A Vertical Selection of Cigare Volant

2012 Le Cigare Volant

Varietal Blend: 39% Mourvèdre, 33% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 2% Cinsaut
Appellation: Central Coast
Vineyards: 33% Del Barba, 18% Bien Nacido, 17%  Alta Loma, 11% Ventana, 7% Rancho Solo, 6% Enea, 5% Alamo Creek, 2% Woock, 1% Spanish Springs
Cellaring: 10-15 years from release (June 2016)
Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
TA: 5.6 g/L
pH: 3.6
Production: 4,000 cases

Dark saturated color, with a very rich savory mouthfeel and a preternaturally long finish. Despite the fact that this wine is composed of scantly more than a third Mourvedre, the strong herbal/garrigue/beef bouillon cube character of the Provençal variety is rather pronounced. Not just red and black fruit, but there are stems and leaves of the red/black fruit as well. This likely makes no sense to the rational mind, but one is struck equally by both the rusticity and elegance of this wineit is if the refined Burgundian Clement had a rustic cousin, Clem in Provence. I’m not certain why this wine is so appealing, even comforting, but perhaps it is the soft, enveloping tannins and the extraordinarily long finish; a wine to be consumed by a roaring fire. There is no more appropriate wine currently produced on the planet than this one to complement a beef daube.

2013 Le Cigare Volant

Varietal Blend: 55% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 4% Cinsaut
Appellation: Central Coast
Vineyards: 38% Rancho Solo, 21% Bien Nacido, 18% Ventana, 17% Del Barba, 4% Bechtold, 2% Alta Loma
Cellaring: 10-15 years from release (May 2018)
Alcohol by Volume: 14.5%
TA: 6.5 g/L
pH: 3.48
Production: 2,400 cases

The 30th Anniversary release of this, our flagship wine. A beautiful winedark and mulberry in color as in nose. One scents cool loamy earth with suggestions of raspberries and Damson plums. I do so love the largely Grenache vintages of Cigare; there’s an unmistakable spiciness to themorange peel, cinnamon and black pepper. Grenache is not just about fragrance however; any synesthete worth his/her Maldon salt will know that the scent of Grenache is in part highly texturalsoft and velveteen. And sure enough, on the palate the wine is also an essence of velours.

2014 Le Cigare Volant

Varietal Blend: 39% Grenache, 35% Mourvèdre, 17% Syrah, 7% Cinsaut, 2% Viognier
Appellation: Central Coast
Vineyards: 38% Rancho Solo, 20% Bien Nacido, 34% Del Barba, 7% Bechtold, 1% Popelouchum
Cellaring: 10-15 years from release (August  2018)
Alcohol by Volume: 14.1%
TA: 5.8 g/L
pH: 3.56
Production: 2,296 cases

Very bright, deep ruby color, lots of black fruit, mulberries and cherries on the nose. There is a pronounced minty, almost alpine pepperiness, which is the unmistakable hallmark of Bien Nacido Syrah. In my mind at least, it is this septentrional (north of 45th parallel) character that so tellingly differentiates Cigare Volant from say, meridional Châteauneuf-du-Pape, giving it an unmistakable lift.  I flatter myself, but apropos of “coolth,” this wine works a bit like Miles’ musicplenty of space between the notes, allowing the wine to expand and grow in the glass.  One last (blue) note: While the phenomenon is undoubtedly multi-factoral, the wine is remarkably resistant to oxidation after it’s been opened, remaining fresh for the better of a week.  This is profoundly good news for the long-term prospects of this wine and for those who still possess a capacious cellar.

2015 Le Cigare Volant

Varietal Blend: 57% Grenache, 17% Cinsaut, 16% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah
Appellation: Central Coast
Vineyards: 36% Alta Loma, 21% Rancho Solo, 17% Bechtold, 16% Del Barba, 10% Coastview
Cellaring: 10-15 years from release (August 2018)
Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
TA: 5.7 g/L
pH: 3.67
Production: 1,404 cases

The élevage for this wine is rather different from previous vintages, with a substantial portion of the volume deriving from Cigare aged in 5-gallon glass demijohns (bonbonnes), which were ultimately blended into the same wine that had reposed in 10,000 liter wood uprights and puncheons.  Medium, vivid ruby color, with an incredibly lifted, ethereal floral aromaalmond blossoms, violets, sandalwood and wild strawberries, almost, dare I say, Burgundian in aspect.  On the palate, a dreamy weightlessness (this is a good thing!), silky tannins and an enormously persistent finish. The kind of wine that drives wine aficionados to drink, being a wine of great charm, elegance and intelligence.  With decanting (and time), the wine seems to grow in both body and depth. Certainly one of the most charming Cigares of memory.

2016 Le Cigare Volant

Varietal Blend: 41% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah, 14% Cinsaut
Appellation: Central Coast
Vineyards: 33% Rancho Solo, 30% Del Barba, 14% Bechtold, 10% Lieff, 10% Shokrian, 3% Wolff
Cellaring: Ideally hold at least 6 months to 1 year from release (August 2018).
Aging potential after that: 10-15 years.
Alcohol by Volume: 14.5%
TA: 6.0 g/L
pH: 3.68
Production: 2,066 cases

This wine was definitely not open for business upon first opening,1 so I’m taking another sniff and taste twenty-four hours later.  What a difference a day makes!2 The wine has darkened in color, immensely deepened in body, and the nose is just climbing out of the glass. Dark woodsy, fairy-tale nose – juniper berry and crushed pink peppercorns, licorice.  It was in this vintage where we began using a substantially higher percentage of un-destemmed grapes3 (primarily Mourvèdre and Grenache) and as a result, as I conceive it, there is more gras or substance to the wine, and presence of a sort of dark, lower register, a basso continuo, if you will.

2017 Le Cigare Volant

Varietal Blend: 35% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, 17% Cinsaut, 14% Syrah
Appellation: Central Coast
Vineyards: 35% Ventana, 34% Del Barba, 17% Bechtold, 8% Tolosa, 6% Lieff
Cellaring: Ideally hold 3 years from release (August 2018).
Aging potential after that: 10-15 years.
Alcohol by Volume: 13.4%
TA: 6.4 g/L
pH: 3.52
Production: 2,080 cases

Again, we were up to our old/new tricks in air-drying the Grenache and Mourvedre fruit so that we might use a substantial portion of un-destemmed clusters in the fermenter.4  This particular trick has given this wine the wonderful advantage of a robust skeletal framework, upon which the fruit/flesh is seamlessly embedded. (We conserve the “fruit” or succulence/sucrosity of the wine through minimal, gentle cellar movements, always rigorously anaerobic.)  My colleague, Nicole Walsh and I toil away at the Cigare blend every year, and while the blend will change (sometimes radically) from year to year, we share an idea of the Platonic form of Cigare, and the ’17 certainly embodies that form. It goes something like this: Juiciness, fruit (but not confected or overripe), brightness, exuberance, joy, and not least, a sense of savoriness.  I realize I’m not speaking orthodox wine parlance. We look above all for balance and for liveliness, for vinous qi.  This wine is still incredibly young and just wants to jump out of its shoes.

This is certainly one of the potential (minor) shortcomings of screwcaps, but the minor contretemps of a “closed” wine is more than made up by the screwcap’s enhancement of a wine’s ultimate longevity.
Needless to say, I strongly recommend decanting several hours before service, and can promise you that this will be a Cigare for decades of maturation.
These were grapes that were air-dried for several days with the intention of lignifying the stems, not so much with the idea of dehydrating the fruit. But the (ripe) stems impart a beautiful source of tannin, giving the wine a real spine; they protect it from the cold and unforgiving world it will ultimately have to confront.
The presence of stems in the wine is evinced in part by a sort of “gatheredness” of the wine, a core. While a young wine can exhibit perhaps a slight character of “stemminess,” if the stems are well matured, that aspect manifests more as a form of mintiness.

 To view a 6-pack Vertical offering on these vintages, please click here.

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