Posts Tagged ‘grenache’

Under the influence of the wine label? Guilty as charged.

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Orin Swift - PapillonOh go ahead and call the wine police. I’ll confess. Have I bought under the influence of the wine label? Yes sir, officer! Guilty as charged.

But, admit it. We’ve all done it. Sure we research the vintage tasting notes, read the reviews online, keep current on the industry trends, and mine feedback on our apps. But when you’re running late for that dinner party, you’ve left your phone in the car, and there isn’t a soul to ask for a recommendation, what does it come down to? That’s right…the label.

And really, what’s wrong with that?

Chonic Cellars - Sofa King BuenoAfter all, we taste with our eyes first. We swirl the wine, pontificate its color, its brilliance, its opacity, its legs. It’s our eyes that set the stage ripe with anticipation, setting the expectations of what will soon roll over our tongue. And yet, we discard the label as unimportant, a decoration, a distraction, a rookie mistake. Isn’t the label really our first taste of the vino goodness to come? And if it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Still not convinced? Consider some of our favorite wine labels in the shop.

 Orin Swift PapillonOrin Swift - The PrisonerOrin Swift - Saldo

Orin Swift
Strong, bold and arresting with layers of complexity in the storytelling. From Papillon’s hands of third generation Napa Valley grape grower and winemaker Vince Tofanelli to Saldo’s striking red and white label maker label, Orin Swift’s labels offer a visual amuse bouche of what awaits inside.




Herman Story - On the Road, Nuts & Bolts, and TomboyHerman Story
Fresh and forward, saturated, and yet, balanced, Herman Story’s labels reach out and grab you without even a line of front text. It’s pure experience: lush, vivid and focused. And just when you think you’ve got the blend of vineyards figured out, it slaps you with a barrage of words and smirk on the back label.



Owen Roe - Sinister HandOwen Roe - Yakima RedOwen Roe
Conversation starter and finisher. Owen Roe visually tempts your taste buds with a master blend of historical richness and salt of the earth earnestness, all delivered with a wink and a smile. Look no further than Owen Roe’s Sinister Hand label. Ominous yet tempting, it tells the tale of a rowing race won by a competitor slicing off his hand and tossing it on shore to be the first to touch, and ultimately become king. Determined, focused, arresting…or at the very least, a great party conversation starter.

Sans Liege - ProphetessSans Liege - GroundworkSans Liege - Cotes-Du-CoastSan Liege
Tasting this Thursday (5/12) at The Wine Closet with the winemaker himself!
Seductive, enrapturing and powerful, San Liege promises an “anthology of sensory travels” from first glance. A visual feast rich with layers of emotion, temptation and longing, San Liege’s labels deliver that first bite of the forbidden bottled inside.

And with that your honor, I rest my case and give it to the jury. What wine designs have caught your eye and tempted your palate?

Davina DaVino


A taste of the Pacific Northwest – Owen Roe Winery

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Owen Roe Tasting 5/5It’s hard to imagine, but not so long ago, wine experts turned up their nose at Napa. California wines, competing with their French counterparts? C’est ridicule! Yet, starting with the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 where Napa swept the reds and whites, new meccas of wine goodness have been popping up all around the country. One of the latest hotbeds to hit the vino shelves is the great Pacific Northwest. Between its diverse regions of soil and climate favorable for producing fruit with low pH and on point acidity, the Pacific Northwest has burst into the wine scene with distinct flavor, power and personality.

Owen Roe Sinister HandOne of our favorite labels from the Pacific Northwest has to be Owen Roe from David O’Reilly. From its memorable labels (like the severed hand of Sinister Hand) to its complex layers and balance of fruits and spice, Owen Roe’s wines are silky on the palate and big on personality. Such a strong core can only be developed by the history and soil it comes from. Steeped in Irish heritage, the winery is named after Owen Roe O’Neill a 17th century patriot from County Cavan Ireland (where David is originally from) who led an army against Cromwell based principles of integrity and liberty, two ideals that inspire the wines at Owen Roe and are commemorated through images on each of the Owen Roe labels. Continuing the tradition of integrity in his vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Washington’s west end Yakima Valley, Owen Roe’s grapes are hand harvested and bin fermented with manual punch downs and finally aged in French Oak bringing forth the best that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Yakima Red Owen RoeThe result? A powerful Pacific Northwest offering of some of the best Pinots and Syrah’s we’ve tasted.

  • Syrah Ex Umbris ’09: Latin for “out of the shadows”, this started as a one-off produced from the smoky grapes of a wildfire, but has become a signature Syrah. Deep plum and dark cherry greets you on the nose with a velvet palate of blackberry, peppercorn and black licorice against plush tannins.

Sinister Hand GSM ’09: Besides having one of our favorite conversation labels (depicting the result of a rowing competition between the O’Neills and O’Reillys where in order to reach land first and own it the lagging rower sliced off his hand, tossed it on shore, and became king), this Grenache blend brings a complexity that’s hard to pass up. 79% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 3% Mouvedre, and 2% Counoise.

Yakima Red Bordeaux-style Blend ‘09: Showcasing the world-class Merlot and Cabernet-Franc grapes of the Yakima Valley, the fruit is from several small vineyards from the cooler western end of the region, where the long days of sunshine and moderate temperatures in the evening conspire to produce lush aromatic grapes with lovely acidity and low ph. The result is a lush black cherry, bright red berry and cassis layers with a toasty spice finish.

Owen Roe Ex UmbrisDon’t have a weekend to jet up to the Oregon / Washington border? Never fear my wine enthusiasts, we’ll bring the Pacific Northwest to you (minus the weather). Join us this Thursday 5/5, Cinco de Mayo, to take a tour through Owen Roe’s great Northwest best paired with our own Southwest feast.

Davina DaVino

Drink your wine! Don’t dust it!

Friday, March 18th, 2011

 When I first started exploring wine, my wine closet (ok, more like a wine rack) rarely made it over 5 bottles. Why? Because I drank them. Switch to today, where my wine closet is stacked floor to ceiling with great wines. A wine lovers dream, right? Yes, if I were actually drinking them. Unfortunately, I’m dusting them, not drinking them. Maybe it was the process of collecting them like little treasures of grape goodness for that “perfect” moment of uncorking, but now I can’t bring myself to actually open them. It’s true…I have become a wine hoarder.

What’s the fun in that?

That’s exactly what Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company (our featured winery at next Thursday’s Night Tasting) asks in a great two part episode on Vaynerchuck’s Wine Library TV. Among other industry and vintner insights, Loring pleas with wine geeks everywhere: “Drink your wine!” (Check out part 1 and part 2 here.)

We agree and offer up a couple young goodies that are tasting well now for your drinking (not dusting) pleasure.

  • Beckmen ’09 Grenache
    Bright and bold for its age, this 100% Grenache brings together fruit from two exceptional clones planted on Beckmen’s estate vineyards meticulously farmed with a focus on low yields to achieve high quality fruit with great concentration. Intensely aromatic, this Grenache displays bright red berry fruit and spice layers, underscored by a plush, silky texture. 475 cases produced. Get it.
  • Palmina ’10 Pinot Grigio
    Freshening things up, this new kid on the block brings beautiful aromatics with notes of nectar, green pear, quince and a hint of sesame seed. Lively and yet round on the palate with lemon curd and more pear flavors mingling with lychee, marjoram spice and a gravelly earthy streak of flinty summer rain. The color of diffused sunlight on an early summer morning, Palmina’s ’10 Pinot Grigio is versatile with food and lovely on its own as an aperitif, picnic wine or as a well deserved glass of wine after a hard workday. Get it.
  • Forefront ’08 Cabernet Sauvignon
    Born a deep thinker (or drinker), Forefront’s ’08 Cabernet Sauvignon brings a blend of multiple varieties and appellations giving this bottling tremendous complexity. Syrah delivers the wine’s modern profile lending a luscious fruit-forward character that is a soft counterpoint to the Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Aromas of blackberry, red cherry and raspberry leap from the glass, enlivened by intriguing notes of spice, cedar and toffee. The palate echoes the nose with a juicy swirl of dark and red berries and plum, supported by solid yet smooth tannins that prolong the delicious finish. Get it.

Also, get to know our featured winemaker on Vaynerchuck’s Wine Library TV for some poignant industry, wine making and wine history insights. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

Brian Loring on Wine Library TV, part 1
Brian Loring on Wine Library TV, part 2
Thanks Wine Library TV!

Davina DaVino

Dubost Family Winery

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The Wine Closet had the pleasure of  co-hosting a wine tasting with Kate and Curt Dubost from Dubost Ranch Winery of Paso Robles last night. This winery is truly family owned and operated and the Dubost Ranch, located in the Adelaida area of Paso Robles (among the Far Out wineries of Paso Robles Westside), has been in the family for 5 generations. The winery is new, made of rice straw bale and represents the Dubost’s family values and respect for the land where they practice sustainable farming of a variety of vines including Tempranillo, Carmenere, Negret, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache ,Viognier and Roussanne. There’s probably more, but this is a good idea of the varietal range with which winemaker (and eldest son of Kate), Jacob Raines, who is a young 30 something, is stepping up and producing wines of distinction in this area.

Following are my notes from the 5 wines tasted last night:

’08 Alexandrine, 75% Viognier & 25% Roussanne – I love the aromas in Viognier, exotic floral and delicate citrus and apple in this one. It’s a crisper styled Rhone White, yet still benefits from the signature creamy mouthfeel. Flavors are all about stone fruits which carries on through the lingering finish. Nicely balanced between fruit and acidity. $22

’07 Homestead Red, Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah – A fresh and fruity, crowd-pleasing blend that’s slightly masculine as well (probably from the Tempranillo and Petite). It’s medium to full-bodied with flavors and aromas of dark fruits, herbs, and subtle oak char that acts as a fruit tamer and balances out the wine. $16

’06 Syrah – This was one of the favorites among tasters, but not your typical over-the-top styled Central Coast Syrah with high alcohol, this one is meatier, aged 30 months in 60% new and 40% neutral French oak barrels. Loaded with pepper spice and a hint of spearmint making it a lovely wine to pair with grilled lamb. $20

’06 Tempranillo (100% Tempranillo) – Tempranillo is one of my favorite varietals these days, I find we make them very well here in California and look forward to trying more.  The fruit is pure and abundant, with great aromas of cigar, spice and chocolate…almost like enjoying a spicy espresso in a cigar bar – sounds strange, but it’s the best description I can muster. I enjoyed it thoroughly. $28

’05 Gran Reserva, 50/50 Tempranillo & Grenache – The ‘Gran Reserva’ label is reserved for those wines aged at least 2 years prior to bottling. This one was aged for a total of 4 years; the two varietals were aged separately for 2 years, Tempranillo in new French oak and the Grenache in neutral hogshead barrels, they were then blended and aged for another year in the neutral hogshead barrels – but wait, there’s more…once bottled, the wine was again aged for an additional year prior to release. That said, this wine is big, bold, smooth and elegantly styled. Loaded with dark plums that’s also meaty, leathery and nutty – love it!  $32

Kudos to this new little family winery. I’ll definitely visit the next time I’m in Paso Robles as the company of both Curt and Kate was such a pleasure, the evening went by so quickly. I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the family.


Kaena ‘05 Grenache SYV

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Continuing on with my report on new releases, I had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Michael Sigouin (prounounced See-gway) from Kaena Winery this past week as he delivered his newly released 2005 Santa Ynez Valley Grenache to the store.  Nice fellow, very personable and obvious in his demeanor that he’s passionate about winemaking and quite excited about his new ’05’s.  While most other wineries are currently releasing their 2006 and even some 2007 vintages, Michael’s not in any rush to release his wines before they’re absolutely ready – this probably comes from his Hawaiian heritage where life’s much slower and more kicked back.  Kaena is Michael’s given Hawaiian name meaning “potential for greatness” and his goal is to produce truly handcrafted wines that are unique in style, elegance and power and embodies the spirit of Aloha.  The 2005 Grenache from Santa Ynez Valley was given 92 points back in March ’08 from James Laube of Wine Spectator – he says “Generous layers of ripe blackberry, wild berry and raspberry are tight, focused, long and persistent, ending with firm, ripe tannins and a nice spicy edge. Drink now through 2012. 50 cases made.”

We opened a bottle last night with our dinner of grilled coriander, cumin and lime spiced lamb chops and grilled asparagus.  Popped the cork and chilled slightly in the refrigerator before consuming.  First sip was sweet ripe berries and candied cherries with a pleasant mouthfeel and supple tannin on a lingering finish.  Immediately I knew this was a big, extracted wine with loads of fruit and spice – it paired excellently with the lamb chops.  The alcohol is at 14.9%, but well integrated.  I’d say this is indeed a Grenache lovers dream wine and a bargain at $24/bottle.


New Releases – Herman Story

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Wines that make you go mmmmmmmmmmmm… 

As promised, following are the tasting notes from the brand new releases from winemaker Russel From of Herman Story wines in Santa Maria.

Seems as though Russel From continues to create wines that contain bright, big fruit and great structure.  The two new releases from Herman Story I tried this week were the Grenache from the Larner Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley displayed youthful fruit and acidity with fresh strawberry and sweet raspberry flavors. The color was a beautiful dark purple hue. Although young, this wine has great potential and should develop nicely with some more bottle time. 168 cases produced, $35/bottle.

Next I tried the 2006 Nuts & Bolts Syrah which is a blend of Larner and Whitehawk vineyard fruit – the label is different then their previous releases – they have all the pertinent information on the mandatory back label only, nothing but an image on the front (similar to Red Car labels) – an unusual image of nuts and bolts in wood (I think?).  This wine is going to be a knockout for sure.  Already this wine is showing a delicate balance between dark black fruits, spice and hints of mocha/coffee flavors along with a bit of backbone on the finish which will relax upon bottle time and being exposed to some air.  It’s lush, full-bodied character made me want more soon after the first sip.  The inky dark ruby/garnet color promises to be a teeth stainer after a glass or two, or three!  572 cases produced and a heftier price tag at $35 from the 2005’s – We have ebob to thank for that!