Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sean Thackrey's Pleiades XVI
I first read about Sean Thackrey in a glossy magazine years and years ago and was so intrigued by the man, his methods and the description of his wines that I started to seek them out whenever I went into a wine shop. Unfortunately, I was living in NYC at the time, and almost always the response by wine shop owners was "who?"
In California, however, he is much better known by the smaller shops. You ask if they have any of his wines, and their faces light up while they wistfully describe how it tastes. Two different wine shop clerks who have had the Pleiades XVI both described how unique its nose was, how they just wanted to spend hours sniffing it. They also said it went down way, way too fast.
Thackrey claims to own the largest collection of ancient texts on winemaking, and he tries to incorporate some of these methods into his practice. For instance, he lets the grapes "rest" after picking them for 24 hours, something that he claims dates back to ancient Greek poet Hesiod. He also lets his juice ferment in open-top vats under the stars and eucalyptus trees, something that fell out of favor hundreds of years ago, according to a wonderful profile in the San Francisco Chronicle (link).
It doesn't hurt demand that Robert Parker awarded Thackrey's 2001 Sirius Mendocino County Eaglepoint Ranch Petite Sirah 96 points.
Pleiades is Thackrey's cheapest wine, a field blend of a variety of grapes possibly including Syrah, Barbera, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Merlot (I don't think the exact mix is known). I bought a bottle for $19 from Wine.com's Berkeley shop in August, and was going to drink it relatively soon when I got an e-mail from Thackrey (sent to those on his wine list) that said e is not planning another bottling of the wine "any time soon." So, in the "save" drawer the wine went.
The wine quickly sold out, as it usually does, and I couldn't get another bottle until last week when I bought the last bottle at Farmstead Cheese & Wine in Alameda for about $25. I decided to open this bottle for a small gathering of friends Friday. To get it ready, I kept it in the fridge for a few hours, then took it out and decanted it for at least an hour before the guests arrived.
On the nose I got sweet tar, cherries and some fresh herbs. In the glass, the wine had a nice cool-eucalyptus flavor throughout. Red fruit berries lie beneath. Overall, everyone loved this wine, and I wish I could have had more time to savor it, ferret out every strand of scent and flavor, but this wine wasn't especially made for that. We drank it with plates of cheese, bread, hummus, grapes and salami. A perfect party wine, and how it should be enjoyed. On the label it says: "The object of Pleiades Old Vines is to be delicious, delight the jaded, and go well with anything red wine goes well with."
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