Wine Review: Aurora’s Red Kohill Winery Ramona 2008

kohill Despite winning this minor head-to-head competition with the French in April, Ramona wines are seldom on anyone’s “must drink before I die” list. But there are exciting and very unique wines being made in San Diego’s back country.

Aurora’s Red by Kohill Winery is one of them. A blend of Cabernet (48%), Syrah (47%) and Viognier (5%), this heady, exhilarating wine announces originality with the very first sip.

If you are unfamiliar with French (and Australian) winemaking, you might wonder what a white wine is doing in a red blend. But this is a common practice in the highly regarded Côte Rôtie region in Northern Rhone (and in Australia as well). Viognier adds floral notes to Côte Rôtie’s meaty, smoky syrah—a combination of flavors that is always interesting but often puzzling and paradoxical.

Kohill takes a different approach, anchoring the syrah/viognier combo with estate grown Cabernet grapes, harvested a bit early to keep the alcohol (13%) and jam in check. The result is a svelte and supple charmer, light on the palate but bursting with flavor. A halo of floral and dill aroma notes coat the red berry flavors. Milk chocolate, nutmeg and loam provide depth and interest.

The palate sings with bracing acidity, a key structural feature yielding focus and definition. The finish is a lingering, tangy blend of cranberry and dried herbs, the tannins remaining resolutely in the background.

This wine doesn’t have the classic signs of a wine that will age. Drink now unless you want to contribute to science.

It is not often I find a wine that is so thoroughly enjoyable but also inventive and unique—a very successful experiment. If you want to meet the talent behind this wine, you will probably find Mike (owner and winemaker) in the tasting room on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5:00. Friendly and knowledgeable, he is happy to explain his approach to winemaking and pour his lineup of impressive wines.

Good: Flavor profile and lovely texture

Bad: Fans of big, alcoholic, tannic reds may not be impressed

Distinctive: Unusual blend, unique approach

Price: $29

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