Wine of the Week; 2011 Ridge Geyserville

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.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2011 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville.

The Winery

Ridge Vineyards  is a California winery with two estates, Monte Bello in Cupertino, and Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  They are best known for producing single-vineyard premium Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (“Monte Bello”), Zinfandels, and Chardonnay.  Ridge was established by three engineers from nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI).  They produced its first commercial wine in 1962 after purchasing the winery in 1960.

Great wines have always been determined by their site – by nature, not by man – Paul Draper

It wasn’t too long after that, that Ridge gained an international  rep when the  Ridge Monte Bello, under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper , took fifth place in the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 against nine other French and California wines.  Here’s what’s really cool though, the 1976 Monte Bello unanimously took first place in The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary when it was tasted against the same wines thirty years later!

Ridge has four estate vineyards, Monte Bello (first commercial release was in 1962), Geyserville (first release 1966), Lytton Springs (first release 1972), and their newest property East Bench.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine comes from Ridge’s Geyserville vineyard located in the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.  It has is home to the oldest vines that Ridge farms. The “Old Patch” section of the vineyard contains vines that are more than 130 years of age.

Geyserville is a traditional field blend of zinfandel and its complementary varieties: carignane, petite sirah, and mataro (mourvedre). Each vintage is unique, distinct, extraordinary… yet they do have elements in common, including the blackest of blackberry fruit, ripe plum, rich cherry, and cedar. A remarkably consistent and elegant wine with exceptional layering, Geyserville’s unique flavor characteristics are often attributed to the relatively higher percentage of carignane, added to the petite sirah found in most of our other zinfandels. Among the most age-worthy of Ridge wines, Geyserville often drinks beautifully well beyond 10 years of age. – Ridge Vineyards

Click here to watch a video of winemaker Eric Baugher describe this vineyard.

Blend of 78% Zinfandel, 16% Carignane, 4% Petite Sirah, 1% Alicante Bouschet, and 1% Mataro; 14% alcohol; Retail – $38

IMG_0217
My tasting notes follow:
Dark ruby color with lifted kirsch, bramble, lavender and spice aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and balanced with wonderful acidity and tart black cherry, black raspberry and mineral flavors with a long savory finish. Drink now or age for at least 10 years >>Find this wine<<
Rating: A: I adore field blends and this is one is among the best year in year out. And it’s one of the most food friendly Zins I’ve ever had.

Pair with: I went to a Ridge event last year where the 2006 vintage of this wine (drinking beautifully BTW) was paired with Kale, Sausage and Pecorino Pizza.  This would make a great Thanksgiving wine.  And for my vegan brethren consider pairing with Braised Seitan with Black Pepper Plum Sauce. 

Sample purchased for review

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
Related posts:

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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 BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2011 Kokomo Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard

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.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2011 Kokomo Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard.

From The Winery

Perched on 120 acres of prime Dry Creek Valley east benchland vineyards known as Timber Crest Farms, Kokomo Winery concentrates on small production, single-vineyard wines. Started in 2004 with the production of a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Kokomo Winery focuses their terroir-driven philosophy on Sonoma County and its distinct appellations. Owner and Winemaker Erik Miller named the winery after his hometown of Kokomo, IN, and decided on a Coastal Cypress Tree for the logo to signify his move out west. Joined by his best friend from Purdue, Josh Bartels, as Kokomo’s assistant winemaker, Erik partnered with legendary grower Randy Peters, who has over forty years of wine grape growing experience under his belt. The three have formed quite the successful alliance, as Kokomo Winery has now joined the elite boutique wineries of Sonoma County, gaining more 90+ ratings and Gold Medals with each anticipated release. 

I know them more for their Zinfandel and Rose than Pinot Noir.  However, I picked up a bottle of this Pinot Noir when I visited for Passport To Dry Creek in April because I really enjoyed it.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine was sourced from a vineyard is located where a former Gravenstein apple orchard stood, 10 miles from the Pacific Coast.  It is 100% Pinot Noir – the Pommard clone.  It was aged in 100% French Oak, 30% new.

The 2011 Vintage of this wine retails for $42. 13.8% alcohol

Wine of the Week; 2011 Kokomo Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Garnet color with appealing rose petal, pomegranate,strawberry, damp earth and baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with wonderful acidity, supple tannins and strawberry, pomegranate, a bit of caramel and spice flavors with a lingering finish

Rating: A-:  This wine was such a treat!

Pair with: We paired with grilled salmon and a homemade tomato salad.  It was a fantastic pairing.

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!

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

Wine of the Week; 2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Zinfandel

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 JC Cellars Iron Hill Zinfandel.

The Winery

JC Cellars (“JCC”) is an award-winning urban winery located in Oakland, CA.  Jeff Cohn is the winemaker and president. His wife Alexandra Cohn is the CFO. The winery was founded in 1997.

JCC is best known for their single vineyard Zinfandels, and Rhone blends. Their impressive portfolio of wines includes white and red Rhône blends, Syrah, Petite Sirah, a few other “red blends” (most notably, the Imposter and Smoke and Mirrors) Pinot Noir, a Rosé, a newly release single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dessert wine. Annual production is about 5000 cases.

Jeff has access to some prime fruit, including renowned vineyards such as Rockpile in Sonoma, Stagecoach in Napa, and Dusi in Paso Robles. And Jeff certainly knows how to make great fruit into great wine. JCC has earned boatloads of 90+ point wines from major wine publications like Wine Spectator, and the Wine Advocate.

I think it’s fair to say Jeff likes to “tinker”, or as the JC Cellars website put it… Jeff fuses his passion for classic French winemaking with New World innovation”He released his first Pinot Noir this summer, and sells a Viognier that is a collaboration with a French winery –  Domaine François Villard of Condrieu.  As if his gig at JC Cellars/Jeff Cohn Wines weren’t enough, Jeff is also a consulting winemaker.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine was sourced for the Iron Hill Vineyard in Sonoma Valley.  The vineyard is planted on volcanic rock,  with not much dirt to speak of, and a very large lavender patch right next to the vineyard.  It produces a Zinfandel that is distinctive and exotic that’s more in tune with Côte Rôtie in Northern Rhone than Sonoma.

 JC Cellars Iron Hill Zinfandel

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque purple color with lifted lavender, leather, dark fruits, white pepper, and a bit of garrigue aromas. On the palate, it approaches full-bodied, and is fresh with a plush mouthfeel and layers of black raspberry, black cherry, blueberry, red currant and spice flavors. Medium long finish.  SRP-$35 |225 cases| 14.8% alcohol

Wine purchased for review

Rating: A-: An outstanding and exotic Zinfandel!  

Pair with: Brazilian Feijoada or Moroccan tajine

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.

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!

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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!

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Wine of the Week; 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

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.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

The Winery

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine.  That’s because Carneros offers cool nights, foggy mornings, and sunny, breezy days offering fruit of extraordinary elegance, complexity, and intensity.

Domaine Carneros is a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

 

The Wine

Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is CEO/Founding Winemaker.

This wine is a Blanc de Blancs,  which means the wine is produced from all white grapes. Le Rêve, which translates to “the dream” in French, is considered to be the tête du cuvee  (flagship wine) of the winery.  The wine is aged 6 years in Domaine Carneros’ cellars, carved into the hillside beneath the winery, before release.

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

My tasting notes follow

Light straw color with persistent bead of tiny bubbles, with brioche baked pear, tropical fruit, and a touch of mineral aromas. On the palate it shows a soft creamy mousse, and is elegant, balanced, and complex with stone fruit, apple, tropical fruit, and mineral flavors. Long finish – 93pts.

Rating: Highly recommended!

Pair with: It makes a great apéritif, but is also fantastic with fresh oysters and other shellfish, crab cakes,  and ceviche.  Try with an aged Gouda or other hard cheeses. And it makes a delicious counterpoint with triple cream cheeses.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 12% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: > CaliforniaNapa / SonomaCarneros

Varietal(s): 99%% Chardonnay, 1% Pinot Blanc

Cooperage: Aged on lees in the bottle for five and one-half years

Retail: $95

Cases produced: 4,450

Purchased for review

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2006 Seghesio Omaggio-Wine Of The Week

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for August 12th-August 18th  is the 2006 Seghesio Omaggio

The Winery

Seghesio Family Vineyards is a Sonoma County winery located in Healdsburg.   It was founded in 1895 by Italian immigrants Edoardo and Angela Seghesio.   They purchased  a 4 acre vineyard and built a winery in 1902.   Today, Seghesio owns a collection of estate vineyards composed 160 acres located in Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley.   The winery is run by the 3rd and 4th generation Seghesio family members.  It was sold to Napa-based Crimson Wine Group last year.  CEO Peter Seghesio, and his cousin, winemaker Ted Seghesio , stayed on after the acquisition.  They produce approximately 100,000 cases annually.  They are best known for their Zinfandel, but they also produce Pinot Noir, and various Italian varietals including, Sangiovese, Arneis, Barbera, and Pinot Grigio.

I was introduced to Seghesio several years ago, when my wife and I were to Healdsburg a few times a year.   We purchased this wine in 2009.  Frankly, I’m surprised we were able to hold on to it for 3 years!

I must say that Seghesio puts on some great events. My wife and I attended the 2010 Chef’s Harvest event.  It was a great event where learned the about the versatility of Zinfandel with a variety of world cuisines.  And last year when we attended Passport to Dry Creek Valley, it was one of our favorite stop. If you’re in Healdsburg, you must drop in!

The Wine

“Omaggio,” is Italian for homage.  The wine is a tribute to the founders.  This “Super-Tuscan” blend was initially released in 1995 for Seghesio’s centennial harvest.  It’s been produced annually since, with the exception of the 2000 vintage.

This a flagship wine produced from their best blocks of estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes grown on their Home Ranch Vineyard in Alexander Valley.  The grapes were hand-harvested, and each lot went through the “saignée” (pronounced “sonyay”) process, whereby some grape juice is bled off prior to fermentation.  The level of tannins and color is intensified in the remaining juice.  The wine is aged 18 months in French oak barrels, a third fo which are new.

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My tasting notes follow:

Dark garnet color with dark fruit, anise, vanilla, cedarwood, and a hint of dark chocolate aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, well-balanced with very good acidity and black cherry, black currant, vanilla, and clove flavors. Medium-long finish. When I tasted at the winery a couple of years ago, it was a little hot, but it’s drinking very nicely now! - 90pts

Recommendation: This was an outstanding wine.  It’s definitely ready to drink now. Pair with Shepherd’s Pie, Veal Parmesan, Osso Buco, or a steak!

Details: 

Alcohol: 15%

Closure: Cork

AVA:  CaliforniaSonoma CountySonoma Valley

Varietal(s): Cabernet Sauvignon (~60%) and Sangiovese (~40%).

Production: 500 cases

Suggested Retail: $60 USD

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!

What’s Your Favorite Wine Tasting Region In California?

I recently asked myself…”If you had to limit yourself to one wine-tasting region in California, which would it be?  As I pondered the pros and cons of a few of my favorite wine tasting regions, I realized there were many factors that would influence my decision.  Things such as (in no particular order)…

  • How long does it take to get there?
  • What’s are my favorite styles of wine, and are they done well in with the region?
  • Can I go Sparkling Wine tasting?
  • Top of mind favorite wineries?
  • How’s the food scene? 
  • How’s the traffic?
  • What’s been my experience when I’ve gone tasting there?

 There were more than a few other factors too.  In fact, the more I thought about it, the more challenging it because, if for no other reason there are so many wonderful wine tasting regions in California.

What about you?  Here’s your chance to sound off!  If YOU had to pick one wine-tasting region in California as your favorite, which would it be?  Take the poll below, and/or leave me a comment!  Holler!

Photo courtesy of Melvin Yulo

What say you?


Oh…my final answer?  Sonoma! 

2012 ZAP Zinfandel Festival Recap!

Thanks mostly to the 1 Wine Dude 2012 Zinfandel Festival Giveaway, I had the pleasure of attending my first Zinfandel Festival, an unabashed three-day Zinfandel spree, put on by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”).  I say mostly because, I won (guess I can’t say I NEVER win anything anymore) tickets for two to two of the four events put on by ZAP – Epicuria; Food & Zin pairing, and the Grand Tasting, which I attended with my wife.  Since I attended with my wife, fun was in order, so no tasting notes for those two events (It’s a lot more work, than fun to taste and write up a bunch of tasting notes at such events).  I also attended Flights - a seminar style tasting, which explored the different styles of Zinfandel.

For this, the 21st annual Zinfandel Festival, Flights  and the Grand Tasting were held at a new venue – The Concourse in San Francisco.

You’ll find a few of my favorites wine and food pairings from Epicuria, detailed tasting notes from Flights, and my recommended Zinfandel producers from the Grand Tasting.

Epicuria – Food and Zin Pairings

Zinfandel is a grape with naturally moderate to high acidity, yet it’s not typically considered among the pantheon of food friendly wines.  But my personal experience is that  Zinfandel has very good “foodability” (new phrase picked up at ZinFest;-) It’s so much more than a burger and ribs wine!  The event featured pairings of 50 Zinfandel wines with creations from master chefs.

My favorite Food and Zin pairings were:

  1. Duck prosciutto, pistachio goat cheese mousse and citrus from Taste Restaurant paired with Terra d’Oro 2008 125 Year Old Vines, Deaver Vineyard, Amador
  2. Tortellini Porcini with Black Truffle Cream from Il Davide Cucina paired with Starry Night Winery 2009 ,Alexander Valley, and 2009 Old Vine, Nervo Station Vineyard, Alexander Valley
  3. Mojama (Cold-smoked Ahi Tuna) from Wine & Roses Hotel Restaurant, Spa paired with McCay Cellars 2008 Equity Zinfandel, Lodi


Flights – Forum of Flavors

Flights was an educational tasting to showcase different styles of Zinfandel.  There were three flights of wine, each representing a different style of Zinfandel, and each having a separate panel of winemakers.  The panels were moderated by Joel Peterson, Winemaker Ravenswood Winery, founding BOD and 2-time President of ZAP.

Joel Peterson stated that Zinfandel is the “Rodney Dangerfield” of wines.  In many respects that’s true.  It’s frequently characterized in the press as a high alcohol, ripe and overly jammy “monolithic” beverage. In my mind Zinfandel is no different that other wines in that its produced in a variety of styles.  My other take-aways from the panel discussions were as follows:

  • Zinfandels are great weeknight wines
  • Zinfandel a very tough grape to grow because of uneven ripening
  • The lower alcohol style of Zinfandel are more versatile food partners
  • The higher alcohol style of Zinfandel may not be as food friendly, but again like other wines, sometimes the wine is the treat, and consumed either before or after a meal
  • Finesse style Zinfandels around 14% ABV may be thought of as comparable to Cru Beajolais in style
  • Moderate style Zinfandels between 14-15% ABV comparable to Italian Tuscans in style
  • Big style Zinfandel over 15% may be thought of as comparable to Southern Rhone style.
  • Big Zins love simple foods
  • High alcohol wines not necessarily unbalanced wines.  Dave Phinney mentioned an 18.1% ABV dry Grenache from France that was very balanced.  He submitted that his wife, who is sensitive high alcohol wines, enjoyed it.
  • Zinfandel does so well in California does well because it’s planted in the best spots
  • Old Vine love is more about the intrinsic value of these historic vines than economics

The “Finesse” Flight – Around 14% ABV

Panelists:

Chris Leamy – Winemaker; Terra d’Oro

Doug Nalle – Winemaker/Founder Nalle Winery

Julie Johnson – Owner/Winemaker Tres Sabores Winery

  • 2008 Montevina Zinfandel Terra d’Oro - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Light garnet color with fruity, spicy red fruit aromas. On the palate light-bodied, with good acidity, and raspberry, strawberry, and baking spice flavors. Medium finish. 13.5% ABV Suggested retail $11.99 (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Nalle Zinfandel - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Light garnet red color with sweet red cherry, pomegranate, dust, and pepper aromas. On the palate, light-medium bodied with cherry pomegranate, and spice flavors, and well integrated fine tannins. Good balance with a medium finish. 87% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignan, 1% Mourvedre, 1% Alicante Bouschet and Golden Chasselas. 13.6% ABV Suggested retail = $36 (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Frog’s Leap Zinfandel - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light-medium garnet red color with spicy savory red fruit aromas. On the palate light-medium bodied with raspberry, boysenberry, red currant, and spice flavors. Approaching medium finish. 77% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, 1% Carignan. 13.6% ABV Suggested Retail = $27. (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Tres Sabores Zinfandel Rutherford Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Medium ruby color with mixed dark fruit, pepper, and spice aromas. On the palate medium-bodied refined, and deftly balanced with boysenberry, raspberry, faint white pepper, and bramble flavors. Medium-plus finish. 14.2% ABV Suggested Retail = $35 (89 pts.)

The “Moderation” Flight – Between 14-15% ABV

Panelists:

Tim Bell – Winemaker; Dry Creek Vineyard

Randle Johnson – Winemaker; Artezin

Dr. J Bernard Seps – Tractor Driver/President/G.M./Winemaker Storybook Mountain Winery, and founding ZAP member

These Zins are the predominant style and alcohol levels in the marketplace. This style is sometimes referred to as the “claret” style.

  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Medium ruby color with dark fruit, spice and cedarwood aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, with a nice vein of acidity balancing out the fruit and tannins with black cherries, cassis, and vanilla spice,flavors. Medium + finish 75% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignan, 2%Alicante Bouschet. 14.5% ABV Suggested Retail =$35 (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel Spencer’s Hill Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Medium ruby color with fruity cherry, cranberry, and white pepper aromas. On the palate medium-bodied with black cherry, black raspberry flavors supported by firm tannins. Short-Medium finish. 80% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 8% Syrah, 3% Grenache. 14.9% ABV. Suggested Retail = $38 (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Artezin Zinfandel Mendocino County - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Deep ruby red color with dark red fruit, spice and pepper aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with supple but firm tannins and raspberry, dark cherry, and spice flavors. Medium+ finish. 89% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 1% Carignan. 14.5% ABV. Suggested Retail = $18 (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Storybook Mountain Vineyards Zinfandel Estate Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark ruby-red color with tight red fruit, baking spice and a hint of chocolate aromas. On the palate medium-bodied with tart raspberry, and pomegranate flavors. This on is still young. Short-medium finish. 14.7% ABV. Suggested Retail = $60 (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Old Vines Louvau Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep dark garnet black color with aromatic mixed berries, and sweet oak aromas. On the palate, medium bodied, intense, smooth and structured with well-integrated fine tannins and blackberry, red currant, black raspberry, and clove. Medium-long finish 98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah. 14.8% ABV Suggested Retail = $32 (91 pts.)

The “Big” Flight – Above 15% ABV

Panelists:

Dave Phinney – Owner/Winemaker; Orin Swift Cellars, and Flying Winemaker

Tegan Passalacqua – Winegrower; Turley Wine Cellars, and founding member of Historic Vineyard Society

Jeff Farthing – Asst. Winemaker; Michael David Winery

These are the “Big Boys” of Zinfandel big, bold, ripe and intense which are often scored 90+ points

  • 2009 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel Rockpile - USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile
    Dark garnet color with dark red fruit, sweet oak, earth, and dust aromas. On the palate medium-full bodied, intense with black cherry, pepper, and a touch of vanilla spice. Medium finish. 15% ABV. Suggested Retail = $38 (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Orin Swift Zinfandel Saldo - USA, California
    Dark garnet color with strawberry black cherry and a touch of funk aromas. On the palate full-bodied, voluptuous supple tannins and dark cherry, blackberry, chocolate flavors. Long finish. 80% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 8% Syrah, 3% Grenache. 15.5% ABV. Suggested Retail = $28 (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Biale Zinfandel Aldo’s Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
    Dark black-red color with aromatic dark red fruit, dust and baking spice aromas. On the palate full-bodied, with velvety mouthfeel, and black cherry, boysenberry, and baking spice flavors. Medium-long finish. 98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah. 16.1% ABV. Suggested Retail = $75 (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Turley Zinfandel Mead Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley, Atlas Peak
    Dark garnet color with tight aromas of fresh dark red fruit. On the palate intense, brambly, and hedonistically creamy with blackberry, plum flavors. Medium-long finish. 16.1% ABV. Suggested Retail = $35(88 pts.)
  • 2010 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel Earthquake - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Deep carmine color with dark red fruit, cedarbox, and chocolate aromas. On the palate medium-full bodied with dark cherry, blackberry, pepper and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. 16% ABV. Suggested Retail = $26 (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Reserve Monte Rosso Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark nearly opaque black red color with dark fruit, clove, and sweet oak aromas. On the palate medium-full bodied with vivid fruit flavors of boysenberries, vanilla and spice with a long, smooth finish. 16.4% ABV. Suggested Retail = $45 (90 pts.)

Grand Tasting – From A to Zin

The Grand Testing featured 197 wineries (probably 400 wines). All were from California, which isn’t surprising given that Zinfandel is California’s heritage wine, except three, one each from Arizona, Italy and South Africa.  I tried 75 wines before tapping out.  I highly recommend the following producers, whose lineup I tasted through and found all to be excellent:

The Usual Suspects - Bedrock Wine Co., Dashe Cellars, JC Cellars, Ridge Vineyards, Robert Biale, and Woodenhead

New to me - Black Sears Estate Wines, Tres Sabores, and Valdez Family

This was a fun and educational event.  It’s been my experience that Zinfandel’s “foodability” is vastly underrated, so it was great to see it paired with a wide range of foods.  Flights gave me a chance to experience the “rainbow” of Zinfandel styles, and learn a few things about making Zin,  and the Grand Tasting was  like a great reunion with my epiphany wine!

Bedrock Wine Co.: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together

Great wine starts with great fruit.  Every time I taste Bedrock Wine Co. wines I’m reminded of that simple but all too often overlooked fact.  What makes great fruit?   Old vines are a great place to start. And Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock has a passion for old vines!  His extensive knowledge of and passion for winemaking (he made his first wine when he was 5 years old!) and old vines manifest themselves when he speaks of his wines, and the vineyards from which he sources his grapes.

Certainly whether old vines produce better fruit is debatable.  The theory, in a nutshell,  goes like this – old vines with the deep root systems, and reduced circulatory  capacity (just like us as we age ;-) limits the amount of water and nutrients available to the vines.  That results in lower yields, smaller grapes, and more concentrated, balanced fruit.  And just how old are old vines?  Since no formal promulgation exists, that’s also debatable.  To my thinking, ”old vines” starts at 50 years old.  Out of curiosity, I researched Bedrock’s vineyard sources, and noted a plethora of 100-year-old vineyards.  No doubt those are old vines!  For example Bedrock’s, 2010 Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rose , the #1 wine of my Top 10 Rosés last year is made from 120 year old Mourvedre vines.

I’m definitely sipping the “old vine” Kool-Aid!  Or better yet Bedrock’s superb wines!   And I had the chance to do just that with some of the upcoming spring releases at the Bedrock Pick-up Day last month.   My detailed tasting notes are below:

Morgan Twain-Peterson Owner/Winemaker - Bedrock Wine Co.

  • 2008 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Lauterbach Hill Russian River Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Deep ruby color with expressive dark red fruit and floral aromas. On the palate, refined, ample and balanced with blueberry and sweet oak flavors. Long finish. Aged 40 months in neutral oak puncheon.(91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon Bedrock Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Beautiful carmine color with cherry, cassis and cedarwood aromas. On the palate ample, balanced, with cherry, cassis and herbal/mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Kick Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Rich deep garnet color with dark fruit, cocoa, and floral aromas. On the palate nice amplitude, refined, and structured with dark fruit, and a hint of vanilla flavors. Fruitier than the other wines tasted. Long finish.(91 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Griffin’s Lair - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark garnet color with dark fruit, floral and spice aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, and bold but balanced with vivid dark fruits, spice and cocoa. Medium long finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T ‘n’ S Hudson Vineyard South - USA, California, North Coast, Carneros
    Deep dark approaching inky garnet blackish color with leather, dark fruit, spice and floral aromas. On the palate dense, balanced, and vibrant with blackberries, cassis, and dark cherry flavors. Long finish.(93 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Pleine de Chene Hudson Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Carneros
    Dark garnet color with tight nose, of savory dark fruit aromas. On the palate, ample approaching full-bodied with rich dark cherry, and black currant flavors. Medium finish. (90 pts.)

All the wines were excellent, but my wine of the day was the T&S Hudson Vineyard South, from the oldest Syrah vineyard in the Carneros AVA.  While the December Pick-up Day tasting was dominated by Syrah, Bedrock makes a diverse range of wines, especially for what Bedrock calls an “itsy bitsy” winery.  Aside from Syrahs and the Cab I tasted,  their lineup includes both red and white “heirloom” (field blend) wines, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, the aforementioned Rosé, and a Graves Blanc blend.  These are wines worth seeking out!