A rock arrived in the mail!
I like rocks. And this little cutie with red streaks was purported to be limestone, "fractured limestone,” no less. Was I suspicious? With a rock in the mail, with someone trying so hard to prove something, could the wine be any good?
Now, in these terroir-driven days, it's not unusual to see someone lick a vineyard rock. With new world wine makers, the licking has become a bit of a novelty, as if the concept of rock in soil is new.
Over the past two years it's almost been a clich for winemakers to pile rocks next to their wines at a tasting as if to say, "See? I've got rocks in my soil, but not just any rocks. THESE rocks." And then you taste the wine and are supposed to shake your head in agreement, "Yes, indeed. I taste the basalt. I taste the limestone." Whatever.
There's no doubt that rock in the soil is an intrinsic part of terroir--that is if a wine is made in a non-trickster kind of way.
My recent rock was supposed to be a selling point for the three bottles of beautifully labeled Gravity Hills Paso Robles red wines. The press kit, a small sheet, talked about the steep slopes, how those working the vineyards risked their lives (!) to bring me these great wines.
As the trio of wines came with a rock I was curious to try the wine.
(I’ve been kinder to American wines in the past three weeks so it was a good moment to taste something new that came in the mail with a rock. For example, I had two wines I actually liked! Emeritus Pinot Noir brought to us by Brice Jones who gave the world Sonoma-Cutrer. It had none of that candy I despise and had some interesting funk to it, which caught my attention. At first the Frog's Leap zinfandel was a way too spicy from the oak but then settled down to give up some decent, good old fashioned zin bramble, berry and edge. Five days later the oak did settle in and down and wine tasted better.)
Gravity Hill makes a zin and a syrah at the $14 price point and then a BIG syrah with overtones of gasoline and an erased mid- palate for $40--all of them had a very unpleasant marshmallow center, slightly gelatinous and squishy.
While the workers might have risked their lives to work those vineyards. I risked my life by tasting the wines. Had to open up an antidote immediately; Gonon St. Jo. $28 or something like that. Stony and rocky, and I didn't have to get a rock in the mail to give me the hint.