Hey there wine-lovers (or those of you who are trying to determine whether or not we are bat-s#&! crazy)! We’re back with our next installment of interviews with Sunset Magazine’s Western Wine Awards Finalists. That’s right, we’re interviewing the wines themselves. This process started off quietly, but after a few bottles, the conversation flowed freely. Good thing we took notes because we barely remember this particular press junk-it…




Our next Category is Connoisseur –  those middle-of-the-road wines hitting you up for $26 to $40 per bottle.

Abraxas Vin de Terroir

Welcome.  How are you today?


In a world where so many struggle with self-image issues, it’s refreshing to meet someone without a problem. Did you want to tell us a little something more about you?



Stop calling me Wine!!!!

OK – can I call you Abe?  I tend to shorten names, especially when I’m writing

Yea, alright.

So, Abe, it might be easier for you to explain yourself and your characteristics in some choice describing words.  Can you do that for me?

YES!!  I explode. I am pure. When you swirl me I become beguiling.  I am crackling energy, ethereal, vivacious and luscious.  I taste pretty damn good, too.

Looking forward to experiencing that.

If you’re lucky, heathen.  I AM A GOD!!!! Oh and I’m also made up of 43% Pinot Gris, 32% Pinot Blanc, 15% Gewurztraminer, and 10% Riesling.

I’m wondering if we should warn the others so they can avoid the rogue lightning bolts.


And now, a few words from one of the red finalists…

Andrew Murray’s 2008 Esperance Grenache Blend

That’s a unique name – where did it come from?

Well, Andy is kind of a HOPEless romantic.  In fact, he’s a huge HOPEless romantic and that makes him really special and quite HOPEful, in my mind.  I HOPE I don’t mess up this interview.

Hey, you’re doing really well.  So, really, what’s the deal with your name?

You’re kind of slow aren’t you?  “Esperance” is French for hope.

Oh, I knew that.  By the way, I love your outfit.

Yea, it’s pretty badass, right?  I’m 60% Grenache which rhymes with badass if you put the right stress on the word.  The bottling reflects that through the black and red labeling, and Andy says that I’m a hedonistic pleasure – which rhymes with leather.  So, there you go.

Well, just to cover mine, I’ve also been told that you are a rich, concentrated wine with aromas and flavors of ultra-ripe strawberries, black cherries, and blueberries, mixed with the spiciness of cinnamon and vanilla from the toasty new French oak. Your cap is a Stelvin ScrewCap to preserve the freshness and avoid ‘off’ flavors. Along with the Grenache, you are blended with 25% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre and that is 100% delicious which rhymes with – darn, I need my rhyming dictionary.

OK – I guess you’re not that dumb but you probably shouldn’t write poetry.  Can I go now?

Sure, see you at the show.


Here it is, folks–the “deep pockets” category for all you big-spenders. These are wines in the $41-$60 price range.

Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2009

Truth be told, it’s not every day that I get to have a meet and greet with wine in your price ra—I mean of your caliber. Please excuse my shaky hands.

Oh, honey—it sounds like you just need a little glass of me! I’m never shaky –though at 14.9% Alcohol, I’m on the verge of a nap most of the time.

Wow, that’s pretty high for a Chardonnay, isn’t it? Your berries must be very ripe at harvest.

Absolutely, darling! I hope you don’t think me vain, but my winemaker thinks that my vintage (2009) might be THE vintage of the decade. It was a long, cool summer so all of our grapes were able to hang and ripen in near-perfect conditions for an extended period of time.

Sounds like you had a beautiful childhood and you’ve aged so well!

Thank you, I would have to agree. 14 months on the lees have definitely made me a more complex wine. I keep trying to tell people that those bargain-bin wines are great if you want to crack something open and mindlessly slug away, but for dependable quality and that “je ne sais qua” that  makes you sip, savor, and pause for few seconds with your eyes closed, you have to dig a little deeper into those pockets.

I wouldn’t know anything about mindlessly slugging away…That’s simply irresponsible wine consumption!

Please! I had my people do a background check on you. You need to cool it with the 2-buck chucks. Imagine for a moment, enjoying “lush, luxurious aromas and flavors of melon, honeysuckle, apricot, pineapple and flint all held together with bright acidity, good structure and elegant balance.”

That sounds simply beautiful, but isn’t there usually at least a hint of oak and butter in you Chardonnays?

I was aged for 14 months in French oak (75%) and stainless steel (25%). This means I have a lighter, brighter flavor than those Chards that are aged in American oak, making me more climatically versatile.

Ms. Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, it was a pleasure. Best of luck to you!

Moving on to our red contender…


Peay Syrah “Les Titans” 2008

I just finished interviewing a finalist from the white wine category who may just be your polar opposite. She was floral and fruity with a hint of minerality, whereas you have been described as “meatier and masculine.”

 Yes, I’ve been compared to a “rosemary, lavender, black pepper and garlic-encrusted beef roast”, but with “an intense lilac quality dancing gently around a blue fruit, roasted meat and blood core” in the nose. I call it my “Man-musk” and let me tell you, it really gets the ladies.

Ahem. That’s quite a profile you have going on there. Are you on Facebook?

I’ve been considering a fan page, but I feel like that would lump me into the masses. I’m a unique syrah, different from the more traditional Rhone variety. As a new-world Syrah, I’m more fruit forward and intense, but perfectly balanced by the meat, blood, and white pepper aromas of old-world Syrah.

You really have a lot of personality. Do you only grow better with time, or would you call this your peak?

Absolutely not! If we’re talking actors, I feel a certain kinship with Jeff Bridges. I’ve got staying power, baby. I’ll mellow with time, but keep the edge that you love so much.

Wow, Jeff Bridges? Excellent! Just a quick word of advice though: Try to keep it more “True Grit” and less “Tron”, deal?

I’ll think about it and I’ll catch you at the Western Wine Awards Dinner and Gala. I’ll be the guy surrounded by all the ladies.

Stay tuned for the final installment of this series!

Join Sunset Wine Editor Sara Schneider and Sunset Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony for one of the weekend’s most anticipated events. The Sunset Western Wine Awards are recognized as the highest honor for Western winemakers and focus solely on wines produced in the Western United States. Sunset’s panel of professional judges includes Western wine writers, sommeliers, and winemakers.

Click here for a complete list of selected finalists and come try each and every one of them, paired to perfection, at the Sunset Western Wine Awards at Pismo Beach Pier on the Central Coast of California September 30th, 2011. We’ll save you a glass.

Click on the logo below for more information on this fabulous, 4-day event.