Friday, November 5, 2010

Live Tasting With Paul Dolan Wines, Biodynamic in the House!

Last Wednesday I took part in a live tasting with Paul Dolan of Paul Dolan Vineyards, my first semi-formal exposure to biodynamic wines. Paul Dolan Vineyards and Parducci Wine Cellars fall under the umbrella of the Mendocino Wine Company. Set up in 2004, the company has focused on organic and biodynamic farming and winemaking.

I was sent some samples of the Paul Dolan wines in cute little 50ml bottles, from a company called TastingRoom. The premise is that a full bottle is dispensed into the smaller bottles, in a controlled environment, to ensure there's no spoilage or taste changes. One of the benefits I can see is that for the cost of shipping (by weight) one or two 750ml bottles, you can send out more samples of more wine, allowing a more comprehensive tasting of a winery or winemaker's work.

The downside is that for me and others (yes you, @1WineDude), 50ml just isn't enough to properly taste a wine. Call us lushes or drunks but I and other wine bloggers like taking a large sip, swirling it around, spitting, then taking another one to confirm our impressions. Still, the concept rocks, I'm excited to sample more wines using this method.

Thanks to the awesomeness of the interwebs, anyone who signed up was able to see and interact with Mr. Dolan via Ustream, a site that allows users to interact with live video feeds while simultaneously porting their comments their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Check out his Biodynamic 'stache! Pretty rockin', I must admit. Mr. Dolan exuded a calm, passionate confidence about his beliefs. Biodynamics is controversial and at least within the wine blogging community, is part of a contentious debate.

Personally, Biodynmaics speaks to the side of me that wants all things to live in harmony, a utopian vision of the earth as one giant, interconnected organism. On the other hand, the analytical side (the side that got me a Finance degree) wants some serious scientific study of the the claims made by Biodynamicists.
(img courtesy Joe Roberts @

So with that aside, the wines, all made with organically grown grapes save for the last one, are as follows:

2008 Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc: I enjoyed the bright, citrus notes and accessibility of this wine. Wonderful on a hot summer day because of the great acidity but also felt a touch un-integrated, like some flavors were fighting to the surface. A good effort though and hits the price point nicely. B-. $18 SRP

2008 Mendocino County Chardonnay: You know me and most California Chardonnays. Generally they do not like my palate and vice versa. This one was well structured with some great acidity woven throughout the flavors of passion fruit and green apple. Still buttery and with hints of oak for those of you who dig that style. Nice balance, very well put together. I really enjoyed this wine, it's a QPR winner. B+. $18 SRP

2007 Mendocino County Pinot Noir: Hooray for Pinot! I think Paul Dolan did a good job crafting a more traditionally oriented Pinot with lots of sour cherry, spice and using oak as a supporting flavor. Hints of smoke and tobacco on the finish left me a bit curious though, not what I expected. B. SRP $30

2007 Zinfandel Mendocino County: My favorite wine of the night and one of the better Zinfandels I've had this year. I was absolutely impressed with the tannins and acidity that integrated so well with the dark berries and bakers chocolate. What an effort! I'm gonna buy some of this stuff and taste my friends on it, I bet they won't even know it's Zin! It also managed to kick the QPR in it's ass. A-, Strong BUY. $25 SRP.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County: Not bad..But just didn't quite grab my palate the way I'd hoped. I think though that with some time in bottle, this wine would be delicious. Good tannins, under-developed fruit, some smoke flavors but really interesting fresh-cut oak too. I did like the sense of place, the expression of terroir here, this ain't no Napa Cab, that's for sure. Dare to be different!  B-. $24 SRP.

2006 Deep Red Mendocino County: The evening's most expensive wine, and also the only  Biodynamic wine of the evening. A blend of 57% Syrah, 31% Petite Sirah and 12% Grenache. Big, dark and brooding. I liked this one a lot actually, it had character and complexity which made me sit up and take notice. Perhaps my second favorite wine of the night. Lots of spicy blackberries and black cherries, earth, tobacco, tar all showed up to the party. I'm going to give this wine a BUY rating and a B++/A-. It's the good stuff, $42 SRP

Of the above wines, you should buy the Zinfandel and the Chardonnay, and splurge for a bottle of the Deep Red. I was impressed with the quality of the wines as much as I was impressed with Mr. Dolan's clear, honest speech. I'd love to meet the man and talk more about organic farming and biodynamic farming. While it may be controversial, there's no doubt that this way of farming and winemaking produces wines of at least equal quality to those using more conventional methods.

These wines were sent as samples for review purposes

Beau Carufel


  1. It's great that they sent you a full lineup like that! Thanks for posting your notes.

  2. That's perhaps the biggest plus to the concept, sending out a full lineup of wines. If only the bottles had another 25ml in them, would be perfect.

  3. The Mendocino AVA is cranking out some awesome Zins these days! Edmeades is another QPR leader.

  4. Thanks for the tip, I'll see if I can find any Edmeades down here in San Diego.

  5. I enjoyed your nice review of the Paul Dolan line-up! Paul continues to be one of California's great treasures, producing wine with great purity and sense of place. There are lots of good oraganic and biodynamic wines out there so spread the Organic/Biodynamic love and check out our Paul Dolan reviews!

    -Winston- host of