Wine writers tend to overuse words like “special” and “unique.” I’m as guilty as anyone.

But Tuesday night at Digress Wine in College Park, Orlando’s wine community experienced something truly singular — a tasting of limited-production experimental wines from Sonoma producer Gary Farrell, many of which can’t be sampled even at the winery.

Orlando Wine Blog helped organize the event in partnership with Digress. We dubbed it “The Geeky Side of Gary Farrell,” and I couldn’t be prouder of Orlando’s wine community that an event with that name was a sellout.

But the real credit for its success goes to Gary Farrell Estate Sommelier and Wine Educator Tiffany Kuhn, who brought some truly unique bottles and provided great context to help us understand them.

This was a homecoming for Tiffany, who until about two years ago served as wine director for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse on International Drive. She’s also a good friend of mine, but I can say objectively that she did her hometown proud, digging deep into her winery’s archives and offering up some real gems.

Three Flights of Magic

After a refreshingly delicate, mineral-driven rosé of pinot noir from Green Valley, we jumped into the meat of the tasting.

The first two flights showcased winemaker Theresa Heredia’s “Inspiration Series” – single batches of experimental wines made in extremely limited quantities.

Gary Farrell 2015 Concrete Chardonnay & McDonald Mtn Pinot
Personal favorites from the “Inspiration Series” flights: 2015 Rochioli-Allen Vineyard, Clone 76, Concrete Chardonnay & 2015 McDonald Mountain Vineyard, Clone 667, 20% Whole Cluster Pinot Noir. Both are sold out at the winery.

The chardonnay flight was a true lesson in the art of winemaking, with the first wine aged in a concrete egg, the second aged in huge oak puncheons, and the final wine made with 30-60 days of skin contact.

  • The elegant, almost ethereal 2015 Rochioli-Allen Vineyard Clone 76 Concrete Chardonnay was a favorite of mine when I tasted it at the winery two years ago, and I was thrilled to find it had only gotten more lovely with time.
  • The 2012 Rochioli Vineyard Old River Block Single Oak Puncheon Chardonnay was a perfect contrast, with the oak providing a fuller body and luxurious notes of spice and caramel, while never being out of balance with the fruit.
  • I was pleasantly surprised that the 2013 100% Skin Fermented Chardonnay – in all its orange, cloudy weirdness – was the favorite of the flight for several people in attendance.
Skin Fermented Chardonnay w Audience
2013 Gary Farrell 100% Skin Fermented Chardonnay was a hit at the Orlando tasting.

Then it was on to a truly spectacular flight of single clone pinot noirs.

  • The luxurious 2011 Hallberg Vineyard Dijon-Clone 777, 7% Whole Cluster was the favorite of many, with eight years of age bringing out leather and spice notes mixing with the smooth dark fruits.
  • The 2015 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Clone 667, 20% Whole Cluster absolutely jumped out of the glass with grassy, woodsy notes of eucalyptus and spicy licorice setting it apart from the others. This was my personal favorite, simply because it was so unusual.
  • The 2017 Terra de Promissio Swan Clone 97 hasn’t been released yet, so it was a special treat to try. It was the youngest wine of the night, so it was all about the elegant fruit, but its potential is already shining through.

We ended the night with a three-year vertical of Hallberg Vineyard pinot noir from 2014, 2015, and 2016, complete with weather charts comparing temperature and rainfall from year to year – just one example of the great information Tiffany provided along with the wines.

Tiffany w Weather Charts
Gary Farrell Estate Sommelier and Wine Educator Tiffany Kuhn explains weather charts for a three-vintage pinot noir vertical.

Envious of Orlando

At the end of the evening, Tiffany told me some of her colleagues at the winery were jealous when they saw the wines she was selecting for this week’s event. Many of these bottles rarely get opened, even at their place of birth. There weren’t many made and simply aren’t many left.

“Can we come to the Orlando tasting?” they jokingly asked her.

No doubt our wine community is growing, in size and in respect, and that’s thanks in no small part to the success of our alumni.

Gary Farrell Tasting Lineup
Complete lineup from the “Geeky Side of Gary Farrell” tasting at Digress Wine in Orlando

 

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