Charles & Charles Redux...& a Tangent

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I first introduced Charles Smith and his Washington State wines in February 2010 with this disclaimer:
If you go to the "Press+Trade" page of Charles Smith's website you're confronted with hip videos of Charles himself. I wasn't impressed - the Nirvana t-shirt, the "shades," the aging hippy long hair, the rock 'n roll allusions. As he takes you through his vineyards, everything is "hot" or "cool." It's a good thing I tasted his wines before I saw the marketing persona.
Well, I just went back there and, if anything, the hype is even worse. Maybe I’m just too far out of the cultural mainstream. Maybe I’m just not cool. Oh, well. I LOVE the wines! And what’s in the bottle has always been more important to me than the label...or the winemaker’s haircut.
Charles Smith Eve Chardonnay (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular $18.25/ Feature $15.52
We originally started with the 2007 vintage of this wine, and we’ve drunk through most of the 2008, so now we’re offering the 2009. The price is a little higher, of course, but the wine is still mighty fine. And the earlier description still holds true:
This is the kind of temptation you can yield to. The first aroma note here, like other Washington state Chardonnays, is bright green apple. The wne that follows that initial temptation is clean, dry and refreshing. The dry minerality reminds me of white Burgundy wines, like Chablis. Yes, it's that good. And like those sophisticated French Chardonnays, this one goes very well with food. Even if you're not usually a Chardonnay drinker, or if you think red wines are better food companions, try this one...with anything. It's packaged in a screw-cap bottle with a plain black and white image and, as Charles Smith would say, "It's ready now. Let's drink it!"
Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular $18.25/ Feature $15.52
When I first described this striking Merlot, I compared it to the Tobin James “Made in the Shade”...very appropriate, since we just finished highlighting that rich, California red. The Velvet Devil gives you a chance to see that, as always, you can make very different wines with the same species of grape. My earlier description of the Devil is as apt as was the one for Eve:
The first thing that strikes me about this wine is the color. It's an amazing deep reddish purple that I'm tempted to call "wine colored." This is 100% Merlot that brings out the extracted characteristics of the fruit the way the Tobin James "Made in the Shade" Merlot does but without the huge Paso Robles body. Being from a cooler climate, this wine has a lighter body than those California heavies. That makes it an excellent food wine. Like its Chardonnay cousin, I'd serve this one with just about anything, from soup to nuts. Charles Smith calls it "sinfully smooth, so naughty and SO NICE." It makes me willing to forgive Charles his dress code sins.
Charles & Charles Rosé of Syrah (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular $15.50/ Feature $13.18
In April of 2010, for “Grillin’ & Chillin’” I introduced the Rosé of Syrah made by the May-December team of Charles Smith and Charles Bieler. I wrote:
Back in February, I introduced you to Charles Smith and his high-attitude Washington State wines. Now, aging hippy bad boy Charles (Smith) meets up with young French-roots bad boy Charles (Bieler) to make a rosé wine with both irrational exuberance and joi de vivre. The younger (in his mid-30's) Charles grew up between Montreal, Provence, Vermont and the New York area. His father, Phillipe Bieler bought, in 1992, the French estate Chateau Routas,in the Var region of Provence, the bleeding pink heart of world rosé. But despite the fact that Provencal rosés are known around the world and the jet-setting beach bistro crowd swigs gallons of it every year, Phillipe Bieler wanted to sell his product in America, known for its sweet blush wines. In 1998, Charles got the call from Bieler, pere: "We've got lots of great Provencal rosé...I want you to sell it in America."      Charles Bieler, fils: “I've always felt U.S. wineries do such a poor job at dry rosé. How do they miss the mark so badly? In the '90s in the U.S., rosé was not on the map. People see rosé and they think white Zinfandel.”
Young Charles' time in Vermont made him a great fan of the prankster marketing of neighbors Ben & Jerry. He bought a pink 1965 Cadillac DeVille and drove around pouring rosé. “I had a lot of rosé to sell,” he said. “We had to make a splash. The wines were beautiful, but we had to get on a soapbox, give people courage to taste it.” Fast-forward a decade and Charles Bieler now makes Provencal rosé with his father at their Bieler Pere et Fils winery, as well as in partnership with Charles Smith, Syrah provocateur of Walla Walla, Washington. Vive la difference!
You can see from the label, a stylized American flag, that Charles and Charles Rosé comes from the US of A. Then you chill a bottle, open it, and you might hear strains of Bruce Springsteen or Aaron Copland. The nose will immediately give you notes of raspberry and fresh watermelon. Now, raspberry is the principal fruit flavor of the great Syrah-based wines of France's Rhone valley (Cote Rotie, Hermitage) but there it's the staid raspberry of an intelligent cordial. In this exuberant rosé from America, the raspberry frolics with the notes of watermelon, and a zippy, refreshingly dry wine of summer is the result. Don't miss that word "dry." This is as bracingly dry as your favorite summertime white wine but with the addition of those red fruit notes that add a joyous complexity. Hurrah for the red, white!
And it’s all still true! You can’t let another summer go by without treating your taste buds to this delicious treat.
Charles & Charles Red (Columbia Valley, Washington) Regular $15.50/ Feature $13.18
The final offering from “les deux Charles” is their good-time, summertime red blend.  The first time we got this wine, it was a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This time they’ve tweaked that to include a bit more Cab (51%). Young Charles writes:
On August 1st we begin bottling our 2009 Charles & Charles red which is a blend of cabernet sauvignon (51%) and syrah (49%). With the ‘07 all sold, the ‘09 will be rolling out to all corners of the US by late August. It’s a young wine, but it’s already shockingly luscious with chewy dark fruit that is hard not to love. I think the most notable difference between the vintages is that with the 07, the cab sauv dominated the personality of the wine with the syrah playing a minor role but, with the 09 it’s a much gutsier syrah that takes far more control of the agenda, and we’re psyched about that. - Charles Bieler
This is a fine wine for every day summer drinking. It will go with a steak or some burgers, or give it a bit of a chill for porch drinking. If you can’t get up to the great cool Northwest to enjoy a summertime respite from our wet heat, just open a bottle of Pacific Northwest wine...and you can chill in your mind.
Tangent Ecclestone (San Luis Obispo, California) Regular $24.40/ Feature $20.70
And last, but certainly not least, a review of a wine that was new in the “Let the Summertime Good Times Roll” group where we introduced the Charles & Charles Red. This is one that Mary picked out...and I was pleased to pay tribute to her good taste. She’s turned a lot of you on to it since then, and it’s a worthy member of this esteemed West Coast group of summertime wines. In April, 2010 I wrote:
The tangent wines from French winemaker Christian Roguenant are named for that line that just grazes the edge of a circle, the circle being everyone else, while these wines go off on a tangent. tangent wines are only white, no reds allowed. And no Chardonnay either...that would put us back into the circle. The grapes are grown outside the usual north-of-San Francisco circle, too, in the Edna Valley (San Luis Obispo County). This region is on California's Central Coast, south of Big Sur, only four miles from the ocean. The valley is unusual in that it runs east-west, which allows cool Pacific air and fog to slide in overnight, making it one of the coolest winegrowing regions in the world. This makes for a longer growing season, which means that by the time the grapes get truly ripe, they have terrific acidity. The berry clusters hang on the vine an average of three weeks longer than most other growing regions, developing concentrated flavors and intense aromatics while ripening.
tangent wines are made in California by veteran winemaker Christian Roguenant, who brings more than 20 years of winemaking experience, encompassing many countries and five continents. Born in Burgundy and educated in Dijon, Christian cut his winemaking teeth on Champagne, then California sparkling wine. In this process, grapes are picked at higher acid levels than for traditional wines, and fermented in stainless steel. Oak influence is not generally used, and the finished still wines are fresh and crisp with solid acid structure. When challenged to bring that skill to the making of still, white wines Roguenant jumped at the chance. The tangent Ecclestone is a complex blend of pretty much every white varietal they grow (except Chardonnay) - 37% Pinot Gris, 34% Viognier, 12% Riesling, 8% Pinot Blanc, 4% Albarinho, 4% Muscat Canelli and 1% Orange Muscat. It has 5.5% residual sugar, so there is a hint of sweetness, but that is cut by the crisp acidity of the grapes. The blend yields a thoughtful complexity as you try to sort out where all those flavors are coming from. And then the wine finishes clean and long...making you want another sip or another bite of your favorite food. Come in and try this wine. Then let Mary know she should go on a tangent more often, because with this one she's hit the bullseye.