Ok, so I’m going to come out and say this right at the beginning. As a general concept, I hate critter labels. I find that most of these labels are made by industrial volume producers who are much better at manufacturing and marketing than they are at winemaking. So it was with quite a bit of reluctance on my part that I agreed to accept some samples for tasting from a California winery called Dancing Coyote.
Dancing Coyote’s story is that the name comes from coyotes that come into their vineyards at night and chew on their irrigation lines. The more interesting part of their story to me is their interest in unusual varietals. This California winery bottles a number of varietals that include Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Verdelho, and Petite Sirah. Not your usual collection of grapes from the Golden State. Their current production is about 10,000 cases, and they are focused on the value end of the price scale with most of their wines retailing for $10 to $12.
Now I’m a big believer in non-traditional varietals and trying as many as you can, but my concern here is that Dancing Coyote has a lot of different grapes all being grown in the same basic area in the Clarksburg AVA. I also question if the climate in the Clarksburg AVA is cool enough for some of the white varieties that Dancing Coyotes has chosen.
The first Dancing Coyote wine that I tasted was their Albarino. Albarino is a varietal that is native to the Galician coast of Spain, with its rather cool climate. At its best, Albarino makes fresh, crisp, delicious wines with wonderful aromatic qualities. The Dancing Coyote Albarino 2009 has some pineapple and peach on the nose, but it just doesn’t deliver the intense bouquet that I expect from Albarino. My concern here is that the climate in Clarksburg is just too hot for this grape which is native to the Spanish coast where the average high temperature in July is in the high 60’s compared to the mid 70’s for Clarksburg. On the palate this wine simply falls a little short. I love the idea of growing Albarino in new places, but I’m pretty convinced that the Clarksburg AVA is not the place to do it.
The second wine I tried from Dancing Coyote was their Petite Sirah 2008. The wine was inky purple in color with a rather nice bouquet of black raspberry jam, which had me anticipating a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, this wine was just completely off on the palate. The fruit was raisiny, and the finish had a rather unpleasant oxidized taste to it. This wine was pretty much what I expect from a critter label.
The last wine from Dancing Coyote was their 2009 Gewurztraminer. In your glass, the wine is very pale in color. The nose brings pleasant aromas of honeysuckle with a hint of citrus. On the palate you got more of the same with a good dose of spice. This Gewurztraminer had just the right level of sweetness for me, which is to say it didn’t overwhelm you with residual sugar. All of this was balanced by crisp acidity. In trying these wines, it was the third one that brought some charm. The Dancing Coyote Gewurztraminer is a decent value, and it would pair nicely with spicy Thai food or sushi.