Sampling and writing about wine never sucks very much, but there are times when it’s really, really a blast. Such was the case during a recent Utah visit from vintner Robert Sinskey and winemaker Jeff Virnig. You’d be hard-pressed to find wine guys any less snobbish than Sinskey and Virnig, and, well, sipping Sinskey wines is never much of a hardship, anyway.
Spending the day skiing with Sinskey and Virnig at Deer Valley Resort, I was able to pick their brains during chairlift rides about the challenges of organic and biodynamic winemaking. Sinskey’s vineyards are 100 percent organic and biodynamic certified. But even more enjoyable was a unique wine tasting that was held at the Remède Spa in the Deer Valley St. Regis Hotel. This was a first (for me, anyway): being able to sip Sinskey wines while being simultaneously pampered with hand and foot massages. As Natasha applied paraffin wax to my feet during a pedicure, I tried to convince winemaker Jeff Virnig that he should install a manicure/pedicure station in the Sinskey tasting room in Napa.
Enjoying a glass of Sinskey’s Three Amigos Vineyard Pinot Noir ($56) would be a pleasure anytime, with its elegant complexity and bright raspberry and cranberry notes. Pinot Noir grapes are finicky, delicate and difficult to grow, which is one reason there’s so much pathetic Pinot out there. But it’s with good reason that Rob Sinskey has been called the “Prince of Pinot.” “There is a difference between being attentive and being manipulative,” says Sinskey, as he notes the recent trend of winemakers to achieve maximum extraction, with the goal of making big, powerful Pinots. Sinskey thinks there are other, better varietals more suited to that kind of conjuring, such as Zinfandel and Syrah.
For about $20 less, you can get into Sinskey’s Los Carneros Pinot Noir ($36), which is a very good benchmark Pinot and remarkably food-friendly. Rob’s wife, Maria—who is a well-known chef and the culinary director at Robert Sinskey Vineyards—suggests enjoying this Pinot with smoked-duck udon, which sounds pretty damned good to me.
As I was swooning over my first-ever pedicure, somebody brought me a glass of Sinskey's Abraxas Vin de Terroir ($34)—named for, depending on whom you ask, either A. the Egyptian Gnostic god of the 365 heavens; B. the ancient Greco-Roman word thought to be the origin of abracadabra; or C. Santana’s definitive second album. This is a head-spinning blend of about half Pinot Gris, a quarter Riesling and the rest Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc. I love the vibrancy of this gorgeous wine—sort of like Meg Ryan in a bottle.
If you prefer your Pinot Gris on the pink side, Sinskey does that, too. His Los Carneros Vin Gris of Pinot Noir ($25) is a simply outstanding Rosé wine, where the whole-cluster grapes were given a gentle press, which was stopped by winemaker Virnig (who tastes the juice during the process) before any bitterness or astringency from the grape skins emerged. The result is a heavenly Rosé that would be perfect on the patio or at a picnic with chilled shrimp or crab.
Since Brett Clifford, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control wine czar, bases most of his wine selections for the state these days on points awarded by Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and such, there’s not as much Sinskey wine in Utah as there ought to be. That’s because Sinskey doesn’t play the game. He doesn’t submit his wines for review by the magazines and wine writers. So, buy what you can find at the store and track down the rest at wine-savvy restaurants around town. Better yet, bring some to sip at your favorite spa.