Archive for May, 2009

Chile is HOT!

May 26, 2009

wines of chileI’ve been talking a lot recently about value wines, and where you can find good value and good wine.  Chile happens to be one such place.  I’ve written about that here, here, here and here.  Oh yeah, and here too.

Recently, RF Binder and the Wines of Chile people put together a premier tasting for bloggers, where we had the winemakers, the wine players, and the wine bloggers participating in an online tasting including a video uplink to Chile.  I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable live tasting events I’ve done in a while.

We blew threw them extremely quickly, but here are my tasting notes:

Emiliana Natura Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – this wine is from the Casablanca Valley in Chile, which is one of the fastest growing areas for viticulture in Chile, especially for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.   These varietals thrive in the cool growing region, which is known for high acidity and fresh fruit aromas.  The proximity to the ocean make the climate mild, with no extreme temperature extremes.

I found this wine very enjoyable, and a GREAT deal at $10.99, and even better deal for less.   It was grassy on the nose, reminiscent of New Zealand sauvignon blancs, but was followed by crisp citrus fruit and green apple.  My Aussie friend who was tasting me is normally a NZ Sav Blanc drinker, but she said “super yummy!” which is high praise indeed!  This bottle did not last the night, because we kept going back to it.  Emiliana has two lines, and the Natura is from the Organically grown line.  They are certified organic grapes, and this is one of the best examples of a successfully made organic wine that I hvae had in a while.  Run, don’t walk to stock up on this summer sipper.


Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2008say what you will about California Pinot Noir, this wine was NOT good.  I don’t find it old world, and I don’t find it good.  I’ve had several Pinot Noirs from Chile to see if I can find ONE that I like but alas, I still have not.

The Colchauga Valley region is the 2nd largest appellation in Chile, and is typically known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec and Syrah.

I did not find much complexity in this wine, and found it flat and dusty.  It had notes of sour cherries, and I found it muddy.  It was decidedly better at the end of the evening in a 2nd taste, but even at $15, I’d have to give this wine an avoid.

AVOID if you like New World Pinot

Los Vascos Reserve 2006 – interestingly, this is one of the wines I tasted a while ago and found to be terrible.  It goes to show you, that anything can happen in transport, and I can clearly say that the previous bottle i tasted was off because I really enjoyed this wine. It is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenere, 10% Syrah, and 5% Malbec so it’s a bit of a mutt.  However the $20.99 price tag makes it’s an affordable luxury in a Bordeaux Blend not from Bordeaux.  It is also from the Colchuagua Valley, and is a house of Domaines Barons de Rothchild Lafite.

I found it to have a lot of red fruit, followed by a strong backbone of tobacco and earth, with a touch of green pepper.  I normally don’t like green pepper in my wine, bu tthis was balanced.  There was a lot of dusty cocoa and deep dark brooding personality under there.  The second day, i had a glass of this with dinner.  It was even smoother, and had mellowed out nicely


Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2007 – let me start out by saying that Carmere is not a personal favorite of mine.  I find them too smokey and vegetal for my liking, but I actually did enjoy the Santa carolina.  With 5% Petite Verdot thrown in, I think that the overwhelmingness of the Carmenere was subdued.  This wine comes from the Rapel Valley, which is the largest of the fine wine areas in Chile.  The climate and soil types vary widely, so we really have several micro-appelations in one larger one, much like the greater Napa Valey.  Merlot is the classic varietal grown here, and the Colchagua valley sub-appelation is within the Rapel appelation.  The fruit for this Carmemere is grown in two vineyards, from different sub-appellations of the Rapel, and is aged in French oak for 12-14 months.

This is a HUGE wine!  I wish I had decanted it for a while, instead of just opening it 30 minutes prior to tasting.  There was a lot of dark fruit, and spicy pepper and black licorice.  It was quite smooth, and I actually liked it – surprising for a carmenere!  It lacked the overwhelming smokiness that I don’t like, and at $14.99, I would try this wine again after decanting for a while.


Errázuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere 2007 – for the 2nd carmenere of the evening, we move to the Aconcagua Valley.  This is a new regoin, planted in the early 1990s, and is known for it’s extended dry season and moderate summers.  This is primarily Carmenere country, and winemakers here strive to keep the fruit ripening well in to the fall, to minimize the herbaceous tendencies of Carmenere and expand the fruit flavors.

The Single Vineyard Carmenere is 3% Shiraz, and was aged in 100% Oak which was split between American and French for about 12 months.  I found it less enjoyable than the Santa Carolina, and much more smoky.  It was very peppery and had tons of green pepper.  At this price point – $26, I would prefer a differetn selection from Chile.  I like my green veggies on my plate not my glass!


Undurraga T.H. Syrah 2007 – ok yeah. YUM!  I loved this wine, even if it was a bold fruity syrah and not terribly complex.  It was the 2nd bottle that completely gone on the tasting night.  It comes from the Limari Valley, and even with it’s $24 pricetag, I think it’s worth it.  The Limari Valley is 250 miles north of Santiago, and just south the driest place on earth.  Because of the dryness, drip irrigation is the rule.  The limestone bed under the valley’s clay soil is ideal for white wines.  the cool climate helps grapes to ripen slowly, producing classically crisp and acidic wines.

I really loved this wine.  It had huge red berry flavors, followed by chocolate and cocoa.  It was soft and lush, with a vibrant undertone.


Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon – Carmenere 2006 – This is an interesting blend, of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Carmenere, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Syrah.  It comes from the Maipo Valley region, with is located between two mountain ranges:  the Andes and the Coastal Mountains.  Most vineyards are located above 2000 feet, where the temperature variants develop rich and complex wines.

It had a ton of smoke, tobacco and leather.  It was very vegetal, and not bad but not really my style.  For $21, there were other Chilean Cab blends that I would buy over this.  This was ok, but nothing to write home about


Veramonte Primus 2006 – this lvoely Cab-Syrah blend was 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 17% Merlot, and 16% Carmenère.  It alos comes from the Colchagua valley, and I really enjoyed this blend.  The 2006 season produced intensely concentrated fruits, and this wine really shows that off.

It was rich and bold, with tons of spice.  I also tasted lots of dark fruit and full raspberry flavors, with a big body that was beautiful the next day.  It was well worth the $20 price tag.


All in all, Chile has some GREAT finds!  I encourage you to get out and try several to see what your style is.  In the Bay Area, some great resources are Cost Plus (World Market) and Costco, but also try your local retailers.  Chile is HOT!


Bling for Bloggers!

May 15, 2009

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much recently, something I hope to remedy.  Partially, this is due to be sick, partially because my computer at home broke, and partially because I have been involved in another project.

As I hope you will have heard by now, The Wine Bloggers Conference has been scheduled for July 24-26 in Santa Rosa.  Judging by last years attendance, I expect this to be another blow out year.

That said, the economy BLOWS right now.  People are losing their jobs.  Bloggers aren’t paid (for the most part), so if you’re an unemployed blogger, attending this years conference may be a struggle for you.  This is why a group of bloggers and other Wine 2.0 aficionados came together and started the Wine BloggersConference Scholarship Fund .

The fund is something near and dear to me, and as a committee member, I am shouting about it from the tops of rooftops.  To help us make our goal, I have come up with some Blogger Bling, to help you enhance your WBC name badges.  You are registered right?  Yeah I thought so.  So here’s the deal:

ID Ribbons are for sale for $2 each. After I recoup the costs, the profits go to the WBC Scholarship Fund.  If you’re interested, Tweet me, Email me, send me a smoke signal, but get these while the getting is good!

Trouble Maker Wine Bloggerwine blogger First Time Attendee
Screw it!  More wine!

– A Luscious Lushes Original

Naughty Wine Minx

-By Lisa Adams Walter and The BrixChicks!


Inspirational inspiration – WBW #57

May 14, 2009
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Oh my!  Are we here again?  Wine Blogging Wednesday already?  Oh my.  Hard to believe that a year has gone by since Robert Mondavi passed away, and a great icon – however controversial – was lost.  This month, Jeff LeFevre, of Good Grape, has asked us to find our own California Inspiration.

What is my California Inspiration?  Wow.  To be honest, I had a really hard time thinking of what to write about for this post, because I am a California native who grew up in the city closest to one of the world’s greatest wine regions.  Wine has always been a part of my life.  Growing up in San Francisco, my parents would have dinner parties and let me taste their wine.  At the time it was Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, but hey.  It was the 70s and 80s.  Back then, these jug wines were not only all the rage, they were actually of decent quality.  As my parents moved on to more palatable pursuits, they still let me sip their libations.  Not only did this prevent me from going completely wild, it made me appreciate the local fruit.  Yes yes ok, so I’m still completely wild, but I never snuck out of the house to drink.  Or stole my parent’s liquor, or really went on a bender.  Much.

When I finally left my community college for greener pastures, I chose Sonoma State University.  Not so much for its proximity to wine country, since I really didn’t drink, but because of the psychology programs I was looking at.  Working nearly full time and going to school more than full time takes a toll on a girl however, and I quickly discovered that there were many opportunities in the Sonoma area for tasting and talking, and that *SHOCK* they were free!  A poor college student who spends $800 on books a semester does not a rich woman make, so off we went on weekday excursions to local tasting rooms.  It was during this time that I discovered the big, powerful Zinfandels of Dry Creek Valley.

During my senior year, I was lucky enough to graduation from the retail sector and strange college student jobs, to a receptionist job at a local winery sales office.  It was here where my love of the grape really took flight.  The company took a keen interest in educating their employees, and held Friday wine tastings, of their own wines as well as local wines that might be in competition.  When I left the summer job to move back to San Francisco and begin a misguided career in the employment arts, they sent me off with a case of wine and an open invitation to come back to taste.

What really inspires me is the small, family run winery, many of which are in Sonoma County.  Particular favorites of mine are Mounts Familiy Vineyards, Manzanita Creek, and the collectives at Front Street as well as Hudson Street Wineries.  As I’ve written about in the past, these small, family owned wineries exclude hospitality and know that the hey to their success is their customers.  Here, I get personal attention and am greeted like a member of the family.  No amount of overpriced cult Cabernet can ever make up for that.  For these wines, I seek out the lesser known, I travel to new regions, I spend more than I would normally spend.  This to me, is the true meaning of inspiration.

Speaking of Inspiration, I’ll close with a story of a small winery on Olivet Lane in Santa Rosa.  Inspiration Vineyards.  The little yellow house sits just off the road, surrounded by vineyards, and some larger operations like DeLoach, Hook & Ladder, Sunce, and Harvest Moon, but is a spot of calm in a sea of wine travelers.  Jon & Barbara have been making wine  on their small 4.5 acre estate in the Russian River Valley appellation.  They produce Chardonnay and Zinfandel on the property, as well as Pinot Noir and Syrah from other vineyards.  At Inspiration, they strive to produce high quality, food friendly wines at reasonable prices.  I’d say they manage that and more!

My personal favorite from Inspiration is the Pinot Noir.  Every year it is slightly different, giving me a little thrill every time I go by to taste.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get to do a side by side of vintages.  The 2005 Los Carneros Pinot Noir was a memorable experience, with a light body, which was aged in new & old French oak for 10 months. The grapes for this wine come from a small vineyard in the Los Carneros area of southern Sonoma, and they were hand tended.  This alone is inspiring to me, as it is a rare and expensive commodity in the grape market today.  I found it light and earthy, with mushroom, bright cherry and slight tobacco flavors.  It was a surprising wine with some spritz, proving that sometimes forgotten rocks can produce amazing gems.
The following vintage was a completely different wine.

The 2006 was a fruit forward, intense and bold Pinot Noir.  Jon attributes this change to a stylistic shift he made in the wine making process.  The fermentation was extended, and the wine shows big rich flavors and a dark cherry red color.  I found lavender, strawberries, dark cherries, and smoke.  Yum!

Inspiration is is open by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead.  They are however, often open on days when there are events in the area, such as Barrel Tasting and Winter Wineland,  so you might just get lucky.

A Grape Stomp!

May 10, 2009

I first met Uzi Cohen, and his wife Kathryn, at at event at Crushpad about a year ago.  After spending some time talking about the wines we were drinking,DSC_6663 I came to learn that he actually made wine himself.  Lo and behold after much planning and anticipation, I finally got to do some barrel tasting of his amazing pinot noirs!


After meandering my way through Berkeley, I finally found their tasting room, or rather their beautifully furnished basement.  We were warmly welcomed by our hosts, and we proceeded to taste through some of the best Pinot Noir I’ve had.  Sadly, two of the tasty delights were Uzi & Kathryn’s personal homemade wine, so they are not for sale, but if these are any indication of their talents, I see a brilliant future in wine!

The two commercially  produced wines under the Stomping Girl label are from two vastly different regions in California:  Santa Lucia Highlands, and Sonoma Coast.  This gives the taster an excellent opportunity to taste two different terroirs side by side.  Both of these pinots are single vineyard selections.  Both of these wines will be released early next year, so I have to be patient!

Lone Oak Pinot NoirThe 2008 Lone Oak Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir comes from the Lone Oak Vineyard, which is in the northern part of the larger SLH appellation.   The location of the vineyard provides a great foundation for Pinot Noir, where the soil is rocky and the fog is cool.  The Lone Oak fruit was hand sorted, something I myself have done – and the source of great amusement to my friends – and then cold soaked and punched down several times a day.  It was aged in a mixture of new and used FrenDSC_6676ch oak, which gives it the depth of character of oak aging without overwhelming the delicate fruit.  This wine showed flavors of bright cherry cider, spices, juicy strawberries and raspberries with nice earthy undertones of mushrooms and bark.

Split Rock Pinot NoirThe 2008 Split Rock Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Gaps Crown vineyard, in the southern Sonoma Coast appelation. Again, this area has the cooling influences of ocean fog, but the Sonoma Coast appelation provides a different flavor structure.  The Split Rock section of the vineyard is planted between 300-800 feet, in rocky soils.  Another personal favorite from Gaps Crown is the Humanitas Gaps’ Crown Pinot, and i plan on doing a side by side when the Stomping Girl gets released!  I found this pinot earthly, with tons of sour cherry and Dr. Pepper flavors.

I hope you’ll get the chance to taste these great wines, and get to know these lovely people!  Enjoy!

Pictures by Maureen Sullivan

It takes a village, a VinVillage!

May 6, 2009

A coVinVillage-Logo_Hi-Res-TL-SMALLuple of great events are coming up in the next couple of months, and the biggest news is you can win free tickets to these events!

VinVillage is a social networking organization for wine and food lovers.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking “oh no!  not ANOTHER social network for wine!”.  While it’s certainly true that there are many social networks dedicated to wine, VinVillage is unique in how it connects wineaux with wine lovers in their home cities.

Additionally ,VinVillage has a webcast radio show covering a wide range of topics, as well as a community barrel of wine where VinVillage members can join in the winemaking experience and build a sense of community.

To build on this sense of community, VinVillage sponsors several contests, where you can win tickets to events in local cities.  Two events that are coming up are the Wine Fests of Lodi and LA.

The Lodi ZinFest is on Saturday, May 16th at Lodi lake Park.  Tickets are $35 advance / $45 day of ,but you can win them on VinVillage!

At the Lodi ZinFest, more than 250 wineries from the Lodi area will be poured from 50 wineries, and there will be live music, food, and fun.  There are also cooking demonstrations and arts & crafts.  One of the highlights for wine lovers is the ZinFest Wine School, where you can learn about the latest trends in Lodi wine from the wine experts and local vintners, who will share their wine knowledge in a variety of seminars.


The other event that is coming up is the LA Wine Fest.  For you SoCal folks, this wine festival is on Saturday June 6th and Sunday June 7th in Hollywood.

This event promises to be a great one, and is billed as a consumer wine event with broad appeal.  Tickets for the LA Wine Fest are $55 for each day, with a $10 discount if you buy them through VinVillage.  Once again, however, you can WIN them on VinVillage!

The moral of the story is, you CAN get wine for free, so head on over the to Village and check it out!

mber Bergherm

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