Round Up: La Clarine

By Kevin Corcoran | September 01, 2013
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Considering that this issue's theme is time, I decided that for the roundup I would taste through multiple vintages of mourvèdre I had saved from La Clarine Farm. La Clarine is a ten acre farm in Somerset owned by Caroline Hoel and Hank Beckmeyer. The wines are made with minimal intervention in the field and cellar, allowing unique expressions of each vintage to emerge. I wanted to taste how each compared side by side and how they held up over several years of storage. I also had a larger question in mind: who produces age-worthy wines in our region?

2010 LA CLARINE FARM MOURVÈDRE, "CEDARVILLE"

This was the most beautiful right out of the bottle, the brooding and sauvage aspects of the varietal met with floral elegance, pinned down by a peppery finish. Beckmeyer's notes indicate the 2010 was taken from cask to bottle faster than is typical in order to preserve the freshness of the vintage, and the perfume and fruit that term conjures up are still very much in focus. This, coupled with the subtlety of its tannins, makes the wine such a pleasure to drink now, but I believe it will continue to age gracefully based on the consistency with my impressions upon release. Slow and steady.

Grapes sourced from Cedarville Vineyard in Fair Play.

74 cases made, Stelvin closure, 14.2% alcohol by volume.

2009 LA CLARINE FARM MOURVÈDRE, "SIERRA FOOTHILLS"

Difficult weather late in the harvest season caused problems in the foothills for this grape. As a result, it was decided to blend mourvèdre from two different vineyards, roughly half and half. The wine maintained the most rawness out of the bottle and appeared lighter in the glass than the others. Initial impressions reminded me of tasting a tank sample, something still a bit unstable, but no flaws were readily apparent. Higher-toned fruit brought to mind fresh currants and dried cranberries, brighter and more tart than the other vintages, but the finish carried a similar black peppercorn and woodsy spiciness. Once open for a day things began to integrate. Tasting over the next two days gradually revealed the depth I had come to expect from this wine, which makes me even more curious about the future. Mercurial but promising.

Grapes sourced from Cedarville and Sumu Kaw vineyards in Fair Play and Placerville.

51 cases made, Vino-Lok closure, 14.4% alcohol by volume.

2008 LA CLARINE FARM MOURVÈDRE, "SIERRA FOOTHILLS"

More emphasis on earth and garrigue in this vintage with a rounder mouthfeel and diminished acidity compared to the others. The brooding fruit and spice qualities here aligned with the 2010 but without the freshness and elegance so favorable in that release. This loosening of structure in the years since I first tasted the wine caused me to think it had already peaked and should have been drunk sooner. Redeeming qualities were not absent as the '08 made an enjoyable after-work quaffer, but I wouldn't bet on a long future with this one. Should have lived in the moment.

Grapes sourced from Cedarville Vineyard.

78 cases made, Vino-Lok closure, 14.5% alcohol by volume.

2007 LA CLARINE FARM MOURVÈDRE, "SIERRA FOOTHILLS"

The inaugural release of this wine needed a bit more time in the glass to show its stuff but opened up to something beautiful before long. Mellow aromas of earth and dried apricot suggested signs of age but were framed by a lean structure still taut with tart acidity and integrated tannin leading into that now-familiar peppercorn finish. The '07 held its form well over the next three days and convinced me of the potential for this vintage to develop nicely in bottle for at least a few more years. Slow and steady.

Grapes sourced from Cedarville Vineyard.

74 cases made, Vino-Lok closure, 14.1% alcohol by volume.

Article from Edible Sacramento at http://ediblesacramento.ediblecommunities.com/what-drink/round-la-clarine
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