Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 5, 2021

2019 I. Brand & Family Winery, Old Vine Mourvèdre, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley, San Benito County.
The 2019 edition of the Enz Mourvèdre, from almost a hundred year old vines in the remote Lime Kiln Valley in San Benito continues to be one of the most compelling solo varietal versions of this grape in California with deep fruit concentration, firm structure and old world balance and transparency which highlights the smaller yields and long cool growing season, this is exceptional California wine. Ian Brand’s current releases are a tasty and soulful collection of eclectic gems, with this one being one of his signature bottlings with its dark saturated color inviting you in and the full bodied palate is sultry with subtle earthy/gamey notes in the background helping support the rich dark vine picked berries, plum, black cherry and pomegranate fruits. There’s a sense of floral dimension just starting to emerge here and there is an array of dusty spices, briar and herbs de Provence as well as chalky stones, leather and smooth sandalwood notes that all add some nice complexity here it this Mourvèdre’s youthful stage. Typically, the winemaking is done with a practical, but natural approach, to capture this unique sites character, with Ian fermenting his Mourvèdre with native yeasts, using around 50% whole cluster, and has traditionally seen concrete tank maceration, and it gets fine lees aging in a combination of French barrels. Most vintages here only rest in about 20% new oak and some of the Mourvèdre goes into a large used puncheon, with all parts in cask for close to a year before final blending and bottling, which is done without filtration. Mourvèdre or Mataro as it is also known as in California, is originally from Spain where it is called Monastrell, it is a rare treasure here and one of California’s great values making for powerful and age worthy wines. There are some amazing Mourvèdre based wines out there, from the likes of Alban, Tablas Creek, Ridge, Sandlands and others, with Ian’s Enz being a great example.

Brand, who is widely admired as a vineyard whisperer, believes his Mourvèdre grapes come from the best block in the historic Enz Vineyard, and he considers it some the best Mourvèdre plantings on the continent! As mentioned here before, the Enz Vineyard in the Lime Kiln AVA of San Benito County was planted in 1922 on a north facing 5-10 degree slope, set on calcareous and granitic loam soils gets warm/hot days and cool nights that make for top notch Mourvèdre, a grape that was originally from Spain, but maybe best known in France’s Provence as in the great wines of Bandol, like those of Domaine Tempier as well as in Chateauneuf-du-Pape where it is found in some elite wines like Beaucastel and Vieux Telegraph. Brand notes, the vineyard was originally planted to support a hotel around a vigorous lime kiln business in the late 1800s, but had become very little known since WWII, as this region was never a wine hotspot. The Enz Mourvèdre budwood was sourced from the original 1860s planting(s) in the Lime Kiln Valley, supposedly brought over by a vigneron when he emigrated from France. These vines, according to Ian, are thought to represent a distinctly different genetic clone than that other Mourvèdre found within the state. This 2019 is an opulent and remarkably smooth vintage with a nice low alcohol, coming in at just a tick over 13%, so it can be enjoyed now, especially with rustic and robust cuisine choices, like grilled meats, lamb kabobs and hard sheep cheeses. In recent years, Ian has carved out a niche with his outstanding Grenache lineup, but he has caught the Cabernet bug and has a stellar set of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from unique sites from Carmel Valley to the Santa Cruz Mountains as well as lesser known sites in between. It is a great time to explore Ian’s wines, who’s also doing a delicious set of white wines from skin contact Pinot Gris, Albarino and Arneis, a unique Piedmonte inspired effort, and be sure not to miss this Old Vine Mourvèdre, which has the potential to cellar well for a decade or more.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive