High-Flying Wines

Recently, I was introduced to the exuberant, expressive wines of Highflyer. They are crafted by Craig Becker using fruit sourced from family-owned vineyards in multiple AVA’s throughout California. I’ve had the chance to taste three of the wines, and have been impressed.
The name, incidentally, is a reference to Becker’s Cesna 182, the plane he uses to visit vineyard sites around California. This is one case, to be sure, of truth in labeling...and, after tasting the wines, an excellent use of that airplane.
Highflyer Grenache Blanc 2009, Napa Valley
An intriguing nose of creamed fennel and white licorice leads to a palate with flavors of anise, flowers, and more of that licorice from the nose. There are also flashes of almond skin here, as well as an ever so vaguely oxidize-y character wafting through the finish that I typically find so appealing in this grape variety. The spice here is present if subdued, and the texture is on the lighter side, making this a remarkably gulpable wine. It’s subtle and well-crafted: Much quieter than expected from Napa Valley. Nice work.
Highflyer Pinot Noir “Doctor’s Vineyard,” 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands    
A rich, brooding wine from California’s Santa Lucia Highlands, this is distinctly masculine, with aromas of mocha, black licorice, and Christmas-spiced black plums. It’s a big Pinot, to be sure, and not necessarily for fans of the more restrained style of the grape variety. But for people who like their wines a bit higher in the octane department, and capable of pairing with ribs or pulled pork, this is the bottle to do it with. The tart cherries and baking spices will liven up rich dishes like those with ease.
Highflyer “Centerline” 2007, Napa Valley
An unexpectedly Rhone-like syrah character comes out right off the bat here as soon as you stick your nose in the glass: Peppercorn, bacon, spicy game. What a treat to smell. Still, it’s not all terroir: Brambly fruit and a seam of cherry also make themselves known. On the palate, the sweeter side of the wine manifests itself in the middle--blueberry pie, plum cake, vanilla--but on the finish those balancing earth-tones come swooping back in. What an unexpected, sweet-souled, sneakily complex wine that wears its nuance and exuberance with real balance. Excellent example of the new generation of Napa Valley reds. Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Grenache.