Issue #189  2/28/2012
Wine and Photographs: Singer Cellars Scores High

By Alex Novak

As some of my long-time readers and friends know, I am a bit of a wine buff and have occasionally added wine tasting notes to my newsletters. Well this article on wine will combine that subject with photography.

As fellow photography dealers, the Singers are following in the wine footsteps of one other photographer dealer, Sean Thackery, whose California Syrahs often get nose-bleed high scores. Barry and Gretchen Singer are themselves making stunning wines from Bordeaux blends and their individual components under a label of their own name, Singer Cellars. These hedonistic, yet elegant wines will clean out any cobwebs left over from any lesser bottles that you might have drunk recently, and leave you, as my cousin told me at our tasting of the Singers' wines "begging for more at the end."

Sorry, but this is not wine for spitting politely, but for savoring, swallowing and asking for more…much more. The wines are sourced from some top vineyards in Napa, although the Singers live in Petaluma in Sonoma. The 2009 vintage is the first official one that the Singers are making for sale, although they have been making wine for their personal use since 2004. Having been one of those lucky few to share bottles with the Singers from time to time, I can assure you that the wines are not only first-rate, but hold up very well indeed.

Barry sent out a group of his 2009's for this article with the admonition to open and decant for about an hour or more. We didn't do that because frankly they were so luscious to begin with, although I did try them again about an hour later and even a couple the next day. No worries: they were drinking well no matter how much (or little) time you gave them. That was not the case for some of the Singers's earlier vintages, which required decanting to open up the full potential, but the 2009 vintage in California is a very forward albeit big one.

One of my personal favorites of our horizontal tasting of the Singers' 2009 wines--and it was indeed hard to pick out a favorite from the line-up, as our group found out--is the 2009 Petite Verdot, which is made from grapes sourced from Oak Knoll in Napa. This not a grape that is commonly vinted by itself. Usually this grape is put into a Bordeaux-style blend as a tiny component. In proportions (92% Petite Verdot, 6% Cabernet Savignon and 2% Merlot) that might seem "wrong" on its face--this wine stands tradition on its head and surprises you with its fruity sensuality. The wine is definitely something else: rich, round and big. Red fruits of raspberry and strawberry with a touch of menthol on the nose. And the taste and texture made my tongue cry out for more, as several of us reached for the rest of the bottle at the same time. For the record, I won. I can't see myself resisting the two cases that I've ordered for very long, despite some incredibly smooth tannins that are there, but barely perceptible. Give this one 92-93 pts, and that's really being stingy, because I might just want to get another case before it sells out completely. When I revisited it the next day, I found the color dark yet clear and sparkling, and the taste intense, almost brooding. It hadn't moved an inch even though open for an entire day.

The Cabernet Franc, which was made from 92% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, has a low ph and a great mouth feel. It came across as elegant and very ready--seamless even. Some in our group voted it their favorite of the tasting. It was a very good wine, but the nose was just a bit too reticent for me, although there were hints of cigar box and peppermint, some called it candy cane. I gave it 91-92 points.

The Singers' Bordeaux-styled blend, The Song, is made up of 80% Napa Cabernet Savignon, 12% Merlot, 4% Cab Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. This is a big wine with broad shoulders and very good length. A touch of brown sugar on the nose. This wine came across as sweeter and fuller than most of the others. If you want to find fault with this superb wine, you might say the mid-palate isn't the strongest, but this wine is very well structured and has elegant reserve. The next day it was still holding up extremely well, but the acidity was just a bit more noticeable. It was a solid 93 point wine, and at the tasting was my personal favorite by a hair over the Petite Verdot.

The Singers' homage to Cheval Blanc, the 2009 Rhapsody was, as my cousin Bill called it simply "fabulous". It had a huge nose, spicy with great dark fruits. It was very forward and a hedonist's drinking pleasure, especially as it opened up. While I only gave it 92 points at our dinner tasting, this one only seemed to get better the next day. And I had a second bottle that was so complete and complex that I have to raise the score to a solid 93 with the potential for an even higher score eventually. This seems to be the one this year that could go for a long time to come.

Production of these wines is very small, so you won't find them at your local supermarket. For more information and prices, the winery's website can be found at: http://singercellars.com/home.html , or contact Barry Singer at barry@singergallery.com , or by phone at 1-707-321-4704. And tell him that Alex sent you!