Friday, March 7, 2014
By JOE APPEL
(Continued from page 1)
Joe Appel photo
When I first met Likitprakong and tasted with him, I was immediately drawn to his combination of insouciance and precision, his relaxed composure and technical know-how. (He did study at UC Davis, after all, where he geeked out intensely on yeast, and though he rejected that institution's infamous promotion of intense technological manipulation, he continues to value how it "taught biochemical pathways, things on a cellular level, so that if problems arise you know how to deal with them responsibly.")
He wears his know-how lightly, though, and the wines themselves, an enticing selection of which are now distributed in Maine by Wicked Wines, are the best source of information.
All of the following are made with what Likitprakong calls "uninoculated" (i.e., native, not cultured) yeasts, therefore undergo slow fermentations, and the high-quality grapes are picked early enough that no ex post facto acidification is necessary. Those two facts alone set these wines apart, and are responsible for much of the lively, supple qualities which serve as thrilling counter-example to the pessimistic consensus that well-priced wine of character is unavailable in California.
The Camp Chardonnay 2012 ($15) and Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($16), both from Sonoma-sourced fruit, are just ideal everyday wines. Balanced alcohol, judicious use of oak and a commitment to showcasing these go-to grapes mostly unadorned lead to notable clarity and candidness. It's amazing how many sourced-fruit Chard and Cab wines taste like cocktails; these taste like wine.
Hobo Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2011, $20. Shockingly fresh, buoyant, even playful Zin, clocking in at 13.6 percent alcohol. Medium-bodied and happy, it's very traditional wine but without any of the clownish fruit of Zinfandel. When I first tasted it, alongside bottles of Pinot Noir, I had to ask whether a Zin had really been poured in my glass because its balance of earth, fruit and acidity is Pinot-like. And the flavors of red-fruit compote are complemented by ground black pepper, rosemary, and even a briny touch. Zin lovers will fall for it, and start dreaming up tuna recipes, but so will the Europhile who went looking for a delicious Dolcetto to drink with salami.
Folk Machine Pinot Noir 2012, $19. One of those wines where everything falls into place. This is real Pinot Noir, in its elegance, light body and harmonious comportment; in its ability to be induce deep contentment; in its pure usefulness both culinarily and emotionally. It's fun and crowd-pleasing, not over-intellectual Pinot Noir. But to anyone who pays attention, the rewards run long past the aromas of forest rain, the savors of black cherry and cinnamon. Terrific acidity, a three-dimensional texture composed of both prickle and stuffing, a grip that's simultaneously raspy and sultry; I can't stop drinking it!
Folk Machine Chenin Blanc 2012, $15. I love Chenin Blanc. I almost-love this wine, which does a lot of interesting things though its resolution is not quite resolved. I want to follow it over time and in future vintages. Voluptuous, mouth-filling and rich, with the varietal's natural lemon zap and gentian bitters coming at the end. It's a superbly flexible food wine, which along with its beautiful label (color silhouette of a kid skateboarding!), makes it a natural for a host gift at your next potluck.
Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market, but not all the wines mentioned in this column are necessarily sold there. His blog is soulofwine.com, and he can be reached at: