Mending Wall - very private tasting, incredible wines
Thomas Rivers Brown is the youngest winemaker to score a 100 point wine by Robert Parker…now he can claim dozens of 100 point wines. (Not that we give a damn about Robert Parker…Robert who?)
Visiting Mending Wall in Calistoga
I had never heard of Mending Wall in Calistoga, until my very knowledgeable girlfriend, Kristi, suggested we visit there. Kristi had been several times already and is a huge fan of the winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown. Now I am too. In fact, I am definitely going to actively seek out some of his other wines (Outpost, Round Pond, and Revana among others) for an experience because I fell in love with these Cabs from the first sip! Mending Wall is a project jointly owned by winemaker Brown, Dotzlers (proprietors of Outpost Wines) and the Walkers (proprietors of Pulido-Walker).
First of all, if you plan to go, be prepared for the “screening” phone call, where you basically have to prove you’re a true appreciator of wines, and you aren’t just looking for a spot for the frat boy reunion or bachelorette party. These wines are for cab lovers and this experience is for those who want to try a wine that isn’t sold or available anywhere else-only for purchase here at the tasting room….they don’t even have a wine club. They only offer one tasting an hour, for one small group at a time which means you will have the peace and quiet to enjoy each sip without fighting for the attention of the wine host dealing with other clients. I like a good buzzing room, and I like people, but it really was nice to be able to focus on the task at hand.
Upon arrival, you are met with a beautiful view of the vineyards and the sounds of winery workers (music blaring, some happy shouting). I thought we might taste outside, because the day was gorgeous, but we were set up inside, and that turned out to be really nice, allowing us to really focus on the wines. The design of the tasting room is simple, with a bit of an industrial chic feel -the tables have the signature Richard Von Saal look (I really love his style of the table with a pedestal that takes heavy industrial metal but still accomplishes a feather light feel. He did the same with the tables at the Prisoner tasting rom, and I love those too.)
Richard Von Saal’s unique table pedestal design uses heavy metal but is light and airy…
So to the wines. Thomas Rivers Brown makes amazing cabs, and that is this label’s main focus, but we began with the Stone on Stone, a Bordeaux style white wine of Sauv Blanc and Semillion, fermented in 100% steel. The flavor is fresh and grassy and the price is an affordable $35 per bottle. We didn’t try the chardonnay, but went straight to the cabs. Amy, our host, poured two side by side, the 2015 and the 2016 and they were both incredible from the first sip. I just love how both of these cab presented. For me, the 2015 was preferred, but that might be the difference of one year of aging. I am not good at describing wine, but one word I like to use is “chewy”. I like to almost be able to chew my cab…I think the proper word is “mouthfeel”. This wine provided me with that - the balance of dark fruit and tannin was just right. The 2016 built on this profile, but added some more complexity, was livelier and I tasted a bit more tannin. We also tried the single vineyard Tournahu Cabernet, which is spectacular; strong and daring, but charming with character (I guess that describes everything I would want in a “perfect husband” too). We were all in agreement that all three of these cabs were incredible. Our wine cellar is currently close to overflowing, so I didn’t want to buy too much, but I just couldn’t resist getting a few bottles. I am just so weak. Since the 2015 Cab is only $85 a bottle and I really loved it, I bought a few of those and passed on the “perfect husband", that came in at $125 a bottle. My friend, Kristi, walked away with some cab and some of the Mortar & Stone, which is a $50 bottle of a Zin/Syrah blend that would be a perfect addition to a summer bar b que. I might have to steal a bottle from her.
The Mending Wall by Jack Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."