11 April 2007
Pinotage is one of the wines made by Obscurity Cellars at the memorable address Slug Gulch Road, Fair Play, California.
Owner winemaker John Smith says “Pinotage is, like many of our offerings, one of the most obscure grapes in California. It originated in South Africa … and has been known to produce anything from a violet-infused light-bodied wine to a heavier wine with flavors of earth and mushrooms. This version has ripe, almost ethereal aromas, with an extremely fruity, yet complex combination of flavors in the mouth. Since this is our first version of this wine, we don't have much experience pairing it, but we think it will be ideally suited to prosciutto-wrapped figs, and other complex, fruit-rich snacks or main dishes."
The grapes from that initial 2003 vintage wine came from California’s largest Pinotage vineyard; John Bree’s Sutter Ridge Vineyard in Amador County. I visited John in 2002 and tasted his own excellent Sutter Ridge Estate Pinotage. But John Smith tells me "John Bree, after years of pleading with people to take his Pinotage grapes, sold his entire crop early last year, and couldn't supply me any. Instead, the good folks at Vino Con Brio sold me two tons from their KARMA Vineyard (the name is an acronym of all the Matson family members' first names)" for the Obscurity 2006 vintage.
I like Obscurity Cellars philosophy “Many grapes have gotten a bad rap because they were not understood, or weren’t planted in the right places, or just had odd quirks that required a little curiosity and experimentation to uncover. So here we are, launching a new venture into very small quantities of really good wines made from many uncommon grape varieties. They won’t all be for everyone, but …. for the adventurous, the eclectic, the curious and the skeptics, we will produce just enough of each wine to provide a serious challenge to the status quo. After all, there are plenty of really good Merlots and Chardonnays offered by California’s other wineries to satisfy the taste buds of those who mostly prefer what they’ve had before.”
John Smith says to look out for "Obscurity Dolcetto this summer (only 25 cases made) and Carmenere in the near future. We also did a Malbec Rose this year, and we think it's the first one in North America."
Another obscure Pinotage is Okha (right) which has been sold in Japan for at least four years. I’m guessing it is a shippers brand: does anyone know anything about it?
And, harking back to a recent post, is Warthog Pinotage, whose US importers confidently state the varietals in the bottle are Pinot Noir & Cinsault and intriguingly inform us that "All the vineyards from which our wines in the Stellenbosch area come, are actually bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The climate and area is typically Mediterranean, perhaps even more so than the actual Mediterranean." (my emphasis)