Friday, December 21, 2012

Bogle "Phantom" '09 $18

California (Clarksburg, Lodi & Amador)

With a perfect balanced blend of 52% Zinfandel, 46% Petite Sirah and 2% Mourvedre, I think I've found a new favorite, easy drinking red blend.

Dark red berry fruits with woody spice and hints of mocha deliver an aroma that's a pleasant start to the flavors ahead. Dark ripe raspberries bring out a full-bodied fruit intensity with hints of cocoa and black pepper spice.

With over 2 years in American oak it's no wonder the concentrated Zinfandel shows its best characteristics.  A firm finish with subtle tannins paired this wine well with a grilled ribeye steak. It even complimented the warm baked brownies for desert.

As Bogle suggests, "Welcome the winery ghost into your home again with this latest vintage...before it vanishes."  This is a great wine for the price point.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs

Healdsburg, CA  (Sonoma, CA area)

I had the pleasure of being introduced to Lytton Springs Zinfandel almost 5 years ago and Ive always wanted to try their other wines.  I happened to have that chance a few weeks ago while visiting the Sonoma valley.  

One interesting thing I learned during my visit was some of the vineyard plantings have remained for over a hundred years, hence the term "ancient vines."  Some vines have roots over 20 feet down stretching into the water table.  Italians planted some of these plots in the early 1900s and back then it wasn't confirmed what some of the varietal plants were.  The majority is Zinfandel however a subtle mix of Carignane, Pettie Sirah and others are spread throughout.  Not all of the lots (fields) are grown this way however for those that are, all those grapes go into that particular wine. For example; the Lytton Springs Zinfandel has 67% Zin, 23% Petite Sirah, 7% Carignane and 3% Mataro.  So technically it's a Zinfandel but the blending of other varietals makes it quite nice.

Some of the other wines I particularly liked were;

'10 Geyserville Zinfandel - A nice subtle balance on the oak due to older barrels.  Subtle berry fruit flavors, well structured with silky finish.

'09 Carmichael Ranch Zinfandel - One of my favorites in the group! Soft tannins, subtle mocha flavors, aged on American oak. 96% Zin, 4% Petite Sirah

Lastly for those of you wanting that "special" occasion wine, the '09 Monte Bello was amazing!  It's 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 6% Petite Verdot.  This is in their Collector series and rightfully so at $150/bottle.  Aromatics full of blackberry, soft licorice and warm toast.  Definitely one of the smoothest red wines I've had.  It's no doubt this will age for years to come and match up to any fine wine from around the world.  Robert Parker gives it a 98!

In the end, a big thank you to our hosts in the tasting room and I look forward to drinking more of what I bought to bring home.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Little Vineyards, Sonoma, CA

Little Vineyards, Sonoma, CA

2009 was a great year for many Napa and Sonoma wineries and for Little Vineyards it was no exception.  I originally discovered this amazing boutique vineyard in the spring of '09...well before what was to be a banner year.  They've been around since 1996 when Rich and Joan Little purchased the property however it wasn't until 2002 when their first vintages were released publicly.  Ted Coleman (Joan's brother) is the winemaker and everything I've tasted from here has been outstanding!

During my second visit a few weeks ago, I was introduced to their '09 Cabernet Sauvignon and with overwhelming applause a standing ovation is in order.  Aromas of ripe black currants, subtle toasted oak and a pleasant vanilla hint spoke to the "yum in the glass” I was about to experience.  Dark crushed cherries, mocha and silky tannins balanced a flavor profile that was absolutely delicious.  There's just the right amount of oak in this wine to not over do it. You can tell a caring and talented process is involved in this small production of less than 500 cases. Their Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Syrah were also winners.

Joining their wine club is probably the best way to get their wines and you get some great discounts as a member. It's free to join and the commitment is definitely fair for great quality wines you won't find in most stores.

My visit had one other special moment and it was to have an opportunity to sit in on drums with Rich in his recording studio onsite and jam. We had a blast and I think we actually made some good music.  Look for his the latest CD coming out in a few months.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Oregon, Willamette Valley (part 2)

Sorry for not getting this out sooner but the day job got in the way. 

In reference to my last posting, this is a follow up to a recent visit to Oregon wine country and the Willamette Valley.  These are few more favorites Id like to share.  Now I cant guarantee these are all available at your local wine store so Ive included some web links in case you want to reach out to the wineries directly.

From a small group of producers is the Carlton Winemakers Studio which basically offers wine makers a place to produce their own wines and not have to deal with all the issues of maintaining a large winery.  Believe it or not, this is a great idea and has become very popular in many wine-growing regions.  Some of the best wines I tried on this visit came from here. 

 - Retour Pinot Noir 09  Winemaker
Lindsay Woodard has created a wonderful wine here.  Dark cherries and roasted nuts on the nose.  Flavors of black currants, soft tannins with hints of minerals place this wine in a category all on its own.  Lindsay was named one of the Top Emerging Producers by Wine Spectator.  Im so thankful to find her wines.  She also has one called Manifest Destiny which I was told only produced 3 barrels and absolutely amazing.

 - Dukes Family Vineyard Charlotte Pinot Noir 09  Floral and cherry cola aromas.  Red currants, cherries and a hint of cola with silky tannins on the finish.  

Ghost Hill Cellars:
First off, a big thank you to Michael who gave us a personal tour of his vineyards, their history and future for their family owned business.

Pinot Noir, Bayliss-Bower Vineyard '10  An earthiness followed by bright cherries balanced the aromas well.  Tastes of black berries, a hint of pepper and smooth tannins pleasantly surprised me for this younger wine. 

Wines By Joe:
Joe Dobbes has been known for his wine making in Oregon since 1989 and his new winery under his name has some great selections.

Dobbes Family Estate Pinot Noir "Patricia's Cuvee" '09  Aromas of wet leaves and mild toasted oak.  Ripe plums, dark cherries and subtle tannins rounded out the flavors to make this one of the best finds during this trip.
One of the largest commercial producers in Oregon, these wines are readily available throughout the USA.  Many are priced for affordability yet the one I liked best may not be on the inexpensive side for some drinkers.

Estate Selection Pinot Noir '09  Vanilla and baked cherry pie with hints of floral aromas.  Plums and currants offer a fruit forward flavor.  A subtle smoke with silky tannins completes for a wonderful finish.  At $34 retail, it's worth it.

Once again, thanks to all the wineries and vineyards who opened their doors to tastings, educating me more and most of all your hospitality and friendship.  

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