Winery Profile & Review: Two Shepherds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-27-2012

The wine blogosphere is full of wine evangelists. But few people can match the passion of William Allen, the creator and editor of Simple Hedonisms. His fervor for wine is infectious, and it’s been a pleasure to get to know William since meeting him last July at 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

William first discovered wine two decades ago, and the hobby quickly became an obsession. At first, he began making wine and beer and taking regular trips to wine country.

Soon enough, he was writing prolifically on CellarTracker, taking classes, and spending more and more time visiting wineries across California.

In June 2009, he decided to plunge into the deep end – and moved to northern Sonoma during during a sabbatical from his job in the tech sector. During a four-month sabbatical, William planted his first vineyard, launched Simple Hedonisms, helped with harvest, and started networking. He kept quite busy.

The next year, William decided to take things up a notch with his winemaking – and sourced enough fruit to make 175 cases of Rhone wines. He documented the harvest on his blog, and bottled it under the Two Shepherds label. (For more on William’s project, check out his recent interview with UC Beau.)

On a recent trip to California, William sent me home with his five different bottlings as press samples. What most impressed me about the wines was their authenticity. These wines tasted real – there wasn’t a hint of expensive oak or manipulated fruit.

Full tasting notes below the fold. Note that the wines were tasted sighted.

2010 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard

USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $24. Case Production: 24. Fermented & aged for 6 months in neutral oak. 100% Grenache Blanc. The nose is incredibly bright – and smells like a wine you’d crave in the summer. Tart green apples, honeydew melon, kiwis, and lemon drops combine for a delightful bouquet – with some cream and slate in the background. On the palate, the wine is equally bright, with mouth-watering acidity that makes it quite refreshing. (91 pts.)

2010 Two Shepherds Viognier Saralee’s Vineyard

USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $21. Case Production: 24. Fermented & aged for 6 months in neutral oak. 100% Viognier. The nose offers all the potential of Viognier – it’s extremely aromatic, with striking notes of apricots, peaches, mandarin orange and bright minerality, along with some sweet yogurt from the lees contact. On the palate, the wine is a bit too heavy – it’s both oily and a touch alcoholic, with a sappy finish. (87 pts.)

2010 Two Shepherds MRV Saralee’s Vineyard
USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $24. Case Production: 50. Fermented & aged for 6 months in neutral oak. Blended from 47% Marsanne, 47% Roussanne, and 6% Viognier. The nose is bright, sweet, and complex – offering notes of cantaloupe, Asian pear, and honeycrisp apple, along with a hint of honey, toffee, and citrusy Asian spices and orange rind. On the palate, the wine has some real weight and offers nice acidity – but it’s a bit oily. Some heat rears its head at the finish. (89 pts.)

2010 Two Shepherds GSM Saralee’s Vineyard
USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $32. Case Production: 50. Fermented & aged for 10 months neutral oak. Blended from 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 25% Mourvèdre. The nose is delicate, floral, and inviting – offering notes of strawberries, raspberries, lavender, tobacco leaf, and dried, wild herbs. On the palate, the soft tannins and bright acidity help the wine maintain its delicacy. Not a complex wine, but a wonderful Rhone blend. (90 pts.)

2010 Two Shepherds Syrah | Mourvedre
USA, California
SRP: $30. Case Production: 50 cases. Fermented & aged for 10 months neutral oak. Blended from 50% Syrah and 50% Mourvèdre. The nose is stunning, offering a laundry list of what one would expect from the best Southern Rhones. Black cherries, blackberries, black tea, and white pepper dominate – with a floral, lavender lift and beam of slate minerality playing a supporting role. While the wine might not have the stuffing needed for long-term cellaring, I’d love to find out. It’s a stunning wine. (93 pts.)

Comments (2)

  1. [...] tasting. I highly recommend securing a bottle of the 2010 Viognier before it is gone. (David White wrote about the Two Shepherds wines [...]

  2. David, thank you from Two Shepherds for your well written post – as (still) a fellow blogger your professionalism always impresses me, and now as a Vintner, it’s appreciated.

    First, you nailed us when you said “What most impressed me about the wines was their authenticity.” That was always implied with our tagline of “Unique Rhone Wines that Express Their Sense of Place” but last weekend we poured at the San Francisco we heard that exact term over and over again.

    I am glad you loved the Grenache Blanc, I wish we had made a more, its been huge success, I could sell a ton if we had it. 100 cases of 2011 will be released shortly, but already will have to distributed less to restaurants than I’d like – we have to make sure our key partners like girl & the fig have supply. We’ll step up 2012 more, cash always being the constraining factor, as well as planned growth.

    The MRV is almost am equally big hit, the heat at end given the under 14% alc isn’t a common experience, but every palate, and tasting experience is different. And we do have bottle variation on occasion, being truly artisanal the first vintage was hand bottled.
    I am doing blending samples for the 2011 white blend right now, and am loving it. This years will also have a touch of Grenache Blanc.

    Viognier – a very bipolar wine! Some love it, some not so much. Steven Washuta, himself a wine maker, and Beau, rave about it. I have changed 2011 to be a very different style.

    GSM – a young beast still, I just released and am slow rolling but some people go gaga. Just had a re-order this morning from Tasting of 4 bottles. I should lock this away. The bright acidity should give this bottle years of life and I can’t wait to taste it in a year.

    Syrah|Mourvedre – I have to admit a sleeper wine that transformed on me. The exact same lot of Syrah & Mourvedre in the GSM, but SUCH a different wine, full of salinity and minerality. Its amazing when you take new OAK away from what, what is left behind to show itself. I think the wine has the acid (as opposed to Tannin) stuffing to go the distance but we’ll see – only time can tell for sure!

    Thanks SO much and cheers. Look for some 2011 white new release sneak pours at WBC12! :)