Wine of the Week: 2009 Volta Cabernet Sauvignon

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2009 Volta Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Winery

Volta Wine  is an artisanal producer of single vineyard wines from the Napa Valley. The winery is owned by Steve Lau and Frederick McCarthy.

In a sonnet, a volta is the moment when a distinct change of thought or mood occurs. When Steve Lau and Frederick McCarthy met in 2009, it was a turning point in both of their lives. Steve had been a musician and record company executive prior to starting a small, artisanal winery. Frederick had built a career in finance and as a real estate entrepreneur while developing an enthusiasm for wine. Individually, Frederick and Steve had learned to appreciate the unique differences that time, place and terroir brings to each vintage and bottle. Their travels over the years had taken them to some of the world’s best wine regions where they explored small local vineyards off the beaten path. One night, at a dinner party hosted by a mutual friend, Steve and Frederick discovered they shared the goal of building a world-class winery. Frederick and Steve decided to team up and devote their skills, passion and energy to creating organically-farmed, responsibly crafted wines that would always inspire.

The winemaker is Massimo Montecelli. He’s a fourth generation winemaker whose family is in the business. Having been the winemaker at renowned Silver Oak, he knows a thing or two about making Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Wine

Fruit for the wine is from the organically farmed Mission Ridge Vineyard, which hugs a southwest facing slope at an elevation of nearly 720 feet above sea level. During the day, the ridge enjoys summer heat but temperatures drop at night with cooler air coming in from the San Francisco Bay. The rocky, volcanic loam soil, high elevation and southwest exposure all combine to create a dynamic micro-climate. The vineyard yields small clusters of intensely flavored grapes that ripen slowly and late into the growing season. Certified organic, the land is respectfully farmed, without the use of chemicals or insecticides. All  the fruit was hand-picked, and the wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Retail – $60; 14.5% alcohol. Case Production – 450

photo (74)

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque garnet color with lifted black cherry, plum, cassis, mocha and leather aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, well structured,  and dense with a supple texture, an appealing grip and black cherry, plum, chocolate, cassis, espresso and a bit of vanilla flavors. Long finish.

Rating: A:  This one is a charmer. It’s ready to drink, but can age.

Pair with: Lamb burgers, lamb kebabs, or grilled flat-iron steak!

Disclosure: Sample provided for review. Opinions are my own

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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!


Tasted: A Trio of V. Sattui Winery Wines

V. Sattui Winery is located in Napa Valley town of St. Helena.  It’s one of the most popular stops (over 400k visitors annually) along Highway 29.  And with a plethora of wonderful wines (over 45), an on-site gourmet deli and cheese shop, great picnic grounds, and a reasonable ($10) wine-tasting fee (down-right inexpensive by Napa Valley standards)- why not?!

V. Sattui has an interesting history – Before Prohibition, and After Prohibition.  The winery traces it’s roots back to 1885 when Vittorio Sattui established a winery in Italian Colony of the North Beach in San Francisco.  The winery later expanded and flourished in the Mission District of The City.  Then, after Prohibition was enacted in 1919, the winery closed.

The story picked up again in 1976 when Dario Sattui re-stablished the winery. But not without being on the verge of going out of business.  Dario’s persistence, vision, innovation, and commitment to excellence has guided V. Sattui Winery to the pinnacle of success (click here for complete history)  That same vision, and commitment to excellence lead Dario found Castello Di Amorosa.

“We don’t deify wine…It’s not about the wine, it’s about having a good time.” – Dario Sattui (courtesy of SF Gate)

V. Sattui Winery is a winery-direct business, meaning the wines may only be purchased at the winery in St. Helena, on-line or by phone. The wines aren’t sold in stores or restaurants.

V Sattui Trio

I have a confession – as many times, as I’ve been to Napa, I’ve never visited the winery.  That’s primarily because I tend to favor smaller wineries.  After tasting this trio of wines, I’ll be rectifying my oversight my next trip to Napa Valley!

My tasting notes follow:

V Sattui 2009 PS

2009 V. Sattui Winery Petite Sirah

Inky violet color with tart black fruit, chocolate, and cedarwood aromas. On the palate it’s medium-full bodied, with dusty tannins (I like a wine with some grip), and ripe blackberry, blueberry, vanilla and dark chocolate flavors. Medium finish. – 89pts

Rating: Recommended.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaNapa Valley
  • Grape Varieties: 97% Petite Sirah, 2% Petite Verdot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cooperage: 18 months in 16% new American oak, 24% New French Oak, 60% seasoned oak
  • Vineyard: Allias Vineyard; Head-trained vines planted in 1926
  • Retail: $35
  • Cases produced: 150

V. Sattui 2009 Zin

2009 V. Sattui Winery Zinfandel Gilsson Vineyard

Violet color appealing briary, floral dark fruit and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium full bodied with well integrated dusty tanning, medium acidity and mixed berry, black cherry, vanilla and spice flavors. Medium long finish. – 91pts

Rating: Highly Recommended.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 15%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaSonoma CountyRussian River Valley
  • Grape Varieties: 98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah
  • Cooperage: 18 months in 13% new American Oak, 22% new French oak, 65% seasoned oak
  • Vineyard: Gilsson Vineyard; Head-trained vines planted in early 1960s
  • Retail: $37
  • Cases produced: 839

V Sattui 2010 PN

2010 V. Sattui Winery Pinot Noir Henry Ranch Carneros

Ruby color with very good aromatics of cherry, raspberry, and spice. On the palate, it’s creamy smooth and medium bodied with cherry, raspberry and spice flavors. Med long finish. – 90pts

Rating: Highly Recommended.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaNapa / SonomaCarneros
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Cooperage: 10 months in 50% new French oak, 50% seasoned French oak.
  • Vineyard: Henry Ranch Vineyard; planted to Pommard and Dijon clones
  • Retail: $39
  • Cases produced: 1089

Wines above were provided as media samples for my review


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Wine of the Week: 2008 Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2008 Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Winery

Robert Keenan Winery is located in the Spring Mountain District AVA (it’s one of 16 sub-appellations of the Napa Valley AVA).  The Spring Mountain District sits on the steep terraces of the Mayacamas Mountains – well off the beaten path of Highway 29.   and high above  the Napa Valley floor at an elevation of 1,700 feet.

The site for the winery has a long history in the Napa Valley.  Robert Conradi started the first winery on site in the late 1800s, but went out of business during prohibition.  Robert Keenan, who ran his own insurance agency for 20 years before purchasing his “retirement property” –  180 acres of land in 1974.  He had an engineer redesign the original winery structure, and brought in a contractor to begin construction.

Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were the initial grapes planted.  Their first harvest was 1977.

They recently completed a solar power system on the property to supply all of the winery’s power. As a result all their estate wines carry the “Solar Powered and Sustainably Farmed” phrase on the label.

Rightfully so, Keenan winery is proud of their track record with Robert Parker, Jr. As stated on their website…

See and taste for yourself why in the last eight vintages, 42 wines have been rated between 90 and 97 points by Robert Parker Jr.

Today, aside from the aforementioned Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay, Keenan produces Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah. Annual production is nearly 14,000 cases.

I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting Keenan, but after tasting this wine, it’s at the top of my list for my next visit to Napa (click here for a virtual tour of the winery)!

The Wine

The wine is mostly composed of mountain fruit from the Keenan estate, with the balance of the fruit sourced from Pope Valley.  According to Keenan…”The
Estate grown Cabernet imparts amazing concentration and remarkable structure, while the portion of Cabernet harvested from Pope Valley adds complex aromas and a balanced mid-palate.”

Robert Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley

2008 Robert Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley

My tasting notes follow:

Opaque violet color and aromatically complex with dried herb, dark fruit, graphite, and chocolate aromas. On the palate it’s intense, medium-full-bodied, and supple with dusty tannins and blueberry, cassis, dried herb, vanilla and chocolate flavors. I Vinturied, but this wine would definitely benefit from some aeration. Medium-long finish – 92pts

Rating: Highly Recommended – This is wine is a fantastic value 40 bucks!  I’ve enjoyed it  more than many Napa Valley Cabs selling for 2x or 3x the price (Opus One comes to mind it’s 5x the price of this wine)!

Pair with: Juicy red meat like steaks and chops. Of course a T-bone, or Rib-eye steak are classics, but also consider lamb chops, Korean Sizzling Beef, Shepherd’s Pie, or a  Cheddar Cheese Bacon burger!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.3% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > California>> Napa Valley
  • Varietal(s): 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 76% Estate, Spring Mtn. Dist.; 24% Pope Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cooperage: Barrel aged in French and American Oak; 33% new.
  • Retail: $49
  • Cases produced: 2,240
  • Drink: now – 2023
  • >>Find this wine<<

This above wine was from my cellar – a gift from my very generous boss!


Wine of the Week: Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Reserve

The 2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Reserve is my Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for September 22-September 28.

The Winery

The Robert Mondavi Winery was established in 1966 by Robert Mondavi, one of the most influential and esteemed winemakers in California history (Click here for his story).  It was the first major winery built in Napa Valley. For decades it was California’s most famous winery.  It was acquired by Constellation Brands in 2004.

It’s a beautiful property with classic California mission-style architecture, with an expansive archway and bell tower.  I must confess I haven’t been in a long time.  I recall visiting on one of my first trips to Napa.  Nowadays, I tend to visit the smaller wineries.  But, I’ve been impressed with their reserve wines.  I’ve also been impressed with a few of their entry-level wines  In particular the Napa Valley Merlot, and the Private Selection Meritage provide very good to great price quality performance.

The Wine

The grapes for this wine were sourced from the Hyde Vineyard in cool climate Carneros AVA in the southernmost part of the Napa Valley.  The grapes are pressed as whole clusters, then fermented on native yeasts in French oak where the wine undergoes partial malolactic fermentation.

What struck me most about this wine is how balanced it is.

2010 Robert Mondavi Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros

My tasting notes follow:

Pale golden-yellow color with beguiling apple, butter, floral along with hints of honey, oak and tropical aromas. On the palate it’s med-bodied and impeccably balanced, with a creamy texture, very good acidity, with apple, tropical fruits and a bit of honey flavors. Med long finish. – 91pts


Chardonnay is not top of mind for me when it comes to wine and food pairing, but this is a very food friendly Chardonnay.  There is a judicious use of oak, and very good acidity. It was fantastic with a Five Spice Chicken and Asian Style Noodle salad!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 14.5% alcohol.

Closure: Cork.

AVA:  > California > Napa / SonomaCarneros

Varietal(s): 100% Chardonnay

Cooperage: Aged in French Oak (68% new) for 8 months, neutral barrels for 7 months

Retail: $40

Cases produced: 704

Media Sample

Many thanks to Folsom & Associates for providing the wine.

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Can “Better” and “Best” wines be found at “Destination” Wineries?

My brother-in-law was in town from Vancouver, B.C. (he lives about 2 hours from Vancouver’s wine country in Okanagan), and he and my wife were chatting about going wine tasting.  It became obvious pretty quickly that Napa is held in high esteem in Vancouver.  And with over 3 million tourists a year, there’s no denying Napa’s cachet.  After all Napa invented high-quality wine tourism.

We decided to go to a couple of “destination” wineries, Sterling, and Castello di Amorosa (click here for video) before taking a break for lunch.

We picked up a great lunch some at The Model Bakery in St. Helena, then headed to an“anti-destination” winery Ehlers Estate (easily the best wines of the day!) for a picnic.  After lunch, our final stop of the day was at what I’d call a “quasi-destination” winery, Artesa, owned by the Codorniu Group of Spain.  Why quasi? Even though our motivation for going to Artesa was to see the property, I’d really enjoyed some of their wines on a previous visit.

It was a fun day, though I must confess, I’m not a big fan of “Destination” wineries, mostly because I’ve “been there, and done that”, and I’m all about the wine these days.  What do I consider to be a “destination” winery?  For me it’s a winery where the primary attraction is something other than their wines.  At Sterling, it’s the gondola ride up the hillside to the beautiful Greek inspired architecture of the property, and the awe-inspiring views of the Napa Valley.  It’d been 10-15 years since I’d been to Sterling, and I must say I was impressed by the property and the views.  In the case of Castello di Amoroso, it’s the castle (click here for video).

Of course good wine, and an attraction don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but in my experience, better, and best wines generally aren’t found at “destination” wineries.

My brother-in-law, Melvin Yulo, took some great photos of our day trip.  Click on the pics to enlarge.

What do you think of destination wineries?  Have you been to a destination winery with great wines?   Leave a comment and let me know!  Cheers!

Cali Zinfandel Flavor Characteristics

According to Wikipidia:

California regions

In California, 20% of the Zinfandel-growing counties hold 80% of the Zinfandel growing area; however, major producing areas such as San Joaquin County, Stanislaus County, and Madera County produce Zinfandel primarily for blends or jug wine.

Certain California regions are regarded as “exceptional” for Zinfandel, each with identifiable flavor characteristics.

  • Amador has a reputation for big, full-bodied Zinfandel. These extra-ripe wines have been called jammy, briary, and brambly, having aromas of sweet berries.
  • Although the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in Santa Clara Valley produces Zinfandel from just 9 acres (3.64 hectares), the Zinfandel from that region is known for its complexity and depth.
  • Sonoma county has a Zinfandel-producing land area second only to that of San Joaquin County. The county contains the warm Dry Creek Valley AVA, known for its juicy Zinfandel with bright fruit, balanced acidity and notes of blackberry, anise and pepper. Dry Creek Valley produces Zinfandel in a variety of styles ranging from the high-alcohol Amador style to balanced, spicy wines.
  • San Luis Obispo, particularly the Paso Robles AVA with its hot days and cool maritime evenings, produces Zinfandel known for being soft and round.
  • While the Napa Valley AVA is known primarily for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, Napa also produces Zinfandel wines described as plummy and intense, tasting of red berry fruits with cedar and vanilla. Zinfandel in Napa tends to be made in a claret style like red Bordeaux.
  • The Russian River Valley generally produces well during warm vintages. Otherwise, the grapes do not fully ripen, leaving the wines with excessive acidity. The area has mostly “old vine” Zinfandel, characterized as spicy and somewhat lower in alcohol than Zinfandel from other regions.
  • Mendocino County Zinfandel wines have been considered high quality, but they are less known because they are not heavily marketed.
  • Lodi has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California. While often used for White Zinfandel production, in the red style, Lodi Zinfandels have a reputation for being juicy and approachable.