I knew I was going to like Miro Tcholakov as soon as he started talking about the first wine at our lunch tasting, a pinot noir.
He, and his wines, further won me over as he described the stellar Miro Cuvee Sasha blend from Lake County, a steal at $20.
“It’s hard to find grenache, syrah and mourvedre in northern California,” he said, but he makes the effort because “these wines, here and in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, appeal to all of the senses at the same time.”
Amen to that, and to a Bulgarian native who can mix in reveries about our favorite beverage with don’t-take-this-too-serious quips and anecdotes. Like the “porcupine barrel” story from Trentadue, where he also is winemaker.
In 2007, Leo Trentadue asked Tcholakov to reprise the 1972 Angelica dessert wine, which was aged 22 years in barrels in a non-air-conditioned barn. “He said I should leave the barrels outside in the sun and let the heat do the work. In late spring, Tcholakov came to the winery one Monday and “noticed that the barrels were all covered with fruit flies and were dripping.
“At close inspection I realized that the wood-bore beetle larva had turned the barrels into Swiss cheese. The quickest fix was to plug the holes with toothpicks (which happened to have precisely the same diameter as the bore holes) so I gathered my cellar man and we started plugging the holes frantically. And at the end the barrels looked like giant porcupines with all those toothpicks on them.
“Ultimately we transferred the wine into new barrels.”
That wine won’t be bottled for some time, but the stuff Tcholakov has been making is worth checking out now.
The Miro Petite Sirah could be renamed Blueberry Hill, but along with that signature flavor for the varietal, it had an ineffable expressiveness not usually found in petite. Almost a petite-ness.
Turns out Miro had decided to “make petite sirah exactly the same way as I make pinot noir,” which might explain why this usually burly wine could show some delicacy.
Tcholakov, by the way, is president of a wonderful wine organization with a fabulous name, the petite sirah advocacy group P.S. I Love You. He and his confreres recently pushed back an effort by Cal-Davis eggheads to have the grape vines and the wines bear the French version of the name, Durif.
“You can imagine the surprise on the faces of the responsible people at UCD when they realize how important is the issue and how much passion was poured out from the PS I Love You members,” he said.
The wines Tcholakov makes for Trentadue are tasty, honest efforts; the Cuvee La Storia Cuvee 32, a blend of sangiovese, merlot and cabernet was lovely, smooth and harmonious, a screamin’ bargain even at $25. “Le Storia had to establish its own identity: good and not too expensive,” he said.
One of the wines Miro had brought to the luncheon was corked. “You can’t get rid of taint completely,” he said, “but now, technically we can specify the amount of oxygen we want to get.
“But if you bottle 100 of the same wine with cork, five years later you will have 100 different wines.”
That’s Miro’s signature way of describing bottle variance — 100 different pieces of bark means 100 at least slightly different wines — as good an explanation as you’re likely to hear.