Three Garnachas Not To Miss!

23 Sep

I had a blast on #GarnachaDay, and if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you might have seen the carnage! (You still can if you hit these sites and search for “#garnachaday jvbuncorked” . An early afternoon master class in Garnacha was followed by tapas and 25 more Garnacha wines. Only hours later, I joined a live, Online Snooth Garnacha Tasting with two very smart, highly respected sommeliers, Laura Maniec and Christy Canterbury, both accredited Masters of Wine.

What a day of wine tasting! Of the featured wines, all were great, solid, and terrific values, many under $15/bottle. Two wines have great potential but would be better with age. Three of the ten wines from these tastings really grabbed me personally.  So here they are, my gold medal winners:

 

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La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2013. 13.5% ABV, Available locally and online for as little as $8/bottle! 

Pale straw in color, with a nose of herbs, freshly cut grass, lychee and banana. On the palate, a lovely balance of citrus, savory melon, and a matching acidity that pushes the flavors from the side and rear palate up to the top. Notes of herbs du Provence, spice and vanilla bean on the finish. The decadence in this wine makes me want to serve it to my fellow chardonnay lovers to remind them how stunning the rest of the world’s wines are. At this price point, it is mind-blowingly good, and stayed delicious for a week in the fridge so I could dole myself out a half ounce each night to see if I still really loved this wine. I did.

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Coto De Hayas Garnacha Centenaria, 2014. 14% ABV, I found this wine locally for $12/bottle and online as low as $10/bottle.

Color is deep ruby and the nose shows fresh, lively red fruit. On the palate it starts simply but grows in complexity. Like a concerto, gentle and delightful red cherries begin. Slowly they are joined by allspice, black pepper, stone and clay. With a triumphant swirl into the apex of the movement, notes of rose bush, red pepper, leather, and spice box emerge. Medium long finish, high satisfaction. Very nice by itself, but terrific with food. A crowd-pleasing wine.

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Last but not least, Particular Garnacha 2012 Viñas Centenarias de San Valero. 14.5% ABV, MSRP $26, found online for $18/bottle. 

This wine shows historic Burgundian winemaking features, so it is of no surprise it won me over. Deep maroon in color,  delicate, perfumed nose and flavors. Blue fruit on the palate; balanced, gentle, and reserved, with a luxurious mouthfeel. A beautifully feminine wine. Age-worthy and concentrated, with a long, ethereal finish.  This is Garnacha via Coco Chanel and Harry Winston: Classic style and elegance.

 

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I hope you spend the time to find these or other garnacha wines to taste. They offer quality and value beyond the price tag. As we like to say, the proof is in the glass!

à votre santé!

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Markus Joey 2015 Insieme

22 Sep

Markus Joey 2015 Insieme, Markus Wine Company. 13% ABV, $19/bottle. Available from Borra Vineyards

 

What happens when two winemakers are friends and decide to partner on a wine? Sometimes you get a beautiful result, and here is a great one! Markus Joey Insieme is the blend of 95% Lodi, California Torrontes grapes (winemaker Markus Niggli)with 5% Lewisville, North Carolina Traminette grapes (winemaker Joey Medaloni). If you look closely at the label, you’ll see both winemakers, Markus facing West to Lodi, Joey facing East to Lewisville. But just wait until you taste what they made in the middle!

 

The color is pale straw, while the nose offers faint peach, gardenias and a hint of pineapple. On the palate: beautiful citrus, honeydew melon, and a white floral bouquet are met with a moderate body, focused minerality and strong acidity. The flavors are gentle but they linger, tantalize your palate, and challenge you to drink more.

 

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This wine is what you want to serve your oenophile and sommelier friends, because they won’t guess what it is, unless they’ve already been fooled by it. So hold on to a bottle if you can, but I can’t. It’s too delicious to cellar! I found myself reaching for the bottle of Insieme in the late afternoon and pouring myself a tiny bit to sit in the late day sun, sniff, sip, and admire. I’d love to buy a case of this but I doubt it would ever make it past the first floor of my home.

 
I paired a bottle of Insieme (which is Italian for “together”) over a two week tasting period with a cheese platter, Mexican food, Chinese food, and a Julia Childs-style braised chicken breast with new potatoes. The supple flavors, beautiful mouthfeel and delightful acidity make this sing like one of the stunning, gratuitously expensive wines from the Bavarian alps, but this wine is pure American made fruit. Its complexity allows you to enjoy it with many pairings, but I ended up preferring it all by itself, it’s just that much of a pleasure to drink and focus on. And even over two weeks(!) it stayed fresh and consistent in my fridge, thanks to the screw cap and high acidity that keep the blend in check.

 

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If I had to put this wine partnership into a mental image, I’d offer it up as Wassily Kandinsky/Jackson Pollock mesh of art styles. But trust me, you white wine lovers, you’d rather put this in your mouth and savor the flavors of partnership. This bottle offers incredible value with a reasonable price for exceptional drinking pleasure, and that’s all the reason you need to keep some on hand.

 

à votre santé!

Book Review: “A Perfect Score” by Craig & Kathryn Hall

18 Sep

A PERFECT SCORE: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st Century Winery by Craig and Kathryn Hall. 224 pages w/16 page photo insert. Published Sept 13, 2016 by Center Street Books. Hardcover MSRP $26, ISBN 978-1-4555-3576-7; eBook $13.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-3678-1. http://www.HachetteBookGroup.com

I usually fall madly in love with a bottle of wine before I want to find out about the winery owner, winemaker, and vineyards. But sometimes a great story will propel you to take a look from another perspective.

This was my case in agreeing to review “A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st Century Winery”. I did not know Hall or Walt wines, and I had a blank slate (or palate) to experience this story.

Whether or not  you are a fan of the Hall Wines and Walt Wines brands respectively is immaterial to this text. I found myself carried away on a journey of two adults (and a few co-conspirators and day players) with a mutual passion for wine and life. A Perfect Score looks back and traces the twenty years of the authors’ journey together, starting with their separate, successful, adult business lives in Dallas and their meeting in 1991.

Girl meets boy and introduces him to the beauty of California, and along the way we observe Kathryn’s career as a U.S. Ambassador to Austria to their first joint venture in wine making, to their more recent and current lives owning and overseeing two wineries with multiple vineyards in the Napa Valley. Many trials and tribulations are involved, from losing two entire seasons of their winemaking to a warehouse fire, to the fiscal damage of 2008’s recession. Today, both wineries are successful and highly praised in RP wine scores, and the culmination of the book resounds in accomplishing a lifelong goal and career-making 100 point award for Hall’s2010  Exzellenz Cabernet Sauvignon.

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As I enjoyed this book over several weeks and an accompaniment of wine (while reading, you also will stop mid-chapter to pour a glass. It’s inevitable!) I found this “Dynasty-meets Bottle Shock” story great fun. Would I expect that a re-telling of business challenges, personal struggles, and the conundrums of operations and tough decisions in farming and winemaking to be a compelling story? It is. The stories move along with flashforwards and flashbacks, delving into specific of winemaking and their business evolution, finally giving way to a relatively quick finish of the “holy smokes, all this hard work paid off” ending with their perfect Robert Parker wine score.

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Craig Hall and Kathryn Hall

As with daily life and storytelling, you will sometimes find a bump or two in the road. The prologue is insightful and endearing but fails to re-connect back with the reader later in the story, while the first chapter suffers from rapidly shifting perspective. The lengthy third-person narratives are interspersed with first person accounts by Craig and Kathryn, sometimes switching again over to a third person point of view or even to a “joint” but ambiguous couple’s perspective. These inconsistencies, however, are a small price to pay for sections of the book I enjoyed the most: the struggles the authors face in their personal lives and winemaking. The first-person accounts of the challenges they surmounted down to the tiniest details, and the real effort that goes into farming, tending, harvesting, pressing, and the intricate choices made in the winemaking, operational, branding, and distribution processes kept my interest piqued.

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The Hall Wine Cellar

From the title, the reader already knows that A Perfect Score finishes up with a win, but the struggles in the story are both dramatic and real. As I mentioned at the start of this review, I usually fall madly in love with a bottle of wine before I want to find out about the winery owner, winemaker, and vineyards. But my favorite chapters, as an oenophile, are the exacting details of winemaking, harvest fears, the 7am barrel notes sessions, the dedication spent on the Sacrashe vineyards, and their expansion into pinot noir. I love the stories about re-designing their facilities and incorporating LEED certification, and their passion for art and beauty: building a gorgeous barrel cave, designing architecture and art for the Napa public to enjoy. Devouring this book made me want to visit Hall Wines, to see their vineyards and the Hall art collection, and taste their fruit and wine. It made for a lovely read, and a great trek to the property’s St Helena vineyard off Highway 29 in the Napa Valley. While the photos above came from Hall with approval, the photos below are my own from my visit to their Napa property & tasting room.

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Carefully tended vines in the St. Helena Vineyard

 

Bunny Foo Foo Sculpture, St. Helena Vineyard, Napa

img_2590Tasting ripe fruit from the St. Helena Vineyard


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Beautiful fruit, almost ready for harvest!

 

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Perfect pairing: a Napa Cab and A Perfect Score! 

 

I expect A Perfect Score will inspire wine lovers, vintners, and those who dream of opening their own wineries for decades to come, in tasting their wines and visiting Napa Valley, to falling in love with a piece of land and tending young vines in hopes and dreams of another great accomplishment.

 

à vôtre santé!

 

 

Moscato d’Asti: The Sweetest Pairing

15 Sep

Why don’t we drink moscato d’asti all summer long? It’s a good question. We should!

On a brutally hot day, sometimes the best thing you can do is pop open a bottle of Moscato d’Asti. The gentle effervescence and delicate fruit provides a lovely respite from the hot sun. In the past I mistakenly  viewed moscato d’asti as a dessert wine, but a recent Master Class tasting clearly demonstrated to me where the strength lies with these delightful, low alcohol, and inexpensive wines.

Here’s the thing about moscato d’asti  it offers light acidity, low alcohol, and crisp, clean ripe fruit flavors with floral and herbal aromas. Because fermentation is halted early, sugars that would normally convert into alcohol are left behind in the juice (literally). So the wine is a touch sweeter than a dry riesling, for example, but also has the benefit of being bubbly, another natural occurrence from the fermentation in closed steel tanks.

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I have to admit, I made a mistake in seeing Moscato d’Asti as a dessert wine. At this tasting, I noticed the best pairing came from the wine’s natural complement to savory flavors of cheese, quiche, bread, and mortadella. It left the mouth fresh, lively, renewed. When paired with petit fours, the experience was simply too much sugar at once. But against a savory bite? Perfection! And on a hot day, these wines were refreshing and delightful on the palate, a good way to escape the midday sun.

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Gorgeous setting, but a sweet bite was not the finest pairing for Moscato d’Asti. I preferred savory!

 

 

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A lovely lineup of six Moscato D’Asti wines, all quality, well-made wines from 2015, under $20.

Tasting Notes:

Saracco Moscato D’Asti DOP 2015: ABV 5.5%,  WS Average $15. 

Color is very pale with hints of straw. The nose shows apricot, white pear, and orange peel. On the palate a medium effervescence is met by tangerine and ripe peach.  Sugars are direct and upfront.

 

La Caudrina Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 5.5%,  WS Average $15. 

Color is pale straw, nose is decidedly floral with a hint of herbs. On the palate, crisp pear, honeysuckle,  and orange peel are evident. Sugars are back palate.

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Vignaioli Di Santo Stefano- Ceretto Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 5,5%, WS Average $17.

Medium straw/goldenrod in color. The nose is subtle with herbs & fruit. Sage, lavender, and white peach. On the palate, light effervescence, dried apricot, golden delicious apple. Sugars are in the mid & side palates. Impressive balance.

 

Coppo SRL Moncalvina Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 4.65%, WS Average $15.

Color is pale straw with a green tinge, the nose is sweet with wildflowers, peach and apricot. In the mouth, baked peach, ripe apple and orange blossoms up front. Sugars are direct and forward in the mouth. This wine fits right into middle, as the median of the six wines tasted.

 

Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 5%, WS Average $20.

Color is pale straw, the nose shows citrus, honeyed apricot, and distinct notes of sage and thyme. Light effervescence with tiny bubbles. Fruit is quite delicate in the mouth. A less sweet approach, with gentle apricot and peach, sugars faded to the side palate. Very nice.

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Marenco Vini Scrapona Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015; ABV 5.5%, WS Average $19.

Pale yellow in color. Nose is most delicate of the wines today: lightly herbaceous with orange blossom. Delicate flavor profile of orange, lime, apricot and peach. Sugars and citrus are firmly in the back palate.

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I enjoyed all of these wines, but personally my favorites were wines #3 and #5 in our tasting (from left to right in the pictures of the glasses): the Vignaioli Di Santo Stefano-Ceretto (the bottle with the elongated neck) and the Michele Chiarlo “Nivole”, both of which had distinct fruit, floral and herbal notes, and sugars that were less noticeable, placed on the side palate.

If you aren’t already a fan, I suggest you try Moscato d’Asti soon, and enjoy it in the afternoon as a refreshing complement to a savory bite. You will be pleasantly surprised how well it pairs with meat or  cheese, how beautifully it blends with creamy flavors, and how the herbs in the wine will pop in harmony with arugula or fresh herbs in a dish.

Let me know what you try!

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Old Vine Barbera 2013, Borra Vineyards, Lodi

9 Sep

Borra Vineyards Old Vine Barbera 2013; Mokelumne River, Lodi, CA. 15.2%ABV, MSRP $25, available direct.

 

Color is deep ruby, while the nose offers blackberry, raspberry, red plum, and fresh cut bell pepper. The first sip and my mouth swears this is a wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. No, the label says Lodi, California. Holy smokes!

Soaring acidity matches the red and black fruit up front, a swallow renders my mouth fresh and ready for the next sip but the top and rear palate are still rejoicing in the fruit that is mature, full, and delightfully larger-than-life. A note of heat on the finish along with sand and clay. I’d swear this was a classic northern Italian wine with a decade plus age on it costing $60 or more. Your mouth will agree.

 

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I paired this over a couple of meals with Grandmother Pizza, caprese salad with balsamic reduction, and meatballs- and was in heaven with the pairing each time. Now I need to pick up a case for my friends who prefer Italian wines, for a blind tasting that will make their heads spin!

à vôtre santé!

Q&A with Followers, Sept 2016: Spain, Lodi, Lodi, & BottleShock!

8 Sep

With the Labor Day holiday, it was a very busy week on social media. Here are a couple of recent interactions from three different followers who were kind enough to let me share our conversations on this forum for JvBUnCorked: 

Q: I’m on a serious wine budget. What wines should I be buying, under $15, max $20 for a bottle?

A: That really depends on what you like to drink! You can find great value wines from all over the world- but if you aren’t drinking wines from Spain, you’re missing out on great values of delicious wines. You should be drinking Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine, and checking out wines from the regions of Rioja, Priorat, Rias Baixas, Ribera del Duero- those are just off the top of my head- and there are many more! With a couple of clicks, I quickly hit Wine.com and found 125 wines from their 90+ rated Spanish wines under $20. Many are in the $8-15 range, and I bet your local wine store carries some of them.

Pere Mata Cava

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Q: What wines are you excited about right now?

A: I just got back from the 2016 Wine Blogger’s Conference in Lodi, CA where I was blown away by the viticulture and winemaking in that region. Get on the internet, go to Lodi Wine.com,  and check out the wineries- all the resources you need (including buying) will be at your fingertips. And for the person who asked Q#1 (above), there are some real steals in the $8-$18 range in Lodi wines!

Ok…Long Story Short: I tasted over one hundred wines at the conference and was really impressed- it’s NOT just zinfandel being grown in Lodi. They have ever 100 grape varietals being grown in Lodi, and the wines being made are simply STUNNING. Just to name a few winemakers, I was really impressed by the wines of Acquiesce Winery (all Rhône varietals), Bokisch Vineyards (Spanish Varietals), Fields Family Wines, Harney Lane Winery, Markus Wine Co (German varietals), McCay Cellars, Michael David Winery, and so many more! I hope you are finding these wines locally in your wine market, because you should be enjoying them! You can get them easily online, but ask your local wine store for them, too!

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Spend five minutes on Lodigrowers.com  and you’ll gain sincere appreciation for the AVA’s own self-imposed set of laws for sustainable certification- and you can be even more impressed when you put two and two together, of the amazing flavors and quality of the wines grown and made with sustainable, certified green winegrowing. It’s arduous and endearing work that is conscious of the local environment, the earth and atmosphere, and our children. And the resulting fruit of this hard labor tastes delicious and should be in your glass. Check out my “speed tasting” notes here (white & rosé wines) and here (red wines).

 

Q: What are you drinking these days?

A: I’m fortunate to have been able to have guests over for wine and food several times lately. I taste more than I drink, so I have a slew of assorted open bottles right now. So last week, for example, we tasted wines from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, and from the USA, wines from Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara. I have received a shipment from Lodi that I’m very excited about opening from Markus Wine Company and Borra Vineyards, whose wines are sourced from Mokelumne Glen in Lodi- I tasted tremendous fruit in these vineyards, and Markus (below in the blue shirt) makes delicious wines.

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I had to check them out before putting them in the wine cooler, right? 

 

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Last weekend with the neighbors. Tasty! 

(Follow-Up Q): Why do you say “you’re excited about opening” the wine? Why aren’t you drinking it already?

A: Bottle shock. (Yes, like the movie with Alan Rickman, but I refer to the phenomenon, NOT the film.) Wine is a living, breathing, evolving mixture that sometimes undergoes a phenomenon called wine sickness, aka “bottle shock” when it ships. (More details in this .pdf from the North Texas Winemaker’s Organization.)

Much like the way we humans might need time to catch up and get acclimated to a new environment from travel or jet lag. Likewise, wine needs time in a dark, cold place to rest after a trip to show its proper (hopefully best possible) flavor profile and nuances. Not all wines are affected, and those that are may be affected in different ways, but past experiences have proven this and made me a firm believer. So I make sure to give wine that travels the time it may need to recuperate and be the best it can be. I store wines either in my climate-controlled cellar or in a wine cooler and allow them to rest before jumping in with the corkscrew- sometimes as long as a few months, but an absolute minimum of a couple of weeks in extreme circumstances. I always a have a queue of wines I’m tasting and reviewing, so it works out pretty well. So look for those reviews on JvBUnCorked, they’ll be coming soon.

And since I mentioned the film Bottle Shock, I have to include the trailer. Alan Rickman was tremendous in this and I was lucky to meet him. Sigh… Anyway, Enjoy, and please expand your palate- make sure you try something new when you’re looking for a bottle of wine tonight!

Did you like this post? Do you want to talk wine with JvB?

Contact me at JvBUncorked@gmail.com, or @jvbuncorked on Twitter!

à votre santé!

A Rosé By Any Other Name

4 Sep

Sanford 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, Lompoc, CA. 13.5% ABV, MSRP $30/bottle. Sample Provided by Terlato Wines.

Delicate salmon pink in color. Nose of fresh strawberries and honeysuckle. On the palate, young strawberries and searing acidity are a lovely match: the delicate but clean crisp and fresh flavors wash the back and palate leaving a hint of sweet strawberry and dried cranberries on the top palate while the mouth is left taut & thirsting for the next sip of wine or bite of food. Secondary notes include just a touch of heat, clay, limestone and sodium minerality with a steely focus and driven red fruit. Oh yum. This has the upfront, direct SMACK in the face of both flavor and acid that so many of the Provence rosés lack. What a lovely wine this is, and I’m also frustrated because my top three rosé wines have just had changed lineup. Dammit. Slide into home, Sanford. Nicely done.

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This is a spectacular rosé, and no wonder Steve Fennell hasn’t had time to warn me about this wine- he’s too busy making this estate grown baby, which is an offshoot from Sanford’s classic pinot noir grapes, while he’s making the dozen or so other wines to fill the demands of the wine club clientele.

Yum, and darn. There are so many great food pairing options for this wine, it’s easier to say “think pink!” than to start to list them. But I’ll try: appetizers, fish, salads, shellfish, pesto- and herb-based pastas, white meats, ratatouille, cheese, greek food…I could go on and on, and even my WIFE loves this wine. My real problem is: how do I sneak a case into my house without her seeing it?

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à votre santé!

Inaspettato Piacere Da Un Bel Vino Italiano

4 Sep

Inaspettato Piacere Da Un Bel Vino Italiano

 or

“Unexpected pleasure from a lovely Italian Wine”

Terlato Pinot Grigio 2015 Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, Italy. 13% ABV, MSRP $24.99, currently $17.49 on UnCorked.Com;  Sample provided by Terlato Wines

Color is medium straw/pale sunlight with good clarity, while the nose offers delicate peach, honey and grass. Flavors of citrus, bosc pear, and white peach show on the front palate and pair with lovely, medium plus acidity on the top palate. A warm afterglow rises in the back palate with a moderate finish that offers hints of oak barreling and a series of strong mineral notes: marl, sandstone, and slate.

This wine pairs easily with lighter fare: a baked phyllo and cheese, brie and goat cheese on sesame crackers, and vegetable crudite with hummus and a yogurt & chive dip. It offers enough fruit and acidity to pair easily with any delicate flavors, and enough savory body to pair with sweeter elements like yellow pepper and cherry tomato, fish, or poultry.

For those who cringe at the words, “pinot grigio”, please, be strong and have heart. This is NOT the entry-level table wine peddled in restaurants for $8/glass and $8/bottle in the wine store  that offers you a “meh” experience. Instead, this is a delightful, qualified, historic and beautifully-made pinot grigio that will make you beg for more.

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After opening and tasting this bottle (and being impressed with the flavors, balance and quality) I then served it blind to a group of wine-loving friends at a mixed tasting of white wines from Italy, Spain, and France. This was the hands-down popular favorite of the six wines poured that evening, and when I exposed that the wine was pinot grigio, each person showed a similar surprise. “It’s WHAT? Wow, this is a really great wine.”

In the end, isn’t that all we are really looking for?

à votre santé!

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards- Wines that Sing in the Glass

22 Aug

Sbragia Family Vineyards is a Sonoma winemaking family I did not know before..

And now it is one I will never forget.

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2012 Gino’s Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA.  15.1%ABV. MSRP $44/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

Color is garnet with violet edging. The nose shows red and black fruit, eucalyptus, anise and green pepper. In the mouth, plenty of black and red berries meet spice, black pepper, chewy tannin and nice acidity. Big in flavor, hot on the back palate when the alcohol crosses the threshold. Tasty by itself and with food, this matched up beautifully with pizza, chili, and by itself in the afternoon sunshine on the back porch. Refrigerated after opening the bottle, it lasted nicely for over a week while maintaining freshness and proper balance. Some great value found in the street prices of this wine. #HeyNow!

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Sbragia Family Vineyards 2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA.  14.5%ABV. MSRP $30/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

Color is deep straw verging on golden sunlight. On the nose, baked apple pie, pineapple, a hint of baked bread  while toasted cashews tantalize the senses with a strong sense of alcohol. On the palate, white stone fruit, kiwi, lemon zest, marzipan, and vanilla, with granite on the long finish that leaves a zesty heat across the top palate. #SoNice!

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Sbragia Family Vineyards 2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Valley District. Sonoma County, CA.  14.8%ABV. MSRP $65/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

What a gorgeous & classic California cab: deep ruby in color. Eucalyptus, menthol, earth, wet leaves and green pepper with cedar on the nose.  Massive cassis and blackberry fruit up front. Some mid-palate spice, some heat, forest floor, saddle leather, and a soil-rich minerality on the finish with lasting heat, lovely oak and a lingering body. Lovely to drink now but what perfection might this be in 5-10 years with the alcohol muted and the fruit sliding back? This wine drank beautifully for a week of evenings when stored in the fridge… rationing a half-glass of heaven each night. This drinks so well right now but I can’t wait to see what it is like in 2022. #BOOM!

 

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Ed Sbragia of Sbragia Family Vineyards provides a classic California edge with a long-term family history and pedigree you can taste in the glass. Get a few bottles, pop them with friends, and listen got everyone tell you how good they are. They are just that crowd pleasing.

 

à votre santé!

 

#WBC16 Lodi Live Wine Blogging: Red, Red Wines!

20 Aug

Q: NOW, What do you know about Lodi wine?
A1: Holy smokes, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!
A2: It’s NOT all about Zinfandel! (But there is some amazing Zin here!)

Day 2 of #WBC16. Day 1 was so much fun! When we finished Live (White & Rose) Wine Blogging on Thursday, our table concurred: “Let’s sit together again tomorrow!”
Well, when I arrived, not a single soul from Table 11 was back at Table 11. But over a little ways I saw friends waving wildly, holding a seat for me at Table 17! All the gingers in the entire conference sat at ONE table together. (I can say ginger, because I am one. You can’t, unless you are too. Really. Don’t believe me? Ask Tim Minchin- video at the bottom of this post.) Not that everyone else at the table wasn’t absolutely fabulous- they WERE! They ARE! I adore you all! Especially Loie, Anatoli, Jennifer, Jeff, Kirsten, and Bri-  But gingers have a special power… sometimes used for good, sometimes for… evil. Because… well… GINGERS!

So… here’s my side of the table: IMG_0037

That’s me (left), with Michelle (Rockin’ Red Blog), Cathrine (DameWine) and Lori (Dracaena Wines).

With this much red & ginger power, what chance do those ten red wines have?

Here we go, my RED wine speed tasting notes!

 

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The Federalist Lodi Zin 2014 Lovely blend, (a hint of Syrah) nice cinnamon spice, tannins and body. Very well priced at $17.76 street!

 

 

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Windburn’s 2013 Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills Ken Brown, winemaker. Red and Blackberry with nice mineralogy, smooth memories of Burgundy! 

IMG_0040Corner 103’s 2013 Zinfandel: A beautifully feminine Zin, great fruit, manageable acid, tannin & spice. Nice!  

 

 

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Brie Vineyards’ 2012 Old Vine Zin Terrific spice and fruit with chewy mid-palate & great, smooth, sensuous finish. 

 

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2012 Henry’s Blend, a Bordeaux-styled blend, aged in neutral oak. A serious wine that gives France something to worry about!

 

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Peirano Winery’s 2013 Old Vine Zin “The Immortal Zin” Red currants & cherry. Supple without the huge spice some Zins offer. Delicate and pretty, long lasting. Tertiary notes of clay, sand, a smidge of oak,  and… eerily vampiric. Yeah, I went there. Will you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses? You know you want to!  

 

 

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2013  Farrah Syrah- Floral nose. Deep purple w/supple fruit. Spicy anise, some forest floor & lovely mouthfeel. Oh, nice minerality on the long finish-$20

 

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Abundance Wine’s 2013 Lodi Carignane. A great example of dichotomy:  Strawberry fruit that presents in a soft and feminine but rich, savory mouthfeel. Damn. Tasting both the cut and the rose, like the goddess Athena just kicked your ass but you loved it!  

 

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2014 OVZ Zin Big, perfumed, jammy fruit. This wine is #1 in CA Zin sales  at the low price of $11/bottle. Rich, bright, just right! Get some- 

and last, but not least:

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Harney Lane’s 2013 Lizzy James Old Vine Zin Dark cherries, lush flavor w/ rich, supple beauty. Magnificent!

Check out the historic, gnarled trunks and vines that demand hand harvesting, the killer fruit, the loamy sand terroir.

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Ok. I’m not done talking about Harney Lane’s Lizzy James Vineyard Zinfandel. I know Twitter capped my tweet, but that won’t stop me here. This wine is so good, it’s frightening. But I’m not really a fan of Zin. Here’s the deal: I won’t drink a decent zinfandel -there are so many great other choices than any ‘meh’ wine- But I love to drink a terrific zinfandel, and this one is mesmerizing. I’ve had amazing wines from Lodi before- Michael David’s Earthquake comes to mind first, but this wine rocked my world again and again, and I kept going back to it at the end of each day to ask “Was (Lizzie James) really among the best wines I tasted all day?” And the answer was always Yes. This wine is beyond special. Lizzy James is EPIC. Don’t know the flavor of Bramble? Wanted a wine that reminds you of fruit cobbler on the finish? Want something to have your entire dinner table ask you WHAT IS THIS DELICIOUS WINE? Seriously: pick this up, savor it for three days, and you can email me a thank you later. <Mic Drop>

Now, about these tasting notes…you might think I moved these wines around in order, but the order I shared them is actually the order they were presented to our table. While the Lizzy James Zinfandel was the last in our red wine speed tasting, I actually tasted this wine on four separate days at WBC16. It was one of several shining stars of the trip, but not the only great wine from this winery, nor the only great zinfandel from Lodi. But most importantly, over the course of the trip, this wine came to represent all of Lodi for me. Because until you spend some time in Lodi with their wines and winemakers, you might write them off as “zin producers”, just like if you don’t really know wine, you might think that Santa Barbara is “just a pinot producer”, or Napa is “just a cabernet” producer. No, no, no! They are SO much more!

Lodi is a unique AVA in the USA, with mediterranean weather and wind patterns, about 60 miles from the Pacific ocean and with sand-rich, desert soil. The winemakers are as unique as the AVAs, and their passion to grow brilliant and tasty fruit results in stunning wines: Spanish grape clones, Rhône grape clones, French grape clones,  German grape clones, Austrian grape clones! You name it, they are growing it in Lodi.

With as many grapes as they are growing, (over 100 varietals) I tasted many, so very many wines that showed intense flavor, terrific winemaking and amazing quality. Because it all starts with tremendous fruit, and intense passion to make the best wine you can make from the finest fruit you can grow.

And they are doing it here, every day, all over Lodi. So get on it, or miss out and feel like a fool.

à votre santé!

Oh, you thought I forgot about calling me ginger, didn’t you? Well I didn’t.

Check out Tim Minchin’s ode to the word ginger in his opus, “Prejudice”. Enjoy!

 

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