INCREDIBLE QUALITY + TRENDY =
-Gallery at Bottom of Review-
From time to time, I pull back and take a birds eye view..usually following a good hard slap in the face. In starting this blog, the basic idea was that I’d go out to my favorite spots and share my experiences there. Well…my first two reviews are about places I hadn’t been to until just these last few weeks…there goes my game plan, but I'm grateful that this “game plan” completely unraveled. THe unraveling started here: I received a vicious punch to the face recently….delivered by some incredible Pinot Noir in one of the coolest tasting rooms I’ve ever been to. I’ve walked by Banshee Wines’ tasting room countless times and though, “cool environment”, but figured it was just that, a trendy spot just off the square. Many tasting rooms with a “cool environment” typically are making up for a lack of taste in the bottle….but again….pre-conceived notion shattered.
Walking in to check out the interior design work, which I’d have to say Banshee Wines is one of Sonoma County’s “best dressed”, I ran into Rachel Moore who works at the tasting room, and she insisted that I taste some wine instead of just walking around with my camera, and I wasn't about to turn down her offer.
I sat down on a comfy chair in the corner of the room to soak in the place:
- California Flag hanging on the opposite wall from me
- “20/20 Experience” by Justin Timberlake on vinyl, spinning tunes through the room
- A giant neon sign spelling out "EL PINO CLUB" on the wall behind me
Then came the wines….MIND BLOWING Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Red Blends, etc. For over 2 hours I sat writing notes, and analyzing these wines, absolutely stunned, thrilled. Many of their wines are small lot vintages of just 50-100 cases, just a few barrels made of each, so naturally, I had a new favorite every 10 to 15 minutes.
"Banshee Wines was founded by three friends from the Midwest and East Coast who shared a passion for wine and a lifelong dream of owning their own winery. Theirfascination with wine started early in life. While their peers were drinking Milwaukee's Best, they had an afﬁnity towards collecting European wines and hosting dorm room wine tastings.
In 2009 they pooled their money together to make the ﬁrst vintage of Banshee Wines Pinot Noir, which sold out in three short months. By the end of the year, Banshee Wines was their full-time pursuit." - Bansheewines.com/about
Rachel explained that Banshee Wines is focused mainly on small lot production from prime vineyards along the Sonoma Coast, and Russian River Valley, with cool climate influences that lend to purity of fruit. They do not use a ton of oak what Rachel reffered to as “not applying to much makeup” (an analogy that I love), so that those incredible flavors from the cool climate grapes are given room to shine in their best light. Oak is used more as a tool to help lift flavors, rather than defining the wine.
I may have mentioned Justin Timberlake on vinyl playing as I sat down to start my tasting. The vibe was unique to say the least. Definitely tuned towards a younger crown, the tasting room portrayed less "wine snobbery", and more "lets have a good time, but lets drink exquisite wine". It was quite a breath of fresh air to taste wine in an environment that makes you feel like you are part of the social elite, while simultaneously not having to worry about the tasting room staff being overly critical, or demeaning. (Many places that offer tremendous wine tend to staff tasting room employees that are quite knowledgable...make sense right?... but unfortunetaly, they are usually the people who offer the worst service. They also tend to be aggressive towards others with wine knowledge, a constant need to "one-up" the guest...super weird...been trying to figure out this phenomena for some time) Let my rant come to an end.....It was unlike any experience so far in my wine tasting book. I may become a regular here.
Rachel offered me excellent service and knowledge during my multiple hour tasting. She was a wealth of knowledge that not only told me the facts, but also wasn't afraid to voice her personal opinion. Back to that note on "wine make-up". explaining little complex things that most people don't realize is so crucial to making great wine is very hard to do. She offered knowledge on everything from barrel aging to specific vineyard locations, down to what the weather was like there a week previous.....Next time you go wine tasting somewhere, ask the tasting room employee that question...half of them don't even know where the vineyards are.
2014 Sauvignon Blanc
Floral Notes on the nose along with an intriguing orange blossom and lemon zest. It displayed bright acidity up front elevating flavors of white peach, citrus and finished smooth and layered with consistent fruit with just a hint of grassiness that would really pair well with a wide range of foods. I personally see this as the wine you drink on opening day as you watch your team take the field.
2014 Sonoma Coast, Chardonnay
This is everything you'd want out of a Chardonnay from California. Rich and lush, with just a hint of oak. Creamy lemon and fuji apple on the palate' with lighty nutty qualities and orange peel framing the powerful fruit. A pleasure to drink for sure, but also revealing. I'd be really interested to see how these guys head in the coming years, as their talent in the chardonnay category is astounding, and would expect to see multiple chardonnays in the future.
2013 Tina Marie, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir
This wine was the softest of the Pinot Noir we tasted. But dam was it a sexy wine. Feminine and provocative, with a beautiful perfume of brown spice, smoky cherry and strawberry, and hits of eucalyptus, exploding from the glass. Bright acidity on the palate framing jammy cherry and red licorice, along with orange peel and dark brambly quality that made me think of bacon for some reason. I would LOVE this wine alongside my favorite pork roast recipe.
2014 EL PINO, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir
Dark purple in the glass, you know what you're getting into as soon as you see it. masculine and powerful, this comes off with leather, pine, plum and cocoa on the nose. It slams your palate with dried cranberry, plum and asian spices, finishing with a dry dark chocolate and strawberry jam that leaves you floored. This is the PERFECT holiday wine. Easy to drink, as it is jammy and rich, you can sit and BS with the family while swirling this and the holiday tensions will melt away.
MARINE LAYER, Pinot Noir
Rachel was kind enough to bring out the 2012 vintage along with the 2013 vintage (current Release), and the difference in flavor was extraordinary. The wonderful thing about small lot wines, is you get a true sense of the vineyard and what happens there. Flavor can be very different from year to year, and it makes for a very interesting experience as the wine drinker. Both were SOLID pinot's that outperform most of the Cult Pinots out there.
2012 Marine Layer, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir
Feminine and delicate with soft structure. Ripe fruit flavors of dried cherry, strawberry jam, rhubarb are framed by spice. Layered like silk, the mid-palate is delightful, and the finish is fruit forward, but also offers deeper flavors of mocha and white pepper.
2013 Marine Layer, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir
Rich espresso and dark fruit erupts from the glass on the nose. Masculine and lean on the palate, with jammy black fruits and rhubarb, hints of smoked meat, crushed herbs and acidity that will make your mouth water along the entire finish.
2013 Coastlands, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir
easily my favorite wine of the tasting, this starts off with dark mocha and espresso, plum coiled into a core with leather, that rolls down the center of your palate and expands to nearly overwhelm you with the purity of flavor that maintains the wild nature of the coastal fruit. Sandalwood and redwood, dill and dark chocolate polish make their way through towards the finish, and it sticks with you for a solid 30+ seconds. I tasted this wine, with my posture leaning over the table, and immediately upon tasting this fell back into the couch with my eyes 50% wider than before. When Rachel came back to ask " what id you think?" i think my words were "pardon my French, but that was F***ing Exceptional"
2013 Thorn Ranch, Pinot Noir
Smokey and earthy on the nose with rich black and red fruits making their way through. Then when it hits the palate, KABOOM, a blast of dark berry and rich texture, brown sugar and spice. It finishes strong and dark with flavors like candied blackberries, slightly burned pie crush, and a definite smokey, meaty complexion. This was my obvious #2 pick in the end, and it didn't fall too far behind the "Coastlands", but to many this would be a number one finisher.
2013 Mordecai Red, Proprietary Blend
With varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, and various other rhone and bordeaux varietals, this wine plays many different strengths of separate regions to produce an excellent result. An example; blending bordeaux grapes from Sonoma or Napa with rhone grapes from a warmer region gives you the structure and dark fruit to blend with the red fruits and explosiveness the warmer climate grapes.
Fruit forward and rich, this wine starts with powerful baked cherry and blackberry fruit,with hints of white pepper, finishing off JAMMY and opulent with various black fruits. This is a total value wine for how much they charge, and is a heck of a wine to bring to a party, or to drink on the patio while tending to the grill.