Wednesday, April 25, 2007

2005 Cline Ancient Vines Contra Costa Zinfandel

This wine was one of the mixed case we picked up at Costco about a year ago. We chose it because Matt Cline is the winemaker at our favorite house of Zin - Trinitas.

This was the 1st bottle of the 3 I had with Mandy when she came to visit. An '05 is a little on the young side, but I was scraping for something to drink that would not upset my wife. That damn diet again! I figured that if this was outstanding that being a Cline it would be easy to replace.

The presentation was excellent. It came in a traditional Zinfandel bottle. I'm not sure what the 3¢ stamp on the label is supposed to signify, but as it's canceled with an Oakley postmark my guess would be that it has something to do with the acquisition of Cline's Oakley vineyards. The front label has the legals, and the rear contains some good supporting info like Cline's definition of Ancient (80-100 years), why you should care that the grapes are that old, tasting notes, and terrior. They even declare where the minority of the grapes come from (Lodi) which they do not have to do with a County designated wine like this one.

Cline's website is excellent. It gives great info on their vineyards, practices, and history. The tasting notes are also similarly detailed.

It was stoppered with a real cork that left no tattoo. Given the youth of the wine, I was not surprised at the lack of sediment that this implies.

It had a good colour, but was more translucent than I would expect given the varietal and age of the vines.

Initial nose was charcoal and anise.

The swirl yielded a single leg; unusual as with the 14½% ABV I would expect more. The swirl also brought dark fruit to the nose, but none at all on the taste.

After a few minutes open, I did get a hint of fruit. More with every sip, but I don't think It will ever yield any Jam.

I decided to decant it, and we all headed out to Rosenblum for a tasting whilst the Cline breathed in the decanter. Upon our return, it had indeed opened up better, gaining a meaty texture like a mushroom. More fruit. SaraGrace got Cherry's and Plums, and Mandy said it was "Yummy".

I do have another bottle, and I will hold it for at least a year, if not more and probably decant it the morning of the day I plan on drinking it.

The Verdict:

Not as full flavoured as an old vine zin should be. This wine also suffers from being sold to young. It will age to be at least a good wine, but by the time I can tell if it will be outstanding, there will no longer be any available for purchase.
Style: Zinfandel
Varietals: Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet, Carignane
Appellation/Terrior: Contra Costa County, California
Vintage: 2005
Vintner: Cline
Alcohol: 14.5% by Volume
Price: $18.00SRP

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

2002 Danzānte Della Sicilia Merlot

I do not remember where I picked up this bottle of Sicilian Merlot, given the appearance of Robert Mondavi's name on the label, it is likely that it was a gift rather than something that I purchased myself. If indeed it was a gift, and if the giver is reading, then my sincerest apologies for forgetting, and my thanks for the gift.

The presentation was excellent. It came in a traditional Bordeaux style bottle. Given that this is an Italian wine, the labeling requirements are different than most of the wines that I talk about here. The minimums are here, EU quality (IGT) and geographic indicator (Della Sicilia), vintage, and booze content. This wine could never be granted the more prestigious DOC or DOCG indicators as it is made with grapes not traditional to the region where they are grown. IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) is more like an American AVA in that it indicates that the overwhelming majority of the grapes that make up this wine were grown in the region specified, and that the region has a history of winemaking and the expectation that the region is beneficial to the craft. (DOC and DOCG carry varietal requirements as well).
The label is also marked with the names of the owners of the winery - Bob Mondavi and "Marchesi De' Frescobaldi" (Italian for "The Marquis of cool-self confidence"). You should be familiar with Mondavi; Frescobaldi is an Italian winery of like size.
The rear label gives some tidbits as well; tasting notes, harvesting info, and history of the IGT as well as the names of the actual wine makers - Tim Mondavi and Lamberto Frescobaldi.

There are extensive tasting notes on the Danzante website add quite a bit of value when choosing this wine.

It had an amalgamated cork. There was no penetration and it left no tattoo.

The wine was more translucent that I would expect from a Merlot; almost like a Pinot. It did have a good red colour, reminicent of a checkered tablecloth at a pizza resturant.

It had blueberries on the nose and a hint of smoke - but since I had just fired up the BBQ; the smoke could have been on my hands.

The swirl left 4 legs on one side of the glass, and more fruit on the nose. Perhaps pomegranate, and believe it or not grapes. It was light and sweet tasting; but the sweetness was an illusion as at 13% it's fairly dry. That's a neat trick; to give the illusion of sweetness. Some vintners (Rosenblum) do that by overwhelming the wine with fruit; it was more delicate here.

After the full pour I got more of the classical Bordeaux on the nose; it should go well with Beef (which coincidentally is what I was having for dinner).

I like it. I wish I could remember where I acquired it.

After about 1½ hours I got boysenberries and apples on the tongue, and yes it did go well with the tri-tip that I was smoking with lavender.

The Verdict:

My predjudice against the Mondavi's was overcome by this wine. If all Merlot's were this good then I would not have a bias against Bordeaux style wine. Must be the Italian influence :-)
Style: Bordeaux
Varietals: Merlot
Appellation/Terrior: Della Sicilia IGT, Italy,
Vintage: 2002
Vintner: Danzānte
Alcohol: 13% by Volume
Price: Gift

Monday, April 23, 2007

2000 Ciardella Santa Cruz Mt Pinot Noir

I have not written about any wine recently because my wife is on a grape-free diet and I dislike drinking alone. I was able to break this Bacchus free streak with the arrival from England of a dear friend of mine, Mandy. On Friday night we opened three wines, (two previously un-reviewed) and on Saturday, a Pinot with my dad's girl friend (my dad does not drink reds), and Sunday for dinner a bottle from the old world.

Today's wine is from a friend of mine from my days at Borland in Santa Cruz, Randy of the Redwoods. Randy, no longer lives amongst the redwoods, but instead he's trying to open a winery just south of the Willammette valley and over the CA border north of Shasta. When Randy did live in the redwoods, he volunteered at some of the mountain wineries and I believe that this wine was a gift from him.

The presentation was good. It came in a traditional Burgundy style bottle with an attractive pen and ink of grapes on the label. The front label has the legals, and the back covers some of the history of the vintner as well as a blurb about the climate in the AVA.

The winery has no website, but a quick Google on them returns a list of awards that their Burgundy style wines have won.

When I went to remove the stopper, I was disappointed to find a plastic capsule and an amalgamated cork. A plastic capsule does not detract from the flavour of the wine, but appears cheap. The cork was penetrated about 1/8 in and left a very light tattoo.

The wine was the colour of dried blood , but translucent as you would expect in a Pinot. There was vinegar on the nose - which along with the colour worried me, as this wine spent at least 12 months in questionable storage at our ski cabin rather than in my cellar.

After a legless swirl, the vinegar nose dissipated, and the initial taste was tangy - almost like it was still fermenting which it should not have been doing.

Despite this, the wine still went down easy (as most Pinots do).

The Verdict:

Any conclusion would be unfair, as I was lax on it's storage conditions.
Style: Burgundy
Varietals: Pinot Noir
Appellation/Terrior: Santa Cruz Mt. AVA, California
Vintage: 2000
Vintner: Ciardella Vineyards
Alcohol: 12.5% by Volume
Price: Gift

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mayo Family Winery Valley Hospitality Center

On Easter Sunday we were driving through Sonoma county on our way home from Safari West. We chose this route so as to allow us to stop at Kunde, where I was looking forward to tasting some row designated Zins. Alas, it was Easter and there was a dearth of tasting rooms that were open. The first open tasting room that we came across was the attractive Mayo Family Winery.

When they sat "Family Winery" they really mean it. Every member of the Mayo family, up to and including distant cousins work at the winery. Our pourer was Courtney, who is some sort of a cousin to the founders on what she called "The Family Internship".

The tasting room was in a glorious setting. Set amid the vineyards in a new barn-like structure at the intersection of two country roads. The atmosphere inside was conducive to a pleasant tasting experience (even if it was a bit crowded; which I will forgive them for being the only open tasting room for miles). Courtney was very accommodating by allowing us to substitute reds from the regular tasting list for the whites on the reserve list. She also told us some good stories about the vineyard and the Mayo family.

The wines were nice. Although they produce some purportedly good Zins, we didn't get to try any as they had sold out; however Courtney did sell us some pre-release Zin on the promise that we would cellar it. They did have a varietal that you do not see very often outside of a blend: Carignane. That was refreshing. I always like to see an unusual bottling every once in a while. It shows that the vintner is not afraid to experiment.

There was a tasting fee, but I don't remember how much as it was waived with my purchase.

The Verdict:

If I am in Glenn Ellen when they have some of their Zins on hand, I will stop in again.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wine for Dummies

I bought this book a while back because we found that we were buying and tasting so much wine that we thought we should educate ourselves a little bit. It was not actually the first book we bought for this purpose, but the first book assumed that you were familiar with French wines, and we weren't, so we picked this guy up.

It makes a good bathroom read. It does not provide any real details on the differences between different AVA's or even varietals; but it does introduce some terminology and practices that should be useful to a newbie.

It was especially good at explaining why the French systems are in place, and what they really mean, and why you should care that a grape is a Bordeaux varietal or not.

What I did not like about it was it's winery recommendations. Each chapter had a recommended producer list associated with it, and they were all the supermarket wine producers (but then again; what can you expect from a book endorsed by Robert Mondavi himself)

The Verdict:

If you read my posts and don't know what I'm talking about, then it's a good buy. If you do know what i'm talking about, then it could still be an interesting browse.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rosenblum Red Rangers

Rosenblum has two tasting rooms - one in wine country and the other at the winery in Alameda CA, less than 2 miles as the crow flies from my front door. It was founded by a hobbiest, Veterinarian Kent Rosenblum and has evolved into a good sized operation with about 50 single vineyard wines. Rosenblums wines are what is refered to as "Fruit Bombs" by most aficianados. It's a style well adapted to Mataro, Petite Syrah and Zinfandel but IMHO less well adapted to the other Rhône, Burgundy, and Bordeaux varietals that the good Dr. makes.

Rosenblum's wine club is slightly different in their wine club memberships; most winery's offer a Whites only, a Reds only or a mixed club. Rosenblum offers 3 clubs as well; Premier, Red Rangers, Explorer's Club. The difference primarily lies in your commitment: Monthly, Bimonthly or Quarterly.

The club gives a less than stellar 10% discount and complimentary tastings.

They also promise admission to the annual club party and BBQ.

We joined this club for two reasons:

  • They are close - Every time Rosenblum changes what they pour in the tasting room we can easily drop by and taste it for free. And when you like The Good Doctor's style of wines, that's a big deal.
  • The party - The wine club BBQ is a much heralded Alameda event.

The Verdict:

We like their wine enough for reason #1 to be almost enough to keep us as members; and as they have not had the BBQ since we've become members; we'll see if reason #2 is enough to throw it over the top come June.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Trinitas Wine Society

The Trinitas Winery is unvisitable. But it has some of the best wines that I have ever tasted. I initially found them because I was looking for the holy grail of old-growth zins - I wanted to find the oldest zinfandel vineyard in the world and drink it down. What I found was Matt Cline and Erin Jacuzzi's hobby winery. Both the Clines and the Jacuzzi's have been in the California wine business since the days of redwood barrels. The Cline family has huge holdings and makes oceans of wine. Trinitas is what they do for fun, and the Zin I mentioned is from a little vineyard in Oakley that frikkin rocks.

The club gives the usual 20% discount and complimentary tastings at the Meritage resort in Napa.

Shipments are 2 wines each 3 times a year, targeted to cost $65.00 plus tax and shipping a shipment.

They also promise "Special release wines not offered to the public" and "Large format bottles" as well as "Invitation to winemaker dinners in Northern and Southern California and Invitation to our annual barrel tasting"

When I joined the Trinitas Wine Society, it was literally the only way to purchase their wine, and even now most of the wine offered to me as a member is not available from their website to non members. The absolute best Cabernet Sauvignon I ever had came from a Trinitas shipment. It was part of a 47 case production of ancient vine cab. I have also tasted several varietals and cuvées that I would not have tried from anyone else including an old vine Mataro and Black Malvoisie.

I have yet to be offered large format bottles or invitations to anything; but I have only been a member for 2 shipments - lets wait and see what happens at harvest time.

The Verdict:

I love their wine so much that you would have to pry my membership from my cold dead fingers. Since I like their wine this much, and it is not really available to non-members then the membership is completely worth having.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Steelehead Wine Club

The Steele Winery is located in downtown Kelseyville in the The Clear Lake AVA, but they both own vineyards in, and source grapes from, many different locals.
Jed Steele, for whom the winery is named is a wine industry veteran; having worked in the industry since the '60s and being the original winemaker for Kendall-Jackson.

We stopped in at the Steele winery one cold spring day during a camping trip that we were on, and had such a good time at the tasting room, that we bought a couple cases of wine. We joined the club for the discount.

The club gives the usual 20% discount and complimentary tastings. They go a little farther and extend the free tasting to your guests. Other than appearing in person at the winery, it also appears to be the only way to purchase special bottlings and library wines.

They also claim to give members "Invitations to special events for members-only at the winery" but in the last 16 months I have yet to receive a single one.

Shipments are 3 wines each 4 times a year, priced a reasonable $45.00 a shipment. This is a deal price wise ($15 a bottle including shipping cost!). The winery produces over 40 different wines under 4 different labels; Stymie, Steele, Shooting Star, and Writer's Block.
I have never received a Stymie in my shipments, but that can be explained by the pricing limit that they set for themselves.
We joined this club for the discount, and have since appreciated the access to the library wines (in particular the Pacini Zins) and the exposure to a couple of varietals and regions that we would not ordinarily purchase. Blaufrankisch and Barbera are two varietals that Steele introduced us to. Washington State is is a region I would not have tried without being a "Steelehead".

The Verdict:

A good beginner's wine club. We remain members for the economical pricing.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wine Clubs From A Consumer's Point Of View

Yesterday I talked about what a winery gets out of having a wine club. Today I'm going to talk about the other half of that question: What a consumer gets out of a wine club. Next time, I'll start on some of the wine clubs I have belonged to and thier benefits and drawbacks.

From the consumer's perspective, a wine club gains them several things -

  • Cheaper Wine - All wine clubs grant discounts over the SRP of their wines. The de-facto standard for winery sponsored wine clubs is 20%. This is usually on all wine, not just the regular shipment, and is also usually in addition to volume discounts. Upon occasion, I have joined wine clubs strictly for this discount.
  • Better Wine - Most wine clubs at smaller winerys will have wines that are only available to wine club members. These are usually very small batches that were the pet project of the wine maker, or from vineyards that produced a limited amount of fruit. I have also joined wine clubs strictly for access to these wines.
  • Futures Access - Winery's sell futures. Some only sell futures to wine club members. What a wine future is, is you get to buy today a wine that is not yet released. Usually at a discount above and beyond your club discount. Why would you want to do this? Well, some wines sell out before they are released; so the only way you can get them is to buy a future. Another reason is cost; most wines will sell at a multiple of the future price upon release. If you can pay $25 today for a $75.00 wine next year, it can really save you some cash.
  • Saved Effort - Not everyone lives conveniently close to a winery that they can easily drop by and taste the new wines as they are released. A wine club guarantees that you will receive the new wines for your tasting pleasure without having to visit the winery.
  • Access To Old Wine - Winery's typically hold back a portion of each release in the "library" these wines are usually offered first to wine club members when they have peaked.
  • Exposure To Different Wines - Since you do not choose the wines that get shipped to you, you will get exposed to wines or styles (or even winery's in some cases) that you have not tried before
  • Special Events - Some winery's have barrel tastings, food pairing seminars, customer appreciation events, etc. that are only available to wine club members.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wine Clubs From A Winery's Point Of View

Over the next few days I am going to talk about wine clubs. What are their benefits and what are their drawbacks. What I look for in the ones I join.

From the winery's perspective, a wine club gains them several things -

  • Bigger profit margins - The biggest per bottle profit on a sale for a winery is the bottle that you buy directly from them. The reason for this is that they have to steeply discount the wine that is sold to their distributors.
  • Guaranteed sale - A wine club membership is a commitment by the consumer to purchase n number of bottles on a regular basis
  • Test market - The winery chooses which wine to send you. They can choose to send you a wine that you might not ordinarily try on your own, thereby exposing you to a new product in an attempt to build demand for that product
  • Disposal of library wines - Wine improves over time before finally spoiling. This leaves winery's in a quandary - should I hold the wine until it's peak when it will command a greater price? And therefore risk not being able to sell it before it starts to sour? The answer is to sell most of your wine upon release, but hold some back. Now, how do you rid yourself of too much wine that you have held back? Your members!
  • The ability to discount their wine - Winery's would love to sell more wine directly to consumers (go back to item #1 - bigger profit). One way to encourage consumers to buy directly from the winery is to sell the wine at a discount relative to retail price. Any discount they give you is paltry to what their distributors are getting, yet may be significant enough to you to encourage you to buy more wine than you would otherwise.
    Under normal circumstances it is a bad idea for a winery (or any manufacturer for that matter) to sell their products at a price lower than their retailers can afford to sell it at, because if they do, then they are put in the position of competing with their partners and thusly alienating them.
    As a matter of fact, many distribution contracts disallow you to sell your products to consumers at a discount. This market protection scheme is not unreasonable to expect. The creation of a class of consumer called a member allows a winery to sell their products at a discount without breaching their distribution contracts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

2004 Lost Canyon Stage Gulch Syrah

Our friendly Rosenblum pourer and oenology student Pam had been dying to take us across the estuary to Lost Canyon for a while, and when we did this was one of the wines I bought.

SaraGrace and I opened it in our tent-cabin at Safari West after dinner, when the kids were down and we could relax on the porch.

This wine was not accompanied by food, but rather by starlight and the sounds of the African savannah at night. Downright romantic if you ask me :-)

The presentation is OK. It comes in a traditional Rhône bottle and while the rear label gives no additional information, the sell notes and vineyard notes do.

This wine had a deap, rich colour and cherry blossoms and apricots on the nose.
The initial taste was smokey and reminiscent of pomegranate. It even left legs on a plastic glass!

After the swirl I got cherries. Definately cherries. While not the fruit bomb of a Rosenblum, definately more fruit than a Carina or Rusak.

The Verdict:

Yum. I liked it. at $35.00 I probably won't have it often.
Style: Rhône
Varietals: Syrah
Appellation/Terrior: Sonoma Coast, California
Vintage: 2004
Vintner: Lost Canyon
Alcohol: 14.2% by Volume
Price: $36.07

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

2004 Rosenblum Redwood Valley Annette's Reserve Zin

We bought this wine when we dropped by the vineyard to pick up our club shipment. Pam was working the tasting room and as usual knew exactly what I like.

This Zin is more transparent in colour than most of the good Doctor's wines, with a browner tinge than you would expect from a young wine like this one, with a hint of sediment. It had legs even before the swirl, so it promised to be big!

This wine had the aroma of pluots that I have come to associate with Rosenblum. There were also hints of cinnamon. It tasted of plums, apricots, chocolate, chocolate and chocolate some more. Very tasty. There is a pucker of tannin that follows a full mouth gargle, and nutmegs on the finish.

We had this wine with left-over Indian food (dahl bhat and chicken makanwala). Who says that whites go better with Asian food? This Zin held up to the complex flavours of an Indian curry with bells on. I would say that it went better with this curry than the '99 Pacini went with the Kobe beef.

The presentation was good. It came in a Bordeaux bottle with an agglomerated synthetic cork. The back label gives some info, and the tasting notes give more.

The Verdict:

Yum. Glad I bought two. Want more.

Varietals:Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane
Appellation/Terrior:Redwood Valley, California
Alcohol:15.5% by Volume

Monday, April 9, 2007

Rios-Lovell Tasting Room

Rios-Lovell is the last winery that SG and I visited in Livermore. We thought that we were on our way home, when we passed it on Tesla Rd. We decided to stop because it's a winery that's a favorite of SG's friend Meg, and we have a bottle, untasted in our cellar and we would be bummed if we tasted that wine and then wished we'd stopped.

The building the tasting room was in was an attractive Mission style adobe. The pours were good size and they had 12 wines on the tasting list.

The goodness stops there.
The tasting glasses were tiny mouthed vessels that you couldn't fit your nose in.
During the first pour (A sparkling wine that the pourer called "Champagne") we were forced to listen to a pitch on their wine club. In case you are interested, their wine club sucks - only a 10% discount for a 24 bottle a year commitment.
The next bad sign was their wine list - they were all over the map. Rhone; Burgundy; Bordeaux, Zinfandel, Italian, Spanish, Port, Sherry, Sparkling. Jack of all styles master of none.
Then they switched pourers on us midway through.
All of this would be acceptable if there wine was any good. Which it wasn't. Some were not bad, and one was OK. We bought the OK one, and then they still charged us a tasting fee.

The Verdict

Not worth the stop.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

2005 Kenwood Russian River Pinot Noir

This is a restaurant wine. We bought it at a restaurant, and indeed, it's part of Kenwood's Sonoma Series made specifically for the restaurant trade.

We were staying at Safari West (Highly recommended BTW) and the dinner that night was BBQ Chicken. We bought this wine because $30 for a bottle of Kenwood was better than $6 for a glass of wine-from-a-box. It's a pinot because BBQ Chicken was what was on the menu.

The colour was highly transparent (to be expected) and reminiscent of watermelon juice. It was sweet on the nose, and went down like Kool-Aide. It had a charcoal finish. As the evening progressed, it got cooler out which in turn chilled the bottle, and it actually improved the wine.

The presentation was fair. It came in a Burgundy style bottle with a real cork. The labeling was poor. The front label had nothing on it but the legals, and the rear stated two facts:

  • "Grapes for this years pinot were grown..." - Indicating that they do not use the same vineyards year after year, making a verticle tasting meaningless.
  • Aged in French oak for one year
Not a lot to go on. The tasting notes are a little better.

The Verdict:

It was a restaurant wine at a zoo. It was as good as could be expected.
Varietals:Pinot Noir
Appellation/Terrior:Russian River, California
Alcohol:14.5% by Volume

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Cedar Mountain Tasting Room

SG and I returned to Livermore last week. We were checking out a camping spot at De Valle Reservoir, and of course couldn't resist stopping at a tasting room (or 3).

Cedar Mt was the first we stopped at. Actually it was the second; the first, Garre, also had a deli, and since it was lunch time we thought a tasting and lunch would go well together. But Garre's tasting room and their deli are not open at the same hours. What a shame; as even if their wines sucked, it would have been worth the stop since so few winerys serve food. Due to the proprietors bad planning we deigned to patronize the place and moved on down the road. Garre's loss was Cedar Mountain's gain since we bought wine (we always buy wine).

Bad first:
The tasting room at Cedar Mt. was reminiscent of a double-wide. The restrooms were porta-potties. Not looking good. The lighting inside was poor, so I had to approach a lamp to properly judge the colour of my pour.

Now the good:
The interior had photos of the winemaker as a little girl in New York's Finger Lakes. This was the only attempt at history. The vines surrounding the tasting room were young, but in a few years will provide a nice surrounding to taste in. There was a picinic area with Bocce courts. Too bad they didn't have a deli :-( The barn where they make the wine was picturesque (and one of the reasons we stopped).

The Verdict

Out of the 4 wineries in Livermore that I have stopped at, Cedar Mountain's tasting room ranks second. This isn't saying much though, as I would not make a trip out to the end of Tesla Rd to specifically visit them.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Murrieta's Well Tasting Room

Given the proximity of the Livermore Valley to the Bay Area, it's actually pretty amazing that it's not a more touristed wine region. Indeed, until recently I had never been tasting in the region. Our visit to Murrieta's Well coincided with a look at some property out on Mines road in the Livermore AVA. The property turned out to not be what we wanted, but rather than waste the trip we thought we would stop in at a winery, and Murrieta's Well was the first one we stumbled across on our way out of the canyon that Mines Road runs up.

Murrieta's Well is actually a Wente property. Now, I'm not a fan of Wente (best known for their White Zin), and had I known that Murrieta's Well was a Wente property, I probably would have driven past. That said, Murrieta's Well is Wente's premium label and the wines are not what you would expect from a bulk producer like Wente.

The tasting room is great. There is lots of history surrounding the site (They named it for the artesian well where the legendary Joaquin Murrieta and his band of desperados watered their horses), and the setting is glorious. A new rustic building built into a hillside surrounded by vines.

The pourer we had was knowledgeable about the wines he poured for us, and even was familiar with the European regions that the grapes originated in. Unfortunately on the day we arrived, they were not pouring their Zin, which comes from an 85 year old vineyard, nor their "Zarzuela" Which is an Iberian grape blend that would have proved interesting.

There was a $5.00 tasting fee, but it was waived upon purchase.

The Verdict:

Out of the 3 Livermore wineries that I have visited, this tasting room was the best.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

2002 Lincort La Cuesta Cab

Last Labor day we loaded the kids in the Yukon and drove them down to Legoland for their birthdays. An ulterior motive was that we would be passing through some superior wine regions. So, whilst the kiddies napped; Mom and Dad would taste.

One of the winery's in Solvang that we tried was Lincourt. They only had one red on for tasting that day, but since the overall experience at their tasting room was excellent, I bought a single bottle. That would be their vineyard designated Santa Ynez Cab.

If you have been reading me for any length of time you will have figured out that I simply tolerate Bordeaux grapes - They are neither my favorite nor my least favorite. Now, because of this I tend to buy them and not drink them, causing my cellar to accumulate about 100 bottles of Bordeaux based wine (Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petite Verdot, etc). I'd like to make room for more Zins, Petite's and Cal-Itals so I need to make an effort to drink some of the Bordeaux's. A couple of years ago this would not have bin a big deal as I had a passive cellar of almost 1000 square ft, but now I have a much smaller Viking wine cellar and space is at a premium.

The cork left me with a spotty tattoo, and there were some legs. The wine was a good, rich burgundy colour. I got strawberries on the nose and no pucker on the tongue, but could taste the tannins of a cab. This is a good example of a classic cab. It had a slightly sour finish at first, but later opened up to finish with fine white pepper and course ground black pepper.
SG said it was heavy and spicy with booze on the nose. I didn't get that. I did get strawberries on the palate though.

We later took paper cups of the Lincourt for a walk around the block, and damned if it didn't look good against the white cup. The colour was superb.

The presentation was good. It came in a proper Bordeaux bottle, stoppered with a real cork. The front label has the windmill that sits prominently in the center of their vineyard on it and looks nice. The rear label gives some info, and the tasting notes give you a bit about the vineyard.

The Verdict:

I am still not a Bordeaux bigot, but I liked it. I didn't like it fourty bucks worth though; $20 would be fairer.

Varietals:Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Appellation/Terrior:Santa Ynez, California
Alcohol:13.9% by Volume

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

1999 Steele Pacini Zin

The 1998 Pacini Zin is the wine that got me hooked on Zin. We were at the Steele tasting room, and it wasn't even on the menu; it was a library wine that was close to being lost, so they were pouring it to see if they could sell some. I bought a case. A few months later I called the winery to ask if I could get any more; and they only had 8, so I rounded out the case with '99's. That was a year ago. At the time I had a vertical tasting of the '98 and the '99 and found the '98 superior; so I laid down the rest of the '99's until now.

Jed calls the Pacini "Old Vines"; the oldest vines in his vineyard are 67; with the median age probably slightly lower. Since "Old Vines" is not a regulated term, it's open to interpretation. I would call 50-80 year old vines "Mature" and 80-100 "Old" and anything older than a century "Ancient" - but again it's relative. The reason Older vines are sought after is that their lower yields concentrate flavour - and since the Pacini vineyard cannot be irrigated, the yields are closer to those you would get from 80 year old vines.

Now, most people would say an 8 year old Zin is pretty long in the tooth; and you would be right - except that Jed aquired this vineyard in '96 and the first few vintages by any winemaker tend to be overly tannic. The Pacini is no exception; and we all know the cure for too much tannin - let 'em age.

Enough of that. Let's open the wine.

The cork was chock full of sediment (as you would expect from a wine this old) but there was no slippage on the neck of the bottle, so it should have held up well. The tattoo that the cork left me was as dark and persistent as henna. The colour of the wine was that of dried blood - to be expected in an older wine, but a warning that I might have let it age too long.
The nose was of cassis - that's (currants in English but since it's French that makes it more posh). The swirl left twisted legs on my glass.
On the first taste there was toast and the pucker of tannin. If this was a Bordeaux grape I would say there's enough tannin to let it lie a couple more years.
At this point a slight toothache I'm having is distracting me from my sensory inputs - particularly taste and smell, but I did get rich berries on the finish.
I poured a glass to accompany dinner - cherry smoked Kobe ribs. I generally like Zins with bar-b-que, but I'm not sure if this was the best pairing, as it brought out an almost chemical taste, almost like lighter fluid, which is odd as I did not use lighter fluid to start the coals (but then again it could be that darn toothache).
Saragrace got a Bourbon taste - could be related to the toast I got initially.
Later that night I had a second glass, and my daughter popped a dot in my mouth (the candy) and wierdly - I got a smoked salmon taste. I found that interesting, so I stole a watermellon flavoured jelly-belly from my son and hot dogs on the palette. Again I'm suspect as between the fact that the kids had hot dogs for dinner and my toothache I don't trust it.

The presentation was ok. It came in a proper Zin bottle, stoppered with a real cork. The rear label gives no info, but the tasting notes give you a bit about the vineyard.

The Verdict:

I will drink my remaining bottles now, as each day from here on out is killing this wine.

Appellation/Terrior:Mendocino, California
Alcohol:13% by Volume

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Corey Creek Tasting Room

Corey Creek was the second and last winery that my father and I stopped in at on our recent funereal trip to Long Island.

Corey Creek was a small wine maker that was purchased by the larger Bedell. I don't have a problem with that, or that they have their own tasting room. I'd prefer it if they didn't try and hide that fact though; it's a bit like being suckered in to Charles Shaw, not knowing it's really Franzia.
The tasting room was in a glorious setting. A gravel parking lot surrounded by vineyards. The building itself while new, was built in a rustic style that went well with the surroundings. It features a back deck overlooking the vineyards that would be simply awesome in the summertime.
At the late hour, we were the only ones in the tasting room. They had a couple of the Bedells on the menu, as well as a raspberry wine (my first).

There was a tasting fee, but I don't remember how much as it was waived.

The Verdict:

I wasn't impressed enough that I would make it a "Gotta stop here" if I was in The North Fork again; but there was nothing wrong with it.

Monday, April 2, 2007

2004 St. Francis Sonoma Old Vines Zinfandel

This is the third bottle we opened up on Friday night. It was one of the Costco mixed case bunch.

This wine had a rich burgundy colour with peaches on the nose. The fruit smell was not strong enough to hide the alcohol smell from the 15.5% in this bad boy. As the high booze content would suggest, this wine was anything but legless.
On the tongue I got plums and chocolate. I was surprised again that this "Costco special" would be as pleasing as it was; but then again perhaps I'm just addicted to zins...
Later on in the evening a distinct buzz had been achieved and a second glass gave me a nose that was close to the burnt rubber you get in a syrah - and I thought I could taste it too. Another tasting the next evening banished that note as a delusional drunk thought as it was as good on the second day as it was on the first.

The presentation was good. It came in a proper Zin bottle with a synthetic cork. The back label gives some info, and the tasting notes, while for a previous vintage, at least give what they mean by "old vines".

The Verdict:

I would buy more, and would like to try their other Zins.
Varietals:Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet
Appellation/Terrior:Sonoma, California
Vintner:St. Francis
Alcohol:15.5% by Volume

Sunday, April 1, 2007

2004 Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Sonoma Zinfandel

This is the second bottle we opened up on Friday night. We had bought this about a year and a half ago at Costco as a part of a mixed case; most of which were Zinfandels that the vintners had claimed were "old vine". As there is no governance over the use of "old vine" you have to take any vintners claim to old vines with some sceptiscism. Old to one vintner may mean 20 years, whilst anything under 80 to another is young. Fortunately, Mr. Strong dates his vines on the rear label - at least some of them come from 100 year old vines.

Mr. Strong also claims "Estate" on the label - in this case it's a meaningless claim because Mr. Strong's estate is non-contiguous and in several different AVA's.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this wine as I usually don't expect an excellent wine from a vintner of this size.

The colour was almost as purple as a Petite Sirah (but then again it could be that my glass was still stained from the Petite we had just finished). The nose had white pepper on it and the first taste was of black currants. MMMmmmm.

My wife got citrus on the nose and apples on the tongue. I couldn't get the citrus even after an additional swirl, but after she mentioned it I got both apples and pears on the palette.
By the end of the bottle, I was getting concord grapes sans-fox and SaraGrace was getting lemons.

The presentation was good. It came in a Bordeaux bottle with a real cork. The back label gives some info, and the tasting notes give more.

The Verdict:

I would buy more and drink it now.
Appellation/Terrior:Sonoma, California
Vintner:Rodney Strong
Alcohol:14.5% by Volume