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Tasting Event

Four Top Performers from Pinot Days 2012 San Francisco

Among “the usual suspects” at Pinot Days 2012, there was excellence to be found in all shapes and sizes. Four of the tables I stopped at offered super wines across the board and each of these producers has a style distinct from the others. Richard Berridge offers elegant, relatively light-bodied wines of great complexity. Pinot Noir at Sojourn Cellars are bold and creamy, powerhouses of flavor. The silky texture of Wren Hop Vineyards Pinot Noir would justify the drinking even if there were no flavor at all. If these first three wineries were points on an equilateral triangle, Failla would lie in the center. Their Pinot Noir are a generous medium in body, the flavors confident and all aspects of the wine in harmony.

Richard Berridge

I’ve not had a lot of experience with Richard Berridge wines in the past, but I’m looking forward to exploring them deeply in the near future. A Napa Valley-based landscape architect, Berridge was one of the original founders of Duckhorn wines. Now, he owns his eponymous winery as well as Drystone in New Zealand. A 2009 Drystone Pinot Noir Central Otago poured on Saturday was lovely.

Berridge-Wine-Logo-For-Web 

2009 Richard Berridge Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain — Medium-minus bodied, elegant and juicy with slightly tart red fruit. Very Highly Recommended

2007 Richard Berridge Pinot Noir Manchester Ridge Mendocino — Very complex on the nose with a profusion of fruit, earth, spice and herb. Lightly-textured palate. Very Highly Recommended

2009 Richard Berridge Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast — The creamiest of the Berridge’s I tried. It’s juicy though, and long, with flavors of dark red fruits and spice. Very Highly Recommended

2009 Richard Berridge Pinot Noir Sonoma Mountain — Funky spice, black cherry and attractive green herb. Highly Recommended +

2009 Richard Berridge Pinot Noir Anderson Valley — Leather, animal and the promise of much more after some bottle age — Highly Recommended

Failla

failla_logo

Failla is the personal label of Ehren Jordan and his wife Anne-Marie Failla. Jordan has also done so for Neyers, Turley Wine Cellars and Marcassin among others. The majority of Failla Pinot Noir are vineyard-designate bottlings from cool sites in genuinely coastal areas of the Sonoma Coast AVA.

2010 Failla Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley — From the warmest of Failla’s North Coast Pinot Noir sources, this wine is rich and spicy with earthy fruit. Highly Recommended.

2010 Failla Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard — Aromas of raspberry, spice and orange-vanilla ice cream. It’s medium-minus to medium in body with a lightly grainy texture that kicks in at mid-palate. It’s a long wine and one that will be at it’s best after three or more years. Highly Recommended.

2011 Pinot Noir Failla Sonoma Coast — This is a young wine in three senses. It’s a 2011. It’s made from the “younger blocks” of Failla’s vineyard-designate sites. It was bottled Tuesday. Despite the latter, there was no obvious bottle shock. I noted sweet, creamy cherry, spice and hints of orange pith. It’s elegant and textured with medium-plus acidity. Highly Recommended.

Sojourn Cellars

Sonoma-based Sojourn Cellars does not make coy wines. They have complexity and also evolve, but the core flavors are bold and concentrated with palate weight to match. (Sojourn also makes Cabernet Sauvignon in the same vein, but with appropriately greater weight and structure. I’ve recently tried the 2009 Spring Mountain and a 2008 blend of Beckstoffer George III, Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain. They are both knockouts.)

2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard — Creamy with cherry, earth, spice and more. Very Highly Recommended

2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard — Exotic spice, ripe red berries and earth. Very Highly Recommended

2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Gaps Crown Vineyard — Creamy palate with root beer spice. Very Highly Recommended

2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Ridgetop Vineyard — A relatively restrained nose with exotic woods and spices. Tight but richly textured. I’d like to try this one again in six months. Recommended+

2010 Sojourn Wohler Vineyard — To be released this Fall, the Wohler offers maraschino cherry with minty accents and grainy tannins. Highly Recommended

 

Wren Hop Vineyards

The Wren Hop wines are made by Russell Bevan who tends to make very sensual wines and puts a lot of focus on texture. You get both with the Wren Hop Pinot Noir. I liked the mouthfeel of Siren's Lure so much, I didn’t want to spit or swallow.

2009 Wren Hop Pinot Noir “Siren’s Lure” — From the “true Sonoma Coast” this aptly named wine offers flavors of leather, bresaola and forest floor on a backdrop of dark fruit. It’s beautifully silky. Very Highly Recommended.

2009 Wren Hop Pinot Noir “Omens and Prophecy” Russian River Valley — Ripe dark cherry, blueberry and spice with nearly medium-plus acidity and a long finish. Highly Recommended+.

2010 Wren Hop Pinot Noir “Stolen Crown” Russian River Valley — Not yet released, this wine gives you smoked meat and dark berries with a silky, yet structured palate. Highly Recommended.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. Winery logo art is the property of their respective holders. All rights reserved.

Reflections from Yesterday's California Cabernet Society Tasting

I attended The California Cabernet Society 2010 Passport to Cabernet tasting at the Bently Reserve building in San Francisco yesterday afternoon. There were 75 wineries pouring at least a couple of different Cabernet Sauvignon wines each. The majority of wineries were from the Napa Valley. However, there were also several from Sonoma County, a couple from Paso Robles and one each from Livermore Valley, Oakdale, Santa Ynez and Temecula.

The primary focus of this event was the pouring of barrel samples from the 2009 vintage. Most, but not all, wineries had some on hand. There were plenty of wines from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages to try as well. There were very few 2008’s in the room.

Between the main tasting room and the very convenient press room, I was able to taste virtually every barrel sample available. [The press room was great. I virtually had it to myself. It was quiet, all the samples were lined up alphabetically, and I was able to go at my own pace without any jostling or distractions.] Even though I did taste them all, I don’t believe there’s much point in throwing out a long list of “ratings” for the barrel samples. I don’t think it would do you much good.

For a variety of reasons, barrel samples are not necessarily representative of products you might actually be able to buy or taste. All of the wines will be undergoing more barrel aging. Some were samples from particular blocks or vineyards that will go into a larger blend. Others were single varietal wines from multiple vineyards but will see the addition of other Bordeaux-varietal components before bottling. Some samples were fully blended, but taken from favorite barrels. [I’m sure they were all favorite barrels... why offer anything less under the circumstances?] So, rather than provide specifics on wines none of us will ever taste again, I’d like to provide some general observations.

There have been a lot questions about the 2009 vintage in Northern California and the impact of those heavy rains that hit us about the time of harvest. There were several concerns:
  • Would the rain result in big berries that were full of water that would create diluted wines?
  • Would the rain cause rot, some of which might find it’s way into the wines resulting in off flavors?
  • Would growers rush to pick before the rains even if the grapes were a little under-ripe?
  • Would those vineyards that were picked after everything had dried out wind up with over-ripe grapes?
  • What effect would all of these concerns have on yield?
  • Would Lassie get the serum through?

Most of these were valid concerns. I think we can probably put away our worry beads though. I’m happy to report that, at least for the wineries pouring yesterday, there wasn’t evidence of quality issues brought about by the rain. Of course, since these were “best barrel” offerings, it is possible, or even likely, that there are wines in other barrels that are less than optimal. However, that will be something for the winemakers and business people to work out as they make their decisions on quality vs. volume. It is clear to me that there can and should be some outstanding wines from the 2009 vintage.

Tasting a large number of barrel samples can be harsh. I have often wished for a spare tongue on such occasions. Happily, such was not the case yesterday. By and large, the wines were all pleasant on the palate. Certainly there was no shortage of tannins, but they were all resolving nicely. And none of the wines showed the harsh and unpleasant tannins that tend to come from grapes which haven’t reached phenolic ripeness. There were even a few wines that I would have been very happy to drink immediately. [I did restrain myself though.]

With regard to the non-barrel samples I tasted, I do have some tips and recommendations:
Ashe Family Vineyards is just about to make their first-ever release. They are making a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine from their estate vineyard in Oakville. This first release, called “Entre Nous” and from the 2007 vintage, is a very good wine and just 100 cases were made. They still have a few cases that have not been spoken for. If you want to be the first (perhaps only) person in your neighborhood to have some, act quickly. I highly recommend the wine and, if that’s not convincing, you should also know that the vineyard is managed by Jim Barbour and the wine made by Philippe Melka.

I have not previously had the opportunity to taste the wines from Carter Cellars in Calistoga. Yesterday, in addition to the barrel sample, they poured the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Coliseum Block (available on their web store for $125). It’s a wine of considerable depth and richness yet well-structured. I very highly recommend it.

If you would like to see what the Livermore Valley is capable of doing with Cabernet Sauvignon, I highly recommend the 2007 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 30 Ghielmetti Vineyard. Whether you want to surprise your friends at a blind tasting or just want a killer wine to enjoy over the next 12+ years, this is a good choice. Just four barrels were made and the wine’s sold only in 3 packs ($300 “retail,” $255 for club members.) Even if you don’t spring for this wine, Steven Kent Winery should definitely be on your short list of tasting rooms to visit in Livermore.

If you’re looking for a Napa Valley Cabernet that offers good bang for the buck (and who isn’t?), I recommend the 2006 Titus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon for just $41. It will probably be best if you hold it for a couple of years, but will be very nice now with an hour or two of decanting.

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Top Picks from the Rock Wall - Alameda Point Spring Fling Open House

On Saturday, April 24, Rock Wall Wines opened their doors to several other East Bay wineries and more than a thousand wine enthusiasts. And their doors are massive! Rock Wall Wines is located in a huge hangar building in what was formerly the Alameda Naval Air Station. Huge doors swing out, an amazing feat of engineering, to expose a beautiful view of the bay and San Francisco.

While there was a live band playing near the water, most attendees found plenty to keep their attention inside the building. There were nearly 80 wines to try from five wineries:
Blacksmith Cellars
Carica Wines
Eno Wines [The Eno wines listed below are new and not yet shown on their website.]
John Robert Eppler
R&B Cellars
Rock Wall Wines

Highly Recommended
2007 Eno Grenache “The Change Agent,” N/A
2007 Eno Pinot Noir “The One”Fairview Road Ranch, Santa Lucia Highlands, N/A
2007 Eno Syrah “Mr. Fix-It” Las Madres Vineyard, Carneros [Sonoma], N/A
2007 Rock Wall Wines Zinfandel Reserve Sonoma County, $35

Recommended
2005 Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, $30
2006 Blacksmith Cellars Syrah Alexander Valley, $20
2007 Carica Sauvignon Blanc Kick Ranch Vineyard, $20
2008 John Robert Eppler Petite Sirah, $28
2007 Eno Zinfandel “The Freedom Fighter” Ray Teldeschi Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, N/A
2006 R & B Cellars Cabernet Franc “Counterpoint,” N/A
2007 R & B Cellars Zinfandel “Swingsville” Lodi, $12
2007 R & B Cellars Zinfandel “Zydeco” Napa Valley, $28
2007 R & B Cellars Sauvignon Blanc North Coast, $13
2007 Rock Wall Wines Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, $28
2007 Rock Wall Wines Zinfandel Sonoma County, $25

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Photos from Rhone n Bowl - Hospice du Rhone 2011

The 19th annual Hospice du Rhone celebration kicked-off on May 28 in Paso Robles with Rhone n Bowl. Hospice du Rhone is the world’s largest celebration of Rhone variety wines. It brings together winemakers, wine growers, journalists, resellers, distributors, importers and consumers from around the world.

The opening event for several years running has been Rhone n Bowl. Untold bottles of Rhone variety wine is consumed, friends are made, hair is let down and jet lag is recovered from — or compounded. And there is bowling too! Hospice du Rhone feels a like a huge family reunion where Rhone wines are the common ancestor. The bowling party is a great way of getting everyone in the right mood for a long weekend of learning, tasting, sharing, and bonding.

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

The Best White Wines at Sonoma in the City 2013

I attended the 2013 Sonoma in the City (San Francisco) trade and media tasting on April 16. It was a three-hour long, walk around tasting. Every AVA in Sonoma County was represented and at least 130 wineries had wines on offer.

My plan was to start with the whites, move onto Pinot Noir and then to the bigger reds. That proved impossible. I was only able to get through the white wines and taste about ten rosé and red wines in the allotted time. However, I did taste, rate and write notes on 111 white wines. There were a few producers I missed, such as Quivira, Frostwatch and Duckhorn. Several prominent producers didn't attend (at least not with whites or a dedicated table), including Hirsch, Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyard, Dunstan, Three Sticks, Moshin, Woodenhead, Failla, Littorai, Peay, etc.

Overall, the wine quality was high. There were at most 20 wines that I scored below 87 points. Six earned 93 points or better.

The wines were not only well-made, but distinctive side-by-side. Sure, there was a lot of apple and pear in the Chardonnay, grapefruit and guava in the Sauvignon Blanc. And full-body was the norm. These weren’t cookie-cutter or manufactured wines though.

There were also some good values. Chief among the sweet deals is the 2012 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc at just $16. But don’t overlook the beautiful 2011 Cartograph Floodgate Vineyard Gewurtztraminer at $22 or the two Chardonnay from MacRostie Winery.

The wines below are those I rated most highly amongst the whites. Each of them scored an equivalent of 90 points or higher. I have listed them in alphabetical order within each quality segment. I apologize for the lack of detailed notes on the Highly Recommended. I had them all entered and then lost it in a web-fail. I'm posting the article as is rather than holding it for another two hours while I redo those notes.

Very Highly Recommended

2010 Clouds Rest Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $45
Beautiful and aromatic. Fruit blossoms, baking spice, stone fruit and citrus. Nearly full-bodied, but fresh with a long finish.

2010 Flowers Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $40
Full-bodied, fresh and flavorful with pear, baking spice and stone fruit.

2010 Flowers Chardonnay Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $58
Aromas and flavors of green apple, baking spice, pear, savory herb and a waft a yeasty bread. Full body.

2009 Gary Farrell Vineyards Chardonnay Westside Farms Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $38
Gentle on the nose, but complex. Baking spice, warm nuts, apple, pear, ginger and cream.

2010 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay Sonoma Valley Sonoma County, $75
Juicy, delicious, long and, as usual for Hanzell Chardonnay, a wine that will be even more charming after 3 - 10 years in the cellar.

2011 Red Car Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $54
Gorgeous and my favorite white of the day. Medium+ body and long with baking spice, ginger, apple, oak and loads of ripe and juicy pear.

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Highly Recommended+

2009 MacRostie Winery Chardonnay Wildcat Mountain Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $35
Aromatically restrained but generous on the palate. Spice, apple, pear. Nearly full-bodied.

2011 Red Car Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $35
Elegant nose, balanced palate. Baking spice, walnut skin, apple, pear, butter and cream.

Highly Recommended

2010 32 Winds Wine Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard Carneros Sonoma County, $49
2010 Argot Chardonnay “Hidden Truths” Bennett Valley Sonoma County, $42
2010 Balletto Pinot Gris Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $18
2012 Grey Stack Sauvignon Blanc Rosemary’s Block Bennett Valley Sonoma County, $30
2011 Benovia Winery Chardonnay Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $36
2010 Capture Wines Sauvignon Blanc Les Pionniers Sonoma County, $45
2010 Capture Wines Chardonnay Ma Vie Carol Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Sonoma County, $48
2011 Cartograph Gewurtztraminer Floodgate Vineyard Russiant River Valley Sonoma County, $22
2011 Clouds Rest Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc “Musque” Green Valley of Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $38
2011 Del Dotto Chardonnay Cinghale Vineyard Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma County, $85
2012 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County, $16
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $35
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Rued Vineyard Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $50
2011 Fort Ross Chardonnay Estate Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma County, $40
2011 Freeman Chardonnay RYO-FU Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $40
2010 Gary Farrell Vineyards Chardonnay Russian River Selection Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $32
2011 Gary Farrell Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $25
2004 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée Sparkling Wine Carneros Sonoma County, $32
2011 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay “Sebella” Sonoma Valley Sonoma County, $36
2011 Hartford Court Chardonnay Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $30
2010 Hartford Court Chardonnay Stone Cote Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $60
2010 Hartford Court Chardonna Fog Dance Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $65
2011 Jordan Chardonnay Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $30
2011 Keller Estate Pinot Gris La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $30
2012 Kokomo Winery Sauvignon Blanc Timber Crest Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County, $20
2010 La Follette Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $38
2010 MacPhail Family Chardonnay Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $45
2011 MacRostie Winery Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $25
2008 Martinelli Winery Chardonnay Three Sisters Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $60
2011 Mauritson Family Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County, $21
2010 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $75 (sold out)
2010 Ramey Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $38
2010 Ramey Chardonnay Platt Vineyards Sonoma County, $60
2009 Ramey Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard, $60
2012 Twomey Estate Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $25
2011 Sojourn Cellars Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Sonoma County, $45
2010 Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards Chardonnay “The Cutrer” Russian River Valley Sonoma County, $32
2010 The Donum Estate Chardonnay Estate Carneros Sonoma County, $50
2011 White Oak Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley Sonoma County $16

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook. Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.