9th Annual Urban Wine Xperience

One of the things I love most about living in the East Bay.  It’s a wine-lovers paradise.  Napa ValleySonoma, the Santa Cruz Mountain, and Livermore Valley wine regions are all within a 90 minute or so drive.  Even so, I frequently find myself also taking advantage of the East Bay’s Urban Wine Country, which includes a dozens of family-owned wineries in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and Emeryville. EBVA-LOGO_Square

That’s because the East Bay features some of California’s finest urban wineries.  In fact, the East Bay is California’s largest urban winemaking region.

Once a year, the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance (EBVA), an association representing more than 20 urban wineries, hosts The Urban Wine Xperience.  It’s a great opportunity to taste all the best artisanal wines made in the Bay Area all at the same time.

The Ninth Annual Urban Wine Xperience will be held  on August 2nd on the Ferry Lawn at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.   Member wineries will pour a wide array of their white, rosé, red, dessert wines, and mead.  Local eateries and food purveyors will create delicious bites that pair perfectly with the EBVA’s wine portfolio.  Wine, food and live music can all be enjoyed in the outdoor setting of vibrant Jack London Square on the shore at the Ferry Lawn.

The event promises to be  bigger and better than ever – a testament to the rise of Oakland and urban wine making in the East Bay.

9th Annual Urban Wine Xperience

The participating wineries include:

Aubin CellarsCampovidaCarica Wines, Cerruti Cellars, Chouinard Cellars, Dashe Cellars, Ehrenberg Cellars, Eno Wines, Irish Monkey CellarsJeff Cohn Cellars,  Mead KitchenLusu CellarsParadox WinesPeriscope CellarsR&B CellarsRockwall Wine CompanyRosenblum CellarsStage Left CellarsTwo Mile WinesUrban Legend Cellars  and Urbano Cellars

Each the participating wineries will be pouring three wines, so there will be plenty of wine!

Scheduled participating restaurants offering bites include:

Venga Paella, Pacific Fine Foods, alaMar, Tay Ho, Nido,  Acapulco, Bocanova, Café Jolie Scolari, Chop Bar, Mockingbird, Tribune Tavern, Haven and Lungomare.

PosterB_OL FINAL

The Urban Wine Experience
August 2 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Ferry Lawn at Jack London Square
Oakland, CA ( map )

Advance tickets are $45 per person (Designated drivers are $15) and are available for purchase online. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door for $60 per person.

Attendees are strongly encouraged to take public transportation to the event.  Both the  Lake Merritt and 12th Street/Oakland City Center BART stations are  close to Jack London Square.

Remember to maximize your enjoyment and learning at public tastings:

  • Wear dark, comfortable clothes
  • Hydrate
  • Spit
  • Skip the perfume and cologne

Hope to see you at The Urban Wine Xperience!

__________________________________________________________________

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.

The Best of North Coast Rhone Wines

I attended the North Coast (California) Chapter of the  Rhone Rangers (“NCRR”) tasting last month.  The tasting was held in Oakland, at Campovida’s Taste of Place Oakland.

With the Rhone Rangers riding into the Bay Area next week, April 5-6 for the 17th Annual Rhone Rangers San Francisco Bay Area Weekend Celebration of American RhonesI thought I’d share some of my favorites from the NCRR tasting.

The NCRR, a regional chapter of the Rhone Rangers, is dedicated to the education and promotion of Rhone varietals and Rhone blends to local trade, media, and consumers, and of the wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino counties as a top California region in the production of outstanding Rhone varietal grapes and wines. In other words…sure Paso’s got the big rep for Rhone, but we get our Rhone on here in Nor Cal too! 

NorthCoast2

Source: www.rhonerangers.org (click to enlarge)

The NCRR puts on smaller, more focused events which provide the opportunity for more engagement with the wineries (more often than not it’s the owner/winemaker behind the tables pouring).  Most of the NCRR member wineries are are small, family run operations, making very small lot of wine.

I loved the smaller scale and more intimate feel of this event, which was also well organized.  And the price was definitely right at $20 ( I attended as a media guest).  And what’s a wine event without some food?  There was also delicious paella from Nora – Paella and Spanish Catering available for sale!

NCRR Paella

There were 12 wineries pouring at the event.  Half the wineries were from East Bay and are part of the East Bay Vintners Alliance, a guest sponsor of the event.  All attendees received a clipboard with up-to-date, detailed information about the wines being poured, which was quite helpful.  I tasted 45 wines.

My favorite wines (rated 90 points, or higher) from the tasting were:

  •  2006 Arrowood Syrah Saralee’s Vineyard
The Best of North Coast Rhone Rangers

Arrowood Wines

  • 2011 Carica Wines Grenache, Eaglepoint Ranch
  • 2012 Campovida Roussanne Bonofiglio Vineyards
  • 2012 Campovida Campo di Blanca Riserva
  • 2009 Cornerstone Cellars Syrah Stepping Stone
  • 2011 Cornerstone Cellars Syrah Stepping Stone
  • 2011 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Grenache The Barrel Climber
  • 2010 JC Cellars Syrah Rockpile Vineyard
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars Petite Sirah
  • 2010 Stage Left Cellars The ExPat
  • 2011 Stark Viognier Damiano Vineyard

Christian and Jen Stark

  • 2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard
  • 2012 Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc Saralee’s Vineyard
  • 2011 Two Shepherds Pastoral Rouge
  • 2011 Two Shepherds Syrah | Mourvedre
  • 2010 Urban Legend Grenache
photo 1 (11)

Two Shepherds “All-Stars” line-up

Part of what I really enjoy about events like this is that I get to try new to me producers.  Such was the case with Arrowood Vineyards and Winery, Eric Kent Cellars, and Stark Wine Co.  I also discovered that Urban Legend, a winery that I know for their fine Italian grape varietal wines like Barbera, and Teroldego has expanded their repertoire to include Rhone grape varieties. A very pleasant surprise indeed!

Urban Legend Owner/ Winemaker – Steve Shaffer

All attendees were asked to vote for their favorite wines of the day.  My favorite red was the 2011 Two Shepherds Pastoral Rouge. My favorite white was the 2012 Campovida Campo di Blanca – a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.

Be sure to check out the Rhone Rangers 17th Annual Rhone Rangers celebration next weekend.  It’s a great chance to tasted over 400 wines (Glad I had a wee bit of a head start at the NCRR tasting!) from more than 100 wineries, including Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, White Blends, Rosés, Syrah, Grenache, Red Blends and some Petite Sirah too!  The Grand Tasting will be at a new location, the world-class Craneway Pavillion, Fort Point Richmond.

Hope to see you at the big Rhone Rangers event next week!

Related posts you might enjoy:

__________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

Wine of the Week; 2010 Stage Left Cellars Go Getter

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 2010 Stage Left Cellars Go Getter

The Winery

Stage Left Cellars is an urban winery located in Oakland, California not too far from Jack London Square. By urban winery I mean their winemaking facilities are located in an urban setting, rather than in a rural setting near the vineyard.

The winery is owned and operated by Melinda Doty and her husband, Rich Williams who is the winemaker.   Melinda and Rich both had corporate gigs before they decided to exit “Stage Left” and pursue their dream of opening a winery.  Like so many winemakers, they were making wine in their garage before taking the plunge into commercial winemaking.  Their first commercial effort was the 2004 “Day Job” a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre.

Stage Left is focused primarily on Rhone varietals and Rhone blends.  They source their grapes from throughout California and Oregon. Case production is about 1,200/year

Stage Left is open the first Saturday of each month, and by appointment.  The tasting fee is $5.  Stage Left was voted the “Best San Fransisco” area winery for 2011 on the ABC 7 “A” List.  I highly recommend visiting.  You’ll enjoy the wine and they’re great hosts!

The Wine

The fruit for this wine was sourced from vineyards throughout California. The Viognier is from Alder Springs (Mendocino), the Roussanne is from Catie’s Corner (Russian River Valley), and the Grenache Blanc hails from the Russell Family (Paso Robles). The grapes were fermented separately, and were even allowed to sit on skins for a short period of time,  That add a bit of tannins to the structure, which not only should enhance ageability.

sl go getter 2

My tasting notes follow:

Aromatic honeysuckle, tropical, pineapple citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied with a great mouthfeel, and crisp acidity accompanied by white peach, honey, and citrus flavors. Long finish.

Rating: A-

This wine was great at the table thanks to its crisp acidity. We enjoyed it with a variety of tapas from Rumbo al Sur, including Shrimp and Scallop Enchiladas, Mussels Moqueca, and even Chile Rellenos, for Mothers Day.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.1% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork.
  • AVA: > California
  • Varietal(s): 57% Viognier, 29% Grenache Blanc, 14% Roussanne
  • Retail: $34 (It was on sale the day I purchased for $26)
  • Cases produced: 290
  • Ageability: Drink now, or hold for 3-5 years

Other Related Posts:

Wine purchased for review

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.

Wine Of The Week: 2007 Stage Left Cellars Syrah

My Wine Of The Week for October 6 - October 12 is the 2007 Stage Left Cellars Syrah. 

The Winery

Stage Left Cellars is an urban winery located in Oakland, California not too far from Jack London Square. By urban winery I mean their winemaking facilities are located in an urban setting, rather than in a rural setting near the vineyard.

The winery is owned and operated by Melinda Doty. Her husband, Rich Williams is the winemaker.   Melinda and Rich both had corporate gigs before they decided to exit “Stage Left” and pursue their dream of opening a winery.  Like so many winemakers, they were making wine in their garage before taking the plunge into commercial winemaking.  Their first commercial effort was the 2004 “Day Job” a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre.

Need a bit of inspiration? Check out the tagline that is etched on their bottles…

“What is the one idea you just cannot shake? Do you have the juice to pull it off? If not, why not? You time is now. The world is waiting”

Stage Left is focused primarily on Rhone varietals and Rhone blends.  In addition to this wine, they produce a Viognier, a Viognier/Roussanne blend, a white Rhone blend composed of Viognier/Grenache Blanc/Roussanne (it’s called the “Go Getter; I tasted at the Family Winemakers event last month.  It’s an outstanding wine, I rated it 90pts), Grenache, Petite Sirah,  and a nice variety of red blends.  They source their grapes from throughout California and Oregon. Case production is about 1,200/year

Stage Left is open the first Saturday of each month, and by appointment.  The tasting fee is $5.  Most recently, Stage Left was voted the “Best San Fransisco” area winery for 2011 on the ABC 7 “A” List.  I highly recommend visiting.  You’ll enjoy the wine and they’re great hosts!

The Wine

This was a bottle of wine I’ve had for a couple of years.  I’d love to tell you I meant to do that, but the truth is, I simply  overlooked my stash of Stage Left wines.  I still have a few bottles.  I won’t repeat that mistake with my remaining bottles of Stage Left!

The grapes for this wine were sourced from four different Central Coast vineyards;  Watch Hill Vineyard (Los Alamos – Santa Barbara County, McGinley Vineyard (Happy Canyon – Santa Ynez), Fralich Vineyard (Templeton Gap – Paso Robles) and Rancho Encino (westside Paso).  According to Stage Left…
Each vineyard adds a different element but it seems the westside Paso fruit really shows off with the black pepper on the nose and on the palate. Great acidity – really balanced – and lovely with food. This wine is drinking well now but we expect this to be fantastic in 3-5 years.
The wine was fermented with a combination of native and commercial yeasts.

2007 Stage Left Cellars Syrah

As good fortune would have it, the fact I held on to this bottle was fortuitous.  The wine is drinking beautifully now.  It’s got great balance and is definitely food friendly!

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque black red color with beguiling aromas that changed as the wine opened up. I picked up roasted meat, dark fruits, and green olive notes, On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, smooth and fresh, with velvety tannins and black raspberry, blackberry, and spiced vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. 14.4% alcohol. – 91pts

Highly recommended!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 14.4% alcohol.

Closure: Cork.

AVA: > CaliforniaCentral CoastPaso Robles

Varietal(s): 100% Syrah

Cooperage: 20 months in French and Hungarian Oak (25% new)

Retail: $28

Cases produced: 195

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Family Winemakers of California – Recap of 2012 San Francisco Tasting

I attended the 22nd annual Family Winemakers of California event held September 9th and 10th.  The event was held at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason in San Francisco.  The Family Winemakers of California (“FWC”) is the trade advocate for California’s “small family” wineries, and a huge tasting like this brings in trade, media, and wine lovers from across the country.

It’s my favorite big event because it’s a chance to taste so many different types and styles of wines from throughout California, from so many producers, large and small, old and new!

Family Winemakers Tasting Festival Pavilion; Fort Mason, San Francisco

Family Winemakers Tasting Festival Pavilion; Fort Mason, San Francisco

How big is FWC?  There were 225+ wineries, pouring upward of 750 wines, representing at least 30 appellations!

I attended the Sunday tasting, which was held from 1:00-6:00p (trade/media from 1-3p, open to the public thereafter). It’s impossible for an individual to taste all the wines, I needed a plan to maximize my time there.  Since I’ve already done a few other big events this year featuring Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Rhone varietals, I decided to focus on “Meritage Red” wines.

According to the Meritage Alliance..”a red Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Cabernet SauvignonMerlotCabernet FrancMalbecPetit Verdot or Carmenère, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend.

When I queried the FWC website for “Meritage Red” wines, it yielded 40 wineries.   The challenge with a huge event like this, is that the information isn’t always up to date.  As a result, there were a couple of wineries on my hit list that weren’t pouring Red Meritage for one reason or another and/or were pouring wines that weren’t strictly “Meritage” as defined above. No worries, I don’t mind a splash of Syrah, with my Meritage!

Inside the Festival Pavilion before the "General Public" madness!

Inside the Festival Pavilion before the “General Public” madness!

My favorite Meritage Red wines (rated “Outstanding” – 90+ points), were:

Cain Vineyard & Winery; St. Helena, CA – Founded 1980. Produces 20,000 cs/yr. Price Range $34-$100

  • 2008 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Concept The Benchland - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Earthy, dark fruit, and tobacco aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and balanced with cassis, cherry, and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. Cabernet Sauvignon 48% Merlot 25%
    Cabernet Franc 18% Petit Verdot 9% (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Five - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Earthy, cassis, pomegranate, and hint of mineral aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and round with a plush mouthfeel accompanied by black cherry, cacoao, and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 68% Merlot 16% Malbec 6% Petit Verdot 5% Cabernet Franc 5% (91 pts.)

CORE Family Winery; Santa Maria, CA – Founded 2001. Produces 5,000 cs/yr. Price Range $18-$61

  • 2007 Kuyam Cuvée Nolan - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Fruity black cherry, blue berry boxwood bud aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied and nicely balanced with ripe, juicy black cherry, blueberry and vanilla flavors. Medium + finish.
    A blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petite Verdot and 4% Merlot (90 pts.)

Dogwood Cellars; St. Healdsburg, CA – Founded 2002. Produces 3,000 cs/yr. Price Range $25-$40

  • 2007 Dogwood Cellars Meritage - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Aromatic black cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla and cedarwood aromas. On the palate it medium-full bodied and round with dusty tannins and black cherry and vanilla spice flavors. Medium+ finish. Blend of 50% Cab Sauvignon; 50% Merlot; Vineyards:Contento Vineyards, Brutocao Vineyards (91 pts.)

Estate 1856 Wines; Healdsburg, CA – Founded 2006. Produces 300 cs/yr. Price Range $30-$36

  • 2009 Estate 1856 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Aromatic cassis, black cherry, blueberry and earthy aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and balanced with bright black cherry, vanilla and blueberry flavors. Medium-long finish. 78% Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet, Petit Verdot and Malbec. (90 pts.)

Field Recordings Wine; Paso Robles, CA – Founded 2005. Produces 3,000 cs/yr. Price Range $15-$30

JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery; Paso Robles, CA – Founded 1981. Produces 75,000 cs/yr. Price Range $15-$60

  • 2009 Justin Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Isosceles - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy dark fruit and dark chocolate aromas. On the palate it’s medium-full bodied and smooth with black cherry, plum, dark chocolate and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. Blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot (91 pts.)

Lagier Meredith Vineyard; Napa, CA – Founded 1998. Produces 900 cs/yr. Price Range $30-$50

  • 2010 Chester’s Anvil Hattori Hanzo - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Lifted bright dark fruit, mixed berry and chocolate aromas. On the palate it’s medium full-bodied with mixed berry, black cherry and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. (91 pts.)

Lateral; Napa, CA – Founded 1988. Produces 2,000 cs/yr. Price Range $40-$50. (Lateral is a separate label being spun off by Kathryn Kennedy)

  • 2009 Kathryn Kennedy Lateral - USA, California
    Plum, cedarwood, leather and a bit of tar aromas. On the palate it’s full-bodied with plum, black cherry flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of 45% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot (92 pts.)

Mauritson Family Winery; Healdsburg, CA – Founded 1998. Produces 9,000 cs/yr. Price Range $21-$50

  • 2009 Rockpile Winery (Mauritson) Buck Pasture - USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile
    Cassis, cherry, and a bit a leather aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with cassis, cherry, and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish (90 pts.)

Merryvale Vineyards; St. Helena, CA – Founded 1983. Produces 12,000 cs/yr. Price Range $35-$165

  • 2009 Merryvale Profile - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Aromatic black fruits, black currant, blackberry licorice, oak and clove aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, complex with black currant, blackberry, and spice flavors. Long finish. Blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc (93 pts.)

Thomas Fogarty Winery; Woodside, CA – Founded 1981. Produces 15,000 cs/yr. Price Range $18-$55

  • 2006 Thomas Fogarty Lexington Meritage - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark fruit, cassis and cedarwoood aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, and smooth with black cherry, cassis and vanilla flavors. Ready to drink now. Medium+ finish. (90 pts.)

Rua; Windsor, CA – Founded 2009. Produces 400 cs/yr. Price Range $36-$36

  • 2009 Rua - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Black fruit, spicy oak and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with bright blueberry, blackberry and spice flavors. Long finish. Blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc; co-fermented.(91 pts.)

Spring Mountain Vineyard; St. Helena, CA – Founded 1873. Produces 7,000 cs/yr. Price Range $40-$125

  • 2008 Spring Mountain Vineyard Elivette - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Dark fruit, chocolate, oak and a whiff of mint- floral aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied balanced and smooth with black cherry, chocolate flavors. Long finish Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Cabernet Franc 13%, Merlot 6%, Petit Verdot 5%, Malbec. (92 pts.)
After I finished hitting the 40 or so wineries tasting Red Meritage wines, it was time for “Taster’s Choice”, which is pretty much what it sounds like.  It’s a chance for me to taste other than Red Meritage wines from new (at least to me) producers, check in on favorites, and/or local wineries I’ve not had a chance to taste recently.  I should refer to it as the “speed round” since it’s always at the end of the day!
Wines I rated outstanding while T.B.W.A (Tasting by walking around) were:

Stage Left Cellars; Oakland, CA – Founded 2004. Produces 1,200 cs/yr. Price Range $24-$50

  • 2010 Stage Left Cellars The Go Getter - USA, California, Central Coast
    Aromatic honeysuckle, tropical, pineapple citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with a great mouthfeel and very good acidity accompanied by stone-fruit, honey, and citrus flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of 57% Viognier, 29% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne. (90 pts.)
The lineup of Ancien Wines!

The lineup of Ancien Wines!

Ancien Wines; Napa CA – Founded 1992. Produces 3,500 cs/yr. Price Range $36-$55

  • 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Red Dog Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
    Ruby color with aromatic cherry, baking spice, and a bit of tobacco aromas. On the palate it’s medium-full bodied, silky smooth and well-balanced with tart cherry, cranberry, and cinnamon clove flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.3 alcohol. (92 pts.)

Carica Wines; Alameda, CA – Founded 2005. Produces 975 cs/yr. Price Range $21-$36

  • 2010 Carica Grenache- USA, California, Central Valley, Clements Hills
    Cherry, and dried herb aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with juicy cherry, cranberry and spice flavors. Medium-long finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Carica The Siren Kick Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark fruit, Herbs de Provence and white pepper aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with black cherry, chocolate, plum and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. Rhone Blend.(91 pts.)
  • 2009 Carica Petite Sirah Kick Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Mixed black fruit, berry aromas. On the palate it’s intense, medium-full bodied with dusty tannins, and ripe blackberry, plum and spicy vanilla flavors. Medium + finish. (91 pts.)

Canihan Family Winery; Sonoma, CA – Founded 2003. Produces 1,200 cs/yr. Price Range $35-$69

  • 2006 Canihan Family Cabernet Franc - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark fruits – black currant and black cherry, eucalyptus, and a bit of chocolate. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, and smooth with well-integrated tannins, and black currant, cherry, and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Canihan Family Syrah Exuberance Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Mixed berry, dried herbs, white pepper, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied with blackberry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Medium + finish (91 pts.)

Family Winemakers of California is a great event that’s circle in red, underlined and highlighted on my calendar of wine events! I just wish I could clone myself a couple of times so I could taste more wines.  I’m shooting for both days next year! ;-)

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2012 Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting Recap

As a media guest, I attended the 15th annual “Celebration of American Rhone Wines” in San Francisco last weekend.  It was my first Rhone Rangers tasting.  Rhone Rangers is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the Rhone varietal wines produced in the U.S.  It was a huge, but well-organized two-day event.  Saturday featured educational seminars (including one called “Wine & Swine, A Pairing of American Rhone Wines And Bacon”  complete with a “Baconologist”!) and a fund raising winemaker dinner/auction. And Sunday, which I attended, featured more seminars and the Grand Tasting.

By my count, there were 114 wineries and 500 or so wines available for tasting!  With that many  wineries/wines I knew I needed a plan to maximize the 3 hours I set aside for the event.  I decided to only taste “GSM” (predominately composed of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) blends, with 30 minutes at the end for what I call “taster’s choice” (more on that later).  When I attend an event like this, in addition to focusing on a single varietal or style of wine,  I try to further narrow my focus by tasting wines from wineries that are new to me.  That meant I was going to have to skip favorites like Bonny Doon, Core, Frick, Quivira, and Tercero.  That’s always a challenge for me because my vinous conscious seems to constantly whisper in my ear… “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  Thus the “tasters choice” where I allow myself to a.) taste wines from some of my favorite wineries, and b.) the option of not writing tasting notes.

That was the plan.  But as Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf  once said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.  Well at least mine didn’t!  Not for this year anyway.  I quickly realized that “Red Blend” per the program, didn’t necessarily translate into GSMs. That’s not a bad thing, I love the diversity of style here in California as opposed to the more constrained Rhône models.  But, as a result, I vastly underestimated how many “Red Blend” wines were available.  I got through the A-L wineries (the wineries were organized in alphabetical order) when I realized I only had 30 or so minutes left for my “taster’s choice”.  Oh well, I did taste about four dozen very good to excellent wines. That’s a great day in my book…and there’s always next year!

On to the wines I sniffed, sipped and  (mostly) spit!

My favorite wines (rated 90 points or higher) were:

  • 2008 Calcareous Trés Violet
  • 2007 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Vertigo
  • 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Le Thief
  • 2007 Hearthstone Vineyards and Winery Lodestone
  • 2009 Inspiration Vineyards Syrah
  • 2009 Jada Vineyard Hell’s Kitchen
  • 2009 JC Cellars Misc. Stuff
  • 2009 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem
  • 2009 Justin Vineyards & Winery Savant
  • 2011 Lagier Meredith Syrah Rosé
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Syrah
  • 2010 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The Globetrotter
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The ExPat
  • 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas
  • 2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel

My complete tasting notes  and ratings follow:

  • 2010 Adelaida Version White - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Tropical fruit, peach, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied with tropical fruit, peach, and slight mineral flavors. Medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Adelaida Version Red - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Berry, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied smooth with dark cherry, raspberry flavors. Medium finish (88 pts.)

Maggie Tillman - Alta Colina

  • 2009 Alta Colina GSM - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Red fruit and oak aromas with ripe raspberry and cherry flavors. Smooth with a medium long finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 AmByth Estate Adamo - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy,floral red berry aromas. On the palate, light-bodied with tart raspberry, cherry flavors. Blend of Grenache (59%), Mourvèdre (17%), Syrah (13%), and Counoise (11% (87 pts.)
  • 2009 AmByth Estate ReVera - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red fruit, garrigue aromas. Light-bodied with tart dark cherry, and spice flavors. Blend of Mourvedre (57%), Grenache (22%), Syrah (11%), and Counoise (10%) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 AmByth Estate Maiestas - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark fruit, and slight floral aromas. Light-bodied with tart dark cherry blackberry flavors. Blend of Syrah (45%), Mourvedre (20%), Counoise (20%), and Grenache  (15%) (86 pts.)
  • 2011 Anglim Rosé - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Red fruit, and citrus aromas. Light-bodied, dry and well balanced with raspberry citrus flavors.  100% Syrah. (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark red fruit and herbs de provence aromas. Light-bodied with fruity slightly tart raspberry, dark cherry, and spice flavors (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Calcareous Trés Violet - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Pretty dark red fruit, violet, and baking spice aromas. Medium-bodied with black cherry, raspberry flavors. Blend of Syrah (42%), Mourvedre (29%), and Grenache (29%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Caliza Winery Cohort - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fresh blackberry, plum with a hint of musky aromas. Medium bodied with slightly tart blackberry, raspberry and hint of mocha flavors. Blend of Syrah (55%), Petite Sirah, (20%), Primitivo (20%) and Grenache (5%) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Caliza Winery Azimuth - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark fruit, cinnamon/clove and oak aromas. Medium bodied, young with blackberry, cocoa, and cinnamon/clove flavors. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Clos Saron Out of the Blue - USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Red fruit, raisiny plum, and slight floral aromas. Light-bodied with good acidity, and tart cherry, plum flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre and Syrah. (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Clos Saron Holy Moly - USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Smoky, raisiny cherry aromas. Raisiny tart baked cherry flavors. Blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (87 pts.)
  • 2006 Clos Saron Syrah La Cuvée Mysterieuse - USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Baked red fruits and slight oak aroma. Light-medium bodied with tart cherry flavors. Blend of Syrah and Merlot (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Cosa Obra Proprietor’s Blend - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Black currant, earthy, spicy aromas . Medium-bodied with blackberry and spice flavors. (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Cosa Obra Proprietor’s Blend - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Tight dark fruit and spice aromas. Medium-bodied and a bit tannic with blackberry, black cherry and spice flavors. Needs some time. (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Crystal Basin Cellars Victorie – Grand Reserve - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
    Dark red fruit with slight floral aromas. Light-bodied with black cherry, blackberry flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (33%), Syrah (34%) and Grenache (33%). (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Curtis Reserve - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Smokey dark red fruit, clove and floral aromas. Medium-bodied with red currant, black cherry and spice flavors. A blend of Grenache (50%), Syrah (25%) and Mourvèdre (25%) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Curtis Heritage Cuvée - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Dark red fruit and slight resinous aromas. Light-bodied with tart cherry, raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (39%), Mourvèdre (26%), Cinsault (19%) and Syrah (16%) (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Domaine de la Terre Rouge Tête-à-Tête - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Spicy red and black fruits, and oak aromas. Light-bodied with cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre & Grenache Very good value at $18 (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Domaine de la Terre Rouge L’Autre - USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Cherry, raspberry, and vanillin oak aromas. Approaching medium-bodied with black cherry, and vanilla flavors (88 pts.)

Edward Sellers of the eponymous winery

  • 2007 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Vertigo - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Smokey, baking spice, dark red fruit aromas. Medium-bodied, velvety with silky tannins, and dark cherry, raspberry, and vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Grenache (71%), Mourvèdre (16%), and Syrah(13%) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Le Thief - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy cinnamon black fruits, and slightly musky aromas. Medium-bodied with black cherry, blackberry, and vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Syrah (56%), Mourvèdre (26%),Grenache (12%),and Cinsault (6%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Folin Cellars Misceo - USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley
    Low-key red currant, cherry, and cedarwood aromas. Medium-bodied, and smooth with cherry, and red currant flavors. Blend of Syrah (50%), Mourvèdre (37%), and Grenache (13%) (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Hahn Winery GSM - USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Berry and spice aromas. Light-bodied, and smooth with blackberry, and raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (62%), Syrah (34%), and Mourvèdre (4%) (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Hearthstone Vineyards and Winery Slipstone Rhone - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fruity cherry ,and spice aromas. Approaching medium-bodied with fruit-forward cherry, and raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (65%), and Syrah(35%) (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Hearthstone Vineyards and Winery Lodestone - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Plum, cherry and dried herb aromas. Medium-bodied with dark cherry, plum, blackberry flavors. Blend of Syrah (50%), Grenache (33%), Mourvèdre (17%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Holly’s Hill Patriarche - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County
    Red fruit, with a touch of garrigue aromas. Medium-bodied with cherry, plum and vanilla flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (60%), Syrah (23%), Grenache (14%), and Counoise (3%) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Inspiration Vineyards Syrah - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Fragrant red fruit, and floral aromas. Medium-full bodied with dark cherry, mocha, and vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Syrah (93%), Viognier (7%) (90 pts.)

Josh Messina pouring Jada wines

  • 2009 Jada Vineyard Hell’s Kitchen - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fragrant red fruits, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied, fruit-forward, and smooth with raspberry, cherry, mocha and vanilla flavors. Blend of Syrah (32%), Grenache (31%), Mourvèdre (23%), and Tannat (14%) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 JC Cellars Misc. Stuff - USA, California
    Black and red berry, and spice aromas. Medium-bodied, and supple with vibrant black cherry, raspberry, vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem - USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Red fruit, white pepper, and cedarwood aromas. Medium-bodied with nicely balanced dark cherry, and black currant flavors. Blend of Syrah (65%), and Merlot (35%) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Justin Vineyards & Winery Savant - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy black and red fruit aromas hint of licorice aromas. Medium-bodied, and smooth with spicy black cherry, and cassis flavors. Blend of Syrah (65%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Kukkula Sisu - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fruity red fruity, mocha, and a hint of musky/meaty aromas. Medium-full bodied with mixed black and red berry espresso flavors. Blend of Syrah(51%),Grenache (27%), and Mourvèdre (22%)(89 pts.)
  • 2011 Lagier Meredith Syrah Rosé - USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Pretty berry and melon aromas. Approaching medium-bodied, well-balanced and dry with cherry, raspberry flavors.100% Syrah (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Syrah - USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Dark red fruit, and pepper aromas. Medium-bodied with intense black cherry, raspberry, espresso flavors. (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Black cherry, raspberry and slight floral smoky aromas. Full-bodied, robust, round with well-integrated tannins and black cherry, raspberry, and vanilla flavors. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars Syrah Alder Springs - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Dark red fruit, sweet spice, and floral aromas. Medium bodied and nicely balanced with raspberry, strawberry, and a touch of mineral flavors. 100% Syrah. 13.7 % Alcohol (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The Globetrotter - USA, California
    Red fruit, dried herbs, and slight earthy aromas. Medium-bodied, fruit, but balanced with ripe cherry and black raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (48%), Syrah (40%), and Mourvèdre (12%)(90 pts.)
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The ExPat - USA, California, Central Coast
    Dark red fruit, spice, and cedarwood aromas. Medium-bodied, balanced with vibrant dark cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Blend of Syrah(50%), Petite Sirah (33%), and Grenache (17%)(90 pts.)
  • 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Tropical fruit, white peach, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied, and creamy with good acidity and peach and hint of mineral flavors. Blend of Grenache Blanc (45%), Viognier (34%), Roussanne (18%), and Marsanne (3%) 13.5% Alcohol (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Pretty floral and stone fruit aromas. Medium-bodied, and balance with white peach, and vanilla flavors. Blend of Viognier (54%), Grenache Blanc (30%), Marsanne (8%), and Roussanne (8%) 13.5% Alcohol (89 pts.)
  • 2011 Tablas Creek Rosé - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Watermelon and red fruit aromas. Approaching medium-bodied, and dry with cherry, strawberry and citrus on the back palate flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (58%), Grenache (30%), and Counoise (12%) 14.5% Alcohol (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Sweet dark fruits, tobacco, and spice. Medium bodied and supple with black cherry, plum and spice flavors. Blend of 39% Syrah/36% Grenache/22% (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Intense dark red fruit, violet and spice aromas. Medium-full bodied, and well-balanced with vibrant dark red cherry, spice, and mineral flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (40%), Syrah(28%),Grenache (27%), and Counoise (5%) (92 pts.)

My takeaways from the event?

  • Paso Robles, as a region is still kickin’ ass and taking names when it comes to Rhone!
  • There’s definitely a trend toward lower alcohol wines
  • Um…I’ll need a better plan (and more time) next year!
  • The state of Rhones in California? – Fantastic and seemingly getting better!

All in all, it was a great event!  It’s circled in red on my calendar for next year!

Recap of 6th Annual Dark & Delicious – The Petite Sirah Event Of The Year!

I attended the 6th annual Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) last Friday.  D&D is an excellent opportunity to take a walk on the “dark side” for  Petite Sirah (“P.S” – a.k.a. “Pet”.)and food lovers.  The event is put on by an advocacy group of P.S. winegrowers, and producers knowns as P.S. I Love You.  This year’s event featured 58 wineries, and 36 food companies.  Petite Sirah tends not to be top of mind when it comes to red wine (or actually in the case of P.S., mostly inky purple-black wine) but for those of us who love P.S. this is the event of the year.

Here’s a quick 411 on P.S.

  • Created by François Durif, it is the love child of a noble grape, Syrah, and an obscure peasant grape Peloursin in 1880
  • 90% of the world’s P.S. vineyards are in California
  • Produces big, masculine, typically ink-colored wines that tend to be tannic with moderate to high-acidity
  • Sometimes referred to as Durif

P.S. I Love You Does Sound Better Than Durif I Love You!

It was a great night of wine and food.  And for the first time I came across a winery that referred to one of their P.S. as Durif – Berryessa Gap. My favorite wines were Aver Family Vineyards (2008 Blessings), ClayhouseBerryessa Gap (2006 Rocky Ridge Collection Tradition), Robert Biale, Rosenblum, and Stage Left Cellars (2006 Russell Family P.S),  along with Ondonata, and Ridge Vineyards, newcomers to the event.  I attended the event last year, and there seemed to be a bit more diversity of style this year.  I tasted more exemplars of P.S. showing more restraint and balance, than last year.  Petite Sirah can be an overly exuberant, jammy wine.  Perhaps that’s why I saw more chocolate vendors than I have at any other wine event.  And that style has plenty of fans, but I welcomed the change of pace.

Paella Struesel

In addition to the great P.S.  there was plenty of food.  I was impressed by diversity of food.  There were dishes like, Paella strudel, Sous-Vide Pork Belly with Umeboshi Plum Sauce with Micro Greens, and my dish of the night Bhel Puri, an “Indian Street Food” of puffed rice, garbanzo flour noodles, wheat crisps, Russet potatoes, Jazz apples, Sweet onion, Zante currants, mint cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, and blackberry chutney which was just fabulous with Petite Sirah.

Er…I had one or three too many of these…Amazing!

After tasting sampling the P.S. with a variety of foods, I gave it try with chocolate.  Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel, the varietals most often paired with chocolate has something to worry about.  I generally prefer dessert wines with my chocolate, ,and P.S. with my meal, but for fans of dry red wines P.S. works quite well too.  That lead to my favorite chocolate and P.S. pairing of the night – Bacon Salted Caramel (made with Zoe’s Meats applewood smoked bacon, organic sugar and an English dark cane syrup dipped in 72% E. Guittard chocolate and finished with applewood smoked salt) from Nosh This and two Petite Sirahs from Stage Left Cellars.

It was a great event.  Dark & Delicious will continue to be circled in red on my calendar of “must attend” wine events.  It’s a purple-teeth stained great wine and food event!

Recap of 2011 Family Winemakers Tasting in San Franciso

Last week I attended, as a media guest, the Twenty-first Annual Family Winemakers of California (“FWC”) tasting held at Fort Mason. The event was held over two days, August 21st, and 22nd. Alas, duty (work) called on Monday, so I opted to attend Sunday only. This was a huge event, even bigger than Sonoma InThe City, which to date, had been the largest tasting I’ve attended. There were over 300 producers (probably about 1000 different wines would be my guess) from throughout California pouring at the event. On Sunday, the event was from 1:00-6:00p (trade/media from 1-3p, open to the public thereafter), so I needed a plan to maximize my time there. After considerable teeth gnashing, I decided to focus on red Rhône wines.

Red Rhône wines are primarily comprised of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (a.k.a. “GSM”) sometimes as a blend, sometimes on a stand-alone basis (for a PDF of red Rhônes click here). Red Rhônes are certainly on the rise in California, with Paso Robles leading the way. I once saw Rhônes described as the vinous equivalent of a “primal scream”. That’s what I love about them, along with their affinity for food.

I thought the event was very well organized, although there was a bit of a challenge with a long line, and a bit of chaos getting in when the doors opened at 1. The wineries were arranged alphabetically, which made it easy to find the wineries I was looking for. There was good news and bad news about the tools and resources provided by FWC. The good news is that the FWC had a helpful website that included a list of participating wineries, and a sortable Varietal map showing who was pouring what. There was also a very informative brochure with details about the participating wineries. The not so good news is that the Varietal map wasn’t as accurate as I hoped. As I worked my way through my red Rhone list, I discovered some wineries listed as pouring red Rhônes were in fact pouring either a Rosé made with red Rhône grapes, or red wine blend that may have included red Rhône varietals. Additionally, wineries pouring Petite Sirah were counted as red Rhônes, when technically Petite Sirah isn’t considered to be a Rhône varietal (at least not in France, though the California based Rhone Rangers list Petite Sirah as a red Rhone varietal) That didn’t create any heartburn for me because I enjoy Petite Sirah, and I consider them to be spiritually akin Rhône, if not genetically, or otherwise deemed to be Rhônes. In fact, for the first time, I came across a few “GSP” (Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah) blends which I found quite enjoyable! Purists…you have been forewarned ;-).

My tasting plan included 38 wineries listed as pouring red Rhônes, and 8 of the wineries were new to the event. After I tasted through the red Rhônes on my list, I had about 30 minutes of “Taster’s Choice” time, and arbitrarily selected a few more wineries for tasting. I tasted 70 wines from 40 wineries. My favorites (I scored 90 points, or higher) including my detailed tasting notes follow. Note: The price range represents the range for wines poured at FWC. Cs/Yr = Annual case production.

Carica

Carica was established in 2005 by Charlie Dollbaum. I’ve visited the winery, which is one of several wineries at Rockwall Wine Company, a couple of times. In particular, I remember enjoying their Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, and Temptation Rhone blend. 975 Cs/Yr. Range: $18-$36. Nice QPR on these!

  • 2008 Carica Petite Sirah Kick Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County – Dark fruit aromas with rich blackberry flavors. Good balance with supple tannins and medium long finish (90 pts.)

Core Wine Company

This was a new to me winery out of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County. I’ve been to a couple of different wine festivals in Santa Barbara the last few year, but don’t recall seeing them pouring. My loss…very nice wines! Founded in 2001. 4,000 Cs/Yr Range: $19-$61

  • 2007 Core Elevation Sensation Alta Mesa – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Dark red fruit, bittersweet chocolate, and spice aromas with intense dark cherry, spice, vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. 62% Grenache, 38% Mourvedre (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Core Grenache Santa Barbara County – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Cherry, plum, and spice aromas which follow onto a round palate. Long finish. 85% Grenache; 15% Syrah (90 pts.)

Enkidu Wine

This was another new to me winery. This one is located in Sonoma, and was founded in 2004. 5,000 Cs/Yr. Range: $20-$45

  • 2008 Enkidu Humbaba – USA, California, North Coast
    Blackberry, dark cherry aromas, and palate. Well structured and intense with medium long finish. 63% Syrah; 25% Petite Syrah, and 12% equal part of Grenache, Mourvédre, Counoise, and Tannat from 4 vineyards in Sonoma (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Enkidu Syrah Odyssey – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Intriguing floral, dark fruit, and spice nose. On the palate moderately complex with dark red fruit, currant, spice flavors. Round with a medium finish. From cool climate vineyard in Santa Rosa. Unfiltered and unfined. (90 pts.)

Grey Stack Cellars

Santa Rosa based winery established in 2005. 2,000 Cs/Yr Range: $24-$45

Harrison Clarke Vineyard and Winery

This is one of the wineries I stumbled upon during my “Taster Choice” time. They had several Rhone blend, but didn’t turn on my search for red Rhone producers. The winery is in Solvang. They produce about 800 Cs/Yr. Range: $18-$52. I tried their flagship wine, but would also have liked to have tasted their Grenache, and Estate Syrah.

Jemrose

This is one of the wineries I didn’t get to at the last large tasting I attended, Sonoma In The City. Fortunately, my fellow wine blogger Richard Jennings didn’t. After I read his recap, this winery hit my radar. They produce very good wines. The winemaker is Michael Browne of Kosta Browne. They are located in Santa Rosa. Range: $32-$65

  • 2007 Jemrose Syrah Cardiac Hill Bennett Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Dark fruit, sweet wood, and smoky aromas. On the palate, dark fruit, vanilla flavors. Full bodied anad supple with a medium long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Dark red fruit, oak aromas with plum, dark red cherry, and cocoa flavors. Round and elegant with a medium long finish. (91 pts.)

Justin Vineyards and Winery

This is a winery I sought out during my “Taster’s Choice” time. The winery is located in Paso Robles. I didn’t get a chance to go the last time when I was in Paso, but I’d heard nothing but good things about Justin. The wine I tried was a Bordeaux blend, and it lived up to the hype. The next time I’m in Paso, Justin will be a “must” visit. Founded in 1981. 50,000 Cs/Yr Range: $15-$62

  • 2008 Justin Vineyard Isosceles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red fruit, oak, cassis aromas with ripe dark cherry and cassis palate. Well structured with a long finish. Bordeaux blend – 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot (91 pts.)

L’Aventure Winery

This is another wonderful Paso Robles producer. I had the pleasure of visiting last month. If you’re ever in Paso, this winery is a must. Founded in 1998. 6,500 Cs/Yr. Range: $50-85

  • 2009 L’Aventure Côte-à-Côte Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    GSM Blend. Dark red fruit, tea, hint of tobacco aromas. Vibrant dark red cherry, red currant, and vanilla flavors. Young, but smooth. Should just get better with time. Long finish.(92 pts.)

Orin Swift

I’m familiar with Orin Swift, having enjoyed their “Prisoner” Zinfandel blend a couple of years ago. They are a well known Napa based winery. Founded in 1998. 10,000 Cs/Yr Range: $25-$55

  • 2009 Orin Swift Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes D66 – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
    Dark red fruit, with subtle floral, and oak aromas. On the palate well structured with burst of ripe dark cherry, spice flavors. Medium bodied with a long finish. Inaugural release of new winery and vineyard in France. 80% Grenache, 12% Syrah, and 8% Carignan. Aged in 100% French oak, 25% new for 12 months. (91 pts.)

Robert Biale Vineyards

This is a winery that first came to my attention earlier this year, when I attended “Dark & Delicious”, the annual Petite Sirah (a.k.a. “Pet”, “PS”) put on by P.S. I Love You. I really like their Pets, and Zinfandels. They are definitely on the rise! 9,000 Cs/Yr Range: $40-$75

  • 2008 Robert Biale Basic Black North Coast – USA, California, North Coast
    Dark fruit, violet aromas with ripe blackberry, vanilla flavor. Fruit forward, nervy, and vibrant in the mouth. Medium long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Royal Punishers – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Blackberry floral aromas with ripe baked blackberry, vanilla and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. Young, but relatively supple. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Thomann Station – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Blackberry, dark red cherry, spice aromas with a blast of juicy blackberry, cherry, spice flavors on the palate. Well behaved tannins, and a long finish. (91 pts.)

Stage Left Cellars

Stage Left is an Oakland based “Urban winery”. They source fruit from throughout the state of California. I’ve been to their winery a few times, and am a fan. Founded in 2004. 1,200 Cs/Yr. Range: $22-$48

  • 2008 Stage Left Cellars The Globetrotter – USA, California
    Dark red fruit, dust, and spice aromas, with dark red cherry, black currant, and spice flavors with fine grained tannins, nervy acidity, and a medium long finish. 41% Syrah, 39% Grenache, 20% Mourvédre (90 pts.)

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Definitely one of the gems in Paso Robles! The winery is a partnership between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas founder of Vineyard Brands. The wine I tasted is their flagship red Rhone blend. Their vine were imported from France. They make great Rhone blends. Founded 1989. 20,000 Cs/Yr. Range: $20-$55l

  • 2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Intense dark red fruit, violet and spice aromas with intense dark red cherry, spice, and mineral flavors. Balanced, and well structured with a medium long finish. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre, and Counoise (92 pts.)

Turley Wine Cellars

Another Paso based winery. They have a well-earned reputation for Zinfandel, and Pets so I was a bit surprised to see them pouring a Cinsault, which you don’t find a lot on a stand-alone basis. According to Richard Jennings it’s only distributed to restaurants. That’s a shame, because it was excellent!

  • 2010 Turley Cinsault El Porrón – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Earthy red fruit and spice aromas with vibrant red cherry, spice, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Turley Zinfandel Dragon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Black raspberry, cherry aromas with juicy red cherry, red currant, flavors. Medium bodied, smooth with wonderful intensity and balance. Medium long finish. (90 pts.)

Earlier I mentioned trying several “GSP” wines. The couple I tried, and enjoyed were from Pierce Ranch (the best “value” producer I sampled), and Sycamore.

What I always enjoy about big tastings such as this, is finding exciting wines from producers I haven’t previously tasted. The “discoveries” for me at this tasting were Core, Enkidu, Jemrose, and Harrison Clarke. It was also good to check in on producers whose wines I’ve previously enjoyed as they continue their ascension. It was a great tasting, and next year I hope to attend both days!

Petite Sirah Paradise…Dark and Delicious!

Last Friday, the 5th annual Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) Food and Wine Tasting was held at the Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. D&D, a showcase for Petite Sirah, is put on by P.S. I Love You. There were 47 wineries (click here for list) pouring at Dark and Delicious 2011, along with 30 food vendors (click here for list). It’s an event that first came to my attention in 2010, but I’d just missed it, so I’ve been waiting about a year of so for it to come back around.  I’m so glad I did.  The sell-out event delivered on both the wine, and food fronts.

On the wine front, it was my intent that this would be first event where I would attempt to taste like a pro.  That is taste “x” number of wines (and “x” was definitely an unknown for me), and write detailed tasting notes on each wine tasted.  Well, as Colin Powell once said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”.   Such was my experience “D&D” in terms of memorializing my tastings with tasting notes.  My plan?  I decided it would be best to prioritize the wineries because there would be no way for me to taste at them all.  I did so by cross-referencing the list of D&D wineries to the P.S. winners in 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (“SFCWC”), which was bifurcated into P.S. up to $19.99, and P.S. $20 and above.  There were 15 winners from the SFCWC at D&D, and probably 20 or so wines to taste.  Plus I figured, I’d throw in a few more since that wasn’t even half of the wineries representing at the event.  Alas, the crowd, and my lack of preparation (My hands weren’t free to easily take notes, but I think mostly I underestimated the challenge in tasting so many wines and keeping detailed notes – my hat goes off to the professionals that do this, it’s very challenging – I’m not there yet) conspired against me.  I was forced to abandon my plan, take the night off and simply enjoy the bounty of wine, and food. I ended up tasting at 27 of the 47 wineries (liberal use was made of dump buckets).  My favorites were as follows (there’s not in order of preference):

Robert Biale - 2008 Thomman Station P.S.(Napa Valley/St. Helena) -$36, and 2008 Royal Punisher P.S.(Napa Valley) – $36

Tercero2007 “The Climb” , 50/50 blend of Syrah and P.S. (Central Coast/Santa Barbara)-$28,  and 2007 P.S.(Central Coast/Santa Ynez Valley) – $28

Miro Cellars, 2008 P.S. – (Sonoma/Dry Creek Valley) – $23

Harney Lane 2007 P.S. (Central Valley/Lodi)- $24

Stage Left Cellars2007 P.S.(Central Coast/Paso Robles) – $36, and 2008 Ex-Pat a blend of 51% Mourvedre blend/49% P.S. (Central Coast/Paso Robles) – $24

For value(<$20), my favorites were:

Turkovich Family Winery 2008 “The Boss” P.S.

Michael David  – 2008 Petite Petit (Central Valley/Lodi)  85%  P.S./15% Petit Verdot – $18.

On the food front, what I really appreciated about this event,(besides the fact I came very hungry, and left very full) was that adjacent to most of the wineries were food vendors with foods that paired beautifully with the various styles of P.S. It was great to see that P.S. pairs well with so many foods other the oft recommended grilled steak, sausages, and chocolate.  My favorite food samples that demonstrated the versatility of P.S. as a pairing partner were Spicy Bacon Almond Caramel Corn (an interesting combination of savory, slightly sweet, and slightly spicy was a ), Pork Tartlet (Slow cooked pork with Pecorino cheese and pears), Paella, and Grilled Pork with Chayote, and Plantain with a smoky tomato sauce.  The most unusual pairing for me was Berry Tiramisu with a jammy P.S. from Ehrenberg.

Yes, indeed this one goes on my calendar as a recurring event!

Let me know what some of your favorite P.S. is from either D&D, or a recent tasting, by posting a comment.