Showing posts with label Dry Creek Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dry Creek Valley. Show all posts

Monday, January 25, 2021

A Great Zinfandel For Half Its Original Price

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the down low with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

Hughes' Lot 744 is a 2018 Zinfandel from Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, a small AVA tucked in between the Russian River and Lake Sonoma.  Hughes says that despite being a wine travel destination, Dry Creek Valley is still "a tiny, rural area filled with family-owned vineyards, one deli, and no traffic lights."  I do understand that neighboring Geyserville has a signal, but it may be flashing most of the time.  Hughes raves about Dry Creek Valley Zins, which he feels are benefited by the region’s unique dynamic.

This Zinfandel, Hughes says, is a "stylistically perfect gem" from a family winery that has been crafting top rated Zinfandel for decades.  He feels that Lot 744 is easily one of the best Zins he has ever gotten his hands on.  Alcohol checks in at a lofty 16% abv and it sells for $17 - half the original price.

This Sonoma County Zinfandel has a medium dark ruby tint to it, and it smells of brambly raspberry and blackberry with an undercurrent of leather, cigars and spice.  The nose doesn't really foretell of an amazing palate experience, but that's what it delivers.  The fruit is carried along on a savory wave of earth, minerals and tobacco.  Oh my, this is a good Zinfandel - and I would say that even if I were not a big fan of the grape.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Dry Creek Valley Zin Via Kokomo

Winemaker Erik Miller moved from Indiana early this century to satisfy his wine itch.  He picked a good spot, Sonoma County, although as owner of Kokomo Wines, he also sources grapes from other growers in Dry Creek Valley and other areas of the county.

Named after Miller's Indiana hometown, Kokomo was established in 2004 on Dry Creek Valley's east side. His grower-partner Randy Peters is a fourth-generation farmer who raises grapes in Sonoma's Dry Creek , Russian River and Alexander valleys.

The winery is located in Timber Crest Farms, where Zinfandel has been growing for 150 years.  Miller uses the cuttings from those plants to start new vines. His winemaking philosophy involves letting the grapes speak for themselves, up to a point.  Miller strives for firm tannins, but not to overpower.  He wants vibrant and expressive aromas and flavors, but without overuse of oak.

The 2016 Kokomo Zinfandel from Pauline's Vineyard is made from grapes grown across the street from the winery.  The vines are of a clone that was planted on the property in the 1800s by Peters' grandfather. The wine was aged for eleven months in half French and half other European oak, about a third of which was new.  Alcohol hits a predictably high 15.5% abv and it retails for $36.

This deep, rich Zin lets no light through the glass and offers a nose just as opaque.  Dark currant, blackberry, raspberry and licorice dominate the generous aromas, with a healthy dose of allspice, sage, mint and cinnamon.  The palate is delicious, showing dark berries, strawberry, holiday spice and a note of black pepper which lingers on the finish.  The oak treatment, although restrained, may be just a tad too much for me, but California’s heritage grape gets a fine treatment here.


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Friday, October 5, 2018

Old-Style Zin From Dry Creek Valley

Field blend wines are those for which various different grape varieties are grown and harvested together, then cofermented.  19th century winemakers found it advantageous to blend the wine in the field, rather than use separate barrels for each grape variety.  Today's methods are more expensive, but more flexible   Everyone likes a little nostalgia, though - that's why Throwback Thursday originated. 

In Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley's grape history dates back to California's Gold Rush days. The valley is 16 miles long, two miles wide, and sustains 9,000 acres of vineyards.  Many of those old vines are still around today.  Talty Winery's vineyard was planted in 1963, but it was done in field blend style, as in the even older days.

Located in Healdsburg, Talty is a small production winery which produces around 1,300 cases of handcrafted Zinfandels.  Michael Talty's father William loved the Dry Creek Valley and wanted to start a winery there, a dream that was never realized.  Michael saw to it and named the six-acre estate in his honor.  The vines are head-pruned and dry-farmed in the heart of  "Zinfandel Country."  The Talty wines - all Zins - are aged a year in oak and a year in the bottle. 

The 2014 Talty Estate Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley is a field blend of 90% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah and 3% Carignane.  The grapes are harvested and vinified as a blend, just like the wine pioneers of California did it.  787 cases were made, the wine hits 14.5% abv and it sells for $42, which is about where all the Talty wines fall.

The nose shows black cherries and currants surrounded by cedar, cinnamon and white pepper.  Flavor is plentiful, with those cherries again, bolstered by ripe cranberries and blackberries.  There's a leathery, sagebrush note that screams about the old west.  The rusticity plays well with the overriding elegance of the sip, and it all melts into a long, savory finish.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Taste Of The Old West - Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Wines made in Dry Creek Valley have the flavor of the old West, the frontier, the pioneers.  While briar is a common tasting note for Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels, it's also the name of the estate from which comes Mazzocco Zinfandel

Owned by Ken and Diane Wilson, the winery's 14-acres are called Briar Ranch, and the Briar Vineyard gives up the grapes for single-vineyard Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The property is located on a saddle between the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, a dusty part of Sonoma County that has always made me think of swinging saloon doors. 

Winemaker Antoine Favarro says, "it's the fruit," which is a lot more humble than saying, "it's all about me."  The wine spent 18 months in French oak barrels, but didn't end up wiped out by wood. 
Fewer than 600 cases of the Briar Zinfandel were produced, and after looking at their website, it appears the 2015 vintage may be sold out.  The 2016 Briar sells for $29.  So does the 2016 Aguilera Vineyard Zin.  Grand Reserves from the Maple and Rockpile vineyards go for $100 bucks a pop.

This Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is extremely dark with a deep, rich nose.  Aromas of blueberry, black cherry and currant come forcefully, with delightful black pepper, vanilla and smoke on top.  That touch of briar is there, too.  The palate has a distinctly savory side - sage, rosemary, white pepper - and the fruit is all dark and smoky.  Tannins hit a sweet spot and will prove useful without getting in the way.  The sip is smooth and delicious, as the best Zinfandels usually are.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Big Zinfandel From Dry Creek Valley

Collier Falls is right next to Bella Winery's property and farmed by Barry Collier.  He's caring for land that was planted by Italian immigrants in Dry Creek Valley more than a hundred years ago.  The Micheli family started it and the Zinfandel grapes still hang from those vines today. 

The 2015 Bella Collier Falls Zinfandel is a pure Zinfandel - as pure as those century-old vines can be, considering the ancient habit of growing various grapes willy-nilly in the same vineyard.  Winemaker Joe Healy has been with Bella for some 17 years.  The wine's alcohol stands tall at 14.7% abv.  The wine was vinified and aged in American oak barrels, a third of which were new.  It retails for $45.

This wine is medium-dark ruby in color, fairly opaque with some light getting through.  Its nose and palate are both perfumed with jammy, dark fruit and peppery spices.  After sitting in the glass for a few minutes, a gorgeous aroma of smoke appears and more savory note comes to the tongue.  Cedar and vanilla play a role, but the oak aging is overdone in such a dramatic way, it's hard to complain.  This is still a great Zinfandel, so expressive despite the heavy-hand in the cellar.


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, December 19, 2016

One Wine Worth 1000 Stories

There seems to be one story in particular that stands behind 1000 Stories Wines.  It’s the story of America's heritage, what the company’s website calls "a heritage woven with one thousand stories, unique traditions, and a pioneering spirit."  The buffalo is the iconic imagery here, and Zinfandel is what’s in the bottle. Talk about heritage. Talk about pioneers.

The small batch Zinfandels are aged partially in charred bourbon barrels, which seems to be the new way of making the old way new. As far as heritage goes, pioneering winemaker Bob Blue says when he started out in the business he found it expedient and more cost-effective to buy old bourbon barrels instead of new oak containers.  Some of the barrels used to age this wine formerly housed bourbon for more than a dozen years.

The grapes in Batch 11, the 2014 blend I was given to sample, come from Mendocino, Dry Creek Valley, Lodi, Contra Costa and Colusa counties. It’s mainly Zinfandel, with some Mendocino Petite Sirah rounding it out. The wine stands at 15.5% abv and sells for under 20 bucks.

The 1000 Stories Zinfandel is very dark looking and smelling. And tasting, too. Plum and blackberry flavors get a savory working over from the bourbon barrels, but not as much as I had feared. Or hoped. I don't know which way to lean on this kind of oak influence. On the one hand, too much oak is bad. On the other, too much bourbon oak might be just enough. The savory streak plays through on the palate with a hint of that bourbon-laced oak pushing it along. There’s vanilla, pepper and leathery cherry as well.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elevating Zinfandel

There’s nothing like a good Zinfandel, except maybe a great Zinfandel. There were plenty of the former, and a few of the latter, on display at Elevating Zinfandel, a tasting event put on recently by Los Angeles wine educator Ian Blackburn through his WineLA. First, the highest points, then the "merely high."

When I think of the Zinfandels I really like to drink, Turley Wine Cellars comes to mind first.  They draw grapes from a variety of California vineyards, a listing of which reads like a “Who’s Who” of grapevines.

Turley Kirschenmann Vineyard, Lodi 2014 - Planted in 1915. Beautiful red cherry.
Turley Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles 2014 - Elegant, possibly the best Paso wine I’ve had.
Turley Rattlesnake Ridge, Howell Mountain 2014 - Extremely elegant and smooth.

Ridge Vineyards is another name that Zin lovers know and revere.

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel Blend, Alexander Valley, 2014 - Very dark, spicy with pepper and red and black cherry. It’s a true field blend, with different gapes commingled in with the Zinfandel, right in the vineyard, all picked and crushed at the same time and co-fermented. The rep told me there were "too many different grapes in the wine to fit on the label."

Beekeeper Cellars is the creation of our host, Mr. Blackburn, right. I remember telling him two years ago that his Zin could knock an unsuspecting Cab off of any steakhouse wine list. And it’s just getting better.

Beekeeper Madrona Spring Vineyard, Rockpile 2013 - Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. The nose on this one sure is.
Beekeeper Montecillo Vineyard Sonoma Valley 2014 - Dark and savory with an herbal edge and lots of pepper. A favorite of mine.
Beekeeper 2012 Reserve is tasting better all the time.

All the others poured admirable wines, too. Here are my favorites among them.

A Rafanelli Winery
Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2013 - Shows spearmint.

Bedrock Wine Company
Evangelho Vineyard Heritage Wine 2014 - An excellent wine. From Oakley, 120 year-old vines. Another field blend.

Brown Estate Wines
Chaos Theory - Zinfandel/ Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah blend. Spicy nose with pencil lead. Big red fruit flavors, spice. Elegant and structured.

Mauritson Wines
Clay Mauritson, left, is on the winemaking team at Beekeeper, too.
His Cemetery Vineyard, Rockpile 2014 shows green pepper in a savory, herbal setting.

Chase Cellars
Zinfandel Rosé, Hayne Vineyard, St Helena 2015 - Bone dry, definitely not white zin.

Hendry Ranch Wines
Blocks 7 and 22, Napa Valley 2013 - Clone 2 Zinfandel. Strawberry jam.

Jeff Cohn Cellars
Sweetwater Springs, Sonoma Valley 2012 - Savory, earthy lavender. Silky smooth.

Martinelli Winery
Vellutini Ranch, Russian River Valley, 2012 - Very appealing light color. Floral berries, spice.

Quivira Vineyards
Hugh Chappelle, right
Flight 2013 - All Zinfandel. Smokey, red, savory.

Robert Biale Vineyards
Grande Vineyard, Napa Valley 2013 - Vines planted in 1920. Outside the Oak Knoll District. Dark and savory.

Seghesio Family Vineyard
Rockpile, Sonoma Valley 2013 - Subtle and elegant.


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Friday, January 1, 2016

Bordeaux Via Dry Creek Valley

When you think of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley AVA, Bordeaux may not spring to mind right away. You may think of Zinfandel, and with good reason. The wineries of Dry Creek Valley produce oodles of lovely Zin, even some pink versions that are as dry as a bone. You might fancy a Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley - It is, after all, the flagship wine for Dry Creek Vineyard.

But Dry Creek Vineyard also has a Bordeaux program. Winemaker Tim Bell has plenty of great fruit with which to work. On their website, DCV notes that “Dry Creek Valley may well be California’s undiscovered Cabernet country.” The region actually does have more acreage of Cabernet Sauvignon planted than any other grape variety. The winery notes that DCV Cabs lean to the dusty and earthy side of the grape’s spectrum, and that’s fine for me. The rustic feel, herbal notes and complex spiciness are what make red wines interesting, to me.

Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley 2012

The grapes were taken from hillside and benchland vineyards and represent everything Bordeaux-esque they could pick  - 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 3% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged for 20 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, most of which were neutral, only 20% new oak. The alcohol content sits at 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $25 per bottle.

Pour this ruby wine and just let it sit there a while. Take your time and you will be rewarded as the cherry and black raspberry nose takes on smoke, cedar, graphite and cigar aromas. It really opens up to be a massive bouquet. The flavors are certainly fruity enough - plums, blackberries and blueberries - but there are so many shades of complexity it's hard to not be taken aback. Anise gives way to vanilla, which gives way to sage, nutmeg and black pepper. That herbal, spicy feeling lasts into the lengthy finish.

Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage Dry Creek Valley 2012

This Bordeaux-style blend is composed of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 25% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol tips in at 14.5% abv. The wine retails for $45.

The winemaker notes inform us that we can expect this wine to age well for a decade or more. The winemaker notes also tip the DCV hat to Mother Nature for providing “the incredible growing conditions we were afforded in the 2012 vintage.” Sure, the weather’s always nice in California, right? (Pause to allow winegrowers to snort.) Well, apparently in 2012 everything actually came together just the way it says it should in the grape-growing textbook. And the wine certainly reflects that good fortune. The aging took place over 20 months in French oak barrels. Just over half of that wood was new.

The front label carries on the tradition of sailing imagery, although it’s not so peaceful a look at the sea as we are accustomed to seeing on the Dry Creek Vineyard labels. This sailor looks like he definitely has a peg-leg and an eye for the white whale. The quote is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The winery explains the name: “We called this wine ‘The Mariner’ because just as a mariner navigates his ship, so too must a winemaker navigate his way through a vintage.”

The wine is very dark; light barely passes through it. On the nose, nothing is spared. Deep red currant, blueberry, anise, pencil point, cedar, cigar - it’s all there in abundance. The palate is bold and brawny, to use two descriptors which always seem to go hand in hand. The tannins will attack that tri-tip steak and send it back to Santa Maria. It’s a lively wine, not just aggressive. It practically sparkles in the mouth. Blackberry and licorice meet that oak spice and the acidity is lip-smacking perfect. The finish falls away a little more quickly than I thought it would, but it’s a lovely taste while it lingers.


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Friday, September 4, 2015

The Ferrari Of Zinfandel

In my home state, Lone Star Beer is marketed as "the national beer of Texas." In the state I have called home for over 25 years, Zinfandel is thought of as the national wine of California. The Zinfandel grape has been here almost as long as winemaking has. Certain regions of the Golden State are known for their great Zinfandel grapes - Lodi and Paso Robles come to mind, and so does Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley.

Ferrari-Carano makes a wine composed of 97% Zinfandel grapes with a splash of Petite Sirah. Their 2012 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is fermented in steel tanks before aging for 16 months in French oak. A third of that oak is new. The wine retails for $28 dollars.

The Dry Creek Valley Zin is an incredibly dark wine, almost black when held to the light. Its appearance led me to expect a gigantic, ripe, imposing, blammo nose to explode in my face like a loaded cigar. What else from a deep, dark Zinfandel? The nose is not at all blustery, though. It is elegant. Blackberry fruit is ripe, to be sure, but the nuances of sage, cinnamon, pepper and basil play lightly across the olfactory nerve endings.

On the palate, the expectations are met. Flavors of black plums, cherries and dark berries don't even try to be subtle. There is black pepper galore and enough minerals to allow me to skip my multi-vitamin in the morning. Great mocha notes come into play late. The juicy acidity needs to be paired with some meat, and fast. A hearty mouthfeel and bold tannins round out a great wine to have with a thick, juicy steak.

You could also pair this Zinfandel with anything off the grill - I'm thinking of mild Italian sausage right about now - or a burger with blue cheese on it instead of mustard.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dry Creek Valley Wine Makes A Social Media Splash

Three fabulous examples of Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc were tasted, talked about and tweeted up during a virtual wine tasting event. The crowd gathered around a Google Hangout video broadcast on YouTube, while Twitter tasters tweeted about the trio 'til their thumbs tired. Here is the video of the tasting, as it appeared on YouTube.

Michelle McCue of McCue Communications moderated the vidcast and led those responsible for the wines in a power hour of lively conversation about what makes Dry Creek Valley good for Sauvignon Blanc. Winemakers Ed Sbragia, Emmett Reed and Tim Bell provided the answers to questions asked by the social media participants. The Twitter event is hashtagged at #DCVSauvBlanc.

Comments were positive from the beginning, with @PalateXPosure commenting on the Sauvignon Blanc wines that were the topic of the event, “the three clearly elevate what can be achieved w/SB.” @KatieEigel agreed that “These wines were all fantastic!” @wineandgoodfood tweeted that there is more than freshness to the variety, typing “A well-made Sauvignon Blanc can indeed age well!” @martindredmond loves SB “because it is the answer to many food pairing challenges like asparagus. Getting hungry! Anyone else like Sauv Blanc with guacamole?”  He must have been starving, as he also turned his thoughts to “raw oysters, scallops and crab!”

Sbragia Home Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

The Sbragia estate 13-acre Home Ranch Vineyard was planted in 1995, so the Sauv Blanc vines are now really coming into their own. The grapes - all Sauvignon Blanc - were picked nine days into September. They are typically the first of the season to be harvested and made into wine at Sbragia, so the Sauvignon Blanc really sets the tone for everything else they do.

This white is 100% stainless steel fermented, hits 13.7% abv and retails for $22. Only 200 cases were produced.

This wine has a lovely golden tint - it looks inviting. A whiff shows a beautiful grassy note - a little more than I expect in California Sauvignon Blanc, but not full-bore grassiness like the New Zealand style. Apples and pineapples follow quickly. The palate displays gorgeous green apple, a twist of lemon-lime and a quarry of minerality. Ripping acidity screams for shellfish or crustaceans.

@foodwinechickie noted the price: “Such a great value at $22/bottle.” She also liked the “citrus notes with hints of grassiness” in the wine. @amylieberfarb agreed with me that “Oysters would be perfect” for this one. Amy also liked the “tropical fruit on nose & palate.” @JamesTheWineGuy wrote of the wine’s “orange/golden citrus zest, hint of ginger, flowers & seashells.” From @PalateXPosure: “I may have found my top summer #wine MUST HAVE. STUNNING effort. Can't believe only 200 cases made. Can I have them all?” @WineCompass sang the praise of the “lemon-honeysuckle aroma, creamy middle & acids galore,” while @martindredmond enjoyed the “wonderful acid w/ lovely grapefruit, passionfruit and lemongrass character.”


Gustafson Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley

Harvested on September 10th from Gustafson’s ​Old Sheep Barn Block, these grapes are a field blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Sauvignon Musque. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak, one-fifth of it new. 350 cases were produced and alcohol clicks in at 14.1% abv. The retail price is $22.

Gustafson cites the 2013 vintage as a good one overall in California, but particularly good for them in Dry Creek Valley. The long, dry and mild season meant less water for the vines, but they say the Sheep Barn Block produced “unprecedented growth despite the lack of water.”

They harvested the Sauvignon Blanc during the first week of September and did whole-cluster pressing of the grapes to include the stems and all.Steel fermentation was followed by French oak aging, then finished again in steel.

The yellow-gold tint is cheery and bright, while the nose is a bit funky, with white peaches and a waxy sensation. That wax carries onto the palate and meets a savory note on arrival. The acidity is superb and the finish lingers long with stone fruit the last to leave.

@JamesTheWineGuy liked the Gustafson’s “Comice Pear, Adriatic fig, hint of cinnamon and cashew.” @martindredmond was “Digging the stonefruit, tropical, melon grassy character. Great texture too!”  @dallaswinechick checked in with, “Green melon, peach, nice acidity and a touch creamy.” @winecompass said, “Not your typical Sauvignon Blanc, floral and spicy.”


Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 DCV3 estate Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley

From Dry Creek Vineyard’s single-vineyard series, the 2013 DCV3 Estate Sauvignon Blanc uses Sauvignon Musqué grapes that were picked starting in late August. DCV3, they say, is the original Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. Alcohol is ripe at 14.1% abv and 417 cases were made. The bottles sell for $25.

Pale color matches the delicate nose in this wine, with minerals and citrus wonderfully underplayed. On the palate, minerality rides herd over peaches and apples. Very pronounced acidity makes a wonderful food pair, while a medium-full mouth has decent weight. Meyer lemon graces the finish with a zing.

@JamesTheWineGuy tasted “Meyer lemon pulp, moist stones, white flowers, sunflower seeds,” while @foodwinechickie loved the wine’s “great acidity, refreshing finish,” and “Freshly-cut grass and bright citrus flavors. Medium bodied and not very California-like.” @PalateXPosure got “gorgeous citrus,lemon blossom,exotic fruit,” while @martindredmond called the wine “aromatic with a stone fruit, citrus & pineapple character. Nice minerality. Gorgeous texture.” @amylieberfarb commented, “Citrus, creamy w/ spice on long finish.” @DallasWineChick tweeted, “bursting with melon, tropical fruit and citrus with a minerality. A great food pairing wine.”


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Monday, May 4, 2015

Quivira Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2012 Sonoma County

The portion of Sonoma County known as Dry Creek Valley may sound like a parched, sun-baked no-man's land, but it wears that name as a disguise. It's a great place to grow grapes.

The 2012 growing season in Dry Creek Valley allowed for slow and even ripening. Nobody ever brags about fast, uneven ripening. You get that a lot in some other parts of California, but Dry Creek Valley gets to do a lot of bragging about their special climate. It's a warm part of the county, to be sure. They do like their slow, even ripening, though.

The grapes for this wine came from Quivira Vineyards' three estate vineyards, which all follow organic and biodynamic farming practices. The grapes from Anderson Ranch Vineyard provide red fruit to the mix, the ones from Wine Creek Ranch Vineyard add structure and spice while fruit from Goat Trek vineyard account for concentration and tannin. Fruit was also sourced from other local growers.

Winemaker Hugh Chappelle vinified the lots separately, which were aged in French, American and Hungarian oak , 20% of it new, with medium toast to allow the terroir to speak freely. The alcohol hits a hearty 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $22. It is 89% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah and 1% Carignane, and these spicy varieties play very well together. 11,475 cases were produced. Chappelle says, "Dramaless years are rare for winegrowers, so we welcomed 2012 with open arms in Dry Creek Valley."

The Quivira Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2012 appears inky, so much so I can't see light through it. The nose displays beautiful blueberry, pepper, tobacco and a hint of vanilla. The palate is just as comely, with gorgeous fruit represented by juicy blackberry and plum colored by savory streaks of cinnamon, chicory and clove. The wine boasts great structure and acidity.

Quivira Zinfandel is made to pair with meat dishes - anything hot off the grill will do - with pasta Bolognese running a close second. If you have some left at dessert, try it with dark chocolate. OMG.


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Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Wine: Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc

Several new white wine releases by Dry Creek Vineyards were shared with me recently, and they are ideal for springtime and summer consumption.  Whites are great all year long, if you ask me, but the summer months allow for a crisp white wine to show its refreshing qualities best.   We have already covered the the Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and Dry Chenin Blanc.  Today, their Fumé Blanc, kindly provided as a sample for review.

Fumé Blanc is the wine that put Dry Creek Vineyard on the map.  Founder David Stare was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in Dry Creek Valley, and he did so after being wowed by the classic styles of the grape produced in Sancerre, Pouilly and Vouvray.

Sauvignon Blanc, at its best, offers freshness in a way no other grape does.  Its racy, wild character is not bound by "fruity" or limited by "pretty."  Sauvignon Blanc is the first day of spring, the hottest day of summer, the last warm day of fall.

Dry Creek Vineyard's first Fumé Blanc release came in 1972, and the winery still - despite all its other successes - presents it as their flagship wine.  The winemaking team of Tim Bell and Nova Perrill adhere to tradition - Loire Valley inspiration is apparent in the wine’s aromas, flavors and textures.  !00% Sauvignon Blanc, the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, reaching  13.5% abv.  It retails for $14 and is bottled under a screw cap.

2013 offered near perfect growing conditions, and is one of the driest vintages on record.  A mild winter and a moderate summer stretched the season and allowed for some great acidity providing the backbone of the finished product.  The winery recommends you try this wine with oysters.

The pale wine has a fragrance to rival spring itself.  Grassy and daring, it smells of mango, pineapple and a fresh cut lawn.  It smells like spring; it smells like summer.  The palate is just as amazing, with apples, tropical fruit


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Monday, June 16, 2014

Warm Weather White Wines: Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Three new white wine releases by Dry Creek Vineyards were shared with me recently, and they are perfect for springtime and summer consumption.  Personally, I enjoy whites all year long.  ‘Tis the season, though, for outdoor meals and bottles of whites on ice to pair with them.  We will cover the Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc and Fumé Blanc soon.  Today it’s their flagship wine.

Dry Creek Vineyard founder David Stare was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley.  Fittingly, that grape variety carries the banner for the winery some four decades down the road.

Produced by the second-generation of the family’s wine workers, Kim Stare Wallace and her husband Don, several different lots of grapes contributed to the wine.  It is anchored by 91% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, while a 9% splash of clone Sauvignon Musqué sails in for depth and richness, adding a tropical flavor and a full mouthfeel.  At 14.1% abv, it is a fairly hefty white, but the price tag comes in at just $18.

The winery says 2013 offered near perfect growing conditions featuring a mild winter and a moderate summer, and was one of the driest vintages on record.  These factors gave Dry Creek Vineyard some great fruit with which to work, and they made the most of it.

Possessing a very pale color, the wine gives a beautifully pungent aroma package of fresh grassiness, pineapple, pear and grapefruit zest.  The palate’s first name is savory - a gorgeous salinity is the first thing to hit my tongue.  The minerality is almost overwhelming, and I mean that in a good way.  River rocks come to mind as they are washed along in a wave of citrus.  Orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit all squeeze a little character into the flavor profile.  Pair it with an avocado salad or a plate of oysters.


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Friday, February 28, 2014

Vibrant And Complex, Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Vines Zinfandel 2011

Zinfandel is often called California’s heritage grape.  It was one of the first grapes planted in the Golden State which still remains in large numbers today.  Some Zinfandel vines in Sonoma County date back to the California Gold Rush era.

UC Davis has a one-acre vineyard - the Heritage Vineyard - where 90 selections of Zinfandel cuttings - 60 years and older - from 14 different California counties are planted.  They hope the study there will serve as the key that unlocks some of Zinfandel’s mystery.  They hope to find  "whether the grapes' uniqueness is due to the particular clone of Zinfandel or the site, climate, soil and cultural practices."

I have had the good fortune lately to sample some Zinfandel wines of Dry Creek Valley.  The good folks at Dry Creek Vineyard provided me with a sample of their 2011 Heritage Vines Zinfandel.

This wine was first released in 1997 as Heritage Clone Zinfandel.  The vines are old, but were bud grafted into a new vineyard.  The average vine age for the grapes used here is 30 years.  The winery claims that the grapes show a youthful vibrancy, along with the complexity of a true old-vine wine.  The vineyard offers gravelly loam and clay-based soils on rolling hills and steep hillsides.

The 2011 vintage was marked by winter rain that lasted into late spring and early summer.  An unusually cool growing season helped restrain the alcohol, even though it still rocks 14.5% abv.  The winery also credits the wine’s silky structure to the cool vintage.

The Heritage Vines Zin was fermented in stainless steel, then aged in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels for 19 months.  Flying under the Sonoma County appellation, 10,310 cases of the wine were made, and it retails for $19.

The wine is made from 84% Zinfandel grapes and 16% Petite Sirah.  The 2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Vines Zinfandel carries a medium garnet color and looks a little lighter than many wines of this variety.  The nose carries plenty that I like about Zinfandel - clove, vanilla, sage, brambly currant, raspberry - and the aromas are not shy at all.  The palate offers spicy peppery eucalyptus and strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruit that is  juicy and somewhat tart.  The fruit shows very well, but the spicy character really steals the show.  This wine will dress up even the plainest piece of meat you can put on the table.

By the way, if you wonder why a winery in a place named after a dry creek would sport a sailboat on their labels, it's because they simply happen to love sailing.  They began featuring sailboats on their labels in the 1980s, and it proved to be an aye-catching and memorable design.  Sonoma County artist Michael Surles has provided all the beautiful paintings for the Dry Creek Vineyard labels.  The winery also supports the sailing community in many other ways.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2011

The words "old vine Zinfandel" are bandied about in California almost as much as the words "I know a guy in the movie business."  This is true especially in Sonoma County, where there are plenty of Zinfandel vineyards dating back before Prohibition.  Some date back to the Gold Rush days.  So, invariable, the question arises: "how old is old?"

There is no legal definition of what constitutes an "old vine," so Dry Creek Vineyard arbitrarily sets 50 years as the minimum age, although their Zinfandel vines are mostly around 90 years old, some more than 110 years.

Writing about old vine Zin in the San Jose Mercury News, Laurie Daniel notes, "These twisted, gnarled plants produce naturally low yields of grapes that are concentrated, intense and flavorful. [Ravenswood's Joel] Peterson says these vines are more integrated with their surroundings and exhibit consistent behavior, in addition to producing a naturally small crop.  However, he says, 'There are vines that are 60 and 70 years old that aren't behaving like old vines,' because they're growing on a more fertile or productive site.  At the same time, he says, a dry-farmed zin vineyard on a marginal site might produce old-vine-type fruit when the vines are younger."

Dry Creek Vineyard is based in the Sonoma County town of Healdsburg, with vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley appellation.  The winery was founded in 1972 by David Stare, and they say it was the first new winery in Dry Creek Valley since Prohibition.  Today it is run by Stare's daughter and her husband.

During the 2011 vintage in Dry Creek Valley, winter rains lasted into late spring and the growing season was unseasonably cool.  Dry Creek Vineyard Winemaker Tim Bell - ably abetted by Assistant Winemaker Nova Perrill - says 2011 might be the best vintage of old vine zin they have produced.

Sugar levels were low, but ripeness was excellent - a good situation for Zinfandel.  This Old Vine Zin is made from 83% Zinfandel grapes and 17% Petite Sirah.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv, not terribly high for Sonoma Zinfandel.  The wine is aged for 20 months in French, American and Hungarian oak, 28% of which is new.  3,214 cases were produced, and it retails for $30.

The hillside vineyards from which the grapes come contain gravelly soil with decomposed granite in some areas.  The average age of the vines is 90 years.  A sample of this wine was kindly provided to me for review.

The 2011 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel has a medium-dark ruby color and a nose perfumed with dark berries, black cherry cola, coffee and peppery spices. The aromas are fragrant and vivid and they lay out what's in store on the palate.  Blackberry flavor dominates, with a wave of spice following.  Anise, nutmeg and cinnamon notes mingle with a brambly texture, while the coffee is transformed into black tea.  Acidity is bright and focused and the tannins are strident without wearing out their welcome.  It's a hefty sip, but it matches quite well with Korean barbecue.


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Friday, February 14, 2014

Dry Creek Valley: Dry Creek Vineyard Beeson Ranch Zinfandel

Dry Creek Valley is located in Sonoma County, with a history of grapes that dates back to the Gold Rush days. Field blend vineyards are still around in that neck of the a California woods, vineyards in which different grape varieties were interplanted in the 19th century and are harvested and fermented as if they were one.  I was supplied with three field blend Zins from Dry Creek Valley for the purpose of a BrandLive virtual tasting event with the winemakers in January 2014.  This is the third wine in the series, from the winery that takes its name from the region - Dry Creek Vineyard.

The Beeson Ranch vineyard was planted in 1882 by Italian immigrants, a group to whom a great debt is owed by the California wine industry.  The 2011 vintage was marked by winter rains lasted through spring and into summer.  The pickers beat out most of the rains that came near harvest time.

The Beeson Ranch Zinfandel is 85% Zin and 15% Petite Sirah.  Alcohol hits an extremely restrained 13.5% abv.  The wine saw 20 months in French, American and Hungarian oak, 30% of which was new.  It retails for $38.

Winemaker Nova Perrill says his Zinfandel can age well, picking up complexity in the mid-palate in the process.  He credits the oak barrels.  "The barrel is a tool to take the wine from youth to something that builds character and complexity," he commented during the video event.

This wine is deep and dark - almost inky - in the glass.  The nose hits hard with aromas of dark berries, black pepper, sage and eucalyptus.  Things are dark and complex on the palate, too.  Black cherry and raspberry flavors give way to beautiful layers of licorice, spice and a bit of bramble.  The acidity is a blast and the tannic structure is firm and fit.  After two nights open - how did that happen? - the wine took on a very Rhône-like tarry quality.


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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dry Creek Valley: Dutcher Crossing Bernier Sibary Vineyard Zinfandel

Field blend wines are those for which various different grape varieties are grown and harvested together, then cofermented.  19th century winemakers found it advantageous to blend the wine in the field, rather than use separate barrels for each grape variety. Today's methods are more expensive, but more flexible.  However, those longing for Zinfandel the way great-great-grandaddy used to make it can find field blend Zin in Dry Creek Valley.

As noted in the first of this series, Dry Creek Valley is located in Sonoma County, with a history of grapes that dates back to California's Gold Rush days. The valley is 16 miles long, two miles wide, and sustains 9,000 acres of vineyards.  I was supplied with three field blend Zins from Dry Creek Valley for the purpose of a BrandLive virtual tasting event with the winemakers in January 2014.  This is the second wine in the series, from Dutcher Crossing.

Dutcher Crossing has an estate vineyard and sources fruit from a handful of other local grape-growers.  This field blend Zinfandel - Dutcher Crossing Bernier Sibary Vineyard Zinfandel 2012 - is named not only for the vineyard from which the grapes come, but also for the grower.   Jane and Scott Sibary partner their hillside vineyard property with grower Paul Bernier.  The land is planted to organically farmed Zinfandel, intermixed with Petite Sirah, Carignane and Mataro - more often called Mourvèdre.  The object of the planting method was to make a Zinfandel wine with nuances from the other varieties.

In 2012, the vineyard was harvested in mid-October.  Winemaker Kerry Damskey says the long hang time was critical to the ripening of the interplanted Carignane and Mataro.  Temperatures held fairly steady through the season and no inclement weather hampered the growing.  During the video presentation, Damskey revealed that he and another man are responsible for all the Zin vines in India, having brought them there in a suitcase.  Who knew?

Damskey was able to produce 477 cases of this Zin, which retails for $43 per bottle.  The blend is 75% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane and 5% Mataro.  He likes the "mushroomy" notes added by the Mataro grapes.  The 14.9% abv alcohol number is fairly high, even by Zinfandel's usually lofty standards.  During vinification there were 22 days of skin contact, insuring a rich color.  The wine spent 14 months in barrels, 30% of which were made from new French oak.

The wine's foil cap is adorned with the image of a vintage high-wheel bicycle, which was given to proprietor Debra Mathy by her father.  It is stated on the winery's website that the velocipede "represents Dutcher Crossing's pursuit of quality small-lot winemaking, the guiding power of her father's imagination and the journey that lies ahead."  Ride on, sister.

This is a big Zin, and it shows it right away.  Its dark purple color and a huge blast of alcohol on the nose tip the scales towards brawny expectations.  After some time, the alcohol blows off.  There is a sweetly medicinal aroma left draped over the fragrance of dark fruit and cigar tobacco.  On the palate, a bit of bramble joins an otherwise elegant display of dense, dark fruit.  A long finish features cassis and spices.  Tar notes come forth on the second night open.


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Monday, February 10, 2014

Dry Creek Valley: Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2011

Field blend wines are those for which various different grape varieties are grown and harvested together, then cofermented.  19th century winemakers found it advantageous to blend the wine in the field, rather than use separate barrels for each grape variety. Today's methods are more expensive, but more flexible   Everyone likes a little nostalgia, though - that's why Throwback Thursday originated.  
Located in Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley's grape history dates back to California's Gold Rush days. The valley is 16 miles long, two miles wide, and sustains 9,000 acres of vineyards.  I was supplied with three field blend Zins from Dry Creek Valley for the purpose of a BrandLive virtual tasting event with the winemakers in January 2014.  We'll cover the first of the three wines today.
The Twitter-based event attracted a good crowd who were very complimentary of the wines.  Some of the social media wine tasters commented, "For every overblown zin, these are the counter-point. They show how elegant & sophisticated zinfandel can be," "These zins are worth the price," and "These are beautiful wines. Zinfandel was my first love."  You can find the Twitter stream by searching #DCVZin, and see the archived video of the three winemakers' comments here.
At Ridge Vineyards, they like to follow what they call the natural process of winemaking with minimal intervention.   "When you have great vineyards that produce high-quality grapes of distinct, individual character," it says on their website, "this approach is not only environmentally and socially responsible, it’s also the best way to consistently make fine wine."
Lytton Springs is one of the great Ridge estate vineyards.  The vines were planted near the turn of the 19th century and Ridge's first vintage from Lytton Springs came in 1972.

It also happens to be a field blend vineyard.  The mix of grapes figures out to 82% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah and 2% Carignane, all grown together, hand-harvested together and fermented together.  Alcohol hits 14.4% abv, a fairly typical mark - even a bit on the low side - for California Zinfandel.  It retails for $38.

The 2011 growing season featured above average rainfall, a wet spring and no sustained hot spells during the cool summer.   This Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel is aged 14 months in American oak barrels, 25% of which are being used for the first time.  Winemaker John Olney likes this wine after six months or so of sitting in the rack, although he's more than happy to drink it now.

The Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2011 is a very dark colored wine with a very aromatic nose.  Dark fruit and oak spice lead the way, with shadings of cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, cedar, anise and tobacco taking turns in the spotlight.  Tasting the wine reveals an elegant palate of black cherry, raspberry, spice and a hint of orange tea.  The tannins will work with about any type of meat, but it strikes that pork roast would make a great pairing with it.  Blue cheese fits it nicely and even a handful of salty pecans works extremely well.


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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 rosé - the ‘10 Enjoe Sonoma Valley.  Syrah, Mourvédre 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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