On a leisurely return from the physical rigors of a brutal half ironman (albeit Sonoma’s Vineman Half Ironman which takes place through 70.3 miles of Russian River and Vineyards), we were looking for any way to procrastinate our re-entry into LA, so when the sign for Los Alamos appeared, we couldn’t resist. I have spent much time in Solvang, Los Olivos and the Paso area, but I have never explored Los Alamos – and 2:30 on a Tuesday does not appear to be the optimum time for full-fledged exploration. I had hoped to visit Sonja Magdevski at Casa Dumetz and also check out Ampelos and, yes, I admit it, I was curious about Kurt Russell’s GoGi label showcased at the Wine Salon (I interviewed him years ago for an article in the San Francisco Chronicle and was impressed then with his intelligence .. okay, and his amazing blue eyes….) but it was not to be…. the saloon and the rest of the town were as quiet, dry and dusty as a scene out of High Noon. Thursday through Sunday is when the town comes to life. Tuesday’s, not so much.
We took a quick peek inside the extraordinary (and very charming and very stuck in time) Union Hotel, a definite ‘be back’ for me and were packed up and headed for the hills when my eagle-eyed travel companion noticed another tasting room on the short main drag that showed signs of life. What we discovered was Bedford Winery tasting room, a fixture in Los Alamos long before it started to get fancy, and what a treat this brief respite before heading into rush hour traffic was. The owner/winemaker and Los Alamos pioneer who, it must be said, looks exactly as a winemaker should, left as we started our tastings to take his recently rescued pit out for a stroll, but we were well tended by the voluble and very friendly tasting room manager who led us through a tour of two barrel fermented Rieslings (chewy and citrus fruity and peachy and viscous – especially the 2010) and a barrel fermented Chenin Blanc which was all melons and a touch of white peaches with a satiny mouth feel, crisp acid and a bit of brawn from the barrel. In fact, this was the second yummy Chenin Blanc I had tasted this trip – reminding me it is time to revisit this varietal with vigor! I had a lovely honeyed, mineraly version at Paso’s LXV Wines that had a sensuous wisp of noble rot in it. But that is another story.
Next, she brought out the reds, a 2010 “Archive” Syrah that delivered exactly what a Central Coast Syrah should …. big, big, big, with lots of spice and ripe berry fruit and a nice bit of length…. then because she liked the cut of our jib (or because it was a lazy langorous weekday afternoon), she went in the back to retrieve a 2004 Library edition Syrah that, she admitted, she had opened the night before, but, she said, still retained much of its glory. She poured with much flourish. I took a sniff and … well, perhaps the best description came in the soft tones of my friend who claims she “is no wine expert’ and whose verbal palate has not been corrupted with ‘forest floors’ and ‘wet stones’ and ‘fresh cut garden hoses’. “It’s stinky,” she whispered to me. I could not have said it better myself, but I didn’t. Not wanting to give offense, I said “interesting!”… and thought ‘if you think oxidation produces interesting aromas’! The wine was, to my palate, metallic with just the faintest memory of the rich black and blue glories of that grape. Nevertheless, it was a privilege to taste it, even if I hated it, so I was not about to let on.
This encouraged her to bring out a bottle of what is in very short supply, and not usually poured, their 2008 Pinot Noir. And what a privilege! Bursts of cherry but with those deep, complex almost funky notes that I adore about really good Pinot … lots of body, lots of red fruit poetry, well balanced with meat and smoke and just a hint of mushrooms and vanilla. Delicious. Not cheap at $45. But definitely worth taking home with me, which I did, as did my ‘non-expert’ friend whose palate knew a good Pinot when it tasted one. Unfortunately, they were not pouring the Bedford Carignane, which sounded (at least by her description) to be quite exciting, nor their dry Gerswurtztraminer… next time and soon I hope.
Our respite meant a bigger battle with traffic, but with our palates warmed by Bedford’s singular and adventurous wines, and our hearts by the friendliness and coziness of the tasting room, and with our bags a bit heavier with 2008 Pinot, the traffic didn’t feel so bad at all.