Tuesday, August 23, 2005

23 August 2005 - Hyde + de Villaine = Special

Part of my job is writing tasting notes that give my customers some idea of what they should expect when they open a particular bottle of wine. It's never an exact science, but sometimes I taste a wine that defies description. When it happens, it's most often because the experience is too good to put into words. Enter HdV.

Larry Hyde is one of the best growers in Carneros, California. Aubert de Villaine is one of the directors of Burgundy's Domaine de la Romanee Conti, and has his own terrific domaine in Rully (Chalonnaise, just south of the Cote d'Or). Aubert's wife is Larry's cousin, so the families have known each other for years. After years of conversation, they decided to put their talents together under a joint label -- HdV. The grapes are 100% Hyde Vineyards, the winemaking is 100% de Villaine. The first releases came from the 2000 vintage.

It's not surprising that one of the three wines they make is Chardonnay. That one of the reds is 90% Merlot is also not much of a surprise. Even Syrah, which makes the third wine, has a good track record in Hyde's vineyard. What is surprising is the absence of Pinot Noir. I haven't contacted them to ask, but I like to think it's because de Villaine considers Merlot and Syrah to be much better suited to Carneros than Pinot Noir.

I tasted two of the current releases, both 2002 vintage. Both defy description, but I'll try. The Chardonnay is lean, intensely lemony, sizzling, minerally, but so concentrated and persistent -- it just wouldn't quit, and the end was more impressive than the beginning. The red, 90% Merlot/10% Cabernet Sauvignon, had a slightly murky appearance, but amazing intensity and purity. The only fruit I could think of was black cherry, but the overall impression was: put the pen down and enjoy. I look forward to tasting the Syrah -- other Hyde Syrahs I've tasted have been too much for me, but I can't wait to taste what de Villaine does with it.


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