Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tasting in the Anderson Valley: Toulouse Vineyards

Toulouse Lautrec, right? Sounds French, and the wines are made with somewhat of a European touch. But the winery's logo features a goose so I can't help but think of word plays such as "too loose." And most things are a bit loosey goosey in Mendocino.

Toulouse throws a good, old-fashioned tasting--no fancy tasting room with bar tenders for the tourists but rather a corner of the barrel aging room of the winery. Come in, find a place to perch your wine glass and discover what our wines are about. There is a generous dish of cheesy crackers to help you prepare and clear your palate ("buy on bread, sell on cheese," say the French) and an energetic, knowledgeable young woman to tell you about the wines and give you recipes for food pairing. Whereas we paid $20 to $25 for every tasting in Napa, every tasting we had in the Anderson Valley was free. The wines there need--and deserve--exposure.

2010 Toulouse Estate Riesling: Floral, spicy, lovely! Oily note typical of Riesling but basically a fine-boned wine. 1.0% residual sugar.

2010 Toulouse Pinot Gris: This has a big Alsace Pinot Gris nose--lemon, white peaches and bosc pears. Medium light in color and body. 0.5% residual sugar is a nice counter to the zesty citrus notes.

2011 Toulouse Gewurztraminer: A bit sweeter than the Riesling or Pinot Gris at 1.9% RS. Explosive aromas of flowers, spices, lychee and ripe fruit. Classic Gewurz on the palate--viscous and ripe.

2010 Toulouse Rose of Pinot Noir: I'm usually not big on roses, but this is a very nice wine to serve with appetizers or summer meals. 100% Pinot Noir with fresh aromas and flavors of wild strawberries.

2008 Toulouse Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: Medium dark garnet./ Lots of interest on the nose--smoke, spice, cinnamon and sweet cherries./ Lush fruit presence with cocoa, cinnamon and Pinot earthiness. Impressive mid palate fruit.

2008 Toulouse Estate Pinot Noir: Bright garnet/ruby./ Big, forward nose of bing cherries, riper than the Anderson Valley above and friendlier on the palate. Bright fruit, not as earthy nor as spicy. A very attractive wine and the one I purchased as a gift for our hosts, the Randles.

2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: This seems to be a better vintage. And because it's a year younger, this wine has brighter, fresher fruit aromas and flavors. Red cherries, dark cherries, currants and berries--very bright fruit. Not as much earth as the 2008 Anderson Valley but plenty of spice--mainly cinnamon and anise seed. The wine should age beautifully for five to eight years.

2008 Lautrec Pinot Noir: Now we get Toulouse Lautrec! It's sort of a second label; a neighboring winery went under, and Toulouse winemaker Vern Boltz liked the wine that was in barrels waiting for bottling. It has the Anderson Valley stamp on it and is basically in line with what Boltz produces. At $26 a bottle (compared to $50 for the Estate and $46 for the Toulouse Anderson Valley Pinots), it's a very good value, and I would have bought a few bottles if I had been closer to home. It's not showy on the nose but it has good Pinot qualities of ripe blueberries, cocoa, spice and earth. Good strong Pinot fruit unfolds nicely when you give it time and attention.


  1. I'm completely unfamiliar with this winery, but your notes have me lusting for a taste; particularly of those light whites and rose now that spring is upon us.

    Sounds like a winery that I need to become acquainted with. And that $26 Lautrec Pinot sounds like something right up my alley!

  2. If you haven't found it already: www.toulousevineyards.com. Unfortunately, I don't see the Lautrec on their online list. I would guess they might be willing to sell and ship it, though, if you gave them a call. We were there on April 3 or 4 so I doubt that they've sold out of it.

    I had never heard of Toulouse, either. They are better known in California, and their wines have won some awards. The tasting, though, is almost worth the journey on its own. The young lady was very energetic and could tell you everything you wanted to know about the wines, winemaking, vineyards, food pairings, etc.