Archive for May, 2008

The Cave

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I recently stopped by the Ventura Wine Company/The Cave.  It was a bit difficult to find but once I did I had a look around the shop and their concept.  The front is section is where their wine for sale are and the back is more of a tasting room concept/appetizers.  The wine tasting machines are a fun little idea and I understand are doing well for them.  I will have to say however that I thought the Wine Closet had a much better focused selection of high quality good tasting wines.  If you are in the mood to taste try the Cave or Santa Barbara County wine country.  If you want to buy good wine go to the Wine Closet store or online.

Elements – Santa Barbara Wine Futures

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Last night I attended the SB Wine Futures hosted by Elements in the SB Courthouse.  The event was very well done.  About 30 wineries were there and there was plenty of good food although there were not any knives to cut your meet so that was a little awkward trying to eat a chuck of meat without cutting it in a nice outfit.  Anyway here are the winners from the evening in my opinion.

Arcadian 2006 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir – This Pinot is from Santa Lucia Hills from the oldest vines in the Arcadian Portfolio.  This wine was so smooth and the flavors exploded in your mouth.  Futures price is $45 and will retail around $56.  It will be release next spring.

They also poured a 2006 Pisoni Pinot, 2006 Dierberg Chardonnay, and 2006 Purisima Syrah all which were quiet tasty.

Beckman has done it again.  They poured their 2005 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Syrah which is a 60/40 Grenache/Syrah blend.   It has a texture, density and layer after layer of cocoa, raspberry, cherry, blackberry, smoke and pepper as quoted from the description.  This wine is delicious.  They only made 300 cases.  The futures price is $65 and will retail for $75.

Cambria poured 3 wines.  Clone2A; Clone 667; and Clone23.  The first 2 are Pinots and the last one is a big fat 15.6% alcohol Syrah.  These were wonderful and will all be released this fall.  Futures price is $53 and retail was not given.

Star Lane Cabernet Sav. “Astral”.  I have tasted and written about this before but it was fun to taste again and once again it was superb.  It will be released this summer however the price tag is a little pricey selling at $100 a bottle.  This is one you will want to buy and lay down for that special occasion in years to come or have once it is released with a nice juicy steak.

Drew poured their 2007 Syrah, Broken Leg Vineyard which was really good.  They plan to release next spring and sell for $35.  A nice wine for the price.  They also poured their 2007 Fog-eater Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley and the 2007 Gatekeeper Pinot Noir, Rio Vista Vineyard Santa Rita Hills.  Both were very good.  The fog-eater will be released next spring and the gatekeeper this fall.  Both will sale for $42 a bottle.

Flying Goat’s 2007 Pinot Noir, Salisbury Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County was really nice.  Unfortunately it will not be available until next summer and will retail at $38.

IO is a relatively newcomer.  They poured 3 wines.  The 2005 Rhone Blend, SBC was ok; the 2005 Ryan Road, Paso Robles was really good.  This one will be released this summer.  They only made $250 cases and was selling for $47.  Their best was their 2005 Upper Bench, Santa Maria Valley.  This also will be released in small quantities this summer selling for $47.

Kenneth-Crawford poured 3 but my favorite was their 2006 Syrah Turner Vineyard, Sta, Rita Hills.  This is very spicey and had great flavor.  This most likely is only available through the futures program as they only made 76 cases selling for $40 a bottle.

Margerum poured 3, all which were good but his best was his 2006 Grenache.  This is delicious and one of the best Grenache’s that I have had in a long time.  It will be released this summer retailing at $36 a bottle.

Qupe’s 2006 Rousanne Bien Nacido Hillside Estate is excellent.  It will be released this fall and retail for $40.

Tantara poured two delicious wines. 2006 Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley  and a 2006 Syrah, Gary’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.  Both were selling at $45 a bottle.

Lastly Tecero poured 4 very good wines.  Cuvee Christie that was very big and fruity.  This will retail for $28 and be released this summer.  “The Climb” was yummy and is 50/50 Syrah, Thompson Vineyard and Petite Syrah Rodney’s Vineyard.  This will retail for $30 and be available this summer.  He also poured a Grenache Blance and Larner Syrah that are reasonably priced and tasted great.

This event was well done and not too crowded.  The pours were generous and the wine makers were there to discuss their wine.  I enjoyed this event a lot.


Hospice du Rhone Tasting Notes Part 2

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Courtesy of Mark Johnson – a continuation of his thorough tasting notes from the recent Hospice du Rhone event in Paso Robles…Thanks Mark, as usual, terrific notes – I only wish I had half your palate and could be as descriptive.

Hello all –

Here is part two of the tasting notes from Friday and Saturday at the HdR walk-around tasting event.

I will use the same scoring system as Tuesday’s notes:

X = bad wine

< = less than average wine

1 = just OK. Pleasant and drinkable, but there are better choices out there.

2 = pretty good. A nice, well made wine.

3 = very good. Definitely consider buying.

4 = WOW! Must buy.

 JADA (Paso)

This is another new winery that just released their first wines last October. They are off to a good start!

2005 Jersey Girl Syrah: 3

2005 Mirror (47% Syrah, 30% Cab, 23% Merlot): 2+

2006 Hell’s Kitchen — barrel sample (40% Syrah, 28% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre, 16% Tannat): 3  (an very interesting blend to be released October 2008)

Their new tasting room opens May 15



2006 Nagengast Syrah: 2+  a nice wine with tasty peppery notes






I only tasted one wine. That was enough. Feeble at best.

RED CAR (Culver City)

2006 Speakeasy: 3  a very big wine

2006 Vinyl: 3  this is the exact same wine as the Speakeasy, except it was barrel aged 5 months longer. Interestingly, we actually preferred the Speakeasy a bit more.



Over the years I have purchased a fair amount of Pax wine futures, usually after barrel tasting at his facility in Santa Rosa. However, while the barrel samples were impressive, what finally was put in the bottle never seemed as good. I’d wait; try a bottle a year later, and it would be the same “just OK” taste. While he gets great Spectator scores, Pax has a very unique flavor profile, and — combined with his lofty prices – it ultimately doesn’t work for me.

2006 Nepenthe Roussanne/Viognier blend: 3  OK, OK,  this wine is pretty good, but $65??

2006 Cuvee Moriah GSM: 2

2005 Griffins Lair Syrah: 1



One of the owners works at Pax Wine Cellars, so the wines have a very “Pax like” flavor profile.

2006 Clary Ranch Syrah: 1

2006 Alder Springs Syrah: 1


29 SONGS (Napa)

2005 Suscol Creek Syrah: <  the winemaker said he is purposely making a low alcohol, food friendly Syrah. To me it was more low flavor and very unfriendly.


SAXUM ( Paso)

He had three wines, they were all great of course — but who cares since you can’t buy them. Damn!


2006 Grenache: 3

2005 Syrah: 1  tasted too sweet



2005 Schubert Estate Goose Yard Block Shiraz: 3   this wine is great year after year

2005 Rolf Binder Hanisch Shiraz: 2+

2005 Kilikanoon Prodigal Grenache: 2+  this is a nice Grenache a pretty good value


TORBREK (Australia)

2006 Descendant: 4  this is an excellent wine. Very spicy.

2005 Factor: 1+  it seemed kind of neutered.

2005 Run Rig: 3+  yes it’s great, but $175? Get real.


MICHAUD (Soledad)

2004 Syrah: X



2005 Syrah: 1

2006 Syrah: 3+  wow, what a difference a vintage makes. This will be released in October of 2006.


MINER (Napa)

2007 Simpson Viognier: 3  this is a zippy, fun wine.

2005 Odyssey Syrah blend: 2+




I think Terry and Jennifer Hoage make some of the best wines in Paso. They are nice people and their prices are fair.

We tasted through their complete line-up of mostly new releases. I think the scores posted below may actually get better in time as most of these wines had just been bottled 4 – 8 weeks ago.

2007 Grenache Blanc “The Gap”: 2+

2007 Picpoul Blanc “Hangtime”: 2  this is a very unusual wine, and was “controversial” in our group. It has a pronounced tart, lemony flavor, that some loved and others not as much. I’m on the fence. I wouldn’t necessarily drink as a “cocktail” wine, but instead I would match with a lemony fish or chicken dish to really set it off.

2006 Grenache “Skins”: 3

2006 Cuvee “The Pick”: 3+  this one was kind of spicy!

2006 Grenache-Syrah “The 46”: 3

2005 Syrah “The Hedge”: 4

2006 Syrah blend “5 Blocks: 3+  this wine won’t be released until the fall of 2008, and they were even hesitant to open it at this point. Yes it was tight, but I think this will be a great wine in time.

Note: Terry Hoage is modifying and soon limiting their mailing list. This would be a good time to get on:



2007 Prelude Marsanne/Roussanne blend: 1  it seemed a bit thin to me

2005 Rendition GSM: 2+

2005 Syrah: 3

2005 Cabernet: <

2005 Zin: 2



Well, the good news is after two years of being in a slump, Linne is back with some really good new releases. The bad news is prices are higher than ever.

2006 Stick and Stones GSM: 3

2006 Rising Tides: 2

2006 Leona’s (Zin, Mourvedre, Alicante, Syrah): 3.5

2006 Cherry Red (Zin, Mourvedre, Syrah): 3

2006 Nemesis: 3

2005 Martyr (Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache): 3+  nice wine, but at $95 – ouch!



The 2005’s at Denner last year were a real mixed bag, plus there was a lot of barnyard funk was going on. The 2006’s are much better.

2006 Theresa white blend: 2

2006 Grenache: 3

2006 Ditch Digger, GSM: 3

2006 Zin: 3

2006 Dirt Worshipper, Syrah/Viognier: 3  this wine is not yet released. It was tight and a bit disjointed, but it will be a big boy. Should be out in fall of 2008.



These guys usually put out some crappy wines, but occasionally they knock out a good one, like the Petite below.

2006 Anarchy Rhone Blend: 2+

2006 Heretic Petite Sirah: 3


2006 Chardonnay: 3

2006 Pinot Noir: 2+

2006 Pinot Noir Reserve: 3+

2005 Syrah: 3

Other Paso wineries we visited and tasted, but were totally forgettable:



Vihuela ( booooring)


More in the Santa Ynez area:

Casa Cassara (yuk)

Scott Cellars

Wild Heart


Thursday: Villa Creek

We’ve had several good meals at VC and several ho-hum. This night they were definitely good.


2007 VC white blend: 2

2005 Kosta Browne Syrah: 3+

2004 Shirvington Shiraz: 3  it was big, but seemed a bit syrupy.

Friday: McPhee’s

Overall, we had a very good meal and great service, though the noise can be deafening in the back room.


2005 Ramey Hyde Chardonnay: 3+

2006 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast: 3+

2005 Kosta Browne Gary’s: 4

2006 Saxon Brown “One Oak” Zin: 3+

2005 Ramey Syrah: 3+

Saturday: Artisan

Usually this place is great, but things were off. Michael, the floor manager, was cooking in the kitchen, his brother was AWOL? Several of our dishes were so-so.


2006 Alban Viognier: 2+  this is always a good “go to” wine that is reasonably priced.

2006 Kosta Browne Russian River Pinot Noir: 2+

2006 Mollydooker “Carnival of Love” Shiraz: 3+

 Well, that wraps it up — until next time.

Thanks for “listening”,




Mark Johnson

Commander Printed Products

3450 Camino del Sol

Oxnard, CA 93030

805-988-5880 / Fax: 805-988-6880

Hospice du Rhone Tasting Notes Part 1

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Courtesy of Mark Johnson…

Greetings all –

Well, I have so much to report on about the Paso HDR event weekend that I am going to break it into two different e-mails. Todays will be just straightforward tasting notes about the Friday and Saturday tastings, Part 1. The next e-mail (in a few days) will be more of the same event tasting notes (Part 2) plus additional tasting notes from winery visits in the Paso area (Denner, Terry Hoage, Linne Calodo, Ecluse and several others). I will also include restaurant and dinner wine notes. Yikes, maybe it will be three e-mails!


The scoring system I will be using is a much simplified version of my usual 1 – 10 point scale with .01 increments. With the fast pace at these tastings I must make a quick decision and rate it 1 to 4, 4 being best. I will use a + sign to designate a half point. If I use a < sign that means less than average and an X means a bad wine. These scores are not carved in stone, just quickie ratings for you to use as a guide for future purchases and/or to watch out for these wines upon release. Many of  these wines tasted won’t even be released for several months.

 So, let the ratings begin!

 X = bad wine

< = less than average wine

1 = just OK. Pleasant and drinkable, but there are better choices out there.

2 = pretty good. A nice, well made wine.

3 = very good. Definitely consider buying.

4 = WOW! Must buy.

 ERIC KENT (Santa Rosa)

2005 Dry Stack: 2

2005 Kalen’s Big Boy: 2+

The 2005’s were pretty good, but the 2006’s were even better. They will be out in fall of 2008.

2006 Dry Stack: 3

2006 Kalen’s Big Boy: 3+



These guys were THE hit of the show for me. I tasted three wines, and all were great. They were somewhat tight and a bit tannic (on Friday) but there was so much fruit and stuff going on you know it’s going to be great. They will be released in fall of 2008. Production will be VERY small, so you might want to get on his list:


2006 The Maven Grenache: 3+, maybe 4

2006 Syrah: 3

2006 The Banshee (a Grenache, Alicante Bouschet, and Syrah blend): 4   A killer wine, lot’s of pepper.

I believe there might have been another Syrah and Grenache, but unfortunately my notes are incomplete



Another great vintage for Booker. What’s their secret??

2006 Vertigo Syrah blend: 3+

2006 Fracture Syrah: 3+

2006 ripper Grenache: 4   a great wine! Not as monstrous as last year. Much more balanced.



This was another winery to definitely watch. He makes very good Grenache. My notes on his other two wines are gone as my recorder malfunctioned right after tasting his wine.

2007 Grenache Blanc: 2   a nice and crisp white.

2006 Grenache, Camp 4 vineyard: 3

2006 Grenache, Watch Hill vineyard: 3+  Very nice! I tasted this Grenache at the Wine Cask futures and gave it a similar score.

2006 Cuvee Christie (60% Grenache, 30% syrah, 10% Mourvedre): 3



The 2005 tasted like his previous vintage: too tight and too acidic. For $50 you can do better.

2005 Syrah: 1



2006 Cab/Syrah: X

2006 GSM: X

2006 Rhone blend: X



2006 Bien Nacido Syrah: a very tasty wine, nice and peppery

2006 Verna’s Syrah: 3+  he actually wasn’t pouring it here, but I tasted it about a month ago and it’s definitely worth buying now on his futures program



2006 The Bride white Rhone blend: 3  I like this wine, even though it could use a bit more fruit.

2006 Marsanne: 3  not as complex as The Bride, but gushing with great fruit

2005 Stagecoach Syrah: 3   don’t confuse with a similarly labeled Napa Syrah that’s not as good.

2006 Stagecoach Syrah: 4  Wow, this was an incredible wine, definitely in the top 5 of the weekend. It won’t be released until November or December of 2008. Must Buy!!


5 MILE BRIDGE (Atascadero)

2005 Syrah: X  watery

2006 Syrah: X  hoo-eee, barnyard



2006 Alta Vinas Grenache: 2  pretty good, but a bit sweet

The next 3 wines were barrel samples that weren’t quite ready for prime-time, so it’s hard to score

2006 L’Ange Rouge Grenache: 2 ?  too sweet

2006 Larner Grenache: 2 ?  also too sweet

2006 Les Galets Syrah: 3  this wine showed quite well


ALBAN (Arroyo Grande)

2005 Grenache: <  Kathie and I both thought this had a very odd flavor

2005 Reva Syrah: 2+  this wine was big, rich and deep, but a little too stinky/earthy for my tastes. I’m sure others loved it.


FOXEN (Santa Maria)

2006 Cuvee Jeanne Marie Grenache blend: 3

2005 William-Dore Syrah: 1+  it seemed a bit candied



2005 Artistico Syrah: 2+

2006 Viognier: 3



This is another new find. To be released in fall of 2008. Get on the list:

2006 Syrah: 3

2006 GSM: 3



I’ve tasted these guys three times now in the last few months at different events, and have been impressed. The 2005’s are pretty good, but watch out for the 2006’s! (not yet released)

2005 Bossman: 3

2006 Novillero Syrah: 4  available fall 2008

2006 Infadels Syrah: 3+  available fall 2008

2006 As the Crow Flies Syrah: 2+, maybe 3. Won’t be released until spring of 2009.        


That’s all for now. Watch for Part 2..or maybe even more.

Mark Johnson

Commander Printed Products

3450 Camino del Sol

Oxnard, CA 93030

805-988-5880 / Fax: 805-988-6880


Jaffurs Upslope

Friday, May 9th, 2008

I recently had the opportunity to try the 2005 Jaffurs Upslope Syrah.  This Syrah represents the best 6 barrels in the winery for the vintage.  It contains the best Syrah from the year’s production regardless of vineyard, clone, barrel type or yeast selection.  Candidate barrels are selected blind from 40-some designated Syrah barrels from Jaffurs.  It is the best of the best for Jaffurs and I loved every sip of it.  My understanding is that the 06 will be coming out later this year however the 05 is still available and I recommend getting a bottle or two before they run out.  It is fine to drink now but certainly will be even better with some age on it.  Laura