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March 4, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

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Ecluse Ensemble Picmonkey

2013 Ensemble


Ḗcluse Wines & Lock Vineyard

Paso Robles

Alcohol 14.9%

Suggested Retail: $44


“This week’s ‘Pick’ is the product of Steve and Pam Lock, who’ve been growing fruit for other wineries for most of the last two decades. When the quality of their grapes became obvious when vinified by others, the Locks began to make a small quantity of wine under their own label. They’re red wine specialists and on their Central Coast vineyards they produce grapes native to Bordeaux and France’s Rhône Valley. They also grow Zinfandel, a relatively All-American variety. Their wines are bottled under the Écluse label, which references the French word for their surname, Lock.

“The American wine industry has evolved to identify wines by the primary grape from which they are made. Current law requires that any wine labeled Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance, must contain at least 75% of that grape. This standard, well-intended though it is, forces a winemaker to come up with a unique identity for a wine he might want to make from different grapes varieties when none of them reaches that 75% total. For consumers identifying quality with a specific variety like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, a bottle saddled with a generic “red wine” label might seem like any $4 or $5 swill on a grocery store shelf. This has given rise to proprietary names, such as Ensemble, an identity the Écluse proprietors have given to this wine. Ensemble is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (37%), Petit Verdot (33%), Merlot (27%) and Malbec (3%). Such a combination wouldn’t be unusual in the southwest of France and Ensemble could also be called a ‘Bordeaux Blend’ in this country.

“Regardless of what you call this bottle of wine, the 2013 Ensemble is splendid. We find it worth every bit of its $44 price. Our first impression was summed up in one word—smooth. The aroma includes cassis, black tea, vanilla and maybe a bit of mocha. Predominant is a deep and persistent presence of blackberries on the palate. It is rich, but not so much as to be one-dimensional. There is an integration of flavors in a very smooth and already evolved package. Eminently drinkable now, we wonder how well the 2013 Ensemble will age over the years. Likely very well for a decade or so, we think.”

Food Affinity: “Thinking of Ensemble’s Bordeaux-like blend of complementary grapes, we think this wine would be fit companion to a something popular in southern France, Boeuf en Daube. It’s a wonderful dish in which beef is braised in red wine, allowed to rest and then reheated a couple of times. There’s a little more to it and the preparation is time consuming, but a well-made daube is something you won’t soon forget.”

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