but if you do, cool, but you’ve got me beat.) There is a slightly smoked note and a bit of rural, ranchiness mixed in there as well.
The palate opens bittersweet with bramble tones, dried cherries and a somewhat weedy herbal quality. I get some desert stone, a bit of vanilla bean, and some bitter pomegranate skin. There is a touch of tobacco and some pretty strong granite with a very faint mintiness on the finish.
This wine is not overwhelmingly complex, but there is something somewhat intriguing about it. There is definitely a strong terroir quality to this wine that just captures the essence of the desert. It’s soft and light, but with an acidity that greets every sip with an initial zing. It’s nicely balanced, with just a touch of an Old World bitterness, and pleasantly rustic, with great expression. I like this wine, and I think that it provides an interesting opportunity to see this grape’s true personality, making it a wine…
Worth Trying. 85 points.
Wine #2: Long Shadow Ranch 2007 Temecula Valley Cinsaut
This next wine is estate bottled and produced and comes from a producer who has been making wine for six generations.
The aroma is loaded with cranberry preserves and ripe raspberry. There are a ton of floral tones that remind me of lilac and violet, and it comes across as very highly perfumed. There is also something in there that makes me think of Mexican hot chocolate (spicy, frothy, and full of cacao.)
The palate is just as perfumed and concentrated as the aroma on this wine. I get an interesting woodsy, birch tone with some soft mossy notes at the beginning. I then pick up on that same Mexican hot chocolate quality I found on the nose, now mixed in with a touch of framboise. There is also a spiced creaminess on the finish reminiscent of custard.
This wine’s body is soft and delicate with a very nice brightness. It’s just brimming with complexity, and it almost reminds me of a Pinot Noir in some ways. I really like this wine, and I think it has a very elegant, fruit driven style that shows a unique take on this varietal. Definitely…
Worth Trying. 88 Points.
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The Grapevine: Have you ever had a Cinsaut?