A Taste of Bodegas Contino

Last fall, my wife and I spent 17 glorious days in Spain.  It was the trip of a lifetime. Our itinerary included Barcelona, San Sebastian (amazing food), Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, and Granada (The Alhambra is a must – simply awesome!).  Of course, being the winos, we also squeezed in some time in La Rioja.  Our trip to Rioja was facilitated by Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino (“Contino”) Winemaker Jesús de Madrazo Mateo, and his wife Maria Alvarez, CEO of Fine Wines Connection.

I met Jesus last year at a tasting of “ ”C.V.N.E.” (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) and Contino (click here for details of one of the most amazing tasting I’ve EVER been too!) at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City.  I mentioned to him that my wife and I were planning  a trip to Spain, and he was kind enough to extend an invitation to Contino.

He and Maria are most gracious hosts. They helped us with hotel (Los Augustinos in Haro – highly recommended!) and restaurant reservations (the fabulous Rekondo in San Sebastian!), and made recommendations various restaurants, and bars. But the highlights of our time in Rioja was dinner at their home , and our visit to Contino.

A Taste of Contino

The picturesque 200 year-old farm house at Contino

About Contino

Contino makes single-estate Riojas from their 62 hectares of vineyards located just outside the town of Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa.   It is owned 50/50 by CVNE and the Perez Villota family, and their wines are distributed by CVNE

The estate, situated on the northern bank of the river Ebro, includes a farmhouse that dates back 200 years alongside their state-of-the-art wine-making facility.  It is planted primarily to Tempranillo, but you’ll also find some of the oldest vines of Graciano in Rioja on the estate,  along with limited amounts of other grapes such as Mazuela  and Garnacha.  Graciano is an indigenous Spanish grape variety used in the estate wines, and Contino also produces an excellent 100% bottling of Graciano.

In the times of the Reyes Catolicos (Ferdinand of Aragon and Elisabeth of Castille) the distinction of ‘Contino’ was conferred on each of the continuation of the Life Guards who protected the monarchs and their family. The Contino Pedro de Samaniego was rewarded with the estate of Laserna from which the Contino estate derives its name.The Contino labels show a figure of Saint Gregory, founder of the Benedictine monastic order and the patron saint of vine growers.

A Taste of Contino

Jesús de Madrazo Mateo explaining the unique terroir of the Contino Vineyards which is situated in a meander of the Ebro river, with a land rise at the opposite end, and sun exposure east to west across the vineyards.

Jesús de Madrazo Mateo is a fifth-generation member of the Real de Asua family. They founded and still own a controlling share of CVNE.  His father, Jose Madrazo Real de Asua, who was on the CVNE board of directors and GM of Viña Real brand, conceived the idea of creating the first single estate Bodega in Rioja, and founded Contino in 1973.

Jesús studied viticulture at Madrid’s prestigious University of Agriculture, and is an Agricultural Superior Engineer. He started training at CVNE in 1988, and took his first paid position in 1995 in the CVNE technical department as an assistant winemaker.  He’s been the head winemaker for Contino since 1999.

A Taste of Contino

This outstanding blend of Viura and Grenache Blanc with a floral, green apple, and mineral character was a most refreshing start to our wine tasting!

After Jesus gave us a very in-depth tour of the winery we settled in for tasting through five wines selected by Jesús….

IMG_3677

My tasting notes on the wines follow:

  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Garnacha Rioja - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Promising strawberry, cherry, spice and a hint of dried rose aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and bright with medium acidity. It shows charming strawberry, cherry, and spice flavors, and a lingering finish. Aged for 12 months in second use barrels (soaked in wine with white 2007) and then aged 12 months in oak casks. (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Expansive black and red fruits, smoke, leather, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied with supple tannins, well integrated oak, and a bit of minerality with black cherry, strawberry and spice flavors, and a lingering finish. Raised in French and American oak. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Gran Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Appealing black cherry, plum, anise, leather, cedarwood and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and well structured, and polished with a silky texture. It shows black cherry, red plum, caramel, and spice flavors, and a long sweet finish. Blend of 70% Tempranillo and equal parts Garnacha and Graciano. Should continue to get better with further cellaring. From magnum (only format available) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Contino Variedad Graciano - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Alluring blueberry, cassis, white pepper, dried herb, warm spice, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, and well structured with bright, focused fruit, very good acidity and chewy tannins. It shows blueberry, black currant, and spice flavors. Long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Bodegas y Viñedos del Contino Rioja Viña del Olivo - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja - Exuberant, very appealing black fruit, warm spice, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, harmonious, and masculine, yet refined with youthful tannins and blackberry, black cherry, warm spice, mineral flavors. Long finish. Blend of Tempranillo (88%) and Graciano (12%) grapes aged for 17 months in 70% French, 20% American, and 10% Hungarian oak barrels. The hand-harvested grapes are grown around a 800 year old olive tree – hence the name. (92 pts.)

After tasting through the wines, we settled in for a splendid and most memorable al fresco Riojan lunch.

While Spanish cuisine varies tremendously across the different regions, they all have one thing in common: the use of fresh, local flavors with plenty of olive oil and garlic. And that’s why I adore Spanish food!

Check out a few of my favorite things…

A Taste of Contino

Queso de Cabra and Queso de Roncal

These stuffed peppers were to die for and paired wonderfully with the Contino Garnacha

A Taste of Bodegas Contino

I don’t know what it’s called…but it was scrumptious!

Another Rioja classic dish that is a match made in heaven  with Rioja is lamb chops grilled over vine cuttings.

A Taste of Contino

Sweet, succulent baby lamb chops grilled over grape-vine cuttings

Put simply, our visit was an unforgettable vinous and gastronomic delight!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

 

Wine Tasting Along the Anderson Valley Wine Trail-Day 2

Last week I posted about our first day of wine tasting in Anderson Valley (“A.V”).  We stayed overnight at the Anderson Valley Inn, nice clean choice for budget minded travelers to Anderson Valley (heads up…no TV…but there is WiFi).  It’s centrally in Anderson Valley minutes away from Hendy Wood State Park with its majestic redwood trees.  It’s also across the street from Scharffenberger Cellars, and a stones throw away from  Libby’s Mexican Restaurant, the best Mexican restaurant I’ve  never been to (Everyone raves about it, but both times we’ve been to Anderson Valley, it’s been closed for the Winter. Note to self – next trip to A.V.go in Spring, Summer or Fall!

When we were on the road just in front of the A.V. Inn, we saw a “Rivers Bend” sign.  We were curious and decided to check it out. “Rivers Bend” turned out to be a retreat center. Along the way, I spied this gorgeous view of fog hovering above the valley floor…It’s a great example of the tremendous beauty of the Anderson Valley!

Side road fogAfter our little adventure, we decided to make the 10 minute drive to Booneville to get some breakfast at the Booneville General Store, a wonderful, if a bit pricey,  place for breakfast, lunch or picking up some picnic goodies…
boonville general store

About the time we’d finished breakfast, the wineries were opening. Time to get down to pleasure!

Our first stop of the day was Navarro Vineyards, a family-owned winery that has been growing grapes, making wine and producing non-alcoholic grape juices in the Anderson Valley since 1974.  Navarro has a diverse lineup of wonderful wines that are reasonably priced.

Navarro is where we were introduced to Boontling, a jargon ostensibly spoken only in Boonville. While we were tasting we were offered small samples of some great local cheeses from Pennyroyal Farm including:

  • Laychee (Boontling for milk) – a blend of goat’s and sheep’s milk
  • Boont Corners – an aged raw goat milk cheese
  • Bollie’s Mollies (Mollies is the Boontling word for female breasts) -  a dense, surface ripened lactic curd cheese with a light blue mold

All the cheeses were yummy, paired wonderfully with the wine we tried, and are available for sell in Navarro’s well stocked deli case!

navarro tasting room

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2011 Navarro Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale yellow with grapefruit and melon aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, fresh, and dry with grapefruit, and stonefruit flavors. 12.4% (87 pts.)
  • 2011 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale straw yellow color with stonefruit, and hint of honey aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied fresh, and lively with apricot, and citrus flavor. Medium finish. 13.7% abv (88 pts.)
  • 2011 Navarro Vineyards Gewürztraminer - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale yellow color with aromatic lychee, citrus, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s light/medium-bodied and dry with citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish. 13.5% abv (88 pts.)
  • 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County - Pale yellow-green color with stone-fruit and tropical fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied and off-dry with peach, apricot, and mineral flavors. Blend of 42% Riesling, 33% Gewürztraminer, and 25% Pinot Gris. My favorite wine to enjoy with my Spicy Seafood Gumbo!12.4% (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir “Méthode à l’Ancienne” - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light ruby color with cherry, raspberry, earth and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium/full-bodied, balanced, and smooth with cherry, raspberry, mushroom, and baking spice flavors. Long finish. 14.1%(91 pts.)
  • 2010 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir- USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light ruby color with cherry, raspberry, plum and spice aromas. On palate, it’s light/medium-bodied, and balanced with tart cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. 13.7%  Great value at $20! (89 pts.)
  • 2011 Navarro Vineyards Riesling Cluster Select Late Harvest - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light golden color with apricot, pear, honey and baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, sweet, and clean with apricot, pear, honey and cinnamon flavors. Long finish Great dessert wine!10.1 % (91 pts.)

Our next stop was Toulouse Vineyards, a “boutique” winery founded by Vern and Maxine Boltz. Vern is a retired Captain from the Oakland Fire Department.  The Boltz purchased a bucolic 160-acre site approximately one mile from the town of Philo.

In 1997 Vern cleared the land, prepared the site, planted 17 acres of Pinot Noir grapes, and named the vineyard Toulouse. By 2002, they were making wine.

They subsequently purchased an additional 160 acres adjoining the rolling hills of their property which now encompasses 320 acres. They recently opened a beautiful (relatively) new tasting room on the property.

We ended up going to Toulouse based on the recommendations of several local folks, who are usually a great resource for recommendations about wineries to visit in my experience.

toulouse wines

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2010 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Gris - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Very pale straw yellow color with citrus, apricot, and white peach aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, fresh and balanced with apricot peach and citrus flavors. Medium-long finish (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Toulouse Vineyards Riesling Estate - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale yellow-green color with citrus, tropical fruit, stone fruit and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with stone fruit, spice, citrus and a hint of pineapple flavors. Medium-long finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Toulouse Vineyards Gewürztraminer - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale straw yellow-green color with honeysuckle, pear, citrus and spice aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and dry with stone fruits, citrus, pineapple and spice flavors. Long finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé of Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale pink color with strawberry and cantaloupe aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied with good acidity and strawberry flavors. Short/medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with cherry, baking spice and a hint of cacao aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with cherry, and spice flavors. Medium finish. (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with cherry, cedarwood, and smoke aromas. On the palate, it’s medium/full-bodied with cherry, spice and earth flavors. Medium long finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with blueberry, cherry, spice and a hint of licorice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, smooth and well-balanced with cherry, blueberry, and cinnamon flavors. Medium/long finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Noir Lautrec - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with blueberry, cherry, smoke, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with blueberry cherry, and spice flavors. Medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Deep ruby color with cherry, caramel spice and blueberry aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and fruity with cherry, blueberry and spice flavors. Long finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Toulouse Vineyards Petite Sirah - USA, California, North Coast, Redwood Valley - Opaque magenta color with blackberry and tobacco aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and well-balanced with blackberry, and blueberry flavors. Medium/long finish (88 pts.)

Next up was Phillips Hill (recommended by the Tasting Room attendant at Toulouse), a small (~1,000 cases/yr) winery specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

  • Phillips Hill

Toby Hill is the Owner/Winemaker of Phillips Hill. He’s a formally trained artist who started the winery after a local winemaker decided not to begin a brand and offered him four barrels of an unfinished 2002 vintage from Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche,

What started as an opportunity to express his work on a wine label became a new artistic obsession for an expression not only on the bottle, but in the bottle as well – a transformation from the art of the visual to that of the sensory.

They are definitely striving for more Old World style wines with elegance, finesse, and lower alcohol levels.  Only reds were available for tasting the day we visited, as they were sold out of their Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.  Each bottle label features his artwork.

Phillips Hill Wine Bottles

Phillips Hill Wine Bottles featuring the artwork of Owner/Winemaker Toby Hill

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Boontling - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Ruby color with earthy cherry, and blueberry aromas. On the palate, it’s light-medium bodied with blueberry, cherry, and spice flavors. Medium finish.13.8% (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Wiley Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light ruby color with cherry, earth and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and elegant with cherry, pomegranate, and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. 13.8% alcohol (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light ruby color with fresh, mixed berry, cranberry and sandalwood aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, smooth, and balanced with cherry, blueberry, and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.2% alcohol (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Oppenlander Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County - Light ruby color with cherry, cranberry and a hint of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and elegant with fresh cherry, and blueberry flavors. Medium-long finish. Young. 13.9% (91 pts.)

Our next stop was Goldeneye Winery.  Goldeneye was established after Duckhorn Wine Company (Yes – the same company that produces of one of Cali’s most iconic Merlots) purchased the former Obester Winery in 1997.  They proceeded to plant 57 acres of Pinot Noir (the Confluence Vineyard),and have since added additional Anderson Valley vineyards such that they now own 220 acres of estate vineyards. They source  fruit from both estate and non-estate vineyards.

goldeneye sign

What sets Goldeneye aside from most wineries is the sheer beauty of the place, and the sit down tasting “experience” they offer. The tasting room had been remodeled since our last visit a few years ago.  They have one of the most beautiful vineyard views I’ve ever seen (the pic below doesn’t do it justice). I think of it as their back yard.  Can you just imagine sitting out there enjoying a picnic or just relaxing with a glass of their wines?  Heaven!

goldeneye patio view

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2011 Goldeneye (Duckhorn Vineyards) Pinot Gris Anderson Valley Split Rail Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Very pale golden green color with apple, and melon aromas. On the palate , it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with vibrant acidity and apple and peach/melon flavors. Medium finish 14.1% alcohol (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Migration (Duckhorn Vineyards) Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley - Medium gold color with apple, pineapple, and a hint of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, smooth, and creamy with very good acidity, and apple, and pineapple flavors. Long finish. Aged in 100% French Oak for 10 months. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Goldeneye (Duckhorn Vineyards) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard – Lower Bench - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with earthy black cherry, raspberry, and lanolin aromas. On the palate, its medium-bodied, creamy and well-balanced with black cherry, raspberry, and blueberry flavors. Long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Aged 16 months in 100% French oak (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Goldeneye (Duckhorn Vineyards) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with fresh earthy, strawberry, and blueberry aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, smooth, and well-balanced with cherry, raspberry, and savory flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.5% alcohol. Aged 16 months in 100% French oak barrels (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Goldeneye (Duckhorn Vineyards) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Dark ruby color with wild cherry, plum and Asian spice aromas. On the palate, its medium-bodied, lush with plum, cherry, and spice flavors. Long finish. 14.5% alcohol . Aged 16 months in French oak. (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Duckhorn Vineyards Pinot Noir Migration Bien Nacido - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley - Garnet color with black cherry,strawberry, and a hint of cassis aromas. On the palate, it medium-bodied, young but smooth with black cherry, strawberry, and spice flavors. Medium finish. Aged 10 months in 100% French oak. (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Goldeneye (Duckhorn Vineyards) Pinot Noir Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Dark ruby color with cherry, plum and baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with a dark cherry, blueberry, and spice flavors. Smooth well-integrated tannins. Medium+ finish. 14.5% alcohol.  Aged 16 months in french oak (91 pts.)

Our last stop of the day was Zina Hyde Cunnignham Winery, located a few doors away from the Boonville General Store.

There was a great selection of wines, but after tasting nearly 30 wines already, and with a long drive in front of us we opted to only try three.

Zina Hyde Cunningham has a long history in Mendocino County.  It started in Mendocino County in 1865 when Zina Hyde Cunningham brought his vision of producing the very best wines from his winery and vineyards.  Today, Zina Hyde Cunningham is owned by Steve Ledson of Ledson Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma zina hyde cunningham tasting room sign

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2011 Zina Hyde Cunningham - USA, California, North Coast - Strawberry red color with strawberry, peach and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, between dry and off-dry and fresh with strawberry, peach and spice flavors. Medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Zina Hyde Cunningham Carignane - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County - Dark garnet color with black cherry, cocoa, and tobacco smoke aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied with cherry, and ripe strawberry flavors. Long finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Zina Hyde Cunningham Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby red color with brown sugar, cranberry, and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and balanced, and silky smooth with raspberry, cranberry, vanilla and baking spice flavors. Medium/long finish. (90 pts.)

Whew! After a full day of the 4 S’s (Sniffing, Swirling, Sipping and Sipping) we had our fill of Anderson Valley.

My winery of the day…Goldeneye! But all the wineries we visited offered very good to excellent wines, and we walked away with wines from all the wineries we visited.

Anderson Valley is a great wine tasting destination that deserves your attention.  I highly recommend.  Until we meet again in the not too distant future!

Have you visited Anderson Valley?  What wineries would you recommend for our next visit?

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Wine Tasting Along the Anderson Valley Wine Trail – Day 1

My wife and I took and overnight to trip to Anderson Valley last month.  It’s been several years since we’d been, but our last trip there was a real pleasure and we’ve been looking forward to returning.  

“The Anderson Valley is located in the rolling hills of the coastal region of Mendocino County…Known for our world class Pinot Noir and Alsace Varietals, we offer a great wine tasting destination.” 

There are more wineries now, but Anderson Valley, which is located in Mendocino County, is still one of the most beautiful areas to go wine tasting.  Outdoor beauty abounds with rolling hills, flourishing forests, and stunningly beautiful coastline nearby.  Anderson Valley is overlooked as a wine travel destination, and that’s a shame in my book.

There are 24 wineries in the Anderson Valley, including 2 sparkling wine houses. You’ll pass through three appellations as your travel through the valley.  Traveling west on Hwy 128 you will enter the “Yorkville Highlands”.  As you cross into Mendocino County, continuing north you enter the “Anderson Valley” appellation. The “Mendocino Ridge” appellation is on the ridge tops along both sides of highway 128 further north.

Our first stop was in Yorkville Highlands at Yorkville CellarsThe only known winery where all 8 of the Bordeaux varietals are estate grown and then offered as separate varietal wines. Yorkville recently celebrated 26 years of certified organic farming. 

Yorkville Cellars

Their white wines come from their Randall Hill Vineyard behind the tasting room. The reds from the Rennie Vineyard in front (pictured below)

Yorkville cellar view

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2011 Yorkville Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Randle Hill Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Very pale straw color with grapefruit, citrus and apple aromas. On the palate, it light-medium bodied, fresh and smooth with grapefruit, citrus and green apple flavors. Medium-finish. Barrel fermented and aged 13.5% abv (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Yorkville Cellars Sémillon Randle Hill Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Pale golden yellow color with honeyed citrus and stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry, and fresh with citrus, pear and sweet yeast flavors. 13.5% Organic grapes (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Yorkville Cellars Eleanor of Acquitane Randle Hill Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Pale straw yellow color with honeyed grapefruit and citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and smooth with grapefruit, lime and mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. 100% barrel fermented in small French oak barrels. Organic grapes. 13.5% abv (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Rennie Vineyard Yorkville Highlands - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Garnet color with dark cherry, cassis and pomegranate aromas. On the palate, its medium bodied and balanced with cherry, raspberry, and a bit of blueberry flavors. Medium finish. Organic grapes. 13.0% abv(88 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Petit Verdot Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Carmine color with earthy red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and slightly tannic with cherry, plum and spice flavors. Medium finish. Organic grapes. 13.5% abv (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Deep garnet color with cherry, herb and a hint of chocolate aromas. On the palate, it’s a lighter style Cab that’s well-balanced cherry, chocolate and a bit of spice flavors. Medium finish. 13.5% Organic grapes(89 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Richard the Lion-Heart Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Deep garnet color with raspberry, tobacco, cherry, and cedarwood aromas. On the palate, it’s balanced with good acidity and cherry, barrel spice flavors. Long finish. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Carmenere, 5% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. 13.5% Organic grapes (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Sweet Malbec Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Unique wine. Fire engine red color with fruity cherry, strawberry and plum aromas. On the palate, surprisingly not overly sweet – more off-dry, and a bit frizzante with fresh ripe strawberry and cherry flavors. Very nice chilled. 10.5% Paired very nicely with an almond cookie (88 pts.)

Yorkville was a great first stop.  I really enjoyed their wines, and the variety they offer.  Plus the wines offer very good value.  They had the most surprising wine of the day – the Sweet Malbec.  It left me delightfully surprised because it wasn’t cloying sweet like so many dessert wines.  We picked up a bottle of their newly released Sparkling Malbec.  Look for my review soon!  They also provided us with a helpful “Highway 128 Tasting Room Suggestions” summary. Not only did it recap the what wines to look for, and tasting room hours, most importantly it noted the Mile Marker for the wineries.   That’s important to know in Anderson Valley, otherwise it’s easy to blow by a winery!

Our next stop was Breggo Cellars.  I was introduced to Breggo in a round about way.  We were doing some tasting in Napa a couple of years ago at Cliff Lede Vineyards.  While we were tasting through their wines (fabulous Cabs!), we were offered a taste of Breggo Cellars Syrah – It was fantastic!

It turned out the Cliff Lede owns Breggo Cellars. After much success with Bordeaux varietals at his eponymous winery, he became interested in Pinot Noir and Alsatian varieties.  He established Breggo Cellars to pursue his interest.

Breggo

The Breggo tasting room is beautifully rustic, though a bit on the small side given how fabulous the wines are.  We were there on a relatively slow day and the tasting room was full. I bet things get cozy during high season!  I bet that when the tasting spill outside onto their beautiful patio (pictured below)

breggo view

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Riesling Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Medium golden-yellow color with aromatic, peach, pear, mineral and honey aromas. On the palate, it medium-bodied with vibrant acidity, and dryish with peach, citrus, and mineral flavors. Long finish. 12.8% abv. (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Gewürztraminer Ferrington Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light pale yellow color with intensely aromatic exotic aromas of lychee, stone fruits, lemon peel, and spices. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with stone-fruit, citrus, and spice flavors. Surprisingly vibrant acidity. Long finish. 13.2% abv. (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Breggo Cellars Pinot Gris - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley  Pale lemon-green color with peach, mineral and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with great acidity. It shows flavors of peach, apricot, and citrus with a medium-long finish. 14.2% Interesting fermentation process. According to Breggo…”A blend of lots fermented in a 200 gallon concrete egg, 900 gallon French oval, small neutral French oak barrels and stainless steel tank. No malolactic fermentation was permitted.“ (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Chardonnay Savoy Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley  Light lemon-gold color with creamy lemon, pear, and buttered honey aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, with a great mouthfeel, and balance. It shows pear, citrus, and honey flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.2 % abv.   According to Breggo…”Aged 18 months sur lie in 60 gallon French oak barrels – 53% new (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Ruby color with earth, cherry, and pomegranate aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, supple, and well-balanced with cherry, plum, spice and a hint of brown sugar flavors. Long finish. 14.1 % Aged thirteen months in 60 gallon French oak barrels – 48% new (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Donnelly Creek - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with cherry, and lavender aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and plush with black cherry, cranberry, and plum flavors. Long finish. 14.3 % (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Medium garnet color with aromatic cherry, dried herb, and a hint of mint aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and silky smooth with round cherry, plum, and baking spice flavors. Long finish.  (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Syrah Alder Springs - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Garnet color with complex earthy, fig, cherry liqueur, and anise aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with well-integrated tannins and blueberry, plum, cacao, and spice flavors. Long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Zinfandel Dupratt Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Dark garnet color with exotic blackberry, dark chocolate, and spice aromas. On the palate, it medium-full-bodied with surprisingly good acidity. It shows flavors of blackberry, raspberry, plum, and spice flavors. Long finish. 15.8% abv, but drinks more like 14-14.5% (90 pts.)

Breggo should be at the top of your list when you plan a trip to Anderson Valley in my book!

Our final stop of the day was Roederer Estate, one of two sparkling wine houses in Anderson Valley (the other being Scharffenberger – also owned by Roederer).  We love sparkling wine, so we always leap at the opportunity to do some tasting of bubbly!

Roederer Estate It was our first time at Roederer.  It is an absolutely beautiful estate with an equally beautiful tasting room!  It’s a must stop if you enjoy bubbly!

gigi roederer

My tasting notes follow:

  • N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light golden straw color with plentiful, persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet yeast, fresh cut green apples aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with soft texture, zippy acidity, between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla flavors and a shortish finish. 60% Chardonnay/40% Pinot Noir (89 pts.)
  • 2003 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale straw yellow color with bread crust, baked apple, and hazelnut aromas. On the palate, it shows a delicate mousse with baked apple , hazelnut, and hints of burnt sugar and mineral flavors. Long finish. 12.1% alcohol.  Blend of  52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, 4% aged reserve wine (vintage ’99)” (92 pts.)
  • 2002 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale straw yellow color with buttered toast, apple, hazelnut, and a bit of citrus aromas. On the palate, it has a delicate creamy mousse with baked apple, hazelnut, citrus, and mineral flavors. Medium+ finish. Tasted from 1.5L bottle (91 pts.)
  • N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light salmon color with brioche, red fruit aromas. On the palate it’s medium bodied with a creamy mousse, and strawberry, raspberry, and apple flavors. Medium finish. (89 pts.)

As is often the case when one goes tasting at sparkling wine houses, there are also still wines to be tasted.  And that’s the case at Roederer.

All in all we had a magnificent first day of wine tasting (and eating) in the Anderson Valley! My winery of the day?Breggo Cellars!

The last time we visited  a few years ago was also during Winter.  After this time we told ourselves we have to go back in the Spring or Summer when the weather is warmer!

Look for my Day 2 recap of our Anderson Valley wine tasting adventure next week!

 

Paso Robles Redux-Central Coast Wine Touring-Day 3

After a great couple of days of wine tasting, first in Paso Robles on Friday, then the Lompoc Wine Ghetto on Saturday, we still hadn’t had our fill of the marvelous Central Coast Wine Region.  Since we were staying in Paso Robles, we decided to do some more tasting there before heading home.

Our first stop was a combination of a farm and two wineries…

It was a beautiful day before we gotta wine tasting we strolled about the magnificent grounds of the wineries/farm…

Including bucolic picnic area…

Farm animals…

Even a bit of outdoor art…

We decided to hit Kenneth Volk Vineyards first… 

Address: 2485 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, CA
Phone: (805) 237.7896
Open Hours: Daily 10:30a-5p
Tasting Fee: $10 for 6 wines (includes glass)
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes

Kenneth Volk is the owner/winemaker for Kenneth Volk Vineyards (“KVV”).  Ken has a long history of winemaking in the Santa Maria Valley.  In fact, the Paso Robles tasting room is a satellite  to their main tasting room, which is located in Santa Maria.  Ken’s claim to fame prior to this eponymous winery was establishing the Wild Horse winery in 1981, just 6 years after graduating from high school. He owned and operated that winery for 22 years taking it from case production of 600 to 150,000.  He sold the winery to Peak Wines International.  In 2004, Ken purchased the “Original” Byron Winery facility from the Robert Mondavi Corporation and renamed the property Kenneth Volk Vineyards. The first wines were released in 2006.

They have an extensive tasting menu.  There were six white wines, and ten red wines available for tasting. The wines were priced between $12-$48.  Here’s what I tasted:

  • 2007 RGV, Paso Robles
  • 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Cuvee
  • 2009 Blaufrankisch, Pomar Junction
  • 2009 Grenache, Rio San Benito
  • 2009 Negrette, Calleri Vineyard
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Starr Ranch

My favorite was the 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Cuvee, which I scored 90 pts.  What I appreciated about the tasting was the diversity of grape varietals available, including Malvasia Blanca, Negrette, Touriga Nacional, and Blaufrankisch.  All the wines were very good.  I ended up purchasing a bottle of the Touriga Nacional (not available for tasting that day – but I want to try the varietal on a stand-alone basis - why not, I enjoyed all the wines I tasted!)

My two cents? – Recommended, especially if  you’re looking to try a new wine or two.

Then stepped next door to Lone Madrone:

Address: 2485 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, CA
Phone: (805) 238.0845
Open Hours: Daily 10:30a-5p
Tasting Fee: $10 (waived if your purchase 3 bottles)
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes

 

Lone Madrone is located in Paso Robles.  It was founded in 1996. It co-located with Kenneth Volk Vineyards, and the oh so cool Fat Cat Farms where they been growing organic herbs for 20 years (they have over 30 kinds of basil).

I discovered Lone Madrone while at Tablas Creek, a couple of days before.  I asked for recommendations for other wineries in the area.  Our tasting room attendant recommended Lone Madrone, and told us it was owned by Neil Collins, the wine maker at Tablas Creek.  The way she put it is that Neil can make wines at Lone Madrone he can’t make at Tablas Creek.  Since Tablas Creek is one of my favorite wineries I decided to stop by on the last day of our Central Coast wine tasting trip.

Here’s a bit Neil’s of bio from the Lone Madrone website…

Neil has been working in the wine industry for 21 years, spending time at Wild Horse Winery and then Adelaida where he became winemaker alongside the notorious Mr. Munch. In 1997 he moved his family to the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-pape in southern France where he spent a year learning the cellars and vineyards of the famed Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the oldest and most highly regarded estates in France. Neil returned to Paso Robles to take up the new role of winemaker and vineyard manager at Tablas Creek Vineyards, the California property of Château de Beaucastel. Since that time, great success has been achieved by Tablas Creek, success in which Neil’s hand has been significant. Neil’s experience in French winemaking complemented his earlier training as a French chef in hometown of Bristol, England.

Production is about 3,000 cases annually.

Wines were priced The wines are priced from $20-$54.  Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2009 La Mezcla (Grenache Blanc & Albariño)
  • 2009 Points West White (Roussanne, Viognier, Picpoul Blanc, and Marsanne)
  • 2011 Zin of Steel
  • 2009 Points West Red (Mourvèdre & Syrah)
  • 2008 Old Hat (Zinfandel & Petite Sirah)
  • 2008 The Will (Petite Sirah, Grenache Noir, & Zinfandel)
  • 2008 Tannat 

My favorite was the 2008 The Will, which I scored 91 pts.  All the wines were very good to outstanding. Lone Madrone was my Winery of the Day~

My two cents? – HighlyRecommended, especially if  you enjoy eclectic wines!

After our first round of wine tasting, we decided it was time to have some lunch.  We were in the mood for some BBQ!  We decided to give RB Smokin’ BBQ a try.  It was a good call!  Nice joint, clean, good service, and the BBQ was bangin”

We had the family sampler…here’s the “Before” pic…um…no “After” pic…nuthing left but bones and balled up finger-lickin’ good BBQ sauced stained napkins!

After lunch it was on to the next winery Clayhouse 

Address: 849 13th Street, Paso Robles, CA
Phone: (805) 238-7055
Open Hours: Sun – Thu 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Fri – Sat 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Tasting Fee: $5, waived with any wine purchase
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Where these young ladies helped us…

Rick Middleton is the proprietor of Clayhouse wines. He is part of a family that has been in agriculture related business in Washington State and California for four generations. Clayhouse is named for a historic adobe – a clay house – on their estate Red Cedar vineyard property.

I came to know about Clayhouse a couple of years ago when I tasted their wines at Dark And Delicious, the best Petite Sirah event of the year.  I loved their wines.  What stood out for me was how smooth the wines were. So I was curious to see if their other wines were as tasty.

Their wines are organized into three tiers:

  1. Estate Series – wine produced from their best estate vineyard blocks at Red Cedar
  2. Vineyard Series - wines are blended for vintage to vintage consistency from throughout Red Cedar
  3. Adobe series wines combine Red Cedar and fruit from other Central Coast vineyards

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2010 Estate Grenache Blanc
  • 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2009 Syrah
  • 2009 Estate “Old Vines” Petite Sirah
  • 2008 Estate “Show Pony” Petite Sirah

My favorite was the 2008 Estate “Show Pony” Petite Sirah, which I scored 89 pts.  While I enjoyed the other wines, the Petite Sirahs really stood out for me here

My two cents? – Recommended, especially if Petite Sirah your thing!

Alas, we needed to head home after the three wineries to get home at a decent hour.  It was a fantastic three-day trip to the Central Coast.  The Central Coast is rapidly becoming one of our favorite wine tasting destinations.  The wines are great, it’s less crowded than Napa, and you won’t find friendlier (or more knowledgeable  folks working in the tasting rooms.  We’re already planning  for our trip next year!

Related Stuff You Might Enjoy:

 

Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer – A Winning Trio

When I received media samples that included a trio of 2011 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer, I was intrigued.  First, Gewürztraminer, it isn’t a well-known, or for that matter appreciated grape varietal ( I enjoy it ).  I like what Karen MacNeil says about Gewürztraminer in the Wine Bible

Like Lucille Ball or Goldie Hawn, Gewürztraminer is a little eccentric in a lovable way

I was also surprised that Castello di Amorosa, as what I consider to be a “destination winery” would produce a Gewürztraminer because it doesn’t have that name recognition. In my experience, destination wineries tend to focus on wines that the average consumer knows a little something about – the Cabs, Chards, Merlots, and these days Moscatos of the world.

My wife and I last visited Castello di Amorosa last year. We took my brother-in-law and his wife, who were visiting us from British Columbia, there.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa – Photo by Melvin Yulo. All rights reserved

The castle is impressive.  It’s an authentic European castle conceived by Dario Sattui of V. Sattui Winery (click here for history and details behind the construction of the castle) I definitely recommend taking tourists there to check it out.

The Wines

Gewürztraminer is a wine with a peculiar heritage.  Most believe it to be of German descent, but long before it found a home in Germany and Alsace, it was grown in the Trentino-Alto Adige region in northeast Italy where it known as “Traminer”  The prefix “gewürz“, which mean “spicy” was added in Germany because the wine has spicy aromas.

The three wines I received were:

  • “Gewürztraminer” a dry wine
  • “Dolcino” an off-dry wine
  • “Late Harvest” is a dessert wine.

All are made from Anderson Valley fruit ( Alsatian varietals like this Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling tend to do very well in Anderson Valley), and fermented in stainless steel.

I tasted the wines from the driest to the sweetest.  My tasting notes follow…

2011 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer

2011 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer

Pale yellow color with aromatic lychee, sweet grapefruit, and spice aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, and dry with zippy acidity and lychee, ripe white peach and spice flavors. Medium finish. Stainless Steel fermented. 13.5% Alcohol; Residual sugar-3.9 g/L; 1,100 cases.  Very good value at SRP of $23! – 90pts

Next up was the “off-dry” “Dolcino”

Medium straw yellow color with fruity lychee, pear, and honeyed clove aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, a tad sweeter than off-dry, with a wonderfully viscous mouthfeel and pear, white peach, honey, and spice flavors nicely balanced with very good acidity. Medium-long finish  12% alcohol; Residual sugar-36 g/L;  1,849 cases; SRP – $24 - 91pts

Lastly, I tried the Late-Harvest Gewürztraminer…

Pale golden-yellow color with honey, honeysuckle, and apricot aromas. On the palate it’s full-bodied with honey, apricot, and vanilla flavors and good Medium-long finish. 11.2% alcohol; Residual sugar-173 g/L; 2, 964 cases. $36 SRP - 91pts

The late harvest wine is made from grapes infected by Boytrytis cinerea (a.k.a. “Noble Rot”) which  give the wine honeyed aromas and flavors.   What made the 2011 a unique vintage was that Noble Rot is rarely takes place in vineyard.  And it’s even less likely to affect the Gewürztraminer grape because of its thick skin.  According to Castello di Amorosa…”In an average year for late harvest wines we see 25-35% boytrytis infected bunches, but in 2011 it was 80% or higher“.

All the wines were outstanding!  Highly recommended.

Pairing with food

Gewürztraminer can be a challenge to pair with food. Because of its low to moderate acidity, it’s not as versatile a food pairing partner as other white wines such as Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc for example.  But it compensates by pairing well with some unexpected, and challenging foods like eggs dishes such as frittata or quiche, strong cheese or sauerkraut. It’s also a white wine that can stand up to smoked, grilled, or blackened foods.

I decided to pair the dry Gewürztraminer with fried catfish and shrimp.  It was a very good pairing, especially because the catfish and shrimp were a bit salty. The Gewürztraminer offset that saltiness and made the seafood taste better.

Then I paired the off-dry “Dolcino” Gewürztraminer with Spicy Jerk Salmon, Rice and Beans, and Fried Plantains.  That pairing was better than the first as the sweetness quelled the heat of the Jerk seasoning.  Gewürztraminer is also a good match for foods with aromatic spices like cumin, cinnamon of which there are plenty in Jerk seasonings.

For the Late Harvest dessert wine, I decided to try with a couple of different desserts. As I was considering which desserts to pair with the wine, I checked the Castello di Amorosa website and was surprised to see “Chocolate Torte” mentioned as potential pairing.  I must confess that chocolate isn’t a top of mind choice for pairing with a botrytized Gewürztraminer ( Port or Banyuls comes to mind), but I was intrigued by the possibility.  I headed of to my favorite gelateria, and picked up two desserts…

The first dessert I paired with the wine was this Pistachio Rose Cheesecake

Pistachio Rose Cheesecake

Pistachio-Rose: Imported Italian pistachio flavored cheesecake with a hint of rose on a buttery graham-cracker crust and finished with an edible rose petal

It was a very good pairing, the cheesecake wasn’t super sweet and the pistachio and rose flavored melded effortlessly with the honeyed flavors of the wine.  The cheesecake even seemed to bring out a bit of hazelnut flavors in the wine, I hadn’t noticed previously.

Then I paired it with this Crème Brulee Tart, which was covered with a mixed caramel and chocolate ganache…

Crème Brulee Tart – Filled with smooth caramel flavored cream, just like a classic Crème Brulee, and topped with Valrhona Caramelia (caramel and chocolate mixed) ganache

JACKPOT!!…I hit the wine and food pairing lottery!  The wine and the Crème Brulee Tart together was an otherworldly pairing as the individual flavors of the wine and the tart created a third entirely different and even better flavor.  I hereby change my mind about chocolate and Gewürztraminer together as potential pairing partners!  I’ll be back for more of this insanely divine pairing!

 

Thanks to Castello di Amorosa for the samples!

 

Lompoc Wine Ghetto;Central Coast Wine Touring-Day 2

After a great day of tasting mostly Rhône and Bordeaux varietals in Paso Robles on Day 1 of our trip to the Central Coast, we decided mix it up and head south to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, which is  between 1.5-2 hour drive south of Paso Robles.  While Paso is mostly known as home to Rhônes, Santa Barbara, in which the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is located, is mostly known for Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

We were introduced to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (“Ghetto”) a couple of years ago  to when we made a side trip there from the California Wine Festival at Santa Barbara to visit  Palmina.  We also visited last year after a private tasting at Loring Wine Company.  We enjoyed it so much we decided to return this year!

Here’s a quick 411 on the Ghetto…

  • Loose collection of wineries located in the Sobhani Industrial Park in Lompoc
  • 18 Tasting rooms representing 20 local brands
  • Great place to go wine tasting due to the proximity of the tasting rooms to one another – the wine version of “One-stop shopping”
  • While there’s plenty of Pinot, and Chardonnay being poured, there’s a wonderful diversity of wine being offered in the tasting rooms, including cool-climate Syrah, and Italian varietals.
  • The place exudes the passion and energy of the winemakers, and the folks staffing the tasting rooms are knowledgeable and friendly.

I like what the Lompoc Wine Ghetto website says…

You won’t find great estates with rolling hills here, nor opulent tasting rooms with soaring ceilings. What you will find is world-class wine, presented in a laid back atmosphere.

Day 2 – Saturday; April 28th

Before we hit the road, we enjoyed a great breakfast at Panolivo - a family bistro in Downtown Paso for breakfast.  Think French country inn meets California.  Definitely recommended.

Lompoc Wine Ghetto Wine Tour Breakfast at Panolivo

Panolivo Egg Torta – Yum!

After breakfast, we were off to the prosaic landscape of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto…

No bucolic scenary…It’s definitely substance over beauty.  But a gun shop in the midst of all those fine wines?

It’s not everyday you find a gun shop next to a winery…Now that’s Ghetto! ;-)

Our first stop was Evening Land Vineyards:  

Address: 1503 East Chestnut Ave, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 736-9656
Open Hours: Friday-Sunday 11AM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Evening Land was established by Mark Tarlov in 2005.  It specializes in producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their organically farmed estate vineyards.  The vineyards are located in three regions renown for great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit,  the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the Sonoma Coast AVA, and Santa Barbara County’s Santa Rita Hills.

Their wines are organized into four tiers – Blue , Silver, Gold, White label. Each tier has a specific geographic focus.  The blue label wines have the broadest focus, and the white label wine have the most narrow focus.  For example, there is a blue label “California” Pinot Noir, whereas the white label Occidental Vineyard Pinot Noir is a vineyard designate.  The wines are priced accordingly and range from $30-$120. Production is 5,000 cases annually.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2010 Evening Land Vineyards Chardonnay Arroyo Grande Valley
  • 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Blue Label
  • 2010 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Spanish Springs
  • 2009 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, CA
  • 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Memorious

My favorite was the 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Memorious, which I scored 92 pts.  All the wines manifest a more European style – lower alcohol, higher acidity, and more minerality.

My two cents? – Recommended, especially if  you enjoy more Old World style wines.

Lompoc Wine Ghetto - Evening Land Wine Tasting Lineup

In addition to the aforementioned wines from Oregon and California, Evening Land also offers wines from from Burgundy.  We purchased this one…

Lompoc Wine Ghetto - Evening Land Burgundy wine

2009 Evening Land Vineyards Beaune 1er Cru Bressandes

We weren’t able to taste it,  but I picked up a bottle because I’ve never had a Burgundy, and I think Evening Land is a great place to start!  Now if I can only hold onto it for a few years!

Our next stop was Zotovich Cellars:

Address: 1500 E. Chestnut Ct.; Suite D, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 736-1600
Open Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm or by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Zotovich Cellars is a family operated winery producing 100% Santa Rita Hills Estate Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay & Viognier.   The partners in the winery are the owner Steve Zotovich, and his nephew Ryan Zotovich who is the Winemaker.  We had the good fortune of Pete Zotovich pouring for us.  According to Pete, they produce about 1,700 cases of wine annually.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2009 Zotovich Cellars Chardonnay
  • 2011 Zotovich Cellars Rosé
  • 2009 Zotovich Estate Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Zotovich Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Zotovich Syrah

Pete Zotovich showing a bottle of their Estate Pinot Noir

My favorite wine, hands down, was the  Syrah, which I rated 92 pts.  I very much enjoyed the Pinot Noirs as well.

My two cents? – Recommended. 

Next up? – Arcadian Winery

Address: 1515- B East Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 737-3900
Open Hours: Daily – 11AM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $15 (For 5 wines)
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Not exactly, though there is a small area with tables and chairs outside.

Arcadian is owned by Joe Davis.  He is a  believer in Old World (Burgundian) methods of crafting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  He has been making Arcadian wines in the Central Coast since 1996.  They are a true “urban” winery in the sense that they own no vineyards. Their wines are released after extended barrel aging.  They often lag the market by one or two vintages. For example, the most recent available vintage we tasted was 2007.  Production is 8,000 cases annually.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2006 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay – Santa Lucia Highlands
  • 2007 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir – Santa Lucia Highlands
  • 2006 Arcadian Jill’s Cuvée Pinot Noir – Santa Maria Valley
  • 2006 Arcadian Westerly Syrah – Santa Ynez Valley
  • 2006 Arcadian Purisma Syrah – Santa Ynez Valley

It was a challenge to pick a favorite because they were all outstanding (90+ point) wines.  But if you twist my arm, it would have to be the 2006 Arcadian Jills Cuveee Pinot Noir, which I rated 93 pts.

My two cents? – Highly Recommended

Up next…Loring Wine Company

Address: 1591 East Chestnut Ave, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 742-0478
Open Hours: Friday-Sunday 12PM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Loring has been a darling of Wine Spectator (“WS”) for a few years now, consistently earning 90+ point scores for their wines.  That’s actually how I came to know about Loring.  When I subscribed to WS a couple of years ago, I was reading an issue and amazed at how many high scores Loring received.  I found out who they were, and purchased a bunch of wines from their vaunted 2008 vintage.  Subsequently, when my wife and I went to the Wine Festival in Santa Barbara in 2011, we made it a point to arrange for a private tasting on our way to Santa Barbara.  We had a great private tasting hosted by co-owner Kimberly Loring who is the sister of owner/winemaker Brian Loring, who was also on hand.  They were very gracious hosts,and we came away impressed.  Back in 2011 they hadn’t opened their current wine tasting room in the Ghetto, so we were looking forward to checking out the new digs and of course, the current releases.  Like Arcadian, Loring is an urban winery in that they own no vineyards. While they focus primarily on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon/Mourvedre blend called Divergence which has also received critical acclaim.  It’s expensive though at $100/bottle.

Loring’s wines can be polarizing. They tend to be unapologetically “big” ripe wines (I vividly recall Brian describing one of his Pinots as a “steak Pinot”…and you know what?…it’s true!) that some believe to overly ripe.  They have little in common with the Evening Land wines.  It does appear though, the alcohol levels have tapered off a bit the last couple of years.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2010 Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay
  • 2010 Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay
  • 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Russell Family Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir
  • 2008 Divergence

My favorite wine was the Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir which I rated 92 pts.  And you’d be hard pressed to find a better value in Pinot Noir than their Appellation series Pinots (Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, and Santa Rita Hills), which I highly recommend.   

My two cents? – Highly Recommended, especially if you prefer the big, bold Pinot Noir

Last stop? -Longoria Winery

Address: 1700 Industrial Way, Unit A, Lompoc CA
Phone: (866) 759-4637
Open Hours: Friday-Sunday 12PM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Longoria is an “artisanal” family winery established in 1982 by Rick and Diana Longoria.  It was the first winery located in the complex now know as the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Their estate vineyard is the Fe Ciega Vineyard, which is located in the western portion of the Santa Rita Hill AVA.   The vineyard is planted mostly to Pinot Noir.  It was planted in 1998.  Production is about 3,500 cases annually

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2011 Pinot Grigio
  • 2008 Pinot Noir – Fe Ciega Vineyard
  • 2010 Pinot Noir – Bien Nacido Vineyard
  • 2009 Tempranillo – Clover Creek Vineyard
  • 2009 Evidence

My favorite wine was the 2009 Tempranillo – Clover Creek Vineyard, which I rated 91 pts.  The 2010 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir was also outstanding!

My two cents? – Recommended

My winery of the day was Arcadian!  

All in all, it was a great day of wine tasting. After sampling 28 wines, all I can say is thank goodness for spit buckets (well at least for me because I’m the D.D….um my wife and her friend were a different story…let’s just say it was a quiet ride back to Paso;-) The Ghetto is a must stop destination for wine tourists in my book.

We did make one final stop after a full day off wine tasting…Surf Beach, which features a stop for the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner…very cool!

Surf Beach - just down the road a bit from the Lompoc Wine Ghetto

Surf Beach – just down the road a bit from the Lompoc Wine Ghetto

We’re already planning our return trip next year – Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!

Wine Of The Week – 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Estate Blanc

My wine of the week for April 14-April 20 is the 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Estate Blanc.

The Winery

Edward Sellers is an eponymous artisan winery producing small lots of  Rhone varietal wines, from their 30-acre vineyard in Paso Robles. Ed, who is an entrepreneur, sailor, and pilot, and his wife “discovered” Paso Robles in 2003, and instantly fell in love with the place.

I was introduced to Edward Sellers in 2010 when I attended the annual California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara.  Ed was pouring his wines at the Friday night “Sunset Rare And Reserve Wine Tasting”. I distinctly remember his wines standing head and shoulders above the rest that evening.  We made it a point to drop in his tasting room, which at the time was in downtown Paso, on our way back to the Bay Area.  That’s when I purchased a couple of bottles of this wine (and a few others).   Last year, after attending the same wine festival, again we made it a point to drop in at his new tasting room off  West Highway 46.

I most recently saw Ed again when he was pouring his wines the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting in San Francisco (click here for my recap of the event).  I was only tasting red Rhone blends that day, so I missed the opportunity to taste 2009 version of this wine, Le Passage Estate.

Paso Robles has made a name for itself, especially for Rhône varietals.   According to edwardsellers.com:

It is Paso Robles’s climate, soils and vineyard diversity that makes Paso Robles ideally suited for growing the Rhône varieties of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc.

It’s no wonder the annual Hospice du Rhone is held in Paso Robles annually.

The Wine

This wine is classic white Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne.  What stand out for me about this wine is its outstanding balance.

2008 Edward Sellers Estate Blanc

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow color with pungent stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, and well-balanced with white peach, melon, and spice flavors. Medium long finish. Blend of Grenache Blanc(56%), Roussanne(28%), and Marsanne (16%). 14.1% Alcohol. 146 cases produced.

Pairing with food

White Rhône blends such as this wine are pretty versatile food wines.  They make fine sippers in the summertime, and but a wine such as this is hearty enough to be a great match with picnic fair, spicy Indian, and North African dishes.  Hmmm…I just recalled the Lobster Pot Pie, I had a Michael Mina a couple of years ago.  This would have been fabulous with it!

I really enjoyed this wine. I’m sorry I waited damn near 2 years to drink it though. Fortunately I’ve got another bottle.  It’ll be lucky to see summer;-)

Muscadet in Tomales Bay

(Click on the images below to enlarge)

It’s always fun for me to try new wines, especially after hearing about this, or that wine pairing well with food I enjoy!

Such was the case with Muscadet (pronounced mew-skuh-Day), a French wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. The wine originates from the Loire Valley in France, more specifically the Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine appellation, which is on the western most part of the Loire bordering the Atlantic.  Curiously, Muscadet is the name of the wine, rather the name of a place, which is typical in France.

I’ve read that Muscadet was excellent with shellfish, and specifically with oysters, which I love, so I picked up a bottle of 2009 Michel Delhommeau Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Cuvee Harmonie (89 pts – $13), but the wine has been sitting in my refrigerator since August 2010!, awaiting the right opportunity.  The opportunity arose recently when we took a road trip to Tomales Bay near Point Reyes for a picnic.  We went to Tomales Bay Oyster Company.  It was a gorgeous day, and we quickly found a prime spot near the edge of the Bay, and bought oysters, mussels, and clams.  Additionally, we brought along marinated baby-back ribs and corn on the cob to grill, and potato salad.  In addition to the Muscadet, we brought along a sparkling wine; NV Mumm Prestige Cuvee Sparkling Wine, and a Rosé; 2009 Silver Mountain Rose of Pinot Noir.

We ended up buying 100 oysters for seven of us!  The vast majority of the oysters were consumed raw.  The mussels, and claims were grilled.  As advertised, the Muscadet paired with mollusks exceptionally well, with the citrusy and minerally flavors of the wine, playing off the brininess of the mollusks, brightening and enlivening their flavors (especially the raw oysters), and vice-versa.   It didn’t seem to matter much whether the raw oysters were consumed naked, or dressed with the typical Tabasco/lemon juice or the mignonette sauce of rice vinegar, cilantro, Vidalia onions my wife prepared.  I also tried the oysters with the Mumm sparkler, because oysters and sparkling wine is also a good pairing.   I enjoyed that pairing as well, though not quite as much.  As for the Rosé, that also worked with the oysters and was the wine of choice with the BBQ ribs, and potato salad.

It was a fun day with family, friends,  wine, and food that brought to mind one of my favorite quotations…

“Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”— Michael Broadbent

And trying a new wine that I really enjoyed was part of a memorable afternoon.  I will be buying more Muscadet to keep on hand for our next oyster orgy!  If you’re a fan of mollusks, and seafood, it’s a nice change of pace from Sauvignon Blanc.  Give it try!

What’s your favorite wine to pair with raw oysters? Leave a comment and let me know….

Wiking?…Wine and Hiking Of Course!

Sometimes combining two words into one is a good idea. “Chocoholic” comes to mind.  Sometimes…well not so much.  Such is the case with a “wiking”, which is what you get when you combine wine and hiking.

According to this post from the New York Times, wiking is the latest trend in Oregon combining wine and hiking.  Great idea…horrible name for it.

Image Courtesy of Business Insider and goldberg via Flickr

Related Articles:

Wiking: The New Drinking Trend Sweeping the Pacific Northwest (Business Insider)

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