Four Gates Winery’s new vinatges continue to impress – but slightly weaker

Four Gates Winery welcome sign and road upI have written often about Four Gates Winery, here in 2008, again for a Shabbaton, and then when I crashed Alice Feiring’s visit to the Four Gates Winery, and then my last writeup – the most complete to date. As always, I state up front that the winemaker, Benyamin Cantz (Benyo) is a good friend of mine and that in the end, the wine talks and scores and notes I give on wines are unbiased, as much as I can be.

I get a bunch of “smack” about being a good friend of Benyo, which is true, still I write what I smell and taste. Clearly, Four Gates Winery is one of those California wineries that is very different. It is different because of a few factors:

  1. Benyamin is a Vigneron – as explained before, Vigneron is French for wine maker and winery owner, but it also means that it is a person who does it all – wine wise. He manages his vineyard, he manages his cellar, and makes the wine – a nice way to say one-man shop. Is that good? Well, I can say it is awesome because he gets to know his vines and wines, but really it is just a view into the unique man who is himself the physical embodiment of the Four Gates Winery.
  2. The vines are grown organically and meet the CCOF standards of organic farming. Please do not think that a Vigneron is not a farmer. Remember he grows his grapes and knows his grapes and does so in an ecologically sustainable manner – since he started in 1997. This is NOT a fad for Binyamin – it is part of his way of life.
  3. His vines are dry farmed (there is that word again) – and for good reason. The Pinot pops because of it, as does the Chardonnay and Merlot. Essentially, dry farming allows for the fruit flavors to concentrate as the vine stresses. Stress, for a vine, is great. Too much stress, like in humans is BAD! Luckily it does not get that hot in the mountains and therefore, the water requirements are lower, keeping the stress constant – but maintainable.
  4. The climate in the vineyard and winery, as mentioned earlier, is indeed cooler than the city it overlooks and that helps the vines in many ways. The obvious benefit is that the vines need less water than they would elsewhere. It also allows the vines to cool down over night and it allows the vines to stay cool for longer, meaning more ripening time, but in a controlled manner.
  5. The cooler climate makes for perfect Pinot, Chardonnay, and Merlot and believe it or not Cabernet Sauvignon, which is why the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains is so FANTASTIC!  Yes, I am sure you would think that Cabernet in a cooler region would be a disaster, as it would never fully ripen. Well, a not-so well-known fact is that the 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. has a bit of Benyamin’s Cabernet Sauvignon in it. WHAT? Yes, Benyamin grows a very small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (I hope he does not kill me – LOL!) His Cabernet Franc also benefits from the cooler weather.
  6. Finally, what makes this winery unique is Benyamin Cantz himself! On this bullet point, I must pre-warn that I am very biased. To me Benyamin Cantz is one of those people where the expression stands true – good things happen to good people. Sure, he is my friend, but it does not take long to talk with him and feel the same way. He is like a few wine makers I found in Israel, that are humble, with so much to be arrogant about. The wine talks for themselves, but he is a unique man in that his actions may be wrapped up in the winery and vines, but they revolve around his religion, and that is more than most of us can ever say about ourselves.

Well, the new crop of wines are available on the Four Gates Wine website and to be brutally honest, while last year 2009 crop of wines were the best year ever for Four Gates, this year’s crop has its pluses and minuses. There is a 2010 Cabernet from the Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, like in 2009, but who wants the 2010 when the 2009 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best wines of 2012! That wine is insane and has been re-released and having tasted it two weeks ago – it is a wine well worth acquiring. The other two hold outs from last year, are the 2007 Cabernet Franc which is AWESOME and may well be one of the best kosher Cabernet Franc wines out there. The other holdout is the 2008 Merlot, M.S.C., which is a crazy good Merlot as well. Unfortunately, while I was writing this article, the 2009 Cab and the 2007 Cabernet Franc were sold out – buy them when you can my friends!

In terms of the other wines that are currently listed on Four Gates Winery’s page – that are part of the new vintage, there are some great wines and some solid wines as well. The clear winning wine, outside, of last year’s vintages is a wine from his grapes and a wine from grapes he bought, the 2010 Pinot Noir and the new 2011 Zinfandel respectively. The next wines are the new 2010 Syrah and the new 2010 Petite Verdot, along with the N.V. Pinot Noir – Cuvee D. I will only say this – Cuvee D means something special to me, enough said 🙂

I guess I will close with what I told my friends when they asked about Benyo’s new wines. I liked them and some I thought were OK, and I hope my notes show that I am not just a Four Gates shill 🙂

The notes for the wines follow below:

2010 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
What can I say, this is a classical Four Gates Pinot Noir, with a more ethereal and classical Pinot Noir style than the 2009 vintage, which is far more powerful and in your face. This one is lithe and still rich with Four Gates patented Chicka Cherry Cola, lovely ripe raspberry, nice loamy dirt, strawberry, bramble, nice forest floor notes, insane herb, eucalyptus, and menthol. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with cherry cola, concentrated layers of massive kirsch cherry, red fruit, lovely mouth coating mouth feel, great bracing acid, freshly ground and pounded spice, along with coffee notes, that mingle with cloves, cinnamon, and nice tannin. The finish is long and super spicy, with nice plum, blackcurrant, rosemary, oregano, lemon zest, and a nice round and rich body. This is not a timid Pinot and is one that ambles up easily to a superstar model and asks her out for a date, while not being a superstar, in its own right. This is not accomplished with brute force or power, but rather with suave, fresh menthol musk, and an overall fruit body that it has nothing to be ashamed of.

2010 Four Gates Petite Verdot – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine is filled with a lovely floral notes, bing cherry, hints of dead animal, and spice. The mouth is medium in weight, with more spicy and concentrated cherry, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, and layers of fruit and herb, all wrapped up in a bed of flowers, cloves, cinnamon, cedar, and massive aggressive tannin. The finish is medium long and spicy, with nice animal carcass, crazy earth notes, herbal, menthol, and spice.

2010 Four Gates Syrah – Score: B+
This wine starts off very closed and not ready for party time. Over time, a full hour or two in a decanter, the wine comes to life, clearly this wine is either in a dumb mode or is way to tight for now. After time the wine opens to show expressive notes of boysenberry in the background but present everywhere, along with a nice nose of ripe blackberry, herbal notes, loamy earth, and tobacco. The mouth on this full and extracted mouth is layered, rich, and brooding, with crazy dead animal, more smoky notes, cherry, currant, along with deep herbal undertones, menthol that is captivating, and all wrapped up in a weighty and extracted mouth whose tannins do not give up. The finish is long and rich with mineral, charcoal, sweet cedar, fresh cracked black pepper, and more spice.

2011 Four Gates Zinfandel – Score: A-
This is another wine from the new vintage that is ripe and rich and very food friendly – while also being downright fun. It is suave, sophisticated, and expressive, but still more than capable of hanging with the geeks and the artsy folks. The nose starts out with lovely crazy spice, cloves, herb, raspberry, cranberry, forest floor, bramble, and white fruit compote, and mint. The mouth on this medium wine is rich, layered, and concentrated, with ripe blackcurrant, blackberry, mounds of heady sweet spice, black plum, ripe strawberry, rich cedar, mouth coating tannin, all balanced with good acidity. The finish is long and spicy with more crazy strawberry, rich chocolate, hazelnut, mounds of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, heavy mineral, and crazy attack of spice that lingers long with cherry.

2008 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C. – Score: A- (but oh so close to A- to A)
This may well be Four Gates best Merlot ever, which is cool, because it is being released soon after Four Gates’s best vintage ever, in the 2007/2009 crop of wines, but in the words of Yoda – there is another (more on that when it happens). The nose on this richly purple colored wine explodes with deep dark and brooding black fruit, black cherry, blackberry, black plum, and forest berries that are perfectly ripe and bursting with aromas. The mouth is plush and opulent with layers of black fruit, and raspberry that lie below a canopy of bell pepper and vegetal notes, which all meld into a harmonious whole along with rich cedar and lovely mouth coating tannin to make for an insane experience. The finish is long and spicy with lovely sweet cedar, chocolate, leafy tobacco, and vanilla, and a hint of salt and citrus zest on the long and luxurious finish.
If I did not know better I would have sworn this was an Israeli Cabernet. The texture, the lovely fruit ripeness, and the cedar wood all scream Israeli. However, the wine is from Four Gates and I would recommend allowing this wine some time to open up and acclimate to its new environment. In many ways this wine reminds me of a bull in a china store, the mouth is massive and the free-handed use of oak is a new one for Benyamin, but one that works well on this wine.

N.V. Four Gates Pinot Noir, Cuvee D – Score: B+
The nose on this Pinot Noir that was aged in oak for 24 months is dirty, earthy, and red, with lovely cherry, light oxidation, plum, and herb. The mouth is medium in weight with nice Chicka Cherry Cola, oregano, cedar, raspberry, strawberry, Kirshe Cherry, and mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and spicy with roasted herb, vanilla, floral notes, lovely bracing acid, crazy spice, cloves, and good menthol.

Posted on February 25, 2013, in Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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