Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Enjoying the Wines of Two Shepherds (Again)

Restrained California Rhone wines. More and more frequently, they are popping up and gaining attention. One of my favorite examples is Sonoma-based Two Shepherds, which focuses on cooler climate sites, lower alcohol and minimalist winemaking. The one-man army behind this outfit, William Allen, crafts a range of white and red wines from Rhone grapes that aim for elegance and subtletly over bombast.

I enjoyed sipping Two Shepherds wines during an online event earlier this year and at a Rhone Rangers tasting in Washington, DC this summer. So I was excited when I learned William would be visiting my favorite wine shop in the nation’s capital, Weygandt Wines. Weygandt, which focuses mainly on old world producers, picked up Two Shepherds a few months ago and now sells some of Williams wines. 

Most of them come from the Russian River Valley, where Rhone varieties are less common than the staples Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But Two Shepherds has also released a 100% Cinsault from Lodi, a delicious anomaly from 130-year-old vines, and William dabbles in fruit from Santa Ynez and El Dorado. 

Some notes from the wines I tasted...

2013 Two Shepherds Viognier Saralee’s Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
So bright and clean on the nose. Fresh and lively palate with beautiful acid and lots of stony minerality. Elegant, long finish. Another great showing from this wine. 33 cases made. (91 points)

2012 Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc Saralee’s Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Bursts with peaches, flowers, minerals, some chalky saline elements. Palate is clean and salty with apricot, orange peel and white tea. Very pleasant and fresh and inviting, as always. William’s largest production white, which means a whopping 105 cases. 50% Roussanne, 35% Marsanne, 10% Viognier and 5% Grenache Blanc.  (90 points)

2013 Two Shepherds Cinsault Ancient Vines Bechthold Vineyard - California, Central Valley, Lodi
Nose is bright and peppery, with roses, minerals, a light yet deep and complicated blend of smells. Silky soft on the palate with fine tannins. White cherries and strawberries, mixed with roses. Complex yet crisp, a real treat with lots of depth and gravel, rocky notes. This wine is something else. Morgon meets Northern Rhone meets Lodi rose? I don’t know what to compare this wine to, but I love it. 100% whole cluster fermented from what William said is believed to be the oldest Cinsault vines anywhere. Glad I was able to snag a bottle for the cellar. 35 cases made. (92 points)

2012 Two Shepherds Syrah | Mourvedre - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Bright cherries and plums, a hint of blueberry on the nose along with bright flowers and a hint of green olive. So bright and clean on the palate, a tangy wine but medium tannin for support. I love the combination of red fruit with these pepper, mineral and graphite notes. 50 cases made. 12.3% alcohol. (90 points)

2012 Two Shepherds Syrah Saralee’s Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Vibrant aromatics of bright cherries and blueberries, along with some floral and earthy tones. Tangy, bright and fresh on the palate, but fine tannins, combining for a smooth mouthfeel. Love the red roses, pepper and mineral elements to this wine. Complex, elegant, another stunning wine from Two Shepherds. (91 points)

Some of these wines are available at Weygandt’s shop in DC’s Cleveland Park neighborhood. Otherwise, check out www.TwoShepherds.com for more information on how to get your hands on some. 
If you’re a fan of California Rhones, stay tuned to the Rhone Rangers’ event page. I’ve heard the Rhone Rangers are headed back to DC’s Longview Gallery for another tasting in mid-2015.

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