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

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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Monday, April 6, 2015

Sea Pines Russian River Valley Chardonnay

The Russian River Valley is known for its terrific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grapes that love the marine influence that rolls in up the river and the fog that typically envelopes the region until most decent folks are digesting their lunches.  Winemaker Chris Condos has great fruit with which to work, and it all works out very well in the Sea Pines Russian River Chardonnay 2013.

This wine was featured in a virtual tasting event sponsored by Whole Foods Markets late last year. The participants online were very complimentary of it during the Twitter tasting.

The tweets about this wine got started with @WFMwine, who volunteered that "Chard is America's fav white wine. Love the color here, nice pale gold, get some green apps and vanilla on nose." They continued,"lots going on w/ the palate here, richness of RR fruit but the balance is perfect. Well-crafted,elegant,loving this chard. Stylish!" The tasters in Dixie were enjoying it, according to @WFM_Louisiana: “Guests are really digging this chard!” @AshleyHawkins tweeted, “Love how well-balanced and buttery the Sea Pines is.”

This Chardonnay shows yellow gold in the glass, sends yellow peaches and yellow nectarines on the nose with vanilla and a slight toasty oak smoke note. The palate exhibits stone fruit with a honeyed layer to sweeten the deal. Oak notes sit between "just right" and "too much." Acidity is quite nice with a good tingle right into the finish. That oak lingers on the finish but it seems "just right" then. I think you could pair this with just about anything short of a ribeye and be happy. Seafood, cheese and soups are great candidates.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Paul Hobbs' Big, Fat California Pinot Noir

This Pinot Noir is huge.  Remember how they used to say "big, fat California Chardonnay?"  That was back before they became "lean, steely California Chardonnays."  Is California Pinot Noir taking possession of that big, fat monicker - since Chardonnay isn't using it anymore?

The Paul Hobbs 2012 Pinot Noir is a cuvée of five different soils, six different clones and seven different Russian River Valley vineyards.

Fermented in steel tanks, the wine aged for eleven months in small French oak barrels, just under half of which were new - meaning you get a "big" end result from them.  That's where the spontaneous malolactic fermentation occurred, which gives the wine a leg up when it comes to feeling big in the mouth.  Three percent of the grapes were pressed whole cluster, adding an herbal touch to the proceedings.

First of all, it's extremely dark wine.  Up to the light, I can't see my fingers on the other side of the glass.  Isn't Pinot Noir supposed to look a little on the thin side?  Taking a whiff, I think I'm smelling six Pinots at once.  The aromas are there - tart raspberry, black tea, coffee - but they are super-concentrated.  Flavor, it's got, too - and plenty of it.  Red currant, black raspberry, spice and an earthy streak that's made to pair with mushrooms.  It goes great with roasted potatoes and carrots, too.

This Pinot Noir is huge, so if you are looking to be finessed, keep looking.  If you like your wine on the "blunt force trauma" end of the spectrum, however, here ya go.  It does get darker and tamer sipping it over three nights, but does not lose a bit of its massive character.  Enjoy it with whatever meat will be straining the supports of your holiday table, roasted root vegetables and a handful of cashews.  Happy Holidays.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Wines 2014: Whole Foods Market part 2

Another holiday season is upon us, and the fine folks at Whole Foods Markets have another selection of wines that are perfect for the holidays. Not only are they holiday-ready, but they are on the shelves at wine-equipped Whole Foods stores.  As usual, they are priced so you can splurge a little on the turkey, or the ham, or the standing rib roast, or whatever you have in mind to highlight your holiday feast.

Ashley Hawkins, a representative of Whole Foods Markets, says this year's WFM holiday picks, "showcase a wide variety of wines from a perfect-for-turkey-and-ham silky Sonoma County Pinot Noir to a French Chardonnay-Viognier with a round, fruity softness that pairs well with yams and cranberry."

Some of the the wines were tasted in a virtual tasting event on Twitter a couple of weeks back, and another Twitter Tasting is set for Thursday December 4, 2014. See the wines below.  I'll be writing about the wines separately, but you can get an idea of what to expect with the descriptions from Whole Foods, shown below, along with their favorite food pairing for each.  “*” denotes a wine which is available only at Whole Foods Markets.

Pick up a bottle or two and join the social media crowd for both of these Twitter tastings.  Follow along in the hashtag #WFMWine to get the full effect of the fun that can be found while tasting and tweeting.

Thursday December 4, 2014, 7-8 CT
* Globerati Sauvignon Blanc

"From the Central Valley of Chile, this bright, fresh white has aromas of lemon and grapefruit with a hint of honeysuckle, and mineral notes are balanced with a green apple acidity.
Pairings: Mitica Campo de Montalban, Manhattan clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, mussels, sliced pears."

* Bubo Cabernet Sauvignon

"Surprisingly fruity, pleasant and approachable with a touch of green pepper aroma, this red has flavors of blackberries and ripe plums that accentuate the juiciness of this easy drinking wine.
Pairings: Ford Farms Seaside Cheddar, cranberry turkey sandwiches, veggie lasagna, cassoulet, beef enchiladas."

* Charles and Charles CL Merlot Red Blend

"There is an attractive baked biscuit aroma in this inky, hearty red. Black and blue fruits come forward and then recede into a rich, elegant, full-bodied finish.
Pairings: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, steak and Guinness pie, twice baked potatoes, buttery pastry crusts."

* H&G Priorat

"Earthy, herbaceous aromas in this brick red wine lead to a refined minerality and complex dark fruit flavors. The terroir of Priorat, Spain proudly shows in the glass.
Pairings: Guilloteau Fromager d’Affinois, barbecue, hearty veggie stews, Brunswick stew, grilled ribeye."

on November 13, 2014
Pizzolato Organic Pinot Grigio

"Stone fruit aromas give way to an enticing minerality and vibrant acidity in this organically grown Italian white.
Pairings: Oro del Tiempe Piave Vecchio, delicate seafood, shellfish, lemon vinaigrette, citrus fruit salad"

* Sea Pines Russian River Chardonnay

"Subtle aromas belie big flavors of green apple, lemon and vanilla bean. A pleasant richness hints at the use of just the right amount of oak for a lovely balance.
Pairings: Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, poached turbot, Cornish hens, chowders, lobster bisque, cream sauces."

* Bodegas Belgrano Malbec

"With aromas of warm spices and stewed blueberry flavors that mingle with woodsy hints of smoke, this textbook Argentine malbec has a roundness that makes for an easy drinking classic.
Pairings: Hennings Cranberry Orange."

* Leyenda del Castillo Rioja

"Mineral, earthy aromas are found in this deep garnet Spanish red. With bright, sunny fruit flavors like ripe cherries, this Rioja has a lingering, well-balanced finish.
Pairings: Mitica Mahon, grilled meats, pork chops, eggplant marinara, charred steaks."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gary Farrell Winery - Sonoma Comes To Beverly Hills

I had the good fortune of running into a few old friends at the Sonoma in the City event at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills.  It should be noted that a wine event is one of the rare occasions when I run into old friends in Beverly Hills.  I am grateful for these events, which keep me in touch with my fellow wine tasters and writers.

I made a couple of new friends at this particular event.  Winemaker Theresa Heredia (below, right) was present at the Gary Farrell table, having taken over the cellar in May 2012.  Heredia and General Manager Nancy Bailey (below, left) both related the story of their wines to me in such a way that their excitement and passion could not be hidden.

The two presented a formidable tag team of information, with Heredia pouring the Chardonnay she blended and Bailey pouring the Gary Farrell Pinots for me.

Gary Farrell was a pioneer in the Russian River valley.  He and Joe Rochioli, Jr. blazed the Russian River trail for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Rochioli ripped up French Colombard vines to plant Pinot Noir in the early 1970s, a time when the lack of hindsight made that seem like the raving of a crazy man.  Time has proven him correct, though.  Farrell's first wine under his own name was a 1982 Rochioli Pinot Noir. 

Here is what was on the tasting table:

2011 Russian River Selection Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $35 - Heredia got her feet wet with this wine - she got to do the blending on it.  The wine has a nice touch of oak, 40% in barrels for seven months.  Even though the oak is sweetly on the  forefront, she plans on reigning in the use of oak in her vintages.

2011 Russian River Selection Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $45 - Cranberry and raspberry flavors follow a delicate floral nose.

2011 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $55 - Bailey explained that Green Valley is about ten degrees cooler than the land just ten minutes north toward Dry Creek Valley.  Cool climate notes like leather and bacon come forward in the nose, while the acidity is fantastic.  Available only at the winery.

2011 Hallberg Vineyard Dijon Clones Pinot Noir, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $60 - Lighter aromas and mouthfeel mark this wine as distinct from its vineyard sibling.  Available only at the winery.

2011 Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir - From that warmer area ten minutes north of the Hallberg Vineyard.  More red fruit shows up here, along with roses and black tea.

2011 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir -  This vineyard is even further north toward Dry Creek Valley than Rochioli.  The wine is more masculine, showing a bigger mouthfeel and more tannins.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gary Farrell Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, Redwood Ranch 2010

A good wine for the warm summer months has to be light, can't be weighted down with oak and should provide some nice acidity to make it a refreshing quaff.  All three bills are filled with the Gary Farrell Sauvignon Blanc from Redwood Ranch Vineyard.  As a post script, we always hope for a bit of complexity as well, and this wine provides that, too.

The Gary Farrell winery is in the Russian River Valley - home to moody grapes like Pinot Noir, notably.  The winery reaches out to nearby Alexander Valley for these grapes.  Jim and Gayle Reed's Redwood Ranch Vineyard is located in the southern reaches of that AVA.  The vines from which this fruit comes are panted in sandy loam soil and normally enjoy a nice hot summer.  2010, however, was a cool vintage in the Alexander Valley, so expect an aromatic wine.  The winery believes this to be age-worthy in their Burgundian style.

The wine has an alcohol level of 14.1% - not exactly Burgundian, and not exactly what one might expect from the supposedly less ripe fruit of a cool vintage.  This may go to show what passes for "cool" in the Alexander Valley.  It's a full varietal wine, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and retails for $25.  I received a sample for review.

This wine gives a medium-pale straw color in the glass. The nose is rich with fruit - peaches, pears, apricots, cantaloupe - with a slight hint of oak spice.  There are no grassy aromas to speak of, which would make one think "old-world," if it weren't for the alcohol level.  In the mouth, it's medium-full bodied, but still on the lighter side.

The palate shows apricot and nectarine, fresh and ripe. There is an intriguing earthiness, too.  This is a fairly complex white wine that's bursting with fruit.  The acidity is pretty good in the mouth, but it really shows itself well on the finish.  The tech sheet only cops to "a short time in oak," and I'd say that sounds about right.  The oak is barely noticeable, and the light spices resulting from it are welcome.  I'd pair this wine with seafood and a caprese salad in a heartbeat.

The folks at Gary Farrell make a lot of noise about their Burgundian style, and this wine bears that out.  It's not really a "new world" Sauvignon Blanc, even though the ripeness - from a cool, damp vintage - is outstanding and the earthy quality really strikes a good chord for me.  I love Sauvignon Blanc, and this one is a favorite of mine already.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wine Tasting Event: Sonoma In The City, Los Angeles

Sonoma County is a fairly long drive from Los Angeles, so we SoCal wine lovers really appreciate that so many Sonoma producers took a road trip to L.A. - and brought their wine with them.

Sonoma In The City hit Los Angeles for a grand tasting event on April 24, 2012 at The London Hotel in West Hollywood. Jordan Winery threw a little 40th anniversary soiree the night before up on the London’s rooftop, one of those swingin’ little Hollywood gatherings with stars aplenty.  The next day, the banquet room bulged with winemakers from Sonoma - Coast, County and Valley.  Dry Creek Valley was represented; so were Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley.

The Dry Creek Valley AVA poured some great Sonoma County Zins.  The ‘09 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel mixes in some Petite Sirah and Carignane for a smokey nose and bright cherry palate with plenty of refreshing acidity.  Fritz Underground Winery brought their ‘09 Zinfandel, which lays a spicy herbal lace over the tart cherry.  Gustafson Family Vineyards stole the table with their ‘08 Zinfandel/Syrah/Petite Sirah blend.  It shows a touch of barnyard on the nose, an earthy palate and great acidity.

Alexander Valley Vineyards held up their end of the Zin bargain with their Sin Zin, showing an earthy cherry nose with raspberry on the palate and the finish.

Kenny Kahn, (right) owner/winegrower/co-winemaker at Blue Rock Vineyard in Alexander Valley, was anxious to show off the fruit of his labor - and with good reason.  His ‘07 Cabernet Sauvignon has a splash of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and really makes with the chocolate.  The ‘09 Baby Blue blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot into a wine that is earthy, tart and rich, and extremely easy to drink.  The unreleased Best Barrel has gentle tannins in a Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend.  Blue Rock’s terroir-driven wines were among my favorites of the afternoon.

DeLoach Vineyards’ ‘09 Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Mountain is 100% Pinot, sporting a nose very much like a Cab, complete with graphite.  It’s a very full bodied wine.  Their 2010 Zinfandel Russian River Valley is a delight, showing eucalyptus and a tingly acidity.

The Landmark Vineyards table sported two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs.  The ‘10 Overlook Chardonnay has a huge expression of lightly oaked, tropical fruit.  Its big sister, the ‘10 Lorenzo Chardonnay, Russian River Valley has a hard time beating it.  They claim it’s very age-worthy.  It should be - its $55 price tag is $30 more than the Overlook.  Landmark’s  ‘09 Grand Detour Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, is a five-vineyard blend, mostly from the Petaluma Gap, offering a very good level of acidity.  There’s a bit more oak in the ‘09 Kanzler Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast - quite dark with a lengthy finish.

Inman Family Wines was represented by the grapegrower, winemaker, salesperson, accountant,  operations manager and forklift driver - all in one woman.  Kathleen Inman (left) has produced two lovely Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley grapes - the earthy ‘08 OGV Estate and the aromatic ‘08 Thorn Ridge Ranch.  Her 2010 OGV Estate Pinot Gris is gorgeous, with a nice peach flavor and a tart finish.  OGV, by the way, stands for Inman’s organically-farmed Olivet Grange Vineyard.

Martinelli Winery’s ‘07 Chardonnay, Three Sisters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, is a $60 Chardonnay that sure smells and tastes like one.  A very earthy nose and extremely good acidity.  Earth also speaks loudly in Martinelli’s ‘09 Pinot Noir, Three Sisters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.  The ‘09 Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, is lush and dark, with a nice level of acidity.

Robert Young Estate Winery was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Alexander Valley, way back in 1958.  Their ‘07 Scion Cabernet Sauvignon has a nice tartness laid over the fruit expression that suggests Alexander Valley is well suited to Cab.

John Murray, at the Lasseter Family Winery table, got my attention by mentioning the 1919 field blend Zinfandel vineyard on their property.  Then he wowed me with a $24 rosé - the ‘10 Enjoe Sonoma Valley.  Syrah, Mourvédre and Grenache form a nice, dry wine with strawberry and watermelon aromas and flavors making me yearn for summer.  The Lasseter ‘08 Paysage Sonoma Valley is a red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauv ignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  There’s great grip here, along with a smokey nose and some tangy blackberry.

Stone Edge Farm Vineyard is organically farmed in Sonoma Valley.  Their ‘07 Cabernet Sauvignon blends 81% Cab with the remainder Merlot.  Nice fruit and pencil point grace the nose.  The ‘08 Surround Cabernet Sauvignon has 6% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc in the mix, with blueberry and black cherry flavors.

Stonestreet Wines uses Alexander Valley fruit from their Alexander Mountain estate.  The ‘09 Bear Point Chardonnay is oaky and rich, rich, rich.  The ‘07 Monument Cabernet Sauvignon is very dark and rich as well.  The ‘09 Broken Road Chardonnay - say it with me - is big and rich.  Rather oaky, but a very nice effort in that style.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011


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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