Friday, December 29, 2017

Beautiful Napa Cab From Historic Vineyard

The Inglenook vineyards began in 1879, when a Finnish sea captain decided to make a European-class wine estate in landlocked Rutherford, California.  His nephew inherited the place after it had already been noticed by the rest of the wine world.  Film director and writer Francis Ford Coppola, along with his wife Eleanor, bought Inglenook and moved there in the 1970s.  According to the Inglenook website, they "have spent forty years reuniting the original vineyards, returning winemaking operations to the chateau, and restoring Inglenook's illustrious heritage."  Coppola works with wine consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and Managing Director and Winemaker Philippe Bascaules to create wines, now under the original trademark of Inglenook.  The six-time Oscar winner has been making wine for nearly as long as he’s been making movies.  He’s been quite successful at both, and reportedly used the profits from "The Godfather" to buy the Inglenook property.

This wine is from the Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley, made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot, grown in the Cohn, Red Barn and Chateau vineyards.  It was aged in 90% French oak barrels, more than a third of which was new oak.  Alcohol hits the typical 14.5% abv mark, while the wine retails for a hundred bucks.

The winemaker describes the 2012 vintage like this: "...one of the best vintages in recent history because of near perfect climate conditions. The entire season was marked by moderate temperatures, which lasted through September and October. Having no heat spikes or rain to contend with in the fall allowed the fruit to hang on the vines longer, giving the grapes better concentration and ripeness as well as more textural dimension and flavor complexity."

This dark wine bursts with rich cassis, vanilla and tobacco notes on the nose.  Black fruit flavors are met with minerals and spice and the tannins are a step away from youthful, vibrant yet showing a soft side.  The Cabernet Franc shows up wonderfully spicy with a green note in tow, while the Merlot even sneaks in a whiff of smoke.  It's a pleasure from sniff to swallow, and the lengthy finish reminds one to go back for another sip. 


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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sabering Champagne

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mom-In-Law Comes Through With Choice Stout

Old jokes about mothers-in-law don't apply here.  My wife's mom loads me up with booze at Christmas, for which I am grateful.  There were two nice bottles, one of gin and another of vodka, and she knew I liked craft beer so she threw one of those into the stocking.  It was an imperial stout that she probably picked up at random.

Or not. A true Las Vegas resident, Verna loves the trappings of Sin City, and a beer called Sin Tax surely beckoned her.

Handcrafted in Vista, California, north of San Diego and east of Oceanside, this beer comes from a great area for the craft style.  When I lived in San Diego decades ago, there weren't so many options, but what was there was choice.  Today, you can hardly miss with a San Diego County bottle or can.

Mother Earth Brew Company makes the Sin Tax Imperial Stout with "premium British crystal and roasted malts melded with a Maris Otter base and American hops."  It's dry at 8.1% abv and they call their flavor-laden creation a "guilty pleasure."  "Don’t let it fool you," they say.  "This is an imperial stout first and foremost.  The peanut butter is simply featured to augment what is already there…a fantastic example of a legendary beer style."

This crazy brew has a nose that knocked me down.  Shades of blackstrap molasses hit first, then brown sugar, then caramel, then coffee.  Talk about aromatic and expressive, this is it.  The medium mouthfeel isn't creamy, but almost - it's smooth and gentle.  Flavors of espresso, Mexican chocolate and cocoa beans fill the flavor profile with dessert ideas.  I had one large bottle, and it satisfied both my sweet tooth and my taste for beer.


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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

We at Now And Zin Wine are taking a couple of days off to open all those gifts, snack on that stocking full of cashew nuts and dine on that roast beast before the Grinch gets it.

May you and your loved ones enjoy the happiest of holidays, filled with joy, wonder and love.

May you enjoy wine to the fullest in the coming year, finding new wines to love and loving your old favorites even more.

And while we are at it, a very smart man once offered a seasonal comment that bears repeating more now than ever: "A very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year. Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."


Merry Christmas, and cheers!  

From Now And Zin Wine.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Sweet Bordeaux For The Holidays

Sauternes is a Bordeaux appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes.  Sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert, especially over the holidays.  Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses.  Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently put on a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it.

Chateau Lapinesse Bordeaux Sauternes 2014

Chateau Lapinesse is in the Graves section of Bordeaux, but they have a Sauternes property from which they produce this incredible wine.  It's a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc that is sweet, but not too much so.  The alcohol is restrained at 13% abv, and it retails for 40 bucks.

The online tasters couldn't get enough of the Chateau Lapinesse 2014 Sauternes.  One called it "a stunner with exotic fruit and floral notes," while another raved, "HOLY MOLY this Lapinesse is awesome!"  They were actually being somewhat reserved.

This sweet Bordeaux wine carries gentle aromas of apricots and flowers, with a trace of honey in the mix.  The viscous mouthfeel outweighs a perky acidity and flavors of apricot and orange peel are a delightful pair.  The finish is lengthy, but not nearly as lengthy as I wished it to be.  So, have another sip and refresh that feeling.


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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cab-Heavy Sonoma Blend Means Business

Four Ferrari-Carano wines were recently featured in an online virtual tasting session, of which I was invited to be a part.  The presentation was hosted by Chelsea Kurnick of McCue Communications and associate FC winemaker Rebecka Deike.  She handles the winery's red wine program.  She says she started out wanting to be an optometrist, but she saw her focus change to a wine career.

The point of the tasting was to highlight what great wines the selections are for the holiday table.  Their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay both served very well at Thanksgiving, and their Trésor red blend is well-suited for December festivities.

2013 Tresor, Sonoma County

The 2013 Trésor, features the five Bordeaux grapes in a Cab-heavy setting with big flavor and a little more new oak used in aging. Lush, the wine certainly lives up to its name as a "treasure."

The blend of five noble grapes from Bordeaux has 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  The wines are vinified separately in oak barrels, then aged there for 21 months before blending.  Forty-two percent of the oak was new.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and Trésor retails for $55.  If you're into label art, Marco Sassone's work on Trésor is beautiful.

Tresor is a deep ruby wine that lets the Cab come through.  The nose is laden with black and blue berries, cassis, oak spice and some pencil shavings.  The palate is beautifully savory, with a cloak of olives, cigars and coffee grounds comforting the dark fruit.  A little spice and a little smoke from those supporting grapes plays very well.  The finish is lengthy, acidity is perfect and the tannins are medium-strong.  Online tasers liked the idea of pairing Trésor with ribs, lamb, duck or strong cheeses, and so do I.


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Monday, December 18, 2017

Greek Rosé Via Sonoma County

Georgós Zanganas founded Nu Greek Wines of Sonoma after moving to the U.S. and having trouble finding the Greek wines he left behind. He noticed that California wines gave him a headache, while his Greek faves never did.  His solution is in this bottle, and I'm told it sells at Northern California Whole Foods Markets and on restaurant wine lists in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  For the Georgós "Farmer" Ios Aphrodite's Kiss Rosé, Zanangas imports the bulk wine from Greece to Sonoma County, where it is bottled at Deerfield Ranch Winery in Kenwood under the direction of winemaker Robert Rex.

Zanangas says in a publicity Q&A that it's a pretty nifty trick to make wine this way.  "It comes by boat in 1,000-liter and 24,000-liter bladders from Greece," he says.  "Once the wine is harvested in Greece, we get it into a stable form so it does not get spoiled during its 45-day voyage from the ancient port of Piraeus in Athens to Oakland and then by truck to the winery in Sonoma.

"We blend and age our red wines in Sonoma," he continues.  "Once they are bottled, we wait four to six months before we release them to market.  We bottle the white and rosé right away, which is 100% wine from our Greek vineyards."

Of course, this wine is straight up Agiorgitiko, or Saint George, grapes.  It's reportedly one of the most widely planted grapes in Greece, but one top wine expert says most of the vines in the country are virused. 

The publicity team claims the Georgós wines are healthier because of the lower alcohol, sulfites and histamines.  Those qualities are said to eliminate the headache often caused by wine.  They also promise softer tannins and high antioxidants.

The wine is is billed as a sort of halfway point between Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  If that sounds a little odd to you, you're not alone.  I've often wanted one or the other, but never have I wished to be somewhere in between.  It's unoaked and retails for $23.

The color of this rosé is almost like bourbon, a nearly burnt orange that tends more to brown than pink.  It doesn't look much like rosé, and it doesn't smell that way, either.  First whiff, I get an earthiness that borders on foxiness, as in wines made from North American grape varieties.  Strawberry with an intense mineral overlay then takes over.  The palate offers plenty of cheerful fruit and earthy minerals but little acidity, which is reportedly an issue with Agiorgitiko grown in lower altitudes.  Ios is not what most American consumers would expect in a rosé, but more adventurous souls won't be disappointed. 


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Friday, December 15, 2017

Argentine Wine: Norton Malbec Reserva

The Malbec grape grows all over the world, but nowhere as in Argentina.  They grow about three-quarters of the world's Malbec grapes.  If Cab is king in the U.S., Malbec is monarch in Argentina.  Poorer wine producers in the country sometimes can't afford enough French oak barrels to go around for all their wines.  If a wine has to go naked, or unoaked, to stretch the peso, it'll be Cabernet Sauvignon that does without, not Malbec. 

Often relegated to the status of "blending grape" in France, Malbec is revered in Argentina and used most often in varietal wines.  The Argentines sometimes mix it with Bonarda, a South American treasure that has yet to break out globally, but watch out when it does.  It's a beautiful grape, too.  Malbec grows better and maintains its acidity in higher elevations, so you find it often in mountainous regions.

Bodega Norton sits in the foothills of the Andes in Mendoza's Lujan de Cuyo region, a place known for its Malbec plantings.  Their five vineyards in the First Zone of quality are planted with vines that average 30 years old, but some are as old as 80 years.  They were reportedly the first winery in the area some 120 years ago.  Norton is possibly the most familiar Argentine label for American wine lovers. 

The 100% Malbec wine is aged 12 months in French oak, then more in the bottle.  Alcohol is restrained, at 13.5% abv.  It retails for $19.  The Reserva Malbec consistently gets high ratings from those who attach numbers to wines and made a leading "Best Of" list last year.  It's one of Norton's new line of signature wines, and they also are unveiling a Privada Family Blend line which reportedly were once reserved for their private cellars.

This Norton is pitch-dark with a red rim and carries dark aromas on its nose.  Blackberry, blueberry and currant are predominant, with smoke and a rack full of holiday spices completing the scene.  On the palate, rich bold fruit comes forward on a wave of pepper and minerals.  The acidity is bright and the tannins are perfect, enough for a meat feast but not too much for sipping.  It’s a delightfully smooth quaff.  The savory aspect lingers medium-long on the finish.  It drinks like a youthful wine that is beginning to take on the character of its few years.



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweet Wine From Bordeaux

France's Bordeaux region is more than just Cabernet and Merlot.  It is also features sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes.  Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert.  Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses.  Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.  Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the ham and turkey, too.  You'll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently put on a virtual tasting of a nice selection of such wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.

Chateau du Cros Loupiac  2014

The Chateau du Cros has been in the Guyenne province since the 12th century in the high ground of Loupiac, overlooking the Garonne Valley.  The oldest vines on the property date back to 1907, which their website says is a rarity.  With vineyards also in Cadillac and Graves, the grapes for this wine were grown in Loupiac.

Loupiac is a region in Bordeaux that is known for its sweet wines.  It's close to Sauternes and right between Cadillac and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, if you’ve been there.  If you’ve never had a sweet wine graced with the mineral effect of limestone soil, you’re in for a treat.

Those grapes are 90% Semillon, with 5% each Sauvignon and Muscadelle rounding out the blend.  The roots reportedly reach down through nearly two feet of limestone clay to get water.  The Loupiac terroir of this vineyard is prized by the Michel Boyer family who have run the chateau in modern times, and it is revered in the region.  Aging took place in oak barrels for a full 12 months, something I understand is a fairly recent adaptation.  The sweet wine hits just 13% abv in alcohol content and retails for about $15.

This sweet Bordeaux pushes all the right buttons for a wine style that wants to be known as "more than dessert."  The rich golden hue beckons, while the nose of candied fruit is draped in a cloak of minerality.  The palate certainly wants to be more than an after-dinner afterthought.  The viscous mouthfeel, bracing acidity and mineral-driven flavor profile form a trio unlikely to be caught traveling together in most sweet wines.  They have been doing it in Bordeaux for centuries.



Monday, December 11, 2017

A Zinfandel Fail

Reid Klei is the winemaker for the new Motto wines, owned by Ste. Michele Wine Estates.  He makes wines that carry the "California" appellation, a ridiculously large and over-reaching tag.  It could mean that the grapes came from more than one great appellation, but more often it means that several lesser appellations are being disguised.

The 2015 Motto Unabashed Zinfandel is made from grapes grown in "vineyards across California"s sun drenched valleys," as their website states.  In fact, this wine tastes like the grapes were grown in a cool climate, as tartness is the word.  It's mostly Zin, with some Cabernet Sauvignon thrown in for good measure.  Alcohol stands at 13.9% abv and it sells for $15.

This wine is medium-dark ruby and smells of cherry and smoky oak spice.  There's a lot of oak spice here, and it follows the same way on the palate.  The fruit is in the forefront, but it seems that it doesn't want to stay there.  Or someone, should I say, didn't want it to stay there.  It's a bit tart, which is unusual for a Zinfandel.  Even so, the effect of the oak aging takes this wine in its grip and delivers a chokehold.  The fruit, however good or bad it may be, is masked by a massive cedar plank note and a rack of spices that don't really seem to fit.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Tam O'Shanter's Dickens Dinner

The Tam O'Shanter bills itself as Los Angeles' oldest restaurant operated by the same family in the same location.  It's a member of the Lawry's family of restaurants and a mainstay on Los Feliz Boulevard.  If you have some Scottish ancestry, you may find your family tartan among the extensive collection that decorate the walls.  I know a guy who likes the Welsh rarebit there, and my wife loves the Scotch whisky display case.

The Tam once again provided a holiday feast filled with special menus and Dickens-style entertainment.  The legendary Dickens Dinner experience just wrapped up its 33rd year.  The three-hour experience books only 60 people per performance, so you don't feel crowded while enjoying the live, interactive dinner theatre that features an acting troupe performing a consolidation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

To go along with the show, the Tam's Executive Chef offered the following menu items:

Starter 
Holiday salad with mixed market greens, candied walnuts, blue cheese, cranberry vinaigrette.
Entrees
Roasted Prime Ribs of Beef 6oz. cut, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish; 
or 
English-Style Goose mashed potatoes, traditional stuffing, sautéed vegetables, sage gravy; 
or 
Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon parsnip puree, fennel, kale, pearl onions, pomegranate seeds; 
or 
Vegetarian Entrée.
Dessert
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Seasonal Cocktails
Maple Old Fashion
Elijah Craig, Whistle Pig bourbon barrel maple syrup, black walnut bitters
Scotch Lodge 
Highland Park, Cynar, cherry herring, orange bitters
Irish Goodbye 
Irish whisky, amaro, Lillet blanc
Tam's Toddy 
Applejack, chamomile liquor, demerra, bitters
Autumn Negroni 
gin, Cynar, sweet vermouth

The show is fantastic and the actors are very involved with the audience.  The food service is even incorporated as part of the act.  They've been putting on this show at the Tam O'Shanter for longer than I've been living in Los Angeles, and I couldn’t believe I had never experienced it.  It will be a part of my future holiday plans each year.

Tam O'Shanter General Manager John Lindquist says the Dickens Dinner is like "travelling through time," and he’s right.  It's a truly unique experience in a city that sometimes seems to be bursting at the seams with uniqueness.  L.A. as a Victorian holiday wonderland?  Please, suh, may I have anuthah?

By the way, Scotch lovers may want to look at Tam O'Shanter's unique "Scotch Passport," which gives "explorers" access to one of the most extensive Scotch collections in the U.S.


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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Beekeeper Zinfandel



From the vaults, 2012.  Ian Blackburn talks about his winemaking effort, Beekeeper  Zinfandel. It's one of the most amazing Zins I've ever tasted.  It could knock a Cab off a steakhouse wine list.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Arroyo Seco Sauvignon Blanc

In the same way that rosé gets a seasonal shun when the weather turns brisk, wine lovers sometimes forget about Sauvignon Blanc over the fall and winter.  I admit I'm guilty of letting Sauvignon Blanc fall into that "harbinger of spring" category.  It performs extremely well there, but Sauvignon Blanc also has a place at the holiday table, not just the picnic table.  In the coming weeks we'll be covering some nice choices from the Arroyo Seco AVA of California's Monterey County.

The Arroyo Seco AVA is centered around the Arroyo Seco River.  It's described as a seasonal waterway that brings rain and snowmelt from the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Salinas River.  Commercial grape growing started in 1961 and has grown to some 7,000 acres under vine.  The region is about 40 miles away from the deep waters of Monterey Bay and parts of it get direct exposure to the Pacific Ocean through the Salinas Valley. 

Luli 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Arroyo Seco

Sara Floyd partnered with the Pisoni family to create her line of Luli wines.  The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were grown in Griva Vineyard, a cold, windy, ancient riverbed with soil full of shale.  Winemaker Jeff Pisoni fermented the wine in neutral barrels, not stainless steel, so the mouthfeel is a little weightier than one might expect from a Sauvigon Blanc.  It was selling for about $18, but the winery lists it as "sold out."  That's no surprise.  Alcohol is a middling 14.2% abv.

This wine's nose offers up more of that wonderful grassy aroma than I usually find in California SauvBlancs.  There's a touch of orange peel and lemon zest in there, too.  The mouthfeel is medium full and graced with a zippy acidity.  There is a rich minerality here, as expected, with tropical fruit flavors trying their best to overshadow the stark rocks.  The rocks win.  Lay out an olive and cheese plate if you don't have any shellfish lying about.


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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Wine For "Bell, Book and Candle"



An encore presentation.  From the "Blood of the Vines" series I did a while back with TrailersFromHell.com.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cabernet From The Warm Heart Of Calistoga

The wines of Cornerstone Cellars have been around for nearly three decades, and the company has seen its share of change through the years.  One thing that appears to have stayed the same is their commitment to crafting excellent Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Napa Valley.  The recently added winemakers in Yountville, Charles Thomas and Kari Auringer, are guiding the good ship Cabernet now at Cornerstone.  Thomas has a 30 year track record in the Napa Valley, and Auringer is in her second go-round with the winery.

The Cornerstone 2014 Calistoga Cab shows off what it's all about in Calistoga - ripe fruit and a whole bunch of it.  Calistoga is the warmest place in the Napa Valley appellation, so there’s enough opportunity for the grapes to become sweet and juicy.  The 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are fermented and aged in French oak, 70% of which was new.  Despite all that new wood, the fruit controls this wine from sniff to sip.  The wine hits an alcohol mark of 14.5% abv and sells for $75.

This wine is dark and deep, and smells that way.  Blackberry, black cherry and plum dominate the nose.  There's only a hint of wood influence - unusual for Napa Cabs - with barely noticeable traces of cedar and spice, almost no graphite.  On the palate, it's a smooth ride with gently firm tannins, if that makes any sense.  The flavors are as fruity as the nose, but they are just as dark.  The wine finishes long and leaves dark fruit and licorice as a calling card.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweet Bordeaux Sainte Croix du Mont

What are the holidays without some sweet wine?  Well, they'd still be pretty great, but they'd be short on sweet wine, which would be a bad thing.  The lovely Bordeaux region of Sainte Croix du Mont sits right across the Garonne River from Sauternes, which produces probably the most famous French sweet wine.  In Sainte Croix du Mont, however, they also work wonders with Sémillon grapes.  Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving.  However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.  Have it with your holiday pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too.  You might be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently put on a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it.  Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge.

 The sweet wine of Chateau La Rame comes from the vineyard in Sainte Croix du Mont.  The vines average 50 years of age and the Sémillon grapes are hand harvested with successive pass-throughs.  The soil contains fossilized oyster beds which seem to impart a distinct minerality to the wine.  It's aged mainly in stainless steel tanks, with a little less than a third aged in French oak barrels. It retails for $20.

As for the Chateau La Rame Sainte Croix du Mont 2014, this rich, golden, sweet wine smells like honey and dried apricots. There's a layer of earthy minerals, a chalkiness, that beautifully counterpoints the sweetness.  On the palate, a viscous mouthfeel carries marmalade-like fruit flavors along on a subtle wave of acidity.  This is dessert on its own, but why limit such a wonderful wine? Have it with hard cheese, almonds or a lobster roll.


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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mulled Wine



From the vaults.  My annual rant about mulled wine.  Please excuse my rancor.  Mulled wine really heats me up.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Old Vine Zinfandel: Like A Holiday Blackberry Fire

Old vines are appreciated the most in Zinfandel vineyards.  California's heritage grape has been growing nonstop in Lodi for more than a century, and the older the vines are, the more character the wine has.  I don’t know about people who stay away from Zinfandel, I don't trust them.  Once you’ve had an old vine Zin, how could you ever go back to Merlot?

A recent virtual tasting of old vine Zinfandel wines from the Lodi region featured three people who are delightfully nerdy (watch) and incredibly passionate about their Zinfandel.  The online session was held on National Zinfandel Day and led by Stuart Spencer, of St. Amant Winery and the Lodi Winegrape Association.  He was joined by Kevin Phillips, of Michael-David Vineyards and Kyle Lerner, Harney Lane Winery.  They focus on Zinfandel with a love not just of the grapes and the wine, but of the character and history of the vineyards and those who planted them so long ago.

The Rous Vineyard dates back more than a century, to 1909.  The ten-acre plot in the Mokelumne River appellation is the source for Ironstone Vineyards' Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel.  Craig Rous bought the vineyard in 1994, when it was contracted to provide grapes for White Zinfandel production.  Thank you, white Zin, for possibly saving this vineyard's ancient vines, preventing them from being ripped out and replaced by some other variety.

This wine is 100% Zinfandel at 15% abv, so you know it’s there.  It aged for ten months in small French oak barrels and I see it selling for around 20 bucks.

This deep ruby wine smells like a blackberry fire, all dark fruit, spice and smoke.  There's a cinnamon aroma that should prove irresistible over the holidays.  The flavors made me sit down the glass and say, "my god, that tastes good."  That doesn't happen often enough.  Black cherry, sage, eucalyptus, cola, coffee grounds - its complex and savory.  Oak is very present, but not a pest.  The tannic structure doesn't go unnoticed, but stays pleasant enough for sipping.  Pair it with pulled pork or a ham sandwich.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Big Box Zinfandel

Southern California local heroes The Hickmen do a song called, "Costco Socks," which decries the big-box life that took over/ruined the Inland Empire and countless other communities across America.  I personally don't have a vehicle large enough to accommodate a Costco shopping trip, nor the home space in which to store all that stuff.  There is, however, a good reason to go to Costco if you're a wine lover.  They put some pretty damn good wine on their shelves.

One of them is the St. Francis "Old Vines" Zinfandel, Sonoma County 2014.  I had this tasty wine at the Chart House restaurant in Redondo Beach, a gift from our table mates.  They know I have more than a passing interest in wine and were almost apologetic when they told me they got it at Costco.  I reassured them that Costco does a very good job of seeking out great wines to lowball on the price tag.  I resisted the urge to admonish them for buying from a big box store instead of a local wine dealer, gift horse in the mouth, and all that.  Maybe I’ll buy them a download of "Costco Socks."

Joe Martin started growing grapes in Sonoma County in 1971, and founded the St. Francis winery eight years later.  Based in Santa Rosa, St. Francis grows certified sustainable grapes.  This wine is labeled as "Sonoma County," although St. Francis produces several single-vineyard Zinfandels as well.  The winery says winemakers Katie Madigan and Chris Louton who make the fruit-driven St. Francis bottlings also have access to "some of the most coveted old vines" in Sonoma.

The grapes that went into the bottle were 83% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 5% mixed blacks and 1% Primotivo. Mixed blacks is the term used in old field-blend vineyards which feature different varieties growing together.  Aging was done over 16 months in French oak barrels and the alcohol hits a lofty 15.2% abv.  Retail price is $22, probably cheaper at Costco.

The 2014 St. Francis "Old Vines" Zinfandel has a beautiful nose, showing lush raspberry, black cherry and spice all over the place.  The dark palate provides a boatload of black raspberry and blackberry, with a slightly savory spot sneaking its way through the fruit display.  It drinks remarkably easy, considering the alcohol number, but has enough tannins for the swordfish and spaetzle with brown butter and bacon maple.  (I know, right?)  However, I could have gone with the filet and been just fine.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

Elegant Anderson Valley Pinot For The Holidays

Four Ferrari-Carano wines were recently featured in an online virtual tasting session, of which I was invited to be a part.  The presentation was hosted by Chelsea Kurnick of McCue Communications and associate winemaker Rebecka Deike. She handles the winery's red wine program.  She started out wanting to be an optometrist, but saw her focus change to a wine career.

The 2014 Ferrari-Carano Anderson Valley Pinot Noir was aged for ten months in French oak and has an alcohol number of 14.5% abv. Online tasters thought the wine would be a natural to pair with salmon, chicken, beef bourguignon and holiday ham. Pinot Noir is often mentioned as a versatile wine that fits nicely on the holiday table, and this one will be quite at home there.

This tasty Pinot surprised me a bit. I approach California versions of the varietal apprehensively, often disappointed with their lack of grace and ham-fisted ways. The Ferrari-Carano 2014 Anderson Valley Pinot gets it right, and it's not the first from the AVA that I have liked. Aromas of black cherry are undercut with a savory cola note. The palate is smooth and elegant, with enough tannin for turkey but not enough to melt the cranberry sauce. The black tea flavor is among the most gorgeous of the kind I've experienced.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Earthshaking Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel

Old vines are appreciated the most in Zinfandel vineyards. California's heritage grape has been growing nonstop in Lodi for more than a century, and the older the vines are, the more character the wine has. I don’t know about people who stay away from Zinfandel, I don’t trust them. Once you've had an old vine Zin, how could you ever go back to Merlot?

A recent virtual tasting of old vine Zinfandel wines from the Lodi region featured three people who are delightfully nerdy (watch) and incredibly passionate about their Zinfandel. The online session was held on National Zinfandel Day and led by Stuart Spencer, of St. Amant Winery and the Lodi Winegrape Association. He was joined by Kevin Phillips, of Michael-David Vineyards and Kyle Lerner, Harney Lane Winery. They focus on Zinfandel with a love not just of the grapes and the wine, but of the character and history of the vineyards and those who planted them so long ago.

The historical angle is right up front in this wine. The vines for Michael-David's Earthquake Zinfandel were planted about the time of the Great Earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco. The winemaker calls this beautiful Zinfandel "intentionally hostile, purposefully bold," so you'd better grab hold of something and hang on.

The grapes are actually mostly Zinfandel with a touch of Petite Sirah. It spent 14 months in oak and shows every second of it beautifully. The wine carries a big alcohol number, as Zinfandel sometimes does, up at 15.5% abv  and sells for about 26 bucks.

This wine is completely dark, in color, aromas and taste. On the nose, loads of big, black, burly, brambly fruit, with a healthy dollop of smoky sage and what I can only call burnt cinnamon. The palate offers brawn and blackberries paving a roadway for licorice and spice. Pair it with anything off the grill, especially tri-tip or rib eye.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Vermont Ice Cider



From a few years back, Eden's ice cider is still one of my favorite holiday sips.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wake Up And Smell The San Diego Stout

San Diego's Modern Times Beer is an inventive and committed craft brewery. I tried their Orderville IPA a bit ago and loved it. More good news: they make a terrific stout. Black House doesn't knock one over the head, but it sure knocked me out. It's light on its feet and laden with fragrance and taste. Alcohol hits 5.8% abv is this easy-drinking stout. They list the ingredients as kiln coffee malt, oats, pale chocolate malt, black malt, along with roasted barley, biscuit and crystal 60 malts. The coffee used was three-quarters Ethiopian and one-quarter Sumatran.

The Modern Times Black House stout is a must for coffee lovers. This oatmeal-style beer smells like a cup of very strong coffee. It's fairly light-bodied for a stout but carries the heaviest, darkest aromas and flavors. The sip brings not only coffee, but chocolate into the party. The mouthfeel is perfect for food, and it pairs well a fall-influenced roasted butternut squash as well as pan roasted chicken on toasted couscous.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Sonoma Chardonnay For The Holidays

The wine world recently lost Don Carano, who founded Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in 1981 with his wife, Rhonda.  A Wine Spectator article quotes Kim Stare Wallace of Dry Creek Vineyards, who called Carano "one of the visionaries of Dry Creek Valley." I will join the rest of the wine world in sending my condolences to Rhonda and the family.

Four Ferrari-Carano wines were recently featured in an online virtual tasting session, of which I was invited to be a part.  The presentation was hosted by Chelsea Kurnick of McCue Communications and associate winemaker Rebecka Deike. She handles the winery’s red wine program and started out wanting to be an optometrist, but she saw her focus change to a wine career.

The Ferrari-Carano 2015 Chardonnay of Sonoma County was made using only Chardonnay grapes from the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys, plus fruit from Carneros. Sixty different lots of Chardonnay went into this wine. The wine is aged on the lees in French oak barrels, about three quarters of them neutral. A full mouthfeel results from a nearly full malolactic fermentation. Alcohol hits 14.2% abv, and the wine sells for about $22.

The wine has a golden tint and an aromatic nose with lemons, tangerines and a bit of minerality mixing in. On the palate, there's great citrus and tropical fruit and a full mouthfeel. The oak is a bit more pronounced than I usually like, but I always fall for that at holiday time. It's not a butterball, but it definitely has a bit of a spare tire. This is a lush Chardonnay with a good acidity and a clear hankering to be on a Thanksgiving table.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sweet Wine For The Holidays: Château Manos

Sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. You can start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You'll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently put on a virtual tasting of a nice selection of sweet wines from Bordeaux, and I was lucky enough to be included.  I've been posting separate articles about each wine recently.

Château Manos is owned by another Bordeaux producer, Château Lamothe de Haux. The village of Cadillac is just south of Bordeaux. The Cadillac AOC dates back to the 1970s.

Not a Sauternes this time, but a Cadillac and sweet nonetheless, the wine is made from a blend of 98% Semillon grapes along with tiny splashes of Sauvignon and Muscadelle. It sells for around $13. Online I notice the same price for both the full and half bottles, so make sure you don't pay too much. Deborah Parker Wong pointed out during the virtual tasting that Lamonthe's Damien Chombart and Caroline Meurée make the Château Manos wines.

This lovely, gold wine is not as incredibly sweet as others, but it is probably in the range of off-sweet. The nose carries earth and apricot, which is influenced by a honey note but not controlled by it. Several tasters commented on the purity of the fruit and the wine's flinty minerality. It's less dessert-y and more like a table wine, but still holds a place at each end of the spectrum. The mouthfeel is not so viscous as the Sauternes we tasted, and the acidity is more vibrant.


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Monday, November 13, 2017

Fogo De Chão Has The Meats

There's a fast food ad campaign which includes the tagline, "We have the meats." Sorry, drive-through, but you can't hold a toothpick to Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão. They, indeed, have the meats.

I was invited to sample their fall menu at the Los Angeles location. The Fogo de Chão way is to keep bringing grilled, table-sliced meat to your table until you tell them to stop. One has to be careful with this style of service, because it’s easy to end up feeling like Earl, in "Diner." He ate the whole left side of the menu. Including the chicken dinner.

Cruz was our server, or one of many servers, and he promised we would leave feeling sated. General Manager Heather was more helpful than we could have hoped and customer service manager Moises was a true gentleman.

Fogo de Chão is a great place for groups. There were several large parties there on the Sunday when we went for lunch. I could tell that they were not strangers to the place, and that the entire group had been looking forward to the meal.

I opened the meal with a Brazilian Moscato/Malvasia/Gewurztraminer blend, the demi-sec Salton "Flowers." It’s an $11 glass, from the Serra Gaúcha region, in southern Brazil. The wine is very sweet and fruity, with a decent acidity. A spicy floral element comes from the Gewurztraminer, while the Malvasia offers up some citrus to the sweet moscato. It’s extremely tasty with mushrooms and salads. I ordered an Alamos Argentine Malbec when the meats became the focus, and it was predictable reliable. The wine list offers a wide choice, with plenty of South American options.

They have a beautiful, light potato salad at Fogo de Chão that doesn't take up too much of the appetite you want to reserve for the meat. Big chunks of potato and carrot are bathed in a wonderfully light dressing. The butternut squash soup is different. It's very nicely spiced and better than the usual I've had, possibly because of the coconut milk and cinnamon used in it. The mashed potatoes have a good consistency, and they're real, not fake. My wife says they are complemented by "just the right amount of butter - too much."

Here come the meats. A little girl near our table precociously asked my wife, "Do you know what I call this restaurant?" Without hesitation, she said, "The meat parade." And so it is.

The Linguiça sausage was excellent, smoked in sage and rosemary. The Cordeiro leg of lamb, grilled and earthy, was right where I live. The Beef Ancho, the prime part of the rib eye, is succulent and extremely flavorful. The bone-in Cowboy Ribeye is only available through January 1st, so don't wait. Bone-in meats, says Fogo de Chão, have a more decadent flavor because the bones help retain moisture during the slow cooking.

I didn't try the Picanha Burger, But I wish I had. It sounds so good: "Fresh picanha (sirloin cap) ground in-house sits atop a brioche bun with smoked provolone, bibb lettuce, tomato, onion and chimichurri aioli, served with crispy polenta fries."

Our meal was in the main dining room, but there’s an option for folks who want to eat or spend less. The Churrasco Meat Board happens in the more casual Bar Fogo setting, where you get one, two or three selections of fire-roasted meat, including beef or pork ribs, lamb chops and beer-braised chicken legs, served with their wonderful chimichurri sauce. But, when is chimichurri sauce not wonderful?
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I was completely wowed by my dining experience and gave Fogo de Chão an A-. The flavor is uniformly fantastic, but I found some of the beef items a little tough. My wife gave the experience a solid B, as she is always more focused on beef than I am and more critical of its consistency. She agreed that the flavor couldn't be beat and she was in love with the sides.


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Friday, November 10, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweets From Sauternes

Sauternes is a French appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes. Sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You'll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently put on a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge.

Haut Charmes Sauternes 2015

The 2015 Haut Charmes Sauternes is supposedly made from grapes taken from the young vines of Chateau d'Yquem, the top house in the region. I can't confirm that, it's just an educated guess, and someone else's educated guess at that. The Sémillon grapes are joined by Sauvignon Blanc, both of which were kissed by botrytis before harvest. Declassified though it may be, a d'Yquem at $20 is a bank job type of steal.

@JvBUncorked commented during the virtual tasting that this 2015 Charmes is much sweeter than he recalls earlier vintages being. It's my first time, so I don't know. @parkerwong wrote that she likes the candied melon, saffron and white peach notes.

Yellow-gold in the glass, this wine has tropical notes layered in with honeyed apricot and peach. It's quite viscous, has a nice acidity, great mouthfeel and a little savory backbeat that really entices. It seems muscular, in a white wine kind of way.


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweet Wine From Bordeaux

Sauternes is a city in France's Bordeaux region. It is also an appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes. Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving. However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You’ll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently held a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge and expertise. Eight sweet Bordeaux wines were sampled, and we'll be visiting them all this month.

Chateau Lauvignac Cuvée Sahuc Sauternes 2014

A Grand Vin de Bordeaux, the Cuvée Sahuc is made from Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle and Sémillon grapes. It sells for just $19, making it one of the best deals from the region. In the Snooth virtual tasting, @jamesthewineguy liked the wine's yellow citrus peel, almond, crushed sea shells and pine nut notes.

This dessert wine's nose is laced with overripe apricots trod upon after a rain. It's sweet, but it's earthy, and just a hint of smoke comes out of nowhere. The palate gives the same mixed message. "Is this love, baby, or is it just confusion?" The acidity is good - not too soft, not too racy. The finish reminds me of that childhood fruit tree in the neighbors' yard, with just a little bit of raisin.


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Monday, November 6, 2017

Holiday Wine: Sweet Wine From Bordeaux

Sauternes is a city in France's Bordeaux region. It is also an appellation exclusive to sweet, golden dessert wines made largely from Sémillon grapes. Sweet white wine is not everyone's cup, but anyone who likes a good dessert and a good glass of wine should not object to having them in the same serving. However, sweet Bordeaux wines are for more than dessert. Start a meal with them, an aperitif, or pair them with your main courses. Try to pair sweet wines with something salty or savory for a great balance.

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a love affair with Sauternes. Have it with the pumpkin pie, sure, but try it with the turkey, too. You’ll be surprised at the pairing.

Sweet Bordeaux US and Snooth recently held a virtual tasting of a nice selection of Sauternes wines, and I was lucky enough to be included.  Hosted by Snooth's co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and wine educator Fred Swan, the event drew raves from those who participated in it. Swan, especially, won kudos all around for his vast knowledge and expertise. Eight sweet Bordeaux wines were sampled, and we'll be visiting them all this month.

Chateau Filhot Sauternes 2009

Chateau Filhot is a second growth vineyard in the Sauternes region, planted to mostly Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, with a smudge of Muscadelle. Its history dates back to the 1600s and finds it intertwined with Chateau d'Yquem, with which it was compared by Thomas Jefferson when he was ambassador to France. A Yquem family member reportedly owned the place, for awhile. The bottle retails for $40.

This wine has a lovely, golden hue, like a room bathed in the glow from a fireplace. On the nose, candied apricots and a hint of lemon peel lead the way. Honey traces portend sweetness. The palate has a special delivery for a sweet tooth. Apples, peaches and pears mingle in a viscous, mouth coating orgy of fruit. One of the online tasters commented on how strongly the Sauvignon Blanc comes through. There is a good level of acidity, too, in case you're not having it just for dessert. A brie would go nicely, or a triple cream cheese. You could even pair this with a seafood dish.


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Friday, November 3, 2017

Portugal Wine: Prats + Symington Chryseia

Portugal's Douro Valley is one of the most distinctive terroirs in the wide, wide world of wine. Prats and Symington grow grapes and make wine there. The Symington family owns most of the big port houses. Bruno Prats left Bordeaux, seeking winemaking thrills in Chile, South Africa and, finally, Portugal. He partnered with the Symingtons in the late 1990s. Together, they put Bordeaux wine-making methods to grapes that are usually intended for Port in the Prats and Symington wines.

The Symingtons have two prime Douro estates, Quinta de Roriz and Quinta da Perdiz. Both quintas are near the village of  Ervedosa. The different microclimates and soils of the two valleys produce different results. Roriz gets minerality from traces of tin, the remnants of old mines. The cool riverside nights also bring more aromatics. Perdiz is in the warmer Torto Valley, and offers more ripeness as a result. The grapes are largely grown in dedicated plots, rather than mixed vineyards, which is more typical for the the area.

Portuguese grapes, aah, they are exotic and wonderful. Touriga Nacional for floral aromatics, Touriga Franca for body and structure and Tinta Roriz - Tempranillo in Spain - gives a peppery flair.
Post Scriptum's Chryseia was first bottled from the 2000 vintage. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged in 400-litre French oak barrels, for 14 months. Grape distribution has 64% Touriga Franca, 28% Touriga Nacional and 8% Tinta Roriz. Winemakers Bruno Prats and Charles Symington oversee production, with the assistance of Pedro Correia and Luis Coelho. Alcohol sits at 14.3% abv and the retails price is $25.

Post Scriptum De Chryseia is inky indigo and impenetrable at its core. The nose is a wild array of blackberry, cigar boxes, leather and the whole spice rack. It has a great mouthfeel, full and rich with enough tannic structure to handle prime rib, yet not so much that it ruins the sip. That dark fruit is lip-smacking good on the palate and it carries along a savory saddlebag of spices, which linger long on the finish.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Martini Time: Boodles Gin

Boodles is a British, London Dry gin that has been around since 1845. The company was named after Boodles gentlemen's club, run by one Edward Boodles. This is the gin that was reputedly served there and is believed to have been a favorite of Winston Churchill, although other gins also make that claim. Who wouldn't? This "proper British gin" is now made at the Greenall's distillery

The Boodles crest offers "labour and patience" as two of the gin's ingredients. The company claims Boodles is a "clean spirit distilled from British wheat and then infused with a number of traditional herbs and spices, including nutmeg, sage, and rosemary." The PR department says Boodles is known for its "distinctive floral nose and lingering juniper flavor, with a clean finish," and that sounds fairly accurate. Nine botanicals make up Boodles -  it's just fun to say - and contribute to its aroma and taste. Juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and seed, cassia bark, caraway seed, nutmeg, rosemary and sage are all blended together to make Boodles. They claim they are the only gin to contain nutmeg, rosemary and sage in its recipe.

There are some piney notes on the nose, from the juniper, and a floral element, but both are quiet. The gin tastes very elegant and smooth, at 45.2% abv. No citrus botanicals are used, unlike other London dry gins. They figure you’ll put a slice of lemon or lime in your cocktail, so there's no need. Boodles also makes a Mulberry gin, which I gather is like a sloe gin, except made with mulberries.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Kona Brewers Ride Wave Of Success

Started by father and son Cameron Healy and Spoon KhalsaKona Brewing Company is based on the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. A lot of people surf there, but even more drink beer. 1995 saw their first brew, Pacific Golden Ale, which is now known as Big Wave Golden Ale.

KBC brews their beer not just in Hawaii, but also in mainland locations that are close to their distribution centers. The water mineral levels at each brewery are adjusted to simulate the water used in Hawaii.

Sustainability is a watchword for the company, as they recycle everything from plastic cups to spent grain to air conditioner condensation. They also like to give back to the community and the world by supporting local interests like Bishop Museum and the Kokua Festival, and global ones like Sierra Club's Blue Water Campaign and Surfrider Organization.

Kona Brewing Company Big Wave Golden Ale is a light-bodied Ale with a golden hue that they say comes from caramel malt. The beer has a fresh, tropical nose with a hint of citrus and tastes smooth, with just a nod toward the Galaxy and Citra hops used in making it. It's very refreshing and goes great with chips and salsa or ahi poke. Or sausages, if you're in the mood. Alcohol is a low 4.4% abv, so you can have another one.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wine Country Washington: Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend

The Mercer family has been working the land in southern Washington's Horse Heaven Hills AVA for more than a hundred years.  Rob and Will Mercer not only grow wine grapes, but also other fruits and vegetables - like baby carrots - near Prosser, Washington with the use of sustainable farming practices.

The 2015 Sharp Sisters Red Blend shows a family name and includes Cabernet Sauvignon from the Eagle & Plow Vineyard, Merlot from the Dead Canyon Vineyard, Grenache, Syrah and Carignane from the Spice Cabinet Vineyard and Petit Verdot from Milt's Vineyard.  Winemaker Jessica Munnell used nearly equal amounts of Cab and Syrah, blended with the rest in smaller quantities.  Alcohol is large, at 14.8% abv, but the price tag is reasonable, at just above $20.

The Sharp Sisters red is inky purple, with a nose of big, black fruit and quite a savory side. I smell cigar box, spice rack and cedar plank on the nose, in addition to the plums and blackberries. The palate comes on less brawny that expected given the high-octane alcohol number. It's a pleasant array of black and blue fruit that is remarkably smooth, yet its tannins are muscular enough to sit with a ribeye.


Monday, October 23, 2017

San Diego Beer: Orderville IPA By Modern Times

You've probably experienced the same sort of thing that happened to San Diego’s Modern Times Beer, only maybe not with hops. The story of their Orderville IPA is all about great passion, the best intentions, bad luck and a happy ending. Er, a hoppy ending.

Their blog, by proprietor Jacob McKean, describes how they set out to make a "wet-hopped" beer, using freshly harvested, green Mosaic, Simcoe and Chinook hops. They intended to brew the beer and dry-hop it with those wet hops. Not being a brewer, I'm lost already, but they say it sounded cool at the time and I agree with them.

This is where things went wrong. I'll let McKean get all beer-nerdy again. "The harvest, of course, didn’t shake out at all as predicted, and we were forced to brew two entirely separate beers: one with wet Simcoe, another with wet Chinook. The wet Mosaic showed up late—naturally—so we dry-hopped the Simcoe beer with the wet Mosaic. But we ordered so much Mosaic that we literally couldn’t fit
anywhere near enough of it into the fermenter, so we filled the hopback with the wet Mosaic and recirculated the beer through it over and over and over and over again." Then the two beers were blended, and that's Orderville. It is, by their own description, a "completely absurd and radically inefficient" way to make beer. But it's a happy - and hoppy - ending.


This Point Loma beer is one of the most distinctive IPAs I've ever tasted. As an IPA true believer, even I recognize that the style tends to taste almost interchangeable at times. This one most certainly does not. The green hops give the beer a less "roasted" feel. The aroma is fresh and almost biting, less floral and more herbal. The flavor profile has a bit of a cantaloupe note amid the citrus, which is something I've never experienced before. It's dry, it's fantastic, it's food-friendly and it paired very well with a pepperoni flatbread.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Wine Country Washington: Mercer Sauvignon Blanc

The Mercer family has been working the land in southern Washington's Horse Heaven Hills AVA for more than a hundred years.  Rob and Will Mercer not only grow wine grapes, but also other fruits and vegetables - like baby carrots - near Prosser, Washington with the use of sustainable farming practices.  Winemaker Jeremy Santo does a fantastic job with the fruit he's given.

Mercer Sauvignon Blanc 2015

This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Mercer estate Princeton Vineyard. Alcohol hits low, at 12.5% abv, perfect for a wine that's intended to refresh, not conquer. Fermentation took place with the use of a yeast that brings out the grapefruit, passion fruit and lychee notes. This white was aged in 100% steel tanks, malolactic fermentation was prevented.

The wine has a faint yellow tint and a nose that's more savory than grassy. It's more like a California Sauv Blanc than a New Zealand one, even though it's neither. . A lanolin notes masks the grapefruit and lemon aromas, but does not hide them. The palate offers more fruit, but a nice mineral-based salinity sails ahead of it. There's plenty of acidity here and a lengthy finish of Meyer lemon.


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