Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Clarksburg AVA

This last weekend, being a 3 day weekend, my wife and I decided to take the kids to a water slide park in Sacramento. We drove to Sacramento through the delta rather than the standard I80 route because my wife was helping her mom out at her home in Rio Vista, and I had to stop there and pick her up.

SGK (my wife's initials) had a copy of some magazine that talked about wine tasting in Sacramento. She was all hip to try it out. Now, when they say Sacramento, they really mean Clarksburg which is a town in the delta just outside of Sacramento proper. The most well known winery in the region is Bogle, who like to tout their Petite Sirah. There are other wineries in the AVA, most of which co-locate their tasting rooms at a place called The Old Sugar Mill. The sugar mill is a great place for a tasting room - full of history, architecturally interesting, and planted in the middle of a vineyard. It's also the location of a custom crush facility, which makes it easier on the wineries.

Our first stop was not at the sugar mill, but rather at a small family owned winery Scribner Bend. It was an enjoyable visit, and we got to chat with the owner for quite a while. I had to ask him about the local grapes though, as the Delta has way too rich a soil to make stressed out wine grapes. He admitted that most of the growers sell their wine to Bronco.

Scribners wines were OK. I've had better Petite Sirah but their Tempranillo was good enough that I bought 2 bottles. Tempranillo? In the Delta? It turns out that lots of Clarksburg vineyards are growing this grape that is IMHO better suited for the more desert like conditions of Rioja, La Mancha, and Baja than the wet, rich california delta.

Scribners als had a rare white Italian varietal called "Fiano" that is common in the area of Avellino that my Paternal grandmother's family came from. We bought a bottle of that too to share with my dad.

After Scribners, we were off to the sugar mill. I won't mention any of the wineries in the sugar mill by name as whilst the venue was wonderful, none of the wines we tasted were memorable. It is clear from talking to several of the winery owners that most of them consider themselves farmers rather than wine makers. There is nothing wrong with that; it just does not make for memorable wine.

Some of them could use a bit of an education as well, as one of the winery owners was arguing that a late harvest Petite Sirah was really a Port and she was angry that the ATF would net let her call it a port.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Franklin Square Wine Bar

SaraGrace and I have been experimenting with wine bars lately; for her birthday we went to Zza's Enoteca in Oakland, and then 3 days later for mine we went to Franklin Square
The first thing to say about Franklin Square is that we liked the atmosphere. They had outdoor seating (a big plus) and a cute, narrow main dining area with a bar. When we got there, the outdoor seating was quite noisy from the traffic of downtown Oakland, but by the time we left it was quite pleasant.

The food was quite pleasant, if a bit mis-served.
We had the chicken pâté which was simply divine. It was unfortunately served with thickly sliced bread rather than crackers or toast, so we had to separate the crust from the bread before eating so that the bread did not overwhelm the delicate flavours of the pâté.
We also had the pecorino, which, whilst a good accompaniment to the reds we ordered, was overpriced for the miniscule portion that we received.

The Wine selection was decent. Like expected, about 1/2 the menu was devoted to whites and of the reds about 1/2 were Bordeaux varietals, leaving only a 1/4 of the menu for our preferred styles.

The major disappointment came in in the serving of the wines. I ordered 2 1/2 glasses of wine; a Contra Costa Zin and a Sierra foothills Syrah. SaraGrace ordered a flight of Santa Cruz Pinot's.
The Syrah and Zin came in ridiculous heavy glasses with a thick bead around the mouth of the glass. Great water glasses, but completely inappropriate to taste wine in. The wine was also very warm. Probably 70f+. The Pinot's also did not come until the food was almost gone.

I inquired from the waitress about the glasses and the warm wine; she responded that the glasses came from the distributor and that the wine was warm because their ac unit was on the fritz.
If they are counting on their aC to keep the wine cool, then apparently they have no proper wine storage. This is actually not so big a deal as they probably go through their wine fast enough that the few days of room temp rather than cellar temp that the bottles experience are not likely to ruin the wine. The bigger sin is the shitty glassware. They are a wine bar for gods sake - they should invest in glassware likely to sell more wine.

The Verdict:

No hurry to return

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2005 Rosenblum Monterosso Reserve Zinfandel

This was from one of our wine club shipments. It's marked as a "Reserve" which at Rosenblum means that one would normally have a tasting fee associated with this wine.

The presentation is OK. It comes in a Bordeaux bottle, with a foil capsule and a fake cork.

It was a beautiful ruby colour. Before i could even sniff my glass, My mother-in-law had taken a sip and pronounced it sweet. Now, Helen is not a big wine drinker, and what she interprets as sweet is the fruit forward nature of this wine. It tastes like Jam, and Jam (in a jar) is sweet, therefore to Helen this wine is sweet.
The fruitful nose confirms this to be the case.

A swirl gives a thin sheen on the interior of my glass that devolves into legs down the near side of the glass. It also dirtied up the colour somewhat, and added some rubber to the nose.

The taste starts with cherries and ends up with cranberries. I anticipate that more dirt flavours would emerge as the wine oxidized; but it was so good right now that it never got a chance to.

The Verdict:

Appellation/Terrior:Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California
Alcohol:15.2% by Volume

Monday, February 11, 2008

Battle of the Rhône's

So I wanted to see how close one of the prominent "Rhône Rangers" of California could come to an honest-to-god French Rhône wine, so I hopped on down to Nob Hill and bought a Rosenblum Château La Paws Côte Du Bone Roan and the only Appellation Côtes du Rhône Contrôlée that they stocked - a Cellier des Dauphins Prestige Côtes du Rhône.



Dauphins: The plastic capsule encased a synthetic cork that left no tattoo.
Rosenblum: The foil capsule enclosed a synthetic cork that also left no tattoo.


Dauphins: Squat, lightweight, puntless pale green bottle. Not in the Rhône shape, but with an embossment that is typical of Rhône bottles.
Rosenblum: Traditional y shaped Rhône bottle in a heavy, dark green glass and a deep punt.


Dauphins: Typical French labeling; no indication of what varietals are in the wine, only what varietals might be in the wine, and then only if you memorized the AOC rule list.
Rosenblum: Rear label gives varietals, but not ratios. Some tasting notes provided.


Dauphins:Their English language version of the site for this wine is targeted at the UK market, and it's not clear if the wine is the same in both markets. The UK info is good - even giving pounds of fruit used in fermentation.
Rosenblum: Detailed PDF that expands upon what is on the rear label

The Tasting

Initially, both wines smell very similar, after a swirl the Dauphins came out on top with more earthy smells in the aroma. The Rosenblum had a richer colour. The Rosenblum had a classic syrah burnt rubber on the tongue, but over all the Dauphins was better balanced (this is supposed to be a blend, not a Syrah dominated wine), and improved over the hours sitting in my glass. After leaving both wines overnight, the Dauphins was still better than the Rosenblum which got a little sour.

The Verdict:

While neither is great; The French wine wins.
Vintner:Cellier des Dauphins
Varietals:Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut, Carignane, Counoise, Mourvèdre
Appellation/Terrior:Appellation Côtes du Rhône Contrôlée, France
Alcohol:13% by Volume

Varietals:Carignane, Syrah, Zinfandel, Mourvèdre
Alcohol:14.9% by Volume

Sunday, February 10, 2008

2001 Jessie's Grove Carignane

This wine was one of the ones that I bought at The Grocery Outlet. It is the only one that i bought that day where I had any previous knowledge the winery - I had Jessie's Grove's "Earth, Zin, and Fire" before.

The presentation was OK. It's a Rhône varietal, yet they chose to package it in a Bordeaux bottle. The labeling gives some good history. Good history is important in selecting a wine that you know nothing about, because if they have been making wine long enough to have a history, then presumably they are not screwing it up too badly. The bottle is encased in sediment around the shoulder, which is god, given the age of this wine - the sediment is in the correct place making it reasonable to believe that it has been stored properly.

The real cork was enclosed in foil and on one side, it had about 5/8 inch of penetration. Doug bought the same wine and had much more penetration on his. Oddly enough given the amount of sediment on the shoulder and the penetrated cork, it did not leave a prominent tattoo.

It had a deep, old colour and raisons on the nose. I usually associate the raison smell with Botrytis, but if that were the case here I am positive that the label would have mentioned it.
After the swirl, red fruit emerged on the nose, along with caramelized onions. Yumm. For all of that, it was light and airy, with a hint of salt and pepper.
Searching Jerssie's Grove's website for Carignane (it isn't all that common a varietal after all) shows only an old vine Lodi Carignane being bottled today. I wonder if this is the same wine, just re-labled now that Old Vine is in vogue?

The Verdict:

Good value. If The Grocery Outlet still has it in stock, I'll be sure to acquire some more.
Appellation/Terrior:Lodi, California
Vintner:Jessie's Grove
Alcohol:13.0% by Volume
Price:$3.99 from a liquidator

Saturday, February 9, 2008

2003 Coyoteville Howling Red

This wine was one of the ones that I bought at The Grocery Outlet. I did not know anything about this winery when I bought it; selecting it based soley upon the (albeit limited) data available from the label. It turns out that Coyoteville is the label that Burch Hall uses for blends. I selected it because I'm a bit of a Rhône junkie and the classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre makes me salivate.

The presentation was OK. It comes in a Rhône shaped bottle of a sick light green colour. The artwork on the front label is appealing.

The foil capsule enclosed a real cork that had some classy embossing upon it. SG thoght the cork was fake because of it's glossiness from the embossing. It left the faintest tattoo.

SGK swilled her taste immediately and declared it a "Table Wine". I examined it more closely. It had the colour of the Buffalo Grove Syrah that we opened earlier in the evening. As I contemplated the slight oily film on the surface of the wine, SGK declared "It smells like Ass" I look up and she's holding the bottle up to her nose. I stick my nose in my glass and determine that ass must smell like burnt rubber because that's what I'm getting. Despite her likening it to the odour of an equine beast of burden, SGK declares "It's nice" I say fine.

I put some through the Vinturi and get more fruit on the nose. SG felt it was more smooth after the Vinturi, but that she had more pepper beforehand. She said she would get more. She asked me to go buy a case.

It went well with the Mexican Heirloom tomatoes and lavender smoked beef loin that we had for dinner. The Buffalo Syrah that we started the evening with was bigger.

The Verdict:

Easy drinking. SG wants another case
Varietals:Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache,
Vintner:Burch Hall
Alcohol:14.3% by Volume
Price:$3.99 from a liquidator

Friday, February 8, 2008

2004 Buffalo Grove Syrah

This wine was one of the ones that I bought at The Grocery Outlet

The presentation was OK. It comes in a Rhône shaped bottle of a sick light green colour.

The foil capsule enclosed an artificial cork.

The wine was a rich dried blood colour that smelled - well like wine. After a swirl some fruit came out - apricots perhaps. It tasted rich and sweet.

I thought it was great. reminiscent of what Rosenblum would make. SGK wanted it to open up more, and liked it better through the Vinturi.

Some legs finally showed up at the end of the first glass, and then some more classic Syrah aromas emerged: Smoke and rubber yet full of fruit. There was some burn at the finish.

I found it yummy and great. Too bad the winery does not seem to be making it any more.

The Verdict:

Yummy. I am planning on another case.
Vintner:Adler Fels
Alcohol:12.5% by Volume
Price:$3.99 from a liquidator

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Grocery Outlet

The Grocery Outlet

James is this guy that I work with who's pretty darn wine knowledgeable, and has good taste in wines. His family is involved in the wine industry in the Finger Lakes AVA and he grew up with it.

We have these semi-monthly wine tastings at work where everyone brings something in and we all taste. Quite fun. If you ask James where he makes his acquisitions, they are usually at some winery function or other, usually when the winemaker is disposing of excess library wines. The other big place James makes acquisitions at is The Grocery Outlet.

Just what is the Grocery Outlet? It's a store that acquires it's inventory from defunct businesses or product lines and then sells them off cheap. Usually it's associated with almost past the sell by caned goods, but they also acquire quite a bit of wine. And sell it off for about $2.99 a bottle. Now, they never have consistent inventory, and you have no idea how the wines have been stored. So James usually shows up, drops a $20 and goes home with half a mixed case, pops them all open, tastes them, and then returns to buy a case or 2 of the ones he liked.

I decided that it was high time I popped in to the Grocery Outlet myself and give it a try, so I loaded my friend Doug into the SUV and we headed off to Berkeley at lunch to check the place out.

They had about the same size selection that you would find at Nob Hill or Albertsons. Not too many labels that I had seen before (at least that I would drink; Ernest & Julio were present in the selection as was Joe Franzia) were present, although there was one wine from Jessie's Grove.

I bought 7 wines for $19.78. None of which I had ever tried before, and only 1 of which I had even heard of (The afore mentioned Jessie's Grove). I have so far opened 3 of them, and found all 3 to be very good, and I'm heading back tomorrow to buy more. At less than $3 a bottle you can afford to experiment (like the 2 bottles of Algerian Shiraz I picked up on a whim)

If you consider the $20.00 a "Tasting fee" then you won't mind throwing out (or making sauce out of) all 7 bottles then it's worth shopping there on the chance that even one of the wines turns out to be a keeper, as you can load up on a case for the price of a single bottle of Rosenblum.

Give it a try.

2004 Big White House Sangiovese

This wine was one that SGK bought futures of and we opened it shortly after getting it home.

The presentation is OK. It comes in a Rhône bottle - but nowadays it's rare to find a good sangiovese in the traditional, basket wrapped fiasco.

the foil capsule enclosed a real cork that came out of the bottle encrusted with bitartrate crystals - an awesome sign!!!

The wine itself was pale and cloudy - this coupled with the aforementioned bitartrate crystals leads me to believe that John forewent a cold stabilization period.

After a no-leg swirl, it tasted full and dry on the teeth. You know the feeling I'm describing - like your teeth are made of chalk and the wine is soaking into it. This is followed with the stomach grip of a classic chianti.

It's good. I liked it.

I had it accompanying a pasta fazool.

The following day, I had it at lunch with some black forest ham (posing as prosciutto), almonds, and chocolate. It went well. Slightly acidic, but most Italian wines are. because of this, I would say it works best with food.

The Verdict:

Appellation/Terrior:Ripkin Vineyard, Lodi, California
Vintner:Big White House
Alcohol:13.5% by Volume

Thursday, January 31, 2008

2004 Earth, Zin, & Fire

SGK bought this wine at Cost+ a couple of years ago on an experimental Zin buying trip.

The presentation is campy - a Bordeaux bottle with flames on the label and painted onto the foil capsule. There is a concert ticket theme to the labeling "With Special Guest Old Gnarley" on the front, and a section/row/seat layout on the back complete with :Showtime begins at 5:00. Love, Zin, and Rock 'n Roll. It had a real cork embossed with a horse of all things. The campy packaging is kind of fun, but my complaint is that the vintage is not displayed clearly, and the vintner is very difficult to determine.

The notes on the vintners page continue the concert theme, but give some additional production information.

Despite the campy appearance and poor labeling, I liked this wine. The nose was pleasant and noticeable from over 12 inches away. SGK thought it was peppery, I got fruit dominating. SGK also craved truffles (the chocolate kind) whilst I wanted truffles (the fungal kind) to accompany this wine. It had legs galore.

It was simple, not complex. Acidic. with a full fruity taste. Pouring it back and forth between glasses softened it up quite a bit. I loved the smell.

The Verdict:

Thumbs up
Appellation/Terrior:Lodi, California
Vintner:Jessie's Grove
Alcohol:14.2% by Volume

Saturday, January 26, 2008

2005 Big White House Mourvèdre

I fell in love with the not so common Rhône varietal Mourvèdre a while back under the Californian name of "Mataro". While I liked that one, it is the one made by young John Evans that really gets me going. I first bought this wine (2 bottles) on my first visit to Big White House in May of 2007, then again (3 bottles) when we stopped by for a picnic three months later, and last week decided that I couldn't live without more so bought out John's last inventory (13 bottles) that's not slated for his library.

The presentation is OK. It comes in a Rhône bottle, with a foil capsule and a real cork.

The label was faded - which to me would normally indicate that the wine had been stored in the sun (a distinct no-no), but in this case I watched John label them in front of me after pulling them from the back of his warehouse, so it was the label that sat in the sun, not the bottle in this case. The rear label includes what appears to be a description of the 2004 Mourvèdre; not sure if this is a typo or a mislabeling - and the cave dog's email box if full, so until I return to the winery, we won't know.

It had a pale colour, and was stereotypically sour on the nose. Sour in a good way.

The swirl gave legs galore, with a distinctive Mataro smell. Sour dirty leather, or perhaps leathery dirt. The sour evoked citrus to my wife. She says lemony, I say awesome. It makes me crave salami.

Sour plums. Saw dust. Leather, leather, leather. Awesome Mourvèdre.

I made the mistake of pouring some in my pasta sauce. I should have drank it instead. As a matter of fact, I stole my wife's glass and finished it before she could stop me.

The Verdict:

One of my all time favorite wines
Appellation/Terrior:Davis Vineyard, Lodi, California
Vintner:Big White House
Alcohol:14.8% by Volume

Friday, January 25, 2008

2003 Kunde Shaw Vineyard "Century Vines" Zinfandel

This wine was one of the ones we bought when Jeff Kunde showed us around the Kunde property in Sonoma. We bought it mostly because we Kunde's regular Sonoma Valley Zinfandel is outstanding, and I figured that this one, being from the oldest vines on the property would be out of this world. Jeff did not recommend it to us - it turns out that he's a white wine drinker, so always hesitates to recommend and reds.

The presentation is good. It comes in a Zin bottle. All the required label info is there, along with a short historical blurb. The tasting notes give great info on the harvest and vineyard.

It has a foil capsule, and the real cork was clean - and smelled slightly vinegarish.

It had good clarity and a nice colour, with a fruity smell. The first taste was tangy and acidic.

The swirl left instant legs the length of the glass. Nice, long legs. It was still tangy, and now somewhat watery in taste.

3 trips through the Vinturi gave it some dirt on the nose - but it still tasted tangy.

I decanted the bottle. After 15 minutes, it was only slightly earthier and still tangy. 15 minutes is nothing, so I let it wait another hour. Still tangy. SGK swears it brought her allergies up.

At this point, I'm disappointed - this wine had so much promise. I funnel it back into the bottle to see if it will improve later.

<Sunday Evening>
SGK: It's much better. Still Puckery. Better than the Lemony taste from Thursday.
MRA: More fruit and fuller. By the second glass, I felt it was good.

The Verdict:

Given the length of time it needed to breathe, I surely opened this wine too early.
Appellation/Terrior:Shaw Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, California
Alcohol:14.5% by Volume

2005 Rusak Soul Of The Vine

The failure of the Kunde to delight my palate was the perfect excuse to finish off this desert wine that had been languishing half full in my fridge for months.

We bought this wine on our last trip to Solvang. SaraGraces mother is a fan of Australian Botrytis infected Semillon, so when one of our Santa Barbara favorite wineries, Rusak, had one from California available, we thought we'd give it a go.

Now I don't know for how long this has been sitting open in our fridge as I'm sure it was originally opened by SGK when her mother was here. Certainly this means after the new year, as I know we didn't have it when Kristin was over New Years Eve.

Raisins. This is a good example of the noble rot. Raisins. Yum. Did I mention that it was like drinking liquid raisins?

I am extremely impressed with how well this wine has held up, being over-chilled for too long, never mind opened and sitting on the fridge door where it got nocked around for god knows how many days.

The Presentation was OK. It came in a clear, split bottle with a pen and ink on the label. The winery is hidden amongst the descriptive text on the rear label.

It had a foil capsule and a real cork.

The Verdict:

Good example of the style. Great holding power.
Appellation/Terrior:Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley, California
Alcohol:14.8% by Volume

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2003 Capay Valley Syrah

This wine came as part of our Wine Shop At Home shipment.

Interesting is that the eponymous AVA is in Yolo county of all places! Just goes to show that not all good wine comes from famous terrior. I wonder a bit about the owners; AVA, vineyard and winery all named Capay. Winery owns the vineyard. Tasting room is at the vineyard. Yet wine is made in Santa Rosa, denying them the snoot (and price point) of being able to label the wine "Estate". I would bet that the wine maker works for several other wineries and is not willing to spend the time to drive way out in the boonies.

The presentation is good. It comes in a Rhône bottle. All the required label info is there, along with a short historical blurb. The tasting notes from Wine Shop At home give some background on the farmer, and winery's tasting notes give a modicum more information about the wine.

The rubber cork left no tattoo.

It has a great colour, and smells dirty right out of the bottle. The swirl freed some burnt rubber aromas. Leggy, leggy, leggy legs. This promises to be good.

Unfortunately, the first taste tasted like burnt rubber. I'll let it open.

<Hours Later>
Still has a great nose to it. I liked it, but needs to open flavour wise. SGK says it's lemony and full of caramel.

The next day it was even better. It lived up to the notes on the back label "Soft and Velvety" More berries and dirt. It is superior.

The Verdict:

I wanted to buy more, but The Wine Shop At Home was sold out, and the winery does not have an on-line order facility. As I am unlikely to find myself in Yolo County any time soon, I'll unfortunately have to give it a pass on the grounds that it's too difficult to buy.
Appellation/Terrior:Capay Valley, California
Vintner:Capay Valley Vineyards
Alcohol:14.1% by Volume

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2004 John Evan "The Petran" Petite Sirah

Last summer SGK and I spent quite a bit of time exploring the Livermore AVA for good wineries. One of the ones we discovered Big White House. We were impressed with the enthusiasm of the wine maker, John Evans The Younger. Big White House has two labels - Big White House and John Evans. There is a third label that shares the tasting room; El Sol. We have been back to this tasting room many times, but during our first visit there, we did a barrel tasting of some of the futures, and this bottle came from that lot.

The presentation is outstanding. It comes in a heavy Rhône bottle, with a hand-dipped wax capsule and the front label is an original piece of artwork by the wine maker's sister of the entrance to Petra. The real cork was even specific to this wine as it was imprinted "The Petran"

Now, both the fact that this is a brand new release, and the packaging includes a real heavy bottle sealed in Wax indicates to me that John intends for this wine to be put down for a while. We fully intend on putting down the other 11 bottles, we just couldn't wait to try this one.

The cork left no tattoo, but as I know this wine was bottled only a month or so ago, I did not expect one.

The initial colour was like dried blood - I would normally expect that in an older, bottle aged wine just past it's peak. There were lots of fermentation smells on the nose.
Give it a swirl and you do get deeper purply colour that one associates with a Petite Sirah. The swirl also brought some fruit to the nose, but not what I've come to expect from a big Petite Sirah. This guy's got some tannins and tastes real big.
It's got a "pebble in the pond" pattern to the legs that's really cool to look at.
I ran some through The Vinturi, which brings out the red, softens the nose and best of all , infuses the flavour with nice earthy tones.

We served this Chicken Pasta Diavola. The big taste balanced the spice in the Calabrese dish wonderfully. This is not your normal Petite.

The Verdict:

It was good now, but I'll respect John and cellar the rest for a while.
Varietals:Petite Sirah
Appellation/Terrior:Clarksburg, California
Vintner:Big White House
Alcohol:14.5% by Volume

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Page Mill Winery Tasting Room

We were long over due to pick up the futures that we bought from Big White House so we popped over to Livermore for the day. Our first stop was Stony Ridge where we replenished our stock of sparkling Malvasia Bianca that we depleted over the holidays. Since the kids were sleeping, we forewent a tasting and just bought the wine.

After picking up our Big White House futures, (and tasting) we decided that we had time for one more tasting, so we headed to Page Mill.

Almost a year ago, we were in invited to Page Mill's re-location event by a friend of ours that does some financial work for the owner. We were unable to make it at the time, and had been meaning to drop by and check it out.

What is a relocation event? Well, the winery is old enough to have once been located in Santa Clara County (on the eponymous Page Mill Road to be exact) When Santa Clara County was known for vines rather than code lines. The owners decided that the best use of the original location was residential rather than agricultural, hence the move to the Bay Area's other wine growing region.

The winery is not marked well from the road, so even though we knew where it was, we still drove past it and had to turn around. It's behind someone's (we assume the owners) home. The parking lot was poorly marked and a muddy mess, but don't ding them for that as the unimproved nature of the drive adds to the charm. The Winery building itself has lots of character.

The tasting room is well appointed, with almost a Victorian atmosphere. There is a good collection of dust covered bottles, and a half open curtain showing dimly lit aisles of casks.

There was no tasting fee.

The wines were good as well. Dane (the wine maker) seems to like bringing fruit forward into the nose of his grapes; a style of which I heartily approve.

The visit was completely spoiled by the rudeness of one of the staff in the tasting room - one Gary Brink. This man needs to take a pill. The issue here is that we bring our children tasting with us. Gary did not appreciate us for this. We were not the only ones in the tasting room with children, but we were the ones that Gary not only gave the evil eye to, but also chastised.
Gary's rudeness was Dane's loss as I would have likely have not only bought some of his wine, but would have returned again and again to try and buy more. A word to any winery owner out there: If you make your tasting room kid hostile, then you will not sell any wine to their parents.

The Verdict:
I liked Dane's wine. I liked everything about his winery, from the history on his web page to the buildings and decor. I like to support the clients of my friends. I do not like Gary Brink and will not visit this winery while he is working there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2003 Valley Of The Moon Estate Old Vine Zinfandel

Last spring my son's school had a "camping trip" where we all went to a group camp in the Valley Of The Moon and afterwards we used the opportunity to drink some local wines. The eponymous winery has a reputation for producing "Premium Jug Wines". Given the oxymoronic reputation, I did not expect much, but really wanted to visit it as it is one of the oldest wineries in California, and features prominently in my 1979 edition of the Sunset Guide to California Wine Country, as being a former Parducci property, and indeed even the personal vineyard of the Hearst's.

It has a good presentation. It comes in an attractive silk-screened zinfandel bottle properly labeled. It has a real cork. The mention of "Old Vines" on the label in this case means something as the estate vineyard was planted in the 1850's; and while I do not doubt that most of the vines have been replaced over time; the term "Ancient" might be appropriate here.

It had a real cork that smelled of cherries and left no tattoo.

Given my previous experiences with VOTM wines, I opened it a and walked away from the bottle to take care of my kids and let it breath a little before tasting it.

It had a good colour and berries on the nose. A swirl brought out more berries and a hint of leather. It had minimal legs.

A dark charcoal taste made it better than the previous VOTM that I opened.

The Vinturi brought out raspberries on the nose with a hint a jam.

The Verdict:

It was good.
Appellation/Terrior:Sonomoa Valley AVA, California
Vintner:Valley Of The Moon
Alcohol:14.8% by Volume

Friday, January 4, 2008

2003 Trinitas Bigalow Zinfandel

The Bigelow Zin is my favorite zin of all time. I first fell in love with the 2002 vintage, and alas, there is none to be had in the whole world, so I'm now drinking the 2003. fortunately, almost a year has gone buy since I reviewed the 2002, and it's time to see if a year in the bottle makes the 2003 equivalent.

The presentation was identical to the 2002; It came in a Bordeaux bottle. It had a real cork. Not much penetration into the cork, and it left only the faintest of tattoos. One difference to the 2002 is that in the '02, there was a fair amount of sediment around the neck; in the '03 there was none.

It had a rich raspberry colour with raspberries and charcoal on the nose. There were lots of legs long and short. after the swirl I got more raspberries and some chocolate. It's still full and rich with a blackberry taste.

We had it with chocolate fondue, and it picked it up fabulously.

The Verdict:

I have 11 more bottles and plan on drinking them all.
Appellation/Terrior:Oakley Contra Costa County, California
Alcohol:15.0% by Volume

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2004 Rosenblum Rhodes Vineyard Petite Sirah

This bottle cam as part of my Red Rangers wine club.

The presentation is good. It comes in a Rhône bottle with an amalgamated synthetic cork. The label gives decent info, and the tasting notes more so.

It has a purple lipstick colour with lots of fruit on the nose. The legs fell in a single sheet, breaking up in the last ¼ inch. Lots of leather.

The Verdict:

Dirty, Thick, and beautiful
Style: Rhône
Varietals: Petite Sirah, Syrah
Appellation/Terrior: Rhodes Vineyard, Redwood Valley AVA, California
Vintage: 2007
Vintner: Rosenblum
Alcohol: 15.7% by Volume

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007 Zaràfa Pinotage

After being introduced to Pinotage by a South African friend who also happens to be one of the Livermore Valley's finer wine makers, we have been on the hunt for a bottle as good as she makes for her own consumption. We found the 2006 Zaràfa enjoyable and a good bargain, even if it was not up to the quality of Mrs. Nolte's wine, so when Trader Joe's got the 2007 in we went for it. (note that the Southern hemisphere harvests their grapes in January)

I opened this bottle to accompany some prawns and asparagus that SG had cooked for dinner.

The presentation is OK. It comes in a Bordeaux bottle. It's a critter wine with the Girraffe on the label (one can assume that Zaràfa is Afrikaans for the beast), but that serves to hide the vintner (Mt. River) which is only mentioned in the small print. It did have a cheap plastic capsule covering an amalgamated cork (which left no tattoo of course). It sprayed wine when the cork was pulled.

It had a clean, pale, colour with fresh fruit on the nose.

After the swirl we got legs on one side of the glass, and a dirty taste with a slight hint of vinegar.

I ran it through the Vinturi and the colour got brighter, but the flavour got tart. I forwent the vinturi for the actual drinking.

The Verdict:

This wine was about $3 a bottle so with it being drinkable it makes an excellent value.
Style: Afrikaner
Varietals: Pinotage
Appellation/Terrior: Western Cape
Vintage: 2007
Vintner: Mountain River
Alcohol: 14% by Volume

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne

This bottle was brought over by our friends Tom and Kris to celebrate the New year.

The presentation is OK. Neither label gives much more than the French legals, and the website is so difficult to navigate that I gave up (Death to those that over use flash!) The bottle also bears QEII's seal; so apparently they serve this bubbly at Buckingham Palace.

It comes in a Champagne bottle, with a composite cork typical of sparkling wines.

It gave a resounding pop as it opened. Quite satisfactory. It was chock full of micro sized bubbles that streamed non-stop from the centre of the flute. Smelled like Almonds and tasted like apples. Despite being a Brut, It tasted sweet. The colour was almost clear. Kris, like me, doesn't much like sparkling wines, but she liked this one.

The Verdict:

Typical Champagne, if higher quality than I am used to
Style: Champagne
Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonay, Pinot Meunier
Appellation/Terrior: Reims
Vintage: NV
Vintner: Roederer
Alcohol: 12% by Volume