Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Balanced Zinfandel?

Recently, I hosted my wine club. The theme I choose was Zinfandel. I put in several of what I consider the best zinfandels on the market. We had 18 of them. At about the half way mark I was saying to myself, “Do I like Zin anymore?” Now I don’t often “say” to myself, so this made me ponder. As an aside, is pondering the same as “saying” to oneself? All of the wines seemed heavy and finished with a lash of alcohol. The technical term I used was “out of wack.”

The wines were all monolithic without much balance. Then I came to a wine that stood out for its lack of boldness. This wine had ample fruit; notes of pepper maybe even cedar. The finish was smooth, fruity and intense, but lacking the pungent taste of alcohol. Dare I say the wine was balance? I dare. Dare I say a Zinfandel was refined? Yes, I do dare.

This was the type of wine that Zinfandel use to be, before the alcohol levels were driven through the roof. It was a ripe tasting wine, without tasting like prunes or raisins. Could this be a return to the past in Zinfandel making? I hope so. (Cue the Back to Future music by Huey Lewis.)

The wine?

Dashe Dry Creek Zinfandel 2009. I f you see it, buy it, try it, then thank me!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Great Pinot

The Williams Selyem 1995 Rochioli is the best California Pinot Noir I have ever had.

More to come

Monday, May 31, 2010

June VIP wines

McManis Petite Sirah 2008

The color of the 2008 Petite Sirah is of concentrated purple, with a youthful bright hue. The nose of the wine is full of ripe blackberry, boysenberry aromas, which are accompanied by mocha and hints of brown sugar. The berry aromas of the nose are also evident in the flavor, when the rich, full bodied wine enters the mouth. Notes of milk chocolate and anise linger, long after swallowing.

Nekeas Vega SInda Viura/Chardonnay 2008

Nekeas Vega Sinda Viura /Chardonnay – This wine is created in the northern most growing region of Navarra, is a crisp, refreshing white that beautifully melds the best of both grapes. Viura, comprising 75% of the blend, lends bright green apple, hints of flower petal, and a zippy acidity. Chardonnay contributes body and complexity, resulting in a white that is both casual and structured.

Tarima Monastrell 2009

This is the first vintage of this wine; the 2009 Tarima is 100% Monastrell sourced from 25-35 year old vines and raised in stainless steel with lees stirring. Medium crimson-colored, the nose reveals fragrant blueberries and underbrush. Firm on the palate with plenty of savory fruit, it is meant for drinking over the next 3 years.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tried and True

Hmm, I wonder what this article is all about. A pretty unsubtle title.
So often we find ourselves chasing the hot “new” thing, we forget about the guys who’ve consistently been making great wine year in and year out. One of these consistent producers is Saintsbury.

David Graves and Richard Ward founded Saintsbury in 1981 and released their first Carneros Pinot in 1982. It was not long before the accolades began rolling in. For almost 30 years they have specialized in making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Saintsbury became the name in the history of Carneros Pinot, these guys put it on the map.

Their style is more Burgundy then Central Coast. Their Pinot Noir tastes like Pinot Noir not Syrah (that is a subtle dig at some “Pinot” producers. Ok maybe not so subtle). There is a harmony to all their wines. These are not wines that scream, these are wines that sing. If you are looking for a mouth full of tannins then Saintsbury is not for you. If you are looking for elegance and balance then give Saintsbury a try.

Are they the newest producer on the block? No, but they are one of the best. Many people are looking for brands in this market. Well there is not a better brand in Carneros Pinot then Saintsbury.

The Current release of the Carneros Pinot is the 2007. This is an exceptional wine, from an exceptional vintage. This wine is all about rich, fruit flavors, I picked up black cherries and strawberries. There is some spice, a hint of cedar, followed by a nice long, flavorful finish. The wine is beautiful balanced. This is what a Carneros Pinot should be.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Three Chards for you

What should I talk about this week? How about Chardonnay?

At this time California Chardonnays are going through an evolution. Winemakers are dialing back on the oak a bit, and letting the Chardonnay fruit show through. A few tasty ones to consider are MaCrostie, Zaca Mesa, and Saintbury.

MaCrostie comes from the southern end of the Sonoma Valley, in the Carneros region. The Carneros region spans both Napa and Sonoma. It forms a crescent around the top of San Pablo Bay. This Chardonnay has a nice citrus note to go along with a kiss of oak. It is a very well balanced Chardonnay, with just the right amount of acidity.

Zaca Mesa is located in Santa Barbara County… I suppose, I should have written up the Sainstbury next. Why you ask? Because Saintsbury is located on the Napa side of Carneros. They are only a few miles apart. But I am a rebel and I will write up the Zaca Mesa next (Imagine the song “Born to be Wild,” playing as you read the above.). The Zaca Mesa Chard is showing a lemon- lime quality with hints of vanilla and coconut, coming from the American oak barrels the wine is aged in.

Saintsbury Chardonnay is the biggest of the three wines. Remember, we are back in the Carneros. It is the most buttery flavored, which means it spent the most time in oak barrels. The Napa side of the Carneros. This wine also contains citrus, and even a trace of pineapple flavors. Have this one with a meal.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Two to find

We have a couple of nice wines for you to try. The first is the White Knight Viognier (every time I say White Knight, I have the Jefferson Airplane going through my head. “The White Knight is talking backwards and the Red Queen”… now it is stuck in your head). This is an affordable Viognier, not something said about Viognier for the most part. The bouquet of the wine is redolent of flowers and honeysuckle (is honeysuckle a flower? If so, I am being redundant) even a hint of apricot. On the palate it converts these aromas into flavors that linger. I think you will like this wine as an aperitif or with light dishes. At $11 it is a great deal for this interesting varietal.

The next wine is Spanish red wine known as Wrongo Dongo. Now don’t ask me what that means, I have tried to get an explanation but have not got a good one. If anyone knows, let me know. Back to the wine. Wrongo Dongo (it does sound vaguely obscene) is a Mourvedre based wine. It has a rich raspberry character, a supple mid-palate and a long finish. A little tannin sneaks in on the finish. What more do you want for $9. For those of you who have purchased Wrongo Dongo in the past the label has changed. It no longer has that hideous yellow label.

“And remember what the doorman said”

Wine and Architecture

In this space you have been subjected to some of my rants on architecture. I have railed against Gehry’s Disney Center, as a building without context. I have compared Green & Green’s Gamble house, to a fine Pinot. The Gamble house is the antithesis of Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there is more there there, with the Gamble House.

If Frank Lloyd Wright had only created the liquid elegance of Falling Water he would have been heralded as a genius. But remember, he also created the bombastic Grady Gammage auditorium. I think my comparison to Grady was an overripe alcoholic Cabernet. One could say I am throwing rocks at a Nuetra house.

What does this have to do with wine? You can learn about a wine by looking at the winery. Let me explain. The wine Opus One is created in a large nouveau French Chateau set down in Napa Valley. The Chai is covered in marble. It seems like every surface is covered in marble. Everything about this winery is expensive, the wine is expensive. If the wine is expensive it must be good. Right? Well….

Just up the road from this palace of excess is ZD. ZD is in a simple two story building. It blends into the scenery. It does not try to overpower the site. The winery is located on the first floor. The building makes the statement of restraint. This is a family owned winery. This is a family enterprise that cares about what is in the bottle and the winery is a reflection of this.

Over the hill from Napa, in the Sonoma Valley, is Ferrari Carano. Ferrari Carano is a Faux Tuscan villa in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma. It is massive and dwarfs the hillside it is perched upon. You would not be surprised to find out that the owner of Ferrari Carano also owns casinos in Reno. The building lacks a sense of balance. Not unlike their wine. If you like oak, theirs wines will give you splinters.

In the shadow of the monolith, that is Ferrari Carano, lays Seghesio Winery. The Segehsio winery was built in the 1930’s. It is a simple, yet classic California Ranch building. It blends perfectly into its tree filled setting. The building has a nice balanced feel. Not surprising they make, in my view, the most balanced Zinfandels on the market. The wines are not in your face aggressive. They reflect the winery and the Seghesio family.