Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Pinot Days 2012

It was a nice, spring-like day in Santa Monica - even though it was January 28, 2012 - and Pinot Days made another landing at Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hangar.

Producers of Pinot Noir wines - largely from California, although a few Oregon wineries were also in attendance - set up shop and poured their product for Southern California with great gusto.  If you didn't make it out for the event, you really should plan on doing so next year.  

There are so many different styles of Pinot represented, it's a great way to expand your palate and get a glimpse of some of the different ways the grape can be expressed.

Kenneth Volk and shirt du jourKenneth Volk (at right), head grape geek at Kenneth Volk Vineyards, wowed the crowd with his 2009 Enz Vineyard Pinot Noir.  The grapes for this behemoth come from Lime Kiln Valley - a Gavilin Mountain region Volk leases and has worked with for 13 vintages.  “It’s my monopole,” Volk declared, describing the extent of his involvement in that region.  “The area was first planted when California was still under the Spanish flag," Volk said in the way of a history lesson.  "My Pinot comes from a vineyard planted in 1895.  I planted it to Pinot Noir in ‘96.”  The wine is hugely aromatic, with mocha and flowers on nose.  Big red fruit dominates the taste and a massive acidity can best be described as bracing.  For those wishing a not-so-humongous Pinot, Volk's 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard from the Santa Maria Valley shows a great fruity nose, juicy taste , and minty tea on the finish.

Dierberg Vineyards was ably respresented by Kevin Gallagher, who showed me some pictures of their winery facility in Happy Canyon.  It's a real showcase, although it's not open to public.  The green barn tasting room between Buellton and Lompoc is all most visitors know.  "In the tasting room, we used to have pictures of the winery on the walls," said Gallagher.  "People would see them and say 'we wanna go there.'  We took the pictures down."  I guess they don't want anybody bothering winemaker Andy Alda while he works his magic in his palatial surroundings.  Gallagher referred to the 2009 Three Saints as the "little brother," and the 2009 Dierberg Vineyard Pinot as the "big brother."  Both hail from the Santa Ynez Valley, the former showing red fruit and the latter exhibiting black cherry.

Stewart Johnson's Kendric Vineyards is located in San Anselmo, California in Northern Marin County.  You may not have heard of any vineyards there, and Johnson says, "That's because the good growing locations are few and far between.  I had to dig a zillion holes to find the right soil."  I'd say he found it.  Johnson poured a fascinating vertical of his Pinot Noir vintages from 2004 to 2009.  '08 and '09 are very aromatic, while '04 and '05 are showing an intriguing eucalyptus note.  All six vintages show great minerals.

crowd at Pinot Days 2012La Fenêtre's tireless winemaker Joshua Klapper was a very familiar face for some of us.  I had just seen him two days earlier at another tasting event.  Thankfully he hadn't tired of me.  The La Fenêtre 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Pinot has an expressive bouquet with a slightly 
tart flavor and a big black tea finish.  Klapper thought there might have been sediment in the bottom of the bottle from which he poured my taste, and he asked how I liked it.  "Not too gritty, is it?".  It wasn't.  I have the feeling if Klapper made a gritty wine, the wine would somehow be better for it. 

A lesson on how consumers are swayed by wine scores awared by critics was something I didn't need, but I saw it for myself during a palate-cleansing break.  A patron toting his wine glass and looking for the next wine to sample spied a sign at one table touting a critic's score.  The gentleman uttered a monotone "ninety-five point Pinot Noir..." as he was drawn - as if by gravity - toward the Sojourn Cellars table.  Spellbound, he sipped and nodded in approval.

Presqu'ile Winery's South African winemaker Dieter Cronje offered a Rosé of Pinot Noir made in the saignée method, in which the juice is bled off from the skins with the intention of making a pink wine.  His '09 rosé displays tons of fruit aromas and flavors.  Cronje suggested it as the perfect wine to sip while  "sitting on a patio, looking at a beach and enjoying the afternoon."  Presqu'ile's 2009 Estate Pinot Noir is bright with acidity and quite herbal, due to the whole cluster pressing of the grapes.  It has a very Old World feel, with manageable tannins and restrained alcohol.

Pinot Days 2012 Oregon sectionThe Oregon section of the hangar was quite busy.  The crowding around these tables indicated there was a lot of interest in Oregon Pinot.  
Napa vintner Craig Camp poured hisCornerstone Cellars Oregon Pinot, the product of his partnership with winemaker Tony Rynders.  Their 2009 Willamette Valley shows beautiful sour cherry flavor with tea on the very long finish.  

Sokol Blosser Winery crossed the state line with their 2009 Dundee Hills Pinot, which is light with fresh, red fruit, great acidity and black tea on the finish.

Pali Wine Company makes wine near the airport on the west side of Lompoc, California.  They do produce an Oregon Pinot, though.  The 2010 "Alphabets" from the Willamette Valley shows some very herbal black tea notes.

Pali's Calirfornia efforts were just as good.  The 2009 Cargasacchi Vineyard has dark fruit, spices and traces of coffee.  The 2009 Fiddlestix Vineyard, from the Sta. Rita Hills, has beautiful blackberry, tons of acidity and minerals.

Santa Barbara County's Tantara Winery has a pinot that really floored me. The 2008 Solomon Hills has massive aromas of chocolate, an herbal palate with very dark fruit and spice and a cola finish.  Their 2009 Sta. Rita Hills Rio Vista Vineyard is all about dark fruit and tannins.

The Malibu Vineyard features the work of winemakers Bruno d'Alfonso and Kris Curran.  Their 2008 Rambla Pacifico is aromatic with flavors of plum.

The Zotovich Cellars table was manned by winemaker Ryan Zotovich, although when I stopped by owner/dad Steve was pouring the 2009 Reserve Zotovich Family Estate Vineyard showing brilliant acidity and bright cherries.

There wasn't much Paso Robles Pinot present, but Glen Hartigan of Hartigan Cellarsmanaged to bring some.  Hartigan told me, "I've made wine for 20 years but this is the first time I've done it commercially."  His west side Paso 2009 Hastings Ranch has a lovely expression of 
mocha on the nose and an all-red-fruit palate.  As you might expect from Paso Robles, there was plenty of acidity and forceful tannins.

Alma Rosa's 2008 Sta. Rita Hills is pure cherry with a lovely tartness on the finish.  Their 2009 La Encantada offers black cherry and tea in a much more complex palate.

The Vin Village table had Rob Barnett pouring the 2008 Lucas & Lewelen Santa Barbara County, full of red fruit and minerals.  The 2009 Goodchild High 9 Vineyard was wonderfully dark, with coffee notes.  The Witch Creek Winery Clarksburg Pinot is an easy drinker with black tea notes.

Olivia Brion Winery, at 1200 feet in the Vaca Mountain Range east of Napa Valley, occupies one of the coolest growing regions in the area.  Winemaker David Mahaffey spoke of the '09, '10 and '11 vintages as a "mini ice age."  The 2009 Wild Horse Valley Vineyard is bright and floral, but "not ready yet," according to Mahaffey.  "Needs another month or so," he said.

Ancient Oaks in Sonoma County was hoping to find a SoCal rep during their visit.  The 2008 Russian River Valley delivers a very big fruit expression, while the 2009 Siebert Ranch Estate Pinot has gobs of dark fruit and a big tea finish.  You get fantastic acidity in both, at $25 and $32 respectively.

Bien Nacido Vineyards poured the 2008 Solomon Hills, from the sandy soil of the westernmost vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.  The 2008 Bien Nacido displayed that vineyard's limestone and shale with big minerals.  I could really taste the rocks. 

Fritz Winery produces in Cloverdale.  The big, bright cherry of the Jenner 2010 Sonoma Coast contrasted with the dark minerals, plums and anise in the 2009 Lost Canyon Goff-Whitton Vineyard Pinot.

Ken Brown made the trip from Solvang with his 2008 Sta. Rita Hills, which shows  beautiful tart candy, and the 2010 Santa Maria Valley Garey vineyard and its giant note of black tea. 

Loring Wine Company showed their 2010 Clos Pepe Vineyard, dominated by a smoky cherry flavor and raspberry finish. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012


STARS of Santa Barbara wine tasting glasses

The amazing California wines of Santa Barbara County were showcased at the Peninsula Hotel's Verandah Room in Beverly Hills on January 26, 2012.  What brought wine country to the hills of Beverlee was the STARS of Santa Barbara tasting event, from Los Angeles wine educator Ian Blackburn and his Learn About Wine outfit.

The yearly event always offers a great overview of the Santa Barbara wine scene, and attracts some of the best winemakers in California to pour for the eager masses.

As usual, the event had a great turnout.  At the afternoon trade and media session, I had the opportunity to sample some great wines - some which were simply stunning - and get in a little conversation with the winemakers and other presenters.

Dan Fredman represents Los Alamos producer Martian Vineyard, and he poured their biodynamically-farmed wines while announcing that their Demeter certification will be official this year.  He also sang the praises of new winemaker Mike Roth, a New Jersey native who has been making wine in the Santa Ynez Valley for close to a decade.  Martian Vineyard's2009 Grenache is a standout, showing dusty berries and cherries on the nose and a very earthy minerality on the palate.  At $24, it's well worth the price.

Larry Shaffer, Tercero WinesLarry Shaffer (right) said he made this year's Tercero Wines "atAndrew Murray's place," meaning Murray's winery in Los Olivos.  "Next year? I have no clue.  But I still have six months to figure it out."  From one of his famous flasks, Shaffer poured his 2007 Grenache sourced from the Watch Hill Vineyard in Los Alamos.  The wine was 25% whole cluster pressed, giving a great herbal edge to an already complex wine.  I love the acidity in this one.

Toretti Family Vineyard is a five acre plot which sits on the bluff overlooking the Santa Maria Valley.  Robert Torres talked about his operation dealing with seeing their grape production fall from 15 tons to 11 tons to 8 tons in three successive vintages.  The bright side is the concentrated flavor in the smaller berries, although I couldn't help but get the feeling he'd have been satisfied with more wine to sell.  Toretti's 2009 Inocencio Pinot Noir shows perfume and earth on the sniff, and tastes very dark for such a lightly tinted wine.

At the Westerly Wines table, I was enjoying a conversation with company president Vito Gambini.  He was extolling the capabilities of his winemaker, Kirby Anderson when a gentleman walked up and said to Vito, "Hi! How's Kirby?"  Vito replied, "He's great.  He's my winemaker!"  The gentleman then said, "I know.  He's my winemaker too!"  It goes to show the wine community is a very small town, even in a big county like Santa Barbara.  Westerly's 2009 Chardonnay puts a fascinating smoky edge on the fruit.  I couldn't believe it when I was told it a $19 wine.  Vito also poured a dessert wine called Apres - a sweet Viognier in which the grapes are put on racks to dry naturally before vinifying.  It's sweet, not cloying, and has a great acidity with a full-on peach cobbler flavor.  Westerly Wines was purchased earlier this month and the inventory is now available through TTT Vineyards.  

Joshua Klapper, La Fenetre WineJoshua Klapper (left, Doctor Klapper in the event's program) poured his La Fenêtre and À Côté wines while riffing on them, and his descriptions of them - "Nice, huh?  The way I can condense three years of work into one sentence!"  His 2008 La Fenêtre Syrah comes from the Alisos Vineyard above Los Alamos.  Like all the vineyards from which he draws, it's a cool climate growing area.  Klapper says it's "more black olive than blackberry."   This savory wine has big tannins, all the better to go with a big steak.

Riverbench Vineyard and Winery's new winemaker Clarissa Nagy was at the event, pouring the 2008 Estate Pinot Noirwith a smokey load of minerals.

The Zaca Mesa table was handled by Jessica Simmons.  She was excited to pour their2007 Roussanne - the current release.  The Santa Ynez Valley wine showed nice acidity and a nutty salinity.

Others pointed me in the direction of the Dragonette Cellars table, where Brandon Sparks-Gillis poured their massively floral 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.  Grapes from the Vogelzang, Grassini and Refugio Ranch Vineyards give amazing tropical flavors and acidity.

Dan Reeves represented his Reeves Ranch Vineyard well with the 2008 Syrah.  The fruit comes from his estate vineyard in the hills overlooking Los Olivos as well as Black Oak Vineyard in Los Alamos.  It's a dark and meaty joy.

An urban winery in Santa Barbara, Silver Wines is the creation of winemaker Benjamin Silver, former winemaker at Zaca Mesa.  He honed his craft there under the tutelage ofDaniel Gehrs.  Silver's 2007 Four Barrel Especial Syrah from White Hawk Vineyard offers up a sweet and smoky nose with a gigantic display of earth on the palate.

From the east side of the Santa Maria Valley, Byron's 2009 Pinot Blanc shows plenty of that SMV minerality and a nice layer of salinity, not to mention the floral aspect.  WinemakerJonathan Nagy has created a very nice white wine to sit beside his notable Pinot Noirs.

Cambria Estate Winery in the Santa Maria Valley produces some respected Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah under winemaker Denise Shurtleff.  The Cambria 2007 Bench Break Pinot Noir has especially dark and smoky aromas and is dark, but delicate, on the palate.  The small berries from this vintage really pack some punch.

Michael Bonaccorsi was a Master Sommelier, the somm at Spago in Beverly Hills and a winemaker until his untimely death in 2004.  The 2008 Bonaccorsi  Pinot Noir uses fruit from the Fiddlestix, Cargasacchi and Melville vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.  Smoke and cherry on the nose make way for a palate featuring great minerality and a pleasingly tart edge on the finish.

Learn About Wine signageAt the D'Alfonso-Curran table, I had a taste of Kris Curran's2007 Curren Tempranillo.  A campfire nose meets a cherry and raspberry palate.

Fontes & Phillips Wines were represented by the company namesakes, Rochelle and Alan, respectively.  Their rosé, the2009 Panky, is made from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah from the Santa Ynez Valley's Camp 4 Vineyard.  I sipped and listened to other tasters comment on Panky's resemblence to a rosé from Tavel.   

Brophy Clark Cellars has a winner with their 2009 GSM Santa Ynez Valley.  Bright cherry flavor and a wonderful acidity arise from the Estelle Vineyard Grenache, Camp 4 Vineyard Syrah and Mourvèdre from the 100-year-old vines of the Del Barbra Vineyard.

Sanguis makes wine in a converted warehouse in downtown Santa Barbara.  I was not familiar with them, but they're on my radar now after tasting their 2008 Endangered Species Proprietary Red Wine.  One of the more eye-opening efforts I tasted, the earthy, smoke-filled nose leads to some amazing minerality and eucalyptus on the palate.  It's heavy on the Syrah with splashes of Roussanne and Viognier, and spent 32 months in oak.  Sanguis is Latin for "blood," and the pronunciation is "sahn' gwiss."  

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Cimarone Gran Premio Sangiovese 2008

Italian grape varieties are among my favorites from around the world, particularly Sangiovese.  Whether it's the fresh, youthful Chianti or the grizzled old Brunello, I love what this grape does when it's wine.

Gran Premio is an estate-grown Sangiovese from Cimarone’s Three Creek Vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Happy Canyon AVA.  Happy Canyon is in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, which is protected from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean by the same Mountain range that channels that cooling effect into the Sta. Rita Hills.

Cimarone's Gran Premio is a blend of two clones - there are are 14 clones of the Sangiovese grape - which were picked before full ripeness.  This allows for the exclusion of excessive sugar and a resulting wine which is quite dry.  The wine is fermented in open-top wood barriques, and the wood has quite an impact on its aromas and flavors.  

Doug Margerum was the winemaker for Gran Premio.  Effective with the 2011 vintage, Margerum's purple shoes will be filled by Andrew Murray, who has taken over as winemaker for Cimarone.  According to the label, I had bottle 36 of 600!  That means only 50 cases made, so you'd better grab fast. 

Gran Premio shows a medium dark hue in the glass.   The nose exudes blackberry and tar.  Very dark flavors of earthy plums and blackberry show up on the palate, with that tar angle coming in just behind the fruit.  What the label calls "fine tannins" means that this is a very smooth wine.  You can add several "o"s to "smooth" if that helps convey the message.  

This wine drinks not like a fruity, young wine, but more like a brunello, laden with the tarry notes that years can bring to this grape.  It's great tasting and very easy drinking.  With smoked Gouda on rosemary bread the taste is amazing.  I'd love to try it with lamb, or merguez sausage.  Premio retails for $40 and carries a 14.5% abv number.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Blood Of The Vines - Grand Theft Auto

When Ron Howard's first film, "Grand Theft Auto," was made, I thought great wine was the Spanada my mom kept in the fridge.  I don't know how mom would feel about her favorite beverage being relegated to the category of "bum wine," but at  $7.70 for a magnum, it would seem to come in on the high side of that politically incorrect spectrum.

1977 was not a great wine year for me, but I recall it was a good vintage for Miller Genuine Draft.  I also recall I had great tan that summer, for the last time ever.  TFH guru Joe Dante says his first wine was Boone's Farm.  Our tastes in beverages changed for the better.  But just as there are some occasions that simply call for a can of beer, there are times when all we really need in a movie is a lot of action.

GTA - the movie, not the video game - is a rip-roarin', white-knuckle ride featuring car chases, a souped-up Rolls Royce, a police car, of course, and a lot of stuff getting blown up.  

Daddy's little girl rips off the Rolls and heads for Vegas to get married quickie style while everybody and their dee jay chases after.  A great performance by the late Real Don Steeleas the helicopter jockey is the highlight of the movie.  Well, you had to expect that comment since I'm a lifelong broadcaster.  

I worked for several years in the same building with Real.  I'm sure he didn't know my name, but he smiled and said "Hey, baby" every day as he passed me on his way in.  I always half expected him to flip me the keys to his Cadillac and ask me to have it washed and fueled while he was on the air.  But there was someone else employed to do that.  Tina Delgado is alive - ALIVE!

Grand Theft Auto is the name of the crime people keep committing during this film, and it's only natural that those stolen cars end up in a demolition derby climax.  More movies should take this way out.  The critics weren't driven to praise the film, but it made a truck full of cash at the box office.

There's not a lot of wine in this movie - thankfully, judging from the driving habits exhibited - but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying some while watching it.  You might try some that's made in a place where these cars could have ended up after filming.

Cerro Caliente Cellars is a San Luis Obispo winery located in a working garage.  Their wines are full-throttle single-vineyard Central Coast beauties.  Check their "Multi Viscosity" line at $36 each.  Their tasting room is decorated for gear-heads and, presumably, they have plenty of those red shop rags handy in case of spills.

Some other junk in the trunk:

Pismo Beach Classic Car Show - A car show in wine country?  I'm there.

Derose Vineyards - Near Hollister, California, Derose offers a line of wines named and labeled after classic cars.

Classic Car Wines by B.R. Cohn - More classic car labels, this time from Sonoma County.

Rolls Royce Wine Carrier - Stick this baby in the boot and open in case of emergency.

Krug's Rolls Royce Delivery Van - Maybe the perfect mix of vintage wine and vintage auto.

Race Car Wine Caddy - How is your man cave bar getting along without this?

Prince Charles' car runs on wine - and it was taken for a spin by the royal newlyweds.

Car runs on wine and cheese - Gas isn't expensive enough?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Beaujolais Fleurie Clos de la Roilette

This taste of the Beaujolais region concerns a wine by Alain Coudert, Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie 2010.  The label indicates it's a red Beaujolais wine - 99% of the wine from Beaujolais is red, produced from the Gamay grape.

Fleurie wines are often indicated as having a fruity and floral bouquet.  That would be underselling the case, here, as we will find in a bit.

Louis Dressner Selections imports this wine, and their website describes the evolution of Clos de la Roilette:

"In the '20s, when the Fleurie appellation was first created, the former landowner was infuriated with losing the Moulin-à-Vent appellation under which the clos had previously been classified.  He created a label, using a photograph of his racehorse Roilette, and used the name Clos de la Roilette, without mentioning Fleurie.  The owner vowed not to sell a drop of his wine on the French market and the production went to Switzerland, Germany and England.

"By the mid-1960s, the owner’s heirs had lost interest in the clos and a large portion of the land had gone wild and untended.  In 1967, Fernand Coudert bought this poorly maintained estate, and replanted the vineyards.  His son Alain joined him in 1984, and has been the winemaker since."

The racehorse remains on the label to this day, although the Couderts apparently have no ill will at this point about the appellation.  The wine is labeled as Fleurie.

This is a complex Beaujolais Cru which retails for $20 and is a little stronger than a typical Beaujolais at 13% abv.  The average age of the Coudert's vines are 25-33 years and I am told it should age well for 5-10 years.

An initial cork sniff had me thinking I'd opened a bottle of sherry by mistake.  There's a huge nuttiness and something akin to caramel on the cork.  Once in the glass, the nose of the medium dark wine displays leathery cherry fruit, allspice and a hint of something burnt.

The palate is equally serious.  A very dark expression of cherries and roast come forward right away, and an almost muddy taste plays with the fruit as it shows black cherry, then blackberry, then a campfire flavor.  There is a fantastic acidity and a lingering tartness which begs for another sip to be taken.

In my sedentary travel through the Beaujolais crus, this is the darkest and most impressive wine I have tasted.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Beaujolais Chiroubles Damien Coquelet 2010

The French wine region of Beaujolais has been the topic of a number of Now And Zin  posts this year.  During the holidays, I received a number of different Beaujolais wines to sample, and the experience has been illuminating.  I sample hundreds of California wines - and wine from all over the US - each year, but Beaujolais was one of the areas I had failed to explore properly until now.

After trying several wines from a few of the Beaujolais crus, I'm happy I've had the chance to delve into the region.  Today's wine comes from Chiroubles, a cru with some of the highest altitude vineyards in Beaujolais.  The climate is a bit cooler and the growing season somewhat longer as a result.  Wines from this region are said to be distinguished by their delicate, softly perfumed bouquets. 

This wine is the D. Coquelet 2010, imported by Louis Dressner.  Damien Coquelet is the winemaker.  A (very) little detective work shows him to be the stepson of George Descombes, one of the top growers in Beaujolais. This wine appears to come from his vineyard n Chiroubles, although Damien has plans to purchase vineyards of his own at some point.  One big distinction between the wines of Descombes and Coquelet is that the elder ages his wines a year, while the younger releases his early. 

The wine has an alcohol content of the more-or-less standard number for Beaujolais, 12.5% abv.  It shows a medium tint in the glass.  The nose is marked by raspberry and a bit of candy.  As advertised, very delicate floral notes surround the fruit.  Flavors of cherry, cranberry and a trace of cassis join a very nice acidity to make a wine that drinks like a light, slightly tart Pinot Noir.  It's really a beautiful effort. 

I see this wine selling online for $17 to $25 - worth it at the high end and a definite bargain at the low price.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Blood Of The Vines: King of Comedy

In Martin Scorsese's "King of Comedy," Robert De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a demented fan obsessed with the late-night talk show host played by Jerry Lewis.  If De Niro's digs in Taxi Driver creeped you out, what did you think of his basement room in this movie?  The fake talk show set - complete with cardboard cutouts of host and guests - and the pencil-drawn audience to which he works while fantasizing about being the funny man onstage take delusion to new heights.

I began to wonder what kind of wine Rupert Pupkin would drink.  All I could think of were the cheesy one-liners printed on a thousand and one wine-related knick-knacks.  As I heard them in my head - in Pupkin's voice - they seemed to fit perfectly. 

"Wine gets better with age - the older I get, the better I like it." (rim shot)

"I cook with wine.  Sometimes I even get it in the food." (drum roll)

"I have a bottle of wine every night except when I don't feel well.  Then I have two." (ba-dum-bum)

"Wine - it's why I get out of bed every afternoon." (thunderous applause, weeping Pupkin blows kisses as he takes a bow)

As Pupkin might say in transition, "But seriously, folks," Robert De Niro is quite the wine connoisseur.  He has a taste for Italian wine - no surprise there - but he also holds the wines of director Francis Ford Coppola in high regard.  He detailed a couple of Coppola's best in his 
address at the 2010 Governors Awards.

The 2008 Directors Cut Cinema Sonoma County is not the '07 De Niro fondly remembers, but they say it will entice fans of Super Tuscans.  $23

Coppola's 2006 Rubicon Estate "Rubicon" Rutherford Red Blend should do nicely if you can't lay your hands on on the '91 Propritary Blend. $119

More? Funny you should ask...

Keep your eyes open for an Argentine wine called Rodrigo Mendoza.  That is said to be the name with which De Niro will label his wine if and when he closes the deal on a Mendoza vineyard. 

Viña Cobos uNico Mendoza 2006 - Until Rodrigo Mendoza appears, De Niro can probably spring for this $180 bottle and not hurt a bit.  Wine critic Robert Parker bestowed 96 of his prized points on this blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Malbec.

Martin Scorsese did a short film for Spanish Cava producer Freixenet called "The Key To Reserva."  There are some pretty good takes on Hitchcock in it.

The Tribeca Grill Cookbook - De Niro wrote the introduction to this culinary tome featuring recipes from his famed NYC eatery.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Cimarone 3CV Bank 2009

Cimarone Winery is on Three Creek Vineyard in the relatively new Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County.  Roger and Priscilla Higgins own the vineyard and winery, and they emphasize Bordeaux and Rhone varieties in their Cimarone and 3CV labels.

The gravelly, hillside soil of Three Creek Vineyard is planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and Semillon.  The Bordeaux grape varieties do very well in the warm climate of Happy Canyon, which is shielded from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean by the same mountains which channel that cool climate into the Sta. Rita Hills.  You can find out more about Happy Canyon - including how it got its name - in an excellent and interesting article from The Central Coast Wine Report on the Happy Valley AVA.

The Higgins have employed legendary Santa Barbara winemaker Doug Margerum to create their blends, but a change has come.  Los Olivos-based Andrew Murray is now the winemaker for Cimarone’s wines beginning with the 2011 vintage.  Murray has extensive success with his own Rhone-based wines at Andrew Murray Vineyards.

Bank is Cimarone's top-selling Bordeaux blend with a touch of Syrah.  It consists of 35% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot, 13% Malbec, 9% Merlot  and 9% Syrah.  The wine carries 14.5% abv and sells for $20.  Margerum is the winemaker for this ‘09 effort.

Bank is a dark purple in the glass with intense blackberry jam on the nose.  There are some clove and anise aromas, too.  The taste is heavily influenced by the Syrah as well.  Blackberry flavor stretches for miles, with a savory aspect that gives Bank a real old world feel.  The finish is lengthy.
This bottle - open for three nights - is, by the third night, more influenced by the Cabernet Franc.  The tannins still have bite, but the herbaceous, savory notes come forward mightily and a black plum profile nudges the blackberry out of the way.  This wine really undergoes quite a metamorphosis after opening.  Usually, I prefer a wine to have some time open, but I would not recommend letting Bank sit open for that long.  Upon opening, give it plenty of breathing or aeration, then enjoy.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Duboeuf Morgon 2010

Georges Duboeuf is known for his eloquent and verbose vintage reports in which he yearly extolls the virtues of the Beaujolais crop.  "Divine! Dazzling! Voluptuous! Generous!" is just part of his report on the 2011 vintage.  The 2009 Beaujolais Crus are "truly the vintage of my lifetime," according to Duboeuf, while the Beaujolais Crus of 2010 prompted him to exclaim, "The Beaujolais region is on a winning streak."

Duboeuf has every right to use as many exclamation points as he likes.  Jean Bourjade is the Managing Director of Inter Beaujolais, the wine council representing the Producers of Beaujolais, and he echoes Duboeuf's praise of the last three vintages in Beaujolais.  He claims Beaujolais is the only French region in his memory to have three consecutive vintages of such high quality.

Salesmanship aside, Georges Duboeuf is the most recognizable name in Beaujolais wine.  He represents over 400 winegrowers in the region and his name is a mainstay in the French section of supermarket shelves worldwide.  In this post we'll explore Morgon, one of the twelve Crus of Beaujolais. 

Both of these bottles are produced from Duboeuf's Morgon vineyards, both are marketed as "red Burgundy wine," both have a 13% abv number and both sell for about $16.  The wine with the more serious looking label is a grower-specific wine from the vineyards of the late Jean-Ernest Descombes.  His daughter Nicole now tends the wine business.  The wine with the flower on the label is made from Duboeuf vineyards, but is not grower-specific.  These bottles were provided to me for sampling purposes.

The Morgon Cru lies south of six Beaujolais crus and north of three.  Gamay is the main grape, as it is in all of the Beaujolais region.  In the 14th century, the Dukes of Burgundy kicked the Gamay grape out of Burgundy in favor of Pinot Noir and Gamay took root in Beaujolais to the south.  Morgon has a long history with grapes - it was home to the vineyards of the Romans.  The volcanic and granitic rock found in the crumbling soil of the Morgon region supplies the terroir. 

The Descombes bottling has a bright nose full of cherry and raspberry.  The palate is full and refreshing with a zippy acidity.  The tannins show restraint while cherry and raspberry flavors are laced with a very slight hint of citrus.   I really get a sense of the minerals in these flavors. 

The flower label bottle shows the same fruit on the nose, but has more of a mineral or vegetal overlay.  It's not quite so bright - fairly dark, in fact.  The palate is less delicate as well, with a darker aspect to the fruit and a bit more tanninic grip.

Keep an eye out for more exploration of the Beaujolais crus here on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.