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

Friday, February 9, 2024

Blood Of The Vines - Soul Music

Pairing‌‌‌ ‌‌‌wine‌‌‌ ‌‌‌with‌‌‌ ‌‌‌movies!‌‌‌  ‌‌‌See‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌hear‌‌‌ ‌‌‌the‌‌‌ ‌‌‌fascinating‌‌‌ ‌‌‌commentary‌‌‌ ‌‌‌for‌‌‌ ‌‌‌these‌‌‌ movies‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌and‌‌‌ ‌‌‌many‌‌‌ ‌‌‌more‌,‌‌ ‌‌‌at‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Trailers‌‌‌ ‌‌‌From‌‌‌ ‌‌‌Hell.‌‌‌ ‌ This week we put on the headphones/earbuds and let the music wash over us. Are we high? If not, we have some wine pairings to go along with the musical movies.

This is one of those weeks where music and movies merge, a happy affair, for me at least, even when the sound and the pictures are not of the highest quality. The beach party movies come to mind, as do Elvis flicks. Somewhere, there is probably a home movie of the legendary 30-minute version of "Louie Louie" recorded at a Hell’s Angels party. That would fall into this category as well. But on we go to the films that reach loftier heights.

The 1986 film, Crossroads, was inspired by the legend of blues pioneer Robert Johnson. The legend says he went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil to get his guitar prowess. If that's how it's done, what did Carlos Santana have to give up? Eric Clapton? Stevie Ray Vaughn? Well, that last one doesn't need answering. We know what he gave up. 

For authenticity, guitar god Ry Cooder provided a lot of music for the movie, but he was passed over to play the guitarist in the film's climactic guitar battle. Ry was reportedly a little bit pissed that Steve Vai ended up shredding the hot licks. If anyone else wants to carp about the choice, Vai could easily say, "Hold my beer" while showing you a thing or two. 

Napa Valley's Crossroads Wines are made by Samantha Rudd and utilize grapes with a pedigree, from places like Oakville and Mt. Veeder. You may have to shop around to find them, and you will spend $80 or more for a Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Their Sauvignon Blanc runs quite a bit less. 

Honeydripper was written and directed by John Sayles for a 2007 release. The plot deals with the owner of a blues club in rural Alabama and his effort to save the place by hiring a hot, young guitar man, played by Gary Clark, Jr. Keb’ Mo also appears and R&B great Ruth Brown would have had a starring role, had she lived long enough. She was replaced by Mable John.

The movie ran hot and cold for critics, with one scribe taking issue with caricatures like a "blind guitar picker, redneck sheriff, revival meetings, cotton-picking, fights in juke joints and the like." Having grown up in the American South, I can attest that blind guitar pickers, redneck sheriffs, revival meetings, cotton-picking and fights in juke joints are not so much caricatures as they are the actual stuff of everyday life. 

The story is great, and the music mixes old classics like "Good Rockin" Tonight," "Move It On Over" and "Why Don’t You Do Right" with stuff penned in more modern times. Having Gary Clark, Jr and Keb’ Mo on hand certainly doesn't hurt the soundtrack's street cred.

I ran across a recipe for a cocktail called Honeydripper, but there's no booze in it. What are they thinking? Since we are safely clear of Dry January, try Batch Mead, located in Temecula. It's honey wine. Their Smokin Hickory Barrel Aged Mead doesn't sound like it would get you into a fight in an Alabama roadhouse in 1950. Well, actually, it does. Try it anyway. 

Charlie Parker's brief life was directed for the big screen by Clint Eastwood. The biopic Bird showed the saxophonist's connection with his wife, Chan, and trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Red Rodney. Red and Bird were drug buddies of a sort, and the heroin no doubt contributed to Parker's fatal heart attack at the age of 34. As for Rodney, he lived to be 66, although he was plagued by heroin addiction, stroke and lung cancer for many of those years.

Despite the fantastic performance by Forest Whitaker as Parker, the movie stands as one of Eastwood's least successful films. It has a solid following these days, particularly among jazz fans. The soundtrack features re-recorded tracks with Parker's sax work extracted from original takes and cleaned up through the magic of modern audio technology. 

How can we not give at least a cursory glance to Jazz Cellars? They are in the Sierra Foothills village of Murphys, California, the town that needs to either drop the S or add an apostrophe. Their Grenache Rosé is a $24 bottle of Calaveras County grapes, jazzed up to a beautiful pinkish hue. 

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Napa Legends Led To This Chardonnay

The Charles Krug Winery has been in the Napa Valley for about as long as winemaking has been there. The winery was founded in 1861 by Mr. Charles Krug, a visionary who is seen as the father of Napa Valley winemaking. The Mondavi family purchased the outfit in 1943 and still own it today.

The grapes for the 2022 Krug Carneros Chardonnay were grown in the Peter Mondavi Sr. family estates and turned into liquid magic by winemaker Stacy Clark. The wine was aged on the lees (in contact with the spent yeast cells) and was fermented in about half oak, half steel. Alcohol hits 14.3% abv and the retail price is $26.

This wine has a faint yellow tint in the glass. The nose gives off lemon notes with some minerality and a hint of orange peel and salinity. The palate shows off a lovely array of citrus flavors and a racy acidity that will make food pairing easy. This is a delightful wine, and it offers a lot for the price. 

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A Great Wine For A Great Cause

Just when I think I could swear off Cabernet Sauvignon forever, along comes a wine that makes me scrap that fateful decision. 

It's not that I don't like Cab, it's just that I want to try all the grapes. Whenever I have a Cab, I feel that I am missing out on discovering some grape that is new to me. Plus, so many people are shortsighted where grapes are concerned. Cabernet Sauvignon gets enough attention, in my humble opinion.

But, here comes the tantalizing siren. A sustainably farmed, single vineyard Cab from the place that was built on that grape: the Napa Valley. The 2021 J. Lohr Carol's Vineyard Cabernet is from the St. Helena appellation, within the famed valley. It was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, a little more than half of which were new. Carol's Vineyard was named for Jerry Lohr's late wife, who fell victim to breast cancer more than a decade ago. Today, in her memory, each bottle of the namesake Cab which is sold makes a donation to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation. 

The vineyard contains gravelly, sandy loam soils which provide a great basis for the grapes. The wine carries alcohol at 14.5% abv and a retail price of $60. Red winemaker Brenden Wood says if you can hang onto it for a dozen or more years, you'll be well rewarded for your restraint.

This extremely dark wine is indigo in color. The nose features black fruit aromas, like blackberry, fig and plum. There are a ton of spices at work here, too, but in a very subtle way. Cinnamon, allspice, thyme and sage notes appear. The palate has some very firm tannins at work, while the black fruit shows itself again. The dark flavors align with the smells on the nose. This wine is a perfect mate for a juicy rib eye steak, or a nice pork chop hot off the grill. 

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

A Mondavi Wine We Can Drink Every Day

Mondavi - to a wine lover, the name connotes California. Headquartered in the Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi Winery stands as a beacon of what big time wine can be.  Mondavi wines usually command a high price, as high as nearly $300, but this 2021 Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon gives us a taste of Mondavi for less than ten bucks.

The California appellation on the label shows that there were more than one region from which the grapes came. The estate property in Napa Valley is famous for the quality fruit it produces, but they do source grapes from other well-respected growers along the California coast.

It is a dark purple wine, with a nose featuring ripe blackberries and cassis, vanilla, tar, cigar and clove. The palate is quite nice, with cherry, blueberry and raspberry flavors draped with a bit of oak spice and offering a silky set of tannins. I paired it with a rib eye and used it in my skillet mushrooms. The wife gave me a big thumbs up, so I know it worked. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

A California Pinot Grigio You'll Probably Like

Bread & Butter's 2021 Pinot Grigio is described as a "California Pinot Grigio," but the Napa location is more prominently displayed on the Bread & Butter label. Is this a ploy to make the buyer think they’re getting a Napa Valley wine? Is this a mostly Napa Valley wine? As the company's website says, "Don’t overthink it." Bread & Butter winemaker Linda Trotta says if you like it, it's a good wine. A lot of people are going to like this one. No matter where the grapes were sourced. Alcohol hits 12.5% abv and it retails for about $15.

The wine shows pale yellow in the glass and smells of stone fruit and flowers, with a slight nuttiness to the nose. The palate has a nice bit of minerality and salinity to go along with the peach and apricot flavors. The acidity is a little tame, so sip it or pair it with a salad. 

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Paso Robles Cab Challenges Napa Juice

You could call Paso Robles California's "forgotten" wine region - if it weren't for Temecula.  Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, for my money, gives Napa Valley a good deal of competition.  The limestone influence in the Paso dirt plays wonderfully in red wines, as well as white.  And, while Napa Cabs may be elegant, Paso offerings have a more rustic approach which I find compelling.

Paso Robles winemaker Daniel Daou has his latest Cab out, the 2019 Soul of a Lion, the crown jewel of DAOU Family Estates, named in honor of his father. 


Soul of a Lion puts Paso Robles on the map for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.  It showcases Daou's vision to produce Bordeaux-style wines that combine elegance, freshness, and power.  The 2018 vintage has all the hallmarks of its cooler growing season, revealing both the power and finesse.

The winery credits DAOU Mountain's "remarkable geology, microclimate, a 2,200-foot elevation and steep slopes" for creating what they call "a jewel of ecological elements."  Alcohol tips in at 14.8% abv.

The wine is very dark, so inky that light does not pass through it.  The nose is fresh, riddled with black and blue berries, clove, cinnamon and cedar.  On the palate, the rich fruit is out front with a savory backbeat trailing behind.  The tannins are firm, while the finish is long and extremely tasty.

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Monday, February 14, 2022

Super Bowl-Winning Wine: Los Carneros

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Two New Releases From Cameron Hughes

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

Cameron Hughes Lot 811 Zinfandel Lodi 2019

Lot 811 is made completely from Lodi Zinfandel grapes.  The Lodi appellation has come on strong in recent years, especially with respect to the Zinfandels being produced there.  Most of the growers in Lodi are families which have been growing those grapes for generations.  Many of them have only recently begun making their own wine instead of selling the fruit to other producers.

This wine checks in with alcohol at 14.5% abv and a retail sticker of $13.  Yes.  Great Lodi Zin, for thirteen dollars.

The wine is medium dark in the glass.  The nose is perfumed with plum and blackberry aromas, with a hint of black pepper and campfire smoke.  An undercurrent of lilacs sets off the more savory aspect.  On the palate, there is amazing fruit - cherry, blackberry, cassis - along with some fairly awesome peppery notes.  The mouthfeel is full, yet lean, with tannins firm enough to do a job but soft enough to stay out of the way when they are not working.  I don't get a color reference very often on the palate, but this wine tastes purple to me.  The finish is medium at best, but full of the aforementioned fruit. 

Cameron Hughes Lot 825 White Meritage Napa Valley 2020

Lot 825 combines 70% Sauvignon Blanc grapes with 30% Semillon, a blend found more famously in the Bordeaux region of Graves.  These grapes were grown in the Napa Valley, where ripeness never seems to be a problem.  Alcohol tips only 12.9% abv and the retail price is $16.

This wine is lightly tinted yellow.  The nose is full of citrus and minerals - that smell of a wet sidewalk is in there.  There is also a trace of apricot and a hint of an herbal note - not full-blown grassiness, but edging in that direction.  The palate is very clean and lean.  The citrus takes center stage with the minerality staying close.  I usually think California SauvBlanc is riper than anywhere else in the world, but this example does not follow suit.  It is a bit tart, but with the usual Sauvignon trappings quite muted.  I suppose the Semillon helps out in that area.  The acidity is light enough for easy sipping, yet strong enough to handle some non-demanding pairing jobs.  I think this is actually a pretty good Sauvignon Blanc for people who think Sauvignon Blanc comes on too strong.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Brings Sense Of Place

Eight winemakers from different parts of the world recently got together, virtually, to show the diversity of flavor and style that come from unique places, landscapes and, micro-climates. 

The debut webinar, "Unique Regions of the World," featured wines from France's Loire Valley, Germany, Sardinia, Chile, Australia, Portugal and two California regions, Napa Valley and Paso Robles.

The 2017 Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley's Oak Knoll District, represents its area quite well.  The winery stands on the grounds of the former Silverado Horseman's Center, hence the equine branding.  

Director of Winemaking Ralf Holdenried says, "winemaking begins in the vineyard.  Location, climate, soils, picking decisions are all important factors that determine the quality of our wine."  This wine brings an alcohol level of 15% abv and has a retail price of $60.

This Napa Cab sits dark in the glass, emitting aromas of black cherry, cassis, anise, vanilla and some pencil lead.  It's a remarkably fresh wine, with a racy acidity and very firm tannins.  Dark red fruit on the palate is layered with a savory backbeat which lingers on the lengthy finish.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Declarative Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

The 1849 Wine Company puts as much into their labels as their wine.  Usually, I am turned off to eye-catching labels, my knee-jerk reaction when I am hit with heavy-handed marketing techniques.  I must admit, though, that the 1849 label art is striking.

The wine company describes their fascination with the bottle as drawing "inspiration from the contemporary art movement of the 21st century."  The graphics are provided by Los Angeles street artist Saber, whose work is as political as it is attention-getting.

"But," you might ask, "what of the wine inside?"

I'm glad you asked.  The winery boasts that they pride themselves on "creating California wines of the highest quality and expression," while championing the artistic endeavor.  I have found, after tearing my eyes away from the label and sampling the juice, that they have met their goal.

Declaration, their 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, was blended in St. Helena from "Napa Valley vineyards and surrounding hillsides," although the company does not publish much more information about the wine.  Declaration was aged in barrels made from French, Hungarian and American oak, 30% of which was new while 70% was previously used.  Alcohol checks in at a 14.5% abv and the retail price is $80.

The 2015 Declaration has a gorgeous nose featuring blackberry, cherry, lavender, graphite, vanilla and sweet oak spices.  The palate is a delightful playground of dark berries and that Napa dirt, which doesn't seem all that dirty, really.  It drinks fruity and young, but has firm tannins and plenty of aging potential for the coming years.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A Rosé Wine For Summer

The lion on the Hess label represents the winery and its founder Donald Hess.  Hess staked out a claim on Napa's Mount Veeder in the 1970s, when there was still room to move around.  He retired in 2011 and passed the torch to the fifth generation of the family to carry on old traditions and forge new ones.  Dave Guffy is only the second person to lead the winemaking team at Hess.

The 2019 Hess Select rosé was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Hess estate vineyards and in several other California appellations.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel and has an alcohol level of 13.5% abv.  It sells for only $12.

This rosé wine is a shade of salmon that leans more into pink than orange.  The breezy nose gives a lovely show of cherry and strawberry aromas, with a bit of salinity peeking through.  The palate brings plenty of cherry fruit into play with a bracing acidity.  Citrus lingers on the finish.  Pair this with salads and seafood for sure, but if you have a pork chop on the grill, unscrew the cap.

Monday, March 16, 2020

1849: The Wine's As Good As The Label

The 1849 Wine Company puts as much into their labels as their wine.  I am actually rather turned off by eye-catching labels, my knee-jerk reaction when I am hit with marketing techniques.  I must admit, though, that their label art is striking.

The wine company describes their fascination with the bottle as drawing "inspiration from the contemporary art movement of the 21st century."  The graphics are provided by Los Angeles street artist Saber, whose work is as political as it is attention-getting.

"But," you might ask, "what of the wine inside?"

I'm glad you asked.  The winery boasts that they pride themselves on "creating California wines of the highest quality and expression," while championing the artistic endeavor.  I found, after tearing my eyes away from the label and sampling the juice, that they have met their goal.

Declaration, their 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, was blended in St. Helena from "Napa Valley vineyards," although the company does not publish much information about the wine.

Declaration was aged in barrels made from French, Hungarian and American oak, 30% of which was new while 70% was previously used.  Alcohol checks in at a lofty 15% abv and the retail price is up there as well, at $80.

This dark wine has a gorgeous nose - blackberry, cherry, lavender, graphite, vanilla and sweet oak spices laid out with great care.  The palate is a delightful playground of dark berries and that Napa dirt, which doesn't seem all that dirty, really.  It still drinks fairly fruity and young, but has plenty of aging potential for the coming years.  After it sits awhile, you'll get a nice waft of smoke as you inhale on the sip.

1849 also makes a Sonoma County red blend.  The 2017 Triumph also has artwork by Saber and also hits 15% abv.  This one is a little easier on the wallet at $45.  It is a Bordeaux-style blend, presumably of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot.  There may be some Malbec and Cab Franc in there, but I couldn't say for sure.  The winery isn't very good at putting together a tech sheet.

Triumph's nose has some mild funk on it, with touches of campfire and earth.  The palate is youthful and fruity with a firm set of tannins and a fresh acidity.  The flavor profile does open up after a few minutes in the glass, revealing notes of beef jerky, black olives and forest floor.  It's an interesting wine which becomes more complex as it gets air.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Great Cabernet From Atlas Peak

A seven-acre plot of Tokay grapes was the start of Stonum Vineyards in the late 1970s.  Sibling vintners Mike and Kathy Stonum started making wines in 2006.  Those ancient vines of Mediterranean origin, by the way, were ripped up to make way for Zinfandel.  Lodi Wines says Tokay was once very heavily planted in the region and was primarily used as a table grape, not a source for world-class dessert wine.  Zinfandel is now the hook on which Lodi hangs its ranch hat.

The 2014 Stonum Napa Valley Cabernet is made from grapes grown in the Atlas Peak appellation.  The wine hits a rich 16% abv in alcohol, but does not taste boozy.  It sells for $60.

This wine is dark purple around the rim and nearly black everywhere else.  The nose gives off smoke, blueberries, cassis and a faint graphite note.  The palate shows a delicious dark fruit profile, with a savory streak of leather, rosemary and spice running through it.  The acidity is lip-smacking and the tannins are firm without taking over.  You won't forget it - the finish won't let you.  Pair with a steak or roast, of course, but pork or roasted chicken will work as well.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Napa Cab Bursts With Aroma, Flavor

Longtime Napa Valley winemaker Robert Pepi has been putting out a line of wines for nearly two decades, since selling off his Robert Pepi Winery to Sonoma's Kendall-Jackson.  He uses vineyards that interest him but don't suit the needs of his consulting clients.  Pepi - for reasons of his own or contractual ones - does not use his name on the bottle, opting for the Eponymous tag.  That would indicate that there’s some mystery about the lack of his name on the label.

The 2014 Eponymous Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is all Cab, with the Napa Valley pedigree.  Three quarters of the grapes were grown in the Mt. Veeder vineyard, the rest in the bench lands below the Atlas Peak appellation.  A long growing season that vintage made for lots of hang time for the fruit in moderate heat.  The wine was aged for 20 months in 70% new oak, mostly French.  Alcohol sits at 14.4% abv, only 350 cases were made and the bottles sell for $60.

This Napa Cab is everything you'd expect from that billing.  Inky in the glass, it has a nose which explodes with ripe black and blue berries, licorice and vanilla with a hint of pencil point.  The palate is equally dark, with toasty oak and tannins that are quite firm.  The lush mouthfeel lasts long on the finish and leaves me wanting another glass.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

White Wine For Fall

Summer has come and gone.  Labor Day capped another vacation period with terrible traffic and a "last chance" attitude toward miniature golf and Bermuda shorts.  It's the time of year when people turn their attention away from the lighter, whiter wines that refresh and replenish, and look forward to a winter of hearty reds to warm the insides and pair with meaty, soul-filling dishes.

For me, though, it's always white wine weather - I drink mine at room temperature, the better to savor the aromas and flavors which are sometimes softened by a chill.  I also like mine with more than salad and seafood, as the higher acidity levels found in many whites makes for a great match with pork and chicken.  And turkey.  It's getting to be the time to think about turkey.

Cornerstone Cellars' winemakers Charles Thomas and Kari Auringer can be proud of the Sauvignon Blanc they helped create.  Thomas has a 30 year track record in the Napa Valley, while Auringer is in her second go-round.  The 2016 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and delicious, floral and fruity, as if New Zealand is a thousand miles away.  Well, actually more like seven thousand.

Cornerstone says the wine has a little bit of the Musque clone, "which adds complexity and a hint of sweet fruit."  It was fermented in stainless steel tanks and neutral oak barrels, giving it more heft than a run-of-the mill SauvBlanc.  Alcohol hits 14.1% abv and it sells for $30.

This gold-green wine smells slightly of herbal notes, but the nose carries loads of peaches, apples and lemons.  The palate shows the same fruit flavors, scant herbs and a very nice acidity.  Citrus lingers on the finish and leaves a clean memory.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Hess North Coast Sauvignon Blanc - More CA Than NZ

The lion on the Hess label represents the winery and its founder Donald Hess.  With estates in Argentina and South Africa as well as Napa Valley, this winery really gets around.  Hess staked out a claim on Napa's Mount Veeder in the 1970s, when there was still room to move around.  He retired in 2011 and passed the torch to the 5th generation of the family to carry on old traditions and forge new ones.  Dave Guffy is only the second person to lead the winemaking team at Hess. 

The Hess North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is made to relax with, or have with some grilled asparagus.  The alcohol is predictably easy at 13.5% abv and it's also easy on the wallet at $11. 

The wine has an herbal nose, not New Zealand herbal, though.  There is some grassiness in the pale golden liquid, but it is well accompanied by lemon, lime, grapefruit and tropical notes.  The palate is so fresh, it makes you happy if it's hot outside.  Chill this wine and take a few degrees off the thermometer reading.  The aforementioned citrus and tropicals show up as flavors, with a hint of stone fruit in there.  The minerality is crisp and the acidity is zippy.  The wine somehow makes me want a cold black sesame noodle dish to go with it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cornerstone's Howell Mountain Cabernet

The wines of Cornerstone Cellars have been around for nearly three decades, and the company has seen its share of change through the years.  One thing that appears to have stayed the same is their commitment to crafting excellent Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Napa Valley.  The recently added winemakers in Yountville, Charles Thomas and Kari Auringer, are guiding the good ship Cabernet now at Cornerstone.  Thomas has a 30 year track record in the Napa Valley, and Auringer is in her second go-round with the winery.

They only made a hundred cases of this $100 wine, and it proved to be very popular.  The website says the 2014 Howell Mountain Cab "sold out quickly at the winery."  Unavailable for the moment, Cornerstone says a "limited vertical release of 2013, 2014 and 2015 will be available in November 2018."  Get in line.  Alcohol hits 14.6% abv.

This wine is medium dark, dark at its core.  Aromas of rich blackberries and cassis come blasting forward, with tobacco, smoke and anise in tow.  There's a hint of something herbal - possibly eucalyptus? - poking through lightly.  A medium heft in the mouth is joined by firm tannins and a racy acidity.  It has a really clean palate, with dark berry and plum flavors not trod on too heavily by oak.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Grounded Wine Company Steady State Red

Napa Valley winemaker Josh Phelps grew up literally among the vines.  He was raised in the wine business and surprised no one when he excelled at it as his own career.

Phelps' Grounded Wine Company, he notes, is "grounded in heritage, grounded in soil, grounded in simplicity."  The winery's mission is to "create wines that evoke a sense of place."  After all, that's what wine is all about.  Phelps says his wine system is in "steady state" and can be expected to continue that way into the future.

The Steady State Red Wine Napa Valley 2015 is a Bordeaux-style blend made with 73% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 8% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol hits a predictable 14.5% abv  and the wine sells for $65.

Steady State is very dark and smells that way.  Black berries, currant, anise and a trace of tar on the nose paint it, black.  The palate is fruity but serious, with a savory stripe cutting through the middle just barely on the tart side.  Acidity is bright and the tannins are moderate, so it's drinkable as well as pairable.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Wood" You Like Some Chardonnay?

In St. Helena, 1,800 feet up Napa Valley's Spring Mountain, Charles and Stuart Smith started Smith-Madrone Winery more than four decades ago, when there was still room at the top in the "pioneer" field.  The winery's name is a tip of the winemaker's hat to the Smith brothers, and to the madrone trees that populate the property.

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay, Napa Valley Spring Mountain District 2015

This lush 100% Chardonnay is from grapes grown in Napa's Spring Mountain District.  They harvested smaller clusters in the 2015 vintage, so flavors are a bit more concentrated.  Aging took place over 10 months in barrels, with 80% new French oak used.  The alcohol hits a hefty 14.9% abv and 512 cases were made.  It retails for $34.

Golden, the oak shows even before the first sniff.  It's a fairly oaky nose, with apricot and mango fighting through.  Lemon and orange appear on the palate, with enough zip to the acidity that it does not seem flabby.  The oak, though, will be an issue to those who like a lean, clean Chardonnay machine.  I'm tasting this in late February, and I typically like oakier Chardonnays more in the holiday season.  Oh, well, the Christmas tree is still up, so it's all good. :)

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Expect Great Zin At Rancho Mirage Wine, Food Fest

There's a great wine event coming this weekend for residents of California's desert communities and all of Southern California.  The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is this Saturday, February 17th 2018.  The organizers have kindly invited me to be an ambassador of what looks to be a fantastic event.  More than 200 handcrafted wines will be poured and you'll sample cuisine from 15 of the area's top chefs.  The event is put on by David Fraschetti, a full time resident of Rancho Mirage and the creator of the VinDiego Wine and Food Festival held in San Diego each April.

You can find the event and follow the #RMWineFest2018 on Twitter: @rmwineandfoodfestFor a discount, use the Now And Zin Wine promo code: NZWine.

Tickets to the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival start at $70 and are available on the fest's website.  The all-inclusive General Admission and VIP ticket includes a crystal souvenir wine glass and unlimited tastings of the wines, a variety of gourmet appetizers, cheeses, artisan breads and olive oils.  Early Entry VIP tickets allow attendees to arrive one hour earlier than General Admission.  You must be 21 to attend.

Barlow Vineyards is one of the wineries that will be attending, and I can't wait to sample the rest of their line.  Their Zinfandel is a knockout.  Located in Napa Valley’s Calistoga area, Barlow Vineyards was purchased by Warren Barlow Smith in 1994 and it's a family affair still today.  They were farmers initially, selling the fruit of their labor.  They began selling the vinified fruit of their vines at the urging of a previous winemaker.

They made fewer than a hundred cases of this wine and it retails for $35.

The Barlow Calistoga Unfiltered Zinfandel 2012 is a real crowd pleaser, very dark and aromatic.  A blackberry and licorice nose gets a savory whiff of smoke and a shot of vanilla on the side.  It's had some time in the bottle and it’s getting very smooth and silky as it ages.  On the palate, good, dark fruit stands a little on the tart raspberry side.  The oak influence shows in a touch of spice and vanilla, but it doesn't overwhelm.  The acidity is nice, and the tannins are good.  This can pair with a pork chop, but it's a great sipper, too.

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