Archive for the ‘wineries’ 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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I'm gone! To Ore-gon…

July 8, 2010

Being a California girl, while I have spent some time diving up the coast and meandering through Ashland, I have not spent a lot of time in Oregon.  I have spent even less time examining the finer points of Oregon wines, specifically Oregon Pinot.  Those of you who have known my taste buds know that I am a pinotphile and I usually reach for a pinot before any other red wine these days.  As a local to the Northern California, I have access to some amazing wines.  Recently, however, I have had the opportunity to do some in depth exploration of Oregon wines and have fallen in love.  Again.

It all started with a little blogger conference in Walla Walla.  Having the choice to fly in to Seattle or Portland, I chose Portland since I had several friends in the area, and I was dying to meander through Oregon wine country.  Enter my friends at Solena Estate, and a mini WBC blogger tour of Willamette Valley was born. My Oregon wine friends put together a blogger tour of the area that would seek to educate, palate tease,

and giggle our way through the area.

First, let’s just kick off the day by saying that our transportation was not your typical wine country bus.  I knew something was up when Lynnette said “you’ll know your vehicle when you see it”.  Enter Double Decker PDX, a new tour company that (poor chaps) agreed to take thier maiden voyage with us to wine country. Sitting on top of the old London Transport double decker bus, fully outfitted in leather seats, a wine cooler, and Froot Loop Donuts from VooDoo Donuts, we were off to visit the wine country in blogger style.

Our first stop was the new Grand Cru property of Solena Estate Winery.  This property is where the winery was founded, and as we took a tour around, we were treated to a bit of history from Laurent & Danielle Montalieu, the owners of this beautiful property.  Solena was founded in 2000 when Laurent & Danielle purchases the “Wedding Vineyard”, 80 acres of rolling hillside vineyards.  Instead of a gift registry, the couple asked people to buy them pinot noir vines – a novel gift idea, and one I might steal if I ever get married with 80 acres of land on my hands.  The result was 80 pinot noir vines with 6 different clones, and the Estate Vineyard was born.

Down in the barrel room, Laurent had a surprise for us in 6 barrel samples of the 2009 Pinot Noirs, from various vineyards.  Handing each of us our own personal thief (a dangerous proposition if I’ve ever seen one), we were allowed to wander free sampling six wines, with several of them having wood variations.  The barrel tasting experiences isn’t new to most bloggers, however, the ability to taste all six pinot noirs side by side, with a few extra tastings of wood variations, really gave us food for thought and interesting conversation topics.  My personal favorites were the Guadalupe and Hyland Vineyards, but we also tasted the Thistle, Kaltia, and Monks Gate Vineyards.  In the end, I performed some blending experiments and came up with some truely unique and Oregonian examples of Pinot Noir that I would be proud to bottle myself.

Once we had sufficiently mastered the art of using a wine thief, something I personally needed no education in, we went upstairs to the beautiful event space for lunch.  Here, we were treated to four courses, each paired with a Solena wine, with an extra pinot thrown in for good measure.  Yes, I was lucky – I sat across from Danielle, and once the girls get talking…well you know . Wine flows and all that.

First:  Early Summer Corn Soup / 2008 ElvenGalde Chard

The sweet creaminess of the corn and the salty smoke of the pancetta paired beautifully with the crisp minerality of this chard.  For this non chard drinker, I really loved this wine, with tons of citrus and spice.

Second:  Plank-Roasted Wild Salmon / 2007 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir (Wedding Vineyard)

This wine shows it’s true colors of cedar, earth, and mushrooms with a backbone of bright red fruit.  No fruit bomb, it’s chewy spice and cloves really went well with the fennel in the salmon.

Third:  Grilled Cascade Flat Iron Steak (or Lentil Loaf, which I’m sorry to say was the wrong choice) / 2008 Hyland Pinot Noir

Has all of the Burgundian charachter that I expect in an Oregon pinot noir.  Perfumed and delicate, it stood up to the meat (that I stole off of Melanie’s plate)

Fourth  Rosemary & Fleur de Sel Shortbread, Oregon Berries, Bellweather Farms Carmony / 2008 Late Harvest Riesling

Dessert!  Need I say more?

The pairings were simply masterful and many of us savoured each pariing wine.  Fortunately, Danielle made sure we were well stocked and that our glasses were never empty, so we were able to top off any wines that were low.  Err, well, at one point that was all of them.  My favorite pairing was the Salmon, which was simply divine, both with the Chard and the Pinot.  Kudos to Chef Matt Howard for really showing us what all the options for Pinot Noir can be – it’s not just for pork and fish!

What I learned was, the Pinot Noirs of the Willamette are varied and nuanced, and when you have a warm year, they closely resemble those wines from the Russian River and Santa Lucia Highlands.  There is more in the Willamette than Pinot NOir, and there are many sub appellations that are very unique within the larger AVA.  Please go givist Oregon and discover for yourself!  Solena welcomed us with a red carpet expereince, and loved that we were all so excited to be there.  While I have tasted some of the wines before, the unique opportunity to taste so many different pinot noirs in one place really inspires me.  Solena has two tasting rooms:  One in the tiny town of Carlton, in the Yamhill-Carlton district, and the new Grand Cru property.  Please make sure you take the time to stop by if you are in the Willamette!

Stay tuned for Bloggerpalooza Part 2:  Soter Winery

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!

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.

Put a cork in it!

May 24, 2010

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It’s amazing what can happen in the social networking arena.  Take, for example, a recent tasting I went to hosted by the Penisula Wine Enthusiasts.   As an avid MeetUp member, I know that these organized social gatherings can be a great way to meet new people who are like minded.  This group goes a step farther, and partners with Uncorked Ventures, to provide the wine enthusiasts with a great array of unusual wines for sipping and for purchase.

Uncorked Ventures‘ seed was planted when Matt Kraiuse and Mark Aselstine were on a family vacation to South America in 2009.  Sharing a passion for good wine and good wine, they decided to grow their avocation in to a business focused on delivering high quality, hard-to-find wines at a fair price to customers who can’t readily access such wines. Given the selections we tasted at the last MeetUp, I’d say they are accomplished this goal nicely.

First, we tasted three selections from South Africa.  Not knowing very much about South Africa myself, I was excited to taste these wines and started with 2009 Groenland Sauvignon Blanc had the grassy nose of a New Zealand Sav Blanc, but the palate has soft tropical notes with a touch of green pepper and citrus fruit.  If you are a Savvy drinker, BUY this wine; the excellent  QPR and interesting flavors will be great for the summer.  Next, we moved on to the Slnghook Pinotage.  Since I’m not a Pinotage fan, I’m going to skip right to the 2006 Groeland Antoinette Marie Classic, a Bordeaux blend.  I enjoyed this wine and tasted dark red fruit with chocolate and coffee, in a smooth and velvety wine.  It wasn’t the most complex wine, but it was a nice easy drinking red.

On the other side of the table the little known Americans stood waiting for me.  First, a Rhone white from Stolpman in the Santa Ynez Valley, 2007 La Coppa Blanc.  This is a somewhat atypical blend of 60% Roussanne with 40% of Viognier co-fermented with the Roussanne, which gives this wine a beautiful aromatic profile.  The classic honeysuckle and apricot flavors of the Viognier are combined to give a creamy long finish, with peaches, nectarines, and preserved lemons.  this is  MUST BUY and with only 260 cases produced, I have a bottle waiting for me if the weather ever warms up.

Another of my favorites, the 2007 Kaena Hale Rhone red, a blend of 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah.  It’s no surprise that I loved this wine given my recent addiction to Rhones, but at $18 this can be your house wine.  Again, as a very small production wine of only 120 cases, I would RUN OUT AND BUY SOME before it’s gone.  In 2007, there was very little water in the vineyards, resulting in low yields and intense fruit flavors of blackberries, cherries, and plums over a chocolate bar.

Finally, we had the 2007 Emerson Brown Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.  This is the personal label of Keith Emereson, winemaker at Vineyard 29, and Brian Brown, winemaker at Round Pound.  I’m picky about my Napa Cab these days, but this was a nice example that was not overly extracted or bombastic, and there were some beautiful notes of blue and black fruit, bittersweet cocoa, and black current.  The finish had a hint of river rocks, which was refreshing and smooth.  This is a splurge at $50, although that is very reasonable for a small production Cab these days. BUY this for a special dinner, or hold it in your cellar as it will age nicely for quite some time.

If you’re in the Bay Area, I encourage you to check out the Peninsula Wine Meetup to taste some of these great wines.  If you can’t make it out here, check out Uncorked Ventures Explorer Wine Club, and get some of these cool things sent to your door!  As someone who gets a lot fo exposure to wines, it’s refreshing and exciting to taste wines that I don’t know, or have not tasted before.  I look forward to the next event, where we can try some other new and unusual wines!  Thanks guys and keep up the good work.

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!

Happenings!

May 8, 2010

Spring has sprung, and summer is starting to show glimpses.  A side effect of this season, is that there is a plethora of wine events going on in May and June.  A few of the highlights in the next few weeks are:

Tuesday May 11th, the Rose Avengers and Producers (RAP) hosts thier annual Pink Out celebration in San Francisco.  From 6:30 – 8:30pm, the celebration of all wines pink features an extensive walk around tasting of 40 wines, still & sparkling, as well as some tasty appetizers.  This event does sell out (sorry for the late notice!) and tickets can be purchased online for $35 or if any are left, for $45 at the door.  For those of you who can’t make it in person, TasteLive is hosting an online tasting forum with the Mutineer Magazine crew.

Have you ever been to a tasting room with 20 wineries?  Well, ok there are more and more coop tasting rooms out there, but how about one housed in a custom crush facility?  For those of who are less familiar with the winemaking minutia, a custom crush facility is a place where many wineries / labels can use the same equipment, share costs, and share space.  Vinify Wine Services is one of these meccas for up and coming cult wines, in Santa Rosa.  It’s housed some of the best botique wines in Sonoma County over the past few years, and many more to come.  As the nature of the beast goes, you use a place like this for as long as you need, but then you might outgrow it and use your own facilities for various reasons.

On May 23rd, VINIFY IS HOSTING their annual Open House.  This is a rare opportunity for the public to enjoy some 20 labels of delicious juice, for the bargain price of $20 (including a fancy glass).  There will be over 40 wines, and you will have the chance to meet the winemakers, bottlewashers, and salespeople – being the same person – in an intimate setting.  I hope to see you there to taste some of the following:

  • Baker Lane
  • Bevan Cellars
  • Bjornstad Cellars
  • Lattanzio Winery
  • Pfendler Vineyards
  • Sojourn Cellars
  • Westerhold Family Vineyards
  • Calluna Vineyard
  • Jemrose Vineyard
  • Barbed Oak Vineyards
  • Claypool Cellars
  • Desmond Wines
  • Frostwatch Vineyard and Winery
  • Olsen Ogden Wines – a personal favorite of mine
  • Gracianna Winery
  • Cinque Insieme Wines
  • Suacci Carciere Wines

Vinfiy Wine Services is located at 3358 Coffey Lane, Suite D in Santa Rosa.  Tickets should be purchased in advance at Local Wine Events and you can reach them at 707-495-4959

On June 5th & 6th Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend will have several expanded wine seminars and sessions.

  • With the Glam Camping Compound at the heart of the festivities, Sara Schneider could suggest her favorite bottles for the ultimate “glamping” trip (more details here: http://www.sunset.com/marketplace/camp-glam-00400000066902/)
  • Expanded wine seminars, including tours through the wines of Washington, Southern Oregon and California’s Central Coast (these always sell out!)
  • A sneak peek at Savor the Central Coast, Sunset’s new food & wine event that will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in San Luis Obispo County

The Celebration runs all weekend from 10am to 5pm, and admission is $16.  Wine Seminars are $10 each, and you can sign up at the event.  Susnet is located at 80 Willow Road Menlo Park, CA 94025, schedules and info can be found HERE


Also on June 5th, the Tempranillo Advocates Prodcuers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) is hosting their annual tasting at Ft Mason.  TAPAS is the most extensive annual tasting of domestically produced Spanish and Portuguese varietal wines in North America, and the annual tasting is a great time to taste wines produced by TAPAS members from grape varieties indigenous to Spain and Portugal that are now cultivated in America, in a delightful walk-around setting where they may chat with the TAPAS growers and producers. These new and delightful domestic wines originate in Arizona, California, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, and range from crisp, refreshing whites, through big full-bodied reds, to elegant port style wines. This is a unique opportunity to sample wines made from varieties like Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Graciano, Mourvedre, Touriga, Verdelho, Bastardo and more. Many of our members are limited-production, boutique wineries whose wines are not generally available in stores.

The consumer tasting will run from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Consumer tickets are available at tapas2010.eventbrite.com for $35, or $200 for a pack of 10.  Bring your friends!  There will be many hard to find wines at this event.