A Winning Hand: No Limit Wines
Dennis Schaefer. Santa Barbara Newspress
For Ethan Lindquist, the grape didn't fall very far from the vine. While he took his time getting around to it, he's become a winemaker just like his dad, Bob Lindquist. After venturing to the North Coast and working for several wineries, the younger Lindquist began making wine under his moniker a dozen years ago. Lately, the family connection has come in handy, as he sources a lot of his grapes from his dad's biodynamic Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard just over the county line in Edna Valley. In the winery, Ethan Lindquist likes to keep things small and hands-on so he can monitor what's going on in every barrel. Like his dad at Qupe, he concentrates on Rhone varietals for his Ethan Wines, though he's been known to make a sangiovese or two.
In 2008, Ethan also got involved with a side project that turned into a big deal. Cliff Korn, a former sales manager for The Brander Vineyard and now managing director at Acker Merrall & Condit, a fine wine purveyor and one of the world's largest wine auction houses in New York City, hatched the idea of making the best northern Rhone-style wines possible with no limits. Thus No Limit Wine was born and the partnership made the first wines that harvest, again from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. The label has a poker theme, with playing cards serving as the front label. A limited number of bottles from the inaugural 2008 vintage remain; the 2009 is the current release. Some notes on Ethan Wines and No Limit Wine.
• No Limit Syrah "All In," Edna Valley, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard 2008 ($65): On the nose, this wine is all in for the fruit: blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, elderberry and mulberry with healthy doses of lavender, black licorice, lead pencil, shoe polish, black and white pepper and smoke. Whew, it's complicated! On the palate, it's blackberry, black cherry, dark plum and beef jerky in the forefront with boysenberry, graphite and vanilla in the background, if it can be called that, given such levels of flavor intensity. It's a wine structured to have big and broad shoulders. Right now, only the tip of the iceberg is showing but even that portion is quite pleasing. Given some time in the bottle, these flavors will become explosive and all-consuming; you can just sense the tension in this wine. Its sustained flavors roll on to a big, concentrated and meaty finish. In poker, "all in" means to bet all of your chips on one hand, which is a big risk.
• No Limit Syrah "All In," Edna Valley, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard 2009 ($65): Very similar to the 2008 version on the nose, though perhaps a bit subdued at this point in time. More boysenberry, mulberry, blackberry and ripe dark plum is evident, again with lavender, shoe polish, lead pencil and wood smoke. The sweet fruit hits the palate like a load of bricks. Big, bold and brassy flavors come on strong but are sharply focused and structured, not out of control. Mulberry, boysenberry and black licorice are evident plus a spicy savoriness akin to a generous sprinkling of black pepper on a dry-aged porterhouse (before it hits the grill). Pop this bottle open next time you're on the patio and enjoy a glass, throw that well-seasoned porterhouse on the grill, then consume the rest of the bottle with the rare, caramelized beef and friends. A match made in heaven. The flavors in the wine reinforce the flavors of the steak and vice versa but with both adding extra flavor elements that seemingly were not there before. Wine and food synergy? Yes, I'm all in and for it.
• No Limit Syrah "The Nuts," Edna Valley, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard 2008 ($75): This wine also presents a concentrated nose but this time of blackberry compote, dried black fruit, mulberry, dry-aged beef, iodine and charred barrel staves. Just from the nose, you can tell this is very Cote-Rotie-like but with a shout out to Bordeaux for its structured majesty. The flavors come on strong with black currant, cassis, plum pudding, blackberry, dark-roasted coffee grounds and wood smoke. Right now, it's compact but well-rounded and mouth-filling. Like a tight fist, there is still much to be revealed when the hand opens up and you can see all the fingers. The great fruit concentration is there in spades and it finishes on a sustained high note. By the way, in poker, "the nuts" is the best possible hand given the cards available.
• No Limit Syrah "The Nuts," Edna Valley, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard 2009 ($75): Arguably, 2009 was a more consistent vintage and certainly the color of this wine is dark and nearly impenetrable. The nose screams blackberry and candied violets spiced up with lavender, black pepper, cinnamon and clove. It's interesting how this vintage veers more toward red fruits on the palate: red raspberry and Luden's Wild Cherry cough drops though it firms up on midpalate and brings on black raspberry, black plum and black pepper. The best of both worlds. Big-bodied and boldly structured, the wine has great focus and intensity. My local multimedia friend says this wine makes him "think of Placido Domingo being a ballerina." That's a pretty accurate analogy. Put this in your cellar now and enjoy the grand flavor aria later.