The leading subscription based publication of Rhone wines, had nothing but good things, and 3 scores of 90+ for Two Shepherds.
The three new finds for me that I was most excited about were Sanglier, Skinner and Two Shepherds“
Two Shepherds is a very small production operation started in 2009 by William Allen, publisher of the Simple Hedonisms wine blog, when he moved to northern Sonoma in June of that year. He first planted a vineyard, and the following year sourced fruit that enabled him to make 175 cases of Rhone varietal wine. The results are very strong, with the Syrah/Mourvedre blend being the best of all. I look forward to following the industrious Allen as his winemaking project continues.
2010 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley,
Pale-lemon green with tartrate crystals. It smells of lemon rind, herb, tart peach, green apple and white flowers. In the mouth, there is a lightly creamy medium body with medium+ acidity and flavors that include grapefruit rind, green apple skin, preserved lemon and mineral. The finish is long and juicy. A refreshingly crisp and tangy Grenache Blanc. 13.8% alcohol. Highly Recommended+
The 2011 has just been released and was recently recommended by Jon Bonne of the SF Chronicle. I’ll be picking up a bottle to review soon.
2010 Two Shepherds MRV White Rhone Blend Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley,
This blend of Marsanne (47%), Roussanne (47%) and Viognier (6%) is lemon-colored in the glass. The nose is of moderate intensity with an interesting range of flavors: delicate white flowers, lightly buttered toast, yellow apple and balsa wood. In the mouth it has medium+ body and acidity creating creamy and juicy sensations simultaneously. The flavors are understated, yet attractive. I found citrus, yellow apple skin, clementine peel, baking spice and mineral, culminating with a medium+, mouth-watering finish. 14.2% alcohol. Highly Recommended
2010 Two Shepherds GSM Blend Russian River Valley
Medium ruby colored, slightly foggy and showing a little sediment suggesting that the wine is unfined and unfiltered. On the nose there is sour cherry, raspberry, black tea, rhubarb with a happy freshness overall that reminded me a little of some Beaujolais. The palate is medium-bodied with medium+ acidity and medium tannins. Flavors of tart red fruit and rosemary linger for a medium+ finish. A light and lively Grenache-centric wine that will go well with roast chicken or steak tartare. Grenache 50%, 25% each Syrah and Mourvedre. 13.8% alcohol. Recommended+
Two Shepherds – the project of wine blogger William Allen — continues to make waves, and he had one of the most popular tables at the tasting. I highly recommend securing a bottle of the 2010 Viognier before it is gone.
The wine blogosphere is full of wine evangelists. But few people can match the passion of William Allen, the creator and editor of Simple Hedonisms. His fervor for wine is infectious, and it’s been a pleasure to get to know William since meeting him last July at 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference.
William first discovered wine two decades ago, and the hobby quickly became an obsession. At first, he began making wine and beer and taking regular trips to wine country.
Soon enough, he was writing prolifically on CellarTracker, taking classes, and spending more and more time visiting wineries across California.
In June 2009, he decided to plunge into the deep end – and moved to northern Sonoma during during a sabbatical from his job in the tech sector. During a four-month sabbatical, William planted his first vineyard, launched Simple Hedonisms, helped with harvest, and started networking.
The next year, William decided to take things up a notch with his winemaking – and sourced enough fruit to make 175 cases of Rhone wines. He documented the harvest on his blog, and bottled it under the Two Shepherds label. (For more on William’s project, check out his recent interview with UC Beau.)
On a recent trip to California, William sent me home with press samples. What most impressed me about the wines was their authenticity. These wines tasted real – there wasn’t a hint of expensive oak or manipulated fruit.
2010 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard
Fermented & aged for 6 months in neutral oak. 100% Grenache Blanc. The nose is incredibly bright – and smells like a wine you’d crave in the summer. Tart green apples, honeydew melon, kiwis, and lemon drops combine for a delightful bouquet – with some cream and slate in the background. On the palate, the wine is equally bright, with mouth-watering acidity that makes it quite refreshing. (91 pts.)
2010 Two Shepherds MRV Saralee’s Vineyard
Fermented & aged for 6 months in neutral oak. Blended from 47% Marsanne, 47% Roussanne, and 6% Viognier. The nose is bright, sweet, and complex – offering notes of cantaloupe, Asian pear, and honeycrisp apple, along with a hint of honey, toffee, and citrusy Asian spices and orange rind. On the palate, the wine has some real weight and offers nice acidity – but it’s a bit oily. (89 pts.)
2010 Two Shepherds GSM Saralee’s Vineyard
Fermented & aged for 10 months neutral oak. Blended from 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 25% Mourvèdre. The nose is delicate, floral, and inviting – offering notes of strawberries, raspberries, lavender, tobacco leaf, and dried, wild herbs. On the palate, the soft tannins and bright acidity help the wine maintain its delicacy. Not a complex wine, but a wonderful Rhone blend. (90 pts.)
2010 Two Shepherds Syrah | Mourvedre
Fermented & aged for 10 months neutral oak. Blended from 50% Syrah and 50% Mourvèdre. The nose is stunning, offering a laundry list of what one would expect from the best Southern Rhones. Black cherries, blackberries, black tea, and white pepper dominate – with a floral, lavender lift and beam of slate minerality playing a supporting role. It’s a stunning wine. (93 pts.)
Sometimes folks just talk and talk and talk about what they are doing but than you never get to see the results. And than sometimes you get to watch someone with so much passion and attention to detail knock it out of the park. Not sure how long it is going to last, but we have been pouring it (Grenache Blanc) by the glass.
General Manager Ryan Callahan:
Staff and guests love the wine. It’s been our best seller the last two weeks; will be sad to see it go.
Beautiful nose of apricot blossom, yellow peach, and a touch of sweet cream. I was impressed with the aromas because they weren’t too overly sweet, instead being in perfect harmony. The mouthfeel is rich and beautifully smooth, yet with some focused acidity to create a nice framework for the grapefruit, pear, yellow peach, and wet river rock. A lingering finish with hints of pine sap and grapefruit tapers off gently after almost 20 seconds. This is one to buy a full case of, it will get better and better with each passing year. As someone who frequently finds California viogniers too sweet and lacking structure, the Two Shepherds is a shift away from that, to a Condrieu-style expression.
The bouquet is all mint leaf, sea air, hints of peach, and star fruit. Secondary aromas of golden apple and asian pear create a lively sensory experience. Impressive for such a young wine, I think this could pass for a white Cotes du Rhone in a blind tasting. The palate is composed of nicely integrated mint leaf, apple, English toffee, and pear notes. I really enjoyed the mineral character, which gave this white blend a round texture without being flabby. The flavors combine to build a nice crescendo before slowly tapering off to an elegant finish. Out of the three Two Shepherds white wines, this screams at me that it needs food. Pair with lobster or herbed chicken, a cheese plate, or grilled whitefish.
A trio of whites from Two Shepherds is explored,
as Peter & Allie taste the first vintage produced by William Allen of Sonoma. An MRV (Marsanne, Roussanne & Viognier blend), Grenache Blanc & Viognier are tasted. Fans of Rhone varietals, both Peter & Allie are impressed by a line up you have to get your hands on.
“The MRV is like Carol of the Bells.”
2010 Grenache Blanc
“The nose leads with aromas of white peach, citrus and candied lemon with nutty undertones, followed by a creamy, round palate with a nice beam of acidity running through. With air, aromas and flavors of green melon and honeysuckle emerge, and a pleasing wet stone minerality accents the finish. Alcohol was kept at a moderate 13.9% abv – impressive! “
The 2010 Syrah/Mourvedre, which is a 50/50 blend with fruit from Sonoma and Alameda county, respectively. This wine is lighter in style and color than most would expect, with plenty of acid making this a great food wine.
Nose: raspberries, char, leather and spice
Palate: Tart red fruits, light and soothing on the palate, good bit of acid bringing a lingering and black pepper finish.
I was one of the lucky few to taste the delicious Grenache Blanc, which is sadly sold out now – but it was a great example of a Rhône white, that balances out acidity with the creamy subtle sweetness. Some GBs can be either too acidic. The Two Shepherds balances those two, with a nice minerality, white peach, lemon lime flavors, followed by a flinty finish. I am eagerly waiting for more of this to be bottled so I can nab some for the cellar!
The MRV is a classic white Rhône blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. I enjoyed a bottle of this last night with Butternut squash Lasagna, and the creamy body of the MR balanced the sweetness of the Butternet perfectly. The Addition of the viogner adds a touch of honeysuckle.
There are two red offerings from Two Shepherds, the GSM, and the SM (Syrah/Mourvedre). The Grenache in this blend different than a southern Rhone, and adds acidity and flavors to develop that are unique to the area. The lighter style blends perfectly with the fuller bodied Syrah and Mourvedre, to create a masterpiece of bright red berry, spice box, and a lingering flavor that I personally can only describe as Grenache.
The Syrah/Mourvedre blend uses the same Syrah from Russian River, and is blended equally with Mourvedre. The SM is slightly fuller bodied than the GSM, as you don’t have the higher acid in the Grenache to lighten the load. It is also delicious and would be fantastic with roast chicken, a burger, or cassoulet.