Gems in My Glass . . . July 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mid-America, Tasting Notes 2 Comments

2014 Mid American Wine Competition

It was my pleasure to judge the 2014 Mid American Wine Competition in Des Moines Iowa, and there was plenty to brag about when the judging was done.   Grapes that have long been grown here, as well as more recently planted hybrids that have further developed over the past several years, delivered in spades.  The following were among my favorite gold medal winners:

Snus Hill Vineyard & Winery NV Blushing Claire; Iowa:  This 95% La Crescent and 5% Chambourcin Rose blend earned the Best Rose Wine Award and the Dick Peterson Best Iowa Appellation Award at this year’s competition.  Aromas reminiscent of strolling through a field of fresh strawberries electrify the senses and get the juices flowing.  Flavors of sweet, fresh strawberries and raspberries and a dash of spice merge together on the palate with lively acidity.  Precisely balanced and vibrant through the focused finish; simply charming.  SRP:  $15  www.snushillwine.com

Illinois Sparkling Company NV Dollface Rosé Hieland Hills Vineyard; St. Anne, Illinois:  The brilliant deep pink hue and tiny stream of bubbles capture your eye; here is a dazzling Methode Champenoise Sparkling Rose crafted from Frontenac.  The alluring aroma pulls you into the glass and your palate is rewarded with bright pomegranate and sweet, cocoa dusted cherry flavors interlacing with pie spice and citrusy accents.  This is an energetic and well balanced elixir with a deft touch of sweetness.  SRP: $32   www.illinoissparklingco.com

Illinois Sparkling Company NV Stereo; ISC Estate Vineyard, Peru, Illinois: This La Crescent based sparkling wine is lively with enticing floral and tropical fruit aromas wafting from the glass.  Bursting forth on the palate are layers of fresh ripe pineapple, quince jam and citrus notes along with subtle earthy nuances.  The 2.3% residual sugar is well placed; an artfully crafted bubbly.  SRP:  $32  www.illinoissparklingco.com

The Winery at Versailles NV Hunter Red; Ohio:  Here’s a classic, well-crafted Concord (Native American grape) wine that showcases yummy grape jelly and candied grape aromas and flavors through and through.  It is lively and well balanced with beautiful purity and freshness and the finish is bright and long lasting; delicious.   SRP:  $9.99 www.wineryatversailles.com

Wooden Wheel Vineyards NV Private G.W.; Keota, Iowa:  This dry Marquette displays fresh, juicy fruit aromas that pave the way for the succulent cherry, plum and raspberry fruit delightfully unraveling on the palate.  Well balanced and pleasing with hints of mixed freshly ground pepper spice chiming on the back palate through the smooth, satisfying finish.   SRP:  $18 www.woodenwheelvineyards.com

Summerset Winery NV De Chaunac; Indianola, Iowa:   Here is a deeply hued French-American red hybrid wine that boasts aromas of dark fruits and a hint of savory spice.  Compelling and full flavored with succulent black grapes, wild berries and mulberry jam swirling tastily on the palate.  The alcohol level is restrained at 9.9%, leaving the wine well balanced, clean and very easy to quaff.  SRP:  $16   www.summersetwine.com

Summerset Winery NV Concord; Indianola, Iowa:  One whiff of this joyful wine leaves no doubt that Concord wine adorns the glass.   Grape jelly fills the palate and you’re taken back to your childhood memories of grape juice and grape jelly enhanced peanut butter sandwiches.  Delectably juiciness, this wine will leave you with a smile.  SRP:  $12 www.summersetwine.com

Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery NV Tailgate Red; Kansas:  A sassy blend of Chambourcin and St. Vincent, this wine oozes with ripe blackberries and black cherries from the inviting aroma through the rich, spice bejeweled palate; fully engaging.  The touch of sweetness plays in tune with offsetting acidity and the tannins are refined, a satisfying, balanced package.  SRP:  $10.95 www.holyfieldwinery.com

Falling Waters Winery NV Raging River Red; Wisconsin/Michigan:  Falling Waters Winery is located in Wisconsin, and the grapes from this wine were grown in Michigan. This expressive blend of 45% Marechal Foch, 30% De Chaunac and 25% Rougeon opens with sweet ripe cherry and wild berry fruit with hints of vanilla that are echoed on the juicy palate.  Nicely crafted with an appealing sweetness that lingers on the aftertaste.  SRP:  $13 www.fallingwaterswinery.com

Oliver Winery & Vineyards 2013 Gewürztraminer; Monroe County, Indiana:  Wow, the jasmine and spice aromas of this semi-dry Gewürz will put you in a heavenly frame of mind. On the palate, layers of sweet pineapple, grapefruit, lychee nuts and hints of ginger spice unfold gloriously.  A delicate, expressive, well structured wine with a finish that lingers on and on.  SRP:  $11 www.oliverwinery.com

Wollersheim Winery 2013 Prairie Fume; New York/Wisconsin:  The grapes for this wine are grown in New York and you’ll find their tasting room in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.  This wonderfully aromatic semi-dry Seyval Blanc with a nice touch of sweetness is captivating.  The effusive fruity aromas that heighten the senses are echoed in the mouth with vibrant flavors of ripe nectarine, guava and candied citrus peel.    The wine is velvety smooth and elegant with good depth and length.  SRP:  $9 www.wollersheim.com

St. James Winery 2013 Vignoles; Ozark Highlands, Missouri:    Lavish scents of sun kissed tropical fruit rise from the glass. Abundant flavors of sweet fresh pineapple, melon, peach and mango and citrusy accents unfold beautifully on the palate.  Lovely purity and a racy kick of acidity join the sumptuous fruit, creating a splendid package from start to finish.  SRP:  $14.99 www.stjameswinery.com

Dubuque Heritage Winery NV Eagle Point White; Iowa:  From grapes grown in the Upper Mississippi Valley AVA, this impressive wine earned the Best White Wine award at this year’s competition.  Crafted of La Crescent, it greets the nose with enticing citrus blossom aromas.  Frolicking on the palate are vivid flavors of tree ripened peaches, apricots, guava nectar and a splash of lemon-lime soda.  Upbeat and well balanced with the 5.5% residual sugar offset by invigorating acidity; well crafted.  www.dubuque365.com

Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery 2013 Marquette; Illinois:  This sassy dry red wine crafted of 90% Marquette and 10% Pinot Noir showcases a nice earthy, spicy nose.   Coating the mouth are appetizing flavors of blackberry and black cherry with tea spice accents.  Medium bodied and carefully crafted with an attractive aftertaste that lingers persistently.  SRP:  $19.99 www.galenacellars.com

Elmaro Vineyard NV La Crescent; Trempealeau, Wisconsin: The tantalizing aroma of this La Crescent with 8% Pepin blended in reels you straight into the glass.  The elevated entry is bright and leads to juicy pineapple, guava and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice taking center stage on the palate.  The 1.5% residual sugar adds a nice touch of sweetness, the texture is silky smooth, and the balance is spot on through the elegant finish.  SRP:  $14 www.elmarovineyard.com

Crooked Post Winery NV Valvin Muscat; Kansas:  Pretty floral notes scintillate the senses and the wine enters with a spicy personality.  The palate is resplendent with flavors of sweet mandarin oranges and peaches enhanced with hints of ginger spice and lemon zest. Effectively restrained in alcohol at 8%, this is a lively semi-sweet sipper.  SRP:  $16  www.crookedpostvineyard.com

In an animated discussion over a sip or two of award winning wines, my fellow judges and I agreed wholeheartedly that the level of quality crafted from Mid American wine producers has risen tremendously over the past 7 years.  Give it a whirl, and discover for yourself which hybrid grapes suit your fancy; your taste buds and enlightened minds will thank you.

 

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

The 2014 Central Coast Wine Competition highlighted a plethora of well crafted wines, from bubbles to aromatic whites (including Grenache Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Roussanne/Grenache Blanc/Viognier blend), to sassy Rose blends to stately reds (including Syrah, Counoise, Cabernet and red blends).   The following were among my favorites:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery 2011 Brut Rose; Arroyo Grande Valley, California:  This lively Brut Rose captures the eye with its brilliant hue and steady stream of tiny bubbles begging you to dive into the glass.  Tantalizing aromas of juicy strawberries and a touch of fresh baked bread please the nose.  Luminous upon entry with a dollop of citrus and subtle yeast notes accenting the fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit dancing on the palate.  A gloriously balanced and refreshing sparkling wine.   SRP:  $30  www.laetitiawine.com

Halter Ranch 2011 Syrah; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a deep, black fruit driven Syrah showcasing enticing blackberry and plum aromas.  On the palate the dark, concentrated fruit converges with meaty notes, hints of licorice and brown baking spices.  Eighteen months aging in 30% new French oak barrels contributes beautifully integrated oak notes and the finish is long and delectable.  SRP:  $32  www.halterranch.com

Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery 2013 Cotes de Pomar Blanc; Paso Robles, California: Aged in neutral oak, this well balanced blend of 40% Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier displays gorgeous aromas of stone fruit, citrus blossom and guava.  Flavors of juicy peach, white nectarine, guava juice, apricot preserves and a squeeze of lemon richly coat the palate and the mouth feel is silky smooth.  Fresh and bright, the lively acidity persists from start to finish.  SRP:  $34  www.pomarjunction.com

Bushong 2013 Pretty in Pink; Paso Robles, California:  This brilliantly hued rose is a blend of Tempranillo and Grenache.  The provocative citrus scented berry aroma arouses the senses and leads to a lively palate full of raspberry, strawberry, melon, tangelo and pink grapefruit flavors melding in harmony.     A thirst quenching wine with a nice acidic backbone pulling the package together beautifully.  SRP:   $23  www.graveyardvineyards.com

Michael Gill Cellars 2013 Counoise; Paso Robles, California:  This spicy, true to varietal character Counoise (a dark skinned grape widely grown in the Rhone region of France) dazzles with its soft magenta hue and alluring spice infused fruit aromas, and that’s just the beginning.  Expanding on the palate with good depth, balance and concentration are layers of cherry, fresh raspberry, red licorice and a sprinkling of black pepper spice wrapped around soft, smooth tannins; nicely crafted.  SRP:  $40   www.gillcellars.com

Eberle Winery 2012 Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah; Paso Robles, California:   A deep, dark wine that displays a lovely sense of both new world and old world Syrah characteristics.  Enticing earthy, black fruit aromas make way for scrumptious flavors of blackberry, wild berry, cassis, a hint of meatiness and savory spice.  It is intensely structured with well integrated oak nuances weaving through the palate, and the finish is lip smackingly delicious.   SRP:  $26   www.eberlewinery.com

Claiborne & Churchill Vintners 2013 Dry Gewurztraminer; Monterey County, California: Wildly expressive scents of citrus and jasmine engage the senses fully with this energetic Gewurztraminer.   On the palate, dazzling acidity balances perfectly with succulent white nectarine, guava and hints of mandarin orange while a pretty dash of spice permeates throughout.  Finishes bright with an upbeat lift.      SRP:  $22   www.claibornechurchill.com

SummerWood Winery 2013 Grenache Blanc; Paso Robles, California:  Richly fruited and lush yet full of brightness with its pulsating acidity, this Grenache Blanc is vibrant, well balanced and full of flavor.  The juicy stone fruit and delightfully tart white raspberry expand on the palate with a thread of minerality and racy acidity and the finish is vivacious.  A tantalizing, food friendly wine for all seasons.    SRP:  $25  www.summerwoodwine.com

Rangeland Wines 2012 Mistletoe Blend; Paso Robles, California:  Here is an impressively crafted blend of 51% Cab Sauvignon, 23% Syrah, 19% Merlot and 7% Mourvedre that captures the depth and serious elements of Cabernet coming from this region along with plush black fruit that Paso Robles Syrah often showcases.   This wine saturates the palate with blackberry, black currant and plum fruit laced with a generous dose of spice and framed by well structured tannins.   SRP: $25   www.rangelandwines.com

Daou Vineyards & Winery 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Paso Robles, California: Dark fruits and exotic spice captivate the senses with this full bodied wine.  I’ve long believed this region is well suited to Cabernet Sauvignon, and here is a stunning example supporting that notion.   Chock full of blackberry, cassis and black cherry fruit with highlights of tobacco spice, graphite and precisely integrated oak, it is complex and well structured through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $56  www.daouvineyards.com

Summertime is a lovely season to stroll the thriving vineyards and meet the talented personalities throughout the Central Coast wine region, and there are wonderful venues for tasty cuisine there too.  Why not seek out your favorite gems?

 

 

2014 bASH Food and Wine Event in St. Helena – Delicious!

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Napa, Tasting Notes 1 Comment

Appellation St. Helena recently held their bASH Food and Wine Competition.  This annual extravaganza is one that wine and food lovers should not miss.  Fine wines crafted from vineyards in the St. Helena Appellation are paired with incredible gastronomic treats created by chef teams from the California Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and professional chefs representing local caterers and restaurants.   Attendees enjoy a lively, fun filled evening of sipping, tasting and voting for their favorite wine and food pairings.  Results are tallied and winners are announced at the conclusion of the well-orchestrated event.  My favorites among the many delicious pairings this year included the following:

Charles Krug Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Food pairing:  Lobster Bisque with Pickled Asian Pear and Crab Meat created by CIA Team 24; Jason Raffin (Los Angeles, CA) and Alexa Mejia (Los Angeles, CA)

This crisp, lively Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely quaff heralding racy acidity.  Aromas and flavors of citrus flecked pineapple, tropical fruit, tangy lime and mineral notes capture the senses.   This food and wine pairing was striking in its contrast.  The brightness and acidity of the wine cut right through the heavenly rich and creamy bisque leaving you with a keen desire for more of each.

Corley Family Napa Valley 2010 Yewell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Monticello Braised Short Rib Tortellini with Black Pepper Cream Sauce & Pumpkin Seed Pesto created by Sweatpea Catering & Private Chef Services Chef Jeanna DeMarco

This Cabernet Sauvignon is powerfully built yet approachable now with generous cassis, cherry and black plum fruit flavors, savory spice, well integrated tannins and a nice shade of oak from its 28 months aging in new French oak.  The firmly structured wine displays precise balance of fruit, tannins and acids, which suggests good cellaring potential too.  This tender meaty tortellini with a savory sauce was a perfect match to the spicy, dark fruit components and refined tannins in the wine.

 Louer Family Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Venison Ragout with Ricotta Tortellini created by CIA Team 8; Josh Hurst (White Plains, NY) and Ryan Hatton (Maryville, TN)

This Cabernet Sauvignon is fruit forward, balanced and velvety smooth.  Chock full of blackberries and currant with accents of spice and woodsy nuances, it is bright and plush throughout.  The rich and tasty dish brought out the savory, earthy notes in the wine.  This pairing showcased complementary flavors and textures with the earthy tones in the wine matching up with the subtle gamey quality of the venison ragout and the wine’s velvety texture harmonizing with the smoothly textured tortellini.

Taplin Cellars 2009 Taplin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Slider topped with Gorgonzola Dolce and Terra 9 Cabernet Caramelized Onion Jam on an Herbed Gougère created by CIA Team 13; Kathryn Schmitz (Richmond, VA) and Bryan Owens (Hollywood, MD)

This deep, terroir driven Cab Sauv boasts aromas of eucalyptus and cassis.  It fills the mouth with black plum, cassis and savory notes interlacing with a stream of minerality that makes its way from start to elevated finish.  The wine paired deliciously with this meaty, Gorgonzola heightened slider with caramelized onion accents.  The fat content in both the meat and cheese tamed the firm tannins exquisitely.

Parry Cellars 2010 Parry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food Pairing:  Fennel Risotto with Braised Lamb created by CIA Team 3; Trisha Holguin (Los Angeles, CA) and John Pelham (Maplecrest, NY)

This Cab from Parry Cellars’ half acre Parry Vineyard is fresh and full flavored with impressive precision.  On the palate cassis and dark berry entwine with herbs and finely integrated oak nuances.  The impressively balanced wine was a perfect coupling with the tender meaty lamb and creamy herbed risotto.  The simpatico flavors flowed together in unison, lusciously satisfying the taste buds.

Pellet Estate 2011 Pellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Braised Oxtail with Brioche Cauliflower Crumbs created by CIA Team 12; Addison Girdner (Boise, ID) and Michael Pazan (Ventura, CA)

Here is an earthy Cabernet Sauvignon that shouts out dark fruit and heady spices on the nose.  The spicy, fruity qualities remain consistent upon entry, expanding further in the mouth with good depth, purity and complexity.  This Cab was adroitly paired with the earthy wine-braised oxtail.  The dish complemented the savory qualities in the wine while softening the firm backbone of tannins; wow, a pairing made in heaven.

Ehlers Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Food pairing:   Beurre Blanc Shrimp Salad on Toast created by CIA Team 18; Daniel de la Rosa (Los Angeles, CA) and Steven Fedalen (Los Angeles, CA)

This perky and crisp unoaked Sauvignon Blanc showcases purity of fruit from the first whiff to the refreshing palate through the elevated finish.  Grapefruit, lemon drops and fresh chopped herbs are wrapped around a lively spine of acidity.  It was a delightful match with the expressive and flavorful herb scented shrimp salad which brought out a nice creaminess in the energetic wine.

Raymond Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:   Cracked Pepper Beef Carpaccio on a Vegetable Terrine prepared by CIA Team 19; Ben Newlin (Thousand Oaks, CA) and Tom Stribling (Santa Rosa, CA)

This Cab’s alluring aroma of dark berry, plum, tobacco and spice merges impeccably with black currant, licorice, hints of lead pencil shavings and well integrated oak, richly filling the mouth.  Refined tannins frame the attractive layers of fruit, tobacco and savory spice on the palate.  I thoroughly enjoyed how the spicy flavors of this delectable cracked pepper adorned beef carpaccio bonded with this beautifully expressive, well balanced Cabernet Sauvignon.

Titus Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel

Food pairing:  Warm Smoked Duck with Radicchio Salad created by CIA Team 20; Kelly Gladstone (San Diego, CA) and Ying Chen (Taiwan)

This Zinfandel is abundantly fruit forward and lip-smackingly juicy.  The senses are filled with briary blackberry, olallieberry and chocolate-dipped strawberry goodness meshing with hints of toast, spice and vanilla bean.  Salad is often a challenging pairing and this one worked extremely well.  The savory, smoked duck melded with the wine’s lush fruit sumptuously.  The fat and richness of the duck in this dish subdued the slightly bitter note of the radicchio too, a creative and tasty pairing.

Robert Biale Vineyards 2010 Thomann Station Petite Sirah

Food pairing:  Spring Lamb Belly with Pea Puree, Black Pepper and Licorice prepared by CIA team 14; John Miller (Sioux Falls, ID) and Alex Tubero (St. Helena, CA)

This complex, deep, darkly hued Petite Sirah offers up aromatic pepper spice and black fruits on the nose, followed by intense flavors of blackberries and blueberries with hints of savory herbs and fresh cracked pepper coating the palate.  It is a richly textured, full bodied wine with firmly structured tannins.  The black pepper spiked meaty lamb belly with its layers of fat softened Petite Sirah’s power and concentration of tannins, and the consistency of black pepper spice in the wine and the dish pulled the combo together seamlessly; an irresistible pairing.

St. Helena Winery 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Cream of Mushroom Soup with Madeira Brandy created by Goose and Gander Chef Kelly McCowan

This captivating Cabernet (blended with 2% Petit Verdot) draws you into the glass with its dark fruit and heady spiced tea aromatics.  Flavors of cassis, blackberry, plum and hints of earthiness weave harmoniously on the palate around a firm backbone of tannins.  This paired divinely with the rich and creamy mushroom soup.  The mushroom flavors brought out the earthiness in the wine, and the creaminess of the soup rounded out the tannins without taking away from the wine’s complexity, sumptuous.

Sequum 2009 Kidd Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

Food pairing:  Flat Iron Steak with Bordelaise Sauce, Fennel and Apple Slaw prepared by CIA team 1; Ekin Huynh (Orange County, CA) and Fangfang Gong (Chicago, IL)

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon speaks clearly and proudly of the St Helena appellation terroir.  Dark berry, black cherry and Herbs de Provence aromas and flavors wow the senses.  It is bright, complex and penetrating on the palate with velvety tannins and a kick of toasted oak on the long finish.   This wine was provocatively paired with the Bordelaise-sauced steak.  The weight of the full bodied wine and the rich dish were exquisitely in sync and the Herbs de Provence spice in the wine complemented fennel accent in the dish.

Check out Appellation St. Helena’s website at www.appellationsthelena.com, and next spring don’t forget to buy a ticket and attend this fabulous event.  I assure you it is a delicious, enlightening experience with tantalizing sips and tastes that will please even the most scrutinizing palate!

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Soars

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Santa Cruz Mountains No Comments

Megan Metz took the reins as Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association a little over a year and a half ago.  Working with the association’s board and members, Megan has been implementing new marketing strategies and together they are broadening the exposure of their vineyard practices, winemaking talent, and well-crafted wines coming from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

In conjunction with the 2014 Pinot Paradise event in April, five California wine writers came together to review selections of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages of Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.  Lovely fruit and balance was showcased in all three vintages. I also picked up distinctive characteristics in each vintage, including accents of spice in 2010, vibrancy and brightness in 2011, and earthy, forest floor accents in 2012.  The tasting was enlightening, and made it quite clear this region continues to raise the bar.   Here is a peek at some of the praiseworthy wines reviewed at this tasting:

2010 Vintage

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Forest floor aromas rise from the glass with this alluring, well structured Pinot Noir.  On the palate, black cherry, and raspberry fruit intermingle with exotic spices and a splash of cherry cola. Wonderfully integrated oak brings the wine to a glorious finale.    SRP:  $60 www.kingsmountainvineyards.com

Muns Vineyard 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The enticing fragrance of rose petals joins earthy, spicy elements rising from the glass.  At the core, the essence of cloves and cardamom spice interplay delectably with juicy black cherry and wild berry fruit. A well-balanced, smoothly textured wine with bright acidity throughout.  SRP: $40   www.munsvineyard.com

Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards 2010 Regan Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   Scents of minerality and baked cherry cobbler warmly welcome you into the glass.  Sweet black cherry and raspberry fruit takes center stage, highlighted with exotic spices weaving from start to finish.  The mouthfeel is rich and velvety smooth and the underlying nuances of sweet oak add further complexity.  SRP:  $50 www.savannahchanelle.com

Storrs Winery 2010 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Expressive aromas of stone fruit entice the senses with this demonstrative, smartly balanced wine.  Here is a densely fruited, powerful Pinot Noir resplendent in ripe black cherry, fresh strawberry, juicy plums and hints of licorice and savory spice.  Good depth and plenty of grip through the intense, captivating finish.  SRP:  ~$36 www.storrswine.com

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The seductive aroma of this estate Pinot Noir seizes your attention and takes you for a delicious, long lasting ride.  Elegant and sassy with tasty flavors of red and black cherry and raspberry fruit, a touch of herbs and a trace of ground anise seed flourishing on the palate.  Balanced and pure through the satisfying finish.  SRP:  ~$38 www.silvermtn.com

2011 Vintage

Big Basin Vineyards 2011 Woodruff Family Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  This sensuous PN opens with inviting floral aromas that leads to forest floor, dried earth and mushroom notes on entry.  It blossoms beautifully on the palate with bright cherry, raspberry and a splash of cola framed by savory spice.  Intensely flavored yet lithe and light on its feet; delicious.  SRP:  ~$40 www.bigbasinvineyards.com

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 2011 Branciforte Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Aromas replete with spiced cherries and earth nuances waft from the glass.  The brightness of black and red fruit layered with savory spice, fragrant herbs and forest floor notes creates a cornucopia of flavors on the palate.  The meticulous balance of flavors persists through the finish; a stylish wine.  SRP:  $39 www.santacruzmountainvineyard.co

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: Gorgeous perfumed aromas will have you swooning.  Fanciful, bright and alluring, the raspberry, strawberry, cherry cola and anise flavors fill the palate and a touch of earthiness weaves throughout.  Irresistible in its delicateness, this Pinot Noir speaks softly but carries itself with strength, embracing the palate and finishing with a delightful lift.  SRP:  ~$60 www.kingsmountainvineyards.com

Storrs Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Lovely perfumed floral aromas with send you into dreamland.  This elegant Pinot Noir unfolds elegantly from the first sip with vivid flavors of strawberry and pomegranate intermingling with dried cherry and licorice accents. Precise integration of oak adds further dimension.  Impeccably balanced with graceful tannins and a finish that is oh so bright.  SRP:  ~$36   www.storrswine.com

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2011 Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Stunning forest floor and fresh cherry aromas waft from the glass and hold your attention upon entry.  Allspice, nutmeg and a hint of cinnamon join succulent black cherry, raspberry and earth components that meld seamlessly on the palate.  This Pinot Noir is lively, well focused and structured with silky tannins and a finish that persists memorably.  ~$38 www.silvermtn.com

Silvertip Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a smoothly textured, fruit forward, tasty Pinot Noir.  Juicy raspberry and wild berry aromas and flavors burst forward, flooding the senses.  The vivid, palate pleasing fruit is accented with earth nuances, exotic tea spices and a kiss of oak on the lingering finish.  Beautifully balanced and vibrant; a delectable quaff.  SRP:  ~$32 www.silvertipvineyards.com

Clos LaChance Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: This full bodied Pinot Noir showcases big brooding aromas of concentrated dark fruit with a dusting of fresh herbs.  Blossoming on the palate are bright and tasty sweet black cherries, strawberries and ripe plums interlacing with chopped herbs and anise spice.  The dense fruit is offset energetically with zesty acidity; a flavor packed Pinot Noir.   SRP:  $32    www.clos.com

Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   The expressive aromatics of red cherries and toasted oak notes grab your attention. Precisely balanced and flavorful, this wine displays a smooth backbone of tannins.  There is a brilliant vibe on the palate, with layers of red and black cherries, pomegranate, raspberry and cherry cordial joining savory spice, licorice and hints of earth; nicely crafted.  SRP:  $35 www.fogartywinery.com

2012 Vintage

Mount Eden Vineyards 2012 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Wow a beautiful melding of Old World earthiness and New World juicy fruit.  The earthy, spicy components up front simply captivate the senses.  Chock full of raspberry, strawberry and red cherry fruit with subtle hints of toasty oak, mushroom and savory spice, this PN is refined from entry through the rewarding, lengthy finish.    SRP:  ~$70   www.mounteden.com

House Family Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Cherry and baking spice aromas arouse the senses with this elegantly structured wine.  On the palate, flavors of black cherry, red currant, cranberry sauce, wild mushrooms and a sprinkling of fresh herbs seductively unfold and caress the palate. An artfully balanced, polished Pinot Noir.  SRP:  ~$54 www.housefamilyvineyards.com

Roudon-Smith Winery 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains California:  The dazzling perfumed aroma clearly proclaims Pinot Noir in the glass.  Hints of violets converge with cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavors heightened with spice and earthiness, all swirling delectably on the palate. This wine leaves a brilliant impression throughout with racy acidity playing off the pretty layers of fruit; luscious. SRP:  ~$30 www.roudonsmith.com

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Lester Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Abundantly fruity with fragrant, inviting aromatics.  Gliding across the palate are scrumptious flavors of fresh picked wild berries and cherries and a splash of cranberry soda interweaving with hints of earth and nicely integrated oak tones. Balanced and fresh through the elegant, lively finish; simply irresistible.  SRP:  $40 www.alfarowine.com

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Trout Gulch Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a deep and concentrated wine displaying a more powerful side of Pinot Noir.  Intensely structured and chewy with black cherry, raspberry, licorice and forest floor notes weaving together in a tightly knit fashion.  Full bodied with lively acidity keeping it in perfect balance.  Finishes with creamy, spiced oak notes.   SRP:  $35 www.alfarowine.com

And that’s not all . . . there are many more notable Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, and the region is producing high quality Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other varieties in addition to stunning Pinot Noir.  Wines that can hold their own among those crafted from many top regions around the globe.  Check out the association’s website at www.scmwa.com, and plan a visit soon; you’ll surely discover wines that will rock your palate, too.

 

 

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes 1 Comment

Monterey Wine Competition 2014

The Monterey Wine Competition just celebrated its 21st year, and continues to showcase wines of beautiful merit from a variety of wine regions near and far.  Favorites from my panel at this year’s lively competition include:

Zocker 2012 Paragon Vineyard Grüner Veltliner; Edna Valley, California:   The initial introduction of this exuberant Gruner is the wildly expressive nose, wow.  It is equally engaging on the palate with energizing flavors of summer melon and white grapefruit dancing with minerality and a trace of white pepper weaving through the elegant layering of fruit.  The streamlined acidity keeps it fresh through the pleasing, lifted finish.  SRP:  $20 www.zockerwinery.com

Flipflop 2013 Pinot Grigio; California:  This lively Pinot Grigio really hits the spot.  Expressive and refreshing juicy pear and subtle stone fruit with vibrant citrus highlights gear you up for the warm and sunny presence of spring and summer. Well balanced with lively acidity and an aftertaste that is upbeat and clean.  SRP:  $12 www.flipflopwines.com

Eberle Winery 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a luscious, satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon that is bright and deliciously satisfying from start to finish.   Delectable tastes of black cherries, chocolate covered raspberries and a hint of vanilla saturate the palate, and the lush fruit is smartly offset by lively acidity.  Boasting a velvety smooth texture with soft tannins, here is an ideal accompaniment to ribs, grilled sirloin or juicy burgers.  SRP:  $34 www.eberlewinery.com

Sierra Vista Winery 2013 Grenache Rose; El Dorado, California:    The rosy pink hue and aromas of fresh, sweet strawberries wow the senses. This vibrant dry rose is sleek and smooth upon entry, and continues to build on the palate with pink grapefruit and raspberry notes chiming in delightfully.  A nicely balanced wine from start to elegant finish.  SRP:  $19  www.sierravistawinery.com

Bella Sera Wines 2012 Pinot Grigio; Veneto, Italy:  This aromatic Pinot Grigio is nicely textured and full-flavored with the essence of tree ripened green apple, creamy pear and a kick of lemon-lime soda enlightening the palate.  Finishes clean and bright with a touch of lemon verbena.  SRP:  $8.99 www.bellaserawine.com

Villa Bellezza Winery & Vineyards 2012 Cotes du Pepin Red; Upper Mississippi River Valley, Wisconsin:  This delightful dry red wine opens with berry aromas and fills the palate with a rich mouthful of black plum and wild berry flavors accented with brown spices.  Round and dense with nice purity of fruit, here’s a perfect sipper for an outdoor barbecue gathering.  SRP:  $25 www.villabelleza.com

Penguin Bay Winery NV Maroon Four; Finger Lakes, New York:  This appealing dry red blend of 60% Noiret, 20% Marachel Foch and 20% Cab Franc clearly identifies the Noiret content with its lovely black pepper component.  Multiple layers of red and black fruit and a touch of earth join the savory black pepper thread weaving throughout.   Delicious and distinctive with good balance and firm tannins. SRP:  $14 www.penguinbaywinery.com

Easley Winery 2012 Chambourcin; Indiana:  This darkly hued dry red wine offers up aromas of fresh flowers and black fruit.  Tickling the taste buds is a medley of black raspberries, black cherries, a sprinkling of fresh ground peppercorns and chopped herbs.  Nicely weighted and balanced, this is a generously fruited, easy to quaff wine.  SRP:  $10 www.easleywinery.com

Niner Wine Estates 2010 Bootjack Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon; Paso Robles, California: This highly aromatic Cab quickly draws you into the glass.  Flavors of freshly ground roasted coffee beans, cassis, and concentrated black cherries entwine seamlessly on the palate. Impressively balanced with refined tannins through the memorable finish.    SRP:  $35 www.ninerwine.com

La Rusticana d’Orsa 2011 Cinque; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  This fashionable Bordeaux blend is lush, balanced and deeply structured, capturing both Old World and New World characteristics with panache. The earthy, leather components mesh seamlessly with the rich currant, plum, blackberry fruit and savory spice.  Eucalyptus nuances peek through on the persistent finish.  Cinque is a bold yet elegant wine with plenty of verve that drinks well now and promises ageworthiness too.  SRP:  $45  www.larusticanadorsa.com

Cholame Vineyard 2012 Summer Shade; Monterey County, California:  This vivid Grenache Blanc is compelling with floral and green apple aromas rising from the glass.  Broadening on the palate are dazzling layers of crisp apple, white peach, nectarine, zesty tangerine and mineral notes all framed by an elegant structure and racy acidity.  This delightfully dry white wine remains crisp and vibrant long after the last sip is savored.  SRP:  $24 www.cholamevineyard.com

Gems in My Glass . . . March 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes 2 Comments

A taste of South Africa

I recently had the opportunity to spend a short time in two wine regions near Cape Town, South Africa.  It was a thoroughly delightful visit.  Here I found deep history, fascinating culture and people, distinctive terroir, picturesque wineries and palate pleasing wines, including:

Waterford Estate 2013 Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  This delightful and refreshing Chenin Blanc is blended with 8% Viognier.  The wine is fruit focused with aromas and flavors of fresh red apples, creamy pears, ripe apricots and a splash of citrus.  Lively acidity holds through the vibrant finish.     SRP: ~$11 www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate 2011 Pecan Stream Pebble Hill; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  A succulent blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache, Sangiovese and Merlot, this wine opens with inviting cinnamon and nutmeg spice aromas.  Round and lush with tasty flavors of spice-accented blackberries, red currant and loganberries swirling deliciously on the palate. Finishes clean with a nice lift.  SRP: ~$13 www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate 2010 Kevin Arnold Shiraz; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  Winemaker/Cellarmaster Kevin Arnold crafted an immensely gratifying wine that clearly shouts out Shiraz. It is nicely developed and full bodied with a satin smooth texture. Elegant and pure, it showcases blackberries, blueberries and savory spice that permeate from start to lip-smacking finish.   SRP:  ~$28  www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  Earthy aromas greet the nose with this powerfully built Cab Sauv.  Wild berries, cassis and tart cherries meld with earthy, mineral notes all framed by a firm backbone of tannins.   The wine remains focused throughout with nice depth and structure, and the finish lingers with persistence. SRP: ~$27  www.waterfordestate.co.za

Waterford Estate NV Reserve Heatherleigh; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  This delectable sweet wine is crafted of 70% Muscat  blended with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.  Inviting floral aromas make way for layers of honey, baked apples, apricots, caramel and mandarin orange highlights on the palate.  The balance is joyful with racy acidity playing off the sweet fruit and honey at the core.  SRP ~$20. (375ml) www.waterfordestate.co.za

Thelema Mountain Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  The essence of grapefruit and pretty herb accents blast from the glass with this sassy Sauv Blanc.   Steely minerality threads its way through a cornucopia of lemon-lime, white grapefruit, clementine and hints of fresh cut herbs on the palate.   A broad brush of lime zest pops on the finish, well balanced and refreshing.   SRP:  ~$17.50 www.thelema.co.za

Thelema Mountain Vineyards 2011 Shiraz; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  Aged in 40% new French oak (the balance 2 and 3 year French oak), here is a deep, dark, dazzling Shiraz.  Carrying its 15% alcohol well, it is powerful yet agile on the palate.  The dense concentration of blackberry, black plum and cassis liqueur is accented by an ample dash of pepper and allspice.  Lovely oak notes and velvety tannins complete the delicious package.   SRP:  ~$33.95  www.thelema.co.za

Sutherland Vineyards 2012 Riesling; Elgin Valley, South Africa:  Mouthwatering citrus and floral aromas are ever so enticing.  This racy, mineral laden Riesling offers up fresh white peach and savory spice flavors alongside edgy acidity, fully enlivening the palate.   Sleek and vibrant through the lingering finish.  Crafted by Owner/Cellarmaster Gyles Webb; Sutherland wines are bottled at Thelema’s Stellenbosch estate, from grapevines planted in the coastal Elgin region; a second label for the Webb family.  SRP:  ~$15.  www.thelema.com.za

Thelema Mountain Vineyards 2008 Rabelais; Stellenbosch, South Africa:  This impressive Bordeaux blend crafted of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 9% Merlot opens enticingly with subtle oak, a hint of earth and black fruit aromas.  Expanding on the palate are flavors of wild berry, dark cherry, tart blueberry, and sweet tobacco spice wrapped around firmly structured tannins. The precisely integrated oak shows off pretty toast and vanilla notes (aged 20 months in new French oak).  A deep, dark, complex wine that will cellar nicely for years.   SRP  ~$45  www.thelema.co.za

La Motte 2013 Sauvignon Blanc; Franschhoek, South Africa:  This SB is expressive and pure with clear varietal typicity.  Grassy aromas up front lead to vibrant mouth filling flavors of crisp green apple, lemon grass, candied citrus peel and a touch of guava  It is lively and balanced with beautiful acidity; remaining bright and fresh through the perky finish.   SRP:  ~$12 www.la-motte.com

La Motte 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Franschhoek, South Africa:   A bold and intense Cab with aromas and flavors of cassis, black raspberry, red plums, wild berries and a trace of tobacco wowing the palate.  Full bodied with plentiful tannins, this wine is approachable now and offers ageability as well.    SRP:  ~$25 www.la-motte.com

La Motte 2010 Pierneef Collection Shiraz; Franschhoek, South Africa:  Here is a Shiraz reminiscent of a Rhone style wine with 12% Viognier blended in. It is light on its feet with aromas and flavors of blackberry jam and spicy plum chutney swirling delectably on the palate.  Subtle oak nuances and a good dollop of acidity play nicely off the rich fruit.  A well balanced and structured Shiraz with an elegant finish.  SRP:  ~$25   www.la-motte.com

My brief visit to South Africa confirms one thing for certain, I must return and delve further into these engaging regions and beyond.  It will be a much longer visit to South Africa next time!

Gems in My Glass . . . February 2014

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Sbragia Family Winery 2009 Home Ranch Chardonnay; Dry Creek Valley, California: Aged in 50% new and 50% used French oak, this inviting, rich chardonnay showcases fresh stone fruit and spicy aromas which lead to flavors of tree ripened white peaches and fig compote upon entry. Expansive, balanced and full bodied on the palate with vanilla spice and butterscotch highlights joining the decadent fruit at the core. This gem finishes beautifully with good length and pretty, well integrated oak notes. SRP: $28 www.sbragia.com

Sbragia Family Winery 2011 Gino’s Zinfandel; Dry Creek Valley, California: Whoa! Hold on for a scrumptious fruit focused, spice laden mouthful of pure goodness in the glass. Here is a stylish Zin boasting earthy, spicy elements interlacing with bright raspberry, black cherry and blackberry flavors that drench the palate lavishly. Candied berry and vanilla notes chime in on the succulent, satisfying finish; more please! SRP: $28 www.sbragia.com

Sbragia Family Winery 2009 Home Ranch Merlot; Dry Creek Valley, California: A touch of Cab Franc (5%) was blended into this delectable Merlot that is chock full of blueberries, plums and spice. Nicely weighted and structured with floral notes joining the savory spice-accented fruit that richly fills the mouth. The balance is precise and the vibrant acidity really enlivens the palate. Deliciously pure with well integrated tannins and a finish that is long and memorable, a very classy wine. SRP: $28 www.sbragia.com

La Folia 2011 Sangiovese; Sierra Foothills, California: Inviting aromas of red fruit, cedar and floral notes greet the nose. The entry is juicy with its bright red cherry, strawberry, and cranberry flavors accented by a sprinkling of dried herbs. The enticing flavors broaden further on the mid palate, interweaving with subtle vanilla and oak notes. This wine is streamlined and pure with a graceful sway about it; finishing bright and clean. A very impressive new world Sangiovese. SRP: $32 www.lafoliawine.com

Carol Shelton 2011 Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel; Mendocino, California: This aptly named Zinfandel is a delectable blend of 77% Old Vine Zin, 9% Old Vine Carignane, 8% Primitivo, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 2% Syrah, 1% Barbera and 1% Petite Sirah that will knock your socks off! Concentrated flavors of brambleberry, blackberry and blueberry interweave through the palate with allspice and vanilla bean notes that keep delivering through the persistent lip-smacking finish. SRP: $19 www.carolshelton.com

DeLorimier Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; Smith Orchard, Dry Creek Valley, California: Enticing dark fruit aromas rise from the glass with this complex Cab Sauv that was aged 30 months in French oak. Expanding broadly on the palate are layers of cassis, blueberry, licorice, earthy, forresty notes and subtle oak overtones that meld together in harmony. Precisely balanced with velvety tannins, this wine drinks well now and also promises ageworthiness. SRP: $30 www.delorimierwinery.com

Peche Merle Winery 2010 Cuccio Vineyard Zinfandel; Dry Creek Valley, California; That classic Dry Creek Valley spiciness oozes out of the glass before you even get the wine to your lips, simply devine. The juicy boysenberries and black cherries at the core are accented deliciously by the alluring spice elements, and subtle, well placed oak notes add another dimension. A nicely crafted Zin that is enchanting from the tantalizing first taste to the long, lingering finish. SRP: $29 www.pechmerlewinery.com

Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery 2013 Grenache Rose; Sierra Foothills, California: The brilliant hue of this sassy Grenache Rose dazzles the eye, and as the glass approaches your nose the gloriously expressive aromatic will have you fully captivated before your first sip! Fresh strawberry, raspberry and ripe watermelon flavors with a hint of spice interlace gracefully on the palate and the acidity keeps it vibrant and impeccably balanced, wow. SRP: $16 www.lavenderridgevineyard.com

Gems in My Glass . . . January 2014

Cabernet Sauvignon, Gems in MY Glass . . . No Comments

CABERNET SAUVIGNON from the Pacific Coast

Four of my fellow wine colleagues and I took part in an enlightening Cabernet Sauvignon tasting in Geyserville this month.  We blind tasted twelve Cabernet Sauvignons produced in three different wine regions along the Pacific Coast; Sonoma County and Napa Valley in California, and Horse Heaven Hills in Washington.  High marks were awarded to wines in all three wine regions, with price points ranging from $28 to $200 per 750ml bottle.  Here are my impressions of each wine tasted:

Alder Ridge Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, WA:  Black fruit aromas temp you into the glass, where you’ll find a lush and full bodied wine made of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 5% Malbec. Dark berry and cassis fruit dusted with chocolate and spicy forest floor notes expand broadly in the mouth with a nice richness and a solid backbone of tannins. Well balanced and extremely palate pleasing.  Subtle oak from the 100% French oak aging (new and seasoned) lingers on the lovely finish.   SRP: $30  www.alderridge.com

DenHoed Wine Estates 2009 Andreas Cabernet Sauvignon; Wallula Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, WA:   Earth driven aromas lead to tart berry and black cherry flavors mingling with brown spice and wild mushrooms through the mid to back palate.  The essence of oak (100% Vicard French oak; 90% new) is pleasantly integrated in this 100% Cab Sauv. Tannins are firmly placed front and center, promising ageworthiness.  The wine displays leanness with a hint of minerality on the lingering finish.  SRP: $80  www.denhoedwines.com

Double Canyon Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, WA:  Alluring aromas of concentrated black cherry and a subtle hint of roasted meat lead to a ripe and round entry with this Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 15% Syrah.  Bing cherry and black plum flavors are accented by freshly ground multi-colored peppercorns. Aged 20 months in French oak (35% new), it features a lightly toasted note that adds complexity. Seriously structured tannins and well placed acidity pulls the package together beautifully.  SRP:  $40 www.doublecanyon.com

Januik Winery 2010 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, WA:  Inviting scents of tobacco and dark fruit rise from the glass.  Immensely flavorful upon entry with layers of dense blackberry, cassis and juicy black cherry fruit enhanced by minerality and a kick of fresh chopped herbs.  The finish is satisfying as it lingers with a whisper of chocolate and sweet oak notes.  Although approachable now, the firm backbone of tannins suggests this Cab is also cellar worthy.   $55 www.noveltyhilljanuik.com

Chateau Montelena Winery 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, CA:  Enticing black fruit and spicy aromas shout out Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine opens with rich, lush flavors of black cherry and black currant interlacing with savory herbs, tobacco and spiced oak notes in the background.  The texture is velvety smooth and the wine shows wonderful depth and complexity.  Approachable now yet still tightly wound with powerful tannins.  Decant for full enjoyment now, or wait if you can; as this Cab will cellar handsomely for many years.  SRP: $150 www.montelena.com

Antica Napa Valley 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, CA:  The dazzling mixed berry compote aromas that grab your attention are deliciously echoed through the engaging entry.  Roasted coffee bean and savory spice accents dance around wild blackberry, olallieberry and blueberry fruit at the core.  This Cabernet Sauvignon is sleek and brightly elevated on the palate with vibrant expression of fruit and acidity, and shows off chalky tannins and persistent length on the gratifying finish.  SRP:  $55  www.anticanapavalley.com

Corison Winery 2010 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, CA:  Resounding black cherry and perfumed floral notes fully capture the nose with this complex, deeply structured, energetic Cabernet Sauvignon. Layer upon layer of blackberry, cassis, spiced plum, tobacco and a touch of earthy minerality converge and flow in harmony across the palate.  This gem engages the senses completely through the memorable finish.  Lively acidity keeps it vibrant, the oak is exquisitely integrated, and firm, assertive tannins promise longevity; unquestionably an ageworthy wine.   SRP:  $135 www.corison.com

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2010 Andolsen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California:   Evocative eucalyptus, raspberry and sweet tobacco spice aromas rise from the glass and speak distinctly to Dry Creek Valley terroir. Enticing flavors of red currant, blackberry, licorice and a suggestion of spearmint fill the mouth luxuriously.  Precisely balanced and powerfully structured, this wine is thoroughly enjoyable now, and will continue to open up delightfully over the next several years.  SRP:  $40 www.sbragia.com

Stonestreet Winery 2010 Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon; Sonoma County, CA:  Alluring earthy aromas with hints of capsicum captivate the senses.  Loganberry and black raspberry fruit adorned with freshly cracked peppercorns, a hint of eucalyptus and allspice coat the palate fully.  Tannins are firmly structured, and the wine boasts elegance and a velvety texture.  A kiss of bittersweet chocolate lends a tasty surprise to the memorable finish.  SRP: $45 www.stonestreetwines.com

Smith Madrone Winery 2010 Cook’s Flat Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, CA:  This multi-layered Cab Sauv blended with Cabernet Franc is intense right from the focused berry and cherry aromas that waft from the glass.  The tight yet flavor packed palate offers up blueberry, black cherry, cassis, savory spice and hints of capsicum and a broad beam of tannins.  Aged for nineteen months in 100% new French oak, the oak is ever present but sits properly in the background.  The texture is silky and the spirited acidity keeps the wine in balance through the finish. This Cab, in its youth now, will continue to develop more fully with age.  SRP:  $200 www.smithmadrone.com

Kendall-Jackson Wines 2010 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Sonoma County, CA:   Aromas that ooze blackberries and spice are echoed on the palate with this plush wine. Crafted of 90.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5.4% Malbec, 3.5% Petit Verdot, .4% Cab Franc and .2% Merlot this wine is deeply fruited.  Mixed berry, juicy plum, black currant and olalliberry berry pie flavors swirl delectably amidst polished tannins while mineral and tobacco notes add further dimension.  The aging in French and American oak is nicely portrayed in the long lasting aftertaste with a pretty touch of vanilla and cinnamon-spiked cocoa. SRP: $28 www.kj.com

Jordan Vineyard & Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA:   Scents and irresistible flavors of blackberry, wild berry and cassis are framed by restrained oak, sweet pipe tobacco and hints of earthy, forest floor notes; simply stunning.  This complex wine showcasing chalky tannins and bright acids is skillfully crafted with impressive purity. The depth, complexity and precise balance speak volumes about its promising cellarability.  SRP: $53 www.jordanwinery.com

The increase of Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in wine regions around North America over the past four decades is astounding.  Many believe this grape still reigns supreme. Our professional review this month included the above dozen well-crafted Cabs within a mid to higher price range ($28 to $200) from just three of the many highly touted wine regions across North America.  This lends credibility to the belief that there are terrific wines from different regions to be discovered for every wine aficionado’s palate across a wide range of pocketbooks.  There are thousands and thousands of wine choices out there and every vintage brings something new; no one has tasted them all.   Remember, it’s YOUR unique palate; taste and choose what suits YOU; no one can tell you that you’re doing it wrong!

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2013

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Sonoma Coast Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay; Gold Ridge Hills, Sonoma Coast, California:  Here is a charming, well-crafted Burgundian style Chardonnay.  Crisp green apple and subtle toasty notes enchant the nose.  Layers of minerals and savory spice join apple and sauteed pear notes all converging in harmony on the palate.  The structure is regal and elegant, and the creamy texture and bright acidity persist  through the lively finish.  SRP:  $30; www.sonomacoastvineyards.com

Sonoma Coast Vineyards 2009 Balistreri Vineyard Pinot Noir; Sonoma Coast, California:  Aromas and flavors of violets, black cherries, wild mushrooms and exotic spice notes intoxicate the senses with this impressive, mineral laden Pinot Noir.  Reminiscent of a French Volnay, it is complex and impeccably balanced, finishing with beautiful lift and purity of flavors.  Drink now or cellar; I expect this finely structured wine to age well for several years.   SRP:  $75    www.sonomacoastvineyards.com

Frecciarossa 2011 Gli Orti Oltrepo Pavese, Riesling; Lombardy, Italy:   Riesling is a vibrant, expressive wine made in many regions around the world.  This is the first I have tasted from the Lombardy region and it is captivating.  The fruit and wet stone aromatics draw you into the glass.  Unfolding on the palate are white peach and hints of apple surrounded accents of minerals, lime peel and a touch of herbs.  A refreshingly crisp dry Riesling.   SRP:  ~$22  www.frecciarossa.com

Copain Wines 2011 Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  The dazzling dark pink jeweled hue and engaging spicy nose pave the way for this delectable, palate pleasing wine.  Earthy notes weave through juicy red cherry, raspberry, savory spice and sweet oak nuances.  This nicely crafted Pinot Noir is smooth, well balanced and deliciously easy to quaff.  SRP:  $28 www.copainwines.com

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004 Brut Rose; Reims, France:  Popping the cork on this Champagne IS the celebration, no need to wait for a special occasion.  Revel in the eye catching tiny persistent bead that tickles the nose and palate with verve.  This impressively structured Champagne displays layers of freshly baked bread, quince paste, crisp apples, citrus accents, roasted nuts and minerality that fill the palate expansively.  The quintessential yeasty quality persists from first sip through the lifted, forever finish.  SRP:  ~$125 www.veuve-clicquot.com

Marqués de Riscal 2007 Rioja Reserva; Spain:  This delightful wine, made primarily of Tempranillo (with a bit of Graciano and Mazuelo blended in) is harvested from 15 year old vines.  The entry is vivid and juicy, and broadens on the palate with red plums, sweet raspberries and black cherries melding with pretty dried herb notes carrying nicely through the finish.  Aged in American oak, the vanilla and hints of toasted coconut are apparent but not over the top; well integrated.  SRP:  ~$18    www.marquesderiscal.com

David Fulton Winery 2003 Petite Sirah; Napa Valley, California:  Densely packed aromas of black plums and berries wake up the senses with this superbly aged Petite Sirah.  On the palate a plush, concentrated blast of blackberry, plum, fig jam, and pepper spice interweave with a thread of cocoa exploding with brightness and density.  Rich, viscous and powerfully built with firmly structured tannins; lovely now and still has years ahead to be savored.  SRP: ~$40  www.davidfultonwinery.com

El Huique Patio Portio; NV Vino Dulce Licoroso, Colchagua Valley, Chile:  I discovered this gem five years ago while visiting vineyards and wine producers throughout the Colchagua Valley.  The Cabernet Franc vineyard from which this velvety dessert wine is crafted is located on the patio of the El Huique property (hence the name Patio Porto).  Alluring aromas draw you in, and the dark, rich black cherry, boysenberry, candied nuts, mocha and sweet oak spice flavors unite on the palate with pure elegance.  Smoothly textured with lovely acidity offsetting the delicious sweetness.    SRP:  ~$45  www.elhuique.com

Gems in My Glass . . . November 2013

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Wineries and winemakers in the Willamette Valley continue to broaden their offerings of stunning Pinot Noir from vineyards across this American Viticultural Area. It is no surprise that Oregon’s Willamette Valley  is one of the world’s top regions for this highly sought after variety.  During my last visit it became clear that Pinot Noir is not the only variety that shines here.  A few of my recent favorites include:

Ayoub Wines 2012 Chardonnay; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:   Aromas of baked apple, fresh flowers and a touch of spice entice the nose with this complex and richly textured Chardonnay.  Layers of minerality, fresh sliced apples, quince paste, a dash of butterscotch and well integrated oak unravel harmoniously through the palate and the lively acidity keeps the wine bright and balanced through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $48; www.ayoubwines.com

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2010 Tualatin Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  A highly expressive Burgundian style pinot noir that opens with earthy, dark cherry aromas titillating the senses.  On the palate, the silky smooth texture glides across the palate delivering delicious flavors of mushroom, black cherry, exotic tea spices and a nice thread of dried herb accents.  Compelling in its elegance and purity.  SRP:  $45; www.wvv.com

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Glorious aromatics of fresh white flowers and lemon zest rise from the glass – you can’t wet your lips fast enough!  Filling the mouth are dazzling flavors of citrus adorned pear and apple, a touch of honeysuckle, and a subtle dusting of herbs.  Razor sharp acidity keeps the wine lifted and bright throughout; an absolutely stunning Pinot Gris.  SRP:  $16  www.wvv.com

Cristom Vineyards 2011 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:   Forest floor nuances rise from the glass and lead to a juicy, rich mouth full of anise spice, sweet red cherries, sautéed mushrooms, earthy notes and a splash of cola peeking through on the persistent, satisfying finish. Lively throughout with precise balance and nicely integrated tannins.  SRP:  $30 www.cristomwines.com

Bethel Heights Vineyard 2011 Riesling; Willamette Valley, Oregon:    this elegant Riesling opens with river rock and floral aromas that mesh seamlessly with the minerally notes and a hint of fresh cut herbs framing stone fruit at the core.   Bright and snappy with its racy acidity, this vibrant wine would pair nicely with shell fish, turkey or fresh sole.  SRP:  $18; www.bethelheights.com

Soter Vineyards 2011 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir; Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Tightly wound up front, give this single vineyard Pinot Noir time to open up and you’ll be handsomely rewarded!   Alluring cherry fruit and floral notes are showcased on the nose. Unveiled on the palate are dark cherry, wild berry, licorice and savory spice melding harmoniously with a nice thread of minerality.   Focused and pure with plenty of length; expect this beauty to cellar nicely for years.   SRP: $55; www.sotervineyards.com

Alexana Winery 2012 Chardonnay; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  This nicely weighted Chardonnay opens with aromas of warm buttered toast and poached pears, delighting the senses. On the palate fresh tree ripened pear and lively citrus notes converge with well-placed oak nuances, fig jam and clove spice, generously coating the mouth.  The texture is satin smooth and the richness is beautifully offset with bright acidity, a delectable, complex wine.      SRP:  $32; www.alexanawinery.com

Alexana Winery 2007 Revana Vineyard Pinot Noir; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Provocative earth driven aromas rise from the glass with this gorgeous high toned Pinot Noir.  Dried cherry, raspberry and pomegranate flavors mesh with roasted coffee and savory spice notes creating a wildly vibrant explosion of tastiness on the palate that lingers long after the last sip.  A finely tuned, well-crafted wine that truly captures the sense of place.  SRP:  $45 (current release 2011 vintage);  www.alexanawinery.com

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