It’s amazing how chance occurrences stop us in our tracks, reshape who we are, and redirect our lives on a path completely different from which we had planned. I’ve had a few of those in my life (and I’m grateful for them) and it seems that’s also the case with this week’s featured black winemaker, Paul Charles. Paul Charles, who is the owner and operator of Charles Wine Company in Los Angeles, CA, had a chance encounter at a Temecula winery that changed his path in life. He was doing a winetasting at a winery and was able to go down to the cellar to do a barrel tasting and the rest is history. He was hooked! He bought himself a wine kit, made a few bottles, and converted his backyard into a vineyard to grow Cabernet and Zinfandel. Why aren’t any of my neighbors doing this?! I would certainly help them taste their wine!
After a few years he was able to use those grapes and produce his and his family’s first bottle of wine. And during all of this, he traveled throughout the U.S. and the world meeting winemakers and learning the craft and the business of wine. I’ve always known that my passport is one of my favorite things as it truly opens us up to education like we’ve never known. Education about people, places, ways of life.
Fast forward almost a decade later from that initial chance encounter and today the Charles Wine Company makes and distributes wines under three labels: Paul Charles Series, Cherise Sparkling Riesling and Symphony. And Paul Charles is there every step of the way from from sourcing the grapes to blending the wines to getting the wines distributed. And what I truly love is that the wines are affordable. All of them retail for less than $25 which makes them accessible to so many. And… (wait for it!) … you can even purchase the wines on Amazon! Hello! And it seems that the travel bug stuck because the Charles Wine Company also partners with a travel company to assist with planning wine destination vacations. Definitely my favorite kind of travel. Well, next to Disney. Yep, Disney is so much better than wine travel. Umm…
As a side note, if you look in the “About Us” section of the Charles Wine Company’s website, you’ll see a section entitled “The Négociant.” The Charles Wine Company is a Négociant. A Négociant is simply someone that purchases grapes and then produces and bottles under their own label. This can be such a great deal for the consumer with a trusted producer because the winemaker sources the grapes that represent their style but without the added baggage (read: cost) that estate producers incur. So see, you don’t have to own a vineyard to make wine. In fact, some of the most well-known Burgundy producers are primarily négociants. Now, on to the tasting.
The first wine I tasted was the 2014 Symphony.
Symphony is a hybrid grape created from a crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris by Dr. Harold Olmo at UC Davis in 1948. Like many hybrid grape varieties, the purpose of the crossing was to be able to grow the grapes in particular growing conditions – in this instance the heat of the Central California Valley. Recall the hybrid varieties used in Canada to produce cold climate grapes. Yes you have to go back and read that post if you missed it.
I have to say that this was quite the aromatic grape! Reminded me of sticking my nose in a glass of Gewürztraminer. The aromas just provide a full on assault! The wine was a brilliant, clear straw yellow. Really beautiful in the glass. Those bold aromatics offered up honey, peach, melon, and some citrus. In the mouth, the wine had some sweetness, balanced by some good acidity (so it’s not syrupy sweet). The same peach and honeydew notes on the nose presented themselves on the palate. And I liked that this had a lower alcohol level at 11.5% so it would make for a great poolside sipper in the summer or lend itself to be paired with some spicy food.
Red Blend 2012
The other wine I tasted was the 2012 Red Blend.
I really liked this wine. And I liked it for a number of reasons. I loved that it was so approachable and so easy to drink and I loved the fruit on this. I could see this appealing to many folks. So many times people ask me about transitioning from white wines and helping them to find a red wine that they’ll like. This would fit the bill. The 2012 Red Blend is comprised of 50% Barbera, 25% Syrah and 25% Primitivo. It was a deep, saturated, inky dark ruby, almost purplish in hue. On the nose was berry preserves but also a hint of earth. (Bear with me – I generally hate tasting notes but sometimes it’s necessary). Upon tasting, I felt like I had a mouthful of berries. The fruit just coated the tongue as if eating a spoonful of homemade jam. There was also a slightly spicy finish to accompany all that ripe fruit. Although it wasn’t really sweet, the big, ripe fruit put it on the “sweet” side of red wines. I didn’t have any food with this wine, but I imagine some pizza or some BBQ would do it justice.
So I’m definitely a fan of this week’s discovery from the black winemakers exposé. I love it when a dream morphs into a reality. Just love it!