Wild Horse Dinner with Winemaker Clay Brock

Wild Horse Winery & VineyardsI’ve been a fan of the good value found in third label wines of Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards for some time now.  Their baseline Wild Horse line of wines are always a good bet for high QPR every vintage, particularly the widely available Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  I had yet to ever try their two high end labels however, so when I was invited to have dinner with their Director of Winemaking and taste through their top wines at the tasty Local Kitchen in San Francisco, I jumped on BART and headed over.

2005 Wild Horse 2007 Cienega Valley Calleri Vineyard NegretteWild Horse actually started out in 1981 as a senior project by original founder Kenneth Volk (now manning his own eponymous winery).  It was named for the wild mustangs that lived in the hills east of the winery and over the years has grown substantially.  It now encompasses three different sub-labels and many a wine within each, including rare varietals such as Blaufrankisch, Negrette and Malvasia Bianca, though only as winery exclusive releases.  Wild Horse also has a 50 variety heirloom tomato garden on site, one of the many areas of the estate that are fiercely guarded by Floyd the Lllama.  Wild Horse embraces the creative challenge that the multitudes of soil, climate and overall terroir give to winemaking across the large and diverse Central Coast appellation.

Local Kitchen and Wine MerchantI arrived at Local Kitchen with the expectation of another great wine and food event.  I’d attended previously for the great TasteLive Elderton Estate tasting a few months back, put on by JJ Buckley. Their multitude of small plates and super-fresh ingredients make for some outstanding wine pairings, perfect for their own substantial wine list and unique wine merchant.  I turned left into the grand private room that doubles as a daily wine cellar for Local and greeted Tia Butts (Twitter) from Benson Marketing and Alicia Laury from Constellation Brands.  Next to them was my good friend, the unsuppressable Thea Dwelle (Twitter) of Luscious Lushes.  Once we said our hellos, the guest of honor for the evening, Clay Brock, stepped back into the room.  Clay is of medium height and with short-cropped hair.  His quiet demeanor and welcoming face belied his jovial personae, but hid the quick wit that I was to happily discover later in the evening.

Clay Brock - Wild Horse WineryOnce our last guest arrived, Katie Sweeney (Twitter) from YumSugar, we sat down to go through the wines once before having them with the tasty small plates found on Local’s delish menu.  Previous to this dinner, I was already well-versed in Wild Horse’s value line of wines.  Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, they have always been a solid goto for me when I needed a good value wine to recommend to family and friends.  I was quite excited to try their Unbridled cadre of vino, which is a higher quality, sometimes single vineyard-level tier of wines.  Despite this significant bump in quality, I still found these wines contain quite a nice level of QPR, continuing the trend that I find with their base level of wines.  Standing on top of the Unbridled wines are what Clay and Wild Horse consider their finest wine, the Cheval Sauvage, a much more new world, full-bodied style of Pinot that shows a good appreciation of depth and complexity.

Wild Horse @ Local KitchenClay already had a successful wine-making career prior to arriving at Wild Horse in 2008.  He grew up in Napa Valley and worked summers at Christian Brothers.  Clay then continued his career after college, marriage and dalliances in other industries with a stint at Corbett Canyon Winery.  Further stops at renown wineries of Ken Brown and Byron Winery led him to the winemaker position at Edna Valley Vineyards and further work at the famed Zaca Mesa Winery. Despite such a successful career, he’s most excited about his position at Wild Horse.  As Director, he can do “whatever [he] wants.”  If he feels he needs to check one of his many vineyards…he can; or he can take a long day in the lab at the winery. He loves the Central Coast for it’s multitude of climates and terroirs, allowing him to make virtually any wine that he chooses, from their varied fruit sources.  If he had his druthers though, he’d love to make a boutique, high end Grenache in Napa, where he feels that varietal might really excel.

Wild Horse Winery @ Local KitchenEven with the price point jumps that you get in the Unbridled and the peak at Cheval Sauvage, I can’t help but still feel that these wines deliver at every price point.  We were quite taken with by the 2008 Wild Horse Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Vineyard Unbridled Chardonnay and the 2007 Wild Horse Santa Barbara County Unbridled Pinot Noir 2007.  Both featured the great balance and mouthfeel that I look for in a wine (I’m not sure how many times I can type that!) and also have a great depth of fruit.  The ’06 Cheval Sauvage, while bigger than I usually like in my Pinot, still kept some cooler flavors of rhubarb, spice and good acidity and earthiness.  It was a fun evening of exploration through these Wild Horse wines and the tasty Local Kitchen fare.  A big thank you to Clay, Tia and Alicia for an interesting look at the wines of the Central Coast.

All of the Wild Horse wines that we tasted with Clay that night are listed below using our awesome new WineLog WordPress Plugin and tagged with “WildHorse2010Dinner“.  Go out and try these wines for yourself and then come back and tell me what you think!

[winelist query=”WildHorse2010Dinner” num=”100″]

Guest Post: 4 Must-Have Wine Accessories

Wine Accessories

I’m debuting a new series of guest articles on Vinopanion today, starting with this fine wine accessory intro article by Zsa Zsa Bacaling of Grotto Cellars.  These free guest posts will provide a bit of a fresh voice every now and then for you devoted readers who, like my family, get tired of hearing me blather on and on about my vino obsession.  This first article by Zsa Zsa delivers some great advice for the newbie wine fanatic, something that I have somewhat neglected over the ~3 years of my Vinopanion writings.  Cheers!

Let the right accessories add to your wine appreciation experience

Can the right accessories really add to the wine lover’s experience? Definitely.

Whenever you shop for wines, don’t forget to include wonderful wine accessories. There are plenty of interesting accessories in the market today that can add style and spice to your wine cellar. From stemware to wall art, to aerators, charms and humidifying fountains, there’s no reason you can’t add some visual delight to the wine bottles you’re breaking open.

For every wine enthusiast, there’s always a creative contraption made to enhance your wine storing and pouring experience. We’ve seen some beautiful, custom made cellar doors, rolling wine cellar ladders, decorative flooring and ceilings, special lighting and tables and chairs for those wine tastings.

Did you know that several stores sell classy wine accessories without selling any wine at all? This simply shows that the demand for wine accessories is huge. Whether you’re buying for yourself or for someone you know, wine accessories also make fantastic gift ideas. Here are some of our highly recommended wine accessories that every wine lover must have in his/her wine cellar:

Wine glasses

A good wine glass is nearly as important as the wine itself. For the wine newbie, a good wineglass will help you appreciate the flavor, depth and aroma of your wine. There’s a glass for every occasion! Just make your wine glasses are not frosted, colored or cut, so you can see the wine clearly in all its beauty. Pick the right one for you, and if you plan to use the glasses for wine tasting rather than drinking, make sure that you have many identical glasses. To enjoy the full experience of wine consumption, drink to a glass partially filled and held by the stem. Cheers!

Wine decanters

Want the best from your wine? Then you get yourself a wine decanter. Contrary to the belief that decanting wines is not just for show, if you want to avoid an unsightly looking wine to the table, you need to decant your wine into a resplendent receptacle. Wines which have aged in bottle, typically reds rather than white, will generally throw a sediment by ten years of age or more. This sediment displeasing to the eye and can be quite unpleasant in the mouth, hence, the wine decanters. Decanters.com has some stylish wine decanters for your picking. Our tip? Look for a wide bottom and a narrow neck. You will be needing a decanting funnel too, so the wine will gently pour down the side of your decanter.

Wine racks

Display your good taste not only in wines but also in inner décor with great wine racks. Whether you’re looking for traditional wooden wine racks made from redwoods, mahogany or pines, or a wild new design in metal, a wine rack makes a great accessory while you are serving your guests. Add pizzazz to your wine cellar walls with a mounted wine rack or show off some of your best wines in stackable wine racks. They are a refreshing change from the basic racks exclusively intended for storage, and you add a little more artistry to your wine cellar with beautiful wine racks. Your choices are many, and you can even have them customized in a variety of creative and eye-catching ways!

Cork stoppers

Always trying to squeeze that cork back into your unfinished bottle of wine?  Wine stoppers are one of the top-selling wine accessories, and the choices are limitless. You can find everything from high end professional styles to the more traditional and to the novelty and contemporary types.  Depending on your taste, you can choose from various geometric shapes, hand-blown glass shapes, to funny little characters sitting on top of the cork. If you’re a wine enthusiast who’s environmentally conscious, choose natural cork stoppers. Remember though, that while stoppers can slow the spoiling process of the wine, they can’t really stop it. Our tip? Drink and consume your wine within two days of opening it.

Accessorizing is indeed an enjoyable experience, and because wine is personal, make your wine accessories selection a personal one too. Indulge in one of life’s greatest pleasures by stocking up some or all of these must-have wine accessories.

Author: Zsa Zsa Bacaling works with Grotto Cellars. Accessorize with custom made wine racks from Grotto Custom Wine Cellars and Cabinets. We create beautiful wine racks that can add style and flair to your wine cellar.