We have written a number of times about star winemaker Rudy Zuidema, especially last year after he was blessed at Shadybrook winery with the vineyards and resources he needed to make his wines undeniably world class. This year he has partnered with long time wine producer and genuinely nice guy Chris Klein for Chris’ new brand Phamus, a combination of his Viet Namese wife’s last name (Pham) and “us.” Chris says it can be pronounced with a long “a” is in “famous,” or a shortened vowel such as in “father” (note to Chris: suggest you choose one or the other for branding purposes).
Regardless of how one says it, though, the universal language of wine quality will be the same – and it is high. We began with the 2017 “Traveler,” an outstanding 25 case Chardonnay. Stirred weekly on the lees and aged in 70% new medium toast French oak barrels, the wine emits apples and bananas, follows that with a pleasing body of peaches, and finishes with melon notes. Of great interest to us is Rudy’s use of the lees of the year before added to his next year’s wines as they age. You can’t argue with success, especially at a well-priced $50.
The next pour was of the 2016 “Conqueror,” a semi-concentrated 25 case Pinot Noir which exhibits plums on the nose, hints of rhubarb on the mid-palate, and a currant finish. Bonuses include good body and some light tannins. SRP is $55.
Co-fermentation can be a good idea if it works, but a slight mistake leaving the blend lacking if there is no wine left with which to juggle proportions can be problematic. Fortunately for Chris and Rudy, the 2016 “Sister” will probably score in the high 90’s on anyone’s card. Petite Sirah, which makes up 35% of the blend, is picked first and sits at low temperatures until the Syrah, comprising 30%, is thrown on top. They sit until the Cabernet Sauvignon, 35%, is dumped in the tank, and then the chiller is disconnected and the (now) one wine begins its natural course. The profile runs the gamut from floral to pepper to leather to chocolate. At $60 and 95 cases, a terrific buy.
Lastly came the 2016 “Pioneer,” a lovely $85 Cabernet Sauvignon that brings one right into Napa’s superb mid Valley vineyards on the flat. Oakville or Rutherford (this one is the latter), it doesn’t matter. Huge, lush black fruit with a seamlessness that is impressive. And the requisite “dust,” which naturally tastes like cocoa.
Nice guys making excellent wines. A true pleasure, and an honor to be asked to meet and taste.