Showing posts with label Carneros. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carneros. Show all posts

Monday, February 14, 2022

Super Bowl-Winning Wine: Los Carneros

A publicist rushed a wine to my doorstep last week, one that was bound to help my hometown team win the Super Bowl.  Their name was written all over the label, even if it was in Spanish.

Los Carneros means the Rams, so you can see why there was urgency in getting it to me.  Somebody must have known that the Los Angeles Rams would need a little help in Super Bowl LVI.  The help came just in time, as the game went right down to the wire, with Los Carneros coming out on top.  

The wine came from an outfit called The Vice, and they say it is a single-vineyard bottling made from Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, sustainably grown in the Carneros sub-appellation.  Aging took place over 22 months in French and American oak barrels - one of each, it's a limited release.  Alcohol tips the scale at 14.3% abv and the wine retails for $69.  Oh, and it's a good luck charm for the Rams.

The dark wine has a beautiful nose full of dark fruit and oak spice, even a little nuttiness in there.  The palate is deep and rich, and a little bit herbal.  Plums, blackberries, blueberries  Tannins are firm, but the wine sips great if you aren't cooking steak tonight.  If you are, more the better.  


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Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Great Sonoma Chardonnay

Petaluma based Adobe Road Winery owner Kevin Buckler is a real-life race car driver.  His winemaker, Garrett Martin, reportedly drives the speed limit and brakes fully at stop signs.  The Adobe Road Racing Series of wines includes Apex, Redline, The 24 and the latest release, SHIFT 2019.  Their less "racy" bottlings include the 2019 Famighetti Vineyard Viognier and the 2019 Adobe Road Chardonnay, Petaluma Gap, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Roberts Road.  

Information is a little scant for the latter wine, but previous vintages have been 100% Chardonnay, taken from the Sonoma side of the Carneros appellation and aged for ten months in a mixture of new and used French oak and stainless steel.  Malolactic fermentation was stopped at 30% and the wine rested on its lees - the spent yeast.  Alcohol kicks in at 14.3% abv and the wine sells for $52.

Martin says the "scrappy little organic vineyard … always surprises with its richness and intensity of detail."  The wine has a medium-rich golden tint and a nose that cries to be noticed.  The peach and nectarine aromas are lovely enough, but there are delicate touches of lemon and even a hint - just a hint - of butter.  The palate offers a custard-like flavor which seems to be at once sweet and savory.  The mouthfeel plays games, too - racy acidity, no, creamy and hefty.  This is really a great tasting Chardonnay, one of the better ones I have had from California.


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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Monday, January 9, 2017

Chardonnay Under The Sequoias

It's a story we never tire of, isn't it? Family turns 110-year-old Napa Valley barn into a winery, now they're working on their fourth decade as winemakers. Sequoia Grove's 24-acre Estate Vineyard and 50-acre Tonella Ranch Vineyard are both located in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley. They boast of their terroir, "the superb climate and gravelly-loam soils impart distinct flavor in the Bordeaux varieties."

Company president Michael Trujillo knows the lay of the land, a knowledge that comes with 30-something years of experience. Winemaker Molly Hill is a simple girl - she just wants to make great wine. "Balance to me means nothing stands out—not alcohol, not tannin, not acid, nor fruit nor barrel."

The Chardonnay grapes for this wine come "mostly from Dijon and Wente clones grown in the renowned, cool-climate Carneros District in Napa Valley." Growers like the Haire vineyard, the Ghisletta vineyard, and the Cunat vineyard in Oak Knoll contributed fruit.

The grapes were whole-cluster pressed for full flavor and wonderful acidity. There was no malolactic fermentation allowed, but the wine took on a creamy feel from sitting on the lees, the spent yeast cells, while in the barrel for ten months. Thirty percent of the oak used was new French. Alcohol hits 14.1% abv and it retails for just under 30 bucks.

Sequoia Grove Chardonnay gives a green-gold hue in the glass. It's almost glowing. The nose hit me like a good ol' California Chard, big and oaky, but full of tropical fruit, too. Pineapple, guava, lemon, lime, tangerine - there's a little bit of it all. The wine is barrel fermented, as well as aged in French oak. It has a very full mouthfeel, but the acidity is quite fresh, too. The oak plays prominently on the palate and is abetted by lemony minerality and the flavor of white peaches. Oak stays through a rather lengthy finish, like an old friend who just had another hour open up in the schedule. No need to leave just yet.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Just Gimme A Cab!

At a wine tasting event I attended once, I was awaiting my turn at the pouring station when the gentleman ahead of me loudly asked the server for "anything you got that's a Cab." His tone, I took to be rude. He sounded as if he were dismissing all other red grapes without a fair trial. I have since come to learn that real dyed-in-the-wood Cabernet Sauvignon lovers simply don't have time for anything else. Suggest that they may enjoy a Grenache or Syrah as a change of pace, and you will get a quizzical twitch of the eyebrow as an unspoken, "Why?"

At Cornerstone Cellars, they do love Cabernet Sauvignon, they just don't obsess over it, or stalk it. They embrace a lot of different grapes, but their first love was Cab. It will always be special.

The grapes making up Cornerstone's 2012 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from four outstanding Cab sites. 92% of the wine's makeup is Cabernet Sauvignon - from South Napa Valley, Yountville, Oakville and Howell Mountain. 5.5% of the grapes are Carneros Merlot while 2.5% are St. Helena Cabernet Franc. Fans of Cornerstone will recognize the Napa vineyard sites they return to again and again for quality fruit: Oakville Station, Ink Grade, Kairos, Talcott. These vineyards are a big reason that Cornerstone wines are reliably top-notch.

The wine rings up 14.7% abv on the alcohol scale and $50 at the cash register. 1,265 cases were bottled, along with a couple dozen magnums. Aging took place over 18 months in French oak barrels, half of which were made from new oak.

The 2012 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is opaque in the glass. Aromas of cassis and sweet oak spice dominate the nose, while traces of anise and pencil shavings poke through. The palate is so rich, it doesn't have to dress up. But it does so anyway. Black and blue berries are in front, with allspice, nutmeg, and tobacco sweetening the deal. Add great tannic structure to the package and I'm all in. This is a superb wine, whether you are a Cab fan or not.


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Monday, July 7, 2014

Let Your Franc Flag Fly: Stepping Stone By Cornerstone

Cabernet Franc is not exactly a problem grape, but it does like to let its franc flag fly.  They know about that around Chinon, in the Loire Valley.  The grape’s tendency to display aromas like cassis and raspberry are okay with most folks, but some American palates find the bell pepper and tobacco notes a little off-putting.

Cornerstone Cellars' managing partner Craig Camp writes in his Wine Camp blog about letting Franc be Franc.  Camp writes, “Many wineries seem to want to tame the cantankerous cabernet franc's edgy personality, but we don't. In fact, we revel in its idiosyncrasies. Being Franc is everything to us.”  Francly speaking, when the wine wants to walk on the wild side, let it.

“Not wild like crazy, but like nature,” he explains.  And a bit like the Cornerstone philosophy, too.  The winery states clearly that they don’t make wines for just anybody.  Camp continues with his Cab Franc 101 class, “Cabernet franc should have an edge aromatically showing wild herbs and mint and a firm structure that grabs your attention. Like most really interesting things, it's not for everyone.”

The Cabernet Franc grapes for this wine come from Napa Valley vineyard sites in St. Helena, Oakville, Coombsville and Carneros.  A touch of Carneros Merlot rounds out the wine.  Camp says the spice of the Merlot echoes the natural wildness of the Cabernet Franc with a cool-vineyard herbal note.  He starts to get a little overheated about here, claiming, “I don't know if we make a sexier wine.”  In the black label, it's certainly one of their better-dressed offerings.

The 2011 vintage was a cool one in Napa Valley, and Camp states that some people who look for high-octane, fruity wines were disappointed with it.  “If you took the weather we had in 2011, and gave it to Bordeaux,” he writes, “ they would be drinking Champagne and slapping themselves on the back.”  I have found that many 2011s from Napa Valley are giving me exactly what I look for in a wine - complexity and restraint.

A sample of the Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Black Label Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2011 was made available to me for the purpose of this article.

This Cab Franc is inky dark and has the aromas to back that up.  Brooding black currant fruit is smartly outfitted in herbs - sage and eucalyptus - and a hint of bell pepper.  The palate continues the dark thread, with flavors of blackberry and black raspberry.  There is an herbal streak here, too, with savory notes matching the fruit.  The tannins are right out front and the acidity is mouthwatering.


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Friday, January 31, 2014

Howell-ing At The Mountain With Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

If you follow this space much, you may have noticed that an article about the Cornerstone Napa Valley Cab appeared a little while back.  They released another Cab along with that one, the Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2010.  Cornerstone’s managing partner Craig Camp says the Napa Cab and the Howell Mountain Cab "are very different wines telling two distinct stories,"   adding that each expresses different aspects of Napa Valley.

As mentioned in the previous article, while other Napa winemakers may be complaining (privately, anyway) about cool vintages, Camp and Cornerstone winemaker Jeff Keene rejoice in them.  "By Napa Valley standards 2010 was a cooler vintage, which means by Bordeaux standards it was a a very good year," says Camp.  "The problem vintages in Napa are the hot ones, not the cooler ones.  The cooler weather helped us towards our goal to make balanced wines.  While the "big wine" folks struggled with 2010, we loved it."

Here’s a glimpse of what grapegrowers go through during the growing season, from Camp’s notes on the 2010 vintage:

“The Napa Valley experienced an unusually cool, damp summer which delayed ripening by a good 3 weeks. These cooler temperatures, coupled with a stubborn coastal cloud layer that seemed never to break up, caused the vineyard growth cycle to move along slowly.
“Then we got SLAMMED...third week of August, a heat wave sent triple digit temperatures across the state and any exposed fruit succumbed to sunburn damage. When it came time to pick the crews had to first make a pass through the vineyard and remove all the sunburned or shriveled grapes. They then went back through to pick the clusters that were optimally ripe. This is a textbook case of ‘precision farming’, it can be very time consuming, but the results are worth all the extra effort.
“Cooler than average temperatures returned again in early September, but gave way to a welcome and consistent Indian Summer, bringing concentrated flavors and tannin development at lower sugar levels allowing us to make elegant, structured, impeccably balanced wines.”

So, the Cornerstone folks are happy making a balanced wine, but they they aim a lot higher.  They still want high aromatics, a bright palate and a big finish, and this wine hits all three pitches out of the park.

The grapes for the 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from the organically farmed Ink Grade Vineyard.  This spot, 1,800 feet up on Howell Mountain's eastern side sports powdery, white, volcanic soil, not the red clay soil found in many of the vineyards on Howell Mountain.  A 10% splash of Merlot - sourced from Stewart Ranch Vineyard in Carneros - is used in the blend.

Camp notes that the wine is firmly structured, and that it's made to express, not hide, its tannic character.  "This is a wine born and made to age", he continues, recommending you wait "five or more years to let the many layers in this wine to expand and integrate."  Cornerstone's notes suggest a wait of twenty years wouldn't be out of order"

The wine aged for 22 months in French oak barrels, three-quarters of them new.  It hits 14.7% abv and retails for $80 per bottle.  Only 470 cases and five dozen magnums were produced.

This Cab is dense and dark, with no light coming through it at the midpoint.  The nose is amazing, with blackberry, black currant and a whiff of blueberry holding down the fruit basket.  Spices galore come through in the form of vanilla, clove and nutmeg, with some sandlewood wafting up, too.  The palate is just as lush, with more dark fruit and great spices joined by firm tannins and a riveting acidity.  A bit of mocha and cocoa add to a delightful smorgasbord of flavors, while the long finish is satisfying and delicious.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Red Rocks! 2010


Here’s an $18 wine - an unlikely three grape blend - that will turn your head for sure.  If the aromas alone don’t make you do a double take, the taste will.  It’s a big California wine, and it’s made of Zinfandel, Syrah and Merlot.  Napa’s Cornerstone Cellars kindly provided a sample.

The full name is a bit of a mouthful - Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Red Rocks! - and it’s part of Cornerstone’s family of wines priced for everyday use.  The wines in the Rocks! line - both red and white - start with a blank page every vintage.  Varieties, vineyards and percentages are figured out each year after they’ve had a look at the lay of the land.

The Zinfandel is from Lake County, the Syrah is from Sonoma and the Merlot is Napa Carneros.  All three grapes play a role in this wine’s structure.  The alcohol number is 14.5% abv.

Credit the Zinfandel and Syrah for the bombastic nose.  It really has some huge aromas to throw around.  Zin spices and blackberry bramble stand out on the palate, while Syrah kicks in with a bit of sage and black pepper.  The Merlot is the glue that holds this wildness together.  Red Rocks! is a very dark wine and the tannins are firm but the sip is smooth.  This facet is doubled after lengthy breathing.  The second night open, the wine had settled down a bit but still presented itself strongly.


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