Mika Toke
July 1, 2020 | Newsletters | Mika Toke

Fall 2020 Newsletter



At first, you are drawn to her citrine color, a hue reminiscent of the eyes of the lion-headed goddess depicted on a wall in the Valley of the Kings. As you continue admiring her color, you begin to discover her scent: fruity, rich, and spicy, very cat like of her. But then there is that mouth-watering smell of baked pear in brown butter, glazed with a mixture of kumquat & pineapple juice. The spice is harder to pin down, but you think Green Cardamom perhaps, & even a whiff of earthy, seductive Musk…oh my.

After several more swirls of the glass you proceed to taste. At the front of your tongue, the citrus notes, Blood Orange, Meyer Lemon & honey laced with Egyptian vanilla powder demand your attention. Then, spreading across your palate, pineapple, baked atop bread pudding. But wait! Now the finish comes at you in a rush, and it’s clearly pineapple upside down cake, sans the cherries, but with toasted walnuts and a light dusting of finely ground guajillo chile sprinkled atop the cake. The chili is just enough & it lingers, & lingers……Oh, but now you’re done for, she has you, & in a cat’s eye, the seduction is complete. As you continue to sip, you find yourself humming & then singing to yourself, “She is stardust, she is golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Goddess”

notes by mary fox, proprietor

BLEND | 67% Alta Colina Vineyard Viognier + 33% Kirk-Landry Vineyard Roussanne



Bright, semi-translucent brush strokes of cerise encircling a reverently aged ceremonial bowl filled with dry rose petals & draped with the appealing scent of well-oiled leather jingling in a noon-day horse paddock that’s been scattered about with fresh straw bedding & sprinkled here & there with cracked white pepper, sweet anise & citrus zest; & there you are, holding the warmth of crushed wild rosemary sprigs in your hand. Now go down, down into the bowl, deep down, into the swirling pool where you will revel within spicy layers of cinnamon & mulled ripe raspberry with chunks of fresh strawberry & ruby-red Tartarian cherry, & surely you will soon find yourself bouncing along in a horse-drawn caravan during the annual Romani pilgrimage to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. After all, Gypsies, Grenache & the French Camargue have been perfectly suited to each other ever since the Archbishop of Arles established a monastery there in the 6th century.

notes by clay selkirk, winemaker & all-around cowboy

VINEYA R D S | 71.43% Kirk-Landry Vineyard +28.57 Saint Peter of Alcantara Vineyard


As proud & regal as the king on his way to the choping block, this wine is profoundly deep, & as pensive & opaque as smoldering black velvet. Here you have ripe cassis & tobacco, a touch of green olive with a few lovely twigs from the tree thrown in, a sprinkle of maroon-hued rose petals comingled with the juice of tart black cherries & red Hinnomaki gooseberry. The mouth fully compliments the nose in every way, save for the addition of freshly shelled walnut, dusty strawberry & cedar. And, oh yes, there’s that bit of dark chocolate sprinkled with a pinch of cayenne on the tongue! Though the name “Littoral” literally pokes fun at Bordeaux, this bottle is a fine examplar of “type” & is reminiscent of a classic red from that famous wine region of France whose blends serve as our humble Littoral inspiration.

notes by john munch, wineherd & plenipotentiary

BLEND | 53% Malbec + 41% Cabernet Sauvignon + 6% Cabernet Franc


Oh, those poor starving artists! New canvas is so expensive, & of consequence it has often been the case that a painter will simply overlay an old painting with a fresh image, especially when the purse strings are being stingy. Sometimes the ghost of the original painting bleeds through the layers of the new image, & when that happens the effect is called “pentimento.” Though the term ironically shares an etymological root with “penitentiary,” we view Pentimento as a vinous canvas where younger wines overlay elements from each & every Pentimento we have ever bottled. Thus, each year’s blend begins with a portion of the previous year’s Pentimento which has been reserved in barrel. To this we overlay varying amounts of wines that we have also reserved in barrel from previous years, the youngest of which is generally approaching 4 years in barrel. In this manner, every Pentimento includes wine going all the way back to the 1998 vintage, which was the very first vintage used in our very first Pentimento bottling.

Now that you understand the Darwinian evolution of this Pentimento, perhaps a few descriptive words are in order: the hue is carmine tinted with crushed scarlet cranberry, while the nose is patrician, as elegant & regal as the snout of a very rich dowager, & withal there is a unifying scent that clearly bespeaks experience & reputable old money. The mouth is perfectly filled with luscious sun wrinkled cassis clotting at the core, & there are lashings of thick, voluptuous blackberry, smoke-roasted coffee bean & a fine whiff of forest humous from which a treasure of autumn’s black truffles have just been harvested. Waggle your tongue around the dainty chew of licorice & mint, & you will find all elements reposing quaintly within an exquisitely dovetailed box of cedar & sweet yew. The total experience!

notes by john munch, wineherd & plenipotentiary

BLEND | a muli-vintage, solera style Bordeaux blend


With the grapes harvested in seven distinct picks over the span of a full month, the resultant wine is a luscious intertwining of all facets of the variety: a wine that conveys everything that Petite has to offer. Inky & totally opaque, with its body dressed in a racy cardinal’s dark purple skirt & layered with maroon velvet sleeves, but dark as it is there are brilliant shafts of sunlight bursting through to dapple your glass, a glass filled with bitter-sweet chocolate & smoked chipotle chili peppers gently ground to fine smoothness in a basalt mortar, a silky jaguar glimmering in the jungle at evenfall; & black gunpowder tea, green tea too, & berries, berries, everywhere enthusiastic berries to pop into your mouth, blueberries, ripe berries to burst between your molars, oozing the pure essence of fancy opal plums to which several lovely twists of black pepper have been added . . . a demented wine that grips your tongue with wonderfully funky notes of licorice. No subtlety here whatsoever.

notes by john munch, wineherd & plenipotentiary

VINEYA R D S | 41.67% Kirk-Landry Vineyard +  33.33% Osgood Farms + 25% Saint Peter of Alcantara Vineyard


bristling with the wicked red tint of a wild boar’s eye intent upon the plump haunch of a fine-looking sow in a berry patch, this Zin distinctly catches the nose with a snap of leather strop slathered with raspberry coulis, zesty cardamom, the bite of woodsy terpene & pungent hay squirming with black pepper corn, juniper berry, & the smoke from an aged Cohiba, all wrapped up in corn husks atop a bed of lust . . . in other words, this is a wine that’s altogether briery to the core. But then the earthy nose explodes into the mouth with lush candied fruit, blueberry jam, sun-shriveled Jubilee plum, black licorice dancing with star anise, plus there’s that seductive smear of cherry & raspberry treacle dotted here & there with hoisin, all of which coalesce into a memorable finish. Since we started with a wild boar, consider inviting one to dinner nicely roasted & studded with slivers of garlic & garnished with rosemary. That would indeed be a memorable combination to tickle the tonsils!

notes by john munch, wineherd & plenipotentiary

VINEYARDS | 72.16% Osgood Farms + 13.92% 4 Hearts Vineyard +13.92% Loma Seca Vineyard


This all starts when I was forced to flee from San Francisco to Europe in the mid-1960’s for reasons that . . . oh, never mind. The statute of limitations might still be in effect, so I won’t go there. Anyway, during the years I lived in Europe my sister, who still resides there, bought a purple Jaguar XK-E. The “E-Type” Jag with its combination of exotic beauty, elegance and sublime supercar performance provided a thrilling ride for both body and eye, and it quickly became an icon around the world. Indeed, Enzo Anselmo Giuseppe Maria Ferrari, founder of Ferrari’s Grand Prix racing team, declared that the XK-E was “the most beautiful car ever made.” Surely, this sleek beast arrived from the factory in a rich pouch of purple velvet, just like those well-favored bottles of Crown Royal XR, you know, the Blue Label stuff with the high price. Anyway, my sister occasionally let me take the Jag out for a spin, and I would inevitably end up verifying that it could indeed make 150 MPH as advertised.

Back in the U.S. of A., and many years later, I was getting ready to bottle an extraordinary wine and I was searching for a way to somehow stamp the bottle in a manner that clearly designated the content as exotic, elegant and sublime, but with the added appellative that indicated a wine aged in barrel for an extraordinary length of time. In this case, I was preparing to bottle a “reserve” version of our 2001 Sangiovese, a wine that had been sleeping in barrel for somewhat over 60 months. Now, I had previously bottled a portion of this same wine after it had aged in barrel for 33 months, and still another portion of the 2001 Sangiovese had been bottled after 48 months in barrel. It is worth noting that in the case of these three versions of the same Sangiovese, the XLB bottling always, always stood way out in front in comparative tastings of the three wines and is thus an incorruptible argument in favor of “Extra-Long- Barrel” aging versus extended bottle aging.

Anyway, here I had in hand the last of the barrels containing a perfectly unique wine, a wine that clearly called for the bottles to be clad in purple velvet pouches with golden drawstrings. My partner Mary, who has learned how to throw cold water on my fits of enthusiasm, told me that she was fully in favor of the velvet pouches so long as I was willing to hand-sew the thousands of pouches myself . . . something about overrunning the budget, I think. With my enthusiasm temporarily curbed, I sought some other modality that would prove less time consuming and costly, and it was then that the rare, sublime richness of my sister’s purple Jaguar rose up through the subliminal fogs of my mind, and in a flash of inspiration “XK-E” morphed into the homophone “XLB” which, of course, is an acronym for “Extra-Long- Barrel” aging. Perhaps a bit convoluted, but nonetheless that is the genesis of “XLB”, a designation we reserved for the rarest of rare, the singular wines.


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