Monday’s tasting featured a flight of Double Decker wines. For the past 25 years or so, the Wente family has produced these wines under the Tamás Estates imprimatur, with its relatively quiet label sporting travel icons such as passport stamps, a double decker bus, and the slogan “Take the trip.” Apparently a doubting Tamás talked everyone into using the Double Decker name instead.
Gotta admit, it’s a lot more catchy—the label itself stands out better, the classic London double-decker bus is more prominent on the label, the idea of taking a vacation is still there, and “Hop on the bus” is the slogan of the day.
However, after all the rock and roll discussed during the tasting (fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente thinks Led Zeppelin is “the best band of all time” *), I wondered if the slogan should be “You’re either on the bus or off the bus” (Ken Kesey, quoted in Tom Wolfe’s 1960s-era book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test that documented the longest and most famous bus trip since Rosa Parks’s). Turns out Karl is about to release his first album with his Front Porch band, and hosts a summer music series (HomeGrown) as well as the BottleRockit festival. For an interesting read about music and winemakers, visit dinersjournal.blogs.nytime
Okay, back to the wines. All of the Double Deckers are priced at $9.99. They will be available at Safeway, BevMo, and other stores starting in May. All are RECOMMENDED.
Our tasting opened with the 2010 Pinot Grigio, Monterey County, 13% ABV. Blended with 4% Viognier and 3% Riesling, the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel barrels. The Viognier brought its unique mouthfeel to the table and a tangerine thread, and the Riesling brought a little bit of floral quality. Our notes: fresh, crisp, bright with tropical fruit, fun, firm, citrus, slightly mineral. Karl said, “Its acidity would let it cut through a richer fish dish.”
Karl Wente talked a lot about acidity. With dozens of grapes to choose from, he blends based on taste and mouthfeel, of course, but also on what he wants the final acidity to be. All are sustainably grown and his goal is a slightly lighter, leaner style of wine that retains its fruit flavors without being jammy.
The second wine was the 2009 Red Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Barbera), 13.5% ABV. We reviewed the 2009 red blend when it was being produced with the Tamás label (see http://
Our evening was topped off by the 2010 Zinfandel, Livermore Valley, 14.5% ABV. Blended with Barbera for blackberry flavors, and Petite Sirah for fleshiness, this was indeed a delicious wine that also paired well with our rich homemade spaghetti-with-meat-sauce dinner the next night. Although aged for more than a year in American, Hungarian, and French oak barrels, Karl still works to accentuate the fruit flavors rather than the oak. Cherries, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, nice finish. I liked it immediately and even more as it opened up.
All the wines have screwcap closures. Karl swears by this method, stating that the wines are much better protected from spoiling and that they can be aged almost much longer than one would expect. We agree; for links to a couple of articles, visit http://
The ustream.tv experience was less satisfactory than the Pine Ridge tasting several months ago. This time we experienced buffering issues and commercials were presented every 10 minutes or so, necessitating an upgrade to a paid version. Still, this method of presenting wines to the public and to publicists is promising.
LABEL NOTES: All of the labels begin with “The adventure begins when you twist open the cap!” and feature a brief description of the wine, along with “doubly delicious and easy to sip … Hop on the Bus and let your senses take you a world away.”
* THE LAST WORD: The Frugal Wine Snob says YES! is the best band of all time. Sorry, Karl.
Samples received for review.