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2009 JC Cellars “The First Date” Roussanne Marsanne

The 2009 JC Cellars “The First Date” is a gorgeous wine. A blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, it has not just the sensual flavors and aromas of California Rhone whites, but also structure they rarely offer. This is likely due, in part, to an aspect of the aging regime.

In past years, the wine fermented wines were aged in a combination of new and neutral oak. For this vintage, 30% of the wine — all of it Roussanne — was aged in an unlined concrete egg. With this wine and one other from JC Cellars that was “egged,” my impression is that the fruit is less exuberant, allowing for more perceived minerality and structure. The First Date has always been a seriously pretty wine. Now it’s also pretty serious.

JC Cellars’ 2009 “The First Date” is lemon-colored with a pale rim. The nose romances you with honeysuckle, delicately sweet, gingery baking spice and peach. The palate is full-bodied with a slightly oily feeling that gives way to fine-grained texture that persists through the very long finish. There are flavors of stone fruit (peach and apricot), lemon chiffon, spice, toast and honey. Minerality is very present too and it becomes dominant at the end, setting up your palate for a bite of food or another sip. The First Date evolves very nicely as it warms and breathes in your glass. Don't miss that. Drink now through 2014. Very Highly Recommended.

2009 JC Cellars "The First Date"
wines-09_First_Date-0.0.250Rating: Very Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2014
Closure: Cork
Production: 220 cases
Retail Price: $28.00

Winemaker: Jeff Cohn
Blend: 75% Roussanne, 25% Marsanne

Origin: Santa Barbara County
Aging: 18 months in a combination of unlined concrete egg and French oak (new and used)
Alcohol: 15.3%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 52º - 58º F
Food Pairings: Poultry, butter poached lobster or, if you’re feeling ambitious, the Rabbit and Bacon Pressé with Slow-Poached Blenheim Apricots, Rabbit Liver Mousse and Green Pistahcios from Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.

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.

2009 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection

The Gary Farrell Winery is located on a hilltop in the Russian River Valley. The views from its tasting room are spectacular. Having a glass of this 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay in hand will make your visit even better.

GF_View_in_Fog1
Gary Farrell Winery lies above the fog in the wooded hills of the Russian River Valley

GF_Chardonnay_RussianRiver_NV_750ml_BTL_HighRes

The 2009 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection is a wine of delicious contrasts. The nose is friendly and giving with aromas of baked, spiced apple, lemon curd, cinnamon, vanilla and notes of yeast. The palate is medium-plus in body with notable acidity that easily balances the weight. The lively flavors of yellow apple, baking spice, wood, toffee and creme brulée are long-lasting. This is a classic Russian River Valley Chardonnay that is both fresh and flavorful. Drink now through 2014. Highly Recommended.

2009 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection

Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2014
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Origin: Russian River Valley AVA
Alcohol: 14.2%
Closure: Cork
Production: 2,237 cases
Retail Price: $32.00

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 54º - 56º F
Food Pairings: Roast chicken panzanella

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.

2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Vineyard Zinfandel Sonoma Valley

Jeff Cohn, proprietor and winemaker at JC Cellars, has been making Zinfandel for nearly two decades. He’s made many excellent and high-scoring Zins under his own label and at Rosenblum (which he left in 2006). However, Cohn is a Rhone-variety guy at heart. His love of those wines dates back to his days as an enology student.

Cohn refers to the 2009 Iron Hill Vineyard as the Cote-Rotie of Zinfandel. That fits. Tasting the wine with him, hallmark aromas of Northern Rhone Syrah were obvious at first sniff: wild game, rosemary-like herb, earthy spices. The palate carried on the illusion, or allusion.

The power of suggestion is strong though. So, I bought a bottle — okay, two, I wanted to drink one — and poured the wine blind for a small panel of skilled tasters. I gave no hints as to what the wine was or where it was from. “Mourvedre, maybe Southern France?” asked one. “Could be Northern Rhone, Crozes-Hermitage?” offered another. When I eventually confessed that the wine was not French, there was more guessing which culminated with, “Oh, my God. It’s not Zinfandel is it?” Yes. Yes it is.

I had poured this wine after we’d tasted several very good Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all California wines. So the fact that this wine immediately took everyone’s minds to France is telling. As is the fact that it was also everyone’s favorite glass of the day.

The 2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Vineyard Zinfandel is dark ruby and very generous aromatically. It offers a range of brambly berry fruits, leather, game, rosemary and cedar forest, white pepper and baking spice. The palate is medium-plus in body with light to moderate, fully integrated tannins. There are rich flavors of sweet oak, dark fruit, blueberry, raisin, cured black olives and spice. The finish is medium-plus. Drink now through 2017. Highly Recommended+.

2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Vineyard Zinfandel Sonoma Valley
wines-09_Iron_Hill_Zin-0.0.250Rating: Highly Recommended+
Drink: Now through 2017
Closure: Cork
Production: 225 cases
Retail Price: $35.00

Winemaker: Jeff Cohn
Origin: Iron Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Valley
Alcohol: 14.8%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 60º - 64º F
Food Pairings: Lamb tagine or merquez with couscous

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.

2010 Alta Mesa Verdelho Silvaspoons Vineyards Alta Mesa, Lodi

Pico is a small, volcanic island in the Atlantic ocean, roughly 1,000 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal. One of nine islands making up The Azores, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This recognition is not for the impressive Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest peak. It is the island’s vineyards which are protected.

The vineyards on Pico were literally carved from volcanic rock. The original growers chipped out myriad large pockets, each just one or two meters square. This created a stony-walled honeycomb. The cavities were filled with fertile earth and one or two grape vines were planted in each. The vines trained are low and nearly horizontal to protect them from stiff ocean winds.

Verdelho is, by far, the principal variety in Pico. [The Azores and Madeira are the source of true Verdelho. The grape commonly called Verdelho on mainland Portugal is actually Gouveio.] Pico’s grapes are used almost exclusively for Angelica, a mixture of a distilled spirit, often brandy, and unfermented grape juice. You can get dry white wine made from Pico-derived Verdelho, but for that you’ll have to travel all the way to... California.

Ron Silva of Silvaspoons Vineyard in Lodi’s Alta Mesa AVA grows several different Portuguese wine grape varieties. Among his vines are true Verdelho, which appeared at Silvaspoons not long after he and his wife visited Pico on a vacation more than 15 years ago. Silva was the first person to grow Verdelho commercially in California. Cuttings from his vineyard have since been propagated at U.C. Davis and are available from select nurseries as Verdelho Clone 6.

silva-standing
Grape grower and winemaker Ron Silva is also an amusing story teller.

The Silvaspoons Vineyard lies in an area characterized by a shallow (roughly 28”) layer of San Joachin Loam over hardpan sandstone that’s solid as concrete. The hardpan doesn’t allow for water drainage, so the vineyard land was ripped multiple times by a massive tractor which broke up and churned the earth to a depth of seven feet. Now, drainage is brisk. The Alta Mesa AVA climate is well-suited to the Portuguese varieties, being similar to that of Alentejo, though Lodi gets less rain and is a just a touch cooler.

Silva grows upward of 20 varieties, including Trincadeiro, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Cao, Tempranillo, Alvarelhao, Torrontes and Garnacha as well as non-Iberian grapes such as Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Tannat. He used to sell all of the fruit. Now he also makes his own wine under the Alta Mesa Cellars label.

The 2010 Alta Mesa Verdelho Silverspoons Vineyard offers attractive aromas of just-ripe peach, pear, tropical fruit, white flowers and powdery minerality. The core flavors are mineral with some tropical fruit and lime pith. At less than 13%, the alcohol is much lower than most people would expect from a Lodi wine, yet there is weight to the palate. Verdelho’s signature acidity is mouthwateringly evident from the beginning through to a juicy finish with flavors of steely minerality and belgian endive. This is an excellent food wine, but not one that’s intended for aging. Drink now through 2013. Recommended+.

2010 Alta Mesa Verdelho Silvaspoons Vineyards Alta Mesa, Lodi Alta-Mesa-Verdelho
Rating: Recommended+

Drink: Now through 2013
Closure: Cork
Production: 245 cases
Retail Price: $16.00

Winemaker: Ron Silva
Origin: Silvaspoons Vineyards, Alta Mesa AVA, Lodi
Fermentation: Stainless steel
Alcohol: 12.8%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 50º - 54º F
Food Pairings: seafood, salads, chicken

The wine above was purchased for review. You can find it at select resellers and restaurants, as well as the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center.

If you’re interested in tasting a wide range of wines made from California-grown Iberian varieties, consider the June 9 TAPAS Grand Tasting in San Francisco. Nearly 50 wineries will be pouring. Alta Mesa Cellars isn’t currently scheduled to attend, but there will be several wineries there offering wines made from Silvaspoons Vineyard fruit. They include Bokisch Vineyards of Lodi, Forlorn Hope of Napa Valley and Fenestra of Livermore Valley.

If you'd like to taste wines actually made in Portugal and are either trade or media, there's a Wines of Portugal tasting in San Francisco on June 4.

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

2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel Sonoma County

There are many excellent single-vineyard Zinfandel bottlings. They are distinct, interesting and reflect both the vintage and the vineyard’s terroir. On the other hand, single-vineyard wines can be pricey, too much so for most people’s every day drinking. And they are produced in low volume, so finding the one you want on the spur of the moment can be difficult.

It’s good to have a high-quality regional blend as a “go-to” wine. The blends can still have unique personalities, whether that’s a regional character or house style. They reflect vintage, but more subtly. Less variation from year to year makes regional blends a reliable choice even when you’ve not tried a particular vintage yet. The blending process also allows winemakers to smooth out rough edges and fill in gaps to create a wine that will appeal to a broader range of drinkers. Bottle prices are usually lower than single-vineyards wines, volumes higher. And you can find them.

Seghesio’s Sonoma Zinfandel has long been one of my top choices among regional Zinfandels. Most of the grapes come from Seghesio estate vineyards, three in Dry Creek Valley and one in Alexander Valley. The wine is consistently good and full of prototypical Zinfandel character. It’s also a wine that is pretty easy to afford and locate in stores. I purchased the bottle I reviewed at Bevmo for about $22. You can even find the wine overseas at places like Tesco sometimes. That's a rarity for quality Zinfandel.

The 2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel Sonoma County is medium-plus ruby in color with welcoming aromas of candied black cherry, caramel, coconut and vanilla. The palate is spot on for Zinfandel. The body is medium to medium-plus and supple with moderate, fine-grained tannins that smooth out after five minutes in the glass. Core flavors of black cherry, blackberry and blueberry are complemented by notes of spice, oak and cocoa. Highly Recommended.

2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel Sonoma County
2010_seghesio_zinRating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2015
Release Date: October, 2011

Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $24.00

Winemaker: Ted Seghesio
Blend: Zinfandel with Petite Sirah
Origin: Sonoma County, predominantly Home Ranch, San Lorenzo and River Road in Alexander Valley, and Cortina in Dry Creek Valley
Aging: 10 months in oak barrels, 75% American (10% new), 25% French (all neutral)
Alcohol: 14.8%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 60º - 63º F
Food Pairing: fire up the grill

The wine above was purchased 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.