Showing posts with label Alexander Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alexander Valley. Show all posts

Monday, August 8, 2022

Cabernet From Alexander Valley

Sebastiani has been in the winemaking game for more than a century, and they haven't lasted that long by shrugging their shoulders and saying, "It's good enough." Vintner Bill Foley and Winemaker Mark Beaman work together to bring honor to the Sebastiani legacy with single-vineyard and sub-appellation wines that live up to expectations. 

The 2019 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 6% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot and 2% Petite Sirah, all grown in the warm Alexander Valley AVA. The wine aged for 16 months in 15% new French and Hungarian oak barrels, with the remaining wine aging in neutral oak barrels. Alcohol is lofty, at 14.9% abv, and the retail price is $45.

This wine is inky looking and carries a wonderfully demonstrative package of aromas. The nose has classic notes of graphite, but also features black tea, sage, oregano and a healthy lump of earth - that good, Sonoma dirt. On the palate are bright cherries, tea, herbs and minerals. The tannins are firm without being overbearing and the acidity is quite refreshing. You could chill this wine and open it next to the grill this summer - or you could have in cooler weather with a beef stew. 

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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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Wine: Simi Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2011

Longevity counts in wine.  A winery doesn't operate over 135 years without doing a lot of things right.  Simi Winery first made wine in 1876, and they have been working out of the same Healdsburg cellar since 1890.  Giuseppe Simi came from Tuscany to California's gold rush in 1849, like many other Italian immigrants.  Also like his countrymen who ended up far from home in California, he eventually turned to winemaking.  It was over a quarter century after the goldrush that his brother joined him and the winery was born.

Simi uses primarily Alexander Valley fruit for their Sauvignon Blanc.  It's a blend of 95% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Semillon and 2% Viognier.  Those other two grapes help add some aromatics and fruitiness, but the real difference maker here is the region where the grapes are grown.  The Alexander Valley is a fairly warm-climate grape growing area.  This means the fruit is riper.  The aromas and flavors are more fruit-oriented than in, say, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

The Simi Sauvignon Blanc has a very fresh nose and palate - it's a refreshing drink.  The aromas are not too grassy at all - citrus and tropical notes dominate.  It's lush and very fruity, with a decent level of acidity.  The flavor worked well with sashimi and tempura at the Japanese restaurant where I enjoyed it.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gary Farrell Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, Redwood Ranch 2010

A good wine for the warm summer months has to be light, can't be weighted down with oak and should provide some nice acidity to make it a refreshing quaff.  All three bills are filled with the Gary Farrell Sauvignon Blanc from Redwood Ranch Vineyard.  As a post script, we always hope for a bit of complexity as well, and this wine provides that, too.

The Gary Farrell winery is in the Russian River Valley - home to moody grapes like Pinot Noir, notably.  The winery reaches out to nearby Alexander Valley for these grapes.  Jim and Gayle Reed's Redwood Ranch Vineyard is located in the southern reaches of that AVA.  The vines from which this fruit comes are panted in sandy loam soil and normally enjoy a nice hot summer.  2010, however, was a cool vintage in the Alexander Valley, so expect an aromatic wine.  The winery believes this to be age-worthy in their Burgundian style.

The wine has an alcohol level of 14.1% - not exactly Burgundian, and not exactly what one might expect from the supposedly less ripe fruit of a cool vintage.  This may go to show what passes for "cool" in the Alexander Valley.  It's a full varietal wine, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and retails for $25.  I received a sample for review.

This wine gives a medium-pale straw color in the glass. The nose is rich with fruit - peaches, pears, apricots, cantaloupe - with a slight hint of oak spice.  There are no grassy aromas to speak of, which would make one think "old-world," if it weren't for the alcohol level.  In the mouth, it's medium-full bodied, but still on the lighter side.

The palate shows apricot and nectarine, fresh and ripe. There is an intriguing earthiness, too.  This is a fairly complex white wine that's bursting with fruit.  The acidity is pretty good in the mouth, but it really shows itself well on the finish.  The tech sheet only cops to "a short time in oak," and I'd say that sounds about right.  The oak is barely noticeable, and the light spices resulting from it are welcome.  I'd pair this wine with seafood and a caprese salad in a heartbeat.

The folks at Gary Farrell make a lot of noise about their Burgundian style, and this wine bears that out.  It's not really a "new world" Sauvignon Blanc, even though the ripeness - from a cool, damp vintage - is outstanding and the earthy quality really strikes a good chord for me.  I love Sauvignon Blanc, and this one is a favorite of mine already.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wine Tasting Event: Sonoma In The City, Los Angeles

Sonoma County is a fairly long drive from Los Angeles, so we SoCal wine lovers really appreciate that so many Sonoma producers took a road trip to L.A. - and brought their wine with them.

Sonoma In The City hit Los Angeles for a grand tasting event on April 24, 2012 at The London Hotel in West Hollywood. Jordan Winery threw a little 40th anniversary soiree the night before up on the London’s rooftop, one of those swingin’ little Hollywood gatherings with stars aplenty.  The next day, the banquet room bulged with winemakers from Sonoma - Coast, County and Valley.  Dry Creek Valley was represented; so were Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley.

The Dry Creek Valley AVA poured some great Sonoma County Zins.  The ‘09 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel mixes in some Petite Sirah and Carignane for a smokey nose and bright cherry palate with plenty of refreshing acidity.  Fritz Underground Winery brought their ‘09 Zinfandel, which lays a spicy herbal lace over the tart cherry.  Gustafson Family Vineyards stole the table with their ‘08 Zinfandel/Syrah/Petite Sirah blend.  It shows a touch of barnyard on the nose, an earthy palate and great acidity.

Alexander Valley Vineyards held up their end of the Zin bargain with their Sin Zin, showing an earthy cherry nose with raspberry on the palate and the finish.

Kenny Kahn, (right) owner/winegrower/co-winemaker at Blue Rock Vineyard in Alexander Valley, was anxious to show off the fruit of his labor - and with good reason.  His ‘07 Cabernet Sauvignon has a splash of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and really makes with the chocolate.  The ‘09 Baby Blue blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot into a wine that is earthy, tart and rich, and extremely easy to drink.  The unreleased Best Barrel has gentle tannins in a Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend.  Blue Rock’s terroir-driven wines were among my favorites of the afternoon.

DeLoach Vineyards’ ‘09 Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Mountain is 100% Pinot, sporting a nose very much like a Cab, complete with graphite.  It’s a very full bodied wine.  Their 2010 Zinfandel Russian River Valley is a delight, showing eucalyptus and a tingly acidity.

The Landmark Vineyards table sported two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs.  The ‘10 Overlook Chardonnay has a huge expression of lightly oaked, tropical fruit.  Its big sister, the ‘10 Lorenzo Chardonnay, Russian River Valley has a hard time beating it.  They claim it’s very age-worthy.  It should be - its $55 price tag is $30 more than the Overlook.  Landmark’s  ‘09 Grand Detour Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, is a five-vineyard blend, mostly from the Petaluma Gap, offering a very good level of acidity.  There’s a bit more oak in the ‘09 Kanzler Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast - quite dark with a lengthy finish.

Inman Family Wines was represented by the grapegrower, winemaker, salesperson, accountant,  operations manager and forklift driver - all in one woman.  Kathleen Inman (left) has produced two lovely Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley grapes - the earthy ‘08 OGV Estate and the aromatic ‘08 Thorn Ridge Ranch.  Her 2010 OGV Estate Pinot Gris is gorgeous, with a nice peach flavor and a tart finish.  OGV, by the way, stands for Inman’s organically-farmed Olivet Grange Vineyard.

Martinelli Winery’s ‘07 Chardonnay, Three Sisters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, is a $60 Chardonnay that sure smells and tastes like one.  A very earthy nose and extremely good acidity.  Earth also speaks loudly in Martinelli’s ‘09 Pinot Noir, Three Sisters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.  The ‘09 Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, is lush and dark, with a nice level of acidity.

Robert Young Estate Winery was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Alexander Valley, way back in 1958.  Their ‘07 Scion Cabernet Sauvignon has a nice tartness laid over the fruit expression that suggests Alexander Valley is well suited to Cab.

John Murray, at the Lasseter Family Winery table, got my attention by mentioning the 1919 field blend Zinfandel vineyard on their property.  Then he wowed me with a $24 rosĂ© - the ‘10 Enjoe Sonoma Valley.  Syrah, MourvĂ©dre and Grenache form a nice, dry wine with strawberry and watermelon aromas and flavors making me yearn for summer.  The Lasseter ‘08 Paysage Sonoma Valley is a red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauv ignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  There’s great grip here, along with a smokey nose and some tangy blackberry.

Stone Edge Farm Vineyard is organically farmed in Sonoma Valley.  Their ‘07 Cabernet Sauvignon blends 81% Cab with the remainder Merlot.  Nice fruit and pencil point grace the nose.  The ‘08 Surround Cabernet Sauvignon has 6% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc in the mix, with blueberry and black cherry flavors.

Stonestreet Wines uses Alexander Valley fruit from their Alexander Mountain estate.  The ‘09 Bear Point Chardonnay is oaky and rich, rich, rich.  The ‘07 Monument Cabernet Sauvignon is very dark and rich as well.  The ‘09 Broken Road Chardonnay - say it with me - is big and rich.  Rather oaky, but a very nice effort in that style.

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Monday, January 31, 2011


The Jug

Meeting friends for a beer is a time honored tradition.  The beverage isn't really important, it's the company and the conversation that count.  However, if all you're talking about is how lousy the beer - or wine - is, it sort of defeats the purpose of the get-together.

There was no such discourse at Lucky Devils in Hollywood.  The beverages spoke for themselves.  A great beer list, a wine list in which brevity left little choice and some tasty snacks combined for a nice little Saturday soiree.

After the usual Hollywood Boulevard hassles - two-dollar an hour parking at the meter, men looking semi-dangerous doing some sidewalk preaching about something or other, LAPD staring intently into the place for an undisclosed reason - we managed to settle into our kitchen-style chairs and let the festivities begin.

Even though it was intended to be a beer gathering, one of the few wines offered caught my eye because it was from the Sonoma County town of Geyserville, a place I visited a while back.  I was impressed with the wines I found there, so I chose a red table wine from Mercury Geyserville called The Jug.  It was an easy-going $7.50 by the glass, but a bit pricey at $19.50 in the 500ml jug.  It appears to be a Bordeaux-style blend from Alexander Valley vineyards.

The Jug is very dark in the glass, inky in fact.  A fruity nose also displays an earthy darkness and some spice.  It really tastes great, with cassis and black cherry flavors accented by spice and smoke.  The finish is a little weak with a sour cherry aftertaste.

Hornin' Nettie Madge Black IPAOthers in the group opted for brewski.  The Hornin' Nettie Madge Black IPA from Anderson Valley Brewing Company is stout-dark with a licorice nose and a tan head that hangs around a while.  The taste reminds me of dates and almonds.  The Craftsman IPA is a more standard-issue India Pale Ale, with characteristics much like Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale.  A golden color and lots of hops will make plenty of summer afternoons more tolerable.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Avalon California Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Avalon Winery makes two Cabs - and that has been it until recently.  They say they have now released a new Merlot.  There is already a Napa Valley Cab and this one, the California blend.

The notes from winemaker Alex Cose indicate that Avalon mixes 81% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Merlot grapes from different vineyards in Mendocino, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Alexander Valley, and Lodi.  The wine shows a restrained 13.8% abv.  Aging occurs during 18 months in French and American oak with malolactic fermentation occurring there.

The color of this Cab is medium dark, with light showing through even at the core.  On the nose - after a swirl - the dark cherry aromas immediately give way to a cherry cola aspect.  There is a slight smokiness and some spicy notes come through as well.  I guessed there was Merlot involved from the moment I smelled the wine.

The taste is juicy and fairly tannic.  It’s nice and dry without too much puckering of the mouth.  The wine is dark and earthy on the palate, with a touch of graphite accenting the dark cherry and plum fruit flavors.  After a little time in the glass, flavors of cassis become the dominating profile.  This is particularly true two and three nights after opening.  The finish is a little shorter than I would like.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Rodney Strong Merlot

If you live in Los Angeles, it's just a natural thing to go old-school Hollywood every now and then.  Musso and Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard - right in the thick of the touristy T-shirt shops, bars and leather-clad runaways - is about as old-school as Hollywood gets anymore.

A black and white Humphrey Bogart could sit in one of the red naugahyde booths and appear to be right at home.  The wait staff would huddle around the cash register drawing straws to determine who had to go and tell him he couldn't smoke in there anymore.

They are so old-school at Musso and Frank, the waiters dress like parking valets, sporting red vests and bow-ties.  They even have Raymond Burr wine available by the bottle.

I only wanted a glass, so I opted for a California classic from further north. Rodney Strong first planted Merlot in the Alexander Valley in 1970.  According to their website,
"Today we farm over 100 acres in the Alexander Valley and the northern portion of the Russian River Valley.  Together, these areas display the bright, red fruit character of the Russian River with the deep dark fruit flavors and mature tannins of the warmer Alexander Valley."

The Rodney Strong Merlot is a deep, dark ruby color with a purple rim.  The nose is fragrant with black cherry, blackberry and smokey cedar.  On the palate there's an earthy blueberry flavor draped in a wonderfully smokey element.  It's fairly brambly, too.  The effect of the small oak barrels in which the wine is aged is apparent, but in just the right measure.  The finish is lengthy and lip-smacking on this well-balanced wine.  The firm tannins are very manageable.  I paid $8.50 for a good-sized pour, and it will probably stand as the bargain of the week.