Showing posts with label Happy Canyon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Happy Canyon. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cimarone Gran Premio Sangiovese 2012

courtesy NileGuide
Guido and Tina invited us to a Hindu vespers service, and we went with them.  The sanctuary  (left) is probably the quietest place in Los Angeles, and I was quietly happy to chalk up another event on the list of things I've done while living in L.A. which probably would not have occurred had I been elsewhere.  The list includes chainsaw juggling, performance art featuring stories told by trombones, an eight-hour stage play and a man playing piano upside down while drinking beer.  And that's just the stuff I planned to attend.

There are countless unplanned events - seeing crazy radio head guy outside of rock’n’roll Denny’s, watching parking lot standoffs, buying earthquake T-shirts sold on street corners hours after the temblor, driving home during a martial law curfew, and seeing a possum chased by a professional baseball player in the middle of a game.  These are the sort of events that make people shake their heads and say, "Only in L.A."

Back at the sanctuary during the quiet meditation time, Guido leaned over to me and whispered, "Christopher Isherwood said the nuns here all look like axe murderers."  My wife leaned over from the other side and whispered, "Don't fart."  Years of radio experience allowed me to keep a straight face through all the heckling.  That nun did look a little severe, though.

Afterward, at their place, we had homemade lentil soup and cracked open Cimarone's 2012 Gran Premio Sangiovese.  It was served Italian style, in large shot glasses - which is very cool and continental but not good for swirling and sniffing.  We did our best anyway.

The estate grown grapes are from Three Creek Vineyard in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA.  Winemaker Andrew Murray created a lush and ripe wine that hits 14.5% abv on the alcohol meter.  Neutral French oak barrels were used for the aging process, which took place over 16 months.  Only 98 cases of this CalItalia wine were made.

Gran Premio's nose is dominated by black cherry and rich oak spice.  Even in the limited swirling space the aromas couldn't help but escape.  Flavor-wise, the fruit is a little more cherry than black cherry, while the effect of the oak is pronounced but not overplayed.  Clove notes grace the ripe, ripe, ripe fruit and spices add a nice angle that will be greatly appreciated during the holidays.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cimarone Gran Premio 2009

The warm east end of Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley - the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA - is recognized as a great place for growing Bordeaux grape varieties.  Cimarone Wines has a patch of an Italian variety there, of which they are fairly proud.

Cimarone's Gran Premio is made from 100% estate-grown Sangiovese grapes, a blend of two clones from Three Creek Vineyard in Happy Canyon.  I wrote here about the 2008 Gran Premio.

Like the '08, the 2009 vintage is vinified in barrique open top wood fermenters.  It hits 14.5% abv in alcohol and retails for $30.  195 cases were produced, each bottle numbered.  The '09 strikes me as much more fruit-driven than the previous vintage.  Cimarone advises that some age will definitely do good things to this wine.

Gran Premio is named to invoke the wild raciness of Italian Formula One drivers.  Doug Margerum was the winemaker, although Andrew Murray has stepped into that role at Cimarone.

Aromas of fresh plums and cherries jump from the glass carrying a little alcohol and a bit of tar.  Some tobacco and spice creep in, too, but it's really more about the fruit.  Speaking of, the palate is fruit forward.  That means ripe fruit forward.  It's a bushel basket of blackberry, plum, strawberry and cherry all mixed together.  A hint of smoky, tarry clove leads the charge of the spice brigade.

It may not be very Italian, but it's not meant to be.  The Cimarone Sangiovese grapes, like the Bordeaux varieties grown in Happy Canyon, wear their California hearts on their rolled-up Chambray sleeves.  Pair it with a Bolognese pasta if you like, but it will go just as well with steaks, chix and chops - as the sign on the steakhouse door used to say.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Santa Barbara Wine Country: Dierberg And Star Lane Vineyards

Santa Barbara County offers so many great areas for exploring wine, but I am drawn over and over to Highway 246 west of Buellton.  My most recent stop at the Dierberg/Star Lane tasting room revealed some outdoor tables which indicate they are expecting plenty of visitors.  That's not surprising, considering the quality of the wines they make.

Dierberg is in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, while the Star Lane vineyards are in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, in the eastern part of the Santa Ynez Valley.  They pour both at the tasting room.  is it worth a visit?  The last time I was here, there was a gentleman tasting with me who was in Los Angeles for a seminar.  He bailed on his final meetings to drive up for a swig and buy a few cases.  The tasting cost $10

Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon 2011  $22
Estate grown grapes, a grassy nose with tropical fruit and oranges.  Fresh, vibrant palate with tropical fruit and a great acidity level, belied by the very mellow mouthfeel.  Fermented 100% in steel, on the lees.  Excellent.

Dierberg Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley  $32
Estate grownfruit, oak fermented - 1/3 Hungarian, 2/3 French, 1/3 new - on the lees.  The nose shows smoky pears, while palate deals with similar fruit in a creamy context.

Dierberg Drum Canyon Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills 2010  $44
Estate grown and locked away for 16 months in new French oak.  The nose of red fruit and smoky coffee notes lead to a nice, light palate of spice and raspberry - not too tart, not too sweet.  Not an over-the-top California Pinot - the alcohol is a restrained 13% abv.  Excellent.

Dierberg Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 2009  $44
My server called this estate grown wine the "James Bond of Pinot - elegant and complicated."  The nose displays spicy dark fruit, while raspberry and strawberry appear on the palate. Great acidity.  A little more alcohol, but still light on its feet and dancing.

Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Happy Canyon 2008  $44
Estate grown, 18 months in oak, four years bottle aged.  Really interesting nose of spicy tobacco and incense.   Easy drinking Cab, with lots of spices and a great finish.

Star Lane Estate, Happy Canyon 2007  $44
All six of the varieties they produce in Happy Canyon are used in this wine.  54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 7% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec.  The nose is full of big red fruit, with huge fruit and floral perfume on the palate.  Great acidity.

Star Lane Astral 2006  $80
A extra poured by my server, this top-shelf wine is made from 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc and 19% Petit Verdot.  It has the nose of a dessert wine, showing dried grapes. Nice spices and beautiful fruit on the palate. Very smooth.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Cimarone 3CV Cilla's Blend 2010

An interesting red blend is a favorite type of wine for me, especially if I can name the grapes without looking.  I don't think I could have named all five grapes in Cimarone's 2010 Cilla's Blend without help, but I did enjoy waving at them as I recognized them.

This estate grown wine is made from grapes sourced in Cimarone's Three Creek Vineyard in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA.  The blend is 56% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 6% Malbec.  There is more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Syrah and Cabernet Franc in the '10 than in the '09.  Fermented in barriques, then aged 10 months in new and neutral French oak, this red blend carries its wood well.

Doug Margerum, the winemaker of this vintage, exited the role of Cimarone's cellar man last year and Andrew Murray stepped in fill his shoes.  Cimarone said on Twitter, "From 2011 forward, it's an Andrew wine."

Cimarone's owner Roger Higgins showed his sentimental side when he named the blend after his wife, Priscilla.  He calls it “a wine of beauty and elegance - just like Cilla.”  Some guys really know how to make it tough for the rest of us.

The wine sold for $20 per bottle, but it's listed as sold out on the website.  The folks at Cimarone were kind enough to send me a sample to write about.

The '10 Cilla's Blend shows a fairly dark ruby color and whiffs a tad heavy on the alcohol until the 14.5% abv settles down.  Blueberry and blackberry aromas hit hard and fast, leaving room for just a hint of black pepper and anise.  Notes of cassis creep in after the glass has been sitting for awhile.  The flavors are similarly fruit-laden, with a breath of pencil shavings and licorice.  Taste it with feta cheese or, of course, steaks.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Two Faces Of Syrah: Cimarone 3CV Syrah 2010

Some people are confused by Syrah, The Two-Sided Grape.  The difference between warm-climate and cool-climate Syrah can be as marked as the difference between sweet and dry Riesling, which is another grape with a bit of an identity crisis.

Syrahs from cooler climates are typically more restrained, less ripe, lower in alcohol and higher in acidity than their cousins from the warmer vineyards.  A Syrah from a cool-climate vineyard might taste lean and peppery, while one from a warmer vineyard could be lush and smoky, showcasing extremely ripe fruit.

Is it this dichotomy that created confusion in the consumer’s mind and kept Syrah from becoming the hugely popular grape many wine experts felt it was supposed to become?  Some winemakers joke that it's easier to get rid of a social disease than a case of Syrah.  Well, I can speak to the Syrah issue - it wouldn't last too long at all around my place, and I say that without any confusion at all.

Rieslings often have a “sweetness meter” on the label somewhere, to show the consumer where the wine falls on the scale of sweet-to-dry.  Why not put something on a Syrah label to show from which type of climate the grapes hail?

Or course, there will always be exceptions to the rules.  Cimarone’s Three Creek Vineyard in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA brought that point home.  A sample was provided to me.

Located in the warm eastern end of Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, Three Creek Vineyard’s Syrah grapes make the 3CV Syrah 2010 act like it’s trying to play both ends against the middle.  It certainly does not lack ripeness, but there is a lot more going on than a simple bomb of fruit can offer.

Syrah was once the majority holder of space in Three Creek Vineyard, but its share decreased when it was discovered what a good place Happy Canyon is for the grape varieties of Bordeaux.

3CV Syrah is a dark ruby color with some purple around the edge.  Lifting it to my nose, the aromas take me aback.  Expecting a ripe and lush warm-climate Syrah, I am greeted by the scent of berries trodden into the floor of a pine forest.  Black pepper and a funky herbal note are right up front in both the bouquet and the palate.  A memory of black cherry cough drops lingers on the finish.

Its alcohol content is a lofty 14.5%, but its acidity sparkles and the tannins are soft.  So, what would one put on the label?  It’s from a warm-climate vineyard, but it shows the complexity of a cool-climate wine.  It may be a crazy, mixed up kid, but at $16 the 3CV Syrah 2010 is hard to beat for value.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dog Day Relief From A Happy Canyon Wine

In the warm, dog days of summer, when you're hot and dog-tired, it's nice to come across a completely refreshing white wine to welcome to your panting tongue.  It doesn't hurt that it has a winery dog on the label - although the dog is in the foreground of a vineyard scene, so it's really not a critter label.  That would have us barking up the wrong vine.

Cimarone 3CV Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is such a beast.  From the warm east end of the Santa Ynez Valley, in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County AVA, it spells relief in capital letters.  Three Creek Vineyard yields the grapes while winemaker Andrew Murray brings them home.

The Cimarone website reveals how the grapes were harvested.  "We picked at night and over a period of several weeks to eke out subtle nuances and diversity in ripeness profiles.  The riper fruit yields more tropical flavors, whilst the less ripe fruit contributes more acid with zingy citrus notes."  I love to see the use of "whilst" outside of Great Britain every now and then.

The wine is fermented in stainless steel for the most part - four percent is fermented and aged in oak.  Whole-cluster pressing of the grapes maximizes the herbal notes and the absence of malolactic fermentation maintains the crisp freshness.

It's yellow in the glass, a less intense shade of the crayon we used for coloring freshly mown grass as kids, and it smells like sweet respite is on the way.  A slight grassiness steps aside and makes way for aromas of lemons and limes a-plenty.  On the tongue, a brisk freshness bursts forth immediately, with flavors of citrus and cantaloupe.  The finish hits the mark with a zest of lemon.  Chill it, pour it, and take a load off your dogs.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

White Wines Of Santa Barbara County

It was so nice to be included in the #winechat on July 17th, 2013, the subjects of which were some amazing white wines of Santa Barbara County, wines that are perfect for helping to beat the heat of the warm weather of summer.

For the uninitiated, #winechat is a weekly gathering of wine lovers on Twitter, directed by Protocol Wine Studio.  You don’t need an invitation for this affair, simply search “#winechat” and you are seeing the live stream.  Join in if you like, or just drop in to see what people are tweeting about on Wednesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. PT.

On this particular #winechat, moderator Bill Eyer (@cuvee_corner) was joined by Morgen McLaughlin (@sbcwinelady).  She is the recently installed Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association.  The SBCVA was kind enough to provide me and about ten other wine writers with a battery of six white wines from Santa Barbara County for the purpose of the event.  Further disclosure: I am a huge fan of Santa Barbara County wines and love having such a great and diverse wine region in my backyard.

Santa Barbara County gets a lot of attention for its Syrah and its Pinot Noir, but there are some world class whites there, too.  All four of Santa Barbara County’s AVAs got into the act.  Represented on the #winechat were Chardonnays from the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, Sauvignon Blancs, Viognier and Arneis from the Santa Ynez Valley and Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA.

Santa Barbara County Vintners Association

The SBCVA was established in 1983 and currently has over 100 wineries and more than 20 vineyards as members.  Sporting over 20,000 acres of vineyards and 65+ varieties, Santa Barbara County's wine industry has gone from next-to-nothing to a billion dollar business in less than 35 years.  As you might expect from an organization of wine people, the SBCVA has a big heart, too.  They have helped raise more than $40 million to aid folks around the world.


What makes Santa Barbara County unique among California wine regions are the transverse mountain ranges which make for distinct microclimates.  The ranges run east and west, rather than north and south, so the cool marine influence of the Pacific Ocean is channeled inland across the county.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are the three top varieties in SBC, particularly in the western part of the region closest to the ocean.  In the eastern part of the county, Rhône and Bordeaux varieties do quite well.


Winemaking in Santa Barbara County began in 1782 when Father Junipero Serra brought for planting cuttings of what would come to be known as Mission grapevines from Mexico.  Sacramental wine was the impetus, but Spanish rancheros also grew grapes and made wine for less lofty purposes.

In 1884 Justinian Caire imported vines from France and planted a 150-acre vineyard on Santa Cruz Island, just off Santa Barbara's coast. He made award-winning wines there until 1918.  Prohibition ended his efforts and stymied the entire wine industry in California and the rest of the US.

After Prohibition, a couple of UC Davis viticulture professors tabbed SBC as one of the state's potentially great grape-growing areas.  It was not until the 1970s that grape-growing and winemaking really took off in SBC. Through the '80s, experimentation pinpointed which grapes did their best in which locations.

The Wines

Here is what all the fuss is about, the beautiful and varied white wines of Santa Barbara County.  This selection of six wines shows the diversity of SBC's terroir.

Brewer-Clifton Gnesa Chardonnay 2010

Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton use grapes from the Sta. Rita Hills to make their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Lompoc.  Brewer is also winemaker at Melville and has his own label, diatom.  Clifton owns Palmina Wines.

Brewer and Clifton made 288 cases of this stunning Chardonnay, which retails for $48.  Lee Gnesa (knee-sa) planted his sandy, four-acre plot in 1996.  It has been farmed by Brewer-Clifton's vineyard team since 2009.

This wine's bouquet is a beautiful example of earth and oak playing off the lemony fruit.  It appears as a lovely yellow-gold in the glass and tastes of sweet citrus, cantaloupe, herbs and spices.  The acidity is fantastic and there is a touch of chalky salinity that shows on the palate.  At 14.5% abv, it's a fairly hefty white, but the Gnesa Chardonnay does not mimic the old-line "big California Chardonnay" stereotype.  It's a lean, mean Chardonnay machine.

Summerland Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley 2012 

Part of Summerland's Single Vineyard Collection, these Chardonnay grapes come from the Sierra Madre Vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in the AVA.  The wine turns in a 14.1% alcohol number and retails for $35.

Summerland Winery sources grapes from up and down the Central Coast AVA and produces the wine in Santa Maria.  The cute little seaside cottage tasting room is in Summerland.  Owner Nebil "Bilo" Zarif and winemaker Etienne Terlinden produce some outstanding boutique wines, some of which are popping up on Los Angeles restaurant wine lists with increasing regularity - usually the Pinor Noir.

Upon first tasting, I thought, "this Chardonnay is for those who like a good deal of oak influence in their wine."  From the golden color, to the rich and spicy nose to the buttery palate, every stave of oak seemed apparent to me.  It turns out the wine didn't really see that much oak, though - fermented and aged six months in French oak barrels, one-third new.  Malolactic fermentation was not completed and the lees were stirred every couple of weeks.

The nose is bursting with pineapple, lemon and tangerine aromas while an undercurrent of vanilla oak spice carries the sideshow along.  The palate boasts tropical fruit and citrus layered with some herbal elements and a bit of oak spice.  Putting a chill on the wine reduces the effect of the oak in both aroma and flavor.  There's also acidity a-plenty, so it is definitely a food wine.

Palmina Arneis 2011

Steve Clifton and his wife Chrystal make wine from Italian grape varieties, and the Arneis grape hails from Piemonte.  Translated variously as "whimsical," "rascally" and "a little crazy," it seems to have been named as a winemaker's grape.  Not to mention that it is sometimes ornery and difficult to grow.  This Arneis is grown in the sandy soil of Honea Vineyard, in the Los Olivos district of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Alcohol registers at 13.5% and this wine retails for $20.

The Palmina website extols some of the virtues of Arneis as: "a delightful aperitif, but also a wine with enough body and personality to hold its own with a wide range of strongly flavored food – prosciutto, pesto, grilled seafood.  Arneis is also a white wine that will continue to evolve with a few years of cellar aging."

It gives a golden straw hue in the glass and smells quite interesting.  Floral?  Yes, but it's more like the flowers and their stalks.  Citrus?  Yes, a nice spray from an orange peel.  There are scents and sensibilities of herbs and spices, too, with a mineral undercurrent.  On the palate, apricots hit me first, with a dash of green tea in tow.  Minerals are even more noticeable here, and a vibrant acidity runs through the sip just like it belongs - which it does.  It finishes with a gorgeous salinity.

Imagine Pearl Paradise Mountain Viognier 2010 

The grapes are from Paradise Road Vineyard - they call it Paradise Mountain - in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley.  At a thousand feet in elevation, the vineyard gets three times the rain of the valley floor.  Winemaker Ross Jay Rankin began producing in the late 1990s at the lovely Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  He now operates in the state-of-the-art Terravant facility in Buellton.

This $24 wine blows a 14.5% abv number  and it experienced 100% malolactic fermentation, imparting a rich creaminess.  It was fermented in steel, then half was aged in new French oak for three months, the other half in steel.

The Imagine Viognier leaves little to the imagination.  Lovely golden in the glass, its sweetly floral nose is laced with the aroma of nectarines.  On the palate are peaches and melons.  The lovely smell and taste of the wine are supported by a delightful acidity that refreshes and makes for great food pairing.  I liked it with kernel corn and peas, buttered and lightly dusted with sea salt.

Baehner Fournier Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012 

The names belong to Dr. Bob Baehner and Vickie Fournier Baehner.  Their Bordeaux grape varieties grow on 16 acres of hillside vineyards in the east side of the Santa Ynez Valley.  Oaks, chaparral and purple sage dot the countryside.  Their vineyards are named for the natural events they both see unfolding on their estate - Sunshine, Rainbow, Moonglow, Misty and Northstar.

From Happy Canyon's Vogelzang Vineyard, these Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrives in the warm eastern end of the Valley.  They say they try for more of a Loire expression than New Zealand, but I find the reverse is true.  This Sauvignon Blanc experiences two-thirds of its fermentation in steel, then finishes in oak, where it stays for six months aging on the spent yeast cells - the lees.  There is a 13.5% abv number, and a retail price of $20.

Steve Clifton - see him in two other wines here - is the consulting winemaker at Baehner Fournier, but the label lists Nick de Luca as winemaker on this white wine.

The nose gives off a lively grassy aroma, with beautiful notes of tangerine, grapefruit and melon.  On the palate, the grapefruit comes forth in mighty fashion and carries some orange peel along with it.  The acidity is very nice, but it doesn't break out the razor blades.  It's more of a lush experience imparted by the wine's time spent resting on the lees.  The wine is as fresh as can be, with a touch of creaminess that lasts into the finish.

Fontes & Phillips Sauvignon Blanc 2010 

Another husband/wife team, Alan Phillips and Rochelle Fontes-Phillips started this Santa Barbara County small-lot venture in 2008.  Their separate wine paths crossed in the Santa Cruz Mountains - he in the cellar, she in the office.  Their Sauvignon Blanc is whole cluster pressed, steel fermented and aged, with a 13.8% abv number.   They say the wine is made to emulate the Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand, using grapes grown in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Only 112 cases were made, and it sells for $18.  The only label on the bottle is a pewter tab, hand-made in South America.

This strikes me as a California Sauvignon Blanc rather than one done in the New Zealand or Loire style.  Pale gold in the glass, aromas of peaches, pears and apricots lie under an herbal blanket without a trace of grassiness.  Fantastic acidity is right up front, while the flavors are mineral-driven fruit with a melon-like herbal sense.  Tangerine lingers on the finish, with a bit of the peel.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

The Grapes Of Bordeaux In The Soil Of Happy Canyon

Santa Barbara County is known more for Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than anything else, but in the Happy Canyon AVA - in the warm, east end of the Santa Ynez Valley - it’s Bordeaux that makes them so happy. This pair of wines utilizing Bordeaux varieties were provided by Cimarone Wines.

2010 Cimarone Le Clos Secret 

The grapes involved in Cimarone’s Le Clos Secret are a varied Bordeaux-style blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot and 5% Malbec from Cimarone’s estate property, Three Creek Vineyard.  The alcohol is up at a sun-ripened 14.5% abv and it retails at $40.  Ageing took place in French oak for 18 months.

I mentioned on Twitter the notion that this wine is California Bordeaux.  I mentioned it in humorous fashion, but was taken to task by one of my followers, Regis Chaigne - @rchbx - who happens to live in Bordeaux.  Regis was quick to point out, "Randy, Bordeaux wines are produced in the Bordeaux area.  Nowhere else."
Of course, I know that.  Maybe the offhanded nature of my remark was lost in translation or shortchanged by the 140-character limit, because Regis continued, "I would like the Bordeaux Wines Council to fight the misuse of "Bordeaux" as hard as [Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne] CIVC does with Champagne."
Regis is right, and I stand duly corrected on my flippant use of "Bordeaux" to describe a California wine.  Bordeaux does get misused a lot, although probably not as much as Champagne and Port - to say nothing of the millions of jugs of "Hearty Burgundy" Americans have chugged down.

Le Clos Secret was vinified by Doug Margerum and blended by Andrew Murray, Cimarone’s new winemaker  Murray says, “ "I didn't make this wine, I just blended the components, but I think it is really solid!"  You’d hardly expect him to say anything less effusive, but he actually undersells it quite a bit.

The wine looks very dark, and it smells the same.  Aromas of ripe blackberry weave into cassis, with a sage meets pencil shavings angle that really takes a stand.  It is a bouquet which makes me glad I have at least some of my olfactory sense remaining.

The palate, too, is a barnburner.  Big, dark fruit flavors are cloaked in a brambly duster of eucalyptus and graphite while a chocolate coffee angle bubbles up from a black cherry floor.  It's a show.  Extremely nice acidity and a generous tannic structure keep the wine lively even four days after opening.  The Bordeaux traits are there, alright, but there's no doubt it's a California wine that knows how to swing it.

2011 Cimarone Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cimarone Cabernet Sauvignon is the straight-up varietal version of the Cab they use to make their red blends.  Such a good outcome they have had with the grapes of Bordeaux that they decided to give the king its due.  The 2011 Cimarone Cab is a 100% varietal wine, clocking in at 14.5% abv.  It spent 15 months in French oak barrels and has the spicy nose to prove it.  The retail price is also $40.

The notes claim the 2011 vintage was a "rather challenging, late-ripening year" on the way to explaining that it is not a fruit-forward wine, but complex and layered.  Those who like a fat, plush Cab may be disappointed, but those seeking out a leaner, more nuanced wine will find this bottle to their liking.

The nose displays blackberry fruit which is shrouded in the minerals of the Three Creek Vineyard soil.  Oak has its effect, with anise and cinnamon making an appearance, and an herbal note defined by eucalyptus playing a bit part.  On the palate, the fruit makes a stronger show but there is still a straight line of minerality running through.  There's a tangy acidity and some crunchy tannins leading to a sense of orange peel on the finish.  I am going to keep this wine in mind for the holidays.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Wine: Cimarone 3CV Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Today, another in our exploration of great wines for a hot day.  Yes, I’m keeping my nose to the wet grindstone in search of true relief in the dog days of summer.  This is the last of the Now And Zin Summer Wines series.

Cimarone Estate Wines planted the 3CV Vineyard in 2001 in the warm east end of the Santa Ynez Valley.  It’s in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County.  The vineyard is home to Bordeaux varietals as well as some Rhone and Italian grapes.  Just over five and a half acres of the 26-acre plot is devoted to Sauvignon Blanc.

This wine is quite refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.  It’s a pale yellow in the glass and gives a nose of grapefruit, limes and wet rocks.  So far, so great.  On the palate, a very nice acidity jumps out first.  The fruit is laced with minerality, as it is on the nose.  Citrus flavors dominate, as fresh as you want them.

I’ll pair the 3CV Sauvignon Blanc with salmon, shrimp or salads.  It’s great with just a handful of almonds, too.  Enjoy, and happy Labor Day!

Monday, March 5, 2012


Cimarone 3CV Cilla's Blend

The Cimarone 3CV Bank appeared earlier on Now And Zin.  It's a Bordeaux blend with a bit of Syrah.  Now let's try their 3CV Cilla's Blend, which reverses the math and mixes 69% Syrah with Bordeaux varieties: 20% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The alcohol content is 14.5% abv and the wine sells for $18.

The source for all this fruit is Cimarone's Three Creek Vineyard in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County, in the warm, eastern clime of the Santa Ynez Valley.  The blend sees 20 months in new and neutral French oak barrels.  Cimarone owner Roger Higgins named the blend after his wife, Priscilla.  He calls it “a wine of beauty and elegance - just like Cilla.”  

Doug Margerum was the winemaker for this effort.  Now, Andrew Murray has come on board and will be Cimarone’s winemaker for future vintages.  Cimarone kindly provided a sample of Cilla's Blend. 

There's a big whiff of alcohol upon opening, but this is not an issue after decanting.  The gorgeous fruit is dark.  Blackberries and blueberries play against an undercurrent of bell pepper, black pepper and sage.  The herbal angle features prominently, but the fruity aspect leads the way.  

The wine sports a great tannic structure and mouth watering acidity.  It's a big wine, with an intense flavor, and herbal notes linger on the finish.  I'd pair this with a rosemary steak.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Cimarone Reserve Syrah 2008

Cimarone Estate Wines, in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County, deals in Bordeaux and Rhone grape varieties grown on their Three Creek Vineyard.  Cimarone was kind enough to send me a few of their wines to sample, and this time we're tasting their 2008 Reserve Syrah.

These $40 bottles are numbered, and mine was bottle 1,316 of 1,380.  115 cases of this Doug Margerum wine were made.  Winemaking duties at Cimarone have been taken over by the capable Andrew Murray.  He will be in the cellar from the 2011 vintage forward.

This Syrah - the first Reserve produced by the winery - has a 14.5% abv number printed clearly and legibly on the label, no magnifying glasses needed.  The blend is 60% Syrah 383 clone, 20% Syrah Noir clone and 20% Syrah 877 clone, for those who like to get geeky about it.  Not that there's anything wrong with that!  The wine is aged for 18 months in oak which the winery describes as “very tight-grain Seguin Moreau and Hermitage hand crafted barrels.”

Upon pouring, I notice the wine is very dark.  Let's get real, it's practically black except for a little band of purple around the edges.  A gigantic blackberry nose shows oak spice and some clove notes.  An initial whiff of alcohol disappears after it settles down.  Big blackberry fruit is displayed on the palate, too.  A really warm expression of the oak rides along, with black pepper on the finish.  The sweet fruit and the savory, leathery aspect make for an intriguing sip, and big, toothy tannins plead for a filet seared quickly on both sides.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Cimarone Gran Premio Sangiovese 2008

Italian grape varieties are among my favorites from around the world, particularly Sangiovese.  Whether it's the fresh, youthful Chianti or the grizzled old Brunello, I love what this grape does when it's wine.

Gran Premio is an estate-grown Sangiovese from Cimarone’s Three Creek Vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Happy Canyon AVA.  Happy Canyon is in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, which is protected from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean by the same Mountain range that channels that cooling effect into the Sta. Rita Hills.

Cimarone's Gran Premio is a blend of two clones - there are are 14 clones of the Sangiovese grape - which were picked before full ripeness.  This allows for the exclusion of excessive sugar and a resulting wine which is quite dry.  The wine is fermented in open-top wood barriques, and the wood has quite an impact on its aromas and flavors.  

Doug Margerum was the winemaker for Gran Premio.  Effective with the 2011 vintage, Margerum's purple shoes will be filled by Andrew Murray, who has taken over as winemaker for Cimarone.  According to the label, I had bottle 36 of 600!  That means only 50 cases made, so you'd better grab fast. 

Gran Premio shows a medium dark hue in the glass.   The nose exudes blackberry and tar.  Very dark flavors of earthy plums and blackberry show up on the palate, with that tar angle coming in just behind the fruit.  What the label calls "fine tannins" means that this is a very smooth wine.  You can add several "o"s to "smooth" if that helps convey the message.  

This wine drinks not like a fruity, young wine, but more like a brunello, laden with the tarry notes that years can bring to this grape.  It's great tasting and very easy drinking.  With smoked Gouda on rosemary bread the taste is amazing.  I'd love to try it with lamb, or merguez sausage.  Premio retails for $40 and carries a 14.5% abv number.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Cimarone 3CV Bank 2009

Cimarone Winery is on Three Creek Vineyard in the relatively new Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County.  Roger and Priscilla Higgins own the vineyard and winery, and they emphasize Bordeaux and Rhone varieties in their Cimarone and 3CV labels.

The gravelly, hillside soil of Three Creek Vineyard is planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and Semillon.  The Bordeaux grape varieties do very well in the warm climate of Happy Canyon, which is shielded from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean by the same mountains which channel that cool climate into the Sta. Rita Hills.  You can find out more about Happy Canyon - including how it got its name - in an excellent and interesting article from The Central Coast Wine Report on the Happy Valley AVA.

The Higgins have employed legendary Santa Barbara winemaker Doug Margerum to create their blends, but a change has come.  Los Olivos-based Andrew Murray is now the winemaker for Cimarone’s wines beginning with the 2011 vintage.  Murray has extensive success with his own Rhone-based wines at Andrew Murray Vineyards.

Bank is Cimarone's top-selling Bordeaux blend with a touch of Syrah.  It consists of 35% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot, 13% Malbec, 9% Merlot  and 9% Syrah.  The wine carries 14.5% abv and sells for $20.  Margerum is the winemaker for this ‘09 effort.

Bank is a dark purple in the glass with intense blackberry jam on the nose.  There are some clove and anise aromas, too.  The taste is heavily influenced by the Syrah as well.  Blackberry flavor stretches for miles, with a savory aspect that gives Bank a real old world feel.  The finish is lengthy.
This bottle - open for three nights - is, by the third night, more influenced by the Cabernet Franc.  The tannins still have bite, but the herbaceous, savory notes come forward mightily and a black plum profile nudges the blackberry out of the way.  This wine really undergoes quite a metamorphosis after opening.  Usually, I prefer a wine to have some time open, but I would not recommend letting Bank sit open for that long.  Upon opening, give it plenty of breathing or aeration, then enjoy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


3CV Viognier

I sneaked away from my neighborhood recently for a glass of wine at the Colorado Wine Company in Eagle Rock, California, between Glendale and Pasadena.  After a little browsing of the racks in the front of the store, the small back room beckoned.  With a soundtrack of world music, the dark little space offered a rather tasty, if short, by-the-glass menu.

My choice for this Saturday afternoon quaff was the 3CV Viognier from Cimarone.  Doug Margerum takes the grapes from the Vogelzang Vineyard in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County.

The wine is produced by stainless steel fermentation with 25% of the juice moved to neutral French oak for barrel aging and malolactic fermentation.

Very light in color, the wine offers a huge floral nose with a nutty, almond aroma and a drapery of honey that's irresistible.

The taste is very clean, with crisp pears and great acidity.  The nutty finish hangs around forever, or at least until the next glass arrives.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Panky Rose 2008

With the weather hopefully turning a little warmer, I'd like to revisit a very nice rose I discovered last spring.  It's another winner from the Santa Ynez Valley.  This pink wine really impressed me.  If you're looking for a great find for summer, Panky certainly qualifies.  It was a little difficult to find last year, but it's worth the trouble.  Panky is produced by Fontes & Phillips Wines in the Happy Canyon region of the Santa Ynez Valley  Their website said "coming soon" when I last checked it, but the email address worked when I wanted to find some Panky for myself.   There's also a Facebook page.  I also understand Panky can be found at several retail outlets in the Santa Barbara area. 

A clear Rhone-style bottle reveals the salmon color that seems tinged with gold in the light. It's quite impressive visually. The Happy Canyon pink consists of 38% Syrah, 36% Cinsaut and 26% Grenache. I could not find an alcohol content number on the label, but I would not guess it was much over 13.5%. The label is rather plain, save for the name. "Panky" is printed in mixed-font "ransom note" style. I was told this was produced by Fontes and Phillips, but the label shows that it is bottled by the "Kerr E. Nation Wine Company - Buellton, CA." To find it, you may have to "axe" around.

A very fruity sniff awaits you, especially if the wine is not overly chilled. Grapefruit and apricot lead the way, but there seems to be a lot at work in the aroma department. Very interesting.

Panky is not extremely dry, but it's certainly not on the sweet end of the spectrum. There is a buttery texture on the tongue, but it's not overplayed. I find a creaminess that's almost trying to hide. Vanilla notes play against an orange peel tartness. I thought it was a complicated wine the first time I tried it, and I still think so. There is a very good acidity level and Panky goes well with salads, fish...probably an omelet, too.