Dining | Wine: Horse Play 

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I’m always on the lookout for wine bargains and interesting wine from places not as prestigious or well-known as Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux or Burgundy. So this month I decided to explore some wines from Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards, located in the Paso Robles appellation of California, situated in the midpoint of the state’s central coast. In the past couple of decades, there has been a resurgence of serious winemaking in Paso Robles; today the area is home to approximately 70 wineries and more than 300 vineyards.

The Wild Horse Winery has been around for 25 years, founded by Ken Volk, with the first estate vineyard (Templeton) at Wild Horse planted in 1982 and the first crush in 1983. Named for wild mustangs—descendents of the first horses brought from Spain to California—Wild Horse produces a flagship Pinot Noir, along with Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although known mostly for their reds, Wild Horse also makes Chardonnay and Viognier and has been experimenting with lesser known varietals like Verdelho, Malvasia Bianca and Blaufränkisch.

I have to admit a lack of enthusiasm for Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2005 ($18). Hefty acidity seems out of balance in this thin, unmemorable wine. My tasting notes include descriptions like “light” and “insipid.” There’s no real meat to this Cabernet, nor much that would seem to be age-worthy. True, I wasn’t expecting a Napa-worthy Cab Sav from the Central Coast, but for a tad under $20 you could do better than this one.

The disappointment I had for Wild Horse Cabernet turned into delight when I tasted their Central Coast Pinot Noir 2006 ($23). This is a lovely Pinot for the price. You could call this wine Old Faithful since it is of consistent quality year after year, with rich raspberry and strawberry flavors along with white pepper and a smidgeon of oak. Get some—then get more.

Wild Horse Merlot Paso Robles 2005 ($18): Love it. With its mature fruit and ample tannins, this is berry cobbler in a bottle. Have some slightly chilled next to the BBQ grill.

Sips: So I’m enjoying a stunning sunset on the patio of the Banyan Tree restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton on Maui. So far, so great. And things get even better when I spot Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant by the glass on the restaurant’s wine list. Life is good.

But when the wine—winemaker Randall Grahm’s New World riff on Châteauneuf-du-Pape—arrives, it is ice cold, like Mai Tai temperature. It’s far too cold even for white wine, let alone red. At this temperature the Le Cigare Volant, which I normally adore, is tasteless. So I ask our server, “Wassup?” The explanation he offers is that it gets hot during the day in Hawaii (duh!), so the Banyan Tree refrigerates its wines, both red and white, overnight and through the day, then lets them warm back up for service at dinner. Notwithstanding the cruel abuse caused to wine with the shock of such daily fluctuations in temperature, at the prices the Ritz-Carlton charges, wouldn’t you think that they could invest in a separate wine cooler for their red wines that could withstand the 84 degree heat of the Hawaiian day? I mean, we’re not talking about a beachside Motel 6 here.

By the way, our server never offered a refund or replacement for my undrinkable glass of Vin de Cigare. Instead he said, “Yeah, you can hardly taste the wine when it’s that cold!” Indeed. Hardly the sort of Ritz service I’ve come to expect.

 

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