#WineWednesday Review-Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Wines

My #WineWednesday review features three very good wines from the Robert Mondavi “Napa Valley” Collection.  I had the opportunity to taste these wine thanks to the good folks at Folsom & Associates, and Robert Mondavi.

Folsom & Associates

The Winery

The Robert Mondavi Winery (“RM”) 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 Wines

The three wines tasted are from the RM “Napa Valley” line of wines.  They include:

Robert Mondavi’s original vision was to produce wines from the Napa Valley that would stand in the company of the world’s finest.

These wines are sourced from the finest appellations in the Napa Valley including Oakville, Stag’s Leap, Carneros and other select vineyard sites.

In addition to the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir reviewed here, other “Napa Valley” wines include Fume Blanc, and Merlot.

2011 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay

photo 3 (1)

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow color with apple, hazelnut, brown spice, lemon rind and a touch of oak aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, with fresh acidity, and a supple mouthfeel. it shows apple, pear vanilla, lemon and spice flavors. Medium finish.

Rating: B+ - Nice value at $19 SRP!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 13.5% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: Napa Valley (56% Carneros; 24% Napa Valley; 14% Stag’s Leap District, and 6% Russian River Valley
  • Grape varieties: 100% Chardonnay
  • Cooperage: Aged in 10 months in French oak
  • Retail: $19
  • Drink: now – 2017

2012 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Napa Valley

photo 1 (7)

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with damp earth, strawberry, cherry, and warm spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with medium acidity, and a smooth mouthfeel. It shows straight forward, pleasant strawberry, cherry, and spice flavors with a mineral undertone. Between short and medium finish.

Rating: B+ - I enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Chardonnay, more than this one,  but it offers solid value for a Pinot Noir.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.5% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: Napa Carneros
  • Grape varieties: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Cooperage: Aged in 5 months in French oak (26% new)
  • Retail: $26
  • Drink: now – 2017

2011 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

photo 2 (5)

My tasting notes follow:

Garnet color with cassis, boxwood, green pepper, and hints of violet and spice aromas. On the palate, its medium-bodied with medium acidity. Good balance and persistence. It shows engaging blackberry, cassis,and kiss of spice flavors with a bit of minerality to make it interesting. Stylistically closer to Old World than New World for me. Medium + finish.

Rating: B+:  Good value at $28, and a good food Cab!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: Napa Valley (35% To Kalon Vineyard, 13% Wappo Hill Vineyard)
  • Grape varieties: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon; 8% Cabernet Franc; 5% Merlot; 3% Petit Verdot
  • Cooperage: Aged in 16 months in 60 gallon French oak (13% new)
  • Retail: $28 ( I found it at Costco for $19.99!)
  • Drink: now – 2017

Media sample(s) – Many thanks to Folsom & Associates for providing the wine.

Related post you might enjoy:

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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.

Tasted – A Winning Trio From Smith Madrone Vineyards

Smith Madrone Vineyards, a family run, estate-bottled winery located in St. Helena, California was founded in 1971 by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith who are the Managing Partner/Vineyard Manager, and Winemaker respectively.  The name of the winery is a tribute to the Smith brothers and the predominant tree on the ranch. The Madrone is an evergreen with a red-brown trunk and branches.

When the Smith brothers purchased the  200 acre ranch in 1971, it included a vineyard that had been planted over a century before.  But the forest had reclaimed much of the land. The brothers had to call in loggers to clear patches of land that would become vineyards.  There remain numerous historical sights on the ranch, as well as the huge array of natural beauty and wildlife.

SmithBros

Stu and Charles Smith – Image courtesy of Smith Madrone

All their wines are produced exclusively from their 34 acres of hillside vineyards planted by the Smith brothers.  The vineyard is planted to 6.25 acres of Riesling, 10.25 acres of Chardonnay and 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Merlot, and Cabernet Franc available for blending.

The vineyard sits high atop Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena in the northern Napa Valley. The vineyards sit at elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 feet, on steep slopes which range up to 35%.

Smith Madrone Vineyards at Twilight

Smith Madrone Vineyards at Twilight. Image courtesy of Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery

Smith Madrone offer four wines, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a special Cook’s Flat Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are available for purchase at the winery or on their website.  They produce about 4,000 cases/yr. The winery is open for tasting by appointment Monday-Saturday, 10 – 4:30.

Smith Madrone Trio

I recently had the opportunity to taste a trio of their latest releases, which included the 2011 Riesling2010 Chardonnay, and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2011 Smith Madrone Riesling Estate Bottled - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Pale golden yellow color with peach apricot, mineral and a hint of lychee aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, and dry with fresh peach, mineral, and a hint of citrus rind flavors. Medium-long finish; 12.6% alcohol. Retail – $27; 521 cases produced (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Smith Madrone Chardonnay Estate Bottled - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Pale golden yellow color with citrus, peach, spiced oak and a kiss of butterscotch aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and balanced with vibrant acidity, and peach, lemon, guava, mineral and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. 100% Chardonnay, barrel-fermented in 100% new French oak. Retail – $30; 703 cases produced. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Bottled - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Opaque violet color with lovely cassis, dried herb, roast coffee and eucalyptus aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied, focused and balanced with youthful tannins and cassis, blackberry, and roast coffee flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.2% alcohol. 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. Aged 22 months in new American oak. Unfiltered and unfined. Retail – $45; 1,434 cases produced (91 pts.)

I really enjoyed these wines.  The Riesling is the best American Riesling I’ve had.  The Chardonnay was delightfully different, and i was surprised it was aged in new oak because the oak manifests itself so judiciously.  The Cab is an elegant delightful now, but will improve with some additional aging.

Before trying these wines, I wasn’t familiar with Smith Madrone.  I’ve tended to stay on the beaten path when visiting Napa.  My bad!  I’m looking forward to getting off of the beaten path, and if you are too, I highly recommend a visit to Smith Madrone. 

Wine provided as a sample for review.  Many thanks to Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery and Julie Ann Kodmur

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 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2008 Castello di Amorosa La Castellana

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 Castello di Amorosa La Castellana.

Winery

Castello di Amorosa is Napa Valley’s own slice of Tuscany.  It’s a winery with its own authentic Tuscan castle (Approximately 121,000 sq. ft., including 107 rooms on 8 levels above and below ground), and one of Napa’s premier “destination” wineries.  While I’m not a huge fan of destination wineries because the wines often take a back seat to whatever the attraction is (they don’t call Napa Valley “adult Disneyland for nothing;-), Castello di Amorosa is an exception.  In addition to a great experience touring an authentic Tuscan castle (complete with a torture chamber), you’ll find moat loads of  ”better” and “best” wines rather than simply ” good” wine.

Castello di Amorosa (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Castello di Amorosa (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The story is how the castle came to be is fascinating (click here for history of the project). When Dario Sattui who also owns and operates the V. Sattui Winery, conceived the idea his thought was…

 I would specialize in making small lots of primarily Italian-style wines, showcase them in an authentic, medieval castle setting and sell them directly to the public, not in stores or restaurants.

Castello di Amorosa offers a wide array of wines.  In addition to the wines one would expect to find at a Napa Valley winery, (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel) they also offer three Gewüztraminers (dry, slightly sweet, and late harvest), various Red, Rosé, and White Italian varietals, Muscato Canelli port, and a slightly sweet, sparkling Rosé!

Castello di Amorosa produces about 8,000 cases a year.  The wines are only available at the winery, through its wine club, or online (www.castellodiamorosa.com).

Wine

This wine is what is referred to as a super-Tuscan. There are generally two kinds of super-Tuscans, those that are dominated by Sangiovese, or those dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine falls into the latter category.

The term “Super Tuscan” describes any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region

The name for this wine “La Castellana” refers to the wife of the Lord and master of the castle. The fruit for this wine was sourced from their estate vineyard,and Passaro

Wine of the Week Castello di Amorosa La Castellana

My tasting notes follow:

Opaque dark garnet color with aromatic dark red fruits, toasted oak,and spiced tobacco aromas. On the palate, it’s voluptuous and smooth with well-integrated soft dusty tannins, good balance, and blackberry, plum, bittersweet chocolate, and spiced vanilla flavors. Long finish.

Rating: A- (91pts)

Pair with: Hearty fare such as grilled steak, sausages, Venison Stuffed Mushroom Caps, Shepherd’s Pie,  Braised Lamb Shanks, Veal Parmesan  or Rigatoni rigatoni with a wild boar ragú.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA:> CaliforniaNapa Valley> Diamond Mountain
  • Grape Varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, and 14% Sangiovese
  • Cooperage: 20 months in French Oak
  • Retail: $88
  • Cases produced: 1,634
  • Drink: Now – 2020
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine provided as a sample for review.  Many thanks to Castello di Amorosa

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

#WineWednesday Review – Robert Mondavi Private Selection

If the blossoming of the plethora of cherry blossom trees is to be believed…Spring has sprung here in Northern California. And that has got me thinking of picnics…and picnic wines!

Cherry Blossom trees just outside my office.  As I was taking this pic, it was "snowing" cherry blossoms - very cool!

Cherry Blossom trees just outside my office. As I was taking this pic, it was “snowing” cherry blossoms – very cool!

Here are two budget-friendly wines that fit the picnic wine bill quite nicely.

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 Wines

Both wines are from the RM Private Selection line of wines.  The Private Selection collection of wines are intended to highlight the Central Coast appellation, a rather large area in Central California  that spans from Santa Barbara to the southern end of the San Francisco Bay area.

Introduced in 1994, Robert Mondavi Private Selection captures the range of growing conditions within California’s Central Coast appellation, producing wine with bright fruit expression and exceptional balance

The Private Selection brand is getting a bit of a makeover with newly designed labeling, packaging, and a return to its Central Coast roots.

Other wines in the Central Coast Private Selection collection are MalbecMeritageMerlotPinot GrigioPinot NoirRieslingSauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel.

First up the Chardonnay…

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chard

I tasted these wines with 5 other wine-loving friends at an impromptu gathering last weekend.  None were not aware of the price until after they’d tasted the wines.  All enjoyed the wines, and were surprised the retail price was $11

My tasting notes follow:

Pale straw yellow color with fruity apple, lemon rind and spiced vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, fruity, and low-acid with easy with apple, lemon, pineapple and spiced vanilla flavors. Medium finish. Nice value play at $11 SRP!

Rating: B - This a good wine that over delivers for the price

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 13.5% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > CaliforniaCentral Coast (89% Monterey County)
  • Grape varieties: 96% Chardonnay. 2% Thompson Seedless, 1% White Riesling, 1% Gewürztraminer
  • Cooperage: 30% aged in French/American oak for 10 months/70% in Stainless Steel
  • Retail: $11
  • Drink: now – 2014
  • >>Find this wine<<

Next, the Cabernet Sauvignon…

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cab

My tasting notes follow:

Opaque garnet color with ripe red fruit, oak, and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, smooth and easy with plum, cherry and vanilla flavors. Medium finish. Nice value play at $11 SRP!

Rating: B - This a good wine that over delivers for the price

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 13.5% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > CaliforniaCentral Coast (60% Monterey County, 30% Paso Robles)
  • Grape varieties: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah, 3% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdo, 1% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc
  • Cooperage: Aged in 12 months in French and American oak
  • Retail: $11
  • Drink: now – 2014
  • >>Find this wine<<

These wines are a great example of the advantages of a winery the size of Robert Mondavi – economy of scale, and breadth of their offerings. They produce wines at all price/quality levels along the wine spectrum from budget to super-premium wines.  There’s something for everyone!

I used Robert Mondavi Private Selection website to find out where these wine may be purchased, and for how much they are being sold.  Stores in my zip code included Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and an Asian Market.  I dropped in at the Asian Market for grins and they were selling the 2011 Chardonnay and the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon for $6.99!  Wow! These wine make great everyday, picnic, or cocktail wines( especially for those friends you don’t want to “waste” a more expensive wine on – you know who they are;-).  And you’ll be hard pressed to find wine of this quality for $7!

Media sample(s) – Many thanks to Folsom & Associates for providing the wine.

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Below Average
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

2013 ZAP Zinfandel Festival Recap!

Last week I attended the 22nd Annual Zinfandel Festival.  It’s hosted by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”).  This was my second year attending this mother of all things Zinfandel event.

I attended two of the four events – Epicuria Food & Zin Pairings on Thursday, and the Grand Tasting on Saturday.

Epicuria

Epicuria, a “gourmet adventure”, is a walk around tasting offering samples of diverse culinary delights prepared by a cadre of restaurants and other food purveyors paired with Zinfandel.  What I appreciate about it is that it expands one’s perception of Zinfandel’s affinity for a variety of foods.  In other words, Zinfandel can be so much more than a BBQ, and burger wine!

Embark on a gourmet adventure as you explore the versatile flavors of Zinfandel at ZAP’s informal dine-around event. You have the opportunity to sample sophisticated and whimsical culinary creations from master chefs, perfectly paired with 50 top Zinfandel wines.

I came to the event hungry. Very hungry.  But I knew there would be plenty of food. Top notch food.  And plenty of Zinfandel! Top notch Zinfandel!  You would have had to roll me out of the Concourse Exhibition Center if I’d tried everything, even half of everything offered!

Zinfandel Festival - Epicuria crowd

The epicurean highlights for me were:

  • Harris’ signature steak tartare beautifully paired with Ridge Vineyards 2005 Lytton Springs, and 2007 Lytton Springs.
  • Smoked duck, apple compote, fennel crepe from Taste in Plymouth (fabulous restaurant – highly recommend) paired with 2010 Terra d’Oro Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel.
  • Spicy Thai curry pulled pork on candied jalapeno rafts garnished with cilantro and lime from Le Truc, paired with Rock Wall Wine Company 2010 Hendry Reserve.
  • Lamb merguez and wild boar sausage with mango chutney and sauerkraut from Rosamunde Sausage Grill.
  • Soleil’s African Cuisine; Moroccan Carmoula seafood with couscous Tanzanian coconut fish; plus beans stew (slow garbanzo, red beans in spiced coconut sauce).
  • Chicken croquette with chipotle paired with m2 2010 Old Vine, Soucie Vineyard
  • The little bit of carnivorous heaven on earth pictured below is a “lamb lollipop” courtesy of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  I’ve never had one before, but let’s just say it was the most delicious, delectable, and delightful lamb that I have ever had the pleasure of consuming! It was paired with 2009 Bonneau Rockpile Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Festival Epicuria - lamb lollipop

Oh and for my sweet tooth, I capped off my Epicuria experience at Healdsburg Toffee Company which had a fabulous selection of sweet treats including chocolate drizzled candied cayenne pecans; cinnamon and nutmeg spice in milk chocolate, dark chocolate cherry bomb; and the peanut butter crisps pictured below:

Zinfandel Festival Epicuria -dessert

But the best of the bunch for me was the bacon-dipped chocolate bites! My sweet goodness!

Grand Tasting

ZAP’s Zinfest is very well-organized.  I especially appreciated the Tasting Program and Tasting Map.  In addition to tasting hundreds of Zinfandels and Zinfandel blends, Saturday activities also featured Winemaker Workshops, ZinKitchen Seminars, and new for 2013, a Terroir Tasting area.  One thing I did miss from last year was the Media Lounge – a quiet area set aside for media and trade folks lined with bottles almost every producer.  It was great to be able to adjourn to the Media Lounge  and taste at one’s own pace once the main floor got crowded mid-afternoon when the general public is admitted (there is a 4 hour window between 10 am-2 pm for media and trade). Once the general public is added to the mix, the event turns into a writhing sea of humanity.

Zinfandel Festival - ZAP barrels

And speaking of bodies of water…check out the young man on bucket brigade below emptying dump buckets from the ocean of Zinfandel!

P1020249

The Grand Testing featured 193 wineries scheduled to participate (probably 400 wines).  Since it was impossible for me to taste all the wines, my strategy was to try 25 producers that were new to me. That strategy creates a dilemma for me.  That’s because on one hand, it means skipping some of my favorite perennial top-notch Zinfandel producers like Bedrock Wine Co.Black SearsCarlisleCarol SheltonDashe CellarsJC CellarsRidge VineyardsRobert BialeSeghesioTurley and Valdez Family.  On the other hand, I dig uncovering new gems.  Of course the “right” answer for me was do both.  I tasted wines from 25 new to me producers.  Then at the end of the day did my “taster’s choice” when I stop by some favorites to do a little tasting!

I ended up tasting 75 wines before tapping out mid-afternoon,and doing my “taster’ choice”.

My favorite new to me wines, which I rated “outstanding” – 90 points or higher were (in alphabetical order):

  • 2011 Brown Estate Vineyards Zinfandel Chiles Valley ($50)
  • 2011 Brown Estate Vineyards Zinfandel Napa Valley ($42)
  • 2010 Charter Oak Winery Guido Ragghianti Old World Field Blend ($58)
  • 2010 Charter Oak Old Vine Monte Rosso, Sonoma County ($48)
  • 2009 Grgich Hills Zinfandel Estate Grown ($35)
  • 2010 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Old Ghost ($37)
  • 2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($40)
  • 2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley ($44)
  • 2010 Ottimino Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard ($38)
  • 2009 Ottimino Zinfandel Rancho Bello ($30)
  • 2010 Puccioni Zinfandel ($29)
  • 2011 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi $35) (barrel sample)
  • 2009 Scott Harvey Vineyard 1869, Napa Valley ($45)
  • 2010 St. Anne’s Crossing Serracino, Dry Creek Valley ($50)
  • 2010 St. Anne’s Crossing Zinfandel King City ($36)
  • 2010 Storybrook Mountain Zinfandel Mayacamas Range ($36)
  • 2010 Talty Winery Zinfandel Dwight Family ($30)
  • 2009 Talty Winery Zinfandel Estate William Talty Vineyards ($38)
  • 2010 Three Wine Company Zinfandel Evangelho Vineyard ($32)
  • 2009 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard ($29)
  • 2009 Woodenhead Zinfandel Guido Venturi Vineyard ($34)
  • 2010 Woodenhead Zinfandel Leras Ranches Bertoli ($30)

In terms of my favorite perennial top-notch producers, I was only able to get to a few because it got to be too crowded.  The wines from that bunch that stood out for me were:

  • 2010 Black Sears Estate, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Carlisle Winery Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley ($45) 
  • 2010 Dashe Cellars Florence Vineyard, Dry Creek ($35)
  • 2011 Ridge Vineyards Primitvo (barrel sample)
  • 2010 Valdez Family St. Peter’s Church Zinfandel

Whenever I go to ZAP’s Zinfest, I’m reminded of my epiphany wine.  It was 1999 Lolonis Redwood Valley Zinfandel.  So my old friend Zinfandel…until our next reunion…I’ll drink of you often! Cheers!

Related post you might enjoy:

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!

 

Rutherford Grove Winery; A Birthday To Remember!

My wife and I have talked about renting a limousine and going to Napa for years.  Over my tepid objections, we finally decided to take the plunge this year for my birthday.

The winery of the day was Rutherford Grove Winery (a friend in the business arranged for our group of ten’s visit to Rutherford Grove). Despite the fact that I’ve been to Napa scores of times, I wasn’t familiar with Rutherford Grove (there are a few hundred wineries in the Napa Valley).

Rutherford Grove has a rich history in Napa Valley.  The winery is owned by the Bob and Sylvia Pestoni, both of whom come from winemaking families.  Bob is the grandson of Albino Pestoni, who planted grapes  and built the Bell Canyon winery in 1892!

Pestoni Family in front of winery, Bell Canyon, St Helena CA, 1897

Bell Canyon winery was known as Bonded Winery 935, and was very popular with the Italian-Swiss Colony community that settled in the Northern California.  The original property still exists today, on public property owned by the City of St. Helena near Bell Canyon dam. It’s one the the valley’s few unrestored “ghost” wineries.  Bob’s father Henry followed in his father’s footsteps. He married Lena Domingos.  Henry, along with Lena’s brothers formed a vineyard management company.  In 1923 Henry and Lena purchased what is today known as Pestoni Ranch on Whitehall Lane.  They raised animals, farmed grapes, make wine, sherry and bootleg brandy.  Today, the Pestoni ranch is the source of Rutherford Grove’s Estate Sauvignon Blanc.

Albino Pestoni’s winery today. Bell Canyon, St. Helena

Lena’s brothers, Fred and Manual, purchased Ehlers’ Estate in 1923 where they bootlegged until Prohibition ended. In 1933, they renamed it Old Bale Mill Winery and produced wines until 1958 when new owners restored the original name.

Ehlers’ Estate, run by Fred and Manuel Domingos as Old Bale Mill Winery from 1923-1958

Bob was expected to follow in his family’s parent’s footstep. And eventually he did, but not before establishing a disposal company for the upper Napa Valley with his brother Marvin in the 60′s.

In the mid-1990s, they bought a small winery and vineyard between their Pestoni Ranch and Highway 29 to gain improved access for the disposal company.  In 1993, they established Rutherford Grove Winery.

Today Rutherford Grove produces about 5,000 cases/year. For more info check this profile.  After many years of keeping a fairly low profile Bob has added a couple of key players to the winery’s roster – Alejandro Alfaro as Winemaker, and Bonnie Zimmerman as Tasting Room Manager.

When our group arrived at Rutherford Grove, we were directed the the winery’s beautiful picnic ground.  We were greeted there by Alejandro and Bonnie.  They were very gracious hosts answering the myriad of questions we posed.  Alejandro fielded the winemaking related questions, and Bonnie ( a living breathing encyclopedia wine knowledge) handled any other questions we asked.  And all the while pouring their wines for us to taste.
The Wine Writer, Winemaker; Alejandro Alfaro, and Tasting Room Mgr; Bonnie Zimmerman (Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

The Wine Writer, Winemaker; Alejandro Alfaro, and Tasting Room Mgr; Bonnie Zimmerman (Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

We tasted 10 wines (7 of their current releases and 3 library wines).  My tasting notes follow:

2011 Rutherford Grove Sauvignon Blanc

2011 Rutherford Grove Sauvignon Blanc (Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

  • 2011 Rutherford Grove Sauvignon Blanc Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Pale green color with guava and grapefruit aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, balanced and fresh with citrus and grass aromas. Medium finish. Aged 6 months in Stainless Steel; 40%-70% gallon Stainless Steel Barrels sur lie. 13.3 % alcohol (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Rutherford Grove Sangiovese Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Garnet color with dark red fruits, violet and oak aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with baked cherry, raspberry, and toasty oak flavors. Medium-long finish. Aged 18 months in 100% French Oak, 40% new, 60% 2-year old puncheons. 14.3% alcohol. (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Rutherford Grove Merlot Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Carmine color with black and red fruit and spicy cedarwood aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied with dusty cherry, blackberry, spice and a hint of cola flavors. Medium finish. Fruit sourced from Rutherford Grove Vineyard; Rutherford Bench. Aged 18 months in 100% French Oak, 40% New, 60% 2-year old barrels. 14.2% alcohol (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Garnet color with dark fruit, green olive violet and a hint of cacoa aromas. On the palate, it approached medium-bodied with dusty blackberry, cassis and cacao flavors. Medium-long finish. Fruit sourced from Lone Acre Vineyard & Bella Oaks Lane; Rutherford Bench. Aged 20 months in 80% French Oak, 20% American Oak, 60% new, 20% one-year old, 20% two-year old. 14.2% alcohol (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Rutherford Grove Merlot Estate Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Garnet color with dark cherry, black currant and cedarwood aromas. On the palate, it medium bodied, nicely balanced with black cherry, black currant, and a bit of sweet oak flavors. Medium+ finish. Aged 22 months in 80% French Oak 20% American Oak, 30% 1-year old, 30% 2-year. 14.2 % alcohol (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Garnet color with aromatic black and red fruit, cassis and chocolate aromas. On the palate, it’s full bodied, intense, and well-structured with dusty blackberry, black cherry, cassis, and spicy chocolate flavors. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon/25% Merlot. Aged 20 months French Oak, 60% new, 30% 1-year, 10% 2-year. 14.4% alcohol (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Rutherford Grove Petite Sirah Spring Creek Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Inky violet color with blackberry, plum and oak aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with appealing dusty tannins and blackberry, plum vanilla and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. Aged 10 Months in 50% French Oak, 50% American Oak, 50% new, 30% one-year old, 20% two-year old. 14.2% alcohol (89 pts.)
LIbrary tasting of Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon - 1997-1999

LIbrary tasting of Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon – 1997-1999 (Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

  • 1997 Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark brick red color with dark cherry, cassis and oak aromas. On the palate, it’s smooth, light-bodied and shows good acidity with black cherry, black currant, and a hint of raspberry flavors. Medium-finish. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. (88 pts.)
  • 1998 Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark brick red color with savory blackberry, cassis and dried herb aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with blackberry, cassis, dried herb and oak flavors. Medium-long finish. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon/ 10% Cabernet Franc/5% Petite Verdot (90 pts.)
  • 1999 Rutherford Grove Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium garnet with brick red tint color, and blackberry, cassis, and cacao aromas. On the palate, it’s light-medium bodied with good acidity, and blackberry, cassis, and hint of vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. 99% Cabernet Sauvignon/1% Petite Verdot (89 pts.)

It was a fun and informative tasting.  Our group’s consensus favorite wine was the Sangiovese.

Next time you’re in Napa, I recommend stopping by.  We enjoyed the wines, the beautiful winery, tasting room and grounds (especially the covered picnic area – which was definitely a plus on a hot day!) Good wines…good times!

 

Bell Canyon Winery images courtesy of Rutherford Grove Winery

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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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East Bay Wine And Food Events For August 10th-12th

One of the reasons I love living is the Bay Area is its proximity to so many great wine regions – Sonoma, Napa, Santa Cruz Mountains to name a few.  But I also dig that I don’t have to get in the car and drive for 60-90 minutes to get to some great wineries, and wine events.  There are lots of urban wineries in the East Bay, and the Livermore Valley wine region is only about a 20 minute drive for me.

I was doing some planning for my birthday next weekend, August 10th-12th, and noticed there is a trio of great East Bay wine and food events on tap.

Friday – August 10th

Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda is going to be the place to be.  On Friday evening from 5-9P, they are hosting Rock Wall Food Truck Frenzy (click here to find out more and buy tickets).  Besides some great wines, Rockwall is a great venue for events.  Check out what they say…

Rock Wall is located in a 40,000 sq. ft. airplane hangar on the former Alameda Naval Airbase and our winery and tasting room boasts spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline.

Some of the Bay Area’s best food trucks will be on hand to dish some great gourmet street food.  A DJ will be dropping the beats, and of course there are the great Rockwall wines served by the glass! I’ve been to a couple of these.  You will NOT leave hungry, and they’re big fun!

Saturday – August 11th

Rock Wall is the place to be again on Saturday for ZAP Grill-O-Rama, the quintessential Zinfandel and BBQ-a-palooza! (click here to find out more and buy tickets) hosted by The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (“ZAP”).

Image courtesy of ZAP – Zinfandel Producers & Advocates

This is the “Big Dog” of the three events!  According to ZAP…

Attendees will discover the distinct flavors of Zinfandel from up and down California including the Bay Area, Lodi, Napa, Paso Robles, Sierra Foothills, and Sonoma: this is an opportunity to taste and compare 30 different Zinfandels from 9 growing regions. 4 savvy chefs—Chef Tyler Stone, Chef John Ledbetter of Bocanova, Chef Dawn Wofford of Sonoma Smokehouse and Chef Sophina Uong of Pican—will fire up the grills to create tantalizing tastes served alongside the wines. A “People’s Choice” award will be chosen by the attendees.

The weather forecast for next weekend is looking great, so look for the hangar doors to be open, with those fantabulous views in full-effect at Rock Wall!  Of the 30 or so wineries on hand a few of my East Bay favorites, Dashe Cellars, JC Cellars and of course Rock Wall will be pouring their Zins.  Hit me up in the comments if you’d like my recommendations from Lodi, Napa, and Paso…

Sunday – August 12th

And last, but not least there’s the Nile Canyon Railway Livermore Valley Wine Tasting Special (click here to find out more and buy tickets). It’s Livermore Valley’s version of the Napa Wine Train.  You’ll learn about the historic Niles Canyon Railway, which has been rolling through Niles Canyon since 1869, and taste Livermore Valley wines paired with hors d’oeuvres.

It’s going to be a great weekend for wine and food events in the East Bay! Check ‘em out!