Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sangiovese, 2005 ($15)

Sonoma, CA

On a recommendation from other Sonoma wineries, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards continued to be one that everyone said you must see.  I must say the place was beautiful and felt as if the main building was right out of Tuscany…except with some modern day amenities.  It was the first visit of the day so our taste buds weren’t shot yet.   I noticed the Sangiovese bottles sitting on a table with a sale sign for $14.99 (normally $22) and didn’t really give much thought as I always believed a wine like this was made best in Italy. I was wrong!

After our tasting, I purchased a few bottles to bring home and opened one a week after our return. It was wonderful and no “bottle shock” from the flight.  I’m not sure if that really does happen but I thought the movie was enjoyable.  I’ve gotten in the habit to really try and pull out some of the aromas in the glass before tasting and this had such a nice earthy, old wood scent.  My guess was its from the 14 months of aging in French oak barrels.

The first sip brought on a bright raspberry and peppery flavor so I decided to decant it.  Once my patience got the best of me after 30 minutes in the decanter, I tried it again.  What a difference as the tannins and acidity virtually mellowed out and a certain silkiness exuded upon the finish.   After an hour in the decanter…unbelievable!  Now with an even smoother finish showing off hints of tea and cocoa, this wine will definitely cellar well.  The winery says up to 5-7 years for aging although I’ll have a tough time waiting that long for my next bottle.  Distribution may be limited however the Jacuzzi website has information on distributors in your state. Visit www.jacuzziwines.com

Monday, May 25, 2009

Goldschmidt Vineyards "Fidelity", 2006 ($9)

Crazy Creek Estate
Alexander Valley, CA

Once again I was walking the aisles at Sam’s Club looking for a wine I hadn’t tried, as I didn’t plan on buying wine during this visit. I saw this wine (Fidelity) and decided to read the label, which was informative enough to tell me that it was a red blend. If you’ve followed some of my other postings you’d know these are some of my favorite types of wines mostly because the blending a wine maker does is very intriguing to me. Anyway, for $9 I’d give it a try and now I should get back there to pick up more bottles.

The first aromas reminded me of a dusty, woody cellar (somewhere all of us wish we had to store our wines). Another smell and ripe blackberries were predominant. After a few tastes, a fruit forward dominance from the Merlot along with soft tannins balanced everything out from the other 2 varietals in this blend.  With 83% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, it classifies itself as a Bordeaux blend.

Medium body with a slight oaky feel on the palate gave this a great mouth feel along with a smooth finish hinting of cocoa. This is a great bargain wine from a relatively unknown wine maker, Nick Goldschmidt.  I’ll be on the hunt for some of his other wines now.

Tiz Red, 2004 ($11)

Santa Rosa, CA (Sonoma County)

I’ve been drinking this red blend for just under a year now and it continues to impress me with consistency from the 2 vintage years I’ve tried (2003 & 2004). If you’re looking for an everyday, easy drinking red that’s got nothing to be ashamed of at $11, then give this one a try.

With subtle aromas of strawberries and raspberries the taste followed through with similar ripe berries and fruit forward flavors. I found a mild tartness toward the edges of my tongue as the finish delivered hints of pepper and licorice. None of the flavors are overpowering and blended together very well. I would say this is a medium body wine with a bright and crisp character. It’s a blend of 65% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. 52% of the wine was oak aged while the Merlot & Cab. grapes were cold fermented in stainless steel to maintain their crisp flavors. The Syrah was barrel fermented to deepen the color and intensify the flavors.

Grilled meats or pasta w/ bolognaise sauce seems to be a favorite of mine with Tiz Red. I’ve seen the wine now at many retailers so my guess is distribution is quite good. Fresh Market, Whole Foods and in Florida, ABC Liquors are some of the places that carry the wine.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Preserve It!

Not every posting needs to be about a new wine I've tried…right? I think some of the ways to serve wine, tools, gadgets, etc. are just as important to enjoy the overall experience. This one little bottle of “air” is probably one of the greatest things I’ve run across. I’ve been using it with great success and felt it was time to share some insight.

Private Preserve is a combination of inert gasses (CO2, Nitrogen & Argon). Its used to help prevent a partial bottle of wine from going bad for what I believe is somewhere between 4-8 days, although some claim longer. The product works by preventing oxidation upon re-corking your bottle. If your household is like ours, we don’t always finish a full bottle. I know some of you out there may laugh but seriously, if its only me drinking the wine, I’ll have a glass or 2 (maybe 3). I’ll usually open the preserved bottle for tomorrow’s dinner or at least within the next few days.

For us non-scientists I know it seems odd that a few shots of “air” in a bottle would do anything to keep your wine tasting good the next day or even days later. It really does and I’ve stopped using my vacuum gadget although that does still work if you only need to keep the wine ok for 2-3 days.  In simple wine talk terms, the gasses place a layer over the wine in the bottle to prevent oxygen from getting to the wine and spoiling it.

This isn’t a sales pitch for the product as I’m buying it myself and wasn’t sent it for testing. It claims to work for port, sherry, single malts, single batch bourbons, old Cognac, sake, ultra-fine tequila, and in the kitchen, fine cooking oils and vinegars. It basically works by putting the tip of the extension tube inside the neck of the bottle against the glass and giving one long spray and 3-4 short bursts into a 750ml bottle. Re-cork immediately and store the bottle upright.  The gasses escape from the bottle upon re-opening.

All I can say is; I’ve noticed all the wines I use this with as having no awkward tastes. In fact some reds have mellowed out and tasted better. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Little Vineyards ’06 Zinfandel ($25)

Sonoma, CA

Recommended by numerous people to visit this winery’s tasting room during my visit to Sonoma, I can't say enough about how great the reds were which I tasted.

Rich & Joan Little along with Joan's brother Tom make the wine and manage the vineyards. They’ve all done a wonderful job of turning out some great varietals such as;  Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 blends to name a few.  Since 2002 when their first vintage was released you’d never know in such a short time that they weren't making wine for over 20+ years.

I was fortunate to meet Rich who is a musician (as I am) and he loves to record in his studio on property. He has a CD with his band although I didn’t get a listen. You can buy it on their website or at the winery along with all their wines. You won’t find these wines at many retailers so visit littlevineyards.com and join their wine club or just buy whatever you'd like.

2006 Zinfandel
With notes of ripe red berries and a spicy peppery hint, this wine would go great with a pasta bolognese sauce or grilled meats.  The taste had a great mouth feel with firm acidity yet no harsh tannins.  I would consider this a medium body wine with flavors of black cherry and spicy pepper.  The finish was paired with toasty oak and a subtle hint of cocoa. Predominantly Zinfandel (at 93%), the blend also has 4% Syrah and 3% Petite Sirah.

With only 125 cases made, this is a bottle you can enjoy now or benefit from short term aging (1 - 3 years).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Torres Malena, Garnacha 2007 ($8)

I picked this wine up at Sam’s Club just to give it try. At $7.99 I wasn’t overly worried should I not like it. Guess what? I went back and bought 4 more bottles. It surely taste more expensive than its price point but I’ve always been told not to let price influence your buying.  You never know when a wine like this one will surprise you.

With minimal aromas this wine still carried a hint of plum and subtle rustic notes. The taste was definitely more impressive after the lack of aromas.  Strawberries, cola and a bright acidity blended with a good mouth feel and easy drinking for those not ready to take on a heavy red.  The finish was slightly tart yet silky with a little peppery aftertaste.  There is a slight bit of oak on the finish as well however it almost evaporates from your palette.  I wouldn't consider this a "heavy" red yet it goes great with grilled meats.

The vineyards in Spain border a region in France where Grenache grapes grow well. I’m a big fan of Grenache blends so it’s no surprise why I’m a fan of this wine.  With such a great price and seeing online ratings of 89, this is one you should try.  I’m guessing it’s available at other retailers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Larson Family Winery

After driving down a short bumpy road lined with humorous tree signs scattered throughout reading; “Caution Kamikaze Squirrels Ahead”, “You’re Almost There” and on the way out, “We already miss ya”; how could you not believe this is going to be a fun place to visit? Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed! From a warm welcome meeting Tom & Becky Larson (owners), Carolyn Craig (winemaker) and Molly (tasting room & hospitality manager) I can’t say enough about how wonderful these folks are. The vineyards have a rich history dating back to the 1800’s when the Sonoma Rodeo was held on theses grounds to steamboats delivering goods nearby along the river from San Francisco Bay. The rodeo has moved on, the steamboats don’t run anymore but the wine is flowing without question today!

This visit was planned for me to work & shadow a winemaker for a day. It was a gift, however the company issuing the experience went bankrupt. Carolyn along with Tom & Becky were kind enough to allow me to still experience this gift and it was worth every minute we spent together. From barrel tastings, enough to make my tongue purple, to understanding the science and important variables, which go into wine making, I’ve come back with an even greater appreciation for the hard work wineries and winemakers endure.

A few wines to note are the 05' Cabernet Sauvignon, 07' Millerick Road Zinfandel and 2 blends, which I believe were Tom’s idea to start…Sonoma Red” and Wingo White.”  The Red is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon,
 Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grenache and Malbec. The White is a blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.  They’re both sold in 1 liter jugs and a great buy.  These are nice easy drinking wines that won’t disappoint.  Join their wine club and get a special price of $10/each (normally $20). Clink on the wine name links above for full details.

As a “sneak peek” tip coming out in limited supply, I was able to try something Carolyn was creating for her first time. It’s a Late Harvest Gewurztraminer and it was unbelievable!  The wine is being barreled in stainless and held a beautiful golden color in the sunlight. With notes of peach, tropical fruits and dried apricots it was a very refreshing, clean yet not overly sweet tasting. The wine should be bottling in the coming months.

In a future posting I’ll share the Cab. and Zinfandel bottles I bought after some in-home cellaring (just a wine cooler, nothing fancy like a cave under the house).  For now some notes on the Cab.:

Deep, red color.  Varietal aromas marry with the vanilla and spice of the barrels. The taste is full of spice, vanilla, currant and dark cherry fruit flavors. The vanilla and chocolate finish adds to the wine`s fruity characteristics.  Wonderful now yet aging this wine will provide a nice treat for the future.

I highly recommend a visit to the winery on your next trip to Sonoma. The staff was very pleasant and they made me feel part of their extended family. I can’t wait to get back!

All Larson wines can be purchased at the winery or online. www.larsonfamilywinery.com

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