02.24.2012
By Terry Flanagan

Tasting Notes: Gwinllan Estates’ Inaugural Wines

Established in 2009, this young winery on the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas is run entirely by the Pack family–skilled in the science of winemaking and ardent in the perfection of it. In Gwinllan Estates’ first bottlings, both the skill and the devotion are evident, and we had a chance to check out their 2010 Chardonnay and their 2009 Winemakers’ Selection, a hand-selected blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes. After an interview in mid-February for Markets Media Magazine, the Packs sent these two bottles over for us to sample.

Smooth beginnings: El Dorado, California’s decomposing granite soil cultivates Gwinllan Winery’s flavorful yields.

Subtle, aromatic, and smooth, Gwinllan Estates’ 2010 Chardonnay is peachy on the nose, with quiet citrus and floral characteristics. Of a clear, light straw color, it’s light and smooth, with a silky mouth-feel that allows for better enjoyment of the creamy vanilla and simple citrus notes. At the end, Gwinllan’s choice of French oak casks makes all the difference: it is full-bodied, oak-tinged without being overbearing, and gives way to a clean finish. “Chardonnay is a subtle grape,” co-owner Chris Pack tells us. “If you over-oak it, that’s all you taste.”

Robust, complex, and rich, the winery’s 2009 Winemakers’ Selection bears deep berry tones on the nose, with a sweet edge reminiscent of brown sugar. The color is an inky burgundy, as can be expected from the Grenache (71%) and Syrah (29%) blend, which is hand-selected by winemaker and co-owner Gordon Pack, along with son Jonathan, resident viticulturist and consulting winemaker. On the tongue, the wine itself isn’t at all sweet, but is instead smooth, soft, and multilayered: blackberry and nutmeg notes dance along to a nearly caramel-like finish, slightly reminiscent of port, but stopping short of being sweet–instead, it teases you, enticing another sip. The full-bodied finish gives way to a clean, surprisingly light end. It’s not a surprise that this is Gordon and Jonathan’s favorite: it’s elegantly sophisticated, yet unpretentious.

Gwinllan Estates is in El Dorado, California. Keep an eye open for our piece on this exemplary new winery in our March/April issue of Markets Media Magazine!

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