Andrew Chalk is one of the Dishers who participated in the SideDish Hits the Southwest Food Service Expo at the end of June. He turned in a series of videos that featured some of the unusual items such as coffee made from civet (cat) poop and chocolate-covered crickets he uncovered at the Expo. It turns out that AC, not this AC, is an ace when it comes to wine. He knows a lot about it and his life is one ceaseless search for the fine wine. Last night he attended Oak Cliff Cellars inaugural tasting at Lavendou in North Dallas. He files this report:
Jim Richardson is a brave man. In the face of the worst recession since The Flintstones and manifest oversupply in the wine industry, the man has opened a winery in California. And while most wineries are named after romantic place names, cute critters, or the founder, he decided to name his after where he hails from in Dallas. Hence, Oak Cliff Cellars was born. You don’t borrow from a bank for this sort of thing and “JR” (as he goes by) is not too big to fail, so that rules out the taxpayer. Rather, you invest your own money, and maybe that of some close investors who you beat in a card game. In the time-honored tradition of start-ups you rent space in the premises of a larger, more established, producer and hire an experienced consulting winemaker. After selecting and fermenting grapes, you spend 18 months dealing with problems while your precious fist vintage ages. Eventually, the miracle of oak-aging and a newfound belief in prayer brings everything together and you show your new baby to the world.
That is what JR did on Wednesday night at Lavendou. Big jammy jump here.
It was actually two weeks ahead of the formal release party, which will be in California, and something of a big shindig. Wednesday’s affair was low-key, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres prepared by the restaurant. On to the wines:
2008 Oak Cliff Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California ($24)
Fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel, this wine is in the idiom of the unoaked Chardonnays currently popular on restaurant wine lists. Note, however, that you won’t confuse this with an old-world Chardonnay – the fruit flavors are just too profuse. As a result of the absence of oak the nose is distinctly fruity, reminding me of wine gums. In the mouth, there is very full fruitiness of melon and a long pleasant finish. This wine does not need food (it would be great by the pool on hot days) but worked well with the Petit Basque Cheese on Crostini and the Cantaloupe Melon with Prosciutto prepared by the restaurant. 86/100
2007 Oak Cliff Cellars Petite Sirah, Napa Valley, California ($42)
A huge nose of dark fruit sits atop an inky monster of a wine with a host of subtle scent facets. In the mouth, the wine exhibits medium fruit intensity. Some fairly hard tannins give it backbone but prevent one describing this wine with terms such as ‘lush’. Medium length of finish. I would serve this with red meat. It is pleasant now but best if kept 3-5 years. A creditable first effort. 85/100.
Production is miniscule (a few hundred cases) and will stay small even with plans for more grape varieties in the near future. Availability is via the web site.