Wine & Food

Snooth User: outthere

A day in the life, 2015 Las Madres Winemakers Luncheon

Posted by outthere, Apr 17, 2015.

"Guess what day it is" 
It's Wednesday, April 15th 2015. Aside from being Tax Day it means time for the annual Las Madres Vineyard Winemakers Luncheon. 2014 marks the 15th leaf and will be the 12th vintage for this cool climate Syrah vineyard nestled in the rolling hills of Carneros in Sonoma.
It's been cool, foggy and windy the past few days leading up to the event but our hosts John Painter and his wife Jean Gadiot have a special deal with Mother Nature and always seem to have ideal weather conditions. This day was in the mi-70s with a slight breeze. A meet and greet accompanied by a wonderful Rosé and was followed by a formal tasting where 10 Winemakers offered 12 barrel samples of 2014 Las Madres Syrah along with their winemaking process. Then we enjoyed a casual library tasting along with an incredible Mexican lunch catered by Barrio Marin.
While the guests arrived and got acquianted/re-acquainted we enjoyed Anne Fogerty's Belaharra Rosé of Syrah. Picked early and pressed right off and fermented dry. This crisp refreshing pale pink wine exhibited freshness and great acid structure to accompany it's notes of watermelon, kiwi and a hint of citrus. Reminded me of some of my favorite rosés from 2012.
As we sat down for the tasting our hosts welcomed us to their home and prepped us for what was to come. They gave us a brief history of the property and how they came upon Armando Ceja as their vineyard manager then John gave his assessment of the vintage from a growers perspective. 2014 was the third straight year of drought and production was down. They normally thin crop to one cluster per shoot but this year some shoots did not produce buds and they didn't want to stress out neighboring shoots considering the water issues. Based on the wines we tasted it was a good call. These samples more closely resembled finished wines than in previous tastings and had real good structure. Expect big things from Las Madres Syrah in 2014.
This year had quite the turnout and it was a challenge to get all the glasses arranged. They went in alphabetical order from left to right.
Of course John had to stir things up and the winemakers gave their presentations out of order. Since I already had them in my notes A-Z that's the way I will report them. Las Madres is planted in two blocks of different clones. The winemakers all blend the blocks except or Mike Smith who differentiates between his two brands, Myriad and Quivet, by fermenting them on single clones. There were early and late picks (a week apart) but in the end it was not noticeable in the final product.
2014 Belharra Syrah - This is Anne Fogerty's 2nd vintage with Las Madres. Last year she was Impevidus temporarily while she sought out a label name. Belharra is French and is a big wave surf area, similar to Northern California's Mavericks, on the coast of France. Anne's fruit came from the 2nd pick and she used a non-interventionist approach. It saw no stems, no adds and 20% new oak. The resulting wine had a bold nose of dried fruit and earth and gave notes of ripe/rich blackberry and blueberry.
2014 Benevolent Neglect - Matt Nagy presented his wine which was from the early pick. A 50/50 clonal blend, it was whole cluster fermented in t-bins, foot tread and pumped over. Once again no adds and also no stirring or racking until bottling. The resulting wine had a similar nose to the Belharra but with a redder profile to it. It was lean and mean with good acid and chalky tannin structure. I really enjoyed this wine as it was a different rendition for me. 12.8% abv.
2014 Campesino Las Madres Syrah - This is Macario Montoya's first year with Las Madres and based on my previous experince with his wines I was looking forward to his rendition of this site. Another 50/50 clonal blend this 30% whole cluster wine sported a fragrant nose with lots of roasted meat. Juicy rich palate of red/blue fruit with moderate tannins. 14.3% abv.
2014 Eric Kent Las Madres Syrah - Kent Humphrey pulled from the first pick and fermented this 50/50 blend in open top SS tanks and it saw no new oak. The wine had intense black olive notes on the nose that rolled over to the palate. The most fragrant sample of the afternoon. Linear red/black fruit, nicely balanced with a good grip on the finish.
2014 Guerilla Vino Las Madres Syrah - A garage wine made by Lance Cutler formerly of Gundlach Bundschu. In true garage style it was fermented in two 30 gallon plastic garbage cans where it spent 12 days on the skins and then pressed into a 3yr old Remond barrel. The nose here was unique for this site showing leather, graphite and black olive. The blue fruited palate was well structured but was hiding it's potential a bit. Would like to see where this goes.
2014 Jazz Cellars Syrah Las Madres Vineyard - Bob Smith is the longest current customer of Las Madres fruit and hold his wines back before releasing. His current release is the '08 vintage. This 2014 sample was also a 50/50 clonal blend that saw 20% new oak. The nose was intense with lots of spice and black/blue fruit accompanied by black olive notes while the palate showed tangy red fruit. 
2014 Lois Rae Las Madres Syrah - Mark Finver's Syrahs have always been one of the standouts for me at this event. This year he also did a 50/59 clone mix but the Esther was whole cluster and then he co-fermented with 3-4% Viognier. It had a fragrant nose of violets as well as green and black olives. The palate was red fruit driven with a creamy texture.
2014 Myriad Syrah Las Madres Esther Block - 2nd pick, destemmed, foot tread, 25% new oak. Nose is distinctively Mike's with that deep dark fruit, spice and white pepper. Ripe blackberry, balanced acid and mellow tannins round it out. 13.1% abv.
2014 Quivet Las Madres Syrah Hulda Block - Same pick and treatment as the Esther. 1 new and the rest used barrels. Black olives greet the nose. Fruit is pure red and blue, tart, rich and very expressive. The depth on this one was impressive. Don't look now, but it comes in at 12.8% abv!
2014 Vie Cellars Las Madres Syrah - Brian Kane presented his wine which was a50/50 blend with 30% of the Hulda going whole cluster and 20% new oak. It sported an earthy nose, tart blackberry palate and lots of depth
2014 100 Legs Las Madres Syrah - New label, 1st time winemaker Wanda Mae Lombardi whose husband is the GM of the LA Kings. Her wine was a co-ferment with Viognier and also got a shot of some Sauvignon Blanc to help along a stubborn ferment. The nose didn't display the earthy fruit that some of the others did. The palate leaned towards a ripe slightly sweet black and red Raspberry and was a bit simple at this stage. It was very easy drinking nut needs time to develop.
Macario then poured a sample of a wine that he is making for his friend Jaime Watson. 2 used barrels fermented in barrel, 75% Hulda 25% whole cluster Esther. This one was red fruit driven, fresh, spicy and layered offering what came across to me as eucalyptus on the nose. Pretty darn good. 13.4% abv.
After the tasting we munched on cheese and crackers while tasting some library selections. The standouts for me were the 2007 Myriad Las Madres that had great aromatics and still abundant fruit/tannins. Moving upward but with lots of time ahead of it. The 2004 Nicholson Ranch Las Madres which always gets me with an awesome display of black and green olive notes was another favorite. But the Winner was a shiner of whole cluster 2005 made by Thomas Rivers Brown for Nicholson Ranch. For the '05 blend he made a single barrel of whole cluster and held back enough to bottle a case. This was the last bottle in existence and boy was I happy to have been able to experience it. Wicked good nose of herbs, olives, menthol and dried fruit. The palate was clean and pure showing off still fairly fresh acidity and finishing with integrated tannins. Just a pleasure to drink.
But wait, there was still lunch to eat. It was an incredible one at that. Barrio Marin brings the idea of Tacos to a whole new level. Vegetarian, Pork Belly, Carnitas and Pollo accompanied by beans, rice, fresh made salsas, guacamole and fresh fruit served on home made tortillas. Out of this world good.
All this combined with great conversation, meeting friends new and old and missing a few. Robin Akhurst of Apsara recently landed to position of winemaker at Swanson Vineyards where he will take over for Chris Phelps and it was too soon to be taking a day off already. But I got to meet a fellow Syrah geek named Cyrus Limón who writes a blog on Syrah. All hosted by two world class people who, by the way, have adopted me.   
From left to right: Kent Humphrey, Matt Nagy, Anne Fogerty, Lance Cutler, Brian Kane, John Painter,  Jean Gadiot, Wanda Mae Lombardi, Mike Smith, Macario Montoya, Armando Ceja. Not pictured: Bob Smith, Mark Finver


Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 17, 2015.

Great report, as always.  I've accumulated some bottles of 2011 Las Madres--the Eric Kent, Apsara, Myriad--so I can have a poor imitation of the experience.  What a great event.

Reply by Really Big Al, Apr 17, 2015.

Yes, excellent review.  It's nice to hear you were finally adopted too.  

I wish we could get real tasty Mexican-style food over here in Virginia.  There are a few places but you really have to look for them.

Reply by EMark, Apr 17, 2015.

Thank you for the excellent report, OT.  This was amazingly interesting. 

Reply by vin0vin0, Apr 17, 2015.

Sounds and looks awesome, I'd love to do some Las Madres side by sides but not sure I can find very many on the East coast.

Reply by JonDerry, Apr 17, 2015.

Low alc for the Mike Smith wines!

Reply by dmcker, Apr 18, 2015.

Hell, at this point I'd be happy to have the tacos. Only way to get them anything like that over here is to make them myself. Tiring to always have to do that.

Great report, as usual, as Fox also said. There are certainly advantages to the Sonoma lifestyle and to being dialed into the industry up there...

Reply by outthere, Apr 18, 2015.


  1. You're going to be out here next week.
  2. I have a stash of Las Madres.
  3. Just sayin'
Reply by dvogler, Apr 18, 2015.

ditto, ditto, ditto.

How were the older ones holding up?  I saw a 2002, 2004 and a couple 2005.  What was your impression of those versus the new ones? 

Reply by outthere, Apr 18, 2015.

The 2002 was holding up just fine. Not real complex but it was a garage wine so needs to be put into perspective. The 2004 was terrific and quite aromatic and as mentioned the '05 shiner was my WOTD. Both made by Thomas Rivers Brown and Mike Smith.

John opens an '02 every year for this event kind of as a benchmark for how the vineyard can age. It was bottled with minimal SO2 and is still showing well. How long can Las Madres age? The book is still open.

Reply by vin0vin0, Apr 18, 2015.

OT, you are very generous!

We'll be going with a big group (10 in all) and our weekend is fairly packed with the Dry Creek event. It would be great if you'd like to catch up with us, as I'm sure you'd get a kick out of my brother, S-I-L and their friends as this is a fairly outgoing and friendly bunch. Since I'm not in charge of this excursion, let me check with our ringleader re: scheduled events. I'll let you know and hopefully we can get together.

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