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Napa Royalty: Chateau Montelena

28 Aug

When you plan a special occasion with friends & neighbors, the wine has to be perfect! So an important summer evening recently became OTBN- “Open That Bottle Night”, when we pull a special bottle from the cellar, to enjoy with good friends. For our wines, I turned to new world wine royalty:  Napa’s own Chateau Montelena!

Chateau Montelena Chadonnay 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 13.8%ABV, SRP $58/bottle.

 

The color is a medium straw with a green hue. The nose shows fresh melon with a touch of baking spice. On the palate is baked apple pie, a hint of peach, notes of vanilla and significant oak influence, followed by more spicy notes- ginger root, and young pineapple. Lush and savory with mid-weight appeal. This is a delightful chardonnay that sings of fruit in the barrel. Paired with grilled vegetables and chicken, the nose and flavors elicited verbal oohs and aahs from our guests of honor.

One tastes this wine, and immediately thinks of the 1976 Judgement of Paris that changed the way the game was played both in the old world and new world of wines. This modern-day offspring of that world-changing wine maintains the beauty of the classic vintage with restrained fruit notes, solid acidity, a savory mouthfeel, and age-worthiness. It has been years since I tasted Chateau Montelena’s chardonnay, -a 2010 vintage- but the wine’s flavors memory recall a near-identical, idyllic and glamorous tasting experience!

 

 

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2015; Napa Valley, Ca. 14.2%ABV, SRP $61/bottle.

 

The color is deep ruby with magenta edging. The complex nose offers mature black fruit followed by notes of forest floor, leather, oak and spice. On the palate, the fruit is a blend of raspberry and juicy red plum with bright acidity; there are secondary notes of mocha, clove, potting soil, and a lovely finish with rich tannins, featuring a timber note that suggests the wine aged in both French and mature, perhaps Eastern European oak. This paired beautifully with the main course of dinner of grilled meats, along with fresh fruit and hearts of palm salad, zucchini and greens, yet the wine’s impact was even greater afterwards when we simply chatted and enjoyed the depth of each sip, the enchanting, silken mouthfeel, the impressive girth and balance of the wine, and the expressive flavor profile.

 

 

Like some wines of the Old World, Napa’s Chateau Montelena demonstrates consistency and tremendous quality over the decades. Their wines are a trustworthy delight to experience, and provide a very high level of both value and pleasure, vintage after vintage. 

 

à votre santé!

 

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Ranch 32’s 2016 Vintage

8 Jul




Ranch 32 Chardonnay 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

Color is pale yellow, with a nose of pear, pineapple, vanilla extract and toasted oak. On the palate, apple and pear dominate with a buttery and rich mouthfeel, wrapped up by hints of brown butter sugar cookies and lime zest. This is a great wine to sip on the porch in the afternoon; perhaps the ideal food pairing is baked chicken with fresh vegetables. This is the classic, savory, buttery chardonnay made with ten months of aging in French oak, a touch high in alcohol for me but the mouthfeel did not give that away. For my readers who love classic California chardonnay in the under $25 mark, this is a bottle you need to find!

 

 

Ranch 32 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Hames Valley and San Lucas AVAs, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

A blend of two fruits from two Monterey estates, aged for 12 month in French and American oak. Color is deep garnet with maroon edging. The nose offers cassis and blackberry, then green vegetation with notes of eucalyptus, basalt, and cedar. On the palate: moderate dark fruit starts and finishes. Black plum and black currants cross the front palate, potting soil with loam and sodium on the back palate with a spice mix and heat from the alcohol across the top palate. Medium-long finish with strong fruit is retained thoughout. I tasted this over the course of a week and the fruit profile expanded to full maturity after a couple of days. It was delightfully young upon opening and evolved with air to a nice maturity, so I’d suggest decanting or using an aerator for maximum enjoyment. Ideal pairings with grilled meats and game, my preferred pairing was grilled steak and grilled vegetables (also endorsed by a vegetarian guest who did the pairing solely with grilled vegetables). I found this wine to be a solid value, especially at the street price you will find in the $15-20 range.

 

 

Ranch 32 Pinot Noir 2016, Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California. 13.5% ABV; SRP $20/bottle.

 

Color is dusty rose, while the perfumed nose offers rose bush, raspberries, fresh cuttings and sand. On the palate, fully mature cherry and raspberry, notes of sea salt, moss, sandy loam, and white pepper. Considerable heat on the medium-long finish, notes of burnt coffee beans and tasted oak wrap up this little gem. I adored this wine with hot artichoke dip, both cured and baked salmon, and dried meats. I could see this wine easily pairing through an entire meal, tantalizing your mouth from the appetizer to after-dinner bites of strawberries, chocolates, or cheesecake. There is a sense of old-world glamour in this wine, perhaps an early California essence that permeates?  Regardless, this is solid value that compares well against wines in the $25+ range.

 

 

#WIYG?

à votre santé!

The Withers Winery 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir

19 May

I first came across The Withers in 2017 at a Wine & Food Festival. One downside to finding a new winery you like at that kind of event might be that after tasting over 100 other wines that day, you’re never quite sure if your palate is still fresh! Because mine had already been put to the test that day, I posted my thoughts and a photo of their wine (if you click the link, you can scroll towards the end) but didn’t provide tasting notes in my post, which was really about the festival. Yet I never forgot the great first impression of The Withers’  wines, which was tremendous winemaking with vast flavor differences between the 2014 Pinot Noirs from Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to sit down with one of the pinots from The Withers, and I finally have the opportunity to do so and to share it with you!

The Withers Winery 2015 Pinot Noir, Peters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA, USA.  13.8%ABV, $45/bottle from Garnet Wine in NYC.

Color is a deep, yet translucent, ruby. The nose offers rose bush and dried cranberry, with hints of spice and salinity. On the palate, the acidity is as much a star as the fruit, with dark cherry and raspberry, limestone and toasted oak. A beautiful tartness passes across the mid-palate; a line of gorgeous red cherry bathed in Himalayan salt crosses the upper back palate and washes away with a beam of acidity, leaving the mouth begging for more. This is a gorgeous wine, so well-made, sleek and linear, with solid underlying strength and maturity. You simply have to taste it to believe it. It posses a complexity I’ve not found before from California in an under-$75/bottle pinot noir price point. At three years old, I’d love to taste this at ten and 15 years, but I’d never let this wine age that long- it’s too good at this price point not to open!

Withering With Food: While I started pairing this wine gently with cheeses -soft rind brie, goat cheese, then gouda and finally a blue, all of which passed with flying colors- my next test was a field greens salad with cranberries (oh yeah), progressing to whole wheat pasta with a garlic tomato sauce – which is about as far as most pinot noirs can go. Not The Withers, this wine still has body and hidden power ready to match more- I’m not sure if it’s the racehorse on the bottle or a Navy SEAL in disguise- but this wine can pair far past salmon, and I would be willing to try this with a porterhouse steak or full on rib roast, and bet the bottle that it can pair just as well. It reminded me how floored I was when comparing the Peters Vineyards with the Anderson Valley pinot noir a year ago. The terroir and that 777 clone is a whole game changer to this wine! #BOOM. My hat is off to the winemaker. Color me seriously impressed: I adore this wine and think it’s a killer value with huge standards,  an unsung hero that is just now starting to find the popularity it deserves.

If, like me, you love California pinot noir, you owe it to yourself to taste this and see if you agree. Buy some now and years later, you can tell your friends you got in before the brand exploded.

 

à votre santé!

Part 2 #WBC17 Live Wine Blogging! RED WINES at Table 5!

26 Nov

We can’t do a Speed-Dating, er, Speed-Tasting, without doing red wine!

Here’s part 2 of my #WBC17 Live Wine Blogging, RED WINES!

A reminder, the basic setup is kind of like  speed dating for wine: a table of wine writers get 5 minutes with the winemaker/representative in which we must: say hello, get a quick introduction to the wine, have a quick pour and taste, take a picture of the bottle, and crank out a 140-ish character-sized review ALL WITHIN A FIVE-MINUTE WINDOW! You think your job is crazy? This is a wild wine tasting!  Check these out for what you think you’d enjoy- and if you don’t see them locally, find them online!

READY, TABLE FIVE?

GO!!!

 

2013 Mountainside Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley from .  14.1%abv, SRP $60.
Deep purple, powerful black fruit, high acid, 2nd notes of forest floor, mocha, vanilla  and citrus notes on the long finish. Big fruit in this bottle, saying, “Go Big or Go Home!”  

Upshot from . Purple color, perfumed cassis nose. Big blackberry fruit with pepper, clove, and baking spices. Great food wine, new release and super tasty! SRP only $28/bottle, w/ 14.5% ABV.   Sonoma blend of 44% Zin with 29% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 7% Petite Verdot, & 5% Riesling. Love the label that shows the schedule after finding the right #brix to pick! The next Sonoma Classic?

2015 Small Batch Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel from  . Red wine aged in bourbon casks? Some seriously powerful nose and mouth, and big on alcohol. Deep purple color, flavors of big red fruit! An Ass-kicking, motorcycle riding brute of a red!  Mendocino fruit is the backbone, $19/bottle, 15.6%ABV.

Byck Family Estate’s 2015 Pinot Noir; Walter’s Vineyard Russian River Valley from . Maroon color,delicate nose, and gentle fruit, so easy going down you’ll lull the whole bottle in a flash- easy like Sunday morning pinot. Styled as French as a California wine can be, fruit from Pommard and Dijon 777 clones, all matured in French oak. 13.8%abv SRP $54/bottle.  

Gracianna’s Russian River Valley 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir. Garnet in color, raspberry nose, very green with a red rush of cassis and cherry; tons of heat on the top palate. French oak, classic pinot with smoky finish. Decant for an hour to really enjoy the supple fruit. 14.8%ABV, SRP $72/bottle.   

Ready for something new? Try the rare  grape and a Missouri wine! Only $25/bottle for this deep purple, almost black, full-bodied wine. BlackBerry, spice, bramble, high acidity and MONSTER tannins: pair with game, or kill the chef and eat him! #FlavorMonster 

2015 Zinfandel  : a big, bold, badass of a wine! Tons of red and black berries covered in spice, with notes of sandy loam, coriander and nutmeg on the finish. SRP $19, 14.9%ABV from 

Not to be outdone, the big brother from  arrives, 2015 Bushnell Single Vineyard Zinfandel tasting lusty! Deep purple, singular, focused, and so nice! 16 months in American oak lends vanilla, cinnamon, and a touch of elegance to overcome the bold cowboy and this badass fruit! SRP$30, 15.2%ABV   

2014 Pinot noir from lovely garnet color, floral and berry nose, mixed red fruit, delicate and nice, high acidity. You might think cherry cola and cherry pie, with a hint of oaky earth- and you’d be right! Let me drink this in the afternoon shade and watch the sun go down!  $58 SRP, 13.8% ABV 

Sangiovese from Reserve from Columbia Valley, WA. 18months in oak, big cherry & strawberry and long finish. SRP$70; 14.4%ABV. She will knock you out cold and you’ll wake up naked, but probably quite happy!

red blend. Berries and plums dominate the palate in this French merlot/cab/syrah blend. Secondary notes of slate and granite, cocoa and aged oak. This killer food wine sells for a cheap $12/bottle, make it your house red and don’t tell the neighbors! 13%ABV

 As soon as the last tweet was sent and the timer buzzed, I kept looking for the next wine.
Table 5 (You know who you are! ) is a great group of folks who, while frenzied, can crank out great notes without killing each other! To be accurate, the task is both complicated and quite challenging to get a good (i.e. accurate & with unique perspective) tasting note out AND tweet it out in such short time.
Cheers to you all- everyone who enjoys wine should try speed dating, er, TASTING – and see how it changes the way you talk about wine!
What’s the most unusual way you’ve had to taste and review wines?  
Drop a comment and let me know! 

à votre santé!

White Wines from #WBC17 Live Wine Blogging! TABLE 5!

19 Nov

If you’re wondering “Where have you been?” or “What the heck happened to JvB?”, well #WBC happened. This year the wine blogger’s conference was back in Somoma and after the fires, the wineries were SO ready for us! They are open, anxious, and are ready for YOU to return and help the area rebuild. Most of the wineries are in good operational shape and need your support. How better to do that than to buy some wine?

So here is a re-cap of my experience in this year’s #WBC17 White Wine Live Wine Blogging. This is like speed dating for wine; a table of ten writers get a quick pour, take a picture of the bottle, and cranks out a 140-ish character-sized review within a five minute window. It’s insane and fun! I had a ton of readers respond to my reviews from Santa Barbara and Lodi, so check these out for what you think you’d enjoy- and if you don’t see them locally, find them online! 

READY, TABLE FIVE?

GO!!!

2016 Ledson Vineyard Estate Viognier – can you say peaches & cream? $32/bottle, 13.5%ABV, winner Best Viognier by Sommelier Challenge 2017 International Wine & Spirit Competition  

2016 Sauvignon Blanc -pair me with Thai food and #GetNaked! $32/bottle, 13%ABV,  and perfect for those who adore the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.  

2015 Matthiasson Napa Valley White Wine Blend is farm to table- and like a fresh fruit bowl of apples, peaches and melon, 2nd notes of citrus and honey with oyster shells and limestone on the finish. @matthiassonwine; $40/bottle, 12.9% ABV  

This is something very much out of the norm for me- Jardesca’s white apertivo by huge flavors, white wine mixed with ten botanicals- not your fathers white wine! 17%ABV

2010 Anniversary Cuvée $40/bottle. Such great mouthfeel, gorgeous muted fruit and lots of baking spice -plate of oysters, please? YUM! #GiveMeBubbles 

Turbiana 2016 from Selva Capuzza, Lake Garda, ITALY! This isn’t from Sonoma, but was sure fun to have included in the speed tasting! Screaming Meyer lemon, minerality and beautiful acidity!

2015 Mount Beautiful Chardonnay! Just as beautiful as their Pinot- half oak, half unoaked- all chard lovers rejoice! NZ Elegance and beauty; $22/bottle, 14.5%ABV! 

2015 Antica A26 Block Chardonnay from Antinori Family Estates- whoa! Big fruit up front, lots of nice vanilla from the time in oak, massive acidity and high abv 14.5% $55/bottle.  Serious chardonnay wine for those who adore it in this style!  

2016 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley. Light on grapefruit, huge mouthfeel of mango, peach and tangerine! So fruity, with a touch of ginger on the finish; want to drink this for dinner! Only $19/bottle, 13.2%ABV.  

2014 Leto Cellars Old Vine Chardonnay  features lovely fruit, like drinking apple pie and sunshine- $30/bottle at 11.5% abv- This is a chicken dinner’s best friend!

 Look for Part 2- Red Wines from Live Wine Blogging, #WBC17!!

à votre santé!

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