Archive for January, 2009

Pinot Noir Tasting: North vs South

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Mark Johnson hosted a phenomenal tasting last week where we went head-to-head with Pinots from the North (Sonoma County) vs. Pinots from the South (Santa Rita Hills & Santa Maria).  We tasted 15 wines in all – all heavy hitters with the trio of Seasmoke butting up against the trio of Kosta Browne.  The big disappointments of the night were indeed the Seasmoke 2005 and 2006 TEN, both of which scored low on my score sheet coming in at 6.0 and 5.5 out of 10 respectively.  Tasting notes used descriptive words such as zingy, high alcohol on the nose, tight and tannic – probably young.  The third Seasmoke Vineyard addition was the Foxen ’05 with a higher score of 7.0 – it boasted a big fruity nose that followed through on the palate, a bit tart and high alcohol.

The big winners of the night — which was no big surprise to me — were all three of the Kosta Browne wines.  Following are my notes:

#1 Both scoring 9 points and tying for first place were KB ’05 Kanzler with a great nose of ripe cherries and a nicely rounded flavor profile including an exotic spice mixture, sweet red cherries and a perfect amount of acidity – I loved this wine.  The 2nd, but also scoring 9 points out of 10 was the KB ’05 Miran Vineyard which permeated a high alcohol nose which was very well integrated once tasted – a very complex wine with great fruit flavors and slight tannins on the finish which leads to believe this one will only get better with a little more time in the bottle.

Snagging the #2 position was the KB ’05 from Keefer Ranch scoring 8.8 out of 10.  This is a solid wine that encompasses all the characteristics a good Pinot should have and well balanced between fruit and acidity – an all around good wine.

I scored the ’05 Dierberg from Steven’s Vineyard 8.9 on the first round, but then shot it back down to 6.0 after a revisit.  My notes for round #1 – bright ruby red color, very floral nose, like a Grenache. A very big wine with layers of dark fruit and firm tannins on the long finish.  Not very Pinot like, but I like it!  The 2nd tasting just lost most of the big fruit flavors and seemed mediocre.  To be fair though, this was re-tasted after we made it through all the wines and each one had been decanted for at least an hour.  Wine Spectator gave this one 79 points and says: Pungent herbaceous and smoky, tarry, woody flavors make this a mixed bag. Lacks fruit and varietal character. 168 cases made. –JL  Very INTERESTING.

Next in my top 5 lineup is the Papapietro Perry ’04 from the Mukaida Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast.  This wine scored a big 95 points from Wine Spectator – I gave it 8.7 saying it displays nice cherry and plum fruit flavors and aromas, quite concentrated and nicely balanced.  Wine Spectator has much more to say about this wine:  Amazing depth, purity of flavor, concentration and complexity. From the enticing aromas of black cherry, wild berry, blueberry and plum to their expansive mouthfeel, this is a wonderful Pinot that combines elegance with grace and persistence. Drink now through 2010. 195 cases made. –JL

There was a 4th Kosta Browne tossed in by Kent for good measure which I scored 7.9 points.  It was the ’05 vintage from Amber Ridge which was a bit more tightly wound than the others, some alcohol on the nose and a slight bitterness on the mid-palate that wasn’t a bad bitter.  Still a big wine with some tannins on the finish.  I truly wish I could get KB wines as I don’t believe I’ve ever had one I didn’t enjoy. 

The new addition to our group was Charles Clark who brought a wine I hadn’t heard of before from Gary Farrell ’05 from Rochioli Vineyard – this wine was probably the most true to its varietal in the Burgundian style, lighter bodied and elegantly made.  A perfect food wine most of us truly enjoyed.

Overall, we didn’t have a bad wine in the bunch, although I wasn’t too keen on the Alesia ’04 from Sonoma – I scored this one the lowest at 4.0 points because to me, it resembled burning rubber which Steve called Brett.  Others actually liked this, not for me.

Mark threw in a bonus wine at the end of the evening which I thought was going to be past its prime since it was a 2000 vintage, but surprisingly enough, this one from Kistler (Sonoma Coast) had a great nose as well as that great cherry cola flavor I love in Pinot.  It was barely showing age whatsoever.  A great wine.

That’s it for me.


Pops Runquist- we love the R Petite Sirah!

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

The day after New Years we did a little wine tasting up in Amador Valley (east of Sacramento).  Our first stop was Convergence. Oh, just before turning into the driveway here we spotted a bald eagle sitting in the trees.  Very cool.  We were greeted by River the dog and winemaker Stephen Concannon poured for us.  We liked pretty much every wine we tried here as evident by the case of wine we left with (and I had planned on keeping the credit card safe in my pocket all day…)  It’s a very cozy tasting room and it sounds like Stephen and Jamie put on some pretty cool wine tasting parties.  I wish I lived closer.  I’ll give description on their wines when we enjoy them at home.  Stephen suggested we head over to Bray Vineyards. So we did.  Another fun tasting room.  Their trademark is a man drinking a bottle of wine while driving a tractor, doing a pop-a-wheelie.  We left with another case, including a bottle of Barbera Rosato, which is kind of like a white zin (don’t be scared) but better…cooler :) .  Third we stopped at C.G. DiArie.  It was really busy here.  And we tasted a ton (maybe 10-11) of their wines, including 6 barrel tastings.  We didn’t buy anything here but the atmosphere was fun for the Italian designed/decorated room we were in.  After stopping for some lunch at InCahoots we headed back out to Nine Gables.  Not much to say about them.  I don’t think they thought we’d buy any wine…so…we didn’t.  With time winding down we stopped at Runquist Vineyards. 

Jeff Runquist went to UC Davis pre-med.  Two weeks in he decided that wasn’t for him and ended up working in a winery.  Long story short he ended up making wine.  How do we know this?  Because Pops told us.  Pops poured us the wine with his special “rinsing of each glass with the new wine so it coated all sides so we can appreciate the bouquet more” technique.  While this takes a while, and uses more wine then the winemaker may appreciate, it allowed us to ask lots of questions.  We came away with a case of wine here too.  Which is why I started this blog…  Last night we opened a 2006 R Petite Sirah.  As with most Petite Sirahs, it has an intense dark purple color. It’s blackberry, boysenberry, rasberry…just good. It is very well balanced and easy to drink on it’s own.  At $26 we probably should’ve bought another bottle(s). Their tasting room looks fairly new, huge wine bar with lots of room for lots of people and Pearl the dog.  They also served us bread and cheese with our tasting.

More on the other wines we bought as we drink them.  I didn’t take notes during our tastings but was overall really impressed with Amador Valley.  The tastings were all free.  The wines all had lots of flavor.  And the wines in general were reasonable in price.  I hope everyone drank a lot of good wine over the holidays and drinks even better wine in 2009!


Wine Gems

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

I wanted to share these great wine notes with you from a friend who is a wine enthusiast and is also in the wine and food industry.  Following is his response when asked the question if he’s tried any good wines over the last week or two.  Enjoy!  Linda

As for a few neat wines I have tried recently – Here’s a quick list off the top of my head  – That my wife, family, and friends and I have enjoyed.  We’ve been going through the cellar and found a few of these gems….

  • 2004 L’Avneture Optimus is drinking beautifully – glad I waited 2 years from release to start drinking them!
  • 2003 & 04 Simi Landslide – One of the best “value” Cab I have had in a while & a real sleeper that’s under $30 – again glad I waited to open them!
  • 2005 Bogle Phantom – The new release is the most approachable vintage of this paticular wine I have had in the last 6 vintages.  I usually recommend you wait 6 months to let this wine settle and integrate… Maybe less Petite Sirah in the blend has done the trick?  It still one of the best under $20 wines you can open & with the P.S, OV Zin, and OV Mouvedre in the blend I think it has something for everyone to enjoy…
  • 2005 Merkin Chupacabra red wine – A very small production red wine blend that’s from the winery owned/made by Maynard James Keenan (Founder of the Alt Rock Group Tool).  A lush beautiful blend at around $30 (See Pete at Liquid).  The winery is in AZ but they buy Bordeaux juice from Napa and Sonoma.  Next year I am told they will be releasing estate wines made in AZ using Spanish and Portuguese Varietals.  The Chupacabra and other wines he makes from contract fruit is a real pleaser and gaining a semi cult status among wine geeks.  His other releases are also something special but they price out at $75 to $100 a bottle.
  • 2001 Shea Willamette Valley Pinot Noir… Huge fruit great color still has years to go to enjoy. I thought I might have waited to long on this one but I was so wrong!!! 
  • 2005 Boutari Moschofilero – A REAL surprise! A greek white wine.  Slightly floral with notes of honeysuckle and apricots but not as overpowering as a Viognier…  Great value too at under $15
  • 2005 Barrel 27 and Mac Price Myers Viogniers –  Big Lush Decedent Viogniers.  Rich with with a touch of spice and acidity
  • 2005 & 06 Barrel 27 Head Honcho – Far better then the value priced Barrel 27 Syrah and worth the $25-30 price
  • 2005 & 06 Tait Ballbuster – It never fails to impress over the last 4 vintages – Under $22
  • 2000 & 01 Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino – Great Brunellos and a great intro to this wine if you have people that have never tried a quality Brunello…. The 01 is far richer and more complex 
  • 2006 Seasmoke Southing – Some what disappointed …  Seems a little flat not the pop I have come to expect from previous Seasmoke wines… Still it is SEASMOKE
  • 2003 & 4 Mitolo GAM Shiraz (Australia) – I cannot believe I did not get more of this wine.  Beautiful lush blackberry fruit with a finish that goes on and on like port (without the sweetness).  It’s $50 well spent (Woodland Hills Wine).  Drinking well 3 years after we bought them
  • 2002 & 05 D’Arnberg Deadarm Shirazs – More great shirazs at a good price (for high end Aussie Shiraz).  I like to think it’s like getting The Grange at 1/4 the price ($65) 
  • 2003 Paolo Bea Montefalco Rosso – 100% Sagrantino red wine from Umbria. Normally this wine is a little too rustic and/or tannic for lush California Cab and Syrah drinkers but this vintage was exceptionally loaded with rich fruit.  One of the few years this wine made by this producer can be enjoyed by itself or with rich powerful food.   Brunello lovers will be all over this wine a chicey wine to surprise people with – One draw back is the $85 or $90 price (Woodland Hills Wine)
  • 2005 & 06 Layer Cake Shiraz, Primativo and Malbec – Ok these guys at 100 Acre Winery have it dialed in with their second label!   The Shiraz is like 90% the Boxer and priced like 2 vintages ago (all are under $20).  The Primativo is earthy but rich fruit like a Zin from Amador County, and the Malbec gives Vino Cabos Crocodillio (Paul Hobbs) a run for the money at a better price.

So – I hope that gives you some wines to ponder and chew on… I have more if I check through my cellar –
Let me know what you think or if you would like some more finds!