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2009 McCay Cellars “Jupiter” Zinfandel

The Mokelumne River AVA is central within the larger Lodi AVA.  Old-vine Zinfandel is more prominent there than in the other nested AVAs of Lodi. Its deep, well-drained Tokay Sandy Loam is well-suited to Zinfandel and also keeps phylloxera at bay, allowing the vines to thrive for decade after decade.

The Jupiter Vineyard is located in the eastern portion of the Mokelumne River AVA. That side is a bit farther from the cooling influence of the Delta and produces the style most people consider “classic Lodi Zinfandel.” The vines used in this wine from McCay Cellars are around 40 years old, not the region’s most venerable but more than old enough to provide old-vine concentration and complexity.

The 2009 McCay Cellars Jupiter Zinfandel has a character that newcomers to McCay’s style might find surprisingly savory. Winemaker/Proprietor Michael McCay picks earlier than many of his colleagues, relies on native yeast fermentation and uses only French oak barrels, just a small percentage of which are new. The resulting wines tend to be more nuanced and offer a wider range of flavors than might otherwise be the case.

There are plenty of huckleberry and chocolate aromatics in McCay's 2009 Jupiter Zinfandel, but also a lot of cola, herb and tobacco. In the mouth, the wine starts out creamy with medium+ body. Gradually, lightly chalky tannins reveal themselves and, along with noticeable acidity, help to balance the rich red fruit and alcohol. There is a broad spectrum of delicousl flavors, including sour cherry, raspberry, cola, oak, tangy spice, mocha and forest floor which weave around each other for a generous finish. The 2009 McCay Cellars Jupiter Zinfandel is a complex and tasty old-vine Zinfandel with enough flavor and richness to stand on its own, but also the restraint and structure to compliment a nice meal. Drink now through 2015. Highly Recommended.

For more on McCay Cellars see my profile of the winery, including a video interview with Michael McCay.

2009-McCay-Cellars-Jupiter-Zinfandel2009 McCay Cellars “Jupiter” Zinfandel
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: now - 2015
Bottling Date: November 11, 2012
Closure: Cork
Production: 449 cases
Retail Price: $28.00

Winemaker: Michael McCay
Origin: Jupiter Vineyard, eastern Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi
Fermentation: Indigenous yeasts in large bins, manual punch down, malolactic fermentation in barrel
Aging: 26 months in French oak — 22% new, 33% twice or thrice used, 45% neutral
Alcohol: 14.7%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 58º - 62º F
Food Pairings: Seared duck breast on beluga lentils or smoked baby back ribs with a savory dry rub

The wine above was provided by the winery for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2011 Peltier Station “Hybrid” Sauvignon Blanc

Lodi is well known as a source for good value red wines and for old-vine Zinfandel. Deservedly so. However, Lodi also delivers a lot of good wines from outside those categories. There are delicious and varietally-correct made from varieties uncommon in the United States, such as Uvaggio Vermentino, Alta Mesa Verdelho and a range of Iberian-varietal wines from Bokisch.

Not all of the good stuff comes from under-the-radar varieties though. The 2011 Peltier Station “Hybrid” Sauvignon Blanc is fine expression of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s crisp and offers a range of fruit flavors. It’s even low enough in alcohol to make an afternoon of backyard sipping relatively guilt free.

Peltier Station winemaker JC van Staden’s started in the wine business in his native South Africa and his 2011 reminds me very much of South African Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is focused on tart fruit: gooseberry, grapefruit and pineapple with side notes of peach and mineral. The palate is medium-bodied and bone dry with flavors of grapefruit and lime.

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This isn’t a complicated wine and some Sauvignon Blanc fans might prefer a bit of oak or more ripe fruit. But I find it pleasingly zesty with a generous, dry finish. It’s an excellent choice for hot summer afternoons and fresh vegetables from your garden. And it's especially hard to beat at $8. Drink now through 2013. Recommended.

2011 Peltier Station “Hybrid” Sauvignon Blanc

Rating: Recommended
Drink: now - 2013
Release Date: March 2012
Closure: Screwcap
Production: 1,200 cases
Retail Price: $8.00

Winemaker: JC van Staden
Blend: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Origin: Lodi AVA
Fermentation: 24 hour, anaerobic cold soak on skins after crush, fermented at 50 degrees for 15 days in stainless steel
Alcohol: 12.7%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not recommended
Temperature: 50º - 54º F
Food Pairings: Green salads, salad nicoise, fish tacos

The wine above was purchased for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2007 JC Cellars Syrah Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco

JC Cellars’ 2007 Ventana Vineyards Syrah was the clear winner in a recent blind, panel tasting of Northern California Syrah I conducted. It combines aromas and flavors of Northern Rhone Syrah with the texture and richness of California. It’s also a lot of wine for just $30.

The source vineyard is in southern Monterey County, just south of the Santa Lucia Highlands but toward the northern extent of the Arroyo Seco AVA. Extremely deep sandy soil — which you’ll see a lot of driving near the town of Monterey on Highway 1 — are not just well-drained but phylloxera resistant. As a result, the Syrah is actually own-rooted.

This Syrah is opaque in the glass with a ruby hue. Its nose is savory and intriguing: black and white pepper, seared game and bay leaf. The full body, rich with fruit and some weight from alcohol, is framed by very fine chalky tannins. Dark berries peek through a velvet curtain of spiced meat, garrigue, five spice and mineral which lasts and lasts. Enjoy it with rosemary and garlic lamb chops or a grilled rib eye. Highly Recommended+.

2007 JC Cellars Syrah Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco
wines-07VENT-0.0.250Rating: Highly Recommended+
Drink: now - 2015
Closure: Cork
Production: 129 cases
Retail Price: $30.00

Winemaker: Jeff Cohn
Origin: Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County
Blend: 100% Syrah
Alcohol: 15%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 58º - 62º F
Food Pairings: Lamb chops, lamb shank, leg of lamb, lamb shoulder...

The wine above was purchased for review.

 

Note: JC Cellars is doing some rebranding. They are creating an umbrella brand called Jeff Cohn Wines. Beneath that, JC Cellars will continue as a sub-brand offering single-vineyard, varietal wines. An additional sub-brand called Smoke & Mirrors is being created to offer high-quality blends at attractive prices.

wines-10_Smoke__Mirrors_Label-0.0.250

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2011 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Pinot Blanc, Los Carneros

2011 was a challenging vintage up and down the West Coast. The Los Carneros AVA was no exception. Ill-timed rain hit many vines during flowering and substantially reduced fruit set. Those rains also encouraged excess vigor and set the stage for late-season disease. The growing season, abnormally long and cool, was ideal for making elegant, high acid wines — if the bunches ripened sufficiently and remained healthy.

Leaf-pulling and bunch-thinning was essential. It helped with ripening but, perhaps more importantly, increased air circulation through the vines to keep them drier and reduce the risk of rot. However, the leaf removal had to be done very carefully so that the sensitive-skinned grapes would remain protected from sunburn. Dealing with inclement weather and it’s after-effects can be particularly challenging for biodynamic growers such as Robert Sinskey Vineyards. Their Pinot Blanc yield was only 60% of “normal.” None of the vintage’s difficult shows in the wine though.

The 2011 Robert Sinskey Pinot Blanc is a pure and delicious wine. It’s what people who ask for unoaked Chardonnay should be drinking. It offers fresh, confident aromas of pears and yellow plums strewn with ethereal white flowers. The palate is weighty, yet the wine is bone dry, moderate in alcohol and loaded with acidity that yearns for food. Flavors of pear and lemon pith add flesh to a core of minerality. The long-lasting finish combines salty minerality and mouthwatering acidity. Drink now through 2013. Highly Recommended.

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2011 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Pinot Blanc, Los Carneros
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: now - 2013
Release Date: March, 2012
Closure: Glass stopper
Production: 8,472 half-bottles, 1,416 magnums, no 750m bottles
Retail Price: $22.00/375ml

Winemaker: Jeff Virnig
Origin: 3 biodynamic estate vineyards in the Los Carneros AVA: Three Amigos Vineyard and OSR Vineyard in Napa Valley, Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard in Sonoma County
Fermentation: Slow and cool in stainless steel, no skin contact and no malolactic fermentation
Aging: Stainless steel
Alcohol: 13.8%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not recommended
Temperature: 50º - 54º F
Food Pairings: Sauteed, pan-fried or grilled white-fleshed fish, sous vide chicken breast in a delicate sauce

The wine above was purchased for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. Photo: Robert Sinskey Vineyards. All rights reserved.

Three Wines from Stepping Stone by Cornerstone

2011 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone “Corallina” Syrah Rosé Napa Valley

 Unlike many rosé wines, which are made by bleeding off some juice from grapes picked for red wine, Cornerstone harvested Syrah grapes (early) just for this wine. The result is a rosé that is paler in color, higher in acidity and lower in alcohol and/or residual sugar than many. It is not a soft wine, boldly fruity nor the least bit sweet. That's just fine by me.

It is a pretty shade of light pink in the glass. Its aromas of tart strawberry, orange zest, vanilla and baking spice reminded me of home-made strawberry cake made with real strawberries. In the mouth there’s medium to medium+ body with brisk, cleansing acidity. Flavors include tart strawberry, blood orange and vanilla with hints of grass and minerality. The finish is lengthy.

The Corallina Rosé is a clean, refreshing rosé well-suited to summer fare. It is, if you’ll pardon the pun, comfortable in it’s own skin — not trying to deliver red wine body and impact. I find that very appealing. Recommended+

2011 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone “Corallina” Syrah Rosé Napa Valley
Rating: Recommended+
Drink: Now through 2014
Bottling Date: March, 2012
Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $20.00

Winemaker: Jeff Keene
Blend: 100% Syrah
Origin: Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley
Winemaking: Picked for rosé (not bled from juice intended for red wine), cool stainless steel fermentation
Aging: 5 months in used French oak barrels
Alcohol: 14.1%

2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Franc Napa Valley

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 Cabernet Franc can be an excellent food wine. Lighter in body and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc accompanies a meal rather than putting it in a headlock. At the same time, Cabernet Franc can be more interesting than typical Merlot.

This release from Stepping Stone by Cornerstone is medium+ ruby with aromas of fall leaves, dusty red cherry, cocoa, roasted herb, tobacco and oak. The medium+ body features a creamy attack followed by fine, powdery tannins (medium+) . It tastes of red cherry, oak, vanilla, brown spice and dry leaves.

The 2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Franc is an elegant, well-tailored wine. Flavors are attractive and layered. In the end though, it’s the feel of it that really sets it apart; soft yet structured like fine Italian super 200 wool. Highly Recommended.

2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Franc Napa Valley
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2016
Bottling Date: May, 2011
Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $35.00

Winemaker: Jeff Keene
Blend: 95% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot
Origin: Napa Valley (Carneros and Oakville)
Fermentation:
Aging: 18 months in used French oak barrels
Alcohol: 14.25%

2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Medium+ ruby in color. The nose is a mixture of fruit and forest: dried dark berries, prune, drying leaves, fallen branches, and a scattering of mint. The palate is medium+ to full-bodied with medium+ chalky tannins and flavors of blackberry and black currant, chocolate and dry wood. This Cabernet Sauvignon offers moderate cellaring potential but is perfectly drinkable now. Recommended.

2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Rating:
Drink: Now through 2017
Bottling Date: May, 2011
Closure: Cork
Production:
Retail Price: $35.00

Winemaker: Jeff Keene
Blend: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot
Origin: Napa Valley (Cabernet from Oakville and Howell Mountain, Merlot from Carneros)
Fermentation:
Aging: 18 months in used French oak barrels
Alcohol: 14.5%

 

The wines above were provided by the winery for review.

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. All rights reserved.