Continuing my trip down Highway 290 to celebrate California Wine month, my partner in wine chose Slate Theory (website). I’d heard mixed reviews and that it was kitschy. I can see why it could be kitschy – the art, the cave, the water feature before the front door – but after the initial impression it was a great tasting. Pictures at the end.
When we first arrived the hostess at the stand by the door was a bit curt. “oh, cave tasting – sit over there.” Seriously – you point in the general direction of a table and go back to flirting with a coworker. Now, admittedly, we were about 10 minutes early, but the tasting started 10 minutes late as it appears they like to take everyone down at once and a large party was missing a few people. I was super skeptical about the experience. It’s not like they were swamped on a Friday afternoon – and we were pretty much ignored until we were herded back outside to go down into the cave. You could have offered me a glass of wine – especially if you’re running late.
We had Wasey (yes Casey but with a W) as our guide. Given that we had wine knowledge and he was stuck with the large party that knew nothing about wine – I felt sorry for him. So, we probably could have gotten more out of the tasting if he hadn’t had to juggle as much. As a result, my notes are scattered and we had a lot of time just sitting and waiting.
The Riesling we started with was like Acetate to me. So after ascertaining I probably wasn’t going to care for the other whites, Wasey moved to the Sangiovese Rosé. This had a dried apricot and rosewater scent. It went well with some walnuts from the charcuterie board. It really needs savory to balance it out – else it’s a nice porch wine.
Moving on to the reds, we started with the Tannat. This evoked the thought of a 50+ year old Italian restaurant in Brooklyn or Boston’s Little Italy. While astringent this had flavors of cherry and fennel. Wasey had us try it with a specific cheese from the board, and it mellowed to a malbec. The smoked black forest salami was amazing with it and gave it a cherry explosion. Perfect for a pepperoni pizza (I recommend 290 Locale in Johnson City).
The Cabernet Franc was not astringent and instead was fruit forward. The cheese further softened it and made it sweet. The Malbec was very good with a nice spice. The mini sweet peppers brought out the spice. The Montepulciano had a lemongrass and jam scent. We finished off with the AntiSocial – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Tannat finished in 50/50 mix of neutral and French oak.
Having done some reading up on Slate Theory since visiting (I like visiting knowing nothing), I’ve since learned more about its history (would have been nice to get a little of it during the tasting or while waiting). I’ve also learned about their partnership with The Big Silence. This means I wish I’d had a chance to taste the Patient, the Therapist, the Pharmacist, the Disassociate, the Schizophrenic and others. The commitment to mental health by the winery is real – and I appreciate them working with the Big Silence to end the stigma of mental health issues. I’ll need to go back for the production tour, since Wasey redeemed himself by sneaking me into the fermentation room go see the oak barrels they use for fermenting.
All in all the tasting was good fun, the wines were good, but it felt a bit scattered and rushed, as you can tell from my notes. I’ve already promised to take the other part of the Grits and Wine crew to visit soon.