Twisted Oak Winery – 2016 River of Skulls (Mourvèdre)

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The Winery

I recently wrote a complete article on the winery, the history and iconic owner, Jeff Stai. The article can be found at: . One of the sidebars is that the winery is located in Calaveras County, part of the Sierra Foothills AVA. Calaveras County got its name from the Calaveras River which meanders through the county. It was name Rio de los Calaveras (River of Skulls) by members of the 1806 Spanish lead Gabriel Moraga expedition who discovered the skulls of Native Americans along it banks. It is believed they had died of famine or been killed in tribal conflicts over hunting and fishing.  This was near New Hogan Dam.

(from Calaveras County site)

Today Calaveras County is home of car shows/parades, film festival, music festival, annual grape stomp, Big Trees State Park, Blues festival, 4 championship golf courses, 35+ wineries, 25+ wineries to stroll along Main Street in Murphys, snowmobiling and downhill skiing in the winter, cavern exploration and five recreational lakes (Camache, Tulloch, Alpine, New Hogan and New Melones to name but just a few of the activities and sites to see in the County. For a complete listing visit: .

The 2016 River of Skulls Mourvèdre

Firstly what is Mourvèdre? Mourvèdre (aka Monastrell) can range from a medium to full body and often has medium to strong tannins with a rustic finish. It is a major wine in Spain. Rumor has it that the seafaring Phoenicians brought it over as early as 500 B.C. Mourvèdre is used in blending such as a GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) and a blending grape in popular wines such as Châteauneuf du Pape. It’s one of the major grapes of the Rhône, along with Grenache and Syrah.  Some of the key traits of the wine are on the eyes a medium dark to a very dark coloring. On the nose, fruits of Blueberry, Blackberry and luscious Plum. Other secondary traits of black pepper, violet, smoke and gravel can sometimes be found. This wine is 100% Mourvèdre and comes from Dalton Vineyards, Angels Camp in Calaveras County. It is a thick skinned and enjoys both the heat and drought conditions.

This wine had some great characteristics of a “Spanish” Mourvèdre with dark coloring, strong tannins, smokiness, black pepper yet more than sufficient fruit on the nose and palate of blackberries and blueberries. On the finish a gravel / rocky intertwined with the fruit provide a long and enjoyable finish. This lists for $49 at the winery.

Food and Wine Pairing

Last Friday, not knowing what the specials would be, took a chance on a “meat dish” to enjoy with this wine at Vine18. Unfortunately, no meat dishes hit our fancy, so went with two interesting appetizers. While at first thinking the wine would not be suited, it turns out it was very pleasant even with our alternative meal. First up was a shrimp tempura with battered shrimp with a Thai Chili sauce with rice puffs.

Second up was a New Orleans Crab Cakes, with Blue claw meat, breaded in panko and served with a lemon caper aioli. Perhaps not my first choice in a food/wine pairing but the food was delicious as was the wine. I can’t wait to try it with another “meatier” dish at Vine18 or home with a Carne Asada steak!




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