Monday, September 29, 2014

Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills 2011

The 2011 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay was only $10 by the glass at Westside Tavern, downstairs from the Landmark Theater in the big mall on Pico.  It's $40 per bottle retail, and the winery website shows that it is sold out.

On the nose, citrus, floral, pear and peach aromas put on a show, while the palate has all that lovely fruit plus a slight touch of oak.  The smoky vanilla flavor is fantastic.  There is also a savory aspect which reminds me a little bit of an Italian wine.  The acidity is bright and fresh, and the wine finishes very cleanly and briskly.

That savory touch is described by Brewer-Clifton this way: "a saline quality that promotes an age worthy structure, the uniqueness of a wine region bordered on two of its four sides by the Pacific Ocean is clear."  And, it is true that Santa Barbara County is two sides to the sea, so a maritime influence should be expected.

Three vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills contributed grapes to this wine, 3-D, Sweeney Canyon and Gnesa.  The winery says their goal was to put forth "a comprehensive expression of the appellation," which it seems has been accomplished.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Wine Event: Rhone Rangers Los Angeles 2014

Early September held a great treat for Los Angeles lovers of the Rhône style of wine.  The Rhône Rangers convened for their annual SoCal event at Vibiana in downtown L.A.  The repurposed church is a great place to hold an event for those who worship the grape varieties of the Rhône Valley.  A more irreverent reverence you will not likely find, church or no church.

For the unordained, the Rhône Rangers are an organization formed solely to celebrate the grapes of Rhône, especially as realized in California terroir.  Bring on Syrah, bring on Grenache, bring on Viognier, yeah verily, bring on Roussanne - and plenty of it.  Our prayers have been answered.

Cornerstone Cellars’ managing partner Craig Camp (right) poured a single vineyard Syrah rosé, the 2013 Corallina by Stepping Stone.  It's one of my favorite California pinks.  The Napa Valley vineyard from which these grapes come is west of the Oak Knoll district, almost in Carneros.  The aromas and flavors, while fruity, are more complex than those generally found in pink wines.  This is one Syrah rosé in which the Syrah really shows up for work. It's deeply-colored and richly textured.  It looks pink, but it drinks red.

Camp had been in Maine the previous week on a sales trip.  He noted that "the sales of whites and rosés just fall flat there after Labor Day,” which is a shame, considering how much lobster there is to be consumed there.  Camp says his Corallina rosé does hit it off with lobster, but it will really go great with the Thanksgiving turkey, so there is no need to retire it until spring.

The Stepping Stone 2012 Syrah comes from a vineyard “right at the top” of Atlas Peak in Napa.  It’s beefy and rich with a brilliant acidity.

The Crux Russian River Valley GSM rosé was the next stop.  Terribly warm day out, so plenty of great rosés were more than welcome.  In this one, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend to make a bright and vibrant wine.  Very nice acidity marks this fruity but dry pink wine.  The Crux Viognier has a five percent splash of Sauvignon Blanc.  Floral and fruity, this was another real refresher.

When I told Zaca Mesa’s Dane Campbell of an upcoming Now And Zin series on holiday wines, he said, "Rhone wines go great with Thanksgiving."  The Zaca Mesa Roussanne fits that bill, with a great nutty flavor and bright acidity.  The Zaca Mesa Viognier throws pear and peach flavors into the acidity and comes up with a lovely, savory finish.

Tercero WinesLarry Schaffer (left) always seems to be going for the title of “Hardest-Working Wine Man in the Santa Ynez Valley.”  At every event - and he’s at them all - Schaffer is always pouring.  One more taste for one more potential customer.  It's why my pictures of him always feature one blurry arm.  He pours his reds from huge flasks, which is always an attention-getter.

The Tercero Mourvèdre rosé is “foot-stomped, with only an hour of skin contact,” he says. Great fruit is on display here, with only a slight funkiness.  It’s the funky part that makes this another of my favorite rosés.  Tercero's Grenache Blanc has a bold savory note and great acidity.  The Tercero Roussanne shows complex aromas and flavors, led by almonds and apricots.

Paso Robles producer Summerwood Winery makes a Grenache Blanc which is fermented half in concrete and half in neutral oak.  It's great nose has bushel baskets of peaches and a fabulous savory component on the palate.  The grapes were grown at an elevation of 1,800 feet, and the cool nights makes for wonderful acidity.  It's a really beautiful wine.

Pomar Junction's Rosé of Syrah has a very deep color, quite like a Spanish Rosado.  It is loaded with fruit and flavor.  The Pomar Junction blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier is a natural choice for the holiday table.  It has great body, yet it's fresh and crisp.  The spicy palate is a treat.

The Kenneth Volk table is the one to which the genuine grape nerds always gravitate. Volk was not present at this event, but his assistant filled in ably, chatting with the tasters about vineyards and clones and proper ph levels.  The Volk Grenache has a very nice, light color.  It looks like it may be trying to slip by as a rosé. Fantastic acidity will make this a hit at the dinner table. An unbelievably savory note gives way to a bright cherry flavor in one of the most dramatic start-to-finish changes I have experienced.  Of the few wines time allowed me to taste, this was my favorite.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finger Lakes Rieslings To Be Celebrated

The group in charge of marketing New York’s Finger Lakes wine region - the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance - will host a virtual tasting event on Twitter this month.  The event - not that they need an excuse, they’ll talk about wine at the drop of a corkscrew - is the launch of the 2013 vintage of Finger Lakes Rieslings. The #FLXRiesling Hour is coming up on Saturday September 27, 2014, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET.

Wine writers are receiving samples and will hop online to tweet up the '13 Rieslings with Finger Lakes winemakers and fans. You can also check in through the Ustream video channel. All of September, by the way, is dedicated to the Finger Lakes Riesling Launch.

To take part, just get a Finger Lakes Riesling or two and jump in with your tasting notes. Even if you don't have a bottle handy, it's a fun way to connect with other Riesling fans. During the event, use the hashtag #FLXWineVT or direct comments to the FLWA at @FLXWine.

The FLWA bills the Finger Lakes as North America's premier cool-climate winegrowing region.  Located in the east-central part of New York, south of Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes AVA is recognized - by most who offer their opinion - as the best source for Rieslings in America.  The slate soil and microclimates near the three main Finger Lakes make for the good growing of Riesling grapes.
Finger Lakes winemakers say that young Finger Lakes Rieslings show lots of fruit, while more complex notes appear over time.  They also noted that wines from cooler vintages age better than those of warm vintages.
Minerals and citrus are the hallmark notes of Finger Lakes Riesling wines, which can range from very dry to very sweet.  How do you know which are which?  Sometimes, the label will explain the sweetness level in the wine’s name.  There is some help for the consumer, though, when that doesn’t happen.
The International Riesling Foundation has created a "Riesling Taste Profile," which appears on the label of all Finger Lakes Rieslings.  It’s a drawing of a meter, showing the sweetness level of the wine.  It is a concept which might well be adopted by makers of Syrah wines, since that grape shows quite differently from cool and warm climate designations.  It’s a great way to help consumers know what to expect in the bottle.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Behind-The-Scenes Grape Gets Spotlight

If you have more than a casual relationship with wines made from the Cinsault grape, you may already be a grape geek.  On the other purple-stained hand, you may enjoy Cinsault all the time without even knowing it.  It is a grape often blended with other, more famous grapes.  Cinsault will never win a wine Oscar for best grape, but it'll clean up in the taste editor category.  It's a role player in many rosé wines of Provence, it's in the mix of beaucoup Languedoc-Roussillon blends and it even stands alone in Lodi, California.

You can shake hands with some of the best Cinsault in California this week through social media.  The Wines of Lodi will host another in a series of virtual tasting events, held on video stream as well as Twitter.  The topic will be the stunningly complex, ancient-vine Cinsault wines from the famous Bechthold Vineyard.  The hour-long BrandLive event will occur Wednesday September 24th, at 5pm p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET.

Bechthold Vineyard was planted in 1886 by Joseph Spenker and the 25-acre plot is not only the oldest producing vineyard in Lodi, but also one of the world's oldest Cinsault plantings.  Bechthold is the vineyard where the Cinsault grapes are grown for the following wines, which will be the subjects of the tasting.  I am told they will be tasted in this order during the event:

1. 2013 Michael David Winery Ancient Vine Cinsault ($25)

2. 2013 Turley Wine Cellars Cinsault ($17)

3. 2012 Estate Crush Cinsault ($26)

4. 2011 Onesta Cinsault ($29)

The hosts of the #LodiLive event will be Camron King, the Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, Kevin Phillips, the VP of Operations for Phillips Farms and Michael David Winery, and Adam Mettler, General Manager and head Winemaker at Michael David Winery.

When the time arrives, go online - like you won't already be there - and sign into your Twitter account.  Pull up the livestream a little before show time and get ready to pour, swirl and sip.

Once you click on the link, you’ll see a box on the right hand side that says "Questions from the Audience."  Fill in your name and location and type your Comment or Question - the hosts will be able to view what you say immediately.  The Twitter on/off button is below the comment field.  You are encouraged to Tweet your comments.  You just need to log into your Twitter account on a separate tab or window. If you do not want a comment or question to show up on your Twitter feed, click the button to “off” or just hit submit and comment vs. tweet.

To insure that everyone's comments are in a specific stream, use the hash tag #LodiLive and Twitter handle @Lodi_Wine during the tasting.

Virtual tasting events are a lot of fun to do, and the BrandLive events with the folks from Lodi always get some very active participation.  You'll learn a lot about Lodi, a lot about Bechthold Vineyard and a lot about Cinsault.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Rattle Them Oak Bones With Boneshaker Zinfandel

Boneshaker Zinfandel - the name is taken from the feel of the ride on a wrought iron bicycle - promises no smoothness, no elegance, no finesse.  Basically, it promises to whack you in the head with an oak barrel stave as you ride by, drunk, on your wrought iron bicycle.  If a bicycle shakes my bones, that's one thing.  It's another entirely when a wine does it.  If the ride on a wine is that rough, I'll leave it for the college crowd - I graduated from that class magna cum gahdahm laude, as David Bromberg sang.

An unusual blend, the 2012 Boneshaker is made from Lodi grapes, 88% Zinfandel and and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It retails for $19.

The two things that make the Boneshaker ride so memorable are alcohol and oak.  15% alcohol content is a little more than I usually like in a wine unless it's a Port, and in that case I want a little more.  Boneshaker also spends over a year in French oak barrels, 70% of which are new.  A barrel made of new oak leaves its mark on a wine much more forcefully than does a barrel that has been used before.  The back label encourages us to "Feel It," so here goes.

This deep ruby wine sports a great nose.  Stick your nose into the glass and you get enough black pepper to prompt a sneeze.  Very dark fruit - blackberry, black cherry, plum - is mated with some fairly forceful oak effect that shoves a toasty barrel stave right into your face.  Not that that's a bad thing, if that's what you like.  The palate goes down the same tree-lined path, with big sweet fruit, big sweet oak and big sweet tannins.  Big is the operative word here, and that may actually fall short as a descriptor.

If I say Boneshaker Zinfandel is oaky to a fault, you could say, "Great!" if you like your Zinfandel to sprout acorns.  Of course, you might also say, "Too much oak is a fault!"  To which fans of the wine could respond, "Not if it's on purpose!" or some such witticism.  Hopefully a discourse of this nature won't degrade into a war of "Is too!" and "I know you are but what am I!" and "Mom, he's hitting me with the barrel stave again!"

Despite my predisposition against a wine this oaky, I can't help but admit it was fun to drink.  I think of it as the wine equivalent of eating candy instead carrots - a guilty pleasure.

The nice folks at Hahn Family Wines say Boneshaker is great when paired with a roast porchetta sandwich or Texas style chuck chili, although both of those dishes may be hard to handle while riding a wrought iron bicycle.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Whole Foods Market: Wines Of New Zealand

Whole Foods Market is celebrating wines from New Zealand this fall, and they are taking to social media to alert the wine-loving public.  There are two virtual tasting events set - one on Thursday September 18 and the other on Thursday October 9, 2014.  Both tasting events are scheduled to run from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. CT.

To participate in a virtual tasting event, get the wines at a Whole Foods Market near you, take them home, log onto Twitter and stay ready with the hashtag: #WFMwine.  Using the hashtag in your tweets will channel your comments into the stream with everyone else's.  We always have so much fun that way!  To follow along, set up a search for #WFMwine and save it.  It's very easy to keep in the flow that way.

You can also win a trip to New Zealand in the Whole Foods wine department.  Look here for details on the contest. You have until the end of September to enter for that prize.

Here are the wines which are set to be the topic of both Twitter tastings:

Thursday September 18, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT:

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc
Oyster Bay Chardonnay
Villa Maria The Red Blend

Thursday October 9, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT:        
Sophora Sparkling Cuvée
Kim Crawford Pinot Gris
Grove Mill Pinot Noir

Get your wines, get set and get ready to tweet about what's in your glass.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Riverbench Mesa Pinot Noir 2011

Riverbench Vineyard was established in 1973, and for decades it supplied great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to Santa Barbara County wineries.  In 2004 the winery was born, as the new owners decided to start their own label.  The vineyard is SIP certified, Sustainable In Practice.

2011 was a difficult growing season in the Santa Maria Valley, cooler than usual.  Crop yields were down about 30%, so the normally small batches produced at Riverbench got even smaller. Only 395 cases of the '11 Mesa Pinot were made.

The wine is all Pinot Noir - the Martini clone, if you're scoring at home.  The vines are among the oldest at Riverbench, from a four-acre block called "The Mesa."  Alcohol is pretty restrained, at only 13.7% abv.  This makes for a more elegant wine than is sometimes found in California Pinot.  The retail price is $48.  It is splurge-worthy, and gift-worthy, too.

Clarissa Nagy (pictured) became the Riverbench winemaker after Chuck Ortman retired in 2011.  She is perfect in this role, as she is quite a fan of Santa Maria Valley grapes.

The Mesa Pinot is a very dark wine, especially for Pinot Noir.  The Santa Maria Pinots I have sampled always seem to come on a little darker and a little heavier than other Pinots, especially those from Burgundy.  Acidity is usually quite good in Santa Maria Valley wines, too.

The nose gets down to business right away, and it stays busy.  What are your favorite Pinot smells?  They are here, in abundance.  Blasts of cola, black tea, black cherry and raspberry arise, all clamoring to be smelled first.  The palate offers a similar bounty, with the aroma package copied and pasted into the flavor profile.  Spices add to the taste bud workout, with nutmeg and cinnamon playing a big role.  A great minty note ties the tastes together with a bow on top, delivering them to a holiday table near you.

Great acidity means it's food-friendly, and the flavors are at least as festive as homemade cranberry sauce.  I would love it with roast or rack of lamb.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Still Blazing Hot In L.A.: Italian Rosato Helps Out

A warm September Saturday evening, al fresco at Fabrocini’s Beverly Glen, one last rosé before the memory of summer slips away.  Aaah.

Wait a minute, who am I kidding?  It’s early September in Los Angeles.  The really hot weather hasn’t even gotten here yet.  October’s Santa Ana winds and brushfire hell still awaits.  Screw it.  I’ll have the rosé anyway.

Acquagiusta Rosato 2012 is made completely from Alicante grapes, harvested in the Levante Vineyard on the La Badiola estate right in the center of the Acquagiusta Farm in Maremma.  Alicante is also known as Garnacha Tintorea in Spain.  The farm is a 19th-century land management project initiated by the Grand Duke of Tuscany.  With a title like that, one might be expected to do a lot, but could also probably get away with doing very little.  I like to think this particular Grand Duke was a beehive of grand activity.  He was at least smart enough to name the farm after the underground spring located beneath his property.

The grapes of Levante Vineyard are described on the website as vigorous, rigorous and salubrious - descriptive in the peculiar way only a digitally translated text can be.  Alicante grapes are red through and through - not just in the skins - and this rosé is the result of an attempt to make a white wine with them.  They are gently and quickly pressed to minimize color extraction.

The effort to minimize the color leaves the wine a pale salmon tint.  The color may be minimized, but the smells are not.  Big strawberry and melon fruit aromas come forward, along with some of the green stems on which they grew.  There is a beautiful and refreshing acidity which joins the great fruit flavor - light and a bit tart, with a touch of watermelon candy.  The wine feels quite full in the mouth, owing to the vigorous, rigorous, salubrious nature of the Alicante grape.

It goes well with my penne and mushroom marinara.  So well, I’ll keep it mind for that late summer L.A. weather yet to come.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Argentine Cabernet Value From Rutini

There have been some news accounts lately that the current inflation problem in Argentina may cause the great South American values from that country to dry up, while a British importer of Argentine wine says "the market is finally catching up with reality."

The importer is quoted in as saying that he feels Argentine wine producers should survive relatively unscathed, but the potential for difficulties in other areas persist.  “Strike action and domestic unrest are a very real possibility and logistics in Argentina are a constant headache," he notes.

All that will be determined in time, but there are still great values from Argentina.

The Rutini Trumpeter Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cab.  The wine underwent 100% malolactic fermentation, while aging occurred over nine months in French oak barrels - half of which were new and half of which were neutral.  The retail price is only $11 per bottle.

Inky dark, the wine gives a nose which places vanilla notes up against currant and red berries.  The palate shows toasty oak spices draped across the bright fruit and acidity.  Tannins are smooth, but not silky, and a hint of eucalyptus drifts by on the finish.  A delightful sense of minerals is present from the beginning to the end.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Smog City Hoptonic India Pale Ale

When you have an India Pale Ale, do you wonder where it got its name?  There is never anything pale about an IPA’s appearance.  Sit one next to a Budweiser, and it is obvious which of the two has the yellowy tint which prompted Firesign Theater to produce the fake ad for Bear Whiz Beer.  “It’s in the water!”

What is in the water with India Pale Ale is hops.  Plenty of hops.  Hops are flowers which are used in brewing to add a bitter offset to the sweetness of malt.  They also help in preserving beer.  I have always heard that the first India Pale Ale was made because spoilage was a problem on the long ocean voyage from England to India.  It appears that’s not actually correct, if I am to believe Wikipedia.  That source says the highly hopped beer became a favorite in India because of the taste and was given the name due to that popularity.

Wikipedia also offers a listing of the kinds of hops used in American craft IPAs today: “...distinctively American hops, such as Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Columbus, Chinook, Simcoe, Amarillo, Tomahawk, Warrior, and Nugget.”  Hop nerds must be the beer world’s equivalent to the wine world’s grape nerds, especially those grape nerds who actually know - and talk openly about - what clone they are drinking.  It might be fun to ask a bartender, "Is this Cascade or Chinook I'm tasting?"  Of course, the bartender might then decide that it's fun to not wait on you anymore.

Smog City Brewing Company was named, no doubt, after the most iconic element of life in Los Angeles - bad air.  They are located in Torrance, in the South Bay area of Southern California, even though I have never noticed too much smog down that way.  We keep our excess smog in the San Gabriel Valley.  It sits well against the mountains there.

Smog City’s head brewmaster Jonathan Porter - great beer name, right? - presides over the brews, collects awards and works with chefs in L.A. to pair his beers with great food.

Smog City’s Hoptonic IPA goes for $7 a glass at Westside Tavern on Pico.  It was hot that day, and a good IPA is one of my favorite warm-weather refreshers, so I drank it pretty quickly.  I did take time to note the aromas and flavors of citrus and a floral hops element that I love in this style of beer.

Smog City elaborates on Hoptonic a little more, citing “the exceptional flavor and aroma of west coast hops with notes of orange, citrus peel, tropical fruit, guava and floral honey. The lightly toasted caramel malt balances the resinous hop flavors and firm, yet balanced bitterness that make this beer a full bodied hop lovers' paradise.”  I'll try to drink it slower next time.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Twin Syrahs From Different Barrels

A tale of two Syrahs, one of which - the Zaca Mesa Syrah 2010 - I gushed about in a previous post.  Now I turn to the Zaca Mesa 2010 Mesa Reserve Syrah. 

This 100% Syrah is made from Santa Ynez Valley grapes, estate grown in Zaca Mesa Vineyard's Mesa Block, planted in 2004.  Two different clones of Syrah were used - 174 and 383, if you are an inveterate grape nerd.  I would love to be knowledgeable enough to be able to say with a straight face, "I'd like a little more of the 174 and a little less of the 383," but I usually feel fortunate to be able say with conviction that it's either a red or white wine.

I can say that I would like a little more terroir and a little less oak, though.  This baby spent 17 months in French oak, 62% of which was new.  The other ZM 2010 Syrah spent almost as much time -16 months - in French oak, but the new oak was limited to 19% in that one.  It goes to show that a little matters a lot.

2010 being a cool vintage in the SYV, there is a good bit of spice and acidity.  Despite that, the wine is fruity enough to masquerade as a warm-climate Syrah.  It hits only 13.7% abv on the alcohol meter, 878 cases were produced and it retails for $48 per bottle.

The dark wine has aroma to burn.  Blackberry fruit plays large, while a hefty whiff of alcohol gets out right behind it.  Fans of the funk will love a tar note that grows each night the bottle is open.  As for flavors, what you smell is what you get.  Big, blackberry fruit dominates the palate, but a savory sensation does creep in a bit over time.  Every one of those 17 months in oak is present here, so be prepared for plenty of wood.  The tannins provide plenty to chew on, while the acidity is juicy.  Grab a steak and throw it near fire for a few minutes.  You are now prepared to pair.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Celebrity Wine: Fergie And Dad Make Wine

Ferguson Crest is a six-acre estate winery in the quaint town of Solvang, California.  That’s in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, where a lot of good wine is made.  Vintner Pat Ferguson and his daughter, Fergie Duhamel, founded the winery in 2006.  Pardon me if I divert from standard journalistic style and refer to Duhamel using the name by which she is more well-known: Fergie.

She has had quite a life so far.  The girl from Hacienda Heights was, according to Wikipedia, a cheerleader, straight-A student, spelling bee champion, and a Girl Scout.  She acted and did voiceover, then took to the stage as a singer, achieving huge fame with the Black Eyed Peas and as a solo artist.  She even has a line of perfume.  And now, with her dad, she’s in the wine business.

Besides having a strong affection for Fergie’s work, I love her for exempting me from sniffing at her “celebrity wine.”  She seems to have a genuine interest in wine, no doubt through her father’s love of it.  The publicity sheet tells me that Ferguson always had a keen interest in learning about different grape varieties and how terroir and climate affected the resulting wine.  He would hold blind wine tasting competitions at his dinner parties for family and friends, the perfect litmus test for determining one’s grape nerd status.  Anyway, I think it’s great when a rich, young celebrity helps dad realize a dream.

Winemaker and Syrah specialist Joey Tensley was brought on board in 2009 and gives his award-winning touch to the estate Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, and “Fergalicious,” a red blend of Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The boutique winery turns out limited-production wines - their 2012 Viognier amounted to only 210 cases.  It’s a 100% varietal wine that hits 14.5% abv on the alcohol scale and rings up at $27.50 on the cash register.  No new oak was used in aging and the grapes were whole cluster pressed.

My first impression: "Damn, this is good Viognier."  I know a little Viognier "never killed nobody," but this is "Beautiful Dangerous."  Tinted gold in the glass, it's a great looking wine.  The nose gives forth some nice pear, apple and honeysuckle scents, with a little herbal essence sneaking up, late in the sniff.  But wait, as they say on the two-minute-long commercials.  There's more.  The taste is truly amazing, and I don't often say that - or even think that - about Viognier.  Super-ripe peaches, nectarines and pears are offset by a wonderful green note.  It's "Glamorous," not "Clumsy."  It's a big wine, and not just due to a substantial alcohol content.  It feels big in the mouth and drinks big going down, with plenty of acidity.  If you are "not a white wine person," you should try this one.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Lodi Native Zinfandel: Macchia Wines

There is a new collective of Zinfandel producers in Lodi - Lodi Native.  The six winemakers involved have banded together to bottle some single-vineyard Zins under their collaborative banner.  Lodi Native wines are available for purchase in six-bottle cases only, each consisting of all six different single-vineyard bottlings.

The mission of Lodi Native is to accent Lodi’s heritage plantings, many of which date back to the late 1800s.  They do this through sensible viticulture and minimalist winemaking practices.  Native yeast fermentation and the lack of new oak help put the focus on Zinfandel’s terroir - on the taste of vineyards rather than varietal character or brand.

The group’s mission is to show the world "that distinguished, distinctly identifiable vineyards exist in Lodi, similar to other great wine regions of the world."  They also want to preserve old-vine plantings and celebrate the agricultural heritage of Lodi.

You can find out more about the specific wines here:

2012 Fields Family Century Block Vineyard
2012 m2 Soucie Vineyard
2012 Maley Brothers Wegat Vineyard
2012 McCay Cellars Trulux Vineyard
2012 St.Amant Marian's Vineyard

Today, we are covering the 2012 Macchia Noma Vineyard Lodi Native Zinfandel.

The Macchia Wines Noma Ranch Zinfandel is made by Macchia's winemaker, Tim Holdener.  The grapes are brought to fruition by grower, Leland Noma.

Noma's namesake vineyard is a 15-acre plot of small, old Zinfandel vines.  Noma Vineyard dates back to the early 1900s, which actually makes those vines middle aged by Lodi standards.  The land - on the east side of the Mokelumne River - is completely dry-farmed, producing tiny clusters of highly concentrated, high-acidity Zinfandel grapes.

Macchia is a small, family owned/operated winery.  Holdener makes no bones about it - he's a Zinfandel man and he shows it by producing nearly a dozen single-vineyard bottlings.  Macchia also sneaks around behind the Zinfandel banner to make some fine Cal-Italian wines - Sangiovese, Barbera, and Nebbiolo.

This Lodi Native Zin is medium-dark purple in the glass, as well as on my shirt when I sloshed a bit while swirling.  After blotting up the floor around me, I smelled and received a nose full of peppery raspberry and black cherry.  The black pepper comes through like gangbusters.  The palate shows why Zinfandel reminds me of the Old West.  The black cherry carries so much dust you could hold a rodeo in it.  The pepper is so big it needs a ten-gallon hat.  And the sagebrush - well, podnah, that's real sagebrush in them thar bottles.  The fruit plays large, of course, and the cherry/raspberry flavor carries a dark note of brambly tar.  The alcohol doesn't seem to be as high as listed - 15.8% abv.

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