Archive for the ‘wine’ 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!

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High on a hill

July 7, 2010

There’s a lonely goat herd, yodeleeellooooheeho!  Or in this case, there are some horses, some cows and a whole lot of scrub brush.  Up on top of Atlas Peak, VinRoc creates micro crafted small lot Cabernet Sauvignon.  Above the fog line, overlooking the Foss Valley, where open pastures and oak trees haven’t been overtaken by vineyards, the vineyards are actually east of Stag’s Leap, which is something you don’t realize when you are driving up the hill mandering past a way of life rarely seen in Napa these days.

The estate vineyard is located between 1500-2200 feet on volcanic rocky soils, with sunny days and cool nights.  Because of the inversion layer up here above the fog, it’s actually cooler in the summer with more average hours of sunlight than the valley floor.

We first started out on the viewing platform with the Enjolie Rose, a dry Provencal style wine made from Grenache and Barbera grapes.  It was dark salmon in color, created by fermented the juice on the skins for longer than most typical roses.  It had a sweet candy nose butwas bone dry with raspberries and strawberries, with a very low ABV.  This type of rose is perfect for summer sipping on those very hot days, and at $14 a MUST BUY for summer quaffing.

Next, we moved on to the proprietary red blend, RTW.  Now, this could be Round the World, Red Table wine, Really Terrific Wine, or Rocking Thea’s Wine – whichever you prefer, it was really lovely.  This blend of Cab and Merlot had cocoa, bright dark red berries and dusty plums, and is made by selecting the Cab that won’t be used in the Estate Cab, and blending it with purchased merlot fruit.  The spice on the finish was just what I needed as we sat in the chilly breeze on an unusually dreary day.  This is a special red wine, and at $40 is a treat you can afford more than once a year.  BUY

Once we were inside the cave behind the newly built Japanese Craftsman house and visitors center, we talked to Michael a bit about his wine making techniques.  By harvesting one ton at a time, out of the total 15 tons in the vineyard, they are able to tightly control the harvest vine by vine, creating the best wine possible.  Each ton yields free run juice, which is fermented separately from the single pressing that occurs afterwards.  Once this process is complete, the barrels are fermented separately, and then blended with the rest of the harvest, to create the superior Cab that we tasted.

The 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had rich dark black ffruit, with figs, baking spice, and black pepper.  I tasted a ot of coffee notes as well as cigar box and cedar, followed by the rich fruit of blackberries and cherries.  It did have a hint of leather and tobacco, and evolved as we sat there talking for an hour.  With only 200-300 cases produced, every bottle is a work of art.

By providing a minimally invasive environment, these truely are handcrafted wines.  Given the abundance of $100 Napa Valley Cabernets, I am not typically a big fan of the over priced cult wine.  That said, this hand made, nuanced cab is a winner in my book.  Yes, it’s pricey, but buy a bottle and hold on to it for a while.  You won’t b e sorry.  SPLURGE

VinRoc provides visitors with a unique and welcoming hospitality experience, in the middle of literally nowhere.  You will forget you are in Napa, and think you are in the foothills of horse country in Kentucky, but with really good wine.  If you’d like to visit VinRoc for yourself, they are open by appointment only and can be reached at 707-265-0943.  Please tell Michael and Kiky I sent you!

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!



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!

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!

A pinot that doesn't fail!

June 3, 2009

I first found MacPhail Wines at a tasting held at San Francisco Wine Trading Company last year, at the recommendation of my friend.  Since i know he is a bigger wino than I am – NO!  It’s true Alex you are! – I couldn’t miss it, and I knew that I would be blown away.  BOY was I not wrong!  At the time, I was pinching the employment pennies and only walked out with one bottle of the Sonoma Coast which I am treasuring like a pot of gold.

Recently, my wino friends Jim, Shana, Vicki and Lil and I snuck in an impromptu visit with James and his dog, Zuni.  I am in love.  Pure, magical, pinot love.  One was better than the last, and the last was better than the first!

MacPhail Family Vineyards was founded in 2002, with a directive to create passionate Pinot Noir from the best Sonoma and Mendocino County sources.  To that end, here are my yumyumyummy notes from our visit!

2008 Rose of Pinot Noir was a deep rose hue, and smelled of rose petals, hibiscus and cranberry.  I tasted the cranberry and hibiscus as well, along with  red ziner, rich red fruit, and grapefruit.

2007 Sonoma Coast is a blend of two vineyards, the Pratt Vineyard and the Goodin Vineyards, both of which are located in Sebastapol.  These wines were vinified separately, and then hand picked for the single vineyard wines.  The remainder was blended in to this treat, which showed spicy clove, dusty cherry, black cherry, even a touch of blackberry, followed by Dr. Pepper,  and dark rich intense flavors.

2007 Anderson Valley Toulouse Vinyeard is a combination of a the Dijon clones 115, 667, 777, and 2A.  MacPhail is one of the premier examples of a Toulouse pinot, and one of the first.  This is a big pijnot for Anderson valley, and was full of bright strawberries, salty creamy berryies, lots of earthy bark and cinniomn.  It had a lighter body and color and was zippy.

2007 Sonoma Coast Goodin Vinyard had a rich, deeper color.  I loved the rich, spicy earth flavors.  Lots of Dr. Pepper and black cherry.  Dark delicious ruit.

2007 Anderson Valley Vagon Rouge was a very special wine indeed!   Only 8 barrels were made, and it had wild strawberry, rich intense fruit and bright red berries with a nice balance.

Strictly speaking, I loved ALL of these wines.  I left with 3 bottles to add to my 1 at home, and I will remember my visit for a long time.  I look forward to coming back and tasting again next year!

A pinot that doesn't fail!

June 3, 2009

I first found MacPhail Wines at a tasting held at San Francisco Wine Trading Company last year, at the recommendation of my friend.  Since i know he is a bigger wino than I am – NO!  It’s true Alex you are! – I couldn’t miss it, and I knew that I would be blown away.  BOY was I not wrong!  At the time, I was pinching the employment pennies and only walked out with one bottle of the Sonoma Coast which I am treasuring like a pot of gold.

Recently, my wino friends Jim, Shana, Vicki and Lil and I snuck in an impromptu visit with James and his dog, Zuni.  I am in love.  Pure, magical, pinot love.  One was better than the last, and the last was better than the first!

MacPhail Family Vineyards was founded in 2002, with a directive to create passionate Pinot Noir from the best Sonoma and Mendocino County sources.  To that end, here are my yumyumyummy notes from our visit!

2008 Rose of Pinot Noir was a deep rose hue, and smelled of rose petals, hibiscus and cranberry.  I tasted the cranberry and hibiscus as well, along with  red ziner, rich red fruit, and grapefruit.

2007 Sonoma Coast is a blend of two vineyards, the Pratt Vineyard and the Goodin Vineyards, both of which are located in Sebastapol.  These wines were vinified separately, and then hand picked for the single vineyard wines.  The remainder was blended in to this treat, which showed spicy clove, dusty cherry, black cherry, even a touch of blackberry, followed by Dr. Pepper,  and dark rich intense flavors.

2007 Anderson Valley Toulouse Vinyeard is a combination of a the Dijon clones 115, 667, 777, and 2A.  MacPhail is one of the premier examples of a Toulouse pinot, and one of the first.  This is a big pijnot for Anderson valley, and was full of bright strawberries, salty creamy berryies, lots of earthy bark and cinniomn.  It had a lighter body and color and was zippy.

2007 Sonoma Coast Goodin Vinyard had a rich, deeper color.  I loved the rich, spicy earth flavors.  Lots of Dr. Pepper and black cherry.  Dark delicious ruit.

2007 Anderson Valley Vagon Rouge was a very special wine indeed!   Only 8 barrels were made, and it had wild strawberry, rich intense fruit and bright red berries with a nice balance.

Strictly speaking, I loved ALL of these wines.  I left with 3 bottles to add to my 1 at home, and I will remember my visit for a long time.  I look forward to coming back and tasting again next year!

The North, vs. The South – a WBW Adventure

March 18, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday is upon us again!  This month, Remy Charest (@remycharest) of WineCase has challenged us to restage the Civil War, in his version of North vs. South – Wine Wars.  Since Remy is based in Quebec, it’s a great theme to think about what is a classically northern varietal, or something he would find locally in Quebec, and what we find here in the Lower 48.

As I have been exploring different regions of the US as well as the world, I thought I’d use Walla Walla, WA, Napa Valley, CA, and the wines of Chile to do a North vs. South with a central tag point of Napa.

My first wine is the Forgeron Cellars – 2003 Cab Sauvignon from Columbia Valley.  The Columbia Valley AVA takes up a good chunk of eastern & central Washington and a touch of northern Oregon thrown in for good measure.  This AVA lies between the 46th & 47th parallels, which is in the same vein as Bordeaux and Burgundy.  Because of this, the wines of Columbia Valley tend to be the classic grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

This Cabernet Sauvignon has a lovely floral nose, with a touch of licorice.  It’s very fruity, and reminds me of a ripe blackberry bramble.  When I sip it, it is plush and smooth, with plum flavors a strong component.  It is a velvety wine, with a long lingering finish that has bright berry fruit.  I am REALLY enjoying this wine, because while it is a Cab, it’s not heavy.  It’s rich without being over done.  At $30, it’s an affordable luxury, and I thank Catie (@walla2winewoman) at the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman for the great recommendation!

The 2nd wine hails from Napa Valley, one of the world’s best known wine regions for Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2005 Levendi Sweetwater Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon was a party favor that I received after last year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference, at a party hosted by The Wine Spies to introduce us to this producer. The Sweetwater Ranch is located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, adjacent to the Stags Leap District. Since Stags Leap has been producing some of the best known cabs for years, I would expect that this would also be a delicious example.

The first thing you notice is that this wine comes in half bottles.  This is great for us single folk, since we can crack it open without worrying about how to store the wine until we finish it.  It had rich aromas of leather and tobacco, with dark fruit.  This is what I would expect from a Napa cab.  It was darker and richer than the Washington Cab, and much chewier with a lot of black fruit , fig, plums and black cherries followed by a finish of black licorice.  I really liked this wine, and it retails for $52 in the 750ml bottle.

Finally, I worked my way to Chile, to taste some of the new world wines that are coming out of these.  The interesting about Chile, is that a lot of Old World producers, as well as some from California, are looking to this up and coming growing regions for a change and a challenge.  To that end, I received two samples from an agency representing the wines of Chile.

The first was produced by Domaines Barons de Rothchild Lafite, and I expected it to be a New World representation of an old, and Old World, producer.  The 2007 Los Vascos comes from Colchagua Valley. The Colchagua Valley lies about 80 miles southwest of Santiago.  It’s a wide valley, and has a Mediterranean climate.  It has often been compared to Napa, so I expected that the wine would taste like Napa cab.

Sadly, I was dissapointed.  The Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon was thin and bitter, with no real depth.  While it’s possible that this bottle was off, I did have it with food and it just had no substance.  At $10, I think I could do better.

So I went on to open my 2nd Chilean Cabernet, 2007 Marques Casa Concha, fromthe Maipo Valley region.  The Maipo is one of Chile’s warmest growing regions, with temperatures regularly getting above 90 in the summer.  While this might seem like Napa at first glace, their winters are much milder.  Cabernet Sauvignon is the largest planting in Maipo.

The Casa Marques Casa Concha exhibited the ripe fruitiness in a similar way to the Forgeron Cellars, with bright cherry fruit and a large firm body.  I tasted tons of cherry fruit, chocolate, blackberry, and bit of wood smoke.  This wine got better and better as the night went on, and at $15, I would highly recommend this is a value Cabernet.  Even though I don’t eat steak, I can see how this would be great with a hamburger or a portabello burger!  It had an exceptionally smooth finish, that lingered and made my taste buds happy.

To Infinity, and BEYOND!

August 6, 2008

The Wine Century Club was developed for all adventurous wine lovers. Have you tasted 100 different grape varietals? I know what you’re thinking: I drink a lot. A lot of wine. Surely I must be a charter member! But It’s not as easy as you might think.

The most common varietals are some variation on the Big Six:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot (does anyone actually drink this stuff?)
  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Riesling

The Wine Century Club is made up of people that enjoy tasting new wines, and have an adventerous streak. Sounds like me! With Family Winemakers coming up, and the Wine Bloggers Conference shortly thereafter, what better way to challenge myself to learn about new varietals.

Here is a challenge to all of you Luscious Lushes out there.
See if you too can earn one of these fancy certificates! My goal is to have it completed by the time Rhone Rangers rolls around next year.


Download the Century Club application here:
Excel
PDF