Wine Review: 2009 · Dancing Coyote · Albariño · Clarksburg, CA

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

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.



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14 Responses to “Wine Review: 2009 · Dancing Coyote · Albariño · Clarksburg, CA”

  1. April 12, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Hi Rob,

    Incredible write-up. Though I must admit, I’m an amateur when it comes to wine, love reading your reviews and the blog in general. Your pictures are amazing too. As an aspiring blogger and photographer in training, any tips for taking those close-up shots so that the wine label can be read?

    Keep up the fine work and high level of quality that you and Carey have done such a great job of over the past year.


    • corksandcaftans
      April 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

      Thank you so much for the kind words! It really means a lot.

      You are not the first person that has asked about the wine shots. Carey and I were talking about doing a post about the wine bottle photography. The basics are a decent camera, a steady hand (or tripod), good light, a nice artistic setting, different angles and approaches, and photoshop. Photoshop wont make a bad picture good, but it can make a good picture better. Photoshop gives you the ability to make subtle changes in light and color that make the picture unique. Email me questions if you like, I would be happy to go into detail.

  2. April 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    I remember trying their Gewürztraminer, although I can’t recall what year it was, but I enjoyed it. It was crisper than many I have tried, and not quite as sweet both of which are plusses in my book, I think Gewürztraminer can sometimes be too overwhelmingly honeysuckle but Dancing Coyote’s was a little more balanced.

    Nice Blog btw, I came across it on…

    • corksandcaftans
      April 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

      Thank you very much for the comment! I am excited—even more so now—to try the Gewürz they sent me. DC’s wines have really been impressive and any winery that takes on these lesser known varietals is admirable in my book. It is kind of ironic that they found me to begin with!

  3. ljk
    April 13, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    I’m just guessing here but:
    Purdy’s = good but not great
    Putnam Wine = great but expensive
    Saratoga Wine Exchange = cutting edge and reasonable

    I’m at a loss for the great shop within “walking distance”.

    • corksandcaftans
      April 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

      Close! But, in my mind Purdy’s takes the top spot. It is not as chic as the Wine EX and Putnam, but the selection is second to none I’ve come across. I was actually just in Putnam today, and was more impressed with their prices than I have been in the past and they have this incredible new points program that gives you credit toward tasting some serious wines. I actually am thinking about writing a post about it. They all do a great job offering different wines, so it doesn’t hurt rotating from time to time. Purdy’s also has the best layout in my mind—mostly because their inventory is so broad and big that they can separate international wines by region of origin, and not just country.

      Hope this helps!

      • November 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

        Forget the Saratoga Wine Exchange!

        Prices for the items in the store are VERY expensive. And forget about the items they list on their web site. Although they claim to have them in stock, they do not. In my case, they clearly tried to order the wine after accepting and confirming my order. In doing so, they realized that their cost had gone up, so they called me and told me that the wine was no longer available. When I logged back into their site, I saw the same bottle of wine was now listed at a much higher price. I asked them to honor their pricing and they refused. Instead, they tried to get me to buy something else that they had in stock (probably with a higher profit margin).

        These people don’t know how to treat customers or conduct business fairly. I’d say stay away.

      • Corks and Caftans
        November 18, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

        Bummer that happened, Tom. That is a shame, I’ve met some good folks there. I do know exactly what you are talking about with website though, I was also confused by the inventory situation a few years ago. Cheers!

  4. ljk
    April 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    I’m a Purdy’s regular. What’s the 4th shop within walking distance?

    • corksandcaftans
      April 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

      The 4th would be that place D’Andrea’s on the corner of Washington and West. To be honest, I have never actually walked there, nor am I a regular. I check in from time to time and have gotten some good stuff.

  5. ljk
    April 16, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    I guess there’s a place on S Broadway across from Saratoga Diner too. I’ve been in there once and the selection was limited.

    • corksandcaftans
      April 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

      Oh yea, I forgot about that place. The Crush and Cask, right? I should check back in there.

  6. April 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Bravo for the lighting on that first shot of the Albarino! Maybe Carey could cut a short behind-the-scenes video of one of the more elaborate shoots?

    The turquoise dishes as background props and the fact that I have a friend who “danced” with a coyote served to create a particular connection to this review and reminder to share some Corks comment love, at long last. Your writing is thoughtful and compelling and makes me want to sprint to the wine store down the street in order to sample the latest bottle in question. Even though my novice tasting notes on the same pour would be a subway station graffiti scribble next to your inventive Roland Flexner sumi drawing (how’s that for a totally obscure, but appropriately disparate reference that only Grieco would get!), your reviews inspire me to give winemakers the consideration they deserve. Thanks for sharing what you enjoy.

  7. October 28, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    Like you, I’m very happy to see good Albarino coming out of California–and from Clarksburg no less. Very encouraging. Nice blog. I just tasted and reviewed the 2008, if anyone is interested.



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