Pleiades XIV Old Vines California Table Wine
Sean H. Thackrey's $30 Pleiades XIV Old Vines California Table Wine just came my way. I
love the wine, but I had a lot of trouble reading the label (violet type on a field of adobe?). I
realize you don't drink the label, but you do sometimes use it to garner certain information,
like the name and location of the vintner, the alcohol content, and the grape varieties used, in
this case Syrah, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Viognier, and yet
The choir of southern French and Italian grapes is led by the Syrah, and well led indeed. The wine has both a push and yet an elegant softness, quaffable and reflective at the same time. Ruby with garnet tinges, the wine gives my nose first a little heat, then a good dose of wild forest mushroom and dried leaves, followed by redcurrant jam, black cherry, dried cocoa powder and a drop of honey.
In the mouth I search for acid, but rather than me finding it, it seems to find me, almost remind me it is there at critical points. The same can be said for the tannins; they step back to allow the wine an essential smoothness but will not be ignored. On the palate the fruit, though restrained, is a brilliant mélange of berry, cherry, sweet orange and tart rose hips. A spice layer brings black pepper and baking spices like nutmeg and clove. The leafy forest floor repeats from the nose, with notes of wild thyme. There is also a well integrated layer of kernel and wood: leather, tobacco, cocoa and walnut.
There is a little caramelized sweetness I called honey in at the long finish with some
counterbalancing bitterness and a note again of alcoholic heat. The arc of the wine—from nose
to mouth and on to the finish—is extremely satisfying, and yet you could gulp this one with
food if the need arose. This is a wine that speaks for itself, so if the light is too dim for you
to be able to glean anything from the label, don't despair, just pour.
Verdict: The blend works
Making a good wine takes a certain degree of daring combined with an even greater degree of restraint.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman