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Blog URL has Moved to RJonWine.com

October 4, 2010

I am happy to let you know that, after a few weeks of tinkering and tuning, the new version of this blog (which includes all the posts and content generated here up to this date), has moved to my own domain: www.RJonWine.com. WordPress.org, a free hosting site, was a great place to get this blog started, and had a lot of great features that made it easy to design and launch initially, but as the site visits have increased (averaging over 5,000 per month in the past couple months) and as I’ve been looking to add new features and functionality, I found that I simply couldn’t make the necessary changes in the context of WordPress’s free hosting limitations.

The first post on the new blog site includes ratings of 79 current release Champagnes tasted at the 2010 Institute of Masters of Wine Champagne tasting at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Building last week. You can go directly to that post here: http://www.rjonwine.com/2010/10/2010-institute-of-masters-of-wine-champagne-tasting-79-current-releases-rated/

Some of the features I’m looking to add in the coming weeks include an easy way for readers to access and search all of my 18,000-plus tasting notes and reviews on CellarTracker, and easy links to search for recommended wines on Wine-Searcher.com. On the new version of the blog, I’ve already added an “Oenophile Emporium,” which includes specially selected and recommended wine-related books, videos, magazines, glassware and accessories that can be purchased at Amazon.com. I’m also delighted with the new top banner, designed by my sister Janis Snyder, that can now be seen at the new site.

Thanks to everyone who has visited and commented on this blog so far. I look forward to serving readers better, and with more features and easy links, on the new blog. For those of you who have honored my efforts by subscribing to this blog, I urge you to take a moment to set up a similar subscription, for free, of course, over at www.RJonWine.com. The subscription options are all on the upper right hand side of the page on the new blog.

Vieux Télégraphe 1984-2006 Blindtasted

September 14, 2010

>VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE 1984-2006 BLINDTASTED – Tom’s House, Palo Alto, CA (9/9/2010)


On a value and consistency basis, year after year, Vieux Télégraphe has to be my favorite Chateauneuf du Pape. Yes, older Rayas can be an indescribable, ethereal pleasure, but they don’t make them like that any more, and the old ones–1995 and older–fetch stratospheric prices. Beaucastel is good many years, but they’ve also raised their prices to the extent that, in some years, at $90 or so a pop, they’re just not worth it. Beaucastel, Pegau, Usseglio, Clos des Papes and others get the really high Parker scores, alter their winemaking practices (i.e., more concentration, more new oak) to keep getting those scores, and raise their prices accordingly, but Vieux Télégraphe hums along, not making significant changes, but taking advantage of their excellent terroir to make consistently good, more traditional, ageworthy wines, without hugely raising their prices each year. For that, count me as a loyal and thankful fan.

I’ve so far recorded 80 tasting notes on Vieux Télégraphe, covering 24 vintages, from 1978 through 2008. My highest rated, in order, have been the ’83, ’88, ’95, ’94, ’98, ’92, ’90, ’86, ’07, ’03, and ’89. My lowest rated have been the ’96, ’85, ’04 and ’99. My scores on all those 80 VTs have averaged 92.29 points.

Hippolyte Brunier first planted grapes on the La Crau plateau, near where the old telegraph tower and relay station had stood, in 1898. The vineyard now amounts to 63 hectares, with an average vine age of 50 years, on a south-facing terrace of clay and limestone soil, covered with smooth, heat-reflecting stones. Hippolyte’s son Jules built a winery on the plain and named it Vieux Télégraphe after the old tower. Jules’s son Henri revitalized the property in the 60s and 70s, expanded its vineyards, and turned Vieux Télégraphe into one of the leading Chateauneuf domaines before passing it on to his sons, Daniel and Frédéric, in 1988. In 1994, the domaine finally honored the plain on which all of the vineyards are planted by adding “La Crau” to the label.


The vineyard is composed of 65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault and 5% other red and white varietals. The grapes are destemmed and pressed, then fermented in stainless steel tanks with temperature control, for a period of two to three weeks. The wine then goes into concrete tank for nine months, before going into oak foudres for up to one year. The wine is bottled at two years of age, without filtration. It tends to be tannic and tight when young, but is capable of glorious cigar box, garrigue, tobacco, mineral and rich cherry complexity when given a decade or two of age.

Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, California, developed a friendship with the Brunier family in the late 1970s, bringing the first vintages seen in the U.S. in the late 1970s, and it continues to be the major importer of Vieux Télégraphe. Kermit and the Bruniers now also co-own Domaine Les Pallières in nearby Gigondas.

Daniel Brunier with RJ, and RJ's sister, Janis

My TNs and group scoring

I’d tasted nearly all of these vintages before, except for the ’96 and ’92. I didn’t expect either of those to show particularly well, as they don’t have a reputation as great CdP vintages, The ’96, the group’s and my last place, reinforced the notion that that was a particularly forgettable CdP vintage, but the ’92 in this line up turned out to be awesome. One would think the ’92 would be a great buy, being off the radar, if there were any out there, but I already checked wine-searcher.com, and they’re aren’t. Meanwhile, the ’94, a vintage I’ve enjoyed many times, was the group’s favorite. This sample wasn’t quite as good as others I’ve tried, being still somewhat tight yet, but it was very good. I preferred the ’92 and ’90 on this occasion, though. The ’06 stuck out like a sore thumb as being the newbie of the bunch, for all but a couple of us, and sure enough it was. It will be very tasty in another decade or so. The ’89 in this group was also relatively tight, compared to other samples I’ve had. Where the group and I diverged the most was on the ’99, which I found overly bretty, but the group (which included some notorious brett lovers) rated it number 2. Our oldest sample, the ’84, continues to show well, taking on secondary and tertiary flavors while keeping it’s sweet, firm tannins.

  • 1994 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #1 (my #3) – 47 pts; 6 firsts, 2 seconds, 1 third, 0 last places – medium dark red color; garrigue, anise, a little brett, lovely herbs, cigar box nose; tightish, nice herbs, garrigue, anise, tart cherry palate, needs another 3 to 4 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 1999 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #2 (my #7) – 53 pts.; 3, 1, 2, 0 – medium dark cherry red color; brett, tobacco, mature herb nose; brett, garrigue, anise, tart red fruit palate with drying, tannic finish; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 1992 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #3 (my #1) – 68 pts.; 1, 3, 4, 1 – bricking medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; rich cigar box, chewing tobacco, dried berry nose; a little tight still, cigar box, dried berry, garrigue, mineral, brett palate; medium-plus finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)
  • 1990 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #4 (my #2) – 73 pts.; 1, 3, 2, 1 – bricking medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; maturing, dried red fruit, cigar box, lovely mature herbs nose; mature, sage gravy, cigar box palate with firm tannins; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #5 (my #5) – 77 pts.; 1, 1, 1, 1 – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; youthful, nice tart red fruit, red berry, raspberry, white chocolate nose; youthful, raspberry, tart cherry, red berry, oak palate, very tight; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 1984 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #6 (my #4) – 81 pts.; 1, 2, 2, 3 – bricked medium red color with pale meniscus; very mature, tobacco, earthy nose; mature, tobacco, tart red fruit, mineral palate with firm sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 1989 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #7 (my #6) – 88 pts.; 0, 2, 1, 3 – medium dark cherry red color; mature, earthy, mushroom, faint garrigue nose; tight, tart cherry, red fruit, mineral, red berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (this was the tightest, most youthful version of this wine I’ve tasted–it needed another 4 to 5 years of bottle age) (91 pts.)
  • 1996 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Group’s #8 (my #8) – 89 pts.; 3, 0, 0, 5 – bricked medium red color with pale meniscus; oxidation, VA, mushroom, tobacco nose; better on palate than nose, but very mature, mushroom, tobacco palate with some oxidation and drying medium-plus finish (85 pts.)

“Old & Rare” Tasting with ’55 Taylor Port

September 10, 2010

“OLD & RARE” TASTING WITH ’55 TAYLOR PORT – K&L Wines, Redwood City, California (9/3/2010)


Gary Westby, Old, Rare & Champagne buyer at K&L

This fun, end-of-week tasting somehow managed to link my birth year (represented by a ’55 Port) with my introduction to California wine, i.e., my “birth” as a California wine lover. My first visit to Napa as an undergrad in 1976 took us to Louis Martini around the time the ’75 Cab in this tasting was released. On the whole these wines showed well, and most had some historic interest. I especially enjoyed the ’55 Taylor, from magnum, and not only due to the fact that I successfully guessed what it was (it was blind on the tasting sheet, and the label on the bottle was impossible to discern anything from). From just smelling the wine from Anh Thu’s glass when I arrived, I guessed “Taylor, from ’63 or earlier.” Looks like I learned something on my For the Love of Port trip to Portugal this year with FTLOP’s Roy Hersh.

For comments about the six individual wines we tasted, see below.

’97 Marc Collin Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru

Our single white was a decent lesser premier cru from Chassagne-Montrachet, in good shape for its 13 years. It was made by Marc Colin’s son, Pierre-Yves, who took over winemaking duties at his father’s estate in ’95, before starting his own small domaine, Pierre-Yves Colin Morey, in 2001. A nice start to this eclectic tasting of mature wines.

’95 Panther Creek Pinot

Panther Creek was originally founded by Ken Wright in ’86, but by the time this wine was produced, Wright had had a bad falling out with his original partner and the winery was sold to Ron and Linda Kaplan, Burgundy lovers from Des Moines. Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent was the winemaker for this vintage. This single vineyard bottling, from the Bednarik Vineyard, has been made every year since ’94. This was a lovely, mature Pinot, with silky texture and secondary and tertiary flavors, including soy sauce.

  • 1995 Panther Creek Pinot Noir Bednarik Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Medium brick red color with clear meniscus; nice, mature, soy sauce, baked cherry, gravy palate; mature, silky textured, tart red fruit, soy sauce, mineral palate with grip; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

’86 Pine Ridge Merlot

This Merlot was in remarkably good shape for 24 years, and one of the better mature Cali Merlots I’ve tried. Pine Ridge was founded in 1978 and the winemaker for its first 25 years was Stacy Clark. Pine Ridge typically blended other Bordeaux varietals into their Merlot–this one contained 11% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec, and they relied on French oak for aging. They currently own 220 acres of estate vineyards in Napa.

  • 1986 Pine Ridge Merlot Selected Cuvée – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; mature, tobacco, dried leather, weedy nose; mature, tobacco, tart currant palate with grip; medium-plus finish (with 11% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec) (91 pts.)

’75 Louis Martini Cab

Louis M. Martini was one of the pioneering winemakers of California, and–along with Charles Krug, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyard–a founder of California’s great Cabernet Sauvignon legacy. The Louis Martini style was distinguished from the other three by varietal and geographic blending that produced agreeable wines ready for relatively early drinking. The Special Selection wines, however, were their wines made in outstanding years, produced in small lots aimed at greater quality and longer aging potential.

Louis M. died in ’74, so this wine was made by his son, Louis P., who was already actively working under his father starting in 1940. 1975 was a winegrowing year much like 2010, in which a cool, slow ripening season delayed sugar formation. As mentioned above, I believe I tasted this particular bottling, or at least others from the same year, when I first visited the winery in 1976 on a bus tour from Stanford, that also included visits to Beaulieu and Mondavi. I remember enjoying the Martini wines then, especially the Cabs, and thinking they were decently priced wines given the quality. By 1984, the Martini vineyards totaled more than 1,000 acres. I appreciate Gary including this particular bottle, which was in decent shape for its age, for taking me on a little memory tour to the beginning of my fascination with wine (exclusively California wines until many years later).

’92 Zilliken Spät

This, for me, was the weakest of the line up as a wine, and also didn’t have the same historical interest as the others. I’ve had better Zillikens, and ’92 was a good but not particularly great year. It was okay for a mature Spät, but that’s not saying much, as Späts with 20 or so years on them can be very exciting.

’55 Taylor Port

This was a wonderfully satisfying, mature Port to end the week on. I’ve only had a few ’55 Ports to date, and had never tasted the ’55 Taylor before. It was remarkably harmonious, with great balance and depth, and largely mellowed tannins, but still plenty of structure that will carry it for decades yet to come. It was reminiscent for me of the ’63 Taylor, which is why I was able to pick it out by the nose alone. Because the label was completely eroded, Gary had no idea who the producer was or any clue about the vintage until he pulled the cork, very carefully, with an ah-so, resulting in his being able to make out the bottom 2/3s of the cork, which were clearly stamped “Taylor” and “1955.” I always enjoy meeting vinous fellow children of my birth year, and this one was definitely a treat.

  • 1955 Taylor (Fladgate) Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    From magnum – light medium brown color with ruby lights and clear meniscus; VA, maple syrup, ginger cake, vanilla, dates nose, but drier than Graham, with lovely sandalwood edge; rich, sweet, ginger cake, maple syrup, sweet coffee, dates, brazil nut, almond palate, harmonious, with balance and depth; long finish 96+ pts. (this was poured as a mystery Port, and I guessed “Taylor, 1963 or earlier”) (96 pts.)

Robert Chevillon Nuits St. Georges “Les Vaucrains” Vertical: ’02-’07

September 8, 2010

ROBERT CHEVILLON NUITS ST. GEORGES “LES VAUCRAINS” VERTICAL: ’02-’07 – Vin Vino Wine, Palo Alto, California (9/4/2010)


This is one of the tastings that Vin Vino Wine in Palo Alto is doing as part of their month-long celebration of their upcoming 25th anniversary. VVW is unique in offering serious tastings on a daily basis, and for focusing on particular top producers with long track records, such as Dauvissat, Joguet, J.L. Chave and Robert Chevillon. This month-long celebration features a different tasting each day, focusing on the wines of a particular producer and in some cases, like this tasting, the wines from a single vineyard.

There are no grand cru vineyards in Nuits-Saints-Georges, the town at the southern end of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. N-S-G does contain, however, 27 premier cru vineyards, the greatest of which is Les Saint-Georges, the vineyard whose prestigious name was added to that of the town of Nuits in 1892. According to virtually all critics, the honor of second best vineyard in Nuits-Saints-Georges falls either to Les Vaucrains or Les Cailles, both of which abut Les Saint-Georges. Les Vaucrains lies further up the hill from Les Saint-Georges, with rockier soil, which, like Les Saint-Georges, includes clay and sand. Les Vaucrains comprises 6.2 hectares, and has several owners, but the greatest producers usually cited are Henri Gouges and Robert Chevillon. I have personally always preferred Chevillon, whose parcel of Les Vaucrains includes very old vines, 75 years and older.

Domaine Robert Chevillon is famous for the transparency and consistency of their winemaking–really letting the terroir and vintage speak without any significant winemaking interference. The “recipe” at this domaine includes a relatively small proportion of whole cluster, no more than 25%; hot macerations; and 18 months maturation in wood, of which only one third, at most, is new. Given the similarity of non-obtrusive winemaking technique from year to year, and the fact that each of these wines was from the same vineyard parcel, this tasting really made for a dramatic opportunity to “listen” to the vintage characteristics expressed in each of these wines.

I was surprised that my very favorite vintage in this tasting was the most recent, 2007. Top Burgundies are typically appealing and approachable in the first year or so after release, before heading into a “dumb” phase from which they may emerge several years later (often 10 or more years in the case of typically very structured and tannic Nuits-Saints-Georges premier crus). The ’07 does have appealing red and black fruit and spice, which is typical of the vineyard, but very good definition and structure as well. It may not be destined to be as long aging as the highly tannic and structured ’05, but I think it will have a good long life. My next favorite was the ’05, muscular and tannic, but also showing good spice and fruit characteristics, with one of the most complex noses of the tasting. Third ranked for me was the ’02, another great vintage, still showing a little tight, but already taking on lovely secondary mushroom aromas, and possessing strong minerality. Next best for me was the ’06, which had some reduction initially on the nose, but which is also showing some of the lovely fruit of my favorite vintages, albeit with less complexity and structure. The ’03 came next to last for me, showing very mature flavors already, along with the black and roasted fruit characteristics to be expected from such a hot and ripe year. The least of all for me (and everyone else in the store who was doing the tasting while I was there) was the ’04, which was very green, stemmy and earthy, showing very little fruit.

In sum, these were all very good Burgundies, full of complexity and terroir, and all but the ’04 should continue to age beautifully, but the best and potentially longest aging are the ’07, ’05 and ’02.

The Vintage Speaks


Clos Vougeot Tasting Dinner

September 7, 2010

CLOS VOUGEOT TASTING DINNER – Lupa Trattoria, San Francisco, California (9/2/2010)


I’ve had a lot of Clos Vougeots over the years that reinforce the question many Burgundy fans have as to why this entire vineyard–at 50.59 hectares or over 125 acres, the largest in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits–should be classified as grand cru. As in Echezeaux, the other very large and dubious Côte de Nuits grand cru, there are dozens of owners in this vineyard–about 86 per the last authoritative count I’ve seen–and over 60 different Clos Vougeot bottlings every year. The walled vineyard, built by the Cistercian order of monks in the Middle Ages, and owned by them until the French Revolution, is the only Burgundy grand cru vineyard besides Mazoyeres-Chambertin whose land runs right down to the main road, adjoining vineyards that, just over the wall to the south, are only entitled to villages status. Nonetheless, there are also some very good examples, typically from the best-drained upper third or so of the vineyard, closest to Grands Echezeaux.

When our gang settled on a Clos Vougeot theme for our latest dinner gathering, I signed up expecting to enjoy the company more than the wine. While the company, and Lupa’s food, were excellent as usual, we were also fortunate to have some very good Clos Vougeots, on the whole much better than I anticipated. We poured them all blind, divided into two flights, the first comprised of our three reps from the current decade and the second featuring our older bottles.

My favorite of the whole evening happened to be the one I brought, which I’d never tasted before. I sought it out after reading Jancis Robinson’s lengthy report on a blindtasting she attended this past July of over fifty 2008 Clos Vougeots. The Leymarie stood out for her in that tasting as one of her favorites, which was a surprise to her as she knew little about this property. Leymarie-Ceci is a very small Vougeot domaine which started in 1933 with a little more than half a hectare of Clos Vougeot, at the top of the vineyard, in the Petit Maupertit climat, abutting Grands Echezeaux. This plot was purchased “impulsively,” according to the Maison Leymarie website, by Belgian wine merchant Charles Leymarie. (In the ’70s, Charles’s son René acquired additional vineyard parcels in Burgundy, and the family also owns two properties in Pomerol and one in Canon-Fronsac.) The grapes are totally destemmed and the wines are given 30% or more new wood. Jancis found the ’08 sample she tasted to have “no shortage of stuffing and pleasure.” Intrigued by her write up, I looked for a mature sample to bring to this tasting. There is virtually none available in the U.S., but one store had two bottles of the ’90, so I snapped them up. Silky textured, with plenty of bright red fruit and a beautiful nose, I was delighted that it was showing as well as it was, and it was WOTF for most of the group.

For more details on the wines we tasted, including our delicious 1970 Port, please see below.

White Burgs

We started with a couple of whites, both poured blind. The ’06 Jadot Les Genevrières was so fruit forward and concentrated that I could easily have taken it for one of the better Cali Chards. The ’02 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet was starting to show some oxidation.

  • 2006 Louis Jadot Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    Light golden yellow color; lovely lemon, vanilla, pineapple nose; tasty, rich, pineapple, vanilla, lemon palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet
    Light medium golden yellow color; raw egg, citrus, light hazelnut nose; slightly oxidized, nutty, citrus, mineral palate; medium finish (90 pts.)

Clos Vougeot Flight 1

For round one of our theme reds, we blindtasted our three youngsters. A few of us, including me, properly identified the vintages blind after we were told they were ’00, ’01 and ’02. The ’01 Arnoux was the weakest for me of these three. The vines for the Arnoux Clos Vougeot are also from the upper third of the vineyard. The ’02 Jacques Prieur, which was my favorite of this flight, derives from grapes grown in the upper section of the lower one-third of the vineyard, just above parcels farmed by the Raphets. I’m usually a big fan of Anne Gros’s wines, and her little slice of the vineyard comes from one of the two climats thought to be the very best of the 16 contained within the Clos, Le Grand Maupertui (the other most prized climat is called Le Musigni). I found it good but a lot tighter than the delicious Jacques Prieur. I suspect that the vintages these wines hailed from had a lot to do with how they showed, and ’02 was by far the best of these three vintages, and some ’02s, including our very appealing and spicy Jacques Prieur, seem to be starting to show well now.

  • 2000 Domaine Anne Gros Clos Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Dark cherry red color; nice sous bois, cherry, raspberry nose with a touch of brett; tight, tart cherry, red fruit, mineral palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2001 Domaine Robert Arnoux Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Slightly bricking dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; earthy, sous bois, dried cherry nose; brett, mineral, tart red fruit, iron palate with a cliff finish; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2002 Jacques Prieur Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Very dark cherry red color; spice, incense, mineral, cherry, dried cherry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, spice, dried cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Clos Vougeot Flight 2

Round two was also poured blind, but turned out to include a pair of ’90s and a mini-vertical of Louis Jadot. I’ve already talked about the ’90 Leymarie in my introduction above. Both our Louis Jadots were quite similar, and there was less apparent vintage difference than I would have expected. 1997 was a more challenging vintage, but Allen Meadows says that Jadot made some of the best ’97s, and our bottle certainly bore out that view. Jadot’s substantial 2.15 hectare parcel is a slice of the bottom half of the vineyard, down toward the southern end of the Clos. The Jacques Prieur ’90 did not show at all as well as the ’02 had, and seemed quite mature and lacking in focus compared to the ’90 Leymarie.

  • 1996 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Slightly bricking medium cherry red color; maturing, mushroom, dried cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, deep, ripe and tart red fruit, tart raspberry, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 1997 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Dark cherry red color; baked red fruit, dried cherry nose with a touch of forest floor; tasty, maturing, tart cherry, red raspberry, mineral palate with grip; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 1990 Leymarie Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Bricking medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; mature, mushroom, baked red fruit, raspberry mousse nose; silky textured, mature, bright, baked cherry, raspberry, solid palate; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
  • 1990 Jacques Prieur Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Bricking, slightly cloudy, medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; mature, mushroom, baked cherry, raspberry nose; ripe cherry, raspberry, lacking some focus though, with good acidity; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

’70 Port

The last time I had this vintage of Warre was at a tasting in the Graham Lodge in Oporto with Dominic Symington this past May. This bottle, imported by pioneering American importer Frank Schoonmaker, tasted very similar to that one–delicious and well structured.

  • 1970 Warre Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Bricking medium cherry red color with clear meniscus; VA, baked cherry, red bean, raspberry nose; tasty, rich, red berry, baked cherry, red bean palate, delicious; long finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)

Z-H finish

I don’t know that we needed another sweet wine to end on after the Warre, but we got to have one anyway. I usually very much enjoy Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Grises, and this is one of Z-H’s Grand Cru vineyards. I’d had this wine twice before, and this was the best showing of the three times I’ve had it.

Pacific Northwest Current Releases: Oregon Pinot and More

September 5, 2010

PACIFIC NORTHWEST CURRENT RELEASES: OREGON PINOT AND MORE – K&L Redwood City and Wine Club, Santa Clara, California (8/28/2010)


Two retail tastings the same day, at K&L and Wine Club, gave a sense of new releases and the ’07, ’08 and beginning of ’09 vintages from a number of well known Pac Northwest producers.

Back in the early years of the decade, I was a big fan of Oregon Pinot. Oregon Pinot had an extraordinary string of vintages from ’98 to ’02. Something happened after 2002, however, and I fell out of love with Oregon Pinot. I was turned off by excessive greenness and too much whole cluster. 2006 was supposed to be a great vintage there, and there’s been even more excitement about ’08. Both the ’06s and ’08s in these two tastings reinforced what I’ve heard and tasted from those vintages. I think Cali Pinots have improved at a more impressive pace than Oregon Pinots, and the better ones have gotten a lot more interesting than Oregon Pinots. Nonetheless, Oregon Pinot from good vintages is still worth checking out. I’m also a fan of Washington State Bordeaux varietals, but one has to choose very carefully. I was hoping to get a sense of what’s worth drinking now from these two tastings, and a few themes did arise.

The focus was very different at these two tastings. At K&L the theme was red varietals other than Pinot, although there were a couple of Pinots in the mix. At Wine Club, the focus was all on Oregon Pinots. My favorites from the K&L tasting were the ’06 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Zenith, and the ’06 DeLille Harrison Hill. In the Santa Clara Wine Club tasting, the winners were the ’08 Shea Pinot Shea Vineyard, and the ’06 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve (which I’ve tried before, with consistent notes).

I have yet to be really excited by any Northwest Syrahs, and the line up at K&L didn’t alter that impression. I think DeLille did a good job with the Harrison Hill Meritage, but I also thought their ’08 Chaleur Estate Blanc was a nightmare. Chehalem, which makes very good Pinots, is making a Grüner. I’m not sure why. I was underwhelmed. The “House of Independent Producers” made a Chardonnay that’s selling for $10. It’s not bad, so that’s a good thing. Evening Lands is making a Gamay for $20. It was decent, but I can get good Gamays for $20 or less from Beaujolais, so I’m not sure why I’d turn to Oregon for that. The Iota Pinot Pelos-Sandberg was remarkably good for a rough vintage, ’07, and the ’08 St. Innocent Zenith, their shared estate vineyard (with Ramey) was quite good. The two K Vintners wines, including their ’07 Syrah, were not very good at all. The ’07 Trust Syrah, for $30, was decent, but with so many good Cali Syrahs available, I’m still wondering why I should turn to the Pac Northwest.

K&L Pacific Northwest tasting

  • 2009 Chehalem Grüner Veltliner Wind Ridge Ribbon Ridge – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Ribbon Ridge
    Very light canary yellow color; tart peach, mineral nose; creamy textured, tart peach, ripe palate, lacking in acidity; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Hedges Family Estate Chardonnay The House of Independent Producers – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Very light yellow color; apple, pear nose; pear, apple palate with balance; medium finish (a decent value at $10 retail) (88 pts.)
  • 2008 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Light canary yellow color; reduction, oak nose; reduction, oak, stinky palate; medium finish (I can’t understand the high scores from Tanzer and others based on this sample) (81 pts.)
  • 2009 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Light, slightly orange, pink color; ripe pink grapefruit, blood orange nose; tasty, light, tart strawberry, tart cantaloupe palate with poise; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Gamay Noir Celebration Seven Springs Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola – Amity Hills
    Dark cherry red color; nice tart red fruit, Gamay, tart red currant, mineral nose; tight, tart red currant, mineral palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Iota Pinot Noir Pelos-Sandberg Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola – Amity Hills
    Medium cranberry red color with pale meniscus; nice tart red fruit, forest floor, camphor nose; tasty, tart red fruit, forest floor, camphor, spice, tart cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Zenith – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Dark red color; earthy, tart cherry, camphor nose; tasty, tart cherry, red fruit, strawberry palate with integrated stems; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
    Dark red violet color; nice cassis, red currant, cedar nose; tasty, cassis, red currant, berry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Owen Roe Red Wine Yakima Valley – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
    Very dark red violet color; cassis, red currant nose with a little herbaceousness; focused, ripe cassis, vanilla oak, red berry palate; medium finish (36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Trust Syrah – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; deep berry, plum, oak nose; tight, ripe berry, red fruit, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 K Vintners Syrah Milbrandt Vineyard – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope
    Dark red violet color; roasted plum, herbaceous nose; vegetal, tart plum palate; medium finish (85 pts.)
  • 2007 K Vintners Ovide En Cerise Vineyard – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Dark red violet color; oak, toast, plum nose; ripe plum, oak, red berry palate; medium finish 87+ pts. (87 pts.)

Wine Club Santa Clara Oregon Pinots

Vintage is incredibly important in Oregon, and the ’08s in this tasting helped show why that vintage has been getting a lot of buzz, as did the ’06 Domaine Serene for Oregon ’06. The ’07s were less interesting. The ’09 Owen Roe was the only rep for the latest vintage, and it was green and camphory, so the jury is still out for me on that vintage.

  • 2007 Stoller Pinot Noir JV Estate Grown – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Dark red color with pale meniscus; tart red fruit, forest floor, menthol nose; tart red fruit, cinnamon, camphor palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Owen Roe Pinot Noir “Sharecropper’s” – USA, Oregon
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; tart red fruit, camphor nose with green notes; tart red fruit, camphor palate with green notes; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart red fruit, raspberry nose; tasty, tart red fruit, tart red berry, mineral palate with grip; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Patton Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Grown – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    From 375 ml – dark cherry red color; menthol, earthy nose; nice tart cranberry, tart red fruit, mineral, menthol palate with definition; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart red fruit, forest floor, raspberry nose; light bodied, tart red fruit, cinnamon palate; short-medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Estate Shea Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, tart raspberry, floral nose; solid, tart raspberry, cherry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Big, complex, raspberry, tart cherry nose with subtle oak; tight, raspberry, cherry, black raspberry palate with balance, needs 2+ years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (blend of 55% Dijon, 27% Pommard and 18% Wadenswil clones; aged 15 mos. in barrel, 48% new) (92 pts.)

Allen Meadows Seminar on Vosne-Romanée

September 2, 2010

ALLEN MEADOWS SEMINAR ON VOSNE-ROMANÉE – The Box, San Francisco, California (8/25/2010)


Allen Meadows is the writer and publisher of the Burghound newsletter, aka Burghound.com, and author of the recently published The Pearl of the Côte, the Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée. He is also one of my favorite wine writers and critics, and I am fortunate to have attended a number of seminars, tastings and dinners with him when I lived in L.A. When I saw that Chai Consulting and Wine Gavel Fine and Rare Wine Auctions was hosting a two-hour seminar with Allen in San Francisco, I rearranged my schedule to be there.

Philip Abrams’s glowing review of Allen’s book was posted here early last month. I’m in the middle of the book now, and enjoying it immensely. The book contains the most current and authoritative description of all the great Vosne vineyards, including the results of Allen’s lengthy research into the historical and current boundaries of those vineyards, complete with maps and photos of each vineyard that were created specially for the book. It also contains a terrific brief history of Burgundy that includes the most thorough description I’ve seen anywhere of the phylloxera years, how Burgundians grappled with the destruction of their ancient vineyards, what it was like to be a wine grower and winemaker during those years, and how the phylloxera era ultimately altered Burgundy permanently. Sprinkled throughout are Allen’s thoughtful recommendations as to benchmark producers, and what to buy, including top values. Another extra is the most extensive tasting notes of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines, including bottlings dating to the mid-1800s, to be found anywhere. I highly recommend the book, which is currently only available to purchase via the Burghound website, through this link: http://www.burghoundbooks.com/

Allen’s seminar was largely in promotion of the book, giving those who haven’t read it yet a feel for what it covers, and of the rich topic of the wines of Vosne-Romanée. The seminar included a tasting of six wines from the appellation, from different vintages and producers, and Allen’s comments about them. Allen agreed to let me video record some segments from his talk, which will give a flavor for how he presents the material, and some of what the book covers. I also asked him a question afterward about what was the single most surprising thing he learned in doing his research for the book, so that answer appears at the end of this post.

Over 80 people (close to 100?) were on hand in the large space of The Box for this event, so it lacked some of the intimacy and interactiveness of smaller seminars I’ve attended with Allen in the past. Nonetheless, it was nice to see such a large turnout mid-week to hear from Allen, and I hope it encourages him to get up the Bay Area even more in the future.

Here’s a clip of Allen talking about the origins of the concept of terroir in Burgundy, deriving both from animistic ideas of the uniqueness of place, as well as the view that the Catholic Church (owner at one time of many of the best vineyards in Burgundy, whose priests and monks played a vital role in analyzing and comparing wines from the different vineyard sites) eventually promulgated that differences in vineyards were “messages from God, that deserved to be celebrated”:

This next clip shows Allen talking about his own experience of smelling the soil in individual Burgundy vineyards, following the example of the vignerons he regularly visited, and learning what a great difference there is between the individual terroirs:

Tasting Portion


I thought the producers of the event put together a rather odd assortment of Vosne-Romanée wines for us to taste, including two villages wines, two premier crus and two (in my opinion, remarkably weak) grand crus. They literally had an assortment of ’99 Dominique Laurent premier crus for the tasting–one bottle of each–and were a little vague as to exactly what section of the room had been poured from which bottle. In the second hour of the seminar, however, Allen dutifully got to each of the wines and told us something about the producer, the vineyards from which the wines were made and the vintages represented, without commenting directly on what we were actually tasting in our glass. By far the standout of this motley assortment of wines for me was the stunning ’02 Méo-Camuzet Aux Brulées–not surprising because it’s a terrific year, top producer (one that Allen calls the “reference point” for this vineyard) and superior premier cru. In Allen’s view, Aux Brulées is a wine “of muscle, rich, that’s reminiscent of Richebourg without the minerality.” Allen explained that the Domaine Méo-Camuzet holds it in such high regard that when visitors come to the domaine, they serve them three of their grand crus before it, with only Cros Parantoux and Richebourg coming after.

The ’97 Jadot Grands-Echezeaux that I tasted may have been from a faulty bottle–my buddy Eric Lundblad tasted from a different bottle after the seminar which he said was showing a little better–as it was definitely fading in the glass, and lacked the power and depth I expect from a Grands-Ech. Allen opined that Jadot made some of the best ’97s among negociants, having managed to get ripe but not roasted fruit. He also said that Grands-Echezeaux is the “value play” of grand crus in Vosne, although you “never find the same level of finesse in them as in more refined grand crus.” Our other GC, the ’01 Charlopin-Parizot Echezeaux, was the weakest wine of the tasting. Allen told us ’01 is one of his favorite vintages for drinking today, with finesse, but not lightness, and the fact that many are ready for drinking already. He also explained that this wine was from a third of a hectare Philippe Charlopin owned in the En Orveaux climat of Echezeaux, a climat he shares with Sylvain Cathiard.

I rather liked the Mugneret-Gibourg villages ’06, which has some potential for development. Allen told us that the ’06 vintage “had the unfortunate occurrence to come after ’05.” He described it as a “lovely vintage, especially in the Côte de Nuits.” He thinks it will be a medium-term vintage, worth holding for awhile, but also drinkable while we’re still waiting for the ’05s to come around. Allen personally likes to drink his Burgs “when you can start to see secondary characteristics.” I thought our ’98 Rouget villages wine, from a few parcels Rouget’s uncle Henri Jayer used for his Vosne villages, including a parcel right next to Jayer’s house, in Vigneaux, was less successful than the Mugneret-Gibourg, but decent for a villages.

The remaining wine, that my row and the couple in front of mine received, was the ’99 Dominique Laurent Aux Malconsorts. It was beefy, powerful, and tight yet. It led Allen to talk at length about Malconsorts as an underrated premier cru, and one that he believes will be seen as being in the very top rank of Vosne premier crus in the future, in part because one of the historically underperforming producers, Thomas-Moillard, sold off his large parcel in recent years to two superior producers, de Montille and Dujac. Here’s a clip of Allen talking about the vineyard:

  • 2006 Domaine Georges Mugneret/Mugneret-Gibourg Vosne-Romanée – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée
    Dark cherry red color; bright cherry, mineral nose; tasty, tart red fruit, lifted, rosehips palate with medium acidity; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 1998 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanée – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée
    Rosehips, floral, tart red fruit nose; solid, tart red fruit, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 1999 Dominique Laurent Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    Dark cherry red color; beefy, savory, bacon fat nose; tight, beefy, mineral palate with firm tannins, still needs a few years; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brulees – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    Medium dark cherry red color; mushroom, roses, loamy soil nose; tasty, elegant, roses, tart cherry, cinnamon, rosehips palate with depth and structure; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
  • 1997 Louis Jadot Grands-Echezeaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; cedar, redwood, chlorine, mushroom nose; mature, fading, tart red fruit, mushroom palate with firm tannins; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2001 Domaine Philippe Charlopin-Parizot Echezeaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; VA, bean dip, raspberry, menthol, forest floor nose; tart red fruit, mushroom palate, probably heat damaged; medium finish (86 pts.)

Here’s Allen, after the seminar, answering my question as to what was the single most surprising thing he learned in doing his exhaustive research for the book:

2010 Family Winemakers Tasting San Francisco

August 30, 2010

2010 FAMILY WINEMAKERS TASTING SAN FRANCISCO – Fort Mason Festival Pavillon, San Francisco, California (8/22/2010-8/23/2010)


Family Winemakers of California has been doing annual trade tastings since 1991, and their events now include one-day tastings in Del Mar and Pasadena. Their biggest event, however, is the annual two-day tasting at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Festival Pavillon. A few hours of the first day of that event are open to the public, but the rest of that day and all the second day are limited to the trade and media. I’ve been attending for several years now, from when I originally lived in Southern California and regularly attended the Pasadena event. I’ve been making it a point to participate in the San Francisco tasting since my relocation here, a little before the ’05 tasting. The event this past Sunday and Monday was the 20th Anniversary San Francisco Family Winemakers Tasting, and over 340 producers were represented.

I tasted very strategically at this year’s event, arriving with my plan and must-hit list based on prior tastings and research. I ended up sampling 287 wines in the two days, from 78 producers. Due to time constraints, I had to pass up nearly a dozen of the producers on my priority list, not to mention many that I’d tasted recently enough to leave off my must-do plan. Since I try hard to get to as many producers as possible that are new to me, and there were 49 producers in the program who were pouring for the first time in this tasting, I prioritized visiting as many of them that looked promising as possible.

In the past, when I don’t research and plan as much as I did this year, I often end up tasting a lot of dreck, but that wasn’t the case this year. I ended the annual tasting feeling quite good about the state of California independent producer wines, but I’m sure that was mainly because I pre-selected a lot of producers that I already know to be strong, or about which I’d heard good advance press. Amongst the producers new to me and/or new to Family Winemakers, the ones I was most impressed with are:
Buoncristiani
Cornerstone
Dragonette
Field Recordings
Fog Crest
Ispiri
Lamborn Family
Macauley
Peter Paul
Portfolio Limited
Thomas George
Westerhold
Yorba

Among the producers with which I was already familiar, the standouts were:
Audelssa
Calera
Chateau Montelena
Core
Corison
Diamond Terrace
Fortress
Frostwatch
Hanzell
Jemrose
Jones Family
Kent Rasmussen
Ladd Cellars
Lagier Meredith
Littorai
Navarro
Pahlmeyer
Paloma
Paul Hobbs
Robert Biale
Saxon-Brown
Sequum
Sojourn
Sol Rouge
Titus
Turley
Villa Creek
York Creek.

A little on the disappointing side, this year, based on what I’ve tasted in the past were JC Cellars, Justin, L’Aventure, Outpost and Tablas Creek.


As far as vintage perceptions, the ’07 vintage continues to impress me a lot, while the smoke impact on a lot of ’08s, and the relative weak concentration of many of them, remains a theme for that vintage. I didn’t taste enough ’09s to get a strong impression of the vintage, but most that I did try were good.

Since Cabernet is so strongly identified in my mind with California, and with Family Winemakers in general, here’s my list of the Cabs that made the biggest impact on me at the tasting:
’06 Audelssa Reserve
’06 Chateau Montelena Estate
’07 Corison
’07 Diamond Terrace Howell Mountain
’07 Kent Rasmussen
’05 Lamborn Family
’06 and ’07 Macauley Beckstoffer To-Kalon
’06 Pahlmeyer Red
’07 Paul Hobbs Napa
’06 Portfolio Limited Edition
’07 Sequum Four Soil Melange
’07 Sojourn Howell Mountain
’07 Titus Reserve

Amongst the other big reds, including Syrahs and Petite Sirahs, but also red blends, Cab Francs and a lone Tannat, the ones I found most memorable, meriting 92+ or more points, were:
’07 Audelssa Summit
’07 Core Hard Core
’07 Jemrose Syrah Cardiac Hill
’07 Kent Rasmussen Petite Sirah Esoterica
’08 Lagier Meredith Syrah
’05 Lone Madrone Tannat
’07 Paloma Merlot
’08 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Royal Punishers
’08 Robert Biale Zinfandel Monte Rosso
’07 Sequum Zinfandel Kidd Ranch
’07 Titus Petite Sirah
’08 Turley Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge
’07 Turley Petite Sirah Hayne
’07 Westerhold Syrah
’07 Yorba Tempranillo

The list of whites that most impressed me has to start with the stunning ’08 Hanzell Chardonnay, and then continues with:
’07 Fog Crest Chardonnay Estate
’07 and ’08 Frostwatch Chardonnay
’09 Jemrose Viognier Egret Pond
’08 Navarro Gewurztraminer
’08 Peter Paul Chardonnay
’07 Rock Wall Riesling

It seems a little odd and a bit unfair for me to single out Pinot Noirs, as I ended up having to avoid many of my favorite Pinot makers at this tasting for the sake of time, because I’d already reported on most of them from tasting at Pinot Days earlier this year. Nonetheless, the ones that I did get to that weren’t represented at Pinot Days and that I rated 92+ or higher at this tasting were:
’07 Calera de Villiers Vineyard
’08 Fog Crest Estate
’07 Ladd Cellars Moore Ranch
’09 Lagier Meredith Pott Chester’s Anvil
’07 Littorai The Haven

Finally, in the sweet wine category, the strongest wines I tasted, rating 92+ points or more, were:
’08 Fortress Novateur
’07 Fortress Semillon Finale
’07 Macauley Semillon
’06 Navarro Gewurztraminer Cluster Select Late Harvest
’05 York Creek Port

The following is an alphabetical listing of all the producers I visited, with a little background info about them (and usually an indication of why I included them on my hit list this year), along with my tasting notes:

Ackerman


Ackerman has taken advantage of the new tiny bottle format for a tasting kit, pictured above, that they can send to reviewers or buyers. This is a small family project, making only 500 cases a year of Cabernet that retails for about $75. In ’07, they also made a Cab/Sangiovese blend. The flavor profile here is dominated by black fruit. These are decent Cabs, but I wasn’t wild about them.

Adastra

I’ve enjoyed the Adastra Pinots, especially the Proximus, at Pinot Days, so wanted to try more of their wines. They’ve been producing wine since 1995, and make only 1500 cases a year, comprised of Chardonnay (including a non-oaked version), Merlot, Pinot and a Red Blend. Most successful for me were the Proximus Pinot, the Merlot and the Red Blend, the latter of which is named after co-owner Edwin Richards, pictured on the right.

  • 2009 Adastra Chardonnay N’Oak – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Apple nose; okay, apple palate; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Adastra Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Light apple nose; tasty, apple, pear palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Adastra Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Brett, tart red fruit nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Adastra Pinot Noir Proximus – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Rich cherry, black cherry nose; rich cherry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Adastra Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Plum, berry, menthol nose; plum, berry, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Adastra Ed’s Red – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, blue fruit, menthol nose; black fruit, blue fruit, menthol palate; medium finish (43% Syrah, 39% Zinfandel, 13% Petite Sirah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)

Anaba

I’ve been passing the new tasting room for this project, which was started in ’06, when I drive up Arnold in Sonoma on my way to my sister’s in Kenwood for some months now, and meaning to try them. They’re making 4500 cases a year with fruit sourced from Carneros, the Sonoma Coast and Sonoma Valley. The Chardonnay was the best of what they poured at the tasting; the rest of the wines were good but not particularly memorable or complex.

  • 2008 Anaba Coriol White – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice tart peach, citrus nose; tart peach, citrus, floral palate; medium finish (48% Roussanne, 30% Viognier, 12% Marsanne, and 10% Grenache Blanc) (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Anaba Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Tart pineapple, apple nose; apple, tart pineapple palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Anaba Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Baked cherry, smoke nose; smoke, tart cherry palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (released the day before) (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Anaba Coriol – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/23/2010)
    Smoke, tart red fruit, plum nose; smoke, tart red fruit, plum palate; medium finish (38% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre, 25% Petite Sirah, 10% Counoise) (88 pts.)

Andrew Geoffrey

Andrew Geoffrey has been producing Cabernet from the Diamond Mountain District since ’95, and currently makes 1700 cases a year priced at $75 retail. It’s a solid Cabernet, which includes a small amount of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.

Audelssa


Erich Bradley, above, is the talented winemaker for Audelssa, as well as his own project, Sojourn. I’ve been enjoying and buying Audelssa wines for some years now. The ’07s, although very young, were showing well, but the most impressive was the ’06 Cab Reserve. This project of the Schaefer Family is now producing 7,000 cases per year, mostly with estate fruit.

  • 2007 Audelssa Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Berry, blackberry nose; tasty, berry, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Audelssa Estate Winery Summit – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice black fruit, herbal nose; tasty, nice black fruit, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Audelssa Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Rich berry, blackberry, black fruit nose; berry, blackberry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Azari

I took a flier on this producer making its FW debut because they make Chardonnay, Pinot and Syrah from Sonoma Coast fruit. I wasn’t that impressed with the results.

  • 2009 Azari Winery Chardonnay Corkscrew – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Green apple nose; apple, lime palate; short-medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Azari Winery Pinot Noir Corkscrew – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Big cherry, red fruit nose; tart, acidified?, red fruit palate; short-medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Azari Winery Syrah Corkscrew – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Smoky, tart black fruit nose; tart black fruit palate with good acidity; medium finish (87 pts.)

Barnett

I’ve liked Barnett Cabs in the past, especially the ’93, so decided to check in on current releases. The Cab was a tasty, chocolatey, ripe monster. The other two wines were not as strong.

Buoncristiani

Buoncristiani is definitely a family project, of the Buoncristiani Brothers, who have been making several varietal wines from Napa since ’99. They currently produce 3500 cases a year. I liked the whole line up, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Malbec, which is one of the better Cali Malbecs I’ve tried.

  • 2006 Buoncristiani OPC Proprietary Red – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Baked berry nose; baked berry, Vegemite palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Buoncristiani Syrah Artistico – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, berry, espresso nose; deep black fruit, berry, espresso palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Buoncristiani Malbec – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Winter 2011) – nice black fruit, berry, intriguing nose; deep berry, black fruit palate with poise; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Buoncristiani Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Fall 2010) – deep berry, plum nose; tight, tasty, plum, berry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Calera

Calera’s Josh Jensen, who has been making artisanal Pinot from his unique spot since ’74, had to have been wearing the most eyecatching pants at the event. I always try to fit in a tasting of these wines, if Josh is present, as the Pinots are such unique expressions, and he often includes at least a couple of library wines for comparison, as he did here. The Pinot from the new vineyard, de Villiers, really stood out for me, followed by the other ’07s, Ryan and Mills. Benchmark alternative Cali Pinots for sure.

  • 2009 Calera Viognier – USA, California, Central Coast (8/23/2010)
    Apple, honeysuckle nose; apple, honeysuckle palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Calera Viognier – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Herbal, bay leaf nose; herbal, bay leaf palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast – USA, California, Central Coast (8/23/2010)
    Apple, lime nose; apple, lime palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Calera Chardonnay Mount Harlan – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Lime, apple nose; lime, apple palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Calera Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast (8/23/2010)
    Nice roses, red fruit nose; roses, red fruit palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Calera Pinot Noir de Villiers Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Ric raspberry, cherry nose; rich raspberry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Calera Pinot Noir Ryan Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Rich cherry, baked cherry nose; cherry, baked cherry, herbal palate; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Mineral, black cherry nose; mineral, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2000 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Brett, red fruit nose; earthy, red fruit, cinnamon palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 1997 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Mature, earthy, herbal, red fruit nose; mature, earthy, herbal, red fruit palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)

Carrefour

I was impressed by the Carrefour wines at last year’s FW, so decided to revisit them. The ’06s weren’t quite as strong as the ’05s I’d tasted the year before, but these are still good wines. I particularly liked the Pinot, from a vineyard planted in ’86 and ’87, and the Merlot.

Carter

This was Carter’s FW debut, and their wines were recommended by someone on the WineBerserkers board. The project was started in ’98 and now makes 1200 cases of Cabernet and Merlot. Both the ’07 Merlot and Cabs were showing well.

Cartograph

This was another FW debut, of a winery launched just last year by owner/winemaker Alan Baker with partner Serena Lourie. They are making 500 cases of Gewurz and Pinot. I found the Gewurz dry and tasty, and also enjoyed the Split Rock Pinot. The Two Pisces Pinot had a bit too much brett for me, and Alan was very honest in confirming what I was tasting there.

  • 2009 Cartograph Gewürztraminer – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice floral, roses nose; tasty, dry palate with good acidity; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Cartograph Pinot Noir Split Rock – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice tart cherry, raspberry nose; tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Cartograph Pinot Noir Two Pisces – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Brett, tart cherry nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish (88 pts.)

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena hadn’t been listed in the advance materials as a participant this year, so it was a nice surprise to see their table. These are always benchmark Napa Cabs, and the ’06 Estate was very good, as was the ’08 Chard.

Coastview

Coastview wines and the winemaker, Ian Brand, were a recent subject of one of my blog posts. I had already tasted through, and written about, most of what they were pouring at FW, so just tasted these two tank samples of their second label wine, which will both be excellent values when they are released. Ian is pictured below with his lovely bride Heather.

Core

I told Dave Corey I was disappointed in not having been able to get up to Core when I visited Santa Barbara with friends a few weeks back–his facility was very far north from where we were staying, and I just couldn’t get the gang to leave the beach on Sunday to drive all the way up there. It was good to be able taste through some of his many offerings here, as it had been awhile. Dave coaxes a lot of intense flavor out of his fruit, and the Grenache, Hard Core blend, Mourvedre and Crazy Eights, especially, all exhibited that quality. Enjoyable wines, as usual, at a wide price range, starting as low as $12. Dave and Becky now make 5,000 cases a year.

  • 2007 Core Grenache Santa Barbara County – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Big spicy cherry, berry nose; intense, spicy berry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Core Hard Core – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Big berry, boysenberry, black raspberry nose; tasty, berry, boysenberry, black raspberry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (37% Mourvedre, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Syrah, 4% Grenache) (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Core Mister Moreved Alta Mesa – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Green herb, black fruit, charcoal nose; intense green herb, black fruit, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (79% Mourvedre, 21% Grenache) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Turchi Malbec Santa Barbara Highlands Block 1 – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Big black fruit, charcoal nose; tasty, tart plum, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Kuyam 13 Moons Santa Barbara Highlands – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Tart black fruit nose; black fruit, licorice palate; medium finish (retails for $19) (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Core Crazy Eights – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Rich black plum, baking spice nose; black plum, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Corison

Cathy Corison is the owner/winemaker, and is currently making 2,000 cases a year. The ’07 was quite good, but it was also instructive to taste the ’98 and ’02 library selections they were pouring.

  • 1998 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Kronos Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Maturing, herbal, meaty nose; meaty, mature, tart cassis palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, licorice nose; black fruit, licorice, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Kronos Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Oct. 2010) – black fruit, berry nose; tight, tart black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Sept. 2010) – Nice herbal, black fruit, cassis nose; tight, but tasty, herbal, black fruit, cassis palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Cornerstone

I tried the Cornerstone line up because Craig Camp, one of the owners, is on WineBerserkers. The ’06 Howell Mountain was quite good. They’re making 5,000 cases a year, and Jeff Keene is the winemaker.

Corté Riva

Corté Riva is a project of winemaker Lawrence Cortez, longtime cellar master for Pride, that began in 2001. Corté Riva is particularly known for their rich and chocolatey Merlot, and the ’06 they were pouring did not disappoint in that respect. The Cab and Petite Sirah are good wines too. Current production is 2500 cases.

  • 2006 Corté Riva Cabernet Franc – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma (8/22/2010)
    Deep, plush black fruit, oak nose; ripe black fruit, espresso palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2006 Corté Riva Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, faint herbal, mint nose; rich black fruit, espresso palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Corté Riva Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, menthol nose; deep black fruit, menthol palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Corté Riva Petite Sirah – USA, California, North Coast (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, berry, oak nose; tight, tart black fruit, berry palate with grip; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Dashe

I was trying to minimize the amount of Zins I tasted at FW (I’m simply not a fan of the grape, although I respect the results from some of the best makers, like Ridge). I was intrigued enough, however, by past tastings of Michael Dashe’s L’Enfant Terrible bottlings, to want to check in just on those, rather than his whole line of Zins. The L’Enfants are aged in large older French oak barrels, and bottled with low SO2 levels. These are lighter bodied, food friendly wines, and the Grenache was quite good.

Demetria

I was intrigued by this producer’s wines at last year’s FW, which is why it ended up on my list again. They are making 5,000 cases a year with fruit from Santa Rita Hills and Santa Ynez Valley. The Chardonnay and red Rhone blend, Pantheon, were both very good.

  • 2008 Demetria Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/22/2010)
    Apple, citrus nose; peach, apple palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Demetria Cuvée Papou – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (8/22/2010)
    Tart apple, lemon, lanolin nose; soft, lanolin, citrus, mineral palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Demetria Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (8/22/2010)
    Brett nose; a little brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Demetria Pantheon – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice light black fruit, herbal nose; tart black fruit, pepper palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Diamond Terrace

I enjoyed these wines at Family Winemakers last year. Thomas Brown is the winemaker for Diamond Terrace, and Maureen and Hal Taylor, pictured below, are the owners. This project started in ’99 and currently makes only 500 cases. The ’07 Howell Mountain Cabernet was one of the best Cabs I tasted during the whole event.

  • 2007 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain (8/23/2010)
    Big berry, baked berry, plum nose; berry, baked berry, plum palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; tasty, deep berry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/23/2010)
    Berry, black fruit, plum, vanilla nose; tight, black fruit, plum, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Donum/Robert Stemmler

Donum Estate bottles both under the Donum label and a second label, Robert Stemmler. The Donum labeled wines were the superior offerings, especially the Carneros estate Pinot. Donum Estate produces 8,000 cases a year, and the winemaker is Kenneth Juhasz.

Dragonette

A few WineBerserkers posters recommended visiting Dragonette, which is how this producer, making its FW debut, ended up on my hit list. The owners and winemakers are the triumvirate of John and Steve Dragonette, and Brandon Sparks-Gillis, pictured below. I particularly liked the Syrah, with its bacon fat and smoky flavor. The Pinot Noir was quite rich and tasty too.

Ehret

Nick Goldschmidt is the winemaker for this project, founded in 2005 and making 1500 cases of wine based on grapes from Knights Valley. The two I tried were good; the last bottle of Syrah, unfortunately, was corked, so I didn’t get to try a good sample of that.

Field Recordings

I mentioned this producer in my blog report on a recent dinner at Luce Wine Restaurant, because that’s where I first tried one of their wines, the Chenin Blanc, and it got my attention. It was great to meet Andrew Jones (pictured left below), the energetic winemaker/owner behind this project, which was founded in ’05. The prices on these wines, ranging from $18 to $30, are very reasonable, and they all reflect a point of view. My favorites are the intense Petite Sirah, the “Chorus Effect” blend, and that unusual, very dry Chenin Blanc. The label graphics and presentation are very interesting too. What a welcome new voice from the Central Coast.

Fog Crest

Fog Crest makes 1500 cases a year. James Manoogian is the owner and Daniel Moore the winemaker. The estate Pinot was particularly good, but the whole line up was solid.

  • 2008 Fog Crest Vineyard Chardonnay LAGUNA WEST – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pear nose; pear, apple palate; medium finish (12 mos. in neutral oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Fog Crest Vineyard Chardonnay Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pear, lemon curd nose; very tasty pear, lemon curd palate with balance; medium-plus finish (18 mos. in oak, 50% new French) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Fog Crest Pinot Noir LAGUNA WEST – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Cherry, incense nose; tasty, cherry, spice, incense palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Fog Crest Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Deep black cherry, black raspberry nose; deep black cherry, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Fortress

Nils Venge is the winemaker for Fortress. They launched in ’04, and are currently making 8,000 cases a year. The sweet wines, Novateur and Finale, were both very good.

  • 2008 Fortress Petite Sirah Red Hills Lake County – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County (8/23/2010)
    Nice tart black fruit, smoke nose; tart black fruit, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (20 mos. in oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Fortress Novateur – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County (8/23/2010)
    Tart apricot nose; apricot, tart peach palate; long finish 92+ pts. (70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc; 12 mos. in neutral French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Fortress Sémillon Finale – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County (8/23/2010)
    From 375 ml – creme brulee, apricot nose; rich, creme brulee, apricot palate; long finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Frostwatch

Brett Raven is owner and winemaker at Frostwatch. These are intriguing wines, and I enjoyed them at last year’s FW. The Chards are particularly strong. They’re making 900 cases a year, with a reasonable price range of $21 to $38.

  • 2009 Frostwatch Kismet – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lovely pear, apricot nose; tasty, apricot, pear palate with good acidity; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Frostwatch Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lovely floral, honeysuckle, apple nose; floral, honeysuckle, apple palate; medium-plus finish (indigenous yeast; 6 mos. malo; 43% new French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Frostwatch Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (releasing in 2 mos.) – nice apple, citrus nose; apple, citrus palate; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Frostwatch Merlot – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice plum, berry nose; tasty, tart plum, berry, black fruit palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (2 years in barrel) (91 pts.)

Hanzell

Hanzell is a benchmark California Chardonnay, also one of the most potentially long aging domestic Chards, and the ’08 they poured was the best Chardonnay at this event. Wonderful juice. The new second label offering, Sebella, was also good. Weakest was the ’07 Pinot, which did not show any better than it did at Pinot Days.

  • 2008 Hanzell Chardonnay Sebella – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Citrus, tart apple nose; tasty, citrus, tart apple palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Hanzell Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice mineral, tart apple, citrus nose; tasty, tight, tart apple, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Hanzell Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Herbal, forest floor, pine nose; tight, tart red fruit, pine palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (about 15% whole cluster) (90 pts.)

Hearthstone

This was Hearthstone’s debut at FW. They make 1400 cases a year, and the winemaker is Paul Ayers. This was a good line up, and the Pinot and Grenache were particularly good.

Hestan

Hestan makes 6000 cases a year. The wines were okay–best was the ’06 Cabernet.

Ispiri

This was a FW deput, and Alan Baker of Cartograph recommended trying them. The ’07 Cab was particularly good.

  • 2007 Ispiri Wines Maylena – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Cassis, plum, menthol nose; tasty, poised, cassis, plum palate with integrated oak; medium finish (88% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon; 50% new French oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Ispiri Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice berry, plum, menthol nose; tasty, berry, plum, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (w/10% Merlot) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Ispiri Wines Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (bottled 6 days earlier) – tart red fruit nose; tasty, tart red fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (50% new French oak) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Ispiri Wines Pinot Noir Corona Creek – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (bottled 6 days prior) – major menthol, cherry nose; menthol, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)

JC Cellars

JC Cellars’s line up was good, but not as strong as prior years. Jeff Cohn is the winemaker/owner.

Jemrose

Michael Browne, of Kosta Browne, is the winemaker for Jemrose, and this was a strong line up, as it was at last year’s FW. They are currently making 1400 cases a year. Best of all was the ’07 Syrah Cardiac Hill.

  • 2009 Jemrose Viognier Egret Pond – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice apple, peach nose; very tasty, apple, peach palate; medium finish (stainless steel and neutral French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Jemrose Grenache Foggy Knoll – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, berry nose; tart black fruit, berry palate; medium finish (w/5% Viognier) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Jemrose Syrah Cardiac Hill Bennett Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit nose; tasty, tart black fruit, bacon fat palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (30% whole cluster, 20% new French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, black plum nose; poised, tasty, black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (55% Syrah, 45% Merlot) (92 pts.)

Jones Family

Thomas Rivers Brown is the winemaker for Jones Family, and the ’07 Cab was particularly strong. They make 1,000 cases a year.

  • 2007 Jones Family The Sisters – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black raspberry, berry nose; tight, black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Reticent black fruit nose; tight, tart black fruit, berry palate with grip, needs 7 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Justin

Justin makes very good reds from Paso Robles, but I found this line up weaker than usual for them. They produce 50,000 cases a year.

  • 2007 Justin Vineyard Justification – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, plum, oak nose; black fruit, plum, oak palate; medium finish (65% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Justin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, black plum nose; deep black plum, black fruit palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Justin Vineyard Savant – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Oak, black fruit nose; oak, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (62% Syrah, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec) (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Justin Vineyard Isosceles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; deep black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Justin Vineyard Obtuse (Traditional) – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Eucalyptus, menthol nos;e berry, menthol, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Kent Rasmussen

I enjoyed Kent Rasmussen’s wines at last year’s FW, and wanted to try them again this year. The ’07 Cab and ’07 Petite Sirah were among the best wines of the weekend, and the whole line up was strong. Kent Rasmussen is the owner, along with Celia Ramsay, and winemaker, and they’re making 20,000 cases annually.

Krupp Brothers

I enjoyed this line up at last year’s FW, and these continue to be wines with a point of view and memorable packaging. My favorite was the ’07 Syrah.

L’Aventure

L’Aventure is a benchmark Paso Robles producer for me, but I found these ’08 bottlings to be significantly weaker than prior vintages.

  • 2008 L’Aventure Côte-à-Côte Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Baked berry, oak, herbal nose; deep berry, oak, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 L’Aventure Estate Cuvée – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Nice plum black fruit, French oak nose; berry, vanilla, oak, ripe plum palate; medium-plus finish (50% Syrah, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)

Ladd Cellars

Eric Lundblad, owner/winemaker of Ladd Cellars, is a buddy, and I tasted through his Pinots at Pinot Days, with the exception of this Moore Ranch Pinot. I was quite impressed. Eric is making 650 cases a year, from grapes sourced from Russian River and the Sonoma Coast.

Lagier Meredith

Stephen Lagier is the winemaker, and his partner Carole Meredith is the emeritus Davis professor responsible for identifying the parentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Zinfandel, among other accomplishments. I always look forward to trying their Syrahs, which are among the best in California. The Chester’s Anvil project is in conjunction with Aaron and Claire Pott of Pott Wine. The Chester’s Anvil Pinot is quite good, as is the blend Hattorai Hanzo. The ’08 Lagier Meredith Syrah is also quite good, if tight, as usual, at this stage.

  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Pott Chardonnay Chester’s Anvil – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Nice apple, lemon nose; apple, peach palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Syrah Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (8/22/2010)
    Tasty tart plum, herbal palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Pott Pinot Noir Chester’s Anvil – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Nice black cherry, black raspberry nose; rich, tasty, black raspberry, black cherry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Lagier Meredith Syrah – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (8/22/2010)
    Pre-release (10/1/10 release) – deep tart black fruit, espresso, herbal nose; tight, tasty, tart black fruit espresso palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Lagier Meredith Pott Chester’s Anvil Hattori Hanzo – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Lovely, deep plum, berry, menthol nose; deep plum, berry, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (Merlot 32%, Syrah 24%, Cabernet Sauvignon 24%, Cabernet Franc 16%, Malbec 4%) (92 pts.)

Lamborn Family

Heidi Barret is the celebrity winemaker for Lamborn, founded in ’82, and the ’05 Cab is particularly impressive. They make 1600 cases a year.

Littorai

Ted Lemon founded Littorai in ’93, and his Chards and Pinots are benchmarks for more Burgundian (for lack of a better term) Chards and Pinots in California. The ’08 Charles Heintz is a lovely Chard, and the ’07 Savoy and Haven Pinots were very strong.

  • 2008 Littorai Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Light citrus, apple nose; citrus, apple palate with good acidity; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Littorai Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Nice citrus, pineapple nose; balanced, tart pineapple palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Littorai Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Nice cherry, rhubarb nose; tart cherry, raspberry, oak palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (8/23/2010)
    Tart cherry nose; tasty tart red fruit, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Littorai Pinot Noir The Haven – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Rich cherry, incense, baked cherry nose; tart cherry, red fruit palate, needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Lone Madrone

Tablas Creek’s Neil Collins is the winemaker/owner of Lone Madrone, which makes very affordable and approachable wines, produces an impressive range of whites, reds and blends. The best was the ’05 Tannat, probably the best Tannat made in California.

  • 2008 Lone Madrone La Mezcla Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Peach, nectarine nose; peach, herbal, mineral palate; medium finish (blend of Grenache Blanc and Albarino) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone Roussanne Points West Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Apple, oats nose; tasty, creamy textured, apple, citrus palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Lone Madrone La Mezcla Roja – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Carbonic maceration, herbal, nose; carbonic maceration, herbal, tart berry palate; short-medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone Zinfandel Bailey Ranch Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Berry, green herb nose; berry, green herb, charcoal palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Lone Madrone “Old Hat” Osgood Family Vineyard Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Deep berry, plum nose; berry, plum, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (78% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone Points West Red – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Mineral, stone, black fruit nose; tight, tart berry black fruit palate with depth; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (2/3s Syrah, 1/3 Mourvedre; some Hungarian oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone The Will Will’s Hills – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Berry, black fruit, herb, bay leaf nose; berry, black fruit herb, bay leaf palate; medium-plus finish (41% Grenache, 40% Petite Sirah, 19% Zinfandel) (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Lone Madrone Tannat Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, tar nose; black fruit, tar, cherry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Macauley

Kirk Venge is the winemaker for Macauley which produces only 700 cases from Napa and Alexander Valley. The owner, Mac Watson, is pictured below. I particularly enjoyed the ’07 Zin, the ’07 Cab, the ’07 Beckstoffer To-Kalon Cab, and the ’07 late harvest Semillon.

  • 2009 Macauley Sauvignon Vert – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lime, citrus nose; tangy, tart citrus, lime palate; medium finish (stainless steel and neutral oak; old vine Sauvignon Vert) (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Berry, chocolate nose; berry, chocolate, caramel palate; medium-plus finish (83.4% Zinfandel, 16.6% Petite Sirah) (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Brett, cedar nose; plum, cedar palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice black fruit, plum, vanilla nose; tasty, black fruit, plum, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; deep black fruit, berry palate with grip; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry, tar nose; deep black fruit, berry, tar palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Sémillon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Very nice coconut, confectioner’s sugar nose; coconut, creme brulee, apricot, spice palate; long finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Mantra

Mantra was founded in 2000, and Michael Kuimelis, Jr., is the winemaker/owner. This was a good showing, especially the two ’07 Cabs.

  • 2007 Mantra Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County (8/23/2010)
    Cassis, berry nose; tasty cassis, cedar palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Mantra Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Deep berry, black fruit nose; tight, tasty, berry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Mantra Syrah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Smoke, roasted black fruit nose; smoke, black fruit, charcoal palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)

Mauritson

Mauritson makes 9,000 cases a year from Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile and Sonoma County. Clay Mauritson is the owner/winemaker. This was a good line up, especially the ’07 Buck Pasture blend.

Mercy

Alan Philips is the winemaker for Mercy, which was launched in ’08, and is now making 3,000 cases a year. The lineup is good, especially the ’08 Chard Zabala Vineyard.

Navarro

Navarro is a benchmark producer from Anderson Valley, and regularly makes one of the best Gewürzes in the state. The ’08 is terrific, and the ’07 l’Ancienne Pinot is quite good too. It was a treat to try the ’06 Late Harvest Gewürz as well.

Outpost

Thomas Brown is the winemaker for Outpost, and these are usually very good Grenaches, Cabs and Petite Sirahs. I was less excited by the results this year, but the Zin was quite good.

  • 2008 Outpost Grenache – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, berry nose; good, baked berry palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Outpost Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/22/2010)
    Rich berry, black fruit nose; berry black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Pahlmeyer

Jason Pahlmeyer is the owner of this company, and the winemaker is Erin Green. They make 20,000 cases a year and the wines, especially the Proprietary Red, are quite good.

  • 2008 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice apple nose; apple, oak palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pencil lead, black fruit nose; tasty, black fruit, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish (81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec) (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Pahlmeyer Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, charcoal nose; black fruit, charcoal palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Paloma

Barbara Richards soldiers on at Paloma since the passing of her husband. and her 1850 cases of Merlot from the project they started in ’94 continue to be one of the best Merlots made in California. The ’07 was very good.

  • 2007 Paloma Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Berry, black fruit nose; tasty, black fruit, berry, eucalyptus palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Parallel

Internationally famous consultant/flying winemaker Philippe Melka is the winemaker at Parallel. I’d enjoyed the wines at last year’s FW, and they showed well again this year.

Paul Hobbs

Paul Hobbs is a legendary California winemaker. Crossbarn is a label he founded in ’91. They’re good, and well priced wines, but the Paul Hobbs label is stronger, and the ’07 Paul Hobbs Cab is particularly good.

Peju Province

Peju goes back to ’82, and makes 35,000 cases a year. These were good wines, especially the ’06 Cabernet.

Peter Paul

My buddy Michael Carpenter suggested I’d be surprised by these wines, and I was. The Chard was very strong, but the Pinots were good too. This project was launched in ’08 by owner Jessica Paul, with Daniel Moore and Jeff Morgan as winemakers. They’re making 2500 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot.

  • 2008 Peter Paul Wines Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice, leesy, apple nose; tasty, apple, peach palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Smoke, cherry nose; smoke, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Hill Station Road – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Cherry, black cherry nose; tasty cherry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Portfolio Limited Edition

This project was founded in 2000 by owners/winemakers Genevieve and Luc Janssens. They’re making only 250 cases a year of Cab, priced at $125.

  • 2006 Portfolio Limited Edition – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Big black fruit, baked black fruit, espresso nose; black fruit, baked black fruit, espresso palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc; 100% new French oak) (92 pts.)

Robert Biale

Robert Biale is known for its Zins and Syrahs. This was a particularly strong line up.The ’08 Monte Rosso Zin was over the top. Great wines.

Robert Keenan

Keenan has a long tradition, since 1974, and currently produces 11,000 cases. The ’07 Cab Franc is particularly good.

Rock Wall

This is the Rosenblum Family project, since they sold Rosenblum, with Shauna Rosenblum as winemaker. They are making 5,000 cases. The Riesling was the best of their line up at FW.

Roessler

Wells Guthrie, winemaker/owner of Copain, is the winemaker here, along with Scott Shapley. Richard and Roger Roessler are the owners. They are making 7500 cases per year. The results are good but not spectacular.

  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir Griffin’s Lair – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Spicy cherry, red fruit nose; spicy cherry, oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (8/23/2010)
    Spicy cherry, berry nose; spicy cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir Peregrine – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (8/23/2010)
    Big cherry, spice, oak nose; cherry, spice, oak palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir Bluejay – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (8/23/2010)
    Oak, cherry nose; oak, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Rosati

Zelma Long is the consulting winemaker to this project, founded in ’87, making 900 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon a year from southern Mendocino County.

Saxon-Brown

Jeff Gaffner is the owner/winemaker of Saxon Brown, which was launched in ’97. The Syrah was particularly good.

Sensorium

Jeff Ritchey is the winemaker/owner of this project that has been making wines since ’02, amounting to 900 cases this year. They’re good wines across the board.

Sequum

Paul Skinner is winemaker/owner at Sequum, which is producing 550 cases, since 2002. This was a very strong line up. The ’07 Cabernet Four Soil Melange was particularly impressive.

Sojourn

Erich Bradley, winemaker, and Craig Haserot are partners in Sojourn. I taste these wines regularly, as Craig and Erich are buddies. I sampled the Cabs again, and the ’07s continue to be impressive.

Sol Rouge

Bryan Kane is the winemaker/owner of Sol Rouge, which was launched in ’05, and produces 1200 cases a year. It’s a high vine density, hillside project in the Mayacamas Mountains. The ’06 Cabernet Reserve was particularly good, but the wines are quite good across the board.

  • 2007 Sol Rouge Viognier – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Floral, honeysuckle nose; peach, honeysuckle palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Sol Rouge The Gypsy Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Lime, floral nose; lime, chalk palate; medium finish (blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Sol Rouge Rosé – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Berry nose; dullish berry palate; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge The Gypsy – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Deep berry, raspberry nose; tart berry, raspberry palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Sol Rouge Mourvedre – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Big berry, plum, black fruit nose; tasty black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Sol Rouge Syrah Lake County – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, nose; tart black fruit, herbal, pepper palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice berry, eucalyptus nose; tight, tasty, berry, eucalyptus palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, herbal nose; black fruit, black raspberry, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Mayacamas Mountain – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/22/2010)
    Nice, rich, black fruit, berry, herbal nose; very good, black fruit, berry, herbal palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Stage Left

Stage Left started in ’04, and currently produces 1200 cases a year. The line up was generally good, with the Petite Sirah being the best of all.

  • 2008 Stage Left Cellars The Go Getter – USA, California, Central Coast (8/22/2010)
    Apple, floral nose; tasty, peach, cream floral palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (63% Viognier, 32% Grenache Blanc, 5% Roussanne) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Stage Left Cellars Syrah The Scenic Route – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, herbal nose; herbal, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Stage Left Cellars Grenache – USA, California, Central Coast (8/22/2010)
    Big berry, chocolate nose; cherry, berry, chocolate, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (92% Grenache, 8% Mourvedre) (90 pts.)
  • 2005 Stage Left Cellars Grenache – USA, California, Central Coast (8/22/2010)
    Rich berry, chocolate, baking spice nose; tasty, berry, chocolate, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Stage Left Cellars Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep berry, blackberry, vanilla nose; tasty, black fruit, berry palate with depth; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Tablas Creek

Tablas Creek is a benchmark Paso Robles producer. The ’08s are not as strong as prior vintages, but these are always very well made wines. The ’06 Syrah and ’08 Esprit were particularly good.

  • 2009 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Apple, green fruit nose; green apple, mineral palate; medium finish (42% Viognier, 26% Roussanne, 21% Marsanne, 11% Grenache Blanc) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Lime, chalk nose; tasty, tart apple, tart peach, green fruit palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Berry, black fruit nose; tasty, tart berry, black fruit palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Tablas Creek Syrah – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; black fruit palate with green notes; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Nice black fruit, plum, berry nose; tasty, tart berry, plum palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (38% Mourvedre, 32% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 6% Counoise) (91 pts.)

Thomas George

Thomas George was making their FW debut. They were founded in ’08, by owner Jeremy Baker with winemaker Chris Russi, making 9,000 cases. The Pinot Lancel Creek is particularly good.

Titus

These were very nice wines. Philip Titus is the winemaker, and partners with brother Eric as owner. They are producing 10,000 cases, and started back in 1990. The Petite Sirah is particularly impressive and tasty.

  • 2007 Titus Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Olive, herbaceous nose; solid, tasty, herbaceous, olive palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Herbal, tart black fruit nose; tart black fruit, herbal palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lovely, deep, tart black fruit, espresso, herbal nose; deep tart black fruit, espresso, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Titus Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Bright, herbal, black fruit nose; tasty, deep black fruit, herbs palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Turley

Turley is usually represented at Family Winemakers, but normally they only pour one wine. This year it was two, and both were very good, but the Petite Sirah Hayne was terrific. I enjoyed tasting through a complete vertical of the Petite Hayne a few years back, and this is a worthy successor to the line of great Petites from this vineyard.

  • 2008 Turley Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/22/2010)
    Nice, poised, tart berry, black fruit nose; tasty, tart berry, espresso palate with depth; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Turley Petite Sirah Hayne Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (8/22/2010)
    Opaque purple red violet color; lovely, rich, boysenberry, dark chocolate nose; tasty, tight, tart berry, blackberry, chocolate palate with balance; long finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Valdez Family

Ulises and Adelina Valdez started this project in 2004, with Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars acting as consultant winemaker. They make 3500 cases a year. The ’07 Landy Vineyard Zin was the best of what they were pouring, but it was a good line up overall.

Villa Creek

Villa Creek wasn’t even listed in the program, but it was listed in the advance materials as a debuting producer this year at FW, and I’d enjoyed some of their wines in the past. The Grenache was one of the best Cali Grenaches I’ve had in awhile. The Willow Creek and Avenger blends were also strong.

  • 2008 Villa Creek Garnacha Denner Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Big berry, plum nose; tasty, berry, plum palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Villa Creek La Boda – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, oak nose; black fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish (50/50 Grenache/Mourvedre) (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Villa Creek Willow Creek Cuvée – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry, herbal nose; deep black fruit, berry, herbal palate; medium-plus finish (50% Denner Vyd Grenache, 25% James Berry Syrah, 25% Denner Mourvedre) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Villa Creek Avenger – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry, licorice nose; tasty, black fruit, berry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (75% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache) (91 pts.)

VITUS

VITUS was another debuting producer at FW, founded by Fred Hearn and winemaker John Gilpin in ’05. They make 900 cases a year. The ’07 Cabernet was the best of their offerings, a major step up from the ’06 edition.

  • 2007 VITUS Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll (8/23/2010)
    Nice tart plum nose; plum palate with poise; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 VITUS Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Plum, berry nose; plush plum, berry palate; medium-plus finish (with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)
  • 2006 VITUS Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, plum nose; black fruit, plum palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (with Merlot and Cab Franc) (88 pts.)

Westerhold

Russell Bevan, pictured below on the right, is the winemaker for this new project, started by John Westerhold and Sharon Bauman in ’07. Russell is known for fashioning rich and intensely flavored wines, and this ’07 Syrah was another delicious addition to his growing portfolio. I was especially delighted by the pepper note on this rich and deep Syrah.

Yorba

This was my first time tasting these wines from a project started by the Kraemer Family in 2003. Ann Kraemer is the viticulturalist for Ken Bernards, of Ancien, so Ken makes the wines for Ann, who was a delight to meet. The line up was strong, especially the Syrah and Tempranillo (one of the best Cali Tempranillos I’ve tried). They’re currently making 1600 cases, and the price range is $26 to $38.

  • 2007 Yorba Barbera – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/23/2010)
    Herbal, plum nose; tart plum, herbal palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Yorba Zinfandel – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; tasty, tart black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (82% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah) (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Yorba Syrah – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, chocolate nose; tasty, tart black fruit, tart chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Yorba Tempranillo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/22/2010)
    Spicy berry nose; tasty, spicy berry palate with depth; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano) (92 pts.)

York Creek

I’ve enjoyed York Creek’s wines, made by owner Fritz Maytag, in the past. These were again quite good, especially the ’04 Petit Verdot bottling and the ’05 “Port.”

  • 2006 York Creek Vineyards Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, espresso nose; black fruit, espresso, dark chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 York Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, coffee nose; tasty, black fruit, coffee palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 York Creek Vineyards MXB – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Berry, black fruit, coffee nose; berry, black fruit, coffee palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2004 York Creek Vineyards Petit Verdot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, graphite nose; tart black fruit, graphite palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2005 York Creek Vineyards Port – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma (8/22/2010)
    Port, berry, caramel nose; big, rich, berry, chocolate palate with depth and complexity; long finish (93 pts.)

2007 Meursault Tasting: Matrot, Girardin, Ente, Lafon

August 27, 2010

2007 MEURSAULT TASTING: MATROT, GIRARDIN, ENTE, LAFON – Vin Vino Wine, Palo Alto, California (8/20/2010)


Rebecca, Dan and Brenda at VVW

I should have one of my major reports of the year, on the two-day Family Winemakers tasting this past Sunday and Monday in San Francisco, completed and posted sometime this weekend. In the meantime, I enjoyed this recent tasting of ’07 vintage Meursaults at VVW.

From this tasting of seven wines from four different producers, I got a sense that this is a very good vintage for Meursault, even if the results from one producer–Thierry et Pascale Matrot–confirmed problems with premature oxidation at that house that I’ve experienced with their Meursaults from other recent vintages–’05 and ’06. The ’06 Matrot Les Chevalières I tasted last year was already severely oxidized, and this ’07 was somewhat prematurely oxidized, and the Charmes was not much better. I question whether the Matrots are practicing too much batonage, which they refer to on their website without giving details as to how much with each wine.

The Girardin Meursaults we tasted covered three of his seven Meursault bottlings, including his one Domaine vineyard, Les Narvaux. All three were quite good, especially Les Charmes-Dessus. My other favorite wine of the tasting was the highly structured Comtes Lafon Clos de la Barre, although this is a power-packed Meursault that needs some serious aging, at least 5 to 7 years. The Girardins are fairly approachable already, and should be quite lovely with two to three years of aging. The Ente Meursault also showed well for a village bottling, albeit a little tight yet.


  • 2007 Thierry et Pascale Matrot Meursault Les Chevalières – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Light golden yellow color; a little oxidized, butter, mineral, applesauce nose; tart lemon, citrus, mineral palate with near medium acidity; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Vincent Girardin Meursault Les Tillets – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Bright lemon yellow color; fresh lemon, citrus, vanilla nose; tight, citrus, mineral, gunpowder palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine Vincent Girardin Meursault Les Narvaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Light lemon yellow color; deep ripe lemon, citrus, orange nose; tasty, poised, focused, lemon, citrus palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Arnaud Ente Meursault – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Light yellow color; oak, vanilla, almond nose; tight, ripe lemon, citrus, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Thierry et Pascale Matrot Meursault 1er Cru Charmes – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    Butter yellow color; reduction, apple cider, apple butter nose; hazelnut, apple, apple cider palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Vincent Girardin Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes-Dessus – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    Light yellow color; poised, vanilla, cream nose; tasty, tight, tart citrus, lemon, vanilla palate, which should integrate with time; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Light yellow color; reticent, vaguely floral, mineral, white pepper nose; tight, tart white fruit, white peach, mineral palate, needs 5-plus years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Adventures in Wine Pairing Part III: Tale of Two Tasting Menus

August 23, 2010

Richard, Sharon, Tim and Traci at Quince

I like to do tasting menus with wine pairings at some of our better restaurants, as I typically learn something from an inspired pairing. One of the things I learned from these two recent restaurant visits–to San Francisco’s Quince and Luce Restaurants–is that the City has a hot sweet wine for the summer and its name is Brachetto. Yes, the aromatic light red grape from the Piedmont, which produces sweet, raspberry and berry flavored wines, sometimes with fizz, as in Brachetto d’Acqui, seems to be the “it” wine of summer this year. It paired well with our delicious blackberry souffle at Quince as well as with our cumin peach yogurt mousse at Luce Wine Restaurant. In neither case did our Brachettos, a NV Malvira Birbet at Luce and ’09 Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui at Quince, have more than a short-medium finish, and the alcohol was a sobering 4.5% to 5.5%. Both brought light, refreshing berry flavor and balance to the end of the meal.

Here’s an account of both tasting menus, and how well our wines paired, starting with Christianne’s pre-birthday dinner, where we all had the Summer Tasting Menu, at Quince.

QUINCE SUMMER TASTING MENU W/WINE PAIRINGS FOR CHRISTIANNE’S BIRTHDAY – Quince Restaurant, San Francisco, California (8/13/2010)

pre-dinner Champagnes at Sharon and Tim’s

We started the evening by gathering at Sharon and Tim’s place for some pre-dinner bubbly: three very nice grower Champagnes. Our dinner reservations weren’t until 8:45 pm, so we had a chance to get together and visit in a very relaxed setting first. My favorite of the Champagnes was the very complex and elegant Pierre Peters Les Chétillons, that producer’s tete de cuvee, but all three of them showed very well.

Our three elegant human bubblies: Sharon, Traci and Christianne

1st course

When we got to Quince, Christianne had a choice of two tasting menus–the Summer or Chef’s–because the rule there is that everyone at the same table has to have the same menu. Christianne went with the Summer Menu, drawn in part, I think, by the suckling pig dish. With this decision down, we then quizzed the sommelier about the wine pairings. They generally sounded good, but we didn’t like the idea of a young Barolo with our suckling pig course, so found an older red Burg on the menu that we thought would fill this role better. We also ended up substituting the Pibarnon Rose for the original rose planned.

After an amuse of persimmon tomato gazpacho with cucumber and diced melon came this attractive first course, steamed scallop in squash blossom with three sauces, including nasturtium sauce. It paired decently with the Muscadet, which was good and minerally on its own, but a rounder white Burg, especially Meursault, probably would have been a more suitable pairing.

2nd course

Our second course was a squid ink spaghetti “alla chitarra” pasta with Santa Barbara sea urchin. It paired very well with the Pibarnon Rosé, which had the right amount of acidity to cut through the pasta, and soft red and orange fruit flavors that echoed the sea urchin.

  • 2009 Château de Pibarnon Bandol Rosé – France, Provence, Bandol
    Light orange pink color; tart cantaloupe, chalk nose; tart, dry cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, mineral, tart green tangerine palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (good pairing with squid ink pasta w/Santa Barbara sea urchin) (91 pts.)

3rd course

The third course was tortelloni with black prince tomato, eggplant and burrata cheese. The Occhipinti Frappato was a flavorful and inspired pairing with this. Traci liked the wine so much, she tracked down and bought some bottles the next day.

  • 2007 Arianna Occhipinti Vittoria Il Frappato Sicilia IGT – Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; ripe cranberry, tart berry, mineral, hibiscus, floral, herbal nose; tasty, tart red berry, ripe cranberry, mineral, blood orange, hibiscus palate with grip; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

4th course

The main course was a complex construction that included suckling pig, a filling of chanterelle and artichoke, crispy trotter and onion flan. We substituted this ’00 Arnoux for the ’03 Barolo called for on the wine pairing menu on the theory that this Burgundy would be much more drinkable, and would pair fine with the dish, which it did. The Arnoux Les Chaumes itself was quite tasty, from a vintage–’00–which has been drinking well for at least a couple of years already.

dessert course

We ended the meal, following a palate cleanser peach sorbet with red wine granita, with this lovely blackberry souffle with blackberry sorbet. The Brachetto d’Acqui’s bubbles also helped clear the palate, and its berry flavor went just fine with the light, berry flavored souffle.

  • 2009 Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui Pineto – Italy, Piedmont, Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG
    Bright cranberry red color; red berry, Italian soda nose; cherry, herbal, red berry, almond, Italian soda palate; short-medium finish (89 pts.)


Paul, Christianne, Al and Anu

LUCE IRON CHEF YOGURT-THEMED DINNER W/WINE PAIRINGS – Luce Wine Restaurant (8/18/2010)

Chef Dominique Crenn beat Michael Symon on Iron Chef America in a contest aired August 12, 2010, in which yogurt was the secret ingredient. Her five-course tasting menu inspired by the show is featured at her restaurant, Luce, this month, and we did the wine pairings. My buddy, Luce’s wine steward John Wight, did our pairings, with some consultation from us on the red wine with the squab course (we were concerned that his original pick, a young Barolo, would overpower the squab, but we needn’t have been so concerned, as it was a very flavorful squab that stood up well to the Lagrein we picked, and would probably have handled the Barolo as well).

One of John’s most interesting picks was the ’08 Field Recordings Chenin Blanc from their Jurassic Vineyard. I hadn’t tried any of this producer’s wines before, but was quite struck by this high acid, food friendly wine, and made a point to check out the producer at Family Winemakers in San Francisco this past weekend. I’ll have more to say about them in my upcoming post on the big event. John’s other picks were all good too, and all had the additional virtue of not being very expensive either. Bravo!


Chef Dominique Crenn and Christianne

arctic char with char mousse amuse

yogurt verjus sorbet with cucumber consomme and shaved honey

Our first wine, with the amuse and consomme was a very aromatic and minerally Vermentino di Sardegna, which had terrific acidity and enough interest to carry me through the consomme dish, which was the least successful and complex of the dishes in this tasting menu.

yogurt in a summer vegetable garden

This was a very well composed dish with a variety of interesting textures, owing in part to the dehydrated vegetable flakes at the base of the dish, and to the yogurt croquette. The minerally Australian Riesling, with its camphor nose and good acidity, brought further interest and green notes to the dish.

  • 2007 Lengs & Cooter Riesling Watervale – Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Watervale
    Light green tinged yellow color; camphor, petrol, mineral nose; very dry, minerally, tangy green fruit, green tomato palate; medium finish (92 pts.)

divers scallops with quinoa, yogurt cubes, melon and micro greens

This was another dish with good textures, although the scallops were not as flavorful as I would have hoped. The Chenin Blanc definitely added another level of interest to the dish, and its high acidity cut through the creaminess of the yogurt cubes.

  • 2008 Field Recordings Wine Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Slightly cloudy light yellow color; rounded, yellow apple, ripe lemon, mineral nose; dry, creamy textured, tart lemon, citrus, mineral palate, very intriguing; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

yogurt crepe, squab and eggplant caponata

This was a very flavorful squab, probably the best dish of an interesting menu. The Lagrein went fine with it, but some of the flavorful southern Italians John was suggesting would probably have been very nice pairings as well.

cumin peach yogurt mousse with rose hibiscus broth

Now we get to the second Brachetto d’Acqui in less than a week. This one didn’t have quite the same level of fizz as our BdA at Quince, but it was equally flavorful and a refreshing pairing with our yogurt crisp, peach yogurt and rose hibiscus foam.

After the meal, John brought us a couple of glasses of grappa from the grappa-themed 888 Bar next door to Luce (both are housed in the InterContinetal Hotel on Howard Street). This was one of the more complex and interesting grappas I’ve tried.

  • N.V. Malvira’ Brachetto d’Acqui Birbét – Italy, Piedmont, Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG
    Dark cranberry red color; black currant, blackberry nose; frizzante, tasty, blackberry, currant, raspberry, herb palate; short-medium finish (89 pts.)
  • N.V. B. Nardini Grappa Tagliatella – Italy, Veneto
    Light cranberry red color; anise, almond, cherry liqueur, Italian wedding cookie nose; complex, anise, cherry liqueur, raspberry palate; long finish (92 pts.)


Richard, Tom, Christianne and Paul