Two years ago I blogged about crashing a wine club event at the Heller Estate Vineyards winery high in the mountains above Carmel Valley. That was one year after the huge Basin Complex fire burned into Big Sur and north almost to this winery. The smoke blanked the region for a couple of months and of course the grapes were affected. At the winery event I pleaded with the winemaker to bottle what we were tasting in the barrel, smoke flavor and all.
We recently visited their tasting room in the Village of Carmel Valley to taste the results. WOW! Sure, smoked wine is not as well known as say smoked salmon or cheese, but it is great! You can still taste Cab but the smoke in their 2008 organic Cachagua Cabernet Sauvignon is up front and exciting.
We enjoyed drinking the whole bottle on our patio on a warm summer day and paired with only light munchies such as sausages. We would like to buy more and pair it with roasts, salmon, etc. and see what happens.
I’ve heard that most of the other vintners in the area did their best to eliminate the smoke from their local 2008 wines but fortunately Heller decided to see if there is a market for a wine that needs to be explored beyond the frontier of wine tasting. Last I heard there are only a few cases left.