Wine Rating: 90
If you know nothing about wine, do not worry as I will slowly guide you along a path of what to discover when looking, smelling and tasting. I will help you with ordering in a restaurant, what to pair with your meal and anything else that will make you enjoy and appreciate poetry in a bottle.
Here is something to try; if you only drink reds, then I suggest you drink a strong white (a French white burgundy) and let your palate grow and be educated. You can ask questions and I will do my best to answer them from my own experience. This is not brain surgery; it’s just a guy reviewing fermented grapes.
I grew up in an Italian household in New Jersey and wine was served at every meal. If I wanted at 8 years old I could have enjoyed a glass of vino and no one would have noticed. It was as Tavia would say ‘Tradition!’ Good thing for my parents I did not acquire a taste for wine until I was twenty-one. That was when I got a job in a high-end wine and rare spirits shop in Long Beach, California and for 6 years I had a rare chance to indulge in the world’s best bottles of alcohol; from a 1975 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (Warhol label), along with Louis XIII cognac to rare Belgium beer brewed by monks once every 10 years.
You may not agree with all of my selections; that is fine, all palates are different. But I would like you to find the characteristics that I point out from the selection. Even I sometimes get enraged at wine ratings and reviews over high end Bordeaux’s that are unbalanced and are given high marks because of their name. Don’t get me wrong if a bottle of wine is $1500 the vineyard usually has won numerous blind tasting awards for several years and have proven themselves as master winemakers.
We will take this slow and have some fun. If you have any questions, just ask. For the record my specialty is California Pinot Noir and thanks to Miles from the book and film ‘Sideways’ many more people now see how special that grape is.
Conundrum 2010 – California White Wine
Produced by: Wagner Family of Wines
Winemaker: Jon Bolta
Before I begin my review on a wine as unique as this one, I must first tell a bit of history about who actually makes Conundrum. For the oenophiles who specialize in California Cabernet Sauvignon, you will surely know the winery ‘Caymus Vineyards’. Yes, ‘that’ Caymus; makers of some of the best Cabs California has ever produced. It was back in 1988 that the Wagner family wanted to branch out into white grapes. They placed Jon Bolta in the position of winemaker and a year later the very first bottle of Conundrum was released.
For over 20 years, Bolta has blended over 11 of California’s best grapes and narrowed the selection to just a few. By taste, ripeness and the mixing & matching of grape varietals, Bolta has mastered the characteristic flavors of each grape, giving Conundrum distinctive uniqueness. The highest percentage is Sauvignon Blanc followed by Chardonnay and for its interesting flowery character Muscat Canelli. But Bolta did not stop there. To give this phenomenal wine a slight edge over varietals of this nature, he brings it home by adding mere hints of Sémillon and Viognier, suggesting a whisper of spice and balance.
For this tasting I decided to make it a breakfast review. You read that right…wine tasting at 8 a.m. It’s how we quench our thirst in Southern California. Well, that’s what I do anyway! Pulled from the wine cellar at 7 a.m. and placed in the refrigerator 1 hour before drinking, brought the temperature to a perfect 50° (most whites I enjoy at 48° – 55°). At this temperature the grape has a few minutes to balance and open. Since this was to be a breakfast tasting, I needed to pair this varietal with something unique and not the traditional ham, eggs, hash browns and a side of pancakes. As luck would have it, just down the street from where I live is a little hut of a place that makes a famous food. So after I waited in line with the rest of the crazy people for one hour (letting the wine chill) I paired my Conundrum with a just out of the oven and then deep fried, fresh sugar glazed blueberry donut!
To the touch the donut was very warm and as the bite of deep fried perfection was finished the Conundrum was ready to be studied. The first thing I noticed, after a bite of something as sugary and sweet as my blueberry donut was the spice and tang of the wine. I usually have Conundrum as an appetizer wine with a spicy tuna roll or jalapeño poppers, which really opens up the Muscat sweetness first. This was a very different experience and proved to me that this wine can be paired with nearly anything. After the wonderful ‘Cat Piss’ tang of the Sauvignon Blanc settled, then came the Chardonnay’s thump, followed by the single reason I enjoy this wine year after year – the extraordinary floral bouquet of roses and lavender that the Muscat Canelli conveys. Not even a super sweet blueberry glaze could overtake the flowery goodness of this wine. That delicious lavender and rose cluster reminds me of when spring is fading and summer arrives; an enchanting wine that blossoms from start to finish.
The degree of honesty, care and passion that a winemaker has for perfecting their grapes is often expressed in heavyweight high point reds and deep well respected whites, but John Bolta has done just that with Conundrum and his embrace for a real California white blend truly shows year after year, never disappointing.
Conclusion: Conundrum is not a simple white table wine. If anything she is a complex blend of many years of refinement, desire and balance of what California winemaking has always been about. I can say honestly that over the past 20+ years of being a wine devotee, I have never had a $20 bottle of white California blend that I have enjoyed more than this gem. This is my go to wine for all things summer.
White Blend, 2010
Location: Napa Valley
Varietals: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc Muscat Canelli, Semillon, & Viognier
Color Depth: Pale
Color Hue: Yellow
Aroma Intensity: Aromatic
Aromas: Wild Flowers, Fruit, Perfume, Vanilla
Dry/Sweet: Medium Sweet
Flavor Intensity: Flavorful
Flavors: Peach, Lavender, Rose, Grapefruit, Clove, Cucumber
Food Pairing: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner – Asian, Mexican, California, Indian anything spicy
Serving Temperature: 64°
Drink: Now through 2015+