Archive for the ‘varietals’ Category

Water water everywhere, and lots to drink!

July 20, 2010

It’s day 2 of the Wine Bloggers Conference, and we’re off on the little yellow school buses to explore some of the Walla Walla terroir.  Fortunately for us Bay Area folks,who aren’t used to the heat, it was a warm but pleasant day for walking around the vineyards and our bus was off and ready to go.  Armed with my trusty compatriots Lynnette, Ryan and Ward, we were joined by some new friends and headed off to taste some of Walla Walla’s wines.

Our bus was hosted by Walla Walla’s mayor, and we were off to Watermill Winery’s vineyards in Milton-Freewater.  Juts over the Oregon border, this area was first settled with orchards and vegetable farms.  Now, we were examining the hard packed cobblestone soil, which is the remnant of the alluvial fan.  With 200 feet of packed cobblestone, the soil is well drained suited perfectly for the big reds that we were tasting.  Saviah Cellars was founded in 2000, and Watermill first planted grapes in 2002.  This is a Certified LIVE vineyard, which in Oregon is Low Input Viticulture and Enology – very similar to a sustainable certified vineyard here.  They are only allowed one herbicidal spray a year, and believe that microbiological health of the soil and vineyard is paramount.

The 2007 Watermill Malbec tasted of blueberries and black berries with chewy plums and huckleberries.  There was a hint of smoke and white pepper, and we were told that growing Malbec on the rocky soil was unusual.  The result is a dense intense wine that I really enjoyed.  next we tasted the 2007 Watermill Cab Franc.  Being a girl who loves cab franc, I was a bit skeptical, but this was a lovely plummy red fruit example with spicy smoke.  the rich & smooth wine was a Tansy treat.  we also tasted the 2008 Saviah Cellears Malbec, which was a great companion to the Watermill verison.  This wine comes from the same vineyard, but showed more earth, leather and tobacco, followed by cigar box.

From Watermill, we headed over to Waters for lunch.  More on that in my next post!

G is for Pinot Blanc!

June 14, 2010

Graff Family 2007, from the Chalone appelation to be precise. Graff Familiy is from Sonoma, but these grape hail from teh Chalone region in Monterey County.  The Chalone AVA has some of the oldest producing vines in California wine country, and is composed of limestone, granite and clay.  The wide diurnal temperature swings are great for Chardonnay and other white wines

The Pinot Gris is fermented in French Oak, and tasted of honey, peaches and honeysuckle flowers with pear notes.  It had a very creamy texture with low acidity and was nicely balanced, with a hint of wet river rock and minerality.  I really enjoyed it and if I were to encounter is again I would certainly BUY it.  Pinot Gris is becoming a go to white for me, with it’s mellow smooth flavor profile and softer approach than it’s sister Pinot Grigio; try it as your new summer sipper!

You shook me all morning long

June 4, 2010

Hospices du Rhône.  Day 2.  What happens when you take several hundred (probably hungover, definitely tired) wine writers, bloggers, lovers, and somms, and throw them in a conference room at 9am with eight glasses of wine in front of them ?  Lots and lots of champagne.  that’s what happens.  wait…strike that.  Reverse it.  But you can’t!  I was pretty well baked by my Cold from Hell, but to be up bright and early so as not to miss the Walla Walla sneak peak, I was given a delicious treat of several glasses of some damn tasty grower champers that Chaz brought in at his own expense to wake us all up.  YUM!

Ok enough of the 9am drinkfest.  On to the syrah.

K Vintners was started by Charles Smith, who used to manage rock bands and lived in Copenhagen for 11 years before moving to Walla Walla.  Always having passion for wine, he’s an innovator, a marketing genius, and loud.  Roll all that together with walla Walla wine, and you get a larger than life character who defies the rules.  The winery is located at the base of the Blue Mountains, and opened to the public in 2001, producing wines from Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley, primarily syrah as well as field blends.

Smith believes K is about KOMMUNICATION and, bad puns aside, he says that people should use language that people can communicate with internationally; that language is wine.  Smith feels that too much of wine is making beauty where there is natural wonder; he focuses on showing off the unique fruit of Washington, and uses subtle oak influences as to not overpower the natural beauty of the wine.  He is, in some ways, the ultimate terrorist.  wine should be about a feeling, and here in Walla Walla, Rhone producers are small.  Wine is what they live for and they are passionate enthusiasts.

K focuses on syrah for several reasons; first, it has a distinctive quality that no other wine has.  Additionally, the high steep slopes in the Walla Walla area are difficult to work, which makes for more interesting wine and a challenge.  Syrah is global, with France representing the old world and ancient vines.  Australia shows us the AC/DC of the varietal, with a new world fruit bomb style (think Angus with the flaming red hair) that is indicitive of the passion and terroir of the Barossa.  Finally, when you get to Walla Walla, you have the geology of tumbled river rock, salty soils, and a long growing season o the high desert plains of Walla Walla.  There is a pioneer and rogue belief system in Walla walla, which allows them to do anything the want to with little thought about if anyone did it before them or was previously successful.

Charles Smith

2006 Syrah Pheasant Vineyard Wahluke Slope – was a chewy caramel dusted in mocha bramble berry, with  baked plums and bittersweet chocolate.  I tasted black cherry, dried orange rind as well with just a slight hint of herbal flavors.  This is a very dense wine, but it was smooth and mellow with a plush finish.  It was quite refined and let’s just say I struggled to spit this out at 9am.  This vineyard was planted in 2000 along the Columbia River, on sandy loam and peaty gravel in the Wahluke Slope AVA.  This sandy soil makes for a more floral and herbaceous wine.

2006 Syrah The Deal – Sundance Vineyard Wahluke Slope – shows a meaty smoky wine with blackberries and tar.  The refined tannis show notes of tangerine, and while it was a bit gamey at first int he glass, that soon blew off to a smooth long finish and nice mouth feel.  The Deal is all about respect, integrity and doing what you want to do in the vineyard.  The Sundance Vineyard has a slight northerly slope which creates a cooler site, in a very warm region.  This wine tastes of cool climate syrah, and is grown in sadny loam over coarse sand which provides excellent drainage.  Only two miles from Pheasant Vineyard, it was planted in 1997 and creates a very different wine profile.

2006 Syrah Cougar Hills, Walla Walla – has more minerality than the first two wines, with lots of lavendr and orange marmalade, followed by graphite.  the Couger Hills Vineyard is located in the southern region of the Walla Walla valley, and has loamy soil with river rock and gravel, as well as a layer of volcanic ash.  This ash adds complexity to the vines which were planted in 2000 and are sustainably farmed.

2006 Syrah Wells, Walla Walla With only 1.5 barrels made of this wine, we were in fro a rare treat.  that’s about 35 cases in the world, and it was made as an experiment in 100% whole cluster fermentation.  the Wells vineyard is half an acre that sits 1500 feet up on the south fork of the Walla Walla river, and has rocky cobblestone soil.  I tasted fresh cherries, strawberries, and vibrant red and black fruit.  This was brighter and fresher than the earlier syrahs and just lovely.

2006 Syrah Phil Lane, Walla Walla – is the estate vineyard.  Three barrels of this wine were made from 1.5 acres of grapes planted in 2001, which produces a highly aromatic wine with bright raspberries, rose petals, and flavors of mole sauce.

Chief Mutineer Alan Kropf "moderates" the champagne bottle

2006 Syrah Motor City Kitty – Stoneridge Vineyard, Royal Slope Columbia Valley is created from a resurrected vineyard which lay fallow on the ground for years before Charles Smith rescued it.  The Stoneridge Vineyard has very rocky soils, and with six different rocky types, produces very different wines.  It is windy up there on the hill, and the the thick skinned fruit creates inky black juice with robust and smooth wines.  I found a very dense, sweet cherry wine with flavors of cough syrup.  The wine sits for 23 months in neutral barrels and is then hand bottled, to produce 50 cases of a powerful and rich wine with whole berry fermentation.

2006 Syrah Royal City – Stoneridge Vineyard, Royal Slope Columbia Valley – includes some of the Stoneridge Vineyard fruit and had flavors of coffee, milk chocolate, and black cherries.  It was chewy and dense but well balanced and had some lovely spice notes on the back end.

In closing, ALL of these wines that were poured were rare and small production.  They were all amazing and each one shows a slightly different slant ont he Walla Walla terroir and what is going on in Washington wine.  I am very much looking forward to tasting more Walla Walla wines in a few weeks at the Wine Bloggers Conference!

Special thanks to the Hospices du Rhone team!



Rhône – The Next Generation

May 26, 2010

Where no WineBrat has gone before…I am the first one to admit that I am uneducated about most wines outside my sphere of influence; yes I drink them, yes I occasionally enjoy them, but I don’t know much about them.  When I was invited to attend Hospice du Rhône this year as a media guest, I jumped at the chance to attend the world’s penultimate tasting event of Rhone varietals.  I was jumping up and down for months, and then I got the cold from hell.  Suffice to say, Bratty was not amused. As I drove through the endless row of wines between Salinas and King City, and then past the oil derricks and in to Paso Robles, I was more excited about taking a nap and some Nyquil than the bowling event that would ensue later that evening.  fortunately, I was domiciled in the hotel that was across the street from the event center, and I arrived early enough in the day, that I crashed out instead of taking in a few tasting rooms.

As I rallied with a combination of Rhone medicine and bowling silliness, I was looking forward to the next day’s educational seminars. I am sorry to say that I missed the South African seminar early on Friday morning, but I rallied enough to attend the Côte-Rôtie seminar later in the morning.  Côte-Rôtie is located in the northern Rhône, where the vineyards are distinguished by their vertical slop and stone calls.  The wine is primarily red Rhône, focusing on Syrah, many co-fermented withViognier.  This area has a very different style than the southern Rhone, and winters are wet with a cold wind, as well as fog that can make ripening the grapes a challenge. Wines from Côte-Rôtie share a lot of similarities tot hose of South Africa, and are earthly, gamey and rich.

The presenting producer, Domaine Michel et Ogier, is founded on land where seven generations farmed grapes.  In 1997, the latest generation arrived after studying in Burgundy to grow Rhône grapes; prior to his arrival, the grapes were sold to a negociant, but that soon began to change.  1982 wasn’t a particularly good year in the Rhone, and the negociant didnt’ want the grapes so the family made their own wine.  Soon, the negoicant came back wanting the finished wine, and the winery was born.

2008 viognier de Rosine Vin de Pays showed lemons, necterines, peaches, apricots and honey with crisp lemon rind and peach nectar.  The vineyard was planted in 2000, with the first vintage being 2004, and marked a change or the producer.  Prior to 1997, when the next generation arrived, only red wines were produced, so the viognier (as opposed to syrah co fermented with viognier) was a departure.  It was a cold summer and a difficult year, but this has made the viognier fresh and crisp, with a nice minerality and grapefruit zing.  Ogier doesn’t believe is performing battonage, or the stirring of the lees, as this adds a certain fatness to the wine.  Viognier possesses its own fatness and structure, and he refrains from battonage to allow the wine to show it’s natural light.

2008 Viognier Condrieu shows the appellation distinctions that occur in Cote Rotie.  This example was a much darker golden yellow color, but I  had trouble finding the nose (granted I had trouble findnig MY nose but I was hopiung for more obvious aromas in the wine0.  The Condrieu is farmed in an area of 6-7 villages, where farms are on steep slopes of old granite based soil; this vineyard i 15 years old, and shows creamier slightly sweeter stone fruit, Meyer lemon, orange blossom, a hint of jasmine, green apple and pink grapefruit.  Again, in this example, new oak was avoided to show fresh clean flavors from the wine.  Aging in neutral oak with no battonage allows fresh clean wines that are very Alsatian in nature.

The rest of the wines, which were red) were lost on my cold, but it was interesting to taste the wines of the area, to compare with my baesline of New World syrah.

I attended Hospieces du Rhone as a Media guest; however, I paid my own travel expenses and lodging, as well as for most of the local supply of kleenex.

E is for Elk!

May 21, 2010

Somewhere along the way of my Alphabet Challenge, I lost my path and started speaking  in tongues, which made my order slightly questionable.  Well, I’m back, from outer space, and am restarting with the letter E.

E is for Elk Cove Pinot Noir, from the Willamette Valley appellation in Oregon.  Now, i am new to the world of Oregon Pinot Noir, and i find it very much hit or miss.  for the most part, I enjoy the subtle earthy spice that Oregon Pinot displays, but sometimes it can be over the top.  The Elk Cove Willamette Pinot Noir is a blend of several vineyard sites, and aims to show the best of their style off.

Elk Cove Vineyards was founded in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell, which marks it as one of Oregon’s oldest vineyards.  They specialize in Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir, and has several single  vineyard Pinot Noirs in addition to the Willamette Valley blend.  This blend was an interesting beast, because when I first tasted it there were overwhelming notes of earth, musty leaves, mushrooms, bark, smoke, and dark raspberry.  I wasn’t that impressed, but enjoyed the hidden pomegranate and nutmeg flavors.  I found it a bit too nutty for me however, until i put it down for 30 minutes to enjoy letter G (you’ll have to wait to see that one).  After opening up in the glass, the overwhelming bark had blown off to reveal rich cherry and raspberry flavors, with a touch of dark cocoa.  Considering the ~$20 price tag, this is a

very affordable example of Oregon Pinot Noir.  I definitely recommend that you BUY it, and would encourage you to decant it for maximum enjoyment.

We didn't go for the almonds but…

May 12, 2010

Jordan Winery is a hidden gem in Alexander Valley.  Up a winding driveway, through the woods, and yes – even over a creek, you meander up to the upper vineyard of the winery, where the French inspired chateau winery sits.  It was founded in 1972, coincidentally the same year both I and our host john jordan, were born – based on the dream of creating world class Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in Sonoma.  I’d say that they have accomplished that dream quite nicely.

John Jordan, CEO

Tom Jordan began the winery in 1972, when he signed the deed the day John, his son, was born; the first blocks in the lower vineyard were purchased then, and in 1974 the property was expanded to incorporate the upper ranch of the vineyards.  Construction began on the winery in 1976, and the first Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 1980.  Fast forward 25 years, and John, the prodigal son returned to the home ranch where he grew up, to take over.  John Jordan, the current CEO, took over operations in 2005 after a successful career in law.  In fact, he STILL works in law, which is rather amazing considering what it takes to run a place like Jordan well.  When he took over, John strived to find the best of old world techniques and new world know how, including sustainable farming techniques and a unique focus on a welcoming hospitality center which includes a private library tasting room as well as Michelin star worthy dining experience.

On our arrival to the winery, we were greeted by John, Lisa Mattson (@jordanwinery) – my friend and Jordon’s Communications Director, as well as a great video blogger-, Brent Young – the viticulturist, and hors d’oeuvres by Chef Todd Knoll who was tucked away in the kitchen preparing our nosh.  The 2008 Russian River Chardonnay that was paired with the tidbids was not at all what I was expecting and absolutely delightful.  I found lively citrus, stone fruit and a creamy mineral finish, while being subtle and not at all over oaked or overly full of buttery malolactic fermentation.  The lemonade flavors gave way to baking spices, green apples, and Asian pears.  this wine is treated with only 55% new French Oak, while the rest is in 1-2 year old barres; a full 25% is stainless steel fermented, which allows the fruit to shine through.  The 75% of barrel fermented wine balances out the stainless steel and the 28% malolactic fermentation rounds out the wine while retaining the crisp refreshing chard that even this ABC curmudgeon would love.  This wine was literally just released (May 1st) and at $29 I would recommend it for summer sipping.

After our chardonnay, we stepped in tot he dining room which is in the end of one wing of the tank room.  And by tank room, I don’t mean large steel drums.  I mean beautiful, hand built oak tanks, which look as if they should sing to you.  In the dining room, our tables were set with beautifully hand calligraphered corks with our names, as well as a menu card (which clearly I could not see well as it’s blurry here).

We began lunch with 3 chardonnays – the 2005, 2007, and some more of the 2008 we tasted outside.  The 2005 Chardonnay had a bit of age on it, which I found to show a touch of petrol, with creamy lemon curd and richer earthy bold profile.  37% was fermented in new french oak, with extended sur lie contact to round out the palate.  Again, the malolactic fermentation was limited to 76%, which preserved the green apple and lime zest flavors.  For me, this was my least favorite of the three whites – but if you enjoy a creamier chardonnay do try it.  the 2007 Chardonnay showed more grapefruit than the 2008, and 48% was fermented in new French Oak.  This year had more ofa spiced pear favor to it, and I can imagine it going quite well with fish dishes and apple pie.  All in all, I really identify with Jordan’s style of chardonnay, and I am still learning to love new wines that are made in the Burgundian tradition, with less oak and subtle maloactic fermention which lets the fruit speak for itself.
Next, we moved on the to Cabs.  We were treated to a lineup that is jealousy inducing, with a 1999, 2005, and 2006 cabernet Sauvgnon.  The 1999 was soft and supple, and simple a luxuriously plush wine.  The velvety black and dark red fruit showed plums, blackberries, and juicy raspberries with a touch of chocolate cherry on top.  1999 was the first harvest from the newly acquired upper vineyard, and the wine has 23.2% merlot, which adds to the soft fruti flavors.    It was aged for a year in oak barrels, but also for an additional 6 months in American Oak tanks, which produce less contact with the wine and therefore more subtle oak flavors.  Yum!  I adored this wine, and found that it went with my duck quite well (everyone else had lamb).  The 2005 has 5% of Petite Verdot bleed in, and I could really taste even that small addition.  It was earthy and robust, and much more of a masculine wine than the 1999.  I found smokey tobacco leaf, coffee and cola, with black walnuts and figs followed by a touch of anise.  With a year in oak (64% French) , it was tasty but I think it would be better over time.  The 2006 is a baby, and really needs to lay down for a while.  It was just released, and has 4.5% Petite Verdot as well as 19.5% Merlot.  It is a young wine, full of cherries and cassis, but just isn’t ready yet.
After lunch we took a little hike in the vineyard and then had dessert on the terrace with a sip of the very rare Jordan Sauterne style late harvest Sauvignon Blanc.  But, I can’t tell you about that, or I’d have to kill you.  And, given the caliber of wines being poured, and the fact that I had a sutie at the guest house fit for a queen, I did my Thirsty Girl best to NOT spit the good s*!t, and enjoyed most of my sips.
Please take a moment to stop by, by appointment only, and taste for yourself.  If you can’t make it up to the winery, check out the terrific blog!
Special thanks to everyone at Jordan for such a great day, which yes FCC folks, was gratis, and to all my blogger buddies for making the trip out!

Arrested Development

May 6, 2010

After our adventure barrel tasting at Cartograph, we were lucky enough (ok fine, Alan knows people) to be treated to a very special private tasting at Arista Winery.  I’ve been to Arista before, and have always enjoyed their Pinot Noirs, but this was realy a treat a we were able to taste 7 older vintages of rare wines. Mark McWilliams met us outside with a plethora of older vintages and we were wowed by some of the Pinot Noirs from Arista.

Arista Winery was founded by the McWilliams family in 2002, with the intention of creating world class elegant Pinot Noirs from the Russian River valley.  Creating wines in the vineyard with sustainable practices and small lots, each wine is an expression on the local terroir.  OK yes, fluff and bother but true all the same.

We started with a Longbow vertical.  Longbow is known for it’s blend of the best barrels, and for creating a more powerful style.  As a general rule, it is unfined and unfiltered, and uses the racking process as a natural filter.  the Longbow series is minimally invasive, which allows the fruit to really show throguh.  Named for the midevel weapon that is very difficult to master, the Longbow series really shows the best of the bunch with Pinot Noirs that are difficult to master.

Megan is working very hard on her Pinot!

The 2004 Longbow Pinot Noir was dark and rich, with powerful black cherry and raspberry flavors.  2004 was a warmer year, and more new French Oak (60%)  was used to counterbalanced the strong fruit.  This is a blend of the Manoni and Taboni vineyards, and the vibrant cherries were followed by a chewy and rich flavor of stewed tomato, caramel, and balsamic strawberries.

the 2005 Longbow Pinot is slightly lighter than the 04, and showed more muddy earth flavors of allspice, nutmeg and black pepper.  I tasted forest floor and mushrooms, with bark and cedar followed by cola and hints of red fruit.

The 2006 was very aromatic and had strong rose petal aromas, with orange blossom notes.  It is primarily clone 113, and was very herbaceous with herbs de Provence, meaty earth, and less pronounced fruit.  there was a strong sense of smoke and sandlewood, which dark plums lingering.  It was quite smooth and velvety, but a bit too smoky for my taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked all of the wines, but this was my least favorite of the batch.

2007 was too young, and the finish fell a bit short.  there was a lot of vanilla and cherry, but I also found tomatoes and soy sauce.  The wood was a bit too pronounced and needs more time to integrate.

I actually really loved all of the Longbow wines, and they are all very different.  My favorite was the 2004.

Mark McWilliams - Arista

Next we moved on to some barrel samples with the 2009 Two birds Swan Vineyard.  this was a HUGE wine, and I referred to it as my hunka hunka burning love.  The 2009 Two Birds Calera Selection was a completely different wine, with acidic zippy cherries and raspberries and bright red fruit.  It had a lot of spice and slightly muted earth.

After tasting both of these wines, we had some fun making our own blends, and I found that about 33% Swan and 66% Calera made for a beautiful wine with the dark red fruit, and zippiness of bright cherries.  I hope the final blend will be something like that1

Special thanks to Alan & Mark for yet another great day out at Arista!

On the birth of a winery

May 5, 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past year or so, you know that I’ve ingratiated myself  become friends with the Cellar Rat (@cellarrat), Alan Baker, and his partner Serene Lourie (@slourie), who have launched their new brand, Cartograph Wines.  Morphing out of Alan’s previous project, Cellar Rat Cellars, which was some damn fine Pinot Noir & Syrah, Cartograph is truly a labor of love – and it shows.  (You can read my previous review of Cellar Rat here)

This was my third time tasting the wines in barrel, and it is a joy to watch them grow and develop over the course of the past 9 months.  Much like a new baby, these wines change and grow, becoming something special as they integrate in to the finished product.

The first wine we tried was the Gewurztraminer.  I have a growing love affair with this dry & racy white wine, and this had flavors of lychee, grapefruit, tropical fruit, hay and subtle guava notes.  I also tasted Tuscan melon.  .  The wine is made from the first harvest of the planting, and is fermented in stainless steel.  It had just a hint of spiciness and was a great alternative to other whites for the warmer summer months.

Next, we tasted the 2009 Perli Vineyard Pinot, from Mendocino Ridge.  This AVA is known as the “islands in the sky” since it is the only AVA that is non-contiguous land.  Instead, the AVA dictates that the land must lie above 1200 feet, which is the vertical fog line.  This is one of my favorite Pinots, and I tasted creamy strawberries, cloves, nutmegs and rhubarb with a smattering of black cherry and Dr. Pepper.

From here, we moved on to some of the different clone and barrel selections, and we tasted through to help decide what the blend should be.  I lost track of what was what, but it was fascinating to taste the difference between barrels, particularly when we got to the point where barrels of of the same wine, made from wood from different forests, but made by the same cooper from the same area.  I do know that I did find that the 777 clone in 25% new oak was my favorite, with black cherry and spicy cloves finishing with rich black raspberry.

One of the things that I really appreciate about the Cartograph line is the label design.  you can see from the front label, that there are five points on Alan & Serena’s journey in to wine, From France, Minneapolis and Washington D.C. to San Francisco and Healdsburg.  The back label design shows you the wine making process, and allows you the consumer to take part in the experience. The five points in the wine making process mirror the five points on the front, as you go from budbreak through bottling.  Bottling incidentally for the 2009s starts any day now, so I can’t wait to restock my cellar with smoe brand spanknig new wine!

If you’re in Healdsburg, give them a shout.  You won’t be sorry!  If you like Pinot, and you like small handcrafted wines, run out and buy some today.  While you’re at it, grab some of the Gewertz.  You will be happy you did, and your tastebuds will thank you!

Rhône if you want to!

April 19, 2010

Rhône around the world.  in 11 short days, the penultimate Rhône wine event will commence in Paso Robles.  This year, I am jumping up and down on my sofa like Tom Cruise, because I get to attend, along with some of my best blogger friends as well as several hundred Rhone wine lovers from around the world.

At this annual Rhone-a-thon, Hospice du Rhône shows off its wares with a 3 day extravaganza attendees play wine Jeopardy with the 22 Rhône varieties, while taking time to talk to the winemakers, attend seminars, and enjoy special wine paring meals.

In the jam packed three days, we’ll have a history lesson on South African Syrah, a Rose Lunch, two grand tastings, and an exploration of the Washington State Terroir.  This will be of particular interest to us bloggers who are attending this years Wine Bloggers Conference, which will be held in Walla walla, Washington.  For those of us who are incapable of saying no to an event invitation, there is even a bowling session, where my friends at Mutineer Magazine is challenging us to bowl our best game while drinking some delicious Rhoen.  For those of you who have known me for a while, you realize that the only way I bowl (or play pool, or sing karaoke) is when I’ve had multiple shot  I don’t drink shots anymore, but with free flowing Rhône , this could get ugly.  I promise to hold a magnate to my video card if things get too out of hand.

Given my love of the Syrah and my summertime affair with Rosé, I am very much looking forward to spending the weekend with my other best friends, Grenache and Mourvedre, as well as learning more about the other 19 Rhône varietals.  To gear up for HdR, they are presenting 22 Days of Rhône, to help educate the wine community about the 22 Rhône varietals.  Hey kids at home!  That means you can play alnog.  Together with TasteLive, you can taste along online.  This week, the featured grape is Grenache, so grab a bottle, taste it, and tweet along with the hashtag #HdR2010.

Speaking of hashtags, have you seen the new HdR iphone app? It’s a slick new interface which greets you with a play on Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, ” with Hospice du Rhone Rhonely Hearts Club. with this handy iphone app, I can see all of the producers that will be pouring at the event, what varietals they are pouring, and when they are pouring it.  Further more, you can narrow the producers down by geographic region, which is helpful if you are trying to explore a new area like South Africa or Washington state.  My favorite part of the app has to be the twitter integration however.   You can click on the feed, but you can also send a twitter report out from the winery’s producer page directly.  That means if you are walking around tasting, there is no need to pull out your notebook – simply click the name of the winery, click tweet it out – and a tweet with the name of the winery and the hashtag is pre-filled for you.  Maybe next year, we can click through on the variety details page? I’m not the most geeky iphone user but i LOVE this tool.

So thanks Hospice du Rhone, for taking on the mission of educating us about these 22 grapes.  I’m excited at the opportunity to mix, mingle and learn with the best of them.

If you’d like to try to win tickets to HdR, my friend William over at Simple Hedonisms has a contest going – the Question of the week Contest.  The generous HdR2010 team is sponsoring ‘Question of the Week, with  tickets to the Friday and Saturday  tastings ($100 value!).  We will combine this with our usual “Question of the Week” with a Rhone theme. (updated) Please post the question on the Simple Hedonisms Facebook Fan site , and a question will be selected for a free ticket, and answered in a blog article.  There is ONE MORE CHANCE to win, on April 22nd at the April Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup April 22nd at Artiste Winery in Healdsburg.

Good luck and look for twitter reports from the field!

Soléna Soléna Soléna!

April 2, 2010

I first found out about Soléna Estate wines from my blogger friend Ryan Reichert, (@oenoblog)when he moved to Oregon to start his new career in the wine industry.  Through Ryan, I was introduced to Lynnette Shaw, the tasting room manager at Soléna.  When Lynnette was in San Francisco for the Chronicle Wine Competition Grand Tasting, we got to talking about all things social media and how Twitter, Facebook, and blogging can increase exposure to your brand and introduce your wines to new audiences.  I’ve talked a lot about changing perceptions and increasing your market share through exposure, and this was another opportunity for me to share my passion for new media.

Fortunately for me, Lynnette left me with samples of Soléna’s current releases to sample and share, and knowing that I was a pinotphile (thanks Ryan!) I was excited to explore a bit of Oregon.  Being a California girl, with some much world class wine available at the source an hour away from my house, I find myself occasionally getting stuck – although I am not complaining about my love of the Cellar Rat, Cartograph, Holdredge, and MacPhail, in the well trodden track between my house and Sonoma County.  I suppose stuck isnt’ exactly the right word, since i don’t really find myself that motivated to climb out of the so called ditch, but exploring other regions reignites my passion for wine, and allows me to refresh my palate with new wines.

Soléna’s Estate was started by Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus-Montalieu, and the name is derived from the French word Solene, and the Spanish Solana, for the sun & moon.  the first vintage was the 2003 Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, from Domaine Danielle Laurent vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton appellation.  Low yields in the source vineyards and various vineyard techniques including biodynamics produce high quality fruit and some amazing wines of distinction.


2007 Pinot Noir – Hyland VineyardSome funk on nose, which I expected from Oregon, with rose petals, lots of mushrooms, forest floor and wet river rock.  What I didn’t expect was that this was a BIG pinot, with dark ripe raspberry, blueberry, baking spice, and a touch of jalepeno.  While it did seem a touch hot to me, I did really enjoy this wine.  If you should find it, BUY it.  It is a great example of an unfined and unfiltered pinot from a different region.

2008 Grand Cuvee Pinot Noiris the entry level Pinot from Soléna, and can be found more readily in major markets.  Once again, I found lots of forest floor and mushroom, but this blend had more ripe cherry, red berry, and rhubarb flavors followed by cranberry and strawberry.  This has the softest body, and a plush finish.  The Cuvee is a blend made from a selection of grapes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the blending process allows the winemaker to select the best of each vineyard to create a masterpiece.  It’s a bit like a full symphony versus a single stanza, and while it was indicative of Oregon, I found it very much like a Russian River pinot in the cherry berry cola flavor profile.  This wine retails for $25, and is a MUST BUY for the high QPR.


The final Pinot Noir that I tasted from Soléna was teh 2006 Domaine Danielle Laurent. With a small production of 573 caes, this single vineyard designate from Yamhill-Carlton has black cherries and clove, which you immediately feel on the tip of your tongue.  This wine cries for food, and the dark earth and spice would be perfect for a pork roast or brown sugar glazed salmon.  At $45, it’s a splurge but worth it if you are exploring the Oregon pinot regions.

I enjoyed my meander through the Oregon wine country, and I suggest anyone who is a Pinot Prince or Princess to do the same.  I am guilty of being blinded by the amazing wines right in front of me in Russian River, carneros, and Anderson valley, and I forget that slightly farther to the north, there is a world class region waiting to be explored.  For this California palate, I was a bit wary of breaking the glass door between California and Oregon, since in the past I have been less than enthused with some examples, but I am happy to report that my taste buds have grown up and gone to Pinot heaven.

Special thanks to Lynnette Shaw and Soléna Estates for providing this samples and being a great dinner companiona s I rambled on about social media and the wine writing revolution!