Friday, January 05, 2007

Vinum Cellars: I'm in Love

Last fall, a friend and I split a case of what looked to be a robust but obscure red wine, a Rhone-style blend of French grapes from an Oakville, California winery made with El Dorado County grapes. The wine was Red Dirt Red and the winery was Vinum Cellars. The Red Dirt Red is a knock-out, a 2004-released blend of syrah, mourvedre, and granache produced in only 975 cases. For reasons I can't fathom, distributors were unloading it at Kahn's Diamond in the Rough sale and Kahn's said "forget it" when we inquired about more. (Sam's in Chicago said they could probably track some down for us.) However, since then, I've been noticing what else Vinum is up to, and I've been very impressed.

Recently, at a local tasting, I tried their Clarksburg Chenin Blanc -- Chard No Way, and sought it out on a recent wine buying expedition. Neal Brown currently has their Cabernet Franc on his wine list, The Scrapper, also made with El Dorado country grapes. Known at first for their off-beat wine names and labels, this little house is quickly becoming a name in French-style wines with a California quality adding a rich, heavy character that sometimes the same wines from France don't have.

Their whites seem to be garnering notice by some pretty big names. Spectator rated their White Elephant blend of Chenin Blanc, Roussane, and Viognier 91 points in their December issue. And VIO, their 100% Viognier has been highly rated as well. Their cabs reach into the $90 price point, and they also produce a Rose (It's OK Rose) and a Gewurtz (G2).

Vinum is one winemaker to keep your eye on. If you see something from this hardy little house, grab it. Most of their production runs are fewer than 500 cases. And keep an eye on more French style wines coming out of California. Qupe isn't the only game in town anymore. (In Indiana, Vinum is distributed by All American Wines, one of my favorite local distributors doing interesting wines and helping small restaurants create wine lists that aren't more of the same old boring wine.)


billinthegrill said...

I have been a waiter for 14 years at the Keystone Grill and have graduated to wine sales with All American Wines of Indiana. Thank You for the kind post, Brain Girl. You Rock!
( I will have to change my screen name )

braingirl said...

You'll have to change it to billinthecellar.

I'm a big All American Wines fan.