Monday, February 29, 2016

Chilean Wine: Make It A Ritual

Fans of wine and social media got another chance to convene over a few sips with virtual friends when Charles Communications Associates held their first Brandlive event of 2016 with Huneeus Vintners and Ritual Wines, featuring Ritual's 2015 releases from Chile’s Casablanca Valley.

Winemaker Rodrigo Soto guided us through the following wines with the help of CCA founder and co-host Kimberly Charles: 2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc ($18), 2015 Ritual Chardonnay ($20) and 2015 Ritual Pinot Noir ($20).

The proceedings are archived at hashtag #RitualLive on Twitter or see the video here.

Ritual is the Huneeus family’s original, flagship estate on the extreme eastern edge of the Casablanca Valley in Chile. The 800-acre property is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Chilean Coastal Range, and surrounded by 6,000 acres of protected, native forest. Suddenly, I'm ready for a vacation.

Soto works closely with superstar consultant Paul Hobbs and the renowned terroir specialist, Pedro Parra. Soto’s philosophy behind biodynamic & composting: "One must die to let the next generation live." I might have been a lot more receptive to that philosophy in my younger days, but I get that he’s talking about vines. Right?

During the virtual tasting event Soto said, "We believe in letting the vines connect with their environment over time, this is the art of crafting exceptional wine." Soto’s mentor said of him that when it comes to organic winemaking, "The student has become the master." Soto is in the process of converting all of Ritual’s vineyards to organic farming.

The Wines

The online tasters had nothing but good things to say about Ritual’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. Soto said he likes the freshness of the wine, but he made it to age. It was vinified in 30% neutral oak, 30% concrete eggs and 40% steel tanks. The egg portion complements the other aspects and lends a little more texture to the finished wine. Alcohol hits 14% abv and it sells in most places for around $15.

The wine has a fresh, grassy nose with citrus notes of grapefruit and a sense of wet rocks. On the palate, great acidity jumps right out at me, very fresh and bracing. Grapefruit, orange peel and lemon flavors get attention first, but the minerals get out front quickly. A nice, long finish is sorely missed when it finally goes away.

Soto commented during the virtual event that, "Chardonnay, for us, has been a challenge." He thinks overly sweet and round chardonnay masks its sense of place, so he works hard to keep a balance.

The Ritual 2015 Chardonnay is another cool-climate Casablanca Valley wonder, vinified 20% in a concrete egg and the rest neutral oak. Comments online ran along the lines of, "brisk acidity," "stunning," "a must have for all Chardonnay lovers!" and other such praise. In addition, it costs less than $20. Again, 14% abv.

This is a straw-colored wine with a nice tropical nose showing a hint of lime. Its palate is quite tasty, with lots of citrus minerality and just a shade of oak. Meyer lemon note is beautiful. The acidity is excellent and the mouthfeel is full. A lengthy finish makes the pleasure last.

Of the Ritual 2015 Pinot Noir, one participant in the tasting event remarked that "this Pinot is stunning me. I never enjoyed Chilean Pinot because it suffered from being too green." Not this time.

The wine is 100% open top fermented, with barrel aging in 30% new French oak for 11 months. Alcohol comes in at 14%.  It retails for under $20, far under at some online sites. It’s a true steal. Soto believes that Pinot Noir is a variety that can thrive in Chile, and the tasters think he’s right.  The wine got monster raves from the online crowd.

It gets high marks from me, too. The nose shows some funk right away, and notes of coffee grounds and tea leaves surface soon after. The palate is a walk on the dark side - none of that pretty little raspberry stuff here. The black raspberry element is carried along by a wave of savory forest floor, going under for a bit but surfacing nicely on the finish. Although there is enough tannic grip for pairing with meat, it has the mouthfeel of a sipping wine. It’s full and wild and raw, but it knows its role and plays it well.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Bonny Doon Pushes Syrah Value

Bonny Doon’s chief, Randall Grahm, sums up his career in one paragraph, quite a feat for a guy who seemingly has never summed up anything in one paragraph. "Like Columbus who sought a trade route to Asia, Randall Grahm set sail in 1979 for the Great American Pinot Noir," it says, continuing in more Grahmesque prose, "foundered on the shoals of astringency and finesselessness and ended up running aground in the utterly unexpected New World of Rhône and Italian grape varieties." He left finesselessness behind long ago, and who needed a new trade route to China anyway.

Grapes for the '13 Le Pousseur pushes together grapes from some great sites - 63% Bien Nacido, 34% Alamo Creek and 3% Ventana vineyards. This represents a lot more Bien Nacido than the 2012 edition, which is always good with me. Grahm says the vineyard "imparts a distinctive smoked meat/ bacon fat aspect, characteristic of the Syrah from that cool climate vineyard, even in a slightly warmer vintage." The wine clocks a reasonable 13.5% abv and retails for an even more reasonable $26.

Le Pousseur is made in Grahm's custom, a minimal-intervention, hands-off style. What you taste here are the grapes and the dirt. Plenty of dirt.

As is usual with Grahm’s wines, savory hits first, and hardest. With almost two-thirds of the grapes from the great Bien Nacido Vineyard, one might expect a dark and savory nature in this wine. Grahm, however, seems to wring more of those qualities from that great soil than other winemakers. The nose is Rhônishly funky. Meat? Don't be a jerky. Forest floor? Scrape some off your shoe. Santa Maria Valley dirt? In spades. The palate allows for more black and blue berries to show, but that darkness permeates the flavors, too. Meat, spice and cigars all come to mind. The minerality of this wine is apparent in every whiff and sip.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

From The Island Of Madeira

Recently my wife was in a writing project - well, she’s still in it - that caused her to ask me about Madeira wines. I told her all I knew, that Madeira was the most prestigious wine for 18th and 19th century Americans, including most of our early presidents, especially Thomas Jefferson. A little research was required.

I hope you are not thinking, "Oh, those poor colonists! No Napa Cabernet to drink? Just something from an island off the coast of Africa?" Those poor colonists were drinking some of the best wine you’ll ever taste.

Rare Wine Co sells a great line of Madeira wines. They worked with Vinhos Barbeito on the Historic Madeira Series to produce a line of Madeira wines, each named after the various seaports into which Madeira was shipped back in the day. The company says that Vinhos Barbeito has "one of the great libraries of 19th century Madeiras," so how can you go wrong?

New York Malmsey "celebrates the rich, luscious Malmseys that affluent New Yorkers prized from the colonial period until after civil war," says the label. On the label, by the way, is a neat drawing of Booth’s Theatre, built in 1868 by Edwin Booth, the era’s most celebrated actor in New York. It might make a nice gift for an aspiring thespian on your gift list.

Malmsey is made from Malvasia grapes, mainly. It's a sweet dessert wine, fortified, and started out in Greece. On the Portuguese island of Madeira, however, a wine was made for export to faraway places. To keep it from spoiling, it was fortified with neutral grape spirits. On the sea voyage, the wine was subjected to high temperatures and a lot of movement, which turned it into something else altogether, something a lot better than it started out as. The producers on Madeira didn't realize this until an unsold shipment was returned. The wheels started turning, and a new style of wine was born.

Of course, shipping the wine around the world to achieve the desired result was expensive, so they developed a way to simulate the oceanic aging process by raising the temperature where the barrels were stored and moving them around a lot. Voila. Homemade Madeira.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Madeira was the United States most prestigious wine, shipped to connoisseurs in major seaports from New Orleans to Boston. The Historic Madeira Series is the creation of The Rare Wine Co., America's leading merchant of rare, old Madeiras, working with Vinhos Barbeito, which possesses one of the great libraries of legendary 19th century Madeiras. Each wine in the series represents a style of Madeira popular in an early American city. New York Malmsey celebrates the rich, luscious Malmseys that affluent New Yorkers prized, from the colonial period until after the Civil War.

This New York Malmsey is made from 85% Malvasia grapes from the Arco de São Jorge Vineyard and 15% Tinta Negra from the Estreito de Câmara de Lobos Vineyard. According to the winemaker's technical sheet, the grapes were pressed in a pneumatic press and fermentation was stopped at the desired degree of sweetness by adding vinic alcohol. This wine was aged in French oak casks in the traditional "Canteiro" method, in which the barrels are stored on the roof to expose them to the sun. It hits 19% abv and retails for $50.

My first note on the Rare Wine Company New York Malmsey was, “Oh, the nose!” That is still what I think every time I have some. The amber color looks a lot like whiskey, and the nose is all raisins, burnt caramel and brown sugar. Those appear on the palate, too, but in a very dry form - not what the nose seems to promise. The mouth is full and the finish is very long.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Wine Country Texas: Spicewood Tempranillo

Edward and Madeleine Manigold are proud of their Spicewood Vineyards wines, proud of their awards and proud to be Texan, dammit. And who wouldn’t be? They founded the family-owned estate in the early ‘90s

Spicewood, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country, northwest of Austin a bit, near the Colorado River and out around Lake Buchanan. You know, out by Burnet and Marble Falls. Ya cain’t miss ‘em. They won an award with their very first wine and never looked back.

This 2012 Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo is made 92% from that Iberian variety and 8% is Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is aged 12 months in French oak barrels, only 30% of which are new. It sells for $24, and it was provided to me for the purpose of review.

You can get the Spicewood wines at the tasting room, from fine Texas stores and restaurants or online, but they only ship within the Lone Star State.

This wine is deep ruby in color with just a little light getting through the glass. The nose is pretty and flowery and fruity at first, but Mr. Savory sneaks in after it opens up a bit. Right at the top of the glass are smoky, leathery spices and earth. The palate is full of black and blue berries with a layer of minerals over them. The earthy component lasts well into the finish.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Greek Wine: Mylonas Savatiano

Mylonas Winery is in Attica, near Greece’s southeastern coast. Founded nearly a hundred years ago, they are still a small, family-owned winery. The soils of their vineyards are mostly sandy clay over limestone with some schist and some gravelly sites, as well.  The area is virtually surrounded by sea, with mild winters and cool summers. The Meltemi wind - persistent and dry from the north - and the sea breeze dominate their part of Greece in the summer, keeping temperatures moderate.

Their Savatiano 2013  was $10 by the glass at Terroni. The wine list recommended trying it to help out the Greek economy, but it’s more than a charity case. As a side note, if you want to learn more about different wine grapes, check the wine list in restaurants for anything you don’t recognize and order it. I've never been disappointed in the results.

I have a scant familiarity with Greek grapes, so I was eager to try the Savatiano. It is reportedly the most widely planted Greek variety and has been used in the traditional production of Retsina. They also blend it often with the Assyrtiko and Roditis grapes.

The nose sports fennel and seashore, with citrus notes. It smells a little like Vermentino. On the palate, minerals and lemon lead the way. The acidity is somewhat muted but there’s a great, lengthy finish.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sicilian Wine: Mandrarossa Nero D'Avola

Imported by Palm Bay International, they have this to say about Cantine Settesoli, the winery founded in 1959: "Located in the historic town of Menfi, in the southwest corner of this idyllic Mediterranean island, MandraRossa was guided into modern times by the father of contemporary Sicilian wine, Diego Planeta. Diego led the company for 38 years from 1973 to 2011. MandraRossa is part of Sicily’s largest wine producer and co-operative formed by 2,000 members."

Their wine made of 100% Nero d’Avola grapes kicks in at 13.5% abv and 30% of it is aged for six months in barriques with another three months in the bottle before release.

This deep ruby wine smells great. Big, dark plums are the main feature but the supporting players come through quickly  A leathery note leads to fennel, leads to allspice, leads to a box of cigars. The savory aspects of the nose almost make me forget how large the fruit is. Plums and blackberries mark the flavor profile well. It’s a fruit-forward wine that tries to act like it’s not, with shades of coffee, tea and pepper slipping through. Pair it with pecorino cheese, pork or pecans.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

...But A Good Cigarrera Is A Sherry

The Manzanilla La Cigarrera NV is, obviously, a Manzanilla - a type of sherry - made from 100% Palomino fino grapes from the Jerez-Sherry & Sanlucar de Barrameda regions in Spain. The grapes were softly pressed and allowed to ferment completely, then the juice was fortified.

 Aging took place over four years in American oak casks using the Soleras and Criaderas systems and under the velo de flor - the protective layer of yeast - which prevents wine oxidation.  The Bodega is located in Sanlúcar de Barramed, which has unique microclimates allowing the flor to blossom with its trademark ocean salinity. The town is the only place Manzanilla can be produced. I had mine at Vintage Enoteca, $10 by the glass. It was served from a 375 ml bottle.

The wine’s nose is vibrant and fresh with nutty aromas of yeast and salinity. A raisiny note adds counterpoint. On the palate it is rich and substantial. It’s very, very dry and has quite a long finish. Try it as an aperitif, with tapas, a Spanish ham sandwich, olives or some almonds and other dried nuts.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Santa Ynez Valley Wine: Gainey Vineyard

Dan Gainey runs the wine business that was started by his father, grown grapes on land first farmed by his grandfather.  The Gainey Vineyard operation is located at their Home Ranch Vineyard in the eastern part of the Santa Ynez Valley.  They also farm the Evans Ranch and Rancho Esperanza vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.

The Gainey land is farmed sustainably, using cover crops, compost, natural soil conditioning while eschewing pesticides and herbicides to protect their workers and the ground water.  Gainey winemaker Jeff Lebard and director of winemaking John Falcone together have four decades of experience in Napa Valley and the Central Coast.

Looking around the tasting room, it’s pretty and well stocked with wine and other related items. My wife commented on the great restroom, "literally nicest I've seen," she said. They say you can tell everything about a restaurant by the way the restroom looks. Maybe it holds true for tasting rooms, too. One of the more intriguing purchase options I noticed was the Zinfandel garlic salsa. It smells great. There’s plenty of garlic in there.

Once in the cave tasting room, we got down to the good stuff. Eric the pourer told me they are in the process of replacing the vineyards on the estate property. The Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling vines are being replanted.

The Wines

2014 Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc  $19 - About a 30/70 split on steel and barrel fermentation, with seven month of French oak aging. Alcohol is at 14.1% abv. The flavors are clean and fruity and the grapefruit note is soft while the mouth is full.

2013 Limited Selection Chardonnay $38 - This wine uses fruit from Rancho Esperanza and Evan’s Ranch Vineyard, the Santa Ynez winery’s Sta. Rita Hills property. It is nearly fully barrel fermented - only 2% in steel - and aged in French oak for nine months, 25% of which is new oak.  Alcohol hits 14.1% abv, and full malolactic and sur lie fermentation offer this wine a full and creamy feel in the mouth. It’s a big, fat chardonnay with lots of oak. coconut and tropical flavors.

2013 Limited Selection Pinot Noir  $55 - for wine club members only. It is 100% Pinot Noir from the Home Ranch Vineyard. Aged 17 months in 27% new French oak, the alcohol is a lofty 14.1% abv.  Pepper comes across very strongly on the nose, with a palate that is full of rich raspberry and cherry, not too tart. Very fruity, but the tea notes show well and the acidity is very fine.

2013 Limited Selection Syrah  $32 - 72% Home Ranch fruit and 28% Evan's Ranch. 14.1% abv with 16 months in 45% new oak (54% French, 23% American & 23% Hungarian.)  The nose on this one shows the funk for which the Rhône variety is known, stridently.  The palate is full of dark fruit in a savory mineral setting.

2012 Patrick’s Vineyard Selection $60 - 86 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 % Petit Verdot and 2 % Merlot, aged 22 months in 66% New French oak. At 14.5% abv, it’s a powerhouse. The wine is  named for the owner’s son, no doubt destined to take over the winery at some point.  Muted nose, sweet/tart red fruit.

2014 Limited Selection Riesling $15 - This wine sees no oak. It comes in at a moderate 13% abv and is off-dry, with less than 1% residual sugar. The grapes were taken in an early harvest from the Home Ranch vineyard.  The nose shows a nice petrol note while a slightly sweet sensation comes on the palate. The acidity is good, but not overpowering. It’s a great sipper, and would hit it off nicely with a salad.

After the wine tasting, we crossed Highway 246 for a stop at the Vineyard House for lunch, in the cute and rustic downtown area of Santa Ynez. It had come highly recommended by a friend, so we had to try. They have a great outdoor seating area, but plenty of room indoors if the weather’s not nice. My chicken and brie sandwich was fabulous. The venison chile verde was a little soupier than I had hoped it would be, but the tomato soup is delicious, even if it was served a little less than piping hot.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Santa Ynez Valley Wine: Vincent Vineyards

Homespun and genuine often travel together. Vincent Vineyards displays the best of both qualities. Located in Santa Ynez, just off Highway 154 near Los Olivos, the Vincent tasting room offers a very real and homey experience. I never felt that I was being “sold” on anything.

I spoke with owner Tony Vincent just before the tasting room’s closing time. Actually, it was just after closing, and the staff quietly held their car keys in hand while the boss talked to some dude from L.A. One of them plied my wife with chocolates while we talked. Boy, did they find her weak spot.

Vincent told me excitedly about his exploration of social media. "A bunch of people from Philadelphia were in here earlier today," he said. "You know how they found out about us?" No, how? "Yelp!" He was astounded. Better get with it, Tony. Social media is how I ended up there.

The Vincent winemaker Raxie Ward produces all estate wines, although they do offer some sparklers produced in northern California. They are doing wine and chocolate pairings for Valentine’s month, so you might want take your sweetie there. If your sweetie doesn’t like wine or chocolate, I can't help you. Better luck next Valentine’s Day.

The eastern Santa Ynez valley terroir often shows a distinctive earthy quality, lacing the bright red fruit. That trend holds true at Vincent.

2013 Sauvignon Blanc  $35 - Very fresh, slightly herbal, nice acidity.

2012 Sauvignon Blanc  $31 - 30% New oak lends a nice soft mouthfeel to this one. Grapefruit and melon join tropical fruit for a soft and creamy sip.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc  $24  Very similar to the 2012.

2012 Cabernet Franc  $55 - 100% Cabernet Franc, this wine is a nice light purple color. A perfumed, floral nose leads to spice and red fruit on palate. The mouthfeel is soft, so it’s great for sipping. An uncomplicated quaff, and a little light on the finish, it's a good entry-level wine.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon  $65 - 3% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot are in the blend. It’s soft, sweet and approachable, also a great entry level offering.

2010 Syrah  $48  - 100% Syrah, with the funky, dark fruit palate I look for in that grape.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon - The wine’s first vintage.  62% cab, 25% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. An earthy angle to the bright red fruit and a moderate finish.

2010 Cuvee V  $90 - The same percentages as the Cab, with more tannins and bright red fruit.
2010 Petit Verdot  $39 - this wine is extremely dry and quite complex, certainly the biggest wine on the list. It’s brawny, so get a steak ready for it. You don't want it to get angry.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Charity Wine: Heroic Red, Valiant White

I’m not usually a fan “charity wines” that promise to donate money to a cause. No matter how good the cause, the wine doesn’t typically measure up. In this case, I don’t really care about the taste of it so much as the cause.

Heroic Red and Valiant White wines are distributed by Leer Vineyards in Byron, CA.  Leer Vineyards is nestled in East Contra Costa County in the town of Byron, complete with stunning views of Mount Diablo.

Currently, owner Stefan Leer and his family are working with winemakers in the Lodi area to crush, barrel and bottle their current offerings.

The charity part comes in when $1.50 for each bottle of Heroic Red or Valiant White sold goes to help purchase a mortgage and tax free home for a wounded warrior. They’ve already presented four houses to soldiers in 2015.  See them here: homes4woundedheroes

The Leer wines are available at walmart stores in Texas and select locations in California, or online.

Heroic Red contains 58% Syrah, 29% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a perfectly funky, earthy nose full of black fruit, espresso and bitter chocolate. The palate also shows earth and dark fruit and has a funky undercurrent running through it, which is entirely enjoyable. The tannic structure is rather weak, though, leaving it somewhat limp and flaccid.

Valiant White shows a sweetly floral nose of honeysuckle and pear juice, with just a trace of earthiness. On the palate, it’s more sweet fruit - peaches, pears, nectarines - and the hint of earth. The husky mineral note keeps it from being a one-dimensional wine, which is how I usually find Moscatos.

This one has a bit of acidity, so pairing with a salad would be alright, although it seems made for sipping.  You might want to try having it with a spicy dish, since the sweetness will play a good counterpoint to a spicy shrimp or Thai dish. Bleu cheese is also a good bet.

Cofféy is the official spokesman for Heroic Red and Valiant White.  His song, "Mr. Red, White and Blue" has been viewed some 4 million times on YouTube.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Wine Country: Oregon

Earl Jones grew up in a farming family, and when he was of age he couldn’t wait to turn in his tractor keys for good. But in college, he discovered fine wine and the culture surrounding it. Later, when he met his wife-to-be, Hilda, they shared that interest.

When Mr. and Mrs. Jones moved from the Gulf Coast to Oregon 20 years ago, It was for the purpose of planting vines and making wines.  They wondered why the Tempranillo grape was so widely ignored in American vineyards. A lot of research and a trip to Spain led to the selection of that Iberian grape as the one that would carry the Abacela name.

The research showed them that Tempranillo likes “a short growing season with a cool spring and hot, dry summer cut short by autumn.” The Umpqua Valley site matched that criteria, plus it offered distinct microclimates from one part of the land to another. It wasn’t long before they packed their trailer, hung an "Oregon of Bust" sign on the back and hit the road.

What’s in the name? It’s a third-person conjugation of the archaic verb abacelar, which meant "to plant grape vines." That could hardly have been more perfect.

Besides Tempranillo, the Joneses also grow Syrah, Grenache, Malbec, Alabriño and Tannat along with five Portuguese varieties which they use to create a dessert wine patterned after tawny Port.

The Abacela wines have been lauded for quality and awarded for taste. Last year, the Joneses were given the Oregon Wine Industry's highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. They are only the tenth recipients of that honor.

This barrel-select wine was crafted by winemaker Andrew Wenzl. The grapes came from the esttate’s Fault Line vineyard.  French oak was used for about two years of aging, less than half of it new. Alcohol tips 14.8% abv. The wine retails for $32.

This wine is inky dark, and that’s no exaggeration. It actually looks like indigo ink. No light gets through at all. It’s the black hole of Tempranillo. One sniff demonstrates that darkness to my olfactory sense. There is major dark fruit, like black plums, blackberries, what’s darker than blackberries? Whatever it is, it’s in there, too. Shovel in a little dirt and light a campfire and you have the savory side figured out. The palate is fruitier than I expected, but don’t get the wrong idea. I just mean it isn’t completely given over to minerals and spices. That dark fruit is there, but it’s in a battle with the savory notes. Tannic structure is amazing - even after it’s open for three days. Bring on the red meat. This wine will not be tamed.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Paso Cabs: Not Eastside Or Westside - Broadside

There was a recent virtual tasting event dedicated to a few new vintages of the Broadside line, and those who participated through social media were impressed. The Broadside wines tasted and discussed:

Broadside Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2014 ($20)
Broadside Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($18)
Broadside Margarita Vineyard Merlot 2013 ($22)
Broadside Margarita Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($25)

Broadside Wine is actually Paso power couple, Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi, who hosted the virtual tasting event. Brian is the minimalist winemaker focusing on varietal purity and vineyard expression. Stephanie is the viticulturalist waving the banner for bio-organic viticulture in Paso Robles. Jon Bonné writes that she "has become the area’s great alternative vineyardist." When she is not busy with her Broadside work, she wins over Paso grape growers to the side of organic and sustainable farming and certifications.

Broadside Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This wine is put together using Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Half of them were harvested from Margarita Vineyard and half from two other sustainably farmed vineyards. The selection of fruit is great - Margarita Vineyard has some of the best terroir in California - and the alcohol comes very restrained at 13.9% abv.  The real surprise is the retail price - $16. That is a great price point for a wine that hits so very well on the palate, as this one does.

Inky indigo, the wine has a beautiful nose of cassis and blueberry. Cedar, leather and pipe tobacco play large supporting roles. The fruit is as dark on the palate as it is on the nose. A sense of forest floor comes through as well, darkening things further. Just a shade of graphite shows up. The wine reminds me more of the Rhône than of Bordeaux.

Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon Margarita Vineyard 2013

Margarita Vineyard is located as far south in the Paso Robles AVA as one can get. The vineyard is on an uplifted ancient seabed full of granitic shale and oyster shells. It has more terroir going for it than than most places do. It is the estate vineyard for Ancient Peaks Winery, which I toured about five years ago.

The grapes from the sustainably farmed vineyard are 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot  The French oak in which the wine was aged was nearly all neutral, only three percent of the barrels were new. Alcohol hits 14.2% abv and the wine retails for $25.

This single-vineyard Paso Cab puts forth the distinctive terroir of Margarita Vineyard quite well. A focused fruit-and-mineral balance on the nose shows the effect of the uplifted seabed while cigar box, leather and smoke exemplify the two years of oak. The palate is suitably dark for the serious tannic structure it accompanies. Cassis, plum, licorice and a long, fine finish are a delight. Well worth the money. Well worth much more.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Calistoga Tempranillo - Spanish Grape, Napa Price

Clay and Brenda Cockerell are newcomers to winemaking, having settled in Calistoga in 2005 . The Coquerel Family Wine Estate sits near the Mayacamas Mountains, just north of Calistoga in the Napa Valley. Their plot, Walnut Wash Vineyard, bears Sauvignon Blanc grapes for their flagship wines as well as Tempranillo for this one.

Coquerel Winemaker Christine Barbe, a product of Bordeaux, herself,  made 74 cases of this wine, which is aged in neutral oak for 20 months and registers 14% abv. The wine retails for $42.

For a wine with such a highly concentrated hue, the Coquerel Calistoga Tempranillo 2011 has a rather faint set of aromas. Blackberry comes forward, timidly. Nice to get a whiff of smoke at the top of the glass. The black fruit is large on the palate and a strong sense of earth and minerals, is present. It's a savory quaff, with oak spice on that minerality. It’s a good wine, very good, but at twice the price of an excellent Rioja it can hardly be considered a deal.

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