It seems quite appropriate to be writing about Carlisle the day after an eight-hour Twilight marathon with my BFF, Jasmine. We met at a local movie theatre to see Breaking Dawn Part 1 (for her, the second time; for me, the fourth) then walked to my place where we happily sat through Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse on DVD. I served some wine and between flicks made penne in vodka sauce and roasted cauliflower. What a great time!
Of course, not everyone is as Twilight-obsessed as I am, so if you don’t get the Carlisle reference, let me fill you in: that’s the name of Edward Cullen’s adoptive vampire father in the Twilight series. (And if you’re über-obsessed like I, then perhaps you’re already familiar with Bella Winery in Dry Creek Valley, Twilight Cellars in Paso Robles and I’ve recently learned that there’s a Jasper Hill winery somewhere in Australia. Wouldn’t it be super-fun to have a Twilight themed wine tasting party where all the labels come from names of characters in the series?)
Of course, the winery, Carlisle, has nothing whatsoever to do with the series on vampires, werewolves and the teen girl that loves them. The web site says that the name comes from owner/winemaker, Mike Officer’s wife’s name, Kendall Carlisle. Nevertheless, excellent choice!
Carlisle is popular. This is one of those small-ish production boutique wineries with a long waiting list. I think that I signed up a couple of years ago and would periodically get these charming e-mails thanking me so much for waiting on the list, but that I’d have to please continue to wait. Very frustrating, and no, I don’t like it. But then a miracle, I was contacted a couple months back and asked to buy some of the wine. If I did, then my name was to be moved from the wait list to the active list. Yippie!!!
So of course I bought the wine ASAP.
Carlisle produces zinfandels and Rhône style wines: syrah, Grenache, mourvèdre, and petite sirah. It sounds like they pretty much sell out to the list members, though I’ve seen bottles in shops occasionally. I often hear high praise for Carlisle wines in the pages of Wine Spectator and this year, maybe it was the edition on zinfandels, one of their bottles was on the cover.
After I ordered some wine, I received another charming note that invited us to visit the winery for their pick-up weekend. I love those, so immediately agreed. Looking back on it now, I had this complicated fantasy about what the Carlisle facility might be like: sort of a combination Williams Selyem meets the smooth modernism of the Cullens’ home as depicted in the movies. Well, it wasn’t quite like that. If anything, you might characterize the place as the opposite. This was coolly industrial and functional, though not without charm. The Copain Custom Crush facility is the same as where Eric Kent wines are made. Small world.
Hegui wasn’t thirsty the day of our visit, so I tasted alone. We couldn’t help but notice that many of the other clients visiting seemed to know one-another. It was quite intimate really. A catering company served slices of gourmet pizza as we wandered around a bit and I sampled.
2002 Dry Creek Zinfandel: A black purple color with a mossy nose, it was full bodied and smooth, sort of like a good cabernet, with rich fruit and depth that still retained some pepper at the end. I liked it a lot.
2009 Russian River Valley Zinfandel: The gentleman pouring the wine said it was from the “home ranch” though I didn’t think to ask what he meant. A ruby red with lots of red fruit and pepper on the long finish it had a wonderful texture. This seemed fresher than the 2002.
2010 Sonoma Valley Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel from barrel: I really enjoyed tasting this and the next barrel samples, in part because they were both delicious, but also because they were presented in Erlenmeyer flasks. The science-geek in me was tickled.
A ruby red with a faint nose that led to lots of fruit and pepper throughout, this had supple tannins and seems somewhat fizzy.
2010 Russian River Valley Paba’s Block Syrah from barrel: Looking at my sloppy handwriting now, I feel sure that I’ve mis-spelled the name of this excellent syrah. If you know the correct one, please contact me!
A ruby purple color, I detected lots of eucalyptus on the nose that led to red fruit, licorice with a long finish. I wrote “very exciting” in my notes.
Carlisle is amazing. Look for it, or better yet, get on the list.