Thursday, November 28, 2013

Erath Pinot Noir '09 Estate Selection

On Thanksgiving, there's nothing better than a good Pinot Noir to go with turkey and all the dressings. This wine was one I found back in 2011 while visiting the Willamette valley in Oregon. Erath makes various Pinots however this one seems to be a premium one after tasting others. With aromas of ripe plums, vanilla and floral scents this mature red, aged in French oak for 14 months, was outstanding after 2 years home in the bottle. Flavors of dark cherries and crushed strawberries with a hint of toasted oak balanced perfectly with our holiday meal. The tannins were subtle with a soft, silky mouth feel.

I'm not sure on distribution of this specific wine but if you find it, give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sonoma Favorites (part 1)

I know I haven’t done any justice for those of you following as I’ve taken a bit of time off.  No worries, I’m back!

I recently spent time in Sonoma, California where I had the pleasure of re-visiting wineries I’ve favored in the past along with some new gems.  We travelled out of San Francisco on a Sunday morning just in time for lunch at the Freemont Diner in Sonoma.  If you haven’t been, it’s definitely worth a stop.  Everything is homemade including some tasty smoked meats.

Our first winery stop was at Tin Barn where Michael Lancaster is the owner and wine maker.  It’s not your typical winery as their tasting room and winemaking facility is in a warehouse.  Very cool setup and don’t worry, there are many other wineries located within this complex.  On my next visit, I plan to stop in at more.  One of my favorites was the ’09 Syrah that had rich aromas of black raspberries and licorice.  The flavors were full of dark fruit, blackberry and cherries.  With a deep ruby color and medium body finish, this was my first choice to purchase.  The ’11 Zinfandel (Sonoma Valley) was also a winner with aromas of crushed strawberries and hints of black peppercorns.  Jammy flavors full of dark cherries with an earthy, dry finish gave hints that this will age nicely to drink even better within the next 2-5 years.

Gundlach Bundschu was our next stop and other than having some great wines, they also have beautiful outdoor areas to enjoy your wine or a picnic.  My first taste was something I would have never found myself liking as this varietal tends to be somewhat sweet for my taste.  It was their ’12 Gewürztraminer and it absolutely changed my pre-conceived thoughts for this grape!  For this vintage year they only made 4,500 cases so contact the winery directly if you’re interested.  The aromas were similar to that of a Sav. Blanc with grassy, herbaceous scents, citrus and lemon.  Flavors on the other hand were not like a Sav. Blanc and had butterscotch and ripe pears with mild citrus traces.  It was an amazing wine with refreshing flavors and not too sweet.

Another wine, which I liked a lot, was called Mountain Cuvee.  Aromas of black pepper and smoke gave hints to flavors of currants, plums and hints of mocha on the finish.  Having 7 varietals made this a tough guess for me but I did try and got 5 of the 7 correct.  It was pure luck…trust me!  37% Cab. Sav. and 31% Merlot are the primary grapes.  Cab Franc and Zin at 10% each followed by small percentages of Syrah, Petite Verdot and Malbec complete this great wine.  This is a serious everyday red blend with full body and long finish.  Enjoy with a hearty meal, grilled steak or your favorite aged cheese.

Stay tuned for part 2 in a few days.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Malbec...It's The New Red!

Malbec has always been a favorite of mine to pair with a grilled steak, pork chop or tenderloin.  In general, it's priced very affordable and a great alternative red wine.  Originally from France and approved as one of 5 grape varietals allowed in Bordeaux, Argentina is now one of the largest producers of Malbec.  In California, it's still used widely as a blending grape with Meritage being one of the most popular blends.  I've posted a few Malbec wines on this blog yet never thought about how great the wine is especially for it's price point.  Here is a new one I just tried.

Elsa Bianchi Malbec  '11   $9 (World Market)
Mendoza, Argentina

With delicate aromas of dark cherries, ripe plums and blackberries, this wine revealed a dark fruit characteristic.  Deep purple in color, the flavors of black cherry and hints of spice made for a nice medium body taste.

It may come across as a young wine on the first taste but after letting it open up in the glass for 15 minutes, the tastes began to soften much like a more mature wine.  Hints of vanilla and subtle earthiness found on the finish really made this a great everyday red.  It's value is amazing and apparently Robert Parker gave it 90 points!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cameron Hughes Lot 279, Cabernet Sauvignon '09 $20

Napa Valley, CA

While on the hunt for a relatively inexpensive yet good Cab, I was introduced to this at my local Whole Foods store.  I had just picked up a few NY Strips to grill and remembered that my everyday drinking collection was kind of slim on choices.

I hadn't heard of this wine and neither had Tommy who was working the bar that day.  (We're lucky to have one of the few wine & beer bars inside a Whole Foods store.)  So Tommy said we should try the wine as he was thinking about adding it to the bar for tastings and by-the-glass purchases.  He proceeded to open the bottle before I could say a word. The next thing out of my mouth, after the first taste left me a bit it did him.  Wow, holly crap, this is amazing...probably a few things I remember uttering quietly as others watched on.

So now on to the bottle I opened for dinner.  The aromas at first had a hint of alcohol but diminished quickly.  Predominant smells of black currants, dark cherries, licorice and vanilla pretty much sum up this robust California Cab.  On the tongue, dark berries and soft tannins had this tasting like it was a $60 wine.  The finish is clean with hints of dark chocolate and toasted wood.

I'd recommend you let this decant or open up in your glass for 15-30 minutes.  It will definitely soften the higher alcohol found at opening.  This 2009 is ready to drink now and should keep for a few years to come.  If you can't find Lot 279, check their website for newer releases.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adelsheim, Pinot Gris '09 $13

Willamette Valley, OR

In my latest efforts to introduce some more warm weather wines, this one came to mind as I was in need of a Chardonnay for a family recipe and didn't have any on hand. It's definitely a great alternative and for some people, not as sweet.

Filled with aromas of pears, apples and subtle oak it wasn't what I'd expect from this varietal. Actually it was a pleasant surprise.

With the first taste, citrus flavors were predominant with hints of carmel apples and a creamy mouthfeel on the finish.  A pleasant balance of acidity and fruit to warrant a refreshing burst of flavors along with an outstanding wine to pair with lighter foods.

My mom's recipe for Linguini & Clams had me always using a Chardonnay and being without it forced me into trying this wine as a substitute. It not only worked great in the dish but pleasantly went well before and during dinner.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pedroncelli, Sauvignon Blanc, East Side Vineyards, '10

Sonoma (Geyserville, CA)

I know it's been awhile since I've posted here and I apologize to those of you following me.  That pesky day job just got really busy, but I'm back!

As we're getting into warmer weather I thought it'd be appropriate to offer up a refreshing wine served chilled to go with your next fruit & cheese plater, salad or grilled fish dish.  Sauvignon Blanc is one of those wines which are nice to start out your evening happy hour or even pre-dinner beverages.

This was a wine I found while visiting the great folks at Pedroncelli last fall.  The aromas filled the glass with apples, pear, citrus and a hint of flint.  The flavors, as many Sav. Blanc wines have were of ripe grapefruit along with melon and pear nectar.  It drank very smooth with the citrus not being too overpowering.  It was also nice to not have have a strong grassy and asparagus hint in this wine which is so common amongst this varietal.  

I started this bottle before dinner and decided to stick with it through my main course.  It paired great with a wood grilled Amberjack fish which I caught myself.  I like to use a medium flavored spice rub on this fish and the wine did a great job in complimenting it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Fugitive, 2011 $25

Sonoma, CA (Dry Creek Valley)

So maybe you've had "The Prisoner" or maybe one of my favorites, "The Riddler"...but now you're "The Fugitive." As the bottle says..."Better to be the fugitive than behind bars."

With all kidding aside, this was recommended to me when searching out "The Prisoner" wine after having a great bottle of it at dinner the other night. For a bit less of the cost, I decided to try this wine and wow was I impressed.

The aromas were full of black cherry, toasted wood and black pepper. The flavors followed with ripe plums, ripe black berries, cocoa and most important a smooth mouth feel. Soft tannins with hints of mild black pepper led to a silky finish of warm toast and subtle dark fruits.

At first I guessed on the blend which I thought was heavy on the Zinfandel but alas I was somewhat wrong. 46% Petite Sirah, 41% Syrah, 12% Zinfandel and 1% Petite Verdot. Not shown on the bottle, it's made by Truett-Hurst.

With it's amazing silky, smooth finish and the pairing with grilled skirt steak tonight, this will be a keeper in the wine rack now!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dutcher Crossing, Cabernet Sauvignon '09 $29

Sonoma, CA (Dry Creek Valley)

An opulent, soft and sophisticated cabernet you don't dare miss out on!

This is the Proprietor's Reserve I was introduced to a few months ago and I just opened a bottle the other night with friends. I remember the wineries nickname for this being their "breakfast cab."  I'm guessing it goes with anything and I'm in full agreement.

Deep purple color and aromas of ripe plums, black cherries, vanilla and toasted wood brought together such an amazing nose. It's not often you're guests say "damn" before they take a first sip.  Well that's no lie.

On the tongue this was a silky, flavorful blend of ripe blackberries and mocha followed by a long, soft finish. Mellow dark fruits with a hint of spice but nothing too overwhelming.  Aged for 26 months on oak this actually is 78% Cab and 22% Syrah. This is something fairly new for California Cabs yet a great combination done in Australia for years with much success.

Debra Mathy, Proprietor, has a very touching, real life story on starting Dutcher Crossing and it's evident that her passion has paid off in the wines they're producing. The wine maker, Kerry Damskey, has done equally an amazing job in crafting perfection especially into this wine I had. I'm looking forward to the Zin I'm holding on to for my next write up on their wines.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Château Vieux Dominique '10 $13

Bordeaux Superior

For some that know me, my fondness for French wines is somewhat challenged.  In general you need to pay a higher price to gain quality which doesn't always hold true in wines from other parts of the world.

So as I continue to challenge one of my favorite wines shops to recommend an under $20 bottle of French wine that I might like, I think they found one.

My take on French wines is they're very earthy, dry and tannic.  Therefore, I needed to let this assumption go before tasting this wine or I was never going to get over my little hang up.

The nose brought out dark cherries, roasted coffee and hints of smoke and herbs.  With this aroma blend I was soon forgetting my preconceived notions.  On the first sip a heavy alcohol "pop" was there but soon diminished after 15 minutes in the glass.  Flavors of mocha along with cherries and a minor tartness on the tannins left me to believe a short decanting would help. Sure enough, after 20 minutes the tannins somewhat smoothed out and the finish had a nice length to it. Plums seemed to come out now in the flavor profile followed by a subtle roasted coffee on the finish. The tannins seemed to balance well with the flavors however it's not for the faint lover of "easy drinking" style wines.  Full body would be my take on this Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend.

For many French wine producers the 2009s were outstanding.  2010 was a bit more challenging year with alcohol levels and tannins being higher.  Given this overall synopsis, this 2010 is quite nice especially being under $20 for a relatively young wine.  It's starting to change my mind. Let's hope for more to do so as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crasto Douro '09 $14

Douro Valley, Portugal

So my last few postings have been on California wines, so as not to rule out the rest of the world, let's go to Portugal. I've never been but I must say they make some great wines and especially wonderful Ports. Interestingly this wine comes from the same valley where many port wines are made, The Douro Valley. Additionally, the 4 grape varietals used in this wine are amongst the top 5 used for port wine production. However, by no means is this wine sweet like you would find in a port.

Comprised of 35% Tinta Roriz (also known as Tempranillo), 25% Tinta Barroca, 25% Touriga Franca and 15% Touriga Nacional, this wine hit a big WOW factor with me. The aromas were full of dark cherries, white pepper and hints of leather and flint. Blackberries, dark ripe cherries and a soft hint of mocha brought the flavors together for a perfect structure. Medium bodied with a soft mouth feel and silky tannins definitely put this wine at an amazing level for the price point.

I paired this with a rosemary rubbed, thick, bone-in grilled pork chop. The wine complemented the meal perfectly as I feel it would with many other grilled meats. A 2010 is out now and I’ve seen nice reviews on it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ridge Pagani Ranch 2010 $35

Sonoma Valley, CA

While visiting this winery a few months ago I was informed this wine was receiving incredible reviews and selling out everywhere.  I don't usually jump on that type of hype however knowing that Ridge makes other great Zinfandels, I bought 2 bottles to try it.  The tasting room wasn’t sampling it due to limited supplies and strong demands.

Well I opened my first bottle the other night and wow, they weren't kidding about how good this wine really is.  From the first swirl and sip to finishing the bottle on night 2, it was probably one of the top 5 best Zinfandels I've ever had.

Tantalizing, rich aromas of plums, ripe cherries and hints of freshly cracked pepper filled my glass.  It was almost like the scents were warming my insides.  With a deep purple color and heavy legs falling slowly down the glass, I couldn't help but believe I was in for a rich, full-bodied experience to follow.  The flavors were full of dark cherries, ripe dark plums and a wonderful mocha on the finish.  Silky tannins, subtle and soft, displayed the care in crafting this beautiful wine.  Comprised of 82% Zinfandel, 16% Alicante Bouschet and 2% Petite Sirah this wine is barrel aged for 16 months on American oak.

So maybe hype for hype sake takes place all too often, however not in this case.  Listening to the our new friends in the tasting room paid off.  Ridge makes some other great Zinfandels as well in case you can't find this one.  Start your search now before the 2009 and 2010 vintages are gone.

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