I am in Sand City, just to the north of Monterey, sitting in a combination café, bar and restaurant called the Ol’ Factory. Great name! There is a very comfortable feel to the joint and I can see myself spending my upcoming days here. It was recommended to me by Joni Barna and Damien Georis, who I met at the Pisoni cookout. Damien makes the wines for Georis Winery in the Carmel Valley and has his own label called Madeleine, which he dedicated to the woman who introduced him to wine.
I visited him last Thursday after a visit to the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf – clam chowder central. I would guess that there are twenty restaurants on the wharf. All claim to have the best clam chowder and all provide samples to prove it. It’s all you can eat! Some were better than others, but all had really fresh clams.
The Carmel Valley runs northwest to southeast and is populated by high hills that greatly restrict the marine influence on the vines. They also restrict travelers from moving to quickly through the valley with steep slopes and hairpin turns; though not far from town as the crow flies, the winery is isolated.
Walter Georis, a restauranteur from Carmel, purchased the ranch and planted Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the early 1980s. The primary plot is a steep, dusty hillside that experiences warm days and cold nights. The other plot is called Clos des Moutons, or hill of the sheep, which is a former pasture. It is planted with cuttings from Petrus, one of the great domaines in Bordeaux. Yields are tremendously low on these vines and they produce four barrels of a tremendously intense, rich red from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. I tasted the 2006 out of barrel and was very impressed. It is selling for $85 per bottle, which is more than I would pay for most any wine. In order for a bottle to be worth that much, it must offer the ability to age, high complexity and a balanced palate. The Clos des Moutons has all three, with the added incentive of rarity. Only 145 cases of this tremendous wine are produced.
The Damien Georis is the winemaker and he shares Walter’s last name, but they are not related (in any immediate way). He was working in Bordeaux when Walter was searching for a new winemaker and found him via the internet. Since he was working with the same grapes grown in the Carmel Valley, it seemed like a natural fit.
We tasted the current release of the Madeleine, which is a blend of Cabernet and Syrah from 2006. It is an intense, inky wine that shows particularly well after decanting loads of dark berry fruits. I don’t know how he can sell this for $18 per bottle. It is an even better value than Andrew Murray’s “Tous les Jours”.
After the tasting we met with Joni at a local tapas restaurant called Mundaka, which provided filling small plates at a small price with a value driven wine list. I haven’t been to any other restaurant in Carmel, but it’s hard to imagine getting more for your money. And for all you cured meat lovers, they have Iberico!