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Lateral Moves North

Lateral, an established brand, is making a new start in Napa Valley. Lateral began as a label of the Kathryn Kennedy Winery in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. The line was created in 2003 by Marty Mathis. He is Kathryn Kennedy’s son, has been head winemaker at her eponymous winery since 1981 and is it’s owner as well.

Until recently, Lateral bottlings were labeled as “California wine.” Mathis tells me “multi-county sourcing offers an economic advantage.” Good fruit from Santa Clara Valley, or even Sonoma County, costs a lot less than that from Napa Valley. However, there’s a branding disadvantage with the relatively generic California designation. “It was fine when we were only selling in California, but having a Napa Valley label makes getting on out-of-state wine lists much easier.”

2010-LateralTo that end, Mathis is instituting a number of changes to make Lateral Napa Valley-specific. As of the 2010 vintage Lateral will offer just one wine, a red Bordeaux-variety blend made solely from Napa Valley fruit. The winemaking is being done in Napa Valley too. That’s being handled by Chris Condos who has worked on the wine for 15 years but lives in Napa Valley.

Other changes are in the works. More French oak is being used. The physical label has been gotten a facelift. Soon, Lateral will be a distinct company as well. Due to the higher price of Napa Valley grapes, the price has gone from $30 to $42. Mathis jokes that Lateral is “a rich man’s Tuesday night wine.”

Both Mathis and Condos have strong commitments to organic practices in the vineyard and winery. Fruit for the 2010 vintage was sourced from six different organic vineyards, such as Robert Sinskey and Pat Garvey. Each is vinified separately. The winery is certified organic so bottles can bear a “Made with Organic Grapes” logo.

Mathis has a longstanding preference for a traditional approach to red Bordeaux blends in California, balanced and age-worthy wines that don’t pursue power and ripeness at the expense of elegance. Mathis’ and Condos’ interests in organics and balance have come together beautifully in the 2010 Lateral Napa Valley.

The dark ruby Lateral offers plum, dark spice, blackberry, trail dust and wood on the nose. The flavors are much more red-fruit focused with a core of raspberry and red cherry accented by spice and oak. I find the tension in this wine compelling. There’s great freshness on the palate, accentuated by the raspberry note, which is deftly balanced by light-grained tannins and medium+ body. The finish is lengthy and centers on that tangy red fruit. The wine doesn’t offer a laundry list of flavors now, but the purity of fruit and palate dynamics are special and suggest good capadity for aging. Drink now through 2020+. Highly Recommended+.

2010 Lateral Red Wine Napa Valley

Rating: Highly Recommended+

Drink: now through 2020+
Closure: Cork
Production: 2,000 cases
Retail Price: $42.00

Winemaker: Chris Condos
Blend: 76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc

Origin: certified organic grapes from Napa Valley vineyards including, Robert Sinskey, Yount Mill and Pat Garvey
Fermentation: multiple yeast strains, six different vineyards vinified separately
Aging: 22 months in French and American oak, 30% new
Alcohol: 14.4%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: optional

Temperature: 58º - 64º F

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

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

Enjoy an Epic Tasting of 1968 Napa Valley Cabernets and Other Upcoming Events

Taste Multiple 1968 Napa Valley Cabernet in Livermore—October 27

You probably take claims such as “once in a lifetime opportunity!” with a grain of salt. Yeah, me too. But then there’s this... Starting at 4pm on Sunday, October 27 a small group of people will be tasting drinking seven 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon (and other aged wines) over a very good, multi-course dinner in a private room at a nice restaurant. You can be in that group. There are currently just 3 or 4 seats available.

Here’s the full wine list for the evening, unless something else gets added:
1968 Hanzell Chardonnay Sonoma
1968 Louis M. Martini Pinot Noir Reserve
1968 Inglenook Charbono
1968 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet 1968 BV George de la Tour Private Reserve
1968 Inglenook Cask H-12 Cabernet
1968 Souverain Napa Cabernet (Howell Mt.)
1968 Buena Vista Cask 102 Sonoma Cabernet
1968 Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Unfined
1968 Charles Krug Vintage Selection Cesare Mondavi Cabernet
1968 Mayacamas late harvest Zinfandel
1957 Ficklin LBV Port (Made from a solera of the 1948 through 1957 vintages)

As you might suspect, this tasting isn’t free. But it’s not crazy expensive either. The tasting fee is $125 and you also pay for your own dinner and gratuity. I’d estimate the grand total to be about $235. You can buy tickets here.
Note: I’ll be in attendance but I’m not the tasting organizer and am not receiving any of the proceeds (which are just going to defray part of the wine cost anyway).

Hopland Passport in Hopland, Mendocino—October 19 & 20

Hopland Passport LogoHopland is a cute little town and a visit there is fun anytime. However, Hopland’s Fall Passport weekend will be especially festive. From 11am to 5pm each day, you’ll taste new and library wines from fifteen local vintners. And, of course, there’ll be plenty of food too.

Tickets are $45 in advance, $55 at the event. For tickets or more information, visit Destination Hopland.

The participating wineries include Brutocao Cellars, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Frey Vineyards, Graziano Family, Jaxon Keys Winery, Jeriko Estate, McFadden Farm, McNab Ridge Winery, Milano Winery, Nelson Family Vineyards, Ray’s Station, Saracina and Terra Savia.

 

Howell Mountain Harvest Celebration in Yountville—November 2

There are great wines coming from Howell Mountain. But, not all of the wineries are open to the public and a “passport” event could be hazardous given the narrow, winding roads. So Howell Mountain vintners trek down the hill for big tastings like their Howell Mountain Harvest Celebration. This time it will be held at V Wine Cellar in Yountville.

The tasting features 18 Howell Mountain wineries and will run from 1pm to 4pm on Saturday, November 2. In addition to the wine, there’ll be delicious food from a range of providers and winery chefs, plus live blues music. Buy your tickets soon, they are $55 right now but will go to $75 soon. Tickets will be $95 at the door.

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 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Charles Banks Acquires Historic Qupé Winery In the Santa Maria Valley Appellation

Banks becomes majority stake holder, with legendary winemaker, Bob Lindquist, remaining on board as partner  

Santa Barbara County, CA- Charles Banks and Terroir Selections have acquired a majority stake in Santa Maria Valley’s iconic Qupé winery, long considered one of America’s finest Syrah producers. Founder and winemaker, Bob Lindquist, will assume the role of partner, while Louisa Sawyer Lindquist will continue to assist with sales. Moving forward, both parties are committed to improving quality at Qupé.

“I am thrilled to work alongside a gifted winemaker and legend like Bob Lindquist,” says Banks. He continues, “Bob has been a steadfast visionary of Syrah for decades. Few have done as much as Bob to advance awareness for Syrah in the United States. I love Syrah and have wanted to work on a meaningful Syrah project for a number of years now. With an infusion of capital from Terroir Selections, Bob and I are both confident that we can strengthen Qupé’s future allowing it to remain the benchmark in American Rhone-inspired wines.”  

CharlesBanks BobLindquist ByJeremyBall
Bob Lindquist and Charles Banks. Photo: Jeremy Ball

Lindquist has long been considered one of Santa Barbara wine country’s visionaries. While a tour guide in the late ‘70’s at Zaca Mesa, Lindquist learned to make wine from his co-workers and friends; Jim Clendenen, who at the time was assistant winemaker, Ken Brown, who was winemaker, and Adam Tolmach, who was the enologist. All three, who became successful winery owners themselves, worked at Zaca Mesa during Santa Barbara wine country’s nascent era.  

Founded in 1982, Qupé will continue to share a winery with Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat on the esteemed Bien Nacido vineyard; an agreement that was made between Lindquist and Clenenden in1989, when they brought their winery projects together under one roof.  Lindquist and Clendenen continue to mentor a new generation of winemakers, including Paul Lato, Gavin Chanin, Gary Burk, Josh Klapper and Rajat Parr, among many others.  

Banks adds, “My wife, Ali, and I have been in Santa Barbara County for 13 years, and we’ve set down some roots here, first with Jonata, and later with Sandhi and Mattei’s Tavern (a four-way partnership between Ali and Charles Banks, and Emily Perry Wilson and Chef Robbie Wilson) and now with Qupé.   Qupé Winery will join Banks’ Terroir Selections portfolio, which includes Sandhi (Sta. Rita Hills, with celebrated sommelier-turned-winemaker, Rajat Parr), Mayacamas and Leviathan (Napa Valley), Wind Gap (vineyard designates throughout California), Mulderbosch, Fable and Marvelous Range (South Africa); Maison L’ Oree (France), and Cultivate, a philanthropically-minded brand sourcing fruit from around the world.

The text above is unedited from the press release by Sao Anash of Muse Management (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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.

Spotlight on the Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA

The Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA is California’s newest appellation, approved on October 1, 2013. It’s a feather-shaped region that runs northwest to southeast and comprises roughly 17,663 acres overall, 8% of that planted to wine grapes—including some very old and respected vineyards. The new appellation is enclosed entirely within the already existing Sonoma Valley AVA. The new AVA is very distinct as a growing area from Sonoma Valley though, hence this new legislation. It's the sixteenth AVA for Sonoma County and the fourth within Sonoma Valley.

Hanzell Vineyards view
A view from Hanzell Vineyards. Photo: Hanzell Vineyards

The Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA lies on the west side of the Mayacamas mountains. [The ridge line of that range serves as the dividing line for Sonoma and Napa Counties, as well as their respective AVAs.] Altitude in the new AVA rises from 400 to 2,200 feet. Severity of the slope varies but the terrain is generally similar to that of it’s eastern neighbor, the Mt. Veeder AVA, though the latter faces east rather than west.

The Moon Mountain District Sonoma County is named for a particular peak within the range. The appellation is broader than just one peak though and there are Moon Mountains in nine other states, so it was decided to go with “Moon Mountain District Sonoma County.” Surprisingly, the mountain itself only received that name in 2007.

Valley of the Moon,” a name made famous by the writer Jack London among others, is the literal translation of “Sonoma” from the language of the local Pomo and Miwok tribes. There have long been local businesses whose names include Valley of the Moon and some, located in the hills, referred to Moon Mountain. This was due, in part, to the renaming of a nearby road from Goldstein Road to Moon Mountain Drive in 1957. Fifty years later, it was decided that given the name of the road and those businesses, there ought to be an actual Moon Mountain too.

Mountain growing areas tend to differ substantially from those on a valley floor. Soils are thinner on the mountains, due to erosion, and the slopes encourage water drainage. Altitude can also affect climate with high vineyards often being above the fog line. Attitude toward the sun, hence hours of direct sunlight, and the amount of rainfall also differ. This is all true for Moon Mountain District Sonoma County, justifying the creation of this new AVA.

One of the things that makes the wine-growing areas of Napa and Sonoma Counties so complex is their jumble of soils. The Mayacamas Range exemplifies this. It’s soil is largely a range of sedimentary materials—former sea floor—pushed up and exposed eons ago during two major and long-lasting land formation events driven by movement of tectonic plates. Moon Mountain District Sonoma County soils, however, are largely volcanic. Some of this distinctive soil, deep red from plentiful iron, inspired the name of its most celebrated vineyard, Monte Rosso. The soil distinguishes the new AVA from those neighboring it.

The Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA, like most in California, has a Mediterranean climate which means long dry summers and moderate winters during which most of the year’s rain falls. The AVA is cooled somewhat by breezes from both the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay though its distance from each limits their influence. Altitude results in long, bright days in the new appellation and its western facing means full exposure to the intense afternoon sun. Achieving ripeness there for wine grapes is almost never a problem.

The wines for which Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA is best known are ripe, richly-fruity Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The most iconic vineyard is Monte Rosso with it’s 123-year old Zinfandel and 75-year old Cabernet Sauvignon vines. It’s also the vineyard which inspired Frank Schoonmaker and Louis M. Martini to first use the term “mountain wine” on a California wine label.

Monte Rosso is not the AVA’s only landmark vineyard though. Hanzell Vineyards straddles the Mayacamas ridge at the southern end of Moon Mountain District Sonoma County. There, closer proximity to San Pablo Bay and some eastern exposures allow for structured and eminently age-worthy Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Hanzell’s Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard also includes the oldest continuously producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the United States.

Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Vineyards talks about the Monte Rosso Vineyard:

Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA Details

Latitude: 38.3 degrees

Elevation: 200-2,200 feet

Climate: Mediterranean

Average Growing Degree Days: 2,900 - 3,400

Winkler Classification Region: high II to moderate III

Annual Rainfall: ~ 30 inches

Soils: shallow and well-drained volcanic (dark brown and red, plus rhyolitic tuff)

Total Acres: 17,633

Vineyard Acres: about 1,500

Primary Red Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir (Hanzell), Syrah and Zinfandel

Primary White Grape Varieties: Chardonnay

Download pdf of Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA map and aerial photo

A Selection of Significant Vineyards and Wineries

Amapola Creek (four vineyards)
B Wise Vineyards
Caton Vineyard (Ty Caton Vineyards)
Hanzell Vineyards
Kamen Estate
Kistler Vineyard
Liquid Sky
Lookout Ridge
Monte Rosso Vineyard (once owned by Louis M. Martini, now Gallo)
Moon Mountain Vineyard
Petroni Vineyards
Rattlesnake Ridge (J. Baldwin Wines)
Repris Wines

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 2013 NorCal Wine. Video copyright Bedrock Vineyards. All rights reserved.

Tasting the Wines of Andrew Murray Vineyards

During my recent trip to Santa Barbara County I stopped in at the tasting room of Rhone-variety specialist Andrew Murray Vineyards. The tasting room, conveniently located on Grand Avenue in Los Olivos, is sleekly modern with surfaces of bright white, gleaming glass and chrome accented by splashes of color. Wine is the clear focus but there are a few other things on sale too, from gourmet chocolate bars to wine accessories. The tasting bar accommodates four stools and one or two standing customers. There’s additional seating along the side walls. It's open daily from 11am to 5pm.

Andrew-Murray
Winemaker Andrew Murray             Photo: Andrew Murray Vineyards

Andrew Murray’s tasting room manager kindly accommodated me before regular open hours, so I was able to focus fully on the wines. They are reasonably priced, ranging from $16 to $36, and all are bottled under screwcap and in light glass to reduce the carbon footprint. Quality was very good across the board.

amvlogo-full

2012 Andrew Murray RGB Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, $25
This blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc straddles two worlds to good effect. There’s plenty of fruit but also mineral, full-bodied viscosity but freshness and silky texture. Aromas include peach blossom, spice, citrus rind, mineral and a chiffonade of herb. The weighty palate brings long-lasting, cool-climate flavors of under-ripe stone fruit, peach pit and mineral. Highly Recommended

2012 Andrew Murray Viognier Santa Maria Valley, $25
The Andrew Murray Viognier smells like a carefree summer’s day: frozen peaches, cotton candy, spice and citrus blossoms. There’s more frozen peach on the nearly full-bodied palate along with peach skin, lime and grapefruit pith plus minerality. Notable acidity and a fine powdery texture keep it clean and interesting. The mineral-dominated finish is lengthy. Recommended+

2011 Andrew Murray Syrah Thompson Vineyard (Los Alamos Valley, Santa Barbara County), $38
This deeply-colored Syrah smells deliciously of black cherry ice cream with a hint of herb and baking spice. The seductive palate is nearly full-bodied with moderate, fine-grained tannins and flavors of black cherry, briary blackberry, spice and mocha. Good length. Now through 2017. Highly Recommended

2011 Andrew Murray Syrah Three Creek Vineyard, Happy Canyon, $36
A very fruit-forward Syrah, the Andrew Murray Three Creek offers festive boysenberry, blackberry and baking spice on the nose. That follows through—at length—on the medium+ palate along with earth and moderate talc-like tannins. Straight-forward and but very tasty. Enjoy through 2015. Highly Recommended

2010 Andrew Murray Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard Paso Robles, $36
This site, near Paso Robles’ Adelaida District, brought ripe cherry ice cream, baking spice, vanilla and a hint of herb on the nose. The flavor of espresso is added to the mix on the palate which is medium+ in body. Tannins are moderate and talc-like but drying and cut into the finish. Try it with juicy grilled lamb chops or smokey baby back ribs. Highly Recommended

2012 Elleven Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley, $16
Elleven, it’s name an allusion to the famous Spinal Tap line, is an Andrew Murray brand focused on delivering value with varietals for which quality is elusive under $20. The Pinot Noir exceeds expectations, pleasing with plentiful, varietally-correct flavors. Brown spice leads earthy red cherry and dry herb on the nose and palate. The body is medium+ with talc-like tannins on the lean side of moderate. Juiciness balances the package. Recommended

2012 Elleven Big Bottom Red Blend, Santa Ynez Valley, $16
This wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, is not as broadly-proportioned as its name suggests but will get you farther on a date than singing the song in a girl’s ear. The gregarious nose lures you with currant leaf, black currant, mocha and red cherry. Flavors of red cherry, dark berries, spice, mocha and scattered dry leaves string you along. Moderate, talc-like tannins provide enough resistance to keep the chase interesting. Recommended

2012 Elleven Unplugged White Blend Santa Ynez Valley, $16
The name Unplugged is apt for this restrained blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. The medley of bell pepper, spice, gooseberry and lime salt struck a familiar chord but didn’t command my attention. Though the medium+ body satisfied and its light texture had raspy-voiced charm, the overall production didn't get me dancing.

Andrew Murray Vineyards offers other wines, including the Esperance Red Blend, a Mourvedre varietal and other single-vineyard Syrahs, but I didn’t taste them on this occasion.

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The reviews above reflect my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

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 2013 NorCal Wine. The Andrew Murray Vineyards logo is a trademark of Andrew Murray Vineyards. All rights reserved.