Showing posts with label Russian River Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russian River Valley. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

A Bargain Pinot From The Russian River Valley

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 cheap 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.

One of his latest finds is a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from a top Sonoma County estate which discontinued its Pinot program. Hughes says it is one of his best acquisitions of the year. 

Lot 947 Pinot Noir is of the 2018 vintage, carries alcohol at 14.5% abv and sells for $19.

This wine is medium dark garnet. The nose is made up of raspberry and plum aromas, with liberal dollops of clove, tobacco and spice. Expected notes of tea or cola were noticeably absent. A slight cola note appears on the palate, along with ripe, dark fruit and oak spice. The acidity is zesty. This is not a brawny Pinot, but it is a bit too rambunctious to be considered elegant. It is, however, a very nice sip and a wonderful pairing option with meats of all kind.

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Friday, June 23, 2023

Sonoma-Cutrer's Salute To Growing Partner Dutton Ranch

Sonoma-Cutrer Director of Winemaking Cara Morrison says the idea for this year's Winemaker's Release series was to kick it off with a salute to longtime growing partner Dutton Ranch. That means the spotlight falls on the 2021 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.

Members of the Dutton family have been working the land in Sonoma County since the 1880s, about a hundred years longer than the winery has been standing. Today, the family is sustainably farming about 1,200 acres of wine grapes in the Russian River Valley, Green Valley, and Sonoma Coast appellations. The grapes for the 2021 Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaker's Release Dutton Ranch Chardonnay came from the RRV - the Gerboth and Alpers vineyards - and were estate bottled at the winery.

The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and the wine was fermented in a mix of new and used French oak barrels, then aged in them on the lees for ten months. The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation, for the creamy mouthfeel. Winemaker Mick Schroeter puts his signature on the back label. The wine carries alcohol at 14.2% abv and retails for $40.  

This wine has a clean looking greenish gold tint to it. The nose is beautiful, with notes of ripe peaches and nectarines along with some buttered bread. There is a citrus angle, too, with plenty of minerality. The citrus leads the way on the palate and there is a healthy dose of fresh acidity to go along with it. The buttery note lingers on the finish, which is lengthy and satisfying. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Springtime Means Bring On The Rosé

It's springtime - that means it's time for new vintages of our favorite rosé wines to enjoy. One that I look forward to each year is the Rosé of Pinot Noir from Sonoma-Cutrer. The grapes were grown in the Russian River Valley, maybe the prime spot in California for raising Pinot Noir. 

The wine was produced by Sonoma-Cutrer's Pinot Noir winemaker, Zidanelia Arcidiacono. She says, "As with prior rosé vintages, fruit was specifically grown and harvested to make this wine. Grapes were harvested in August from Sonoma-Cutrer's Vine Hill and Owsley Vineyards. Clusters were destemmed and pressed leaving the juice in direct contact with the skins for a short period of time to achieve the perfect pale pink color. Immediately afterward, grapes were gently pressed to obtain the juice. Each batch of rosé was fermented separately in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures to protect the delicate aromas and flavors. After fermentation, the rosé batches were blended together and prepared for bottling in early December."

Director of Winemaking Mick Schroeter sings the praises of the 2022 vintage. He notes that the first three months of the year were "some of the driest on record," but they were followed by perfect spring and summer seasons. He says the Pinot Noir grapes were perfect in flavor and acidity. The alcohol tips only 11.9% abv and the retail price is $20.

This wine has a pale pink hue as it sits in the glass. Its nose is very pretty, full of ripe cherries and strawberries and showing hints of honeydew and tangerine. The palate plays a little more to the tart side, with a lovely savory streak to offset the fruit. The acidity is quite lively and fresh. The wine is as elegant as we might expect a rosé of Pinot Noir to be. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Dark, Complex Pinot Noir From Russian River Valley

Healdsburg winery Ten Acre made a "strictly limited production" of their 2019 Twenty Leaf Pinot Noir. The grapes were grown in Sonoma County's heralded region for Pinot, the Russian River Valley, where the afternoon breeze blows in the fog along the banks to give the fruit the cool climate it craves.

The wine - named to showcase the 20th vintage of the Jenkins Vineyard - is oak-aged in both French and American barrels, new wood. Several clones of Pinot Noir grapes went into the fermenter, mostly 115 and 667, for the grape nerds among us. The winemaker says the original floral notes on the wine are colored darker and earthier by the oak treatment. Alcohol sits at 14.4% abv and it sells for $68. 

There is a medium-dark tint to this Pinot and a complex nose that intrigues from the first sniff. In addition to the expected aromas of cherry, cola and tea, much darker, earthier tones arise. Sage is particularly noticeable, with leather, trampled leaves and nutmeg also appearing. The palate is somewhat muscular - to be expected, it seems, in California Pinot - but not so much that its elegance is obliterated. The acidity is fresh and invigorating and the tannins are gentle. The finish is lengthy and has a hint of eucalyptus in it.

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Monday, September 19, 2022

Russian River Bubbles, In Pink

The folks at Sonoma-Cutrer are celebrating 40 years of passion, imagination and pride in 2022.  They say their approach to winemaking "marries Burgundian traditions and California ingenuity." Their trophy case is brimming with awards their wines have won through the decades.

The winery says that the 2019 vintage featured rain, rain and more rain, plus a summer free of radical temperature extremes.  The harvest started a week later than usual and proceeded methodically - just the way a winemaker wants it. 

The grapes are 70% Owsley Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from the Vine Hill vineyard, both prime locations in the Russian River Valley. This pink sparkler was crafted by Sonoma-Cutrer's Pinot Noir Winemaker, Zidanelia Arcidiacono. The wine rested on the spent yeast cells for two and a half years before disgorging. Alcohol sits at 12% abv and it retails for $55.

This pink rosé has a light onionskin hue and a decent froth of bubbles which form on the pour. The nose has strawberry and cherry aromas mixed in with a toasty scent. The palate is busy with red fruit and minerality, while the acidity is razor sharp. It is the sort of sparkling wine which is thought to be a "special occasion" wine, but don't wait. Opening this bottle is the special occasion. 

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Rosé Of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

At Sonoma County's Balletto Vineyards, they say "it's more than a bottle of wine" they are presenting.  "It's family and community, social and environmental responsibility. Excellence. A never-ending pursuit to capture wine's beauty and reflect the land on which it is grown."

The Balletto story began as a five-acre vegetable farm, which has ballooned under John Balletto's supervision to a 700 acre spread, which produces 70 different veggies and some pretty good wine.

The 2021 Balletto Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir is estate grown and bottled.  It is 100% Pinot Noir - the Dijon 667 clone, for the nerdy types - with alcohol clocking in at 13.3% abv.

This pretty, pale, pink wine offers a beautiful nose of cherries, strawberries, citrus and minerals.  On the palate, the fruit has a tangy tartness and the acidity is as fresh as can be.  I love rosés, so I'm an easy audience, but this one rivals any pinkie I have had from the south of France.  Delicious and ready for springtime.  

Monday, December 20, 2021

Pinot Noir By Sonoma-Cutrer From The Russian River Valley

Sonoma-Cutrer Winery is celebrating 40 years of marrying Burgundy with California.  They have a trophy case full of awards won by their wines over the past three decades.

Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

The 2019 vintage of Sonoma-Cutrer's Russian River Valley Pinot Noir shows a complex and elegant nose and palate.  The wine was made by a female-led team of winemakers, but Mick Schroeter got to put his name on the label, and he is understandably proud of helping to bring the finicky grape to its full fruition.  The Russian River Valley is a world-class region for Pinot Noir, thanks to the fog that rolls up the river and turns the valley into a cool climate area.  The wine aged in French oak barrels for eleven months and got another half-year in the bottle.  Alcohol is restrained at 13.9% abv and the retail price lands at $35.

This wine is medium-dark in its ruby color.  The nose offers up beautiful raspberry notes with black tea and a pretty floral element.  On the palate, the raspberry is a bit brambly and is joined by tea, coffee and cola notes.  The tannins are fairly stiff upon opening, but they settle down after awhile.  The finish is medium and savory.  Altogether it is an elegant wine.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Throwback Chardonnay From Sonoma-Cutrer

Sonoma-Cutrer is celebrating 40 years of marrying Burgundy with California.  They have a trophy case full of awards their wines have won over the past three decades.

Sonoma-Cutrer The Cutrer Chardonnay 2019

This Chardonnay cuvée from Sonoma-Cutrer is all Chardonnay.  The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation during its time in barrels, where it lay on the spent yeast cells for five months  Another eight months of aging took place in older barrels, and then there were three more months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips 14.1% abv and the retail price is $35.

This Chardonnay has a golden tint in the glass, and is quite clear, too.  The nose displays oak, imparted during the 13 months or so it spent in barrels.  Underneath the wood lies some beautiful fruit - pears, peaches, pineapples, lemons.  The mouthfeel is creamy - expected with full malolactic fermentation - and yet a racy acidity flows behind it.  There is definitely a buttery note on the sip, one that harkens back to a different time for California Chardonnay.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Kosher Bubbles From The Russian River Valley

The Jewish High Holy Days are happening this month, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  You can always turn to Royal Wine Corporation for reliably high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and they make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

Herzog Special Reserve Russian River Valley Sparkling Wine

This sparkling Chardonnay is made from grapes grown in the cool-climate Russian River Valley.  The bubbles were produced through the Methode Champenoise, and the wine is kosher.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and I saw it selling online for more than $50.

This pale yellow wine produces a nice, white froth when poured.  The nose has yeasty notes of citrus and stone fruit, with an earthy element that is fabulous.  The toast and earth aspects are also present on the palate.  It's a dry wine, but there is a sweetness about it that has everything to do with the fruit.  This is one California sparkling wine I could easily recommend.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Wildly Wonderful California Sauvignon Blanc

Crescere Vineyards is a Santa Rosa-based boutique winery.  Joe Reynoso says that they started out as farmers, then decided to make wine from their grapes which they had been selling to others.  Winemaker - and Bordeaux native - Philippe Melka has been there since Crescere's beginning.  The Crescere estate vineyard overlooks the Alexander Valley, up north of Geyserville, but this wine comes from land located a bit south of there.

The 2018 Crescere Sauvignon Blanc is made entirely from grapes grown in Kent Ritchie's vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  It's a very small plot - only five acres, planted among Chardonnay vines.  The Sauvignon Blanc vines are reportedly several decades old, producing concentrated fruit.  Crescere is the only winery making a single-vineyard SauvBlanc from the Ritchie Vineyard.

The label art was created by London-based artist Yehrin Tong.  It is made up of Fibonacci spirals, a fractal geometry design which is thought to embody the innate beauty of nature.

The wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which were whole-cluster pressed at the winery.  About two-thirds of the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, but the rest was vinified in new French oak barrels.  Alcohol tips 14.4% abv and the wine retails for $60.

It is lightly tinted yellow-gold in the glass.  Its nose offers sweet stone fruit, tropical notes, citrus and a very faint grassy or herbal sense - just barely a hint.  The oak shows rather strongly on the palate, with a razor-sharp acidity, and both those elements seem to play off of one another.  Pineapple candy comes back on the finish.  This is an expensive Sauvignon Blanc, but it has a lot to offer.

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Monday, November 2, 2020

Single-Vineyard California Pinot Noir

As part of a recent SommCon video tasting series, a single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Merry Edwards Vineyards was featured.  The segment was hosted by winemaker Heidi von der Mehden, only the second winemaker at the winery after Merry herself turned over the reins.

The 2017 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was made from grapes harvested from the Meredith Estate.  The Russian River flows east-west through the appellation, allowing the evening Pacific fog to roll in and cool things down by 40 to 50 degrees.  That's great for growing grapes, especially Pinot Noir.

The Meredith Estate vineyard is planted to the UC-Davis 37 clone of Pinot Noir, Merry's own personal clone.  Online tasters had high praise for this wine, citing its "stunning" and "intoxicating" nose and palate.  The alcohol content sits at 14.5% abv and the retail price is $68.

It is a dark wine, and the nose is very expressive.  Blackberry, cassis, vanilla, tea and a slight brambly note are present.  On the palate, savory cola and oak spice get into the act, while the tannins are firm, but not overly so.  The dark fruit is there, but the savory aspect of the flavor profile definitely leads the way.  Have a juicy filet with this one - they deserve each other. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

RRV Chardonnay At $18

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.

Lot 718 Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2018

As usual, Hughes is tight-lipped about where this wine was grown and made, except to say that it came from "one of the region's storied estates, with almost a century of family history."  He goes on to praise the region, citing the Russian River Valley's cool ocean breezes and fog, which help the grapes mature well. "Anchored by a rare type of soil formed by an ancient sandstone seabed," he says, "there's just no place quite like it."  Hughes says Lot 718 is a "classic Russian River Valley Chard," only it sells for a mere $18.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv.

This Chardonnay is fairly lean, by old California standards.  There is a touch of oak on the nose, but the citrus and stone fruit stay in the spotlight.  The palate shows a bit more oak, but it does not overpower the profile.  Acidity is bright enough to make me order oysters on the half shell for takeout tonight.  The finish is long and vibrant, with pears and tangerine persisting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Great Zinfandel At Half The Price

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.

Lot 725 Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2018

Hughes says the Lot 725 Zinfandel is sourced from a "pioneering, family-owned estate," one of the oldest in Sonoma County.  The unnamed winemaker has experience in both the Dry Creek and Russian River valleys.  This Zin was aged for more than a year in oak, alcohol hits 15.5% abv and the retail sticker is only $17.  It could easily be much more.

This wine is luscious from the first pour.  Bright red cherries and vanilla notes on the nose show a wonderful balance that is found in good Zinfandel grapes, carefully vinified.  The mouth is full and rich, hefty and zippy at the same time with a beautifully fresh acidity.  I've tasted Zins this good before, but they cost twice as much.

Friday, June 21, 2019

RRV Chardonnay

With estates in Argentina and South Africa as well as California, Hess Winery really gets around.  Founder Donald Hess staked out a claim on Napa Valley'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 line includes Panthera Chardonnay, which takes its name from an east Asian word meaning yellowish animal.  The word also describes the genus of the cat family which contains its largest members.

The 2016 Panthera is 100% Chardonnay from the cool-climate Russian River Valley, aged for 15 months in French oak, more than a third of which was new.  Alcohol tips 13.3% abv and the wine sells for $45.

The wine has an intriguing nose which shows apricot, Meyer lemon and tropical fruit.  The palate shows why people like California Chardonnay.  Tropical notes highlight the flavors, with a strong layer of minerals underneath.  The 15 months of oak don't interfere as much as one might think, adding a noticeable - but not dominant - aspect to the profile.  Racy acidity begs for a food pairing, and I'm thinking swordfish.  The finish carries the fruit, not the oak.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

The Smith Story Love Story

A virtual wine tasting event was staged recently for Smith Story Wine Cellars.  "Virtual tasting" is when a bunch of wine writers/tasters get together on social media and spend an hour or so letting technology link us with great people and wines.  There are far worse ways to spend time.

This BrandLive event was put on by Charles Communications and can be viewed in retrospect here.

Smith Story Wine Cellars is based the Russian River Valley AVA, with a second tasting room in the Anderson Valley AVA.  Smith Story is credited as being America's first successfully crowd-funded winery.  Eric Story and Alison Smith Story call their 2013 creation "the little winery that did."  They call their relationship "a friendship that caught on fire."

Eric is from the San Francisco Bay area and Ali is a Lone Star Stater like me.  They met while both worked for K&L Wine Merchants in Northern California.  Pursuing their dream to make their own wine (on a budget), the newlyweds launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Their new alliance with Springboard Wine Company as their broker will take them from a"wine club" winery to a "wine list" choice, reaching their goal of getting the wines to diners in restaurants

The Smith Story wines are handcrafted from twelve family owned vineyards throughout Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Knights Valley, Pinot Mountain, Anderson Valley and the Rheingau Region of Germany.  Winemakers include Eric Story and Consulting Winemaker Katy Wilson, although Ross Cobb was also a Consulting Winemaker from 2014-2016.

Smith Story Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2016   $25
This almost clear wine smells as fresh as spring itself.  The typical grassy notes associated with the variety are mercifully muted, as is often found in Sauvignon Blancs pulled from California vineyards.  The nose also shows distinct citrus and wet rock components.  The mouthfeel is spry and racy with a very nice level of acidity.  The palate is clean, loaded with minerals and a peppery citrus zest.  Lemon meets spice and everything’s nice.

Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir 2015  $75
There were only three barrels of this wine made and it hits 12.9% abv.  The virtual tasters adored the tea leaves, bramble berries, baking spice, forest floor and mushrooms.  It was praised as an elegant wine, the kind Pinot Noir lovers love to love.

Sonoma Valley Cabernet Franc 2015  $40
Cabernet Franc is reportedly Eric Story's favorite grape variety, and the Loire Valley is the muse for his winery.  The virtual tasters loved this wine.  It is extremely dark; light has a tough time passing through the glass.  The nose is very savory, full of leather, minerals and bell pepper.  It's a "heavy" nose, one that conveys a very full flavor.  And so it is, but with a twist.  Instead of the black fruit indicated on the nose, red fruit comes through on the palate in fairly bright fashion.  The savory aspect is there, too, as spices drape over the flavor profile.  I can imagine that something off the grill, smoked in rosemary, would be a perfect pairing.

Pickberry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015  $60
Virtual tasters liked the tart fruit and spiciness of this one.  They also complimented its nose of roses, licorice, black pepper and eucalyptus.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Sweets For The Savory Lover

Four Ferrari-Carano wines were recently featured in an online virtual tasting session, of which I was invited to be a part.  The presentation was hosted by Chelsea Kurnick of McCue Communications and associate winemaker Rebecka Deike.  She handles the winery's red wine program and started out wanting to be an optometrist, but she saw her focus change to a wine career.  You may be able to find some of the online comments at #FCHolidayWine.

One of the first dessert wines I ever tasted was a Black Muscat.  It was a revelation, an epiphany, the dawn of a new day.  Without overselling the moment, I very much enjoyed it.  Since then I've reveled in each sweetie that came my way, although they have remained an addition to my wine interests, not a replacement.  Even the good dessert wines, like Sauternes, can get to be a bit much if you concentrate on them at the expense of everything else.

Ferrari-Carano Eldorado Noir, Russian River Valley 2015

This is a dessert wine made from Black Muscat grapes that were grown in the Russian River Valley.  The wine underwent malolactic fermentation, which tends to impart a creaminess by converting one type of acid to another.  There was seven months cave aging in older barrels.  Tasters online liked the idea of pairing it with bread pudding or triple chocolate cake. One wanted a well-marbled rib eye.  The wine’s alcohol is a very reasonable 12.4% abv, while the residual sugar is 12.7%.

This is one amazing dessert wine, possibly one for people who say they don't like dessert wines.  The nose is deep and dark, just like the color, and smells like sugary tar with a black licorice backbeat.  The sweetness is perfectly counterbalanced by the savory side.  On the palate, it's all black currant and berries, with a streak of earth right down the middle.  The tannins are medium firm and the acidity is somewhat low, so it's really sippable, but it also pairs well with soft cheese or a fruit dish.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

California Pinot From The North And South

They say Adler Fels is German for "Eagle Rock," which plays into their location "high in the Mayacamas Mountains." From there, they look across California, spyglass to eye, searching for the great grapes they want to use. Of course, nobody needs a mountaintop watchman to find those locations. Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Monterey County, Santa Barbara County - they are hardly off the beaten path. Those grapes make what they term, "artisan wines with intense varietal character."

The Alder Fels 2014 The Eagle Rock Pinot Noir, made by winemaker Aaron Bader, is a beauty. Bader calls the making of good Pinot "both a physical and mental exercise." He’s not shy about tooting his own bottle. "It's sexy, luscious, with that sweet perfume, a hint of maple syrup, and lush fruit." Wait a minute. Maple syrup? I can have that for breakfast!

For this wine, he blended three-quarters Sta. Rita Hills Pinot from Santa Barbara County and one-quarter grapes from the Russian River Valley. It checks in with 14.4% abv and retails for $28.

The Pinot is hefty and dark, with a nose that exudes black raspberry, black olive, coffee, tea and anise. Maple syrup? Well, now that it's in my head, it's in my nose. On the palate, wow. Ripe fruit, those olives, black tea and black pepper. The savory angle continues into the finish and carries plenty of sweet oak spice with it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Pinot, Hit Me One More Time

Owner and winemaker Joe Wagner runs his Copper Cane Wine and Provisions out of Oregon, where he makes the delightful Elouan Rosé. The 2015 Böen Pinot Noir is from one of California's great regions for Pinot, Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.

Produced and bottled in the Napa Valley, this wine carries an homage to farmers on the back label. It's a quote from Senator Daniel Webster, extolling the virtues of growing things in the ground. "When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization." And you thought they were just raising food.

The 14.3% abv number is a bit high for my liking, but that's California wine for you. When the fruit gets really ripe, the wine can get really alcoholic.

The Russian River has deposited volcanic and bedrock remnants over the millennia, so the mineral aspect of the growing area is great, while the cool, foggy conditions that typically last much of the day are what Wagner calls "ideal" conditions for growing Pinot Noior grapes.

The 2015 Böen Russian River Valley Pinot Noir really comes on strong, but it does so in a very affecting way. California Pinot is always too ripe for me, too dark, too strong. But this wine is a savory gem that begs you to find its eccentricities appealing. Black as a moonless night, the Böen gives some of the strongest aromas of cola and black tea that I've ever noted in Pinot Noir. Heavy blackberries and plums also are in there. On the palate… well, just be ready is all I can tell you. It packs a wallop. The alcohol is predictably high, but it's more the intensity of the flavors that grab me by the lapels and slap me around. If you like Burgundy, this is probably overload. If you like Syrah, get on board.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Single-Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

The Owsley Single Block Pinot Noir 2014 is the latest in Sonoma-Cutrer's Winemaker's Release Series. It's an estate bottled, Russian River Valley Pinot that has alcohol at 14.3% abv - a little lofty for my Pinot money - and retails for $50.

Sonoma-Cutrer notes that their Director of Winemaking, Mick Schroeter, "wanted to explore the effect on the wine if you controlled all of the terroir elements while applying unique winemaking practices." He opted to refine the single-vineyard selection to a single block of grapes within a vineyard. The terroir of the Russian River Valley is well-known to Pinot lovers. That marine layer that rolls in almost daily keeps the region cool, the way Pinot Noir likes it. The grapes come from the K Top block, which they say is the lowest-yielding block of the ten that make up the 90-acre estate.

The wine was fermented three different ways - oak tank, stainless steel tank and new French oak barrels. The winery says of their wood that the oak has been under their control since they first sourced it from the Gauthier family three decades ago.

The barrel aging for this wine was done in one-third each new, once-used, and twice-used French oak. The wines sit for 16 months, then are blended. Another eight months of bottle-aging follows.

This Pinot is Sonoma, to be sure. It is rich, with a nose displaying blueberries, chocolate, tea bags and anise. The palate is full with a sincere acidity on the dark fruit, sweet spice and leathery notes. I want to call it brawny, but that would be going a step too far. There is certainly an undeniable strength, but also a gentle elegance that keeps the muscle in check.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elevating Zinfandel

There’s nothing like a good Zinfandel, except maybe a great Zinfandel. There were plenty of the former, and a few of the latter, on display at Elevating Zinfandel, a tasting event put on recently by Los Angeles wine educator Ian Blackburn through his WineLA. First, the highest points, then the "merely high."

When I think of the Zinfandels I really like to drink, Turley Wine Cellars comes to mind first.  They draw grapes from a variety of California vineyards, a listing of which reads like a “Who’s Who” of grapevines.

Turley Kirschenmann Vineyard, Lodi 2014 - Planted in 1915. Beautiful red cherry.
Turley Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles 2014 - Elegant, possibly the best Paso wine I’ve had.
Turley Rattlesnake Ridge, Howell Mountain 2014 - Extremely elegant and smooth.

Ridge Vineyards is another name that Zin lovers know and revere.

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel Blend, Alexander Valley, 2014 - Very dark, spicy with pepper and red and black cherry. It’s a true field blend, with different gapes commingled in with the Zinfandel, right in the vineyard, all picked and crushed at the same time and co-fermented. The rep told me there were "too many different grapes in the wine to fit on the label."

Beekeeper Cellars is the creation of our host, Mr. Blackburn, right. I remember telling him two years ago that his Zin could knock an unsuspecting Cab off of any steakhouse wine list. And it’s just getting better.

Beekeeper Madrona Spring Vineyard, Rockpile 2013 - Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. The nose on this one sure is.
Beekeeper Montecillo Vineyard Sonoma Valley 2014 - Dark and savory with an herbal edge and lots of pepper. A favorite of mine.
Beekeeper 2012 Reserve is tasting better all the time.

All the others poured admirable wines, too. Here are my favorites among them.

A Rafanelli Winery
Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2013 - Shows spearmint.

Bedrock Wine Company
Evangelho Vineyard Heritage Wine 2014 - An excellent wine. From Oakley, 120 year-old vines. Another field blend.

Brown Estate Wines
Chaos Theory - Zinfandel/ Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah blend. Spicy nose with pencil lead. Big red fruit flavors, spice. Elegant and structured.

Mauritson Wines
Clay Mauritson, left, is on the winemaking team at Beekeeper, too.
His Cemetery Vineyard, Rockpile 2014 shows green pepper in a savory, herbal setting.

Chase Cellars
Zinfandel Rosé, Hayne Vineyard, St Helena 2015 - Bone dry, definitely not white zin.

Hendry Ranch Wines
Blocks 7 and 22, Napa Valley 2013 - Clone 2 Zinfandel. Strawberry jam.

Jeff Cohn Cellars
Sweetwater Springs, Sonoma Valley 2012 - Savory, earthy lavender. Silky smooth.

Martinelli Winery
Vellutini Ranch, Russian River Valley, 2012 - Very appealing light color. Floral berries, spice.

Quivira Vineyards
Hugh Chappelle, right
Flight 2013 - All Zinfandel. Smokey, red, savory.

Robert Biale Vineyards
Grande Vineyard, Napa Valley 2013 - Vines planted in 1920. Outside the Oak Knoll District. Dark and savory.

Seghesio Family Vineyard
Rockpile, Sonoma Valley 2013 - Subtle and elegant.

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