Showing posts with label Calistoga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Calistoga. Show all posts

Friday, June 7, 2019

Single-Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc From Calistoga

The grapes for the Shipwrecked Sauvignon Blanc were grown exclusively in Towners Vineyard in Calistoga.  It's one of five wines produced by Lodi's Stonum Vineyards for a Nashville duo known as LoCash.  Band members Preston Brust and Chris Lucas are wine guys, something I would imagine is a rarity in Nashville.  They say "a good bottle of wine is like a good song," likening the aromas and flavors to words and music that create and emotional experience.

The 2015 Shipwrecked Sauvignon Blanc hits a rather high note with alcohol, topping 15% abv.  The wine sells for just under $30.

This Napa Valley (Calistoga) single-vineyard SauvBlanc has a nose which is dominated by fruit, primarily tropical and citrus.  An apricot note shows early, but is overpowered by the ripeness of the California grapes.  On the palate, there's no grassiness, but there is a slightly tart herbal aspect that shows up most notably on the finish.   Acidity is bright and fresh, perfect for seafood and salads.  It's boozy - 15.3% - but it doesn't come off that way.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Expect Great Zin At Rancho Mirage Wine, Food Fest

There's a great wine event coming this weekend for residents of California's desert communities and all of Southern California.  The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is this Saturday, February 17th 2018.  The organizers have kindly invited me to be an ambassador of what looks to be a fantastic event.  More than 200 handcrafted wines will be poured and you'll sample cuisine from 15 of the area's top chefs.  The event is put on by David Fraschetti, a full time resident of Rancho Mirage and the creator of the VinDiego Wine and Food Festival held in San Diego each April.

You can find the event and follow the #RMWineFest2018 on Twitter: @rmwineandfoodfestFor a discount, use the Now And Zin Wine promo code: NZWine.

Tickets to the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival start at $70 and are available on the fest's website.  The all-inclusive General Admission and VIP ticket includes a crystal souvenir wine glass and unlimited tastings of the wines, a variety of gourmet appetizers, cheeses, artisan breads and olive oils.  Early Entry VIP tickets allow attendees to arrive one hour earlier than General Admission.  You must be 21 to attend.

Barlow Vineyards is one of the wineries that will be attending, and I can't wait to sample the rest of their line.  Their Zinfandel is a knockout.  Located in Napa Valley’s Calistoga area, Barlow Vineyards was purchased by Warren Barlow Smith in 1994 and it's a family affair still today.  They were farmers initially, selling the fruit of their labor.  They began selling the vinified fruit of their vines at the urging of a previous winemaker.

They made fewer than a hundred cases of this wine and it retails for $35.

The Barlow Calistoga Unfiltered Zinfandel 2012 is a real crowd pleaser, very dark and aromatic.  A blackberry and licorice nose gets a savory whiff of smoke and a shot of vanilla on the side.  It's had some time in the bottle and it’s getting very smooth and silky as it ages.  On the palate, good, dark fruit stands a little on the tart raspberry side.  The oak influence shows in a touch of spice and vanilla, but it doesn't overwhelm.  The acidity is nice, and the tannins are good.  This can pair with a pork chop, but it's a great sipper, too.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bearish On ZInfandel

Beran owner and winemaker Joseph Wagner is a fifth generation California wine person, carrying on the family tradition passed down to him from his dad Chuck. Already the originator of Belle Glos and Meiomi, his Copper Cane Wines and Provisions has that millennial ring to it. Beran is under that umbrella. Director of Winemaking John Lopez grew up knee deep in grapes, too.

These grapes of California's heritage variety came from all over the Napa Valley. They were grown high on Atlas Peak and down on the valley floor in Calistoga. Some old vine Petite Sirah is in the mix, as well.

The winery headlines its website with "Strength, conviction, Zinfandel." It’s a stance that Zinfandel drinkers appreciate, the ones who look at Zin the way Texans look at the Alamo. Aging took place in French and American oak barrels over the course of a year. The Beran's alcohol level is super-ripe at 15.4% abv, and the retail price is $48.

The Beran Napa Valley Zinfandel 2012 is inky black, with no light getting through at all. The nose is deep and black - blackberries, blueberries, cassis, tar, leather - it's rich. But when the sip hits the tongue it's amazing. That dark fruit gets a nice treatment from the oak and displays wonderful spice notes. There's more than just vanilla at work - pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, the whole rack fell into the cask, it seems. The tannins are plenty firm enough for pairing with grilled meat, but the wine, as if it is showing off, is smooth.

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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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dessert Wine Undergoes Drastic Change In Five Years

A business trip to Sonoma County about five years ago resulted in a side trip to Calistoga, and a stop at the Bennett Lane Winery tasting room.  An impressive sample list was capped off with the Bennett Lane Dessert Wine, which I liked so much I bought a bottle to take home.  We just opened it recently, and discovered the wine had undergone quite a change.

The Bennett Lane website bills their dessert wine as a “traditional port style wine, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Carignane and all of the classic Portuguese varietals.”  While I remember it tasting very Port-like at the time of my visit in 2009, it now more closely resembles a dry sherry.  My notes on the wine I tasted in the Bennett Lane tasting room say, “Beautiful, rich flavors abound. Figs, cherries and some spicy notes put me in mind of Christmas.”  It still does, only in a different way.  The promised fruit has become more of a coffee/caramel/raisin show.

Bennett Lane Dessert Wine carries the subtitle of "After Feasting Wine," and that is still a perfect time for its consumption.  At 7.41% residual sugar, it is sweet enough - but not too sweet.  At 18.5% abv, it has the kind of kick that caps off a fine meal in style.  At $60 for a 375ml bottle, it qualifies as a real splurge.  Hopefully it won’t turn into a $30 sherry while it waits its turn under the corkscrew.

What once was a rich red drink is now showing deep browning in the glass.  The opaque wine smells of raisins and alcohol.  The palate is luscious - raisin notes are draped heavily in burnt caramel.  The alcohol does show prominently, but it comes off more like a drink that is much stronger than wine.  There is quite a bit of grape residue in the bottom of the bottle.  Pairing this wine with the standard spread of pies at holiday time is a natural even in its decline, maybe even more so than when it was in its youth.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Castello di Amorosa White Wines

Castello di Amorosa
It’s always interesting to hear which wineries people hold dear.  For folks not in the wine business, that choice often centers on a winery they visited once.  Maybe they joined the club and get quarterly reminders of their trip to wine country.

I know a fellow who talks about a particular Napa Valley winery every time I see him.  It was at least a decade since his visit, but it impressed him so much that he still relives that vacation.  Castello di Amorosa is one of those places people will talk about for years after their visit.

Dario Sattui opened Calistoga’s Castello di Amorosa winery in 2007.  The structure - built in the style of a Tuscan castle - is mightily impressive and unforgettable.  It employs brick, wood and iron imported from Italy, along with over 8,000 tons of local stone.  This wine castle was a dream for years before it actually took shape.

Today, winemakers Brooks Painter and Peter Velleno work in the cellar there with consulting winemaker Sebastiano Rosa.  There is no distribution for their wines.  If you want them, order from the winery or go pay them a visit that you'll remember forever.

Their red wines were the subject of an earlier article on this site.  The winery was kind enough to send samples of a few of their white wines for me to try.

Dry Gewürztraminer 2012 Anderson Valley, Mendocino County

This wine comes from an Anderson Valley vineyard where they have sourced Gewürztraminer for years.  They made 2,392 cases at 14.5% abv - rather high for this variety.  Stainless steel fermentation means you can expect a clean and refreshing wine.  The retail price is $25.

Pale straw in color, the bouquet comes on strong with beautiful honeysuckle, pineapple, apple and pear notes.  The palate is fruity and fresh.  Apple and pear flavors are joined by minerality, a spicy note and great acidity.  This wine will be just fine with shrimp or crabs.

Napa Valley Chardonnay 2011

The grapes come from a vineyard at the south end of the Napa Valley.  1,424 cases were made, and the wine retails for $28.  It hits 14.4% abv on the alcohol meter, is 100% barrel fermented and aged sur lie for ten months  in 50% new French oak.  Sur lie means the wine is aged with the spent yeast cells - lees - still in it.  It is stirred to re-suspend the yeast.

A beautiful golden color, the wine's nose is bursting with ripe tropical fruit and funky, buttery oak.  The palate is big, too, with similar fruit and oak spice.  Flavors of citrus and pears find comfort in the silky, buttery oak for what we could call a classic California Chardonnay.  The acidity offers a zing to complement the full mouthfeel.  Feel free to pair it with shellfish and salads.

Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2011 Santa Barbara County

From one of my favorite vineyards, this Santa Maria Valley wine was produced in a quantity of 1,344 cases.  This reserve Chardonnay sells for $38, and the alcohol is not shy - 14.8% abv.  Aged for ten months in French oak, on the lees, only 20% of the grapes went through malolactic fermentation in the barrel.  This means you can expect the wine be a little more steely than creamy.

This wine also has a lovely golden hue, and a nose which carries every bit of that ten months of oak.  Get past the oak spice, and you find lovely tropical and citrus accents.  The same can be said for the palate, which is abetted by a riveting acidity.  It's not exactly the steely wine a minimized malolactic might indicate, but it definitely has a lot of focus apart from the oak influence.  This one will be a hit with any type of seafood or poultry.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

A Trio Of Italian-Style Wines From Castello Di Amorosa

I've written written before about the wines of Castello di Amorosa - the Calistoga castle that's a replica of a real Tuscan castle.  If you visit, it's hard to miss.  There aren't a lot of castles in the neighborhood.  This one took 14 years to build. It even has a torture chamber.  Presumably, the wine served there is very different from the wine served in the tasting room.

Castello di Amorosa uses estate fruit for all their wines, some of which are Italian varieties.  They kindly supplied me with samples of three of their wines which tip the fedora to their Italian heritage.

Gioia Rosato di Sangiovese 2011  $24
Pronounced "Joy-uh," this 100% Sangiovese rosé is fruity and fresh and a lively deep pink to boot.  Its nose is fresh and vibrant with cherries and plums.  The palate bursts with strawberries and raspberries, and a streak of earthy minerality.  A dynamite acidity laces it all together.  This wine looks big, but actually comes across as a light-middleweight.  The mouthfeel is crisp and refreshing, so it’s a great choice for salads, sandwiches or sipping on the porch this spring and summer. The alcohol content won't weigh you down - only 13.1% abv.  The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks.

Napa Valley Sangiovese 2009  $30
This varietal offering has medium density and is deep purple in the center of the glass, turning lighter at the edge.  The nose is enormous, laden with black cherry and blackberry with floral notes for good measure.  It's a bombastic bouquet, and it's fitting on such a heavyweight wine.  Frankly, it drinks more like a young Napa Cab - big alcohol, big tannins and fruit a lot darker than I expect in a Sangiovese.  The 14.5% alcohol content shows vividly upon opening, but after a night uncorked, it settles down quite a bit.  There's a lot of influence from the 18 months of ageing in French oak barrels which this wine receives.

La Castellana 2008  $68
A Super Tuscan-style blend, this one is made from 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 16% Sangiovese - all estate fruit.  The nose bears a lot of heat after opening, which burns off in a couple of hours.  The 14.6% abv remains noticeable, though.  The wood leaves its mark here, too - 20 months in French oak.  Intense aromas of blackberry dominate the smells, with a bit of tar and eucalyptus creeping through.  Huge fruit blasts through on the palate, too.  The tannins are firm and the acidity is mouth-watering.  On the third night after opening, the tar was so deep and rich I might have mistaken it for a Syrah.  The winemaker notes suggest a pairing with wild boar, which sounds great to me.

Winemakers Brooks Painter and Peter Velleno have produced some commendable wine.  Hear Castello di Amorosa’s consulting winemaker Sebastiano Rosa talk about the origins of Super Tuscan blends, and his history with wine, on the Castello di Amorosa SoundCloud site.

Castello di Amorosa wines are sold only at the castle or through their website.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tasting Room Notes: Bennett Lane Winery

On the way from Napa Valley to Geyserville via Highway 128, there's a driveway I'm glad I drove. That was the one which led to Calistoga's Bennett Lane Winery. A pretty arbor in front of a smallish building provides a fitting entry into the tasting room. Small inside, too, there isn't a lot of room available at the tasting bar. Find a way to elbow in, though. Some very good wine awaits you.

White Maximus 2007 - A floral nose - honeysuckle - is enhanced with citrus aromas. The palate is clean and crisp. Good minerals, good acidity.

Reserve Chardonnay 2007 - This was billed as a new release, but I think the tasting sheet was printed late last year. The blurb promises Fuji apple, baked pear and toasted hazelnut, but it was all tropical to my nose. A little unexpected, but quite pleasant. This is a full-figure Chardonnay, heavily oaked with the buttery, creamy notes you would expect.

Maximus 2005 - Plenty of oak in this big red. I get lots of cedar, vanilla and spices both in the nose and on the tongue. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 11% Syrah, the fruit is lush and lasts a good long while. It was my favorite.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - This 100% Cabernet is a blend of Bennett Lane's estate Cab and that sourced from other Napa Valley growers. A big cherry nose greets you and the taste is driven by flavors of dark plums and leather.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - The Cab is augmented by 4% Petit Verdot. It's a very rich wine that, to me, is chocolatey enough to be dessert. But no, they have that covered even better.

Dessert Wine - This beauty is a non-vintage port-style wine of which less than a hundred cases were produced. I don't know the percentages, but it's made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Carignane. Beautiful, rich flavors abound. Figs, cherries and some spicy notes put me in mind of Christmas, even though I had been off the hot, dusty trail for only a few minutes.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tasting Room Notes: Chateau Montelena

On the way out of Napa Valley, heading north on Highway 29, there is a signpost in Calistoga that points down Tubbs Lane toward Chateau Montelena. I had to turn off and see it in real life, having already seen it in the movie "Bottle Shock."

Following the signs onto the property and into the parking area, I caught a glimpse of it through the trees. But on the way to the stairs, I was distracted by the beautiful and peaceful Jade Lake. A rowboat was grounded along the shore and a red bridge led to a small structure patiently awaiting the next wedding to be held there. A short walk along the banks filled me with a feeling of quiet satisfaction. It's a really beautiful property.

The stairs up to the winery building are rather lengthy. When I finally reached a point where the winery was visible, it looked exactly like it did in the film. I half expected to see Bill Pullman poke his head from the large doors.

The tasting room is cool and professional in a woodsy sort of way. Pictures of the history of the winery are on the walls, along with memorabilia of the film and the 1976 Paris Tasting which is its subject. A very nice view back through the years of a storied winery.

The staff is friendly, but maybe a bit stiff. There's a feeling of reverence that permeates the proceedings. Five wines were on the tasting menu the day I was there, ranging in price from $22 to $135. The tasting fee is $20, and unlike the scene in the movie they are not offended when you pay them.

Riesling, Potter Valley 2007 - There's a fruity nose, something rather exotic like star fruit. Off-dry with a nice acidity, this wine will sip very nicely on the porch or mate with a refreshing salad. $22

Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2007 - This 2007 version of the wine that helped make the California wine industry is stunning in a very restrained way. Fruity and flowery on the nose, the palate is treated to a crisp and refreshing wine that does not overplay anything. The citrus, minerals and oak are all quite prominent, but none try and steal the show. The long finish is much appreciated. $50

Zinfandel, Montelena Estate, 2006 - Dark fruit dominates the nose, with currant the frontrunner. Cherry and strawberry on the palate along with an array of spices combine in a velvety mouthfeel. This is 50% Zinfandel and 50% Primotivo, Zin's Italian twin. $30

Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2005 - A very dark color - almost black - promises some deep and earthy tones, which are delivered. I smell licorice and cedar. The taste is beautiful, with smooth tannins and a full mouthfeel. $45

Cabernet Sauvignon, Montelena Estate, 2005 - Very similar to the previous wine, this Cab is even darker in color, if that's possible. The nose is quite complicated, leathery and fruity at the same time with some clove. A real heavyweight wine with smooth tannins, the taste is exquisite and it fills my mouth in the most incredible manner. $135