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Wine of the Day

2010 Skinner Vineyards Estate Mourvedre, El Dorado

The potential for great wine growing in the Sierra Foothills is massive, particularly for Rhone varieties. In recent years, quality in the bottle has started delivering on that. Skinner Vineyards and Winery is one of the leaders in that respect.

Winemaker Chris Pittenger has consulted with them since their beginning in 2007 and been full-time on-site since 2010. Pittenger’s experience includes stints at Aussie Rhone-specialist Torbreck, Napa old-vine house Robert Biale and four years at Marcassin with Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer. He’s well-equipped to take advantage of Skinner’s prototypical El Dorado vineyards.

The Stoney Creek Vineyard sits at 2,700 feet in the Fair Play AVA. Vine roots dive deeply into the well-drained, sandy soil of decomposed granite. Sun is plentiful throughout the growing season but that high-altitude keeps temperatures moderate with cool breezes coming up from the delta and cold air dropping from the soaring mountains at night.

The White Oak Vineyard, located near the site of the original Skinner Winery founded in 1861, is less extreme but no less representative of the foothills. Still lofty at 1,400 feet, it also benefits from all-day sun, moderated warmth and cold night air. The soils are a little more fertile, stone-studded alluvium of red volcanic, eroded granite, etc. But it’s shallow earth on a bed of nearly solid granite which means good drainage because the water runs downhill like rain falling on a sloping driveway.

These conditions are ideal for Rhone reds, like the Mourvedre, that need plenty of phenolic ripeness to be palatable but lose complexity and charm at high alcohol levels. Skinner’s got the right grapes in the right sites and combines that with careful viticulture and talented winemaking. The results are excellent and, because the region is still under-the-radar, even limited-release wines can be had at reasonable prices.

The 2010 Skinner Estate Mourvedre is dark, savory deliciousness in the glass. Complex and intense on the nose, aromas of black pepper, sweet smoke, game, white pepper, grilled cherry and brown spice are easy to discern. The palate is dry and nearly full-bodied. Tannic structure is moderate and fine-grained, easily matched by juiciness. Flavor intensity is high as well: grilled plum and dark berries, sprinkled with dark spice. Good length. This wine is sold out at the winery, but there are a handful of bottles here and perhaps elsewhere at retail. Best now through 2018. Highly Recommended

12Mourvedre2010 Skinner Vineyards Estate Mourvedre, El Dorado
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2018
Release Date: Spring, 2013

Closure: Cork
Production: 73 cases
Retail Price: $25.00 and up

Winemaker: Chris Pittenger
Blend: 83% Mourvedre, 17% Syrah

Origin: two Skinner Estate Vineyards (Stoney Creek & White Oak), El Dorado
Aging: 11 months in French oak barriques and hogsheads, 33% new
Alcohol: 14.9%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not required

Temperature: 60º - 64º F

Food Pairing: Grilled lamb chops or braised lamb shank

Interpreting my wine ratings


Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

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This article is original to Copyright 2014 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.