A wine adventure with Ed Kurtzman of Sandler Wine Company and August West

Ed Kurtzman has a very impressive winemaker bio: Bernardus, Chalone, Testarossa, Fort Ross, Freeman, Roar, Mansfield-Dunne, August West and his own label Sandler Wine Company. His bio is extremely impressive, but Ed is even more awesome in person, and on May 1, he visited us and shared with us plenty of knowledge, stories, no less than ten excellent wines and much more, in one of the best wine events I've ever attended.
If you missed this event you may wonder what could possibly be so great about it. Here's what: three vertical tasting flights (featuring ten great wines), wine trivia (with an awesome prize), blind smelling games, stump the winemaker blind tasting, and plenty of fun stories, information and conversation.
Since this post is full of my own ravings, I will try to balance it by including only other people's tasting notes. If you really want my own notes just ask - I already mentioned that I loved all of Ed's wines, and I encourage everyone to get some from both Sandler's Wine Company and August West. We collected tasting notes and rankings from everyone who opted to share them and I tried to combine them here. Notes that were shared by two or more people are in bold. Since for two flights we only got two rankings, the statistics are not very strong, and "group" should really be "pair", but I hope we'll get into the habits of doing this in future tastings and have more group statistics. This is the first time we try to post a combined tasting note, so take that into account, it might get confusing. In the future, we may try to use a web application I wrote to take structured tasting notes - this makes it much easy to aggregate notes from different people.
The first flight was of Sandler Wine Company Pinot Noirs from the Bien Nacido vineyard, old vines grown on their own rootstock. We tasted the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages. For this flight we got three tasting notes and only two rankings.
  • 2010: purple, olive, grassy, red berries, floral, a bit spicy, concentrated, acidic. Group 2nd (4).
  • 2011: pale red with orange tint, strawberry, violet, herbaceous, weed, light body, perfume, well balanced, low tannin. Group 1st (3). Also Ed's favorite.
  • 2012: darker red, funky, mercaptan, long acidic finish. Group 3rd (5).
The second flight included August West Pinot Noirs from the Graham Family vineyard, vintages 2010, 2011 and 2012. For this flight we got three tasting notes and three rankings. In this flight, all three tasters who submitted rankings loved the 2012 most.
  • 2010: deep red, spicy, lemongrass, ginger, strong tannin, hot savory, strawberry, acidic, a little sweet. Group 2nd (7).
  • 2011: burgundy/brown hue, dusty, sharp, rubber, mercaptan, spice, acid, savory, almost spritz. Group 3rd (8).
  • 2012: purple/pink, blackberry, smooth, tutti frutti, floral, strawberry, cola, savory, ham, caramel, earth, mineral. Group 1st (3).
The third flight included four August West Syrahs from Rosella's vineyard, the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages.Group rankings  For this flight we got three tasting notes and two rankings.
  • 2009: deep purple, pepper, fruity, balanced, acidic, earthy. Group 4th (7).
  • 2010: charcoal, chili, hint of vanilla, olive, spice, smoky. Group 1st/2nd (4).
  • 2011: floral, oaky, black pepper, mineral, acidic, spicy. Group 3rd (5).
  • 2012: strawberry, plum. Group 1st/2nd (4).
As we were tasting, Ed shared with us a lot of interesting facts and stories, and we had great discussions and even tested Ed on his own wine in a blind tasting (he nailed it).
As if that wasn't enough fun for several wine events, Ed had another surprise for us: wine trivia (played in teams), with a spectacular grand prize! The 10 questions covered many different aspects of wine from grapes to regions, numbers and winemaking. This was so much fun, and I learned a lot.
Huge thanks to Ed Kurtzman for visiting us and for an amazing wine event! To get some of Ed's excellent wines, visit Sandler's Wine Company and August West. And make sure to take tasting notes and share them with us if you don't mind.