Showing posts with label hotel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hotel. Show all posts

Sunday, January 29, 2012


STARS of Santa Barbara wine tasting glasses

The amazing California wines of Santa Barbara County were showcased at the Peninsula Hotel's Verandah Room in Beverly Hills on January 26, 2012.  What brought wine country to the hills of Beverlee was the STARS of Santa Barbara tasting event, from Los Angeles wine educator Ian Blackburn and his Learn About Wine outfit.

The yearly event always offers a great overview of the Santa Barbara wine scene, and attracts some of the best winemakers in California to pour for the eager masses.

As usual, the event had a great turnout.  At the afternoon trade and media session, I had the opportunity to sample some great wines - some which were simply stunning - and get in a little conversation with the winemakers and other presenters.

Dan Fredman represents Los Alamos producer Martian Vineyard, and he poured their biodynamically-farmed wines while announcing that their Demeter certification will be official this year.  He also sang the praises of new winemaker Mike Roth, a New Jersey native who has been making wine in the Santa Ynez Valley for close to a decade.  Martian Vineyard's2009 Grenache is a standout, showing dusty berries and cherries on the nose and a very earthy minerality on the palate.  At $24, it's well worth the price.

Larry Shaffer, Tercero WinesLarry Shaffer (right) said he made this year's Tercero Wines "atAndrew Murray's place," meaning Murray's winery in Los Olivos.  "Next year? I have no clue.  But I still have six months to figure it out."  From one of his famous flasks, Shaffer poured his 2007 Grenache sourced from the Watch Hill Vineyard in Los Alamos.  The wine was 25% whole cluster pressed, giving a great herbal edge to an already complex wine.  I love the acidity in this one.

Toretti Family Vineyard is a five acre plot which sits on the bluff overlooking the Santa Maria Valley.  Robert Torres talked about his operation dealing with seeing their grape production fall from 15 tons to 11 tons to 8 tons in three successive vintages.  The bright side is the concentrated flavor in the smaller berries, although I couldn't help but get the feeling he'd have been satisfied with more wine to sell.  Toretti's 2009 Inocencio Pinot Noir shows perfume and earth on the sniff, and tastes very dark for such a lightly tinted wine.

At the Westerly Wines table, I was enjoying a conversation with company president Vito Gambini.  He was extolling the capabilities of his winemaker, Kirby Anderson when a gentleman walked up and said to Vito, "Hi! How's Kirby?"  Vito replied, "He's great.  He's my winemaker!"  The gentleman then said, "I know.  He's my winemaker too!"  It goes to show the wine community is a very small town, even in a big county like Santa Barbara.  Westerly's 2009 Chardonnay puts a fascinating smoky edge on the fruit.  I couldn't believe it when I was told it a $19 wine.  Vito also poured a dessert wine called Apres - a sweet Viognier in which the grapes are put on racks to dry naturally before vinifying.  It's sweet, not cloying, and has a great acidity with a full-on peach cobbler flavor.  Westerly Wines was purchased earlier this month and the inventory is now available through TTT Vineyards.  

Joshua Klapper, La Fenetre WineJoshua Klapper (left, Doctor Klapper in the event's program) poured his La Fenêtre and À Côté wines while riffing on them, and his descriptions of them - "Nice, huh?  The way I can condense three years of work into one sentence!"  His 2008 La Fenêtre Syrah comes from the Alisos Vineyard above Los Alamos.  Like all the vineyards from which he draws, it's a cool climate growing area.  Klapper says it's "more black olive than blackberry."   This savory wine has big tannins, all the better to go with a big steak.

Riverbench Vineyard and Winery's new winemaker Clarissa Nagy was at the event, pouring the 2008 Estate Pinot Noirwith a smokey load of minerals.

The Zaca Mesa table was handled by Jessica Simmons.  She was excited to pour their2007 Roussanne - the current release.  The Santa Ynez Valley wine showed nice acidity and a nutty salinity.

Others pointed me in the direction of the Dragonette Cellars table, where Brandon Sparks-Gillis poured their massively floral 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.  Grapes from the Vogelzang, Grassini and Refugio Ranch Vineyards give amazing tropical flavors and acidity.

Dan Reeves represented his Reeves Ranch Vineyard well with the 2008 Syrah.  The fruit comes from his estate vineyard in the hills overlooking Los Olivos as well as Black Oak Vineyard in Los Alamos.  It's a dark and meaty joy.

An urban winery in Santa Barbara, Silver Wines is the creation of winemaker Benjamin Silver, former winemaker at Zaca Mesa.  He honed his craft there under the tutelage ofDaniel Gehrs.  Silver's 2007 Four Barrel Especial Syrah from White Hawk Vineyard offers up a sweet and smoky nose with a gigantic display of earth on the palate.

From the east side of the Santa Maria Valley, Byron's 2009 Pinot Blanc shows plenty of that SMV minerality and a nice layer of salinity, not to mention the floral aspect.  WinemakerJonathan Nagy has created a very nice white wine to sit beside his notable Pinot Noirs.

Cambria Estate Winery in the Santa Maria Valley produces some respected Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah under winemaker Denise Shurtleff.  The Cambria 2007 Bench Break Pinot Noir has especially dark and smoky aromas and is dark, but delicate, on the palate.  The small berries from this vintage really pack some punch.

Michael Bonaccorsi was a Master Sommelier, the somm at Spago in Beverly Hills and a winemaker until his untimely death in 2004.  The 2008 Bonaccorsi  Pinot Noir uses fruit from the Fiddlestix, Cargasacchi and Melville vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.  Smoke and cherry on the nose make way for a palate featuring great minerality and a pleasingly tart edge on the finish.

Learn About Wine signageAt the D'Alfonso-Curran table, I had a taste of Kris Curran's2007 Curren Tempranillo.  A campfire nose meets a cherry and raspberry palate.

Fontes & Phillips Wines were represented by the company namesakes, Rochelle and Alan, respectively.  Their rosé, the2009 Panky, is made from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah from the Santa Ynez Valley's Camp 4 Vineyard.  I sipped and listened to other tasters comment on Panky's resemblence to a rosé from Tavel.   

Brophy Clark Cellars has a winner with their 2009 GSM Santa Ynez Valley.  Bright cherry flavor and a wonderful acidity arise from the Estelle Vineyard Grenache, Camp 4 Vineyard Syrah and Mourvèdre from the 100-year-old vines of the Del Barbra Vineyard.

Sanguis makes wine in a converted warehouse in downtown Santa Barbara.  I was not familiar with them, but they're on my radar now after tasting their 2008 Endangered Species Proprietary Red Wine.  One of the more eye-opening efforts I tasted, the earthy, smoke-filled nose leads to some amazing minerality and eucalyptus on the palate.  It's heavy on the Syrah with splashes of Roussanne and Viognier, and spent 32 months in oak.  Sanguis is Latin for "blood," and the pronunciation is "sahn' gwiss."  

Friday, December 30, 2011


wine tasting glasses

If you attend wine tasting events in Southern California, you are no doubt acquainted with Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine offerings.  If you are not, you should be.  Blackburn stages hundreds of events each year, from small to large, at which you can broaden your palate and, as the name implies, learn about wine.

The STARS series of events are some of the large scale tastings hosted by Blackburn.  The STARS of Santa Barbara event makes a lot of folks look forward to January.  

The 2012 edition of the STARS of Santa Barbara event will be staged at the Peninsula Hotel, 9882 S. Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills.  The January 26th date features a trade tasting session from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. and the grand public event from 7:00 - 9:30 p.m.

Some of the Santa Barbara County wineries and vineyards participating in the 2012 event include Alma Rosa, Bien Nacido, Bonaccorsi, Buttonwood, Brewer-Clifton, Brophy Clark, Byron, Cambria, Coquelicot, D'Alfonso-Curran, Fontes & Phillips, Foxen, Gioia, La Fenetre, Martian Ranch, Palmina, Reeves Ranch, Riverbench, Tercero, Thorne, William James and Zaca Mesa.

If you want to learn more about Santa Barbara County wines, or just revel in what you already know about them, the STARS of Santa Barbara event is an event you should have on your tasting calendar.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Trenza Tinto

The Grand Californian Hotel is one of my favorite rides at Disneyland.  Right, it's not a ride, it's a hotel, but I find it a very enjoyable place to relax a bit after waiting in lines for the actual rides.  After 5:00, the Napa Rose restaurant is the place to go, but during the day it's the Hearthstone Lounge.  A really good Disneyland adventure involves more time here, less time in those lines.

I tried the Trenza Winery Tinto on a cool afternoon.  This San Luis Obispo County red blend is produced by the Niven Family of Edna Valley, the folks who bring you Baileyana, Tangent and Zocker wines.  Winemaker Christian Roguenant hails from France, but has a love for Spanish grape varieties and does not feel constrained by Old World winemaking rules.

Offered on the menu as a Tempranillo-Syrah blend, the Trenza Tinto is actually a mix of 35% Edna Valley Syrah, 31% Paso Robles Grenache, 22% Arroyo Grande Valley Tempranillo and 12% Mourvèdre from Paso Robles.  Aged 16 months in mainly French oak, this hearty red carries a 14.9% abv number.

The wine is quite dark in color, but the nose seems rather slight to me.  I do pick up nice cherry aromas with hints of oak spice.  The palate certainly isn't shy, showing huge blackberry flavors and spices.  Clove, black pepper and black licorice augment the fruit, and the mouthfeel is full.  It's a very smooth drink, with fine tannins and a nice acidity.  The long finish leaves hints of dark chocolate.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Drink Ribera

American wine drinkers sometimes find wines from other countries a little hard to navigate.  The labels are written in languages you may not understand, using terminology you may not be familiar with even if you speak the language.  That's why it's a good idea to pursue opportunities to expand your knowledge of wine the world over.

Los Angeles was treated to the Drink Ribera Workshop recently.  The event spotlighted the wines of the Spanish wine region Ribera del Duero on May 2, 2011 at SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills.  There were not an extraordinary number of wineries - bodegas - represented, but the turnout was good and the tasters seemed to enjoy the wines quite a bit.

Immersing yourself in the wines of other countries at events like Drink Ribera is the best way I know to become more familiar with these wines and expand your knowledge base.

The event had one facet which I have not noticed at other wine shows presenting wines from other countries in America.  In addition to the tables for each winery that already has representation in the U.S., there was a large table with bottles from wineries seekingrepresentation.  There were some importers tasting and discussing the wines, and I hope some struggling Ribera winemakers end up with American distribution as a result.

Ribera del Duero is located in Spain’s northern plateau, about an hour and a half from Madrid.  The region is about 71 miles long and 22 miles wide and covers four provinces of Castilla y León - Burgos, Segovia, Soria and Valladolid.  Ribera - meaning "river bank" - lies along the Duero River Valley.  Ribera benefits from the great diversity of the soils on both banks of the river.

The average altitude of the vineyards in Ribera is 2750 feet, with some at over 3000 feet above sea level.  The area has dry summers in which temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and long harsh winters that can send the temperature down to below zero.  Ribera only gets an average of 17 inches of rain per year.  Winemaking in Ribera dates back 2,000 years.

The short growing season of Ribera del Duero, combined with the diverse soils and modest rainfall make Ribera a good place to make wine of rich intensity.  Ribera's main grape - Tempranillo - is an early ripening grape well suited for the conditions there.

Wines produced in Ribera del Duero fall under several designations:

Joven - No oak is used in producing Jovan wines, which are typically fruity and intended for immediate consumption.

Crianza - These are aged for two years with a minimum of twelve months in oak barrels.

Reserva - Aged three years with a minimum of twelve months in oak barrels.

Gran Reserva - These wines are made in select vintage years only. They are aged a minimum of five years with twenty-four months in oak barrels minimum followed by additional bottle aging.

Rosado - Rosé wines are fermented without the skin of the grape and are available shortly after the harvest.

Here are five favorites I sampled at the Drink Ribera Workshop:

Bodega San Roque de la Encina
Monte Pinadillo Crianza 2007 - Imported by Luxe Vintages, this is a very dry Tempranillo, loaded with spices and big fruit flavors.

Bodegas y Vinedos Ortega Fournier, S.L.
Alpha Spiga 2004 - Distributed by Henry Wine Group, the grapes for this wine were taken from 70-year-old vines.  It has received 90+ ratings from critics.

Protos Bodega Ribera Duero de Penafiel, S.L.
Reserva 2005 - Imported by Winebow, this is a star of their lineup.  It's easy to taste why, with a candy-like nose and palate.

Vega Real
Crianza 2007 - Imported by New Age Imports, there are tons of spices in this one.

Vina Gourmaz
Tempranillo 2009 - Imported by Classical Wines from Spain, this was my favorite.  Beautiful blackberry and raspberry flavors dominate.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I Heart Paso Robles

Paso Robles, California is remembered by many as the place actor James Dean had hoped to drive through on his way to Salinas.  Dean's life ended 25 miles short of Highway 101 when his speeding sports car collided with Donald Turnupseed's Ford.

Today, that event - monumental at the time - is a footnote in the history of a city which is the center of the fifth largest wine region in California.  The Paso Robles AVA comprises two thirds of the Central Coast AVA which contains it.  Well over 200 wineries call Paso Robles home, and the number seems to grow every time you check.  That fateful intersection of Highways 41 and 46 is memorialized for the legendary car crash which took place there, but in Paso, it's all about the wine.

The Grapes
Paso Robles is most noted for Zinfandel grapes and the wines produced from them, but despite all the festivals held in its honor, Zin actually accounts for only nine percent of the grapes grown there.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot cover over half of the pie chart for Paso Robles grape varieties in the AVA's 29,000 acres of vineyards.  Over $650 million worth of wine is produced annually in the Paso Robles AVA.

The Layout
Paso - just call it that if you want to sound local - is situated about a half hour north of San Luis Obispo on U.S. Highway 101.  The area around Paso Robles is roughly divided into East and West sides, with the freeway as the dividing line.  It would be hard to get around in the city and its environs without noticing the wine industry.  No matter where you are in Paso, you're near a winery.

La Bellasera Hotel & SuitesWhere To Stay

If you plan to visit, you are one of 1.2 million tourists who do so each year for Paso wine.  There are plenty of hotels, bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals to choose from.  I received complimentary lodging at La Bellasera Hotel and Suites for the purpose of this series of articles, and it came highly recommended by everyone I spoke with before the trip.  I found it much to my liking, too, and with room rates starting under the $200 mark, I'll check with them first on my next visit.

La Bellasera's Director of Sales Baxter Boyington told me there are over 1250 hotel rooms in Paso Robles.  He sang the praises not only of his hotel, but of life in Paso, too.  He said returning to his stomping grounds was a distinct pleasure.

As Boyington showed me around the property it was apparent that it's not a huge hotel, but the rooms are clean and outfitted in comfortable elegance, with attention to detail.  There are even suites with kitchenettes if your stay is an extended one.  A big television in my room never got turned on - no time for TV - but the free WiFi is a must nowadays.  A spa and a fitness room offer amenities for those who wish to take a break from wine for a while.

The restaurant at La Bellasera, Enoteca, is appropriately wine-themed and was also on every must-try list I acquired from locals.  Steamed clams and mussels are a treat that's hard to pass, and the menu has a number of seafood options, veal, lamb, pork and Angus beef.  If you only have time for dessert, try the country style cheesecake or gingerbread creme brulée.

The bar at Enoteca is a favorite hangout for wine people of all stripes.  I made new wine friends there, and I'd bet that you will, too - the people in Paso Robles are very friendly.  Of course, the wine list at Enoteca is Paso-centric.

Where's The Wine?
As I mentioned, wine is everywhere in Paso Robles.  Wineries and tasting rooms abound on the eastside and the west, all the way to the coast.  Paso's downtown square just west of the 101 freeway features a number of tasting - and dining - opportunities within easy walking distance.

Meritage Lounge Tasting BarOne tasting room is interesting in that it serves as a tasting room for six of the smaller local wineries.  TheMeritage Wine Tasting Lounge has a large room lined with tasting bars.  The night I visited, only four of the winery spaces were staffed, but on weekends you'll find all six wineries represented.

Meritage hosts Roxo Port CellarsLine Shack Wine,Brochelle VineyardsCerro PrietoMichaud Vineyardand JK Wine Company, home of the Arada and Katinlabels.  When you check in at the front desk you are handed a card which you use at the tasting bars.  You can taste a flight or single wines at each of the stations, then settle up at the desk on your way out.

Brochelle Vineyards had a flight of three wines which could be paired with cheeses.  I tasted their Grenache/Syrah/Zinfandel Rosé made from estate fruit.  The Jolly Rancher nose and candylike finish has citrus notes and clove in the middle.  The Estate Zinfandel sports black cherry and licorice, while their Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is dark and rich, sourced from Mt. Veeder.

Michaud Vineyard poured three wines made from Chalone grapes in Monterey County.  The Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah all bing a lot to the table.

The Arada Las Ramblas Blanca is a blend of Central Coast Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Albarino.  It has a full mouthfeel and crisp acidity that's really refreshing.

I saved Roxo's Port-style wine for last.  This producer has been a favorite of mine when I have encountered them at tasting events.  Their 2007 Negrette shows flavors of black figs and raisins.  Pairing it with chocolate brought the spice notes to the forefront.

Speaking of chocolate, right down the street from The Meritage there’s a great candy store,Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, where I had the most enormous peanut butter cup known to mankind.

I hope you'll keep checking in to the Now And Zin Wine Blog for more articles about the wines and the people I encountered in Paso Robles.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Vibrant Rioja Recap

I wrote earlier about the Vibrant Rioja tasting event in Los Angeles, focusing on the Lopez de Heredia wines.  Here are some of the other taste treats I discovered at the tasting.

Faustino had two wines I liked a lot. The Crianza '07 andReserva Cinco 2005 both show dense dark noses with earthy fruit.  They taste just as rich as the nose leads me to believe they will. The Faustino Gran Reserva '98 is aging well and showing a trace of eucalyptus.

Big flavors came from the Beronia table. The '07 Tempranillo (100%), '07 Crianza of Tempranillo and Garnacha and the '06 Reserva of Tempranillo and Graciano offer big, mineral-driven cherry flavors.  The '01 Gran Reserva shows more depth, having been aged three years in barrels and three years in bottles.  It blends Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo.  Beronia's III a.C. '04 is described as a "Super Rioja," blending Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes.  Pepper, leather and tobacco notes adorn the cherry fruit.

Antano's '09 Viura was one of my favorites, a nutty white with great acidity.  The Conde de Valdemar Rosé impresses me quite a bit - one of the better $6 wines I've tried.  CdV Inspiracion Valdemar 2007 shows a lovely bright cherry flavor.  It's 100% Graciano.

Bodeagas Landaluce poured some great wines, in particular the Tempranillo with the mocha nose and the Capricho de Landaluce '05.  The latter is all smokey and lush, and it's one of the more expensive wines at the event, with a $47 price tag.

Castillo Labastida's '08 Madurado is rustic and full of minerals, while their Reserva 2004 gives a nose and palate full of succulent black cherry.

Navarrsotillo's Noemus Rioja Blanco '09 makes a huge tropical play, Noemus Rioja Rosado '09 is a 100% Garnacha rosé and the Noemus Rioja Tinto '08 blends Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuelo.  It has a huge fruit expression.  All three of those wines deliver a lot for under $10 each.  Spend a little more - $19 - for the Magister Bibendi Rioja Reserva 2005 and you get a great red wine with fantastic tannins and no bite.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Tinta de Toro

Spanish wines have always held a particular fascination for me.  One of the first tasting events I attended was one showcasing Spanish wines.  Since then, I have been drawn to the wines of Spain over and over again.

Recently I was invited to a presentation of wines from the Toro region - "Toro: Land Of Strength, Wines Of Substance" - held at the José Andrés restaurant The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles.  The group was on a three-city tour, with Southern California as the last stop.

A tasting seminar led by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer (pictured below) proved to be informative on a region that is overshadowed by more well-known Spanish wine regions.

Toro is in the northwest part Spain, in the Castilla y Leon region.  Records show wine production there since the second century.  A climate featuring warm days and cool nights facilitates the ripening of the grapes, which tend to have thick skins and small berries, helping to structure and color the wines.  Sandy soil protects the grapes from vine-killing phylloxera.

The SettingThe 1200 growers in Toro produce wines which have a much darker fruit expression in than those found in in Rioja.  Most of the wines tasted at this seminar were between 14% and 15.5% in alcohol content.  Toro has whites made from Verdejo and Malvasia.  Garnacha is also employed here, but the reds are all about Tinta de Toro, and this tasting was all about the reds.

About 30 tables were set up for the seminar, with 14 wines poured at each place.  The room smelled intensely of Toro wine - a dusty, black fruit aroma.  Dexheimer noted that the winemakers represented picked the wines they wanted to show, so there was only the cream of the crop on the table.

Comments from José Amancio Moyano Muoz, President of theCRDO Toro, opened the event.  He spoke earnestly of the Toro region and the wines which are a huge part of the life there.

Fred Dexheimer, MSThe Wines:

All the wines sampled were made from 100% Tinta de Toro grapes - the Toro name for Tempranillo - except for #8, which had a smattering of Garnacha included.

1. Bodegas Estancia Piedra "Vina Azul" 2009 - The only unoaked wine of the bunch.  Inky black at the core with bright purple edges.  Intense nose of dark fruit and a floral aspect.  On the palate, intense dark, huge fruit expression of blackberry and raspberry, with muscular tannins.

2. Coral Duero Rompesedas 2006 - Even darker than the first wine, with less purple at the edges.  Oak is 60% French, 20% Hungarian, 20% American.  The oak comes through strong, showing its 18 months in the barrel.  A dark violet nose with spices, big tannins and strong acidity - a calling card of Toro wines.

3. Valduero "Arbucala" 2006 - A light nose with coffee notes, this wine received only 6 months in 100% American oak.  From 60-100 year-old vines, there is a savory taste with herb notes, minerals and earth.  Very dry.  With a $60 suggested price tag, this was by far the most expensive wine on the table.

4. Bodegas Francisco Casas "Vina Abba" 2007 - Only 13.5% abv in this one, aged 14 months in French and American oak.  Fruity floral nose had some in attendance thinking of walnuts and herbal components.  Tart taste and strong tannins.

5. Bodegas Covitoro "Arco del Reloj 2008 - From vineyards planted between 1880 and1910.
 14 months in French and American oak, aged 12 months in the bottle.  On the nose: a sweet facet of toasty vanilla and tobacco.  Very ripe fruit on the palate with hints of earth and some black cherry notes.

6. Quinta Quietude 2005 - 15% abv.  Extremely dark with very little purple at the edge.  A big, funky nose!  A huge herbal play, some coffee, baseball glove.  It tastes savory with black fruit, bell pepper, spices.  Great tannic structure.

7. Liberalia Enologica "Cuatro" 2006 - 15% abv.  Redder than the wines so far, it shows a red fruit nose, dried fruit taste.  Very smooth.  12 months in French and American oak.

8. Bodegas Farina "Gran Dama de Toro" 2004 - 6% Garnacha with the Tinta de Toro.  15 months in 70% American, 30% French oak.  80-90 yr old vines.  The nose is huge with dried plums, anise, licorice, clove.  Plums and cherries on the very interesting palate.  Very smooth tannins.

9. Vina Zangarron "Volvoreta Probus" 2009 - Organic and biodynamic, from a young female winemaker.  French oak for only 5 months.  It has a showy, pretty violet/blackberry/raspberry nose with a little spice.  Elegant rather than rustic.  Dexheimer called this the "sensitive side of Tinta de Toro."

10. Bodega Carmen Rodriguez Mendez "Carodorum Crianza Seleccion Especial" 2007 - Garnet with a purple brick edge, a floral nose with spices - black and red pepper, cinnamon.  Peppery raspberry and blueberry on palate.  24 months in new French oak.

11. Canada del Pino "Finca Yerro Crianza Viejas Vinas" 2006 - 15 months in French oak, 50+ yr old vines.  This shows the lightest color of the day, garnet brick.  A touch of red fruit on the dark, plummy nose.

12. Bodega Cyan "Calera" 2004 - Coffee and mocha with slight touch of raisins on the nose, making me think of a dessert wine.  Nice structure, good tannins, dry, nice grip.

13. Bodegas Rejadorada "Sango" 2006 - Very dark, inky color.  Dark oily nose, a very distinctive iodine aroma.  Very tannic, dry, big dark fruit with black pepper and a menthol, minty herbal angle.  That's something the old vines of Toro tend to produce, according to Dexheimer.

14. Bodega del Palacio de los Frontaura y Victoria Reserva 2005 - Elegant and complex nose and a taste of refreshing minerality.  A nice oak profile, big fruit, silky tannins.  Very soft, especially when compared to the other wines.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Hostile Grape is the wine cellar and bar downstairs from the casino in the M Resort in Las Vegas. I should say "just south of Las Vegas," though. M is the southernmost resort hotel in Vegas - for the moment, anyway.  Things do change quickly in LV.

The wine cellar is a large room, and dark. 15 minutes after opening on a Friday afternoon, it was empty, too.  They tell me the crowd grows, but I was a little surprised at how few people had made their way there by 6:00 p.m.  A barrel stave ceiling makes a great thematic touch.  Six very large couches and tables line the center of the room, while the bar down the left side seats twelve. Jazzy, funky music plays on the sound system, but the quality of the selections varies widely.

There is an automated wine sample dispenser with samples ranging from $2 to $9 per ounce.  You can also order glasses or bottles from the list.

The menu features mostly California wines, with some French and Italian selections.  Marinelli seems to be the house wine, which I was told is produced by Napa Valley winery Cosentino.  By-the-glass offerings include three sparkling wines, six reds and six whites.

It's a beautiful room, and until the thrill-seeking hordes in Las Vegas find out about it, it's a great place for a quiet tête à tête.

I had the Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Te Muna Road Vineyard from Marlborough, New Zealand. I'll write more about that later.