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

Monday, July 8, 2019

Reborn Zinfandel

The back label of the Saucelito Canyon Estate Zinfandel says grapes were first planted at Rancho Saucelito in 1880, on the ocean side of the coastal range in the cool-climate Arroyo Grande Valley of California's Central Coast.  The Zinfandel vineyard survived Prohibition, but it was abandoned in the 1940s, then ravaged by fire and animals.

Although the vines were decimated, the roots kept sending new growth shooting upward each spring, and the original vineyard was restored in the 1970s by Bill Greenough.  His son, Tom, now makes the wine from those revitalized, dry-farmed grapevines.  The 2015 Estate Zinfandel hits only 14.1% abv and sells for around $35.

This deep, ruby red wine has enough black pepper on the nose to prompt a sneeze.  There's a ton of intense black fruit as well, along with licorice, tobacco and some rustic oak.  The palate shows off its country side, too, with black and blue berries and an oak treatment that does not go overboard.  Tannins are not extremely forceful, but there's enough structure to make it worth your while to pair it with lean meat dishes or pasta.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Great Chardonnay From California's Edna Valley

The six-year-old San Luis Obispo winery, Biddle Ranch Vineyard, does "small batch, handcrafted wines" from their 17-acre Chardonnay vineyard in beautiful Edna Valley.  They also source other grapes from choice plots in Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande, Santa Ynez and Paso Robles.  The four families who own the - the Fortinis, Rawlings, Roncas, and Woolperts - love the estate's "rolling hills, Chardonnay grapes growing on the vine, and sweeping views of the Santa Lucia range."  Winemaker Ryan Deovlet gets credit for guiding them "from grape to glass."

The 2015 Biddle Ranch Vineyard Edna Valley Chardonnay hits 13.8% abv and sells for $32.  Only 460 cases were produced. 

This Edna Valley Chardonnay shows golden in the glass.  It has a lovely nose featuring apples and oak, plenty of the former and just enough of the latter.  An underlying licorice note adds an interesting twist.  On the palate there's yellow apple, peach and a lemon-lime note, with a hint of the oak spice.  The acidity is brisk, while the finish is a long-lasting sense of minerals and citrus.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Central Coast Pinot Noir; Weighty, Wonderful

The Claiborne and Churchill label is 35 years old this year.  The winery is located in the heart of the beautiful Edna Valley, just outside California's Central Coast town of San Luis Obispo.  They say they are inspired by the wines of Alsace, specializing in premium Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  For the sake of variety, they also produce a Pinot Blanc, a Chardonnay, a dry Rosé, and a Port-style wine.

Established by wayward Michiganians (Michiganders?) Clay Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson, they say their winery structure was the first straw-bale building built in California.  Its 16-inch-thick walls mean they don't have to air condition or heat the place - it maintains the right temperature naturally.  In it, they make 8,000 cases of wine a year.

The 2015 Claiborne and Churchill Pinot Noir is made using grapes grown in their estate vineyards in Edna Valley.  It was aged ten months in French oak barrels, only a quarter of which were new.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.7% abv and it retails for $32.

The medium-dark wine has a concentrated nose of cranberry, cola and black tea. A note of tar also pokes its head into the scene.  The palate is lovely, a bit on the weighty side as California Pinot is wont to be, but dark, delicious and a dandy match for a grilled pork chop, lamb or holiday ham.  The expected cranberry flavor is riper, more like cherry, and the full mouthfeel is satisfying.  Its acidity is perfectly refreshing while the tannins are purposeful, yet manageable.

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Monday, September 3, 2018

California Pinot's Savory Side

California Pinot Noir is a curious beast.  Most bottles will be nothing like what you expect, maybe even want, from Pinot.  The really Burgundian examples are few and far between due in part to the ripeness the grapes can achieve in the Golden State.  Like it or not, Cali Pinot is usually bold, not bashful.

Niner Wines has a fantastic facility in Paso Robles - tour it if you get the chance - but the grapes for the Niner 2016 Pinot Noir came from Jesperson Ranch, their cool-climate Edna Valley estate vineyard.  There was some whole cluster fermentation and French oak aging, with about a third of the barrels new.  It's labeled as 100% Pinot Noir, carries an alcohol level of 14.1% abv and retails for $35.

This wine is medium dark in the glass, a bit more opaque than usual for Burgundy, a bit less than usual for Cali Pinot.  The nose carries some really dark blackberry aromas, with not a hint of sweetness.  There's a little black tea coming in beneath the earthy minerals.  I get a slight note of bramble or sagebrush, too.  Savory rules the palate, too, with tar, dark berries and earth all over the place.  As I so often find in California Pinot Noir, I'm overwhelmed by the heft and depth of the wine.  It may not be my style, but when the savory angle takes charge I can forget that it seems like I'm drinking Syrah.  Bring on a ribeye steak for this one, or a porterhouse if you can handle it.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

SLO Wine Chardonnay: Edna Valley Vineyard

Edna Valley is a beautiful area of San Luis Obispo's wine country.  The rolling hills, the nearby Pacific Ocean, the vineyards.  When there has been a decent amount of winter rain, I'm tempted to orate.  "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Edna Valley."  Okay, maybe that's a little overboard.  However, the place is beautiful.

Edna Valley Vineyard boasts land that was once a seabed and what they say is the longest growing season in California.  The chalky terroir comes forth most forcefully in white wines, notably Chardonnay, which the winery says was the first grape planted in the valley, presumably in modern times.

The grapes for this wine were grown on 45-year-old vines in the winery's Heritage Block.  They are the Tepesquet clone of Chardonnay, and the winemaker credits them, the climate and the vine age for the low-yields and concentrated flavor. 

The Edna Valley Vineyard Winemaker Series Heritage Chardonnay 2015 clearly got a lot of oak, but they know how to handle wood at Edna Valley.  The wine sells for $40.

This golden Chardonnay really is a heritage.  Old-style Cali Chard lives in this bottle.  The nose knocks one over with vanilla, butter, cedar, butter, popcorn butter and butter in which to dip a lobster claw.  That translates to lots of oak, no compromise, so if you like your Chardonnay naked, keep moving.  I generally enjoy this style best in winter, the holidays specifically.  For August, I turn up the A/C, flex alert be damned. 

The palate shows great heft, awesome acidity and a creamy mouthfeel.  How do they get all that into one wine?  The flavor is rich and apple-y and peachy and oaky and… buttery.  That lobster's not such a bad idea.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Edna Valley Chardonnay - It's No Myth

True Myth is a banner for the Niven family, pioneers of San Luis Obispo’s’ Edna Valley. Their portfolio contains some of my California faves, Baileyana and Tangent, both worth checking out. The label blurb explains, thankfully, that Mother Nature is the true myth, and she is honored on that label with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson,  "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."

True Myth 2014 Chardonnay

The grapes for the True Myth 2014 Chardonnay are from the Paragon Vineyard in the Edna Valley AVA in San Luis Obispo County, a great place for white wines. In fact, they advertise that fact: "The Edna Valley provides one of the most special micro climates on earth to grow Chardonnay," they say, and the vineyard is a little more than five miles from the Pacific Ocean. They also note that it’s "the coolest growing region in all of California," which I can’t dispute but I have a hard time believing. Cooler than Russian River Valley? Cooler than Sonoma Coast? Cooler than Mendocino? Okay, it's cool.

The wine is aged nine months on the lees, half in a tank and half in French oak barrels, 38% of which are new. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and it retails for  $18.

I have had a Chardonnay from Paragon Vineyard before,and this reminds me of it, quite a lot. It’s a SIP certified sustainable growing site and winemaker Christian Roguenant gets a nice full mouthfeel from the lees and the oak.

The straw-colored wine shows quite a bit of minerality on the nose, to be expected from Edna Valley grapes. The wet rocks and lime aromas are always a pleasure, as the are here. On the palate, there are tropical tones and plenty of citrus along with the beautiful oak effect - the wood is used in a very tasteful way. I vacillate between liking oaky Chardonnays and those with none. This one hits in the middle of the range and could be my favorite - for a while, anyway.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Don't Myth This Paso Cabernet

True Myth is a banner for the Niven family, pioneers of San Luis Obispo's' Edna Valley. Their portfolio contains some of my California faves, Baileyana and Tangent, both worth checking out.

The label blurb explains, thankfully, that Mother Nature is the true myth, and she is honored on that label with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson,  "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."

True Myth 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

The marketing folks offer that "Paso Robles is hands-down a stellar place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon," and just because the marketing folks wrote it doesn’t mean it's not true. I think the limestone earth that is prevalent in the region has a lot to do with it. Paso Robles grapes from six different Paso vineyards were used to make the True Myth 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged in French and American oak barrels for 18 months, and half of the oak was new. It has a full 14.5% abv number and sells for $24, which is a steal for a Cab this good. Winemaker Christian Roguenant made it.

While the fruit of a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon seems elegant, I prefer the rambunctious nature of the Cabs of Paso Robles. This one lives up to that expectation. The blueberry is a little brighter, more playful, the earth is a little heavier and the spice a little, well, spicier than its cousins from further north. The oak on the nose is pretty and punchy, while the baking spice aromas make me think of cherry pie. The palate offers ripe blackberry and plum flavors with a good whack of oak and firm, yet supple, tannins. The finish is a fruit/earth mixture that plays on your taste buds a good long while after the sip.

By the way, if you like Paso Robles Cabernets, too, you may want to check out this year’s CABs of Distinction, April 12-14, 2016 in Paso, although True Myth - unfortunately -  does not appear to be a member.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Bonny Doon Vineyard Albariño Central Coast 2013

Spring is taking its dear, sweet time about settling in this year.  Earlier this month I was still noticing baseball umpires wearing heavy jackets and gloves in Chicago.  Of course, in Chicago that might be considered routine.  The coldest baseball game I ever attended was in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend.  My eternal gratitude goes out to the nice folks who sat next to me.  They brought an extra blanket.  And to the hot chocolate machine.  It was way too cold for a beer.

Here in Los Angeles, spring comes and goes all year long.  Summer has already started trying to crowd its way in.  The tourists in rented convertibles are starting to look like they aren’t freezing with the top down.  Whether your spring is swinging, or you need some help really feeling it, an Albrariño just might do the trick.

Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard has a recently released Albariño that is perfect for spring, and several other seasons, too.

Yes, the iconic “Rhône Ranger” also works his magic with the Iberian grape variety.  To hear him describe his minimal intervention winemaking, though, you get the impression there’s no magic involved.  You  may even think he simply throws some grapes in a tub, sits doon, waits a while and puts on a screw cap.  That’s not true, though.  Mr. Grahm has a machine which puts on the screw caps.

The Bonny Doon website offers a brief intro to Albariño:  “Until 1989 Albariño was one of the rarest wine varieties in the world, rarely glimpsed outside the Iberian Peninsula. Since that time, this light yet vibrant white grape has become a darling of wine geeks worldwide with its preternatural ability to pair with all types of seafood, cheese and salty dishes.”

The grapes for the 2013 Bonny Doon Albariño are Central Coast fruit, all Albariño.  73% of the grapes were grown in Kristy Vineyard in the Salinas Valley while the other 27% are from Edna Valley’s Jespersen Ranch.  Grahm notes that both sites are windy and cool during the summer.

The wine’s alcohol content of 13.2% makes it a perfect choice for spring and summer refreshment.  To paraphrase the brewer’s old ad copy, it’s a great wine for "when you’re having more than one."  Production was 1,592 cases and the wine retails for $18.

Pale straw in color with just a hint of green tint, the wine looks slightly frizzante in the glass.  A ring of small bubbles cling to the rim.  One sniff brings springtime into full focus.  A floral note of hibiscus mingles with peaches, pears and citrus mineral notes.  The palate shows some very nice mineral-laden salinity riding herd over the peach and lemon peel flavors.  There’s boat load of acidity, so the wine is completely refreshing.  It's also a great food wine.  Look for some Thai food or shellfish to make it really sing.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bonny Doon Syrah, Edna Valley, Jespersen Vineyard 2010

As the "original Rhône Ranger" in California, one might expect Bonny Doon Vineyards' Randall Grahm to present a Syrah that is something more than acceptable.  With his Jespersen Vineyard release, he keeps his streak of extraordinary Syrahs intact.

Jespersen Vineyard is a fairly new vineyard located close to the coast in the Edna Valley region of San Luis Obispo County.  Edna Valley is one of my favorite mineral-laden wine regions in California, and I know Grahm appreciates minerality in wine, wherever it comes from.

On the label, Grahm waxes jazzy poetic about the "coolth" of Jespersen Vineyard and of Edna Valley as a whole.  He likes the cool climate grapes there and the depth of the wines made from them.  He feels his 2010 Jespersen Vineyard Syrah shows the brilliance of cool climate grapes.

483 cases were made with a per-bottle price tag of $40, although the wine was produced primarily for the Bonny Doon wine club, DEWN.  Alcohol comes in as moderate at 12.7% abv.

The color of this Syrah is deep and dark.  The nose beckons from across the table - vast blueberry, blackberry and plum with an aroma at once minty and tarry draped over the fruit basket.  Big, dark fruit dominates the palate with a eucalyptus note often found in cool-climate Syrah.  The wine shows remarkable acidity, another touchstone for Grahm's wines.

Pair this one with anything meaty, beefy or gamy and you should be pleased.  Sip it and ruminate on it, and you will find pleasure in that, too.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Trenza Tinto

The Grand Californian Hotel is one of my favorite rides at Disneyland.  Right, it's not a ride, it's a hotel, but I find it a very enjoyable place to relax a bit after waiting in lines for the actual rides.  After 5:00, the Napa Rose restaurant is the place to go, but during the day it's the Hearthstone Lounge.  A really good Disneyland adventure involves more time here, less time in those lines.

I tried the Trenza Winery Tinto on a cool afternoon.  This San Luis Obispo County red blend is produced by the Niven Family of Edna Valley, the folks who bring you Baileyana, Tangent and Zocker wines.  Winemaker Christian Roguenant hails from France, but has a love for Spanish grape varieties and does not feel constrained by Old World winemaking rules.

Offered on the menu as a Tempranillo-Syrah blend, the Trenza Tinto is actually a mix of 35% Edna Valley Syrah, 31% Paso Robles Grenache, 22% Arroyo Grande Valley Tempranillo and 12% Mourvèdre from Paso Robles.  Aged 16 months in mainly French oak, this hearty red carries a 14.9% abv number.

The wine is quite dark in color, but the nose seems rather slight to me.  I do pick up nice cherry aromas with hints of oak spice.  The palate certainly isn't shy, showing huge blackberry flavors and spices.  Clove, black pepper and black licorice augment the fruit, and the mouthfeel is full.  It's a very smooth drink, with fine tannins and a nice acidity.  The long finish leaves hints of dark chocolate.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Kona Longboard Lager

The calendar did not reflect it, but the weather didn't notice on a recent trip to The Beachcomber on the Malibu Pier.  It looked and felt like summer to me, and I enjoyed a couple of summery beverages during a long lunch with the mom-in-law.  Some may quip that lunch with a mother-in-law is always long, but she and I always get along just fine.

Kona Brewing Company's Longboard Island Lager got things off to a great start.  It's really yellow, with a nice head, white and fluffy.  The taste is very clean and the hops are fresh with a touch of malt and a citrus edge on the palate.

Tangent Sauvignon BlancService was quite slow, so another beverage seemed appropriate.  I opted for an Edna Valley white wine I know and love, the Tangent Sauvignon Blanc.  Grassy minerals and a nose full of citrus notes lead to a palate loaded with lemon zest and wet rocks.  It pairs extremely well with sunshine and Mahi Mahi.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

California Chardonnay- big, bombastic white wines full of oak and all that implies - is a style many wine drinkers have been shying away from in recent years.  The swing toward unoaked - naked, if you will - Chardonnays which emphasize the flavor of the fruit and the effect of the earth has left many old-line California Chardonnays holding the oak.

I’ll admit, I love the purity and minerality expressed in an unoaked or low-oaked Chardonnay.  Burgundy found long ago how much was to be gained by letting the terroir do the talking.  There are times, though, when you want a Chardonnay to get all hedonistic on you.  For me, the holiday season is that time.

After months of austere whites and fruity, bone-dry rosés, the arrival of that lip-smacking prelude to the Thanksgiving feast puts me in the mood for a big, creamy, buttery Chardonnay.  And I look to Edna Valley.

A place responsible for many of those austere whites which refreshed me through the summer, Edna Valley is also home to one of my favorite over-the-top Chardonnays, Edna Valley Vineyard.

A San Luis Obispo County favorite, the ‘08 Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay has a nose full of vanilla spice, richly layered flavors and a near-bracing acidity to make it a more than capable holiday choice.  It’s great with food.  Turkey is a snap for this wine, which even turns a handful of peanuts or almonds into a gourmet delight.

I had a bottle early in the spring, and it put me in mind of a holiday spread even then.  “The wood comes through in healthy fashion,” I wrote, “with strong notes of vanilla and traces of holiday spice.  This would be a great white on the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table.”

The wine shows a golden straw color in the glass, one that suggests there may be some oak at play.  The nose further reveals that influence with the spiciness.  Pears and some of those Edna Valley minerals also are apparent.”

The incredibly full palate is dripping with the sweet fruit flavor found in a can of fruit, like pineapple, pears or peaches in heavy juice.  There's more than a trace of lemon zest, too, and a razor-sharp acidity despite the creaminess of the mouthfeel.  So big is the taste, it may make you think there's an extra portion of something on your plate.

My bottle was on sale at a discount store for $13.  Its 13.9% abv, is a fairly moderate number, something many of us like to keep in mind during holiday entertaining.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Tres Pinos Three Pines Cuvee

I can spend more than five dollars on a bottle of wine if I like, and I feel fortunate that I can.  I do love a bargain, though.  That's why I find myself drawn to those discount wines at Trader Joe's so often.  I tell myself to keep moving, spend a little more.  But the lure of finding a good wine on the cheap is too great.  The sirens were singing my song again when I saw the Tres Pinos white. “Here's your five dollars.”  “Here's your wine.”

Tres Pinos Three Pines Cuvee is made by San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles.  They source their grapes from all over California, and the grapes for this wine came from San Luis Obispo County.  I like a lot of wines from SLO, so I had high hopes for this effort.

The grapes in question are Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Viognier.  That's a likely bunch of suspects for a good blend.  13.5% abv.

This white is the color of straw, and there's just a hint of effervescence upon pouring without refrigeration.  The second night the tiny little bubbles didn't appear when the wine was chilled.

I am often disappointed by the nose on cheap – er – inexpensive wines.  That is not the case here, as a beautiful bouquet of honeysuckle, apricot and cantaloupe rind appears.

The palate is not as fruity as I expected.  It's actually rather dry.  There is a subtle flavor of pear juice and a decent minerality – something I always love to find in those Edna Valley wines from San Luis Obispo County.  I'm intrigued by an almost savory edge, maybe guava.  The acidity is more than adequate for pairing light fare.  It's great with a handful of peanuts!

The various grapes used in Tres Pinos blend together nicely.  None of the four stand out too much.  I found it to be much better when chilled than not.  It's a serviceable wine that actually tastes pretty good.  And the price is certainly right.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Chamisal Vineyards Morrito

Some think uncorking a fine wine should be reserved for a special occasion.  I feel every day is a special occasion, but I still found myself holding on to this wine, waiting for a really special reason.  I recently reminisced about a trip to Edna Valley, a visit to Chamisal Vineyards with a group of journalists and the winemaker who gave me this wonderful bottle of wine.

Fintan du Fresne, Chamisal's winemaker, showed our group extraordinary generosity during our visit - not just with his wine, but with his time, too.  He spent nearly an entire day with a dozen or so of us, tromping around in the vineyards with us, drawing tastes from the barrel in the winery, eating lunch with us and hosting a wine tasting at a beach front resort.  And after all that, he hosted a winemaker's dinner for us.  Our group felt quite special at the end of that day.

So, as I reminisced, I decided it was a special enough occasion to justify uncorking that special wine.

Chamisal's Morrito is an Estate Pinot Noir, made with grapes that grow on a small hill - morrito - behind the winery, which produces particularly intense fruit.  Two clones are used, 2A and Archery Summit.  The alcohol content is listed as 14.6% and the wine spends 18 months in French Oak barrels.

Morrito is very dark for Pinot Noir, I can hardly see through it when holding to the light.  It has a very intense nose which simply explodes from the glass.  Black cherry, cola notes and spice are the major players.

The palate shows an earthy tone, which is dominant over a big cherry sensation.  The wine lasted over three nights, and on each night it required quite a bit of time after pouring to settle down, but once it did calm a bit the experience was wonderful.  On that third night, a slight herbaceous taste revealed itself which added to the complexity but did not detract one bit from the explosive fruit on the nose and palate.  If anything, the wine became darker and more brooding over the span of time.  It was a rather thrilling transformation.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Edna Valley wine country near San Luis Obispo has been on my mind a lot recently.  It's a favorite spot of mine in California's Central Coast.  There's plenty of beautiful rolling countryside full of vineyards which produce grapes that are made into some pretty incredible wines.

I don't know if this one is even available anymore.  I had a bottle of it several years ago, when the place was known as Domaine Alfred.  The winery has since reverted to their original name of Chamisal VineyardsVineyards.  Even though this wine was produced in the Alfred days, the grapes came from Chamisal's namesake vineyard.  Here are my notes on this memorable Syrah:
"A nose of very dark fruit promises only a bit of what ends up on the palate.  A very earthy, pungent taste made up of dark fruit, leather and spices - and a lot of each.  It comes at you leading with the earthiness, but a powerful spiciness joins in on the taste buds.  There's quite a lengthy finish, too - one that you wish would never end."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It was dark, drizzly and cold in Los Angeles at lunchtime.  Ahh, perfect weather for the middle of May!  I tend to shy away from white wine in colder weather, but we were at Itacho for Japanese food, so I thought I'd give the wine list a quick look-see.

Two wines down I saw "Tangent," so I stopped and ordered.  Tangent is a favorite of mine from the Central Coast's Edna Valley.  The winery specializes in "alternative white wines." Their list includes such offbeat varietal wines as Grenache Blanc, Albarino, Pinot Blanc and Ecclestone, their white blend.

In that context Sauvignon Blanc may seem positively ordinary, but Tangent's Sauvignon Blanc is not ordinary.

Tangent uses no oak or malolactic fermentation in any of their wines in order to let the fruit stand on its own.  Winemaker Christian Roguenant harvests the fruit in three stages and then employs a number of different lots throught production.  His aim is to bring the styles of France and New Zealand together in one wine.

The grapes for Tangent's Sauvignon Blanc come from Edna Valley's Paragon Vineyard.  The vines have been there since 1973,  which makes them among the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines in the Central Coast.

The wine carries an alcohol number of 13.5% abv.  It has a metal screwcap - as do all of Tangent's wines - and lists for $13.

The wine was served ice cold, which I do not prefer because it inhibits the bouquet and flavors.  Also, the weather wasn't exactly reminding me of summertime, so a lightly chilled wine would have been nice on this day.

Its color is lightly tinted, and the nose not all that grassy.  Minerals are apparent in the aromas, the scent of wet rocks making a big play.  The taste - which I expect to be full of grapefruit - is more heavy with green apples and tropical notes.  There is a bit of citrus in the profile, but it's not in the forefront.  the acidity is good and the wine provides a nice middle-weight mouthfeel.

I had it with Japanese food and found that it went very well with the spicy tuna roll, a sweet eggplant dish and mushrooms with broccoli.  I wasn't too wild about the way it paired with the freshwater eel sushi, however.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Tolosa Chardonnay

Meandering through some old tasting notes a while back, I came across a wine from Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo.  Normally, I like the minerality of the whites from Edna Valley.  This trip I came home with Tolosa Winery's Chardonnay.  They make a "no oak" version, too, but this one was their Estate brand.  Here are the notes I made at the time:
"The label shows the name is Tolosa Chardonnay, Estate, Edna Ranch, Edna Valley.  It's amazing there's room left for anything else!  The brown and gold label also shows abv at 14.3%.  From the coastal hills of San Luis Obispo, their estate vineyards are sustainably farmed.  The blurb on the back label explains that we can expect to find floral, white peach and creme brulee aromas and a rich palate framed by crisp acidity and minerality.  I'm sold.  The bottle cost about $18 at the winery a few weeks ago.

"A wonderfully oaky presence is there, very rich but not over the top.  I can smell those minerals they advertised.  The other notes are somewhat hindered, I suppose by the chill.  There's a little hint of the grassy kind of aroma you expect in Sauvignon Blanc - not strong, very faint, and quite unexpected.  I'm intrigued.  The wine is a pale, golden color in the glass.

"I've got the wood on the palate, but in a very reserved way.  It's fairly rich-tasting, but not too creamy.  The fruit is there, peaches and lemons.  I get a very clean, citrusy sort of feel from it.  More than anything I get the minerals.  Really crisp and quite appealing, this may not be a Chardonnay for Chardonnay haters, but it's awfully close.  I liked it with grilled chicken, and liked it even more with Kalamata olives."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Domaine Alfred Chamisal Vineyard Syrah Edna Valley 2004

The Edna Valley wine country near San Luis Obispo has been on my mind a lot recently.  It's a favorite spot of mine in California's Central Coast.  There's plenty of beautiful rolling countryside full of vineyards which produce grapes that are made into some pretty incredible wines.

I don't know if this one is even available anymore.  I had a bottle of it several years ago, when the place was known as Domaine Alfred.  The winery has since reverted to their original name of Chamisal Vineyards.  Even though this wine was produced in the Alfred days, the grapes came from Chamisal's namesake vineyard.  Here are my notes on this memorable Syrah:
"A nose of very dark fruit promises only a bit of what ends up on the palate.  A very earthy, pungent taste made up of dark fruit, leather and spices - and a lot of each.  It comes at you like a Grenache, leading with the earthiness, but a powerful spiciness joins in on the taste buds.  There's quite a lengthy finish, too - one that you wish would never end."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edna Valley Vineyard Islay Peak Petite Sirah 2006

I have had both a Petite Sirah and an Edna Valley wine recently.  I thought I'd combine the two and jog down memory lane to a past visit to one of my favorite wine areas, and one of my favorite wineries there.  Here are my notes on that bottle:

"This is from Edna Valley Vineyard's tasting-room-only series of wines. A $20 purchase in their lovely and busy tasting room, this Petite Sirah from the San Luis Obispo area of California's Central Coast claims 14.5% abv.  There's a beautiful artistic rendering of a vineyard against the hills on the label, but no artist information.  It does look just like Edna Valley, though.

"The aromas here are very pungent, and quite nice.  I get lots of big cherry, leathery notes, licorice, and a dark vibe from the aromas.  A bit of alcohol on the nose burns off after a resting time.  It's a very jammy smell, one that I find very inviting.

"The taste comes on a little hot at first - give it some time after pouring or decanting.  The flavor profile is a powerful followup of what was present on the nose.  The fruit is very forward, and it's a big blueberry fest.  It doesn't appear as dark and forbidding as suggested by the nose.  In fact, it's  very welcoming.  The tannins are a bit strong, but the structure is good and the finish is medium long.  I had this with some
Pinches Al Pastor tacos we brought home from the restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.  It fit quite well."

Variety:  Petite Sirah
Appellation: California > Central Coast
Vineyard:  Islay Peak
Vintage:  2006
Alcohol Level:  14.5% abv
Price:  $18
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author at the winery tasting room

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Edna Valley Vineyard Paragon Chardonnay 2008

Edna Valley is one of my favorite wine areas to visit.  Do I say that too much?  This time I mean it.  From the rolling hills to the lovely vineyards to the zany, unofficial mayor of Edna Valley - and her eclectic restaurant - it's a place that reveals something new every time we go there.  Not that it's got any wild nightlife or exotic attractions - the wine and the wine people are enough to make us thirst for a return visit.  

Edna Valley Vineyard  is one of the "showier" places in Edna Valley.  Calling anything in Edna Valley "showy" may be a bit of a stretch, but Edna Valley Vineyard's facility - among a few others there - is definitely ready for visitors.

I wouldn't call their Paragon Chardonnay a wine that defines what Edna Valley is all about, but it certainly shows its address well.  A golden straw color in the glass, one would expect quite an influence from the oak in this wine.  The nose betrays some of that influence with a fairly good dash of spices.  There is also a nice whiff of pears and minerals.  The rocks are something I expect in any white wine from Edna Valley. 

The taste is pretty incredible.  I get the kind of sweet fruit flavor that's in a can of fruit, like pineapple, pears or peaches - that heavy juice in the can.  There's a good bit of citrus, lemon zest, too.  The wood comes through in healthy fashion, with strong notes of vanilla and traces of holiday spice.  This would be a great white on the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table.  But don't wait until then.

Variety:  Chardonnay
Appellation:  California > San Luis Obispo County > Edna Valley
Vineyard:  Paragon
Vintage:  2008
Alcohol Level:  13.9% abv
Price:  $11
Acquisition disclaimer:  Purchased by the author at a wine store