Legend has it, each year at the beginning of the growing season, a band of coyotes from the nearby foothills sneak into our vineyards, and for no apparent reason other than treachery, chew our irrigation lines with wild abandon. Following these scandalous acts, they have been known on occasion to join paws and dance around , howling at the moon in celebration.
Dancing Coyote is a unique little operation. We often associate animals and animal references with the mega-branded, million-plus case, glossy-labeled enterprises that aim for consistency in winemaking, akin to Budweiser. Quite the opposite, actually. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the entire Dancing Coyote family of wines falls somewhere in the range of 5 to 7 thousand cases annually. Remember though, this is spread over 9 individual varietals—very tight numbers indeed—all estate grown, only one of which, the Pinot Noir, is considered a mainstream varietal. That leaves 8 varietals ranging from lesser known to downright obscure.
As part of a Dancing Coyote sample, I received the 2009 Albariño, Verdelho, and Gewürztraminer, and the 2008 Petite Sirah. I was drawn to the Albariño immediately; frankly, I wasn’t expecting to see it. My apartment is within walking distance to 4 wine stores. 1 good, 1 great, 1 great and expensive, and 1 cutting edge and reasonable. Even though I spend most of my time in the last, I am pretty sure that I would not find a single bottle of Albariño from California in any of them. I can stir up plenty of Albariño from the sections of Spain or Portugal, where this grape reigns king, but nothing from California. [Oh, but there is plenty of Chardonnay.] So, when the day comes when Albariño takes the United States by storm, I will be able to say, “yes, I have had the ’09 Dancing Coyote.”
What I love about Albariño is its innate ability to mimic so many varietals, yet it distinctively stands out as a wine with unrivaled character and finesse. Emulating its stature would call for a dash of grassiness from Sauvignon blanc, a hint of almond flavors found in Pinot blanc, a handful of mineral flavors from Riesling, a pinch of apple and peach from Chardonnay—then envelop all this goodness with the sweet smells of apricots and orange blossoms found in Viognier. –Albariño, The Other White Grape from Enobytes.com
From my notebook:
Exciting aromatics. Opens with a sprightly nose of lemon/citrus zest and subtle apricot undertones. No malolactic fermentation, a touch of spritz on the tongue—ambitious acidity. Wonderful structure, clean champagne colors, and almost no residual sugar makes this wine very appealing. This is a wine that needs to be paired with shellfish—preferably, at a nice beach barbecue outfitted with all the amenities, Barefoot Contessa style.
So, when was the last time you had a nice bottle of Verdelho? Same with me—and since I have never tasted one before, I am obviously very excited. These wines were bottled in January of 2010, just a few short months ago, and I have been sitting on them for at least half that time. This really is the beginning of something new—both for me and for a country that has been stuck on Chardonnay for too long! I am sensing a movement.