Showing posts with label North Coast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label North Coast. Show all posts

Monday, February 28, 2022

Cabernet Sauvignon From Josh Cellars

Joseph Carr worked his way up in the wine world through the restaurant business as a wine steward and sommelier.  In 2007, he followed his dream to make wine in California by founding Josh Cellars, named to honor his father.  He started as a hard-working garagista, making only one Cabernet Sauvignon in limited quantities.  Today, Josh Cellars bottles many more grape varieties, and more Cabernet Sauvignon styles.  It is a negociant winery, with grapes sourced from a variety of California growing locations.  Joseph Carr is an executive in the wine biz now, and winemaker Wayne Donaldson gets the purple under his fingernails

Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

California is on the label and the winery says they source grapes from "all around the state" for this wine.  It was aged in 20% new oak barrels, but little other info is available on the tech sheet.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and it sells for $17.

This wine is medium-dark in its purple color.  The nose is a jammy black-and-blue berry festival with notes of the oak aging it underwent - vanilla, cinnamon and cedar.  The palate is juicy and full of cherries and berries.  It is sipping very nicely, but the tannins are firm enough to welcome a steak or pork chop.  

Josh Cellars Reserve Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles is one of my favorite regions for Cab, not only because I love the flavors that grow from that limestone soil, but also because the price is usually far less than in certain other Cab regions of the Golden State.  This wine spent up to two days in cold soak, then was fermented for a couple of weeks.  It was aged in French oak, a fifth of which was new.  Alcohol tips in at 14% abv and the retail price is $22.

This reserve Cab has a savory nose featuring coffee, mocha, anise, mint and just a hint of that Paso Robles chalkiness.  The minerality comes on strong on the palate, where a boatload of black fruit also appears.  The tannins are firm but not overbearing and there is a fresh acidity to the wine.  I love to pair a dark, savory wine like this one with a juicy piece of beef or a pork shoulder.

Josh Cellars Reserve North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

These grapes came from the North Coast appellation, a huge area which includes six counties north of San Francisco, including Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake.  Aging employed 25% new oak.  Alcohol hits only 14% abv and the bottle retails for $22.

This dark wine’s nose is bursting with blue fruit, violets, vanilla and clove.  The palate is rich and layered with black currant and cherry, anise, pepper and oak spice.  The tannins are smooth and the acidity is lip-smacking.  The sip finishes long and fruity with a savory edge.  It will pair nicely with steak, sausage and tomato sauce dishes. 

Josh Cellars Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine gets the California appellation, probably due to the fact that grapes from several regions were used.  The winery explains that the wine is aged for three months in "recently emptied bourbon barrels."  Alcohol gets up to 14.5% abv and the retail price is $22. 

The nose shows plenty of dark fruit - blackberries, cassis, blueberries - but while I was expecting a healthy dose of bourbon-soaked wood, it doesn’t seem to be there.  I get just a faint sense of bourbon, nothing more.  That’s actually fine with me, because I don’t want my wine to smell like bourbon.  A little stronger note of cedar comes on the palate, along with the forceful fruit, but nothing that would turn me off of the wine.  After sipping a bit, I notice a very slight flavor of bourbon, but it is way in the background. I feel the labeling is a bit misleading.  If you’re advertising bourbon, there oughta be some - whether I like it or not.  However, it is a fine wine nonetheless. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Windsor Vineyards Gets Personal With Their Wine

Many wineries find it resourceful to create an additional revenue stream by making personalized labels for the wine they sell.  Sonoma County's Windsor Vineyards does this, and they sent me a bottle of bubbly to show me what it looks like.

The wine is Windsor's Platinum Series Brut Rosé North Coast sparkling wine.  It is made through the Méthode Champenoise of secondary fermentation in the bottle, just like in Champagne.  This one has the name of my wine website plastered on the front of the bottle.

For Windsor, it would seem to be more about the private labeling than it is about the wine.  However, Windsor - founded by wine legend Rodney Strong in 1959 - has been winning awards for their wines for decades.  They are now owned by Vintage Wine Estates.

The personalized labels actually started way back in the day, with Strong.  He started putting personalized labels on the wine - Mr. and Mrs., Happy Birthday, the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe - and the tradition continues today.

The Windsor Platinum Series Brut Rosé North Coast sparkler was aged in the bottle, on the spent yeast cells, for 19 months.  The non-vintage wine has a full mouthfeel, while presenting a vibrant freshness.  Alcohol is 12.5% abv and the wine retails for $32 with the Windsor label on the bottle.  It costs extra for a personalized label.  They start at $12 with a minimum order of two bottles.

This Sonoma County bubbly is a beautiful copper-salmon color in the glass with a nose of sweet red fruit and toast.  The palate is as dry as a bone and loaded with a racy acidity.  Strawberries, cherries, lemons, tangerines and a truckload of minerals fill out the flavor profile.  Lemon chimes in on the finish.

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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.

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, 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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blended Wines Offer Better Guessing Games

Blended wines have more to offer than varietal wines, in my humble opinion. The fun I experience while trying to pin down the percentages of the different grapes in the blend probably marks me as a wine geek beyond hope, but that's alright with me. It's a fate from which I feel no need to be rescued.

Cornerstone Cellars' Stepping Stone brand offers a white blend called Rocks! It combines Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat Canelli, but the percentages are withheld - the better to cause wine geeks to wonder what those numbers are.

Cornerstone's managing partner, Craig Camp, made a sample available to me. He always shares more than wine with a sample, citing his own love of blends - particularly field blends, in which the grapes are grown together in the vineyard with only a guess as to what percentages make up the blend.

Camp writes, "My love of interesting blends goes back to the now famous Vintage Tunia by Silvio Jermann in Italy's Fruili." He says he was among the first American importers of this wine in the early 1980's. "During the same period I was introduced to the many blended southern French wines by Christopher Cannan," he continues. "No one debated too much the exact blends of these wines they way people do now. They were just enjoyed for what they were - delicious."

On the Jermann website, there is a quote from a wine writer on the virtues of Vintage Tunia: "No one until now has ever realised it, but it is the most extraordinary meditation wine in existence. Not in the passive sense (wine to drink while meditating), but in the active sense: it is a wine that makes you meditate.” So let's meditate on Stepping Stone Rocks! North Coast White Blend 2013.

One of the numbers Cornerstone does release is the alcohol content of 13.3%, a fairly moderate number. Also moderate is the retail price of $15.

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Rocks! North Coast White Blend 2013 has a pale yellow tint in the glass, with a brilliant nose featuring a spray of floral notes with melon and a spicy, herbal twist. The palate offers very bright acidity in a wine that is sweet, but not syrupy. There is a cantaloupe note in the middle and a citrus finish. This is a natural with Japanese noodles, Pad Thai or penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes.

The floral aromas give away the Muscat Canelli, while the fruit I attribute to the Chardonnay and the vibrant acidity to the Viognier. The alcohol moderation points to early harvest and the balance to just plain good winemaking.

Kari Auringer has just replaced Jeff Keene as the Cornerstone winemaker, by the way. According to Camp, "When Kari became winemaker for Cornerstone Cellars she was, in fact, coming home as, for most of the vintages of the 2000s, Kari was assistant winemaker to Celia Welch, who made the wines of Cornerstone Cellars from 2000 through 2007. Kari's fingerprint is already on almost a decade of Cornerstone Cellars wines. Over the last decade she has contributed to the fame of some of the Napa Valley's most luminous names including Scarecrow, Lindstrom, Keever, Kelly Fleming and Corra and has been singled out as a rising star in Napa Valley winemaking."

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Monday, July 18, 2011


MAS Vino at Eat Real Festival

The Eat Real Festival in Culver City, California was Saturday July 16th, 2011.  Billed as an opportunity to sample "real" food and drink, the festival offered a number of food booths and a food truck rodeo of sorts.

There wasn't a lot of wine to sample, however the Beer Garden was serving plenty of craft brews as well as a couple of taps devoted to vino.

I tried MÁS Vino Blanco - 90% Saivignon Blanc and 10% Sémillon, sourced from California's North Coast region.  MÁS Vino is based in Occidental, California, and they produce wine in mini tanks fitted with built in gas chambers which push the wine out.  The tanks keep the wine fresh for about two months, and hold the equivalent of about 15 bottles of juice.  It's a fairly green delivery method for wine, producing virtually no waste since there are no bottles to throw away or recycle.

Winemaker Tami Collins did a nice job on this one.  The wine has a pale, greenish tint in the glass.  The nose was a little hard to reach, since it was sampled at an outdoor venue with plenty of food being prepared all around me.  Aromas were everywhere!  I was able to pick up a slight grassiness, but it's not very pungent.  There was a little piece of grass in my serving, though.  You've got to love festival-style.

On the palate, green apples and grapefruit lead to a lemon peel flavor on the finish.  It's a medium-bodied wine and there is a decent presence of acidity.  Although not exactly bracing, the wine is definitely refreshing, especially on a warm afternoon.

MÁS Vino also makes a Chardonnay, Merlot and a blend of Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  Their website features a distributor page to help you locate the mini tanks.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010


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.