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Woman on the Verge of a Glass of Wine

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Habit I Clearly Can't Kick

Jeff Fischer is really on a roll. A few months back, he brought me a sample of a wine that he made, a Sauvignon Blanc called Habit, that he produced under the tutelage of California winemaker Doug Margerum. He's always had an intense love of food and wine and decided to follow his heart and dabble in the world of wine making. I loved that first wine the moment I tasted it, and clearly so did everyone else. You see, Jeff managed, on his own, to place that wine at some pretty impressive restaurants around the country, purchased by some of America's top sommeliers. This is a pretty amazing feat when one considers how hard it is to even get some of these people on the phone, much less taste and buy a wine from a newcomer to the business. In fact, when I called him to reorder a case for Tavern, he told me that he sold out of that charter vintage in a matter of months. As someone who has dabbled in wine making, I've gotta say that I'm a bit jealous.

Following up from that first wine, Jeff has just bottled his red, a Bordeaux blend under the same Habit label. This wine is a blend of 30% Cabernet Franc, 32.5% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. The grapes for this wine are from the fairly new Happy Canyon AVA in Santa Ynez, which has a slightly warmer climate than other Central Coast areas, resulting in riper, richer fruit. It is precisely this warmer weather that separates Happy Canyon, the smallest AVA in California, from the neighboring Santa Barbara and Santa Rita Hills. Unlike these regions in which Pinot and Chardonnay thrive, Happy Canyon is the perfect place for these Bordeaux grapes, as well as Syrah and other Rhone varieties that really need the heat to reach their fullest potential.

I must say that I think he has another hit on his hands with this one. The wine is fleshy, rich and layered with a fine tannin structure and velvety texture. It has a classic elements of a meritage blend: iron-rich structure of Cabernet, the softening effect of Merlot, the complex earthiness of Cab Franc and the density of Petit Verdot. (Of course, I happen to be what I call a cabfrancophile, so the high percentage of Cab Franc in the mix makes me happy.) The thing that seems push this wine beyond though, is that small touch of Malbec in the blend that gives the wine a Mexican coffee like spiciness and exotic touch. It also surprisingly bright, a quality that sets this wine apart from those of the Napa Valley. Possibly the close proximity of Happy Canyon to the ocean allows for the wine to retain a certain level of acidity and acquire a unique maritime character.

Jeff hasn't yet figured out the pricing of this wine, not surprising since he literally just bottled it a week ago. I do know that he is focused on keeping the cost reasonable, a wonderful thing considering his relatively small production. He's created a true boutique project with very hands-on winemaking technique and time consuming attention to detail. In short, this wine is a crazy value.

I'm looking forward to the wine being released and getting it on my wine lists asap. I know I'm going to have a hard time keeping it in stock myself. In fact, that's the problem with this wine...there's just not enough of it to go around.

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