Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2005 Hearthstone "Slipstone" Paso Robles

Check out that imposing bottle! So serious, like the wine inside is brooding, dark, moody, and soulful. I might have set the bar a bit high right off the bat though. Still, I can easily make a list of my friends who'd love to drink a wine described like what I expect the Hearthstone to be.

The 2005 Hearthstone is 72% Grenache, 12% Syrah and Mourvedre, 4% Zinfandel. Later vintages show more of a focus towards Grenache and Syrah.

In the glass, the wine is light like a California Pinot Noir, but I expected it to be darker because of the Syrah and Zinfandel. To see it looking the way it does disappointed me, my palate was hoping for something big and intense tonight.

On the nose, good dose of heat assaults your nostrils but quickly fades into the background. I smelled toffee (oak?), red cherries and dust. Continuing the theme of being surprised by Hearthstone's effort, the wine reminded me of a rustic French red you'd find for 6 Euros at the Supermarche.

What was the winemaker going for in this offering? It's very one-dimensional. Where's the concert of varietals, each adding a note to the chorus? Why do I get an overwhelming sense of singularity?

Delicate flavors of allspice, earth, and a lot of ripe red cherry. While definitely not heavy-handed, it lacks the finesse and elegance of a Cotes du Rhone too. At this point the wine's been open over an hour and I'm desperately fumbling for my Wine Soiree (@winesoiree) and hoping it'll help add something to the sensory experience. Unfortunately it didn't allow anything new to show, rather it enhanced the existing flavors.

By the way, you should buy a Soiree. Seriously. I became a convert after talking to Andrew Lazorchak at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla this past June. Wine Soiree website.

What I like about the Hearthstone: nice acidity, interesting notes of spice, an approachable (beyond the alcohol) nose and smooth finish, .

Still, I'm disappointed. I expected more but got a lot less. California Rhone-style blends almost always hit a sweet spot for my palate yet this falls short. There isn't much going on and for $10 there are better, more enjoyable options. I give it a C, an average wine with no flaws and no excitement. If I'd paid $25 like the winery website says, the grade would be lower.

Beau Carufel


  1. OK. So here's a comment to make you work a bit. I do mention price in my reviews sometimes, if it stands out, but I try to keep that analysis separate from my rating. How heavily does it play into your ratings?

  2. If it was only $10, it sounds like you could do a lot worse...

  3. Good question Dan, I try to (not not necessarily succeed at) using the price as a metric during my evaluation of the wine. That's why it's always mentioned, but not at the beginning. For me, price does play an important part in the value of a wine but of course, it doesn't affect the sensory experience. I freely admit that a part of my final rating is derived from the price, however that's a bit of a sliding scale. If I were to evaluate an expensive wine (Mollydooker Gigglepot) then the price wouldn't factor as much as a wine that's priced to appeal to a greater segment of the wine drinking population.

  4. Joe, you're right it definitely could have been a lot worse, and at it's original price of 25$, the wine drank like a 10$ wine.

  5. Beau! You the man thanks for the shout to Soiree. Not sure if you went to hearthstone, but they sell Soiree, so glad to hear it compliments their wines.

    I am surprised for an 05 it is drinking so subtly, but you know that's not a bad thing. Sometimes a slow and smooth bottle is good practive for drinking, but I do know the disappointment of wanting a hearty meaty palatial workout.

    QPR is a tuff nut, not sure if you checked Wellesley Wine Press for his QPR system, but unfortunately price tag and wine enjoyment are very interrelated so it's always good to have a metric for QPR.

    Keep on giving that Soiree a workout!

    you the man!

  6. I didn't go to Hearthstone, I'd love to visit there sometime though. There's no question the Soiree works like a charm, it really helped.

    Last night I guess I was just in the mood for something bigger and after reading the bottle of Slipstone I had expected a big, beefy wine. Today I thought again about this review and I expected more complexity, more action on my palate. Tasting only a few things with that alcohol heat in the background really bummed me out. Hence the C rating. Last night, the wine was average with no flaws and nothing wrong with it, unfortunately it didn't have much right either.

    QPR is definitely interrelated with our wine experience, I always compare the wines I drink to other wines at the same price point when I look at QPR. Also, I have a baseline "$10 red wine" in my head to help me determine the value of what I'm drinking.

  7. Hey Beau. My husband reminded me what happened with our Slipstone. We drank two bottles that we loved, given the price tag of $10. A few days later we opened another one and thought it was horrible. But for the price, I can't complain too much though I'm not totally sure I'd buy it again.

    Hope to see you again soon!