My First Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Vineyards in the California wine region of the...

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Our first big wine event of 2011 is Passport to Dry Creek Valley (“Passport”) the forthcoming weekend – April 30th, and May 1st.  This is our first Passport. According to the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley (“WDCV”) the association putting on the event…

Passport to Dry Creek Valley™ is an annual event showcasing the wineries, vineyards and exceptional beauty of Dry Creek Valley. There are 60+ wineries and 150 growers in the Dry Creek Valley, producing a variety of wines to please any palate. Wineries up and down Dry Creek Valley celebrate the magic of their valley with wine, food, entertainment and the hospitality for which Dry Creek Valley is famous. Many wineries offer either live music or entertainment…

I think what makes this event special is the combination of wine, food, and entertainment.  This year there are 46 participating wineries, each with various activities.  The event is from 11 am to 4:30 pm daily, so it would be virtually impossible to go to all 46 wineries over a two day period (unless you decided to sprint from winery to winery and stayed at each winery for less than 15 minutes) Besides, with an event like this with wine, food pairing, and entertainment, I think it’s best to take one’s time, and enjoy it, and running from place to place  wouldn’t be that enjoyable for us.  We’re talking quality here, not quantity!

The initial plan is to hit 5 wineries a day, and I was looking for diversity in varietals being poured, favorite foods, entertainment, and also mostly wanted to visit wineries we haven’t been too before (with a few favorites we’ve enjoyed before)  Of course, no plan survives battle. I expect as the day unfolds, we’ll roll with the punches and see what happens! So which wineries did I pick? Without further ado, here’s the hit list:

Amista – All American Diner theme; Chef John Franchetti of Rosso serving up Truffled Sausage Sliders and Mac & Cheese with arugula and prosciutto.

Mauritson – Acclaimed Chef Charlie Palmer is enough for me, but on top of that barrel tasting and single-vineyard Rockpile wines!

Mazzocco – Our starting point; Cuban theme with big band salsa beat of Orquesta Borinquen, and Cuban foods paired with their wines.

Michel-Schlumberger – Great property with “Take Me Out To the Benchlands” theme.  Live music with Carlos Herrera Band.

Ridge – World-class Zins, and single vineyard Rhone blends paired with Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs Sliders!

Alderbrook – Caribbean theme; Pigs and Pinot, and Zins in the Tiki Lounge. And how can you go wrong with a tropical music and a Conga line?!

Frick – Pouring unique Rhone varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Cinsault, Counoise, along with Grenache.

Mounts – Middle Easter theme; Persian food paired with Petite Sirah, Zin, and Malbec. Oh and belly dancing!

Seghesio – Cajun theme, including Zydeco music; Cajun BBQ Ribs, Seafood Gumbo, Tasso Shrimp Fettuccini paired with great Zins and Italian varietals.

Unti – Live music with a Saskatoon guitarist; wines include highly regarded Rosé, Rhone, and Italian varietals.

In addition to these wineries, I’ve also got my eye on Quivira, Talty (may have to swing by here just for the Zinfandel Cherry Chipotle Lamb tacos!). I’ll let you know how it goes!

In Vino Veritas!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…Jean Louis Denois Brut “Tradition”

This week’s sparkling wine is a Crémant from Southern France, Jean Louis Denois Brut “Tradition”.  The region from which this sparkling wine hails is the Languedoc-Roussillon, which is considered by many to be to one of the most exciting and innovative in France.  It is also widely reputed to be among the most exciting for “bang for the buck” wines in France.

Part of the reason I enjoy doing this blog is that, as a student of wine, I’m continually learning new things.  For example, while doing the background for this blog, I learned that the Languedoc is the largest wine-producing region in France, with over 700,000 acres under vine.  In fact, more wine is produced in the Languedoc than in the entire United States!  I also discovered the Languedoc is one of the few wine regions where some of the wines are labeled according to the grape variety (as is our tradition here in the States), rather than where the grapes are from.

Jean Louis Denois Brut "Tradition" - Photo courtesy of K&L Wine Merchants

N.V. Jean Louis Denois Brut “Tradition”

Region: France; Languedoc Roussillon; Languedoc; Coteaux du Languedoc

Variety – 50% Chardonnay/50% Pinot Noir

Dosage – 6gr/Ltr

$15, 12.5% abv

Production method: Méthode Traditionnelle; Aged 18 months, sur lie

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light straw color.

Aromas: Bread dough, and apples.

Body: A moderately creamy mousse with tiny, delicate, dispersed bubbles that dissipate somewhat quickly. On the palate – creamy, dry, and crisp, with good acidity. 

Taste: Pear, apple, hazelnuts, with a touch of minerals.

Finish: Medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. We enjoyed this with a variety of sushi. This one would be enjoyable both as an aperitif, and with food.  It would pair well with Mediterranean foods, especially Mediterranean seafood – I’m thinking of a seafood paella  with mussels, octopus, and white fish right now!

This wine is a very good value play. It’s unusual to fine a sparkling wine at this price point aged sur lie for 18 months.  Here, the sur lie aging adds creaminess, and nuttiness, along with a bit of complexity to the wine.  If this one is emblematic of wines from the Languedoc being among the most exciting best-value wine from France, then its reputation is well deserved.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for still wines from the Languedoc! I would buy again.  I recommend – 86pts

Carlos Santana Sparkling Wine – Who Knew?!

Carlos Santana

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From a Snooth post about wine-making comedians:

Okay, so I am cheating here. Carlos Santana is not a comedian; he is as an awesome guitarist whose devoted fans have been scarfing down his eponymous (maybe it’s just an entertainer’s thing?) sparkling wine like there’s no tomorrow.

Now why would I include his wines here, you might be asking. If you want a laugh, check out the reviews some of these fans have been leaving!

The sparkling wine, called Santana DVX, is a collaboration between Santana, and Mumm.  There’s even a song about it  – Want to hear it? – Here it go! (Warning – Explicit Content)

In Vino Veritas

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…Sorelle Bronca Prosecco

This week’s sparkling wine is a Prosecco from Italy, the N.V. Sorelle Bronca Prosecco – Extra Dry.  For many years Prosecco was used to describe both the grape, and the region where the grape are grown.  In mid 2009, Italian wine regulations were revised to clearly state that Prosecco was no longer to be classified as a grape, but a region that was clearly delimited and known as the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, which is a classified as a DOCG, the highest status for Italian wines.  Nowadays, the grape is known as Glera.

What makes Prosecco different from the sparklers we’ve tasted is that Prosecco is not made using the Méthode Champenoise  where secondary fermentation occurs in the same bottle in which the wine is made.  Rather, according to the “Wine Bible”…

 “Prosecco is not made by the Champagne method, but rather by the Charmat process, in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in pressurized tanks rather than in individual bottles”

Sorelle Bronca Prosecco

Sorelle Bronca Prosecc0 – Extra Dry

Region: Italy; Veneto; Valdobbiadene

Variety – 100% Prosecco

Dosage – 16gr/Lt

$17, 11% abv

Production method: Charmat Bulk

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light straw color.

Aromas: Pear, Fuji apple with slight floral note.

Body: Tiny, delicate, dispersed bubbles. Light bodied, fruity and crisp with good balance of fruit, acidity, and minerals. 

Taste: Fuji apple and pear.

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. We enjoyed this with a Crab Frittata. This one would be enjoyable both as an aperitif, and with food.  Would pair well with Salvadoran tamales, Garlicky Shrimp pasta, and lighter cuisine.

I enjoyed this more than most other Prosecco I’ve had because it’s a balanced off-dry style.  While not complex it is enjoyable, and I would buy again.  I recommend – 85pts

Paso Wine Man Redux

Another great video from the Paso Robles Wine Alliance, featuring Paso Wine Man!  Makes me want to go to Paso!  This one is promoting the Paso Robles Wine Festival

Related Video:

Paso Robles Zinfandel Man

Tis The Seasons…

Vineyard in Livermore, California

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I received my brochure detailing the events for Passport to Dry Creek Valley (“Passport”) a few days ago.  I’ve been looking forward to Passport since last year, when I missed it because I put off purchasing tickets for a few days.  At that time, I wasn’t aware that Passport is one of the premier wine events in California, nor was I aware how quickly it sells out.

As I look forward to Passport this year, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy the April through October time frame in California. The weather is usually magnificent.  I feel a simple, but profound joy as I witness the fruit go through its various stages , from dormancy, to  bud burst, to seeing tiny green berries before veraison, and finally the harvest.  It’s a delight to enjoy a glass or two of wine outside, be that in a park, dining al fresco, or in my back yard.  And last, but not least, there are so many opportunities to attend great wine events locally, and all around the Golden State.  Interested in checking out an event or two?  There are too many to mention, but check out some of the links that follow!  We’ve attended a few of these, and they’ve been great.

Livermore Valley Wine Country Events

Wine Road – Sonoma County (what a great tag line – “Heaven Condensed”!)

6th Annual All American Zin Day

California Wine Festival

Paso Robles Annual Wine Events

Lodi Wine Events

Santa Cruz Mountain Events

Napa Valley Events

Amador County Wine Events

Remember to check out local wineries near you for various events too!  Leave a comment if you’ve attended an event you recommend, or want a recommendation.

In Vino Veritas!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2009 Luis Pato Baga Espumante Beiras

If it’s Friday, that must mean there’s Champagne and the like to be had!   If you’re new to this series of blog posts, it came to be because my wife suggested we drink “Champagne” at least once a week.  We decided on Fridays so we could bid farewell to the work week and kick off the weekend!

This week’s sparkling wine is a Rosé, the 2009 Luis Pato Baga Espumante Beiras, which I stumbled across while poking around the K&L Wine Merchants website.   I decided to give it a try , and go where no man, or woman has gone before – well at least on Cellar Tracker.  This one was interesting to me on two levels, first I wasn’t aware that sparkling wines were produced in Portugal (where they are known as “Espumante”- click here for a great primer on Portuguese Sparkling Wine), and secondly this sparkler is made from the Baga grape, with which I was completely unfamiliar. Of course, Portugal mostly know for Port, and is up and coming in mostly red and some white wines, and finally “grown folk” may remember Mateus Rose.

Baga is a red grape that produces very tannic wine with high acidity.  While there are red grapes (most notably Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier) used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wines, they are grapes that are not very tannic.

Luis Pato Espumante

2009 Luis Pato Baga Espumante

Region: Portugal; Bairrada

Variety – 100% Baga

Dosage – Unknown

$15, 12% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; S/S fermentation

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light crimson.

Aromas: Yeast, strawberries and spice

Body: Tiny, dispersed bubbles, minimal mousse with course texture that dissipated quickly.  Light bodied, fruity, yet very dry with good acidity. 

Taste: Tart raspberries, red currant and minerals

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. We enjoyed this with grilled salmon, accompanied by an avocado/tomato salsa my wife put together. It would pair well with non-beef roasted meats,  grilled or roasted seafood, and shellfish.

This was a good sparkling Rosé, that was drier than most.  I didn’t particularly care for it on as an aperitif, but it was definitely better with food. Setting aside the novelty factor, I wouldn’t purchase again. (83pts)

My Wine Tasting Hero…

March 2006 tasting panel convened to determine...

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While getting a bit of exercise this morning, I was catching up on some of the wine blogs I enjoy reading when I came across this post by Richard Jennings of “RJ on”, wherein he summarizes his tasting notes of 128 from 30 producers at the annual Rhone Rangers tasting in San Francisco a couple of weekends ago. “RJ” is the most prolific wine taster I’ve come across!  The man is a wine tasting machine!  And what’s more amazing to me, is that he does this while maintaining his “day job” being an HR executive!

I first came across RJ via Cellar Tracker, where according to his blog he holds “the record for most tasting notes (currently over 21,000 and counting)”!   Likewise, I use Cellar Tracker to track and review wines.  He first came to my attention because as I would post my tasting notes, I would see his name pop up more than a few times because he’d reviewed the same wine.  At the time, I was less confident in my ability to taste and write reviews of wine.  Yet, I noticed that his scores and mine were comparable most of the time.  That gave me some confidence in my ability to taste and review wines.  That was well over a year ago. Since then I’ve made a few attempts to quickly summarize my tasting notes when tasting wines at various wine events.  It’s very challenging work. And I do mean work!  It requires much more discipline and organization than the uninitiated might think.

Nowadays, I find myself a bit conflicted between putting in the work necessary to capture meaningful tasting notes on more than a handful or so of wines, and simply enjoying an event.  For the time being, I suppose I’ve settled on a compromise, which is to blog about the most memorable wines.  The compromise comes in part because my wife and I attend wine events together, and it would be virtually impossible to both enjoy our time together at the event and put in work. But part of the compromise is also because I simply haven’t acquired all the skills necessary to taste, summarize and recount, as I said, more than 5-10 wines at this point.  It’s a work in process, and I’ll get better at it.  But I’ll never be an RJ!  And that’s OK.

There is a link to “RJ on” on my blogroll.  Check it out sometime.

In Vino Veritas!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…Gosset “Brut Excellence” Champagne

Well, after 6 weeks of other than Champagne sparklers, this week it’s actually Champagne. Technically, and legally speaking, thanks to a trade agreement the U.S. and France, the bubbly stuff that’s made in the Champagne region of north-central France is Champagne, and everything else is sparkling wine (There are a few exceptions for wineries like Korbel which were grandfathered in) of one sort or another such as Cava (Spain), Prosecco (Italy), or Crémant (French sparkling wine from outside of the Champagne region). We were in a celebratory mood so we splurged a bit this week…thus Champagne!

Gosset is the oldest wine house in Champagne, having been established in 1584 by Pierre Gosset.  For a grand marquee they have a relatively small production of about 50,000 cases.  None of their Champagnes ever go through malolactic fermentation, which results in higher acidity. The Brut Excellence is their entry level cuvée.

Gosset Brut Excellence

Gosset “Brut Excellence” Champagne

Region: France>Champagne

Variety – 36% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 19% Pinot Meunier

Dosage – Unknown

$33, 12% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Brilliant pale gold, with a persistent bead of tiny bubbles surrounded by a constellation of pinpoint bubbles

Aromas: Fuji apple, brioche, and a bit of licorice

Body: Soft creamy mousse.  Medium-bodied, fruity yet complex.  Balanced with nice acidity. 

Taste: Tart apple and peach at first followed by sweetened lemon zest, and spice on the back end. 

Finish: Medium long finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. We enjoyed with typical Champagne fare – sushi, but try this with variety of fish dishes garnished with lemon, or butter based sauces.  Would also work well with braised, or simply grilled poultry, or pork.

I really enjoyed this pinot dominate cuvée.  As I reflect on this Champagne, I keep thinking how much more I enjoyed this, than the ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut.  I enjoyed the taste more, it costs less, and they are of comparable quality.  If you’re looking to splurge a bit for Champagne, I’d recommend this one.  I bought for $33, but it can be found for less. Click here to find.  Next time I want to splurge, I’d buy this one again!

In Vino Veritas!