Showing posts with label Lake County. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lake County. Show all posts

Monday, August 10, 2020

Cali Sauvignon Blanc, Grown Organically

Bonterra Organic Vineyards bills itself as America's number one wine made from organic grapes.  They also make a trio of wines from grapes grown in their biodynamic vineyards.  The winery makes it clear that they have been doing organic farming since long before it was a fashionable trend.  Winemaker Jeff Cichocki feels an organic approach to growing the grapes makes a better wine.

The 2019 Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc comes from a blend of grapes grown in Mendocino, Lake, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma counties.  The grapes were fermented in steel tanks and aged there for six months, so there is no oak effect in this wine at all.  The wine has an alcohol level of 13.3% abv and sells for $14.

This pale-tinted wine has a fresh nose of lemons, limes, grapefruit and minerals, along with an herbal aspect that stays well short of New Zealand style grassiness.  California SauvBlancs usually feature riper fruit, and fuller fruit flavor than those from the southern hemisphere.  The palate on this one is all minerals, with a hint of the citrus in the background.  The acidity is zippy and the finish is long and savory.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Italian Grapes Via Lake County

Prima Materia doesn't sound at first like an Oakland winery, but it is.  Winemaker and owner Pietro Buttitta grows his grapes two and a half hours to the north, in Lake County's Kelsey Bench AVA.  He focuses on Italian varieties - from Sangiovese to Barbera to Refosco to Negroamaro.  Buttitta says he planted most of those grapes himself and has worked the vineyard for the last eleven years.  He claims to find a clear Lake County voice for his minimally handled wines, one that maintains a "distinct Old World finish and feel."

The Prima Materia 2016 Sangiovese is made from four clones of the grape, grown in the volcanic soil of the region.  The winery claims that it reflects the growing area and respects its Italian heritage.  The grapes were nearly dry-farmed, with no pesticides used.  Buttitta refers to the 2016 vintage as "almost boring," but the fourth consecutive drought year brought just enough rainfall.

The Sangiovese is abetted by 8% Aglianico grapes.  The wine was vinified and aged 18 months in neutral barrels of French and Hungarian oak.  Alcohol tips 14.1% abv, a little heftier than most Italian Sangioveses, and it sells for $25.

This Cal-Italian grape expresses itself well.  The effect of the oak barrels is apparent on the nose, with delicious vanilla, clove and spice notes wafting upward.  Red fruit shows up, too, but it's the accessories that draw attention first.  The palate brings the cherry flavor forward in a dramatic presentation, elegant and a bit rustic at the same time.  The oak may be a bit overplayed, but it's an attraction, not a distraction.  The wine finishes fresh, clean and fruity.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Cal-Italia Aglianico From Lake County

At first glance, the name Prima Materia doesn't look like an Oakland winery, but it is.  Winemaker and owner Pietro Buttitta grows his grapes two and a half hours to the north, in Lake County's Kelsey Bench AVA.  He focuses on Italian varieties - from Sangiovese to Barbera to Refosco to Negroamaro.  Buttitta says he planted most of those grapes himself and has worked the vineyard for the last eleven years.  He claims to find a clear Lake County voice for his minimally handled wines, one that maintains a "distinct Old World finish and feel."

Prima Materia Aglianico 2014

Buttitta says the Aglianico grapes were planted in 2003 and have evolved into his signature variety, along with Barbera and Sangiovese.  The grapes were grown in soil laced with deposits from Mt. Konocti's past volcanic eruptions.  Does that make the Kelsey Bench the Sicily of California? 

The 2014 Aglianico vineyard is interplanted with 7% Montepulciano grapes.  The wine was vinified and aged on its lees in Hungarian oak, 225-liter vats that are anywhere from two to ten years old.  Alcohol tips 14.3% abv, while the wine retails for $38.

This wine is quite dark in the glass.  A whiff of nail polish remover greeted me when I opened the bottle, but after sitting a bit, the more expected aromas of dark fruit, white pepper, spice and trampled leaves overtook the problematic initial whiff.  The alcohol came on strong in the sip, and the tannins need time to smooth out.  There is definitely an Old World feel to the wine, and I am reminded of other excellent Aglianicos I have had from Santa Barbara County, Texas and, oh yeah, southern Italy.  I'd love to try it in ten years, when aging will have softened its rustic edges.



Friday, July 19, 2019

Nice Cab From Nice - California

The little town of Nice, California sits on the northern shore of Clear Lake in Lake County, northwest of Sacramento.  Wikipedia cites a source saying that the town was originally named Clear Lake Villas, until Charles William Bayne renamed the spot after his former hometown in France, around 1930.

Dennis Kreps owns the Samuel Charles label there along with his father, Stephen.  The brand's name comes from the names of Dennis' sons.  Noted winemaker Bob Pepi creates the wines.  The brand is reportedly launching nationwide distribution for the first time this year, with a separate single-vineyard Cab and a Sauvignon Blanc, both sourced in Lake County.

The 2017 Samuel Charles Cabernet Sauvignon is all North Coast grapes - 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Sirah, 4% Malbec - grown in volcanic soil about 2,100 feet up in the mountains.  The wine was aged for nine months in French and American oak barrels, about a third of them new, and alcohol sits at 14.2% abv.  The Cab retails for about $30.

This North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon blend has a dark and savory nose with a bit of a chemical smell poking through the black fruit and spice.  The palate is better, still dark and savory, with a rustic edge which reminds me more of Paso than Napa - but is actually somewhere metaphorically in between.





Monday, May 27, 2019

Paying For Your Wine Sins

The 2017 Two Angels Sauvignon Blanc hails from vineyards in Lake County's High Valley appellation.  The 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes grew in volcanic terror at about 2,100 feet.  The winery likens the land to the Rhône Valley's Crozes- Hermitage region, which is known for its cold, wet winters and mistral winds. 

The label art for the wine was done by Jacob DeBacker way back in 1591, and it depicts the "hilarity of inebriation and trauma of morning after."  It's about the penitence we supposedly owe for excessive joy.  Thanks for the buzzkill.  The wine's alcohol hits 13.7% abv and it sells for $17.

The Two Angeles Sauvignon Blanc has a yellow color in the glass and a nose that's lightly grassy, with citrus, stone fruit and herbs in the mix.  The palate shows lots of minerality, lemon and melon and is clean and crisp with a medium finish that highlights the fruit and minerals.


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Friday, January 4, 2019

Petite Sirah Loves Lake County

The 2016 Two Angels Red Hills Petite Sirah is a 100% varietal wine from the Red Hills area of the Lake County AVA.  The hills are nestled along Clear Lake, at the foot of an active volcano which has not erupted in eleven-thousand years, but we're keeping an eye on it anyway.  No doubt, that ancient force left its mark on the iron-rich red soil of the area.

The intriguing label art was created by 16th century Flemish artist Jacob DeBacker.  The winery explains that the theme of the piece is the "hilarity of inebriation and the trauma of the morning after."  They say, "Excessive joy must be countered by equally excessive sorrow, with penitential atonement for pleasure."  So, no "hair of the dog" if you overdo it.

This wine's Petite Sirah grapes were hand-harvested and destemmed before fermentation.  Aging took place over nine months in French Oak, 20% of which was new.  This wine's fourth vintage comes in at 14.3% abv and it retails for about $30.

The wine is so purple it's just about black.  The nose is amazing - so full of smoked meat and black olives you'd think you were in a deli.  Forest floor plays in, as do blackberry and blueberry notes.  The palate matches those descriptors with maybe a little more of that dark fruit showing, but it's still a savory treat.  The tannins work well but don't get in the way of the sip.  Bring in the meats, or pair with some blue cheese.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Cabernet Sauvignon With A Rustic Side

Ramsey Wines are a second label for the Kent Rasmussen Winery. It is named for his wife, Celia Ramsay, who handles the business aspect of wine while striking her own artistic notes as a Bay Area singer.

This blend, the 2015 Ramsay North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, is 97% Cab and 3% Merlot, with the grapevines spread out in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties. Winemaker Rasmussen writes that "2015 was a stunning year for grape-growing in California’s North Coast." Great weather in California? Go figure.  "From the start of the season until the end we had day after day of beautiful sunshine, blue skies and fresh and fragrant air. The vines responded by giving us a small, but perfect crop." Alcohol hits 13.6% and the wine sells for an amazing $18.

This is Cab with some guts. Oil-dark in the glass and rustic on the nose, the aroma package is full of back-country bramble and black fruit. There's a savory note of tar that virtually leaps out at me. The palate shows plum and blackberry roughed up by a cedar and spice element in the same way one might break in a cap or a baseball glove. Cabernet Sauvignon is normally not my first choice, but it might be if they all tasted this good for the price.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Good Wine - No Joshing

Josh Cellars produced 130,000 cases of wine in 2012.  This year, they’ll put out nearly a million. They have reached that rarified area as fast - maybe faster - than any brand before them.  Owned by Deutcsh Family Wine and Spirits, the Josh brand has taken off in the $13 to $19 range.  That happens to be the fastest-growing segment in retail wine right now.  So, they are lucky. But people also like their story.

The winery's founder, Joseph Carr, chose the name Josh for his wine to honor his dad. His father’s name was Joseph, too, but his friends called him Josh. He was a soldier, a firefighter and a big proponent of “taking care of each other.” Winemaker Wayne Donaldson does both Joshes proud with his creations. The wines are good, they are priced well and people seem to be snapping them up almost like they do with Yellow Tail, the brand Deutsch is best known for.

Josh Legacy Red Blend 2013

The is wine mixes Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah & Petite Sirah in an inky blend that smells of blueberry, sage, mocha and tobacco. It is a fairly complex and dark aroma package.  On the palate, dark blue fruit is ripe and juicy, with acidity to spare and enough tannins to tackle a t-bone. The finish is medium-long and savory with a kick of coffee in it. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and it sells for $16.


Josh Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

The blend here is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. It, too, is from the  California appellation, but the label promises fruit from Mendocino, Lake County, Napa Valley and Sonoma County along with other "premium California growing regions." Alcohol hits 13.7% abv and it’s also a $16 wine.

Aromas of blackcurrant and plum are forceful enough, and the accompanying oak spice is sweet yet pungent. There is a strong cedar and cigar component with a bit of black pepper thrown in. On the palate, the berry flavor is a little on the tart side, and spice notes meet some fairly dark earthiness. It’s a complex wine all the way around, and the tannins are big enough, but not too big. That tart, earthy feeling lasts into the long finish. It may not be exactly what you want in a Cab, but for a $16 wine, you get pretty good value for your money.



Friday, May 22, 2015

Hawking And Horsing: A Glass Of Wine With Mitch Hawkins

There is no horsing around when Mitch Hawkins, of Hawk and Horse Vineyards, decides to tell you about his world. He emphasizes the importance of his family, but he also takes some time to hawk his wares.

I had the pleasure of joining Hawkins for a glass of wine at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel when he was in Los Angeles recently. He poured his Hawk and Horse 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon of the Red Hills AVA, the southernmost in Lake County.

Hawkins is a big believer in biodynamic farming. "Biodynamic agriculture views the farm as a self-contained, self-sustaining ecosystem responsible for creating and maintaining its individual health and vitality without any external or unnatural additions," he writes on the winery’s website. He is proud that his vineyard is Demeter certified. The Demeter Association is known as the first label for organically grown foods.

"We are passionately dedicated to quality from the ground up," he states. "From the selection of our vines and vineyard site, to the most carefully detailed farming practices, we pay special attention to every aspect of the wine growing process. Our soil and climate are perfectly suited to growing Bordeaux varieties, and we specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon."

Hawkins peppers the conversation with numerous farm boy references, proud to talk about the dirt under his fingernails. Figuratively speaking, of course. He cleans up real nice for his forays into the big city.

After a career that has included several disparate occupations, he says of growing his grapes, "I can't imagine doing anything else."  He loves talking about the various attributes of his hillside vineyard - the red volcanic soil and the adherence to biodynamics first and foremost. He even had pictures of his land, which he showed like a proud papa.

Oh, and he really is a proud papa. He had pictures of his family to show off, too. They are rodeo people, and he has two girls who participate in barrel racing. A brief interlude occurred while he found a video on his phone of one of his daughters racing a horse through a course set up in the dirt around an array of barrels. The family’s allegiance to the horse world was driven home when he explained that they had bought land on Howell Mountain - a coveted winegrowing site - for use as a rodeo arena.

Eventually, he returned to the discussion on grapes. "Biodynamic farming is a method of working the land in harmony with the dynamic forces of the cosmos and elements of nature," he said. "It was developed by Rudolph Steiner, who lectured that the earthly and cosmic forces work in the farm through the substances of the Earth."

His 18-acre estate is home not only to grapevines, but also a herd of Scottish Highland cattle, who also participate in the biodynamics of the farm. He produced another batch of pictures, showing him burying horns full of dung and worm casings, all in the effort to make the land one with the nature around it. He brough a collection of "Lake County diamonds," the quartz rocks found in the soil on his vineyard site.

Although Hawkins is the winemaker, he recruited some good help - consulting winemaker Dr. Richard Peterson. Hawkins' 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cab, aged for 21 months in French oak, 90% of which is new. Alcohol in the 1,500 cases produced sits at 14.1% abv and it sells for $65. For his blended wines, he is quick to credit his wife, Tracy, for having the great palate that enables her to call shots on the final blends.

Hawkins is justifiably proud of this wine. "This is one of our most elegant vintages to date," he said. "Long hang time and cooler temperatures gave this vintage great complexity, and it got a 98-point rating!"

This Cab is very dark, deep ruby - almost black. If it were green, it would be English racing green. The luscious nose demands attention immediately. I told Hawkins that it's one of those wines I could just smell and never get around to tasting. He quipped, "I never get tired of hearing that." Minerals, earth and blackberries are in the forefront, graphite comes on after it opens. The palate is elegant, but there is plenty of tannic structure. I want a rib eye with it. Hawkins suggests a New York steak. The lovely cassis flavor hits the minerality just right.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Red Rocks! 2010


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

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

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

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


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Monday, October 1, 2012

Line 39 Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2010


St. Helena-based Cecchetti Wine Company is home to the Line 39 label.  Line 39's name comes from the geographic parallel that runs right through Lake County.

I've had their Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah and liked them both quite a lot.  In fact, a friend of mine who is a real Bordeaux nut first alerted me to their Cabernet, which - at the time - was selling for less than $10.  I’m also impressed with this white wine effort.

The Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc carries a very light tint and a 13.5% abv number.  The nose is fruit-forward, with melon, pear juice, citrus and tropical notes coming through strongly - no hint of a grassy element is present in the bouquet.  A bracing acidity is a welcome treat upon the first sip.  Flavors of lemon, pears, green apples and guava mark the palate.  It’s a really nice example of a California Sauvignon Blanc.


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Sunday, November 6, 2011

PELLEGRINI SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010


Pellegrini Sauvignon Blanc at Tender Greens

Tender Greens is not a fancy restaurant, but the several locations around Los Angeles offer good food - much of it organic - at some pretty fair prices.  Their local, line-caught albacore tuna for about $10 is hard to beat.  Their concept is simple enough: sit-down food for on-the-go people made from ingredients that are more or less locally sourced, natural or organic and  reasonably healthy.  I wonder about how healthy the buttery mashed potatoes are, but not about how good they taste.

The wine offerings at Tender Greens are a little off-the-beaten-path, and that's a good thing.  Their wines - the list is on a chalkboard - are not the usual big-producer fare often found in casual dining.  Smaller, family-owned wineries appear to be the norm.

Pellegrini Family Vineyards is located in Sonoma County - the Russian River Valley - and they have three estate vineyards.  The grapes for their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, however, come from Lake County - the Leveroni Vineyard.  It retails for $15 per bottle, and cost $8 by the glass at Tender Greens.

The wine is almost clear and offers some light grassy notes underneath melon aromas on the nose.  It's a bright and refreshing wine, full of lively acidity and flavors of grapefruit and lemon peel.  It paired well with the potato leek soup.


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

LINE 39 PETITE SIRAH NORTH COAST 2009


Line 39 Petite Sirah North Coast 2009

The number on the Line 39 label refers to the degrees of latitude where their Lake County vineyards are located, just north and east of Napa Valley, where it’s said they make some decent wine, too.  The 39th parallel also includes the Mediterranean Sea, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Maybe advertising a good neighborhood like that isn’t too bad an idea.  Line 39 is a sublabel of Cecchetti Wine Co.

I have tasted Line 39’s Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a surprisingly good wine.  The winery’s Petite Sirah - which I stumbled across in a supermarket wine section - is made from grapes sourced in Mendocino County’s North Coast area.  The wine was a real bargain - marked down from $13 to $8.  The alcohol level is 13.5% abv.

The color of this Petite Sirah is deep and dark, inky dark, can’t see through it dark.  A very darkly tinted appearance tends to bode well for those who like big, bold flavors, as I do.  The nose is rich with blueberry, and it smells dark, too.  All this has me salivating as I anticipate the palate. 

What I find when I finally taste the wine is a rich and jammy basket of blackberry and cherry with a lot of tannins, but they certainly don’t seem out of place. It’s a dry wine, dry as dust.  “So dry, the rest room would have dust in the urinals,” as the old martini joke goes.

The dust, in addition to being very dry, is very dark, too.  A deliciously brambly taste appears as the wine opens itself and tar notes show up on the nose.  This wine is a complete delight.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Angels High Valley Divinity 2006

I've been looking back over my notes on some wines I really liked during the past year or so.  I had this High Valley wine in the summer of '09, and at the time I was not keenly aware of the Lake County appellation.  Having enjoyed other wines from that region since, I'm a believer.  Here's what I thought about Two Angels Divinity at the time:

"A classic Rhone bottle with a lovely piece of artwork by Jacob DeBacker, done in 1591. The two cherubs in the piece are said to represent the two sides of wine - happily inebriated and sadly remorseful. I'd like to think that I rarely go to either of those extremes. I'll take the art as a word of warning, however, and try to stay in the middle ground. Very little else about the wine is learned on the label, save for an ABV number of 14.1%.   To the internet I go, to find the makeup of this wine. It is a Rhone blend of 52% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 6% Petite Sirah. $25.

"The aromas are rich, if not pungent. Much dark fruit and a spicy, leathery component make for a complicated smell. I get blueberry, plum, some pepper and licorice. It's dark, but invitingly so.

"It drinks a bit on the hot side if you rush it. Better let this wine calm down quite a bit before imbibing, or the tannins will have their way with your palate. Once you're past that, it's a brooding drink. Sit the glass on the table and walk around the room a bit. Watch television for a spell. Then turn it off and go back to the glass, perhaps sneaking up from a different angle. Take your time, and the joy will begin. This is a good wine, a very good one. But it's not something to bring to a party. I drank it without food, and enjoyed it. I do think it would go very nicely with a charcoal-grilled steak, even a hamburger right off the grill. Beef Stroganoff, perhaps. But the food just might shift the focus away from a wine that clearly wants every bit of your attention. And deserves it."