Archive for the ‘wine blogs’ Category

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!
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On top of the world, looking down on…

March 31, 2010

Silicon Valley?  Yes Virginia, there is wine in the South Bay, high above the muck of Cupertino, on Monte Bello ridge.  Long before the computer chip was invented, the Monte Bello winery was started on this ridge.  At 2600 feet, the winery is located at the apex of the hill, where the upper most vineyards are.  Winding our way past the gravel trucks and up the mountain, there were precarious hairpin turns and road closures, but nothing was goign to stop me from getting to the good stuff at the top of that hill.

On one particularly gorgeous day recently, I was invited to attend a private tasting at Ridge’s Monte Bello property.  Although I adore Ridge wines, I often find myself avoiding the mayhem on holiday and special event weekends as it can get to be quite crowded.  It’s a long drive up the mountain, but the reward at the top is a sweeping view of the Bay Area, including a hazy glimpse of San Francisco in the distance.  Upon arriving at the tasting room, we were greeted by our host Christopher Watkins, the tasting room manager.  Here, we started with a glass of the Santa Cruz Mountains chardonnay as we wandering the garden, waiting for the rest of our crew to arrive.

Once we were assembled, we started our journey with the 2008 Jimsomore Chardonnay.   Not being a huge chard drinker, I really didn’t have that many expectation of the starter, but  this vineyard is dry farmed and head trained, and the wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation with native years.  I found it quite floral, with note of honey tangerine and cream caramel.  It was rich and viscous, with a hint of lemon curd.  this limited release only has 200 cases, and the vineyard lies below the fog line with hot summer days and cool nights, making for some great chard.

Next up the 2008 Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay.  this is a parcel selection, and is intended for longevity and complexity.  It is more vibrant than the Jimsomore, and has a bright acidity and is refreshingly ful of stone fruit and Meyer lemons, with some tropical influences.

Now we delve in to the zin, which is how I fell in love with Ridge.  First the 2008 East Bench Zinfandel, which is the youngest area designated benchland between Dry Creek and Alexander valleys.  The cuttings here are 120 years old, and this pre-release wine was spicy cherries with black pepper, soft berry jam, figs, beef jerky and a mellow soft medium bodied zin that is perfect with food.  We also tried the 2006 East Bench, which I found to have more fruit forward flavors of strawberry, cherry, smoke and tobacco.  This was a very cool year in Sonoma County, which made for a leaner wine.  It was a bright zin, and was the first vintage from the then 8 year old vines.  This was a terrific example of a complex zin that would pair well with food without being overpowering and jam packed with berries.

The 2008 Geyserville is a blend of 72% zinfandel, 20% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, and 2% Mataro (Mouvedre).  it had a sweeter edge of big blackberries with a smoky backbone that I attribute to the Mataro, with flavors of raspberries and figs blended in a brambly pie with a faint hint of cedear.  The 2007 vintage, which is the current release, is 58% Zinfandel, 22% Carignane, 18% Petite Sirah and 2% Mataro, which made for a chocolate blackberry pie with brandied blackberries and coffee, followed by molasses and bittersweet cocoa over stewed fruit.  Each one of these blends is hand selected from a field blend, parcel by parcel, and depending on the best of the crop for a given vintage, the blend can change significantly.  Wine after all is half science, half dream, and half magic.

Lytton Springs, which is next door to Geyserville, showed less fruit and more structure in the 2008 blend of 74% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane.  It was quite spicy with raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.  The 2007 was much jammier, with black fruit, dried figs, and earth.  I found it a touch hot, but that soon blew off.  The 2007 blend was 71% Zin, 22% Petite Sirah, and 7% Carignane.

After meandering through the zinfandel country, it was time to get to the big boys of cab, which started it all for Monte Bello.  First, the 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Cab, which is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot.  It is not yet released, and was quite chewy and dense with scents of lavender and leather.  The 2006 is 56% Cabernet, 42% Merlot, and 2% Petite Verdot, and had coffee notes adn an herbaceousness that the 2007 did not.

Finally we worked through several of the Monte Bello Cabs.  Two of my favorites were the 2006, wtih 68% Cabernet Sauvigon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petite Verdot, and 2% Cab Franc.  I found chocolate coverted cherreis, bright fruit, and dusty cocoa and really enjoyed it.  The 2005 was also a favorite, with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% Petite Verdot, and 2% Cab Franc.  It had a dusty earth cover, with blueberreis and blackberries, covered with instant coffee.  It was a very low yield in 2005, and this wine was muscular and lean.

As you can see, we did some serious damage to the Monte Bello libarry and I would like to thank Christopher for his hospitality and humor as we tasted some of these amazing wines!  Next up…who knows?

The Nose knows

March 29, 2010

Our sense of smell is the most powerful tool we have, and is responsible for most of what we taste.  Thsi is particularly true for wine, and the Napa Valley Wine Sensory Experience was an opportunity for a group of bloggers to learn, store, and recall sensory memories.

We first started out with a blind exercise where aroma essences were contained in black glasses, arranged by groups, and we had to guess what they were.  let’s just say this is easier said than done!  I know that my sensory sense is not exactly on par, but I scored a sad 9 / 25.  Yes that’s right, me, the wino, with the random flavors that I pull out of wine like coffee and dried blueberries whirred together in a grinder for one specific Syrah, got 9.  The horror!  The shame!  The hilarity!

At the risk of being aughed out of town, here are my guesses and the actual answers, grouped by major scent category:

  • Fruit
  • Pinot Noir
  • Herbal
  • Oak Barrel Boquet

We also tasted the effect of different additives to chocolate, as well as how the glass shape and size impacts the flavor profile of the wine.

It absolutely is eye openeing (and nostril flaring) to be reminded of how much the olfactory sense impacts flavor.  Have you ever had a cold and been so stuffed up that everything tastes like cardboard?  This is why.  As someone who suffers allergies, it can also explain why wines taste different from day to day, since a sunny pollen filled day will impact me more than a foggy cool damp one.

After the initial exercise in futility scent, we tasted teh wines of WH Smith, and tried to put some of our new found aroma detective skills to work.

2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – strawberry, raspberry, tea, smoke, balsamic vinegar.  This was a nice well rounded P that was light enough for everyday drinking, but had a classic Pinot Noir profile.

2007 Maritime Vineyard Pinot Noir – is from a vineyard on the hillsides of Cazadero, where a lot of sun exposure gives a dense and concentrated wine with strawberry, raspberry juice, a touch of spice and rich cherry and plums were followed by a touch of bitter nutmeg on the back palate.

One of my favorite wines of the day was the 2006 Piedra Hill Vineyard Howell Moutnain Cabernet Savignon.  This was a big fruity Cab, with a rich softness that made it quite approachable from teh get go.  Dark chocolate, blue & black fruit and chewy earthy goodness made this a lovely drinking wine.

I hope to go back and try my nose at the sensory evaluation again!  It’s a difficult skill to master and I often wonder how much training it takest he pros to pull out the “correct” scents.  As someone who has become known for pulling random flavor profiles out of wine, I lean towards the nontraditional and would love to expand my aroma palate.

Cheers to Marcy Gordon for setting this up!

What happens in Napa, stays in Napa. And the blogesphere. And Twitterverse.

December 9, 2008

This past Sunday, I was fortunate enough to have my Luscious Lush self and my big mouth invited to a blogger panel discussion, hosted by Lisa de Bruin (@winedivergirl) of Hahn Estates.  At this discussion were several fellow bloggers and industry folks, as well as a large contingent of the Hahn team, who were on hand to discuss their wines as well as how they can more effectively interact with us wine blogger types.

First, let me get this out of the way.  I am going to talk about some wines.  I am going to talk about some Hahn Estates wines.  These wines were tasted at a hosted event, but these comments express ONLY my opinions.  I am choosing to write about the wines that stood out in my memory as being exceptional or noteworthy, because i like to share things I like.  Moving right along then!
In attendance, we had the following bloggers:
Additionally, we had two wineries represented, which added a unique perspective.

From Hahn, we had:

  • Andy Mitchell, Director of Vineyard Operations
  • Adam Lazarre, Winemaker
  • Bill Leigon, President
  • Evelyn Pool, VP of Marketing
  • Lisa Adams Walter, PR (@lisaadamswalter)
  • and of course, our illustrious hostess herself – Lisa de Bruin, Director of New Media Marketing (@winedivergirl)

This event was envisioned by Lisa de Bruin, with a lot of input from various bloggers and industry folks, as an opportunity to open the dialogue between wineries and bloggers.  This has been something of a challenge in recent weeks, and has incited some rioting (friendly fire only!).  Before the lively discussion started, however, we were treated to a tasting of some of the Bin 36 and Lucienne offerings.  Below are my notes from my favorites:

2006 Lucienne Pinot Noir, Lone Oak Vineyard

Rich ruby color.  Rich without being sweet or overdone.  Black cherry, earth.  Strawberry fruit rollup, cherry and plum.  Tastes slightly salty.

The Lone Oak Vineyard is in an area of the Santa Lucia Highlands that produces world

class pinot noir.  Case in point, Lone Oak actually sits between Gary’s Vineyard and Rosellas Vineyard, which are both well known in pinot circles for producing some cult pinot noirs.

We also tasted the 2006 Lucienne Pinot Noir, Doctors Vineyard

This had a much chewier mouth feel, with black raspberry and Bing cherries, followed by plums and earthy spice flavors.

I enjoyed both of these pinots very much, and would say that for drinking along, Doctors is a great choice.  If you are pairing with food, I would suggest the Lone Oak.

This event was just getting under way after the wine was poured.  With our minds flowing freely, the discussion began as to how wineries, other industry professionals, and bloggers can work together.

First, let’s face it.  Bloggers are a rowdy and diverse bunch.  NO two wine blogs really have the same goal, and no two wine blogs are the same.  Personally, I write my blog because I like to share.  It started as a newsletter of events and wines that I was enjoying, and evolved from there.  I choose to write about wines & things that I find inspiring.  I choose not to write about every forgettable wine that I taste, because I don’t have that much time in my life.  But that is me.  Your wine blog might be different, and that’s OK!  The point of the blogger community is that we all have our passions.  Our readers come to our blogs for information, and for different reasons.  I read over 100 wine blogs – not every day, but in general – and each one adds value for a different reason.

  • Sonadora, the Wannabe Wino, gives me insight in to her favorite wines and her travels through wine country
  • Lisa de Bruin, from California Wine Life and Hahn Estates, gives me a unique perspective on issues in the industry as well as her adventures diving and enjoying wine.
  • The Brix Chicks let me peek vicariously in to their world as they pursue their WSET certificates and taste things locally.
  • Michael Wangblicker of Caveman Wines writes about shaping the wine blogging industry, and gives me great tips and tricks to improve my own writing.

Each blog is different, each blog is great. The uniqueness of the blogging industry is what makes it magical.

In recent news, traditional media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune have filed for bankruptcy.  As we move towards the next decade, old school traditional media methods are being surpassed by new methods, such as online media and blogging.  As Lisa put it “the shift of influence in the wine world from old print media to new on-line media, especially in the form of blogs with character, variety and accessibility to the variety of wine lovers out there is essential to the success of a growing wine industry.”  I could not agree more.  The next generation of wine drinker is so attached to the web, they are avoiding brick and mortar establishments.

There has been a lot of discussion about where the line is drawn in terms of bloggers and wineries.  I question this, as traditional media outlets get wined and dined and showered with gifts all the time.  I’m not sure why we should be held to a higher standard, just because we are innovative and new.  That being said, if we are clearly writing about a “sample”, as disclosed in our blogs, are we not covering our own asses enough?  Food for thought.

Since I personally, only write about wines and events that are important to me, I am aware that I am giving positive publicity to those wineries / events.  SO what?  How is this different than me saying to my friends, “I had a great wine last night you should try it”?  Word of mouth marketing has been, and will continue to be, the most powerful sales tool in the retail world.  The only different that we, as wine bloggers have, is that we are communicating to a wider audience en masse.

I hope that these conversations will continue, and would love to see winery hosted blogger panels more frequently, across the US.  One question that came up during our conversation with Hahn was about this being  “Hahn Fest” of sorts.  While there was a certain portion of that, I see that as being somewhat obvious, since it was a hosted event.  However, if more wineries like Twisted Oak, participate and pour their wines in a convivial and social setting, the appearance of this can be changed.  Again, I didn’t see this as an issue because it was clear before we went that we were attending a hosted event, with a panel of Hahn employees.

That’s what I think.  What do YOU think?