Five Wines From: Ben Mayo

Ben Mayo led a tasting of his wines recently at Nomacorc headquarters in North Carolina. For over a decade, Mayo has served as winemaker for Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, Calif. He’s used Nomacorc closures exclusively for many years—he likes their reliability and even oxygen transfer—and the tasting was designed to demonstrate how well his wines perform with age.

I asked Mayo if he’d ever had a complaint from a customer about his use of synthetic corks. Only once, he said: A customer had made a trivet from Nomacorc corks and was surprised when they melted under a hot casserole dish.

One wine at the tasting that day was particularly memorable—his 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. The original price was about $75, and the few remaining bottles now sell for about $250. I can see why. The wine had been in bottle for a decade, but the cork was perfect and the wine felt incredibly fresh and vibrant, with deep red cherry elements, touches of fig and licorice, and a gentle, elegant body. It grew in complexity over the course of the half-hour tasting.

It was an honor to get to try an example of this rare vintage, and while I enjoy the technical talk at an industry tasting—with everyone swirling, sniffing, spitting, talking about French oak and residual sugar, brix and malolactic fermentation—it’s easy to forget that in the real world, most wine drinkers never discuss such characteristics. Sometimes even industry folks want to forget about technical characteristics and just sit down and drink a bottle of wine as the winemaker intended.

I asked Mayo to list five wines he’d tasted recently that had really resonated with him, wines he’d enjoyed with friends and family, over meals and special occasions, just as his customers enjoy his own. Here’s what he had to say:

2009 William Harrison Cabernet Sauvignon
Rutherford, Napa Valley
87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot
$55, 14.5% abv
“This wine has deep color with Rutherford dust on the nose. The lush, multilayered palate has a long finish and soft tannins.”

2009 Baker and Brain Syrah
Edna Valley
100% Syrah
$23, 14.9% abv
“Great cooler region Syrah; bright fruits and a full mid-palate. It went really well with lamb.”

2011 Wild Horse Pinot Noir “Cheval Sauvage”
Santa Maria Valley
100% Pinot Noir
$65, 14.5% abv
“What a wine at such a price! Layered flavors of cola and spice with essential Pinot fruit.”

2009 Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux
Moulis-en-Medoc, Bordeaux
54% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot
$35, 13% abv
“A real classic at a great price. Great now but will age nicely.”

2009 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir “Westside Road Neighbors”
Russian River Valley
100% Pinot Noir
$100, 14.2% abv
“On my Dad’s birthday last month we drank a wonderful bottle of William Selyem Pinot. It’s my go-to Pinot from the Russian River if I am feeling spend-y. Fantastic fruit, great balance. The definition of American Pinot Noir.”

About the Author

A lifelong resident of Memphis, Tennessee, Ben Carter has been writing about wine and food online since 2005. Starting at his blog, Benito’s Wine Reviews, he has also written for Serious Eats, Snooth, Palate Press, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. During the day, he works in quality assurance for a major corporation.

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