Wine Of The Week – 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T-Block Hudson Vineyard

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for July 28-Aug 4 is the 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T Block Hudson Vineyard.

The Winery

I previously did a post on the winery entitled Bedrock Wine Co: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together back in January, wherein I focused on the sources of Bedrock’s grapes.   Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock.  You can check out his full bio here, but suffice it to say he’s been making wine since he was “knee-high to a bug”.  Here’s what the “About” section of the Bedrock website says about the winery…

Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop. Fruit from only the most excellent vineyard sites is hand pitch-forked into the destemmer, fermented in open top redwood and stainless vats using only native yeasts, and are manually basket pressed by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson into the sexiest oak from the coldest French forests.

In terms of the wine making process itself at Bedrock, it’s surprisingly Ole Skool (or as Morgan might put it “Cro-magnum”).  Grapes are pitch-forked into a small Zambelli destemmer, the punch-downs are manual, after fermentation the wines are basket pressed in an Italian press that is manually operated.   It’s a very manual and time-consuming process, but I can vouch for the results.  Peterson is making some spectacular wines!

The Wine

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Hudson Ranch Vineyard.  According to the Hudson Vineyard website…

Hudson Vineyards produces 10 different varietals of fruit, all of exceptional quality in the distinct Los Carneros AVA of Napa, California. With 160 acres planted, we sell fruit to over 30 wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma Counties. Of particular note are those wines that receive vineyard designation status. While Hudson Vineyards sells grapes to over 30 wineries, only a handful of producers have vineyard designation status.

This is not only a vineyard designate wine,  the grapes are from a specific “block” within the vineyard  which takes the concept of  terroir to the next level of varietal distinctiveness.

The wine was fermented on native yeast with 33% whole clusters.


My tasting notes follow:

Inky opaque purple color with very aromatic meaty, smoky, white pepper, dark fruit and violet aromas. On the palate, it medium-bodied, and round with a velvety texture, and beautifully balanced cassis, black raspberry, dark chocolate, and spice flavors. Long finish 92pts


Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Details:  14.8% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: Napa Carneros.

Varietal(s): 96% Syrah, 4% Viognier.

Production: 160 cases

Suggested Retail: $39 USD

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The LIke…NV Poema Brut Cava

This week’s sparkler is a Cava from Spain.  I picked this up a BevMo for $9.99 (It was priced at $10.99 pre-BevMo club discount )

Poema is a small producer (when you consider the likes of Codorníu, Freixenet, and Segura Viudas), that is in Korbrand’s portfolio.  They own 20% of the vineyard sources.  The rest are under long-term contract with various growers.  In addition to this Cava, Poema also produces Extra-Dry and Rosado (Rosé) Cava.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick 411 on Cava..

Unlike Champagne, Cava isn’t from a particular region in Spain, rather it’s a term used for Spanish sparklers made in the traditional method (known as Méthode Champenoise) used in France.  While there are some other regions in Spain that also make Cava,  about 95% of the production  comes from the traditional home of Cava, the Penedes region in Catalunya (a.k.a. Catalonia)  The basic rules for making wines that may be called Cava are:

  • Must be made in the traditional method.
  • Must age on lees in the bottle in which it will be sold for a minimum of 9 months, 18 months for Reservas and 24 months for Gran Reservas.
  • All the grapes used must be white grapes – the 3 most common being Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Parellada (pronounced pa-re-yada), and Xarel.lo (pronounced cha-rel-low) – unless you are making a Rose, in which case certain red grapes are permitted

NV Poema Brut

Where it’s from: SpainCatalunyaCava

The grape(s) Xarello, Macabeo and Parellada.

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 11.5.%

Dosage: Brut (0-15 grams of sugar per liter)

Retail: $10

My tasting notes follow:

Light golden-yellow straw color with surprisingly persistent bead of tiny bubbles, and toasty apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied with fairly creamy mousse, approaches off-dry and displays easy apple/pear flavors. Short finish – 85pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I think this one would be pleasant as a sipper, but it’s also good with food.  This would also make be a great bubbly for a picnic, or with other light summertime fare.

Recommendation:  This is a good Cava that represents a solid value in Cava, but the field is crowded.  It’s worth a try…but not a re-purchase for me.

Wine Words Demystified: Bouquet

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Bouquet…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

Technically, bouquet refers specifically to the aspects of a wine’s scent derived from the winemaking processes and BOTTLE AGING

Image courtesy of

The above definition differentiates between bouquet, and aromas (with bouquet being the smells that result from both fermentation process and aging).  This is one of those areas where wine lovers can be perceived to be snobby if they get persnickety when it comes to differentiating between the two.  My advice?  Unless you’re a professional taster, fuhgeddaboudit!  Just refer to what you smell as aromas.

But if you care enough to get it technically right, then here’s what you need to know about what your smell when you stick you nose in a glass of wine. The primary aromas of a wine are from the grapes.  They are distinct by variety and are typically fruity and floral in nature.  Then there are secondary aromas, caused by fermentation,  oak and bottle aging.  The secondary aromas are the bouquet.  Secondary aromas include fig, vanilla, cloves, yeast, walnut, hazelnut, leather, licorice, etc.

 The list of perceived smells is endless, but you can improve your ability to describe the aromas you smell in a wine.  I found this post from Norcal Wine entitled “You CAN be a Good Taster” informative and helpful.  One of the key takeaways from the article for me is taste and smell a lot of things.  By doing so, you can expand your “vocabulary” of aromas.

Wine Words Demystified: Aromas

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word/phrase is Aromas

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A term broadly used to describe a wine’s smell.  Technically however, the smell of any wine is divided into the aroma, the smell that derives from the grapes, and the BOUQUET a more complex smell that a wine acquires after AGING.

The above definition differentiates between aromas, and bouquet (with bouquet being the smells that result from both fermentation process and aging).  This is one of those areas where wine lovers can be perceived to be snobby if they get persnickety when it comes to the difference between the two.  My advice?  Unless you’re a professional taster, fuhgeddaboudit!  Just refer to what you smell as aromas.

On the other hand, if you do happen to be a professional taster, then you might want to further break down aromas into one of three categories – 1.) Primary (from the grapes), 2.) Secondary (from the fermentation process and oak aging), and 3.) Tertiary (from bottle aging).

A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bou...

A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bouquet of wine in the glass as part of wine tasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what I find fascinating about aromas – it’s through the aromas we actually taste wine (and everything else) Here’s why.  The human tongue is limited to distinguishing between one of the five primary tastes (vs. flavors):

  1. Acidity
  2. Sweetness
  3. Bitterness
  4. Saltiness
  5. Unami

Flavor though, according to Wikipedia:

The wide array of fruit, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral and woodsy flavor perceived in wine are derived from aroma notes interpreted by the olfactory bulb

In other words, what we perceive to be as flavors are the senses of taste and smell combined!  So after we sniff a wine to smell its aromas, the process of perceiving tastes and flavors continues when we taste a wine because we also absorb its aromas through the retro-nasal passage that connects our mouth to our nose.

T.M.I.? Probably, but that’s why aromas are an important component of tasting and enjoying wine.  There’s such a strong link between a wine’s aromas and its flavors and taste!

2008 JC Cellars Marsanne Stagecoach Vineyard: Wine of the Week

My wine of the week for March 31-April 6 is the 2008 JC Cellars Marsanne Stagecoach Vineyard.

The Winery

JC Cellars is an urban winery in Oakland, CA.  Jeff Cohn is the winemaker and president.   The winery, primarily focused on Rhône varietals and Zinfandel, was founded in 1996.  I think it’s fair to say Jeff likes to “tinker”.  He’s releasing a Pinot Noir in the summer, and sells a Viognier that is a collaboration with a French winery –  Domaine François Villard of Condrieu.  They produce about 5000 cases annually.

The Wine
Marsanne is one of classic white Rhône varietals.  It is believed to have originated in the town of the same name in the northern Rhône Valley.  It is a “workhorse” grape that more often than not is blended with other grapes (Rousanne, and Grenache Blanc) to produce a blend.  It produces wines with distinct mineral and melon flavors, and low to moderate acidity.  This wine is 100% Marsanne sourced from a single vineyard, the Stagecoach Vineyard, located in Napa.

2008 JC Cellars Marsanne Stagecoach Vineyard

2008 JC Cellars Marsanne Stagecoach Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Pale gold color with slightly pungent, melon, honeysuckle, mineral aromas. On the palate viscous,buttery, medium-full bodied, and fruit forward with tropical fruit, melon, honey, mineral and spice flavors. Great alternative to Chard! Medium-long finish. 15.2% Alcohol.

Pairing with food

I very much enjoyed this with seafood lasagna with crab, lobster, and shrimp in a creamy white sauce.  The richness of the wine was a nice compliment to the richness of the lasagna.  It would be a good match for crab, lobster, and shrimp on a stand-alone basis too!  I can tell you it’s great with cracked crab!

Wine Words Demystified: Malolactic Fermentation

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word/phrase is Malolactic Fermentation

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

This process has nothing to do with regular FERMENTATION since it does not involve yeasts or the production of ALCOHOL.  Rather, malolactic fermentation is a chemical conversion of ACID instigated by beneficial bacteria.  During the process, the strident sharp malic acid in grapes is converted to softer lactic acid.  This has the effect of softening the overall impression of acid when the wine is drunk. Malolactic fermentation may also contribute a buttery character to the wine and may add complexity…Malolactic fermentation can either occur naturally or be prompted by the winemaker.  All red wines go through malolactic fermentation.  White wines may or may not. 

In other words malolactic fermentation, also referred to as “ML”, or “MLF”,  is a conversion of malic acid, which is naturally present in grapes, via a beneficial bacteria (Oenococcus oeni, and others, including the stuff in yogurt and milk, Lactobacillus) to lactic acid.

Ball-and-stick model of L -lactic acid

Ball-and-stick model of L -lactic acid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve heard “ML’ most often used when discussing Chardonnay.  That’s because Chardonnay is the wine with the biggest reputation for being “buttery”.  That buttery mouthfeel, aroma and flavor is a due to the presence of diacetyl, which is byproduct of the process.  Diacetyl is one of the compounds that gives butter its characteristic taste.  And that’s how Chardonnay that has undergone “ML” (and that folks either love or hate) comes to be described as “buttery”!

Wine Of The Week – 2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Crianza Viña Gravonia

My wine of the week for March 10-16 is the 2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Crianza Viña Gravonia.  Man that’s a long name!  If you’re not familiar with Spanish, let me break it down for you – “Rioja Blanco” means White wine from Rioja – “Crianza” refers to how long the wine is aged in accordance with Spanish labeling laws (more on that later), and “Viňa Gravonia” is the vineyard from which the grapes for this wine are sourced.

What’s different about R. López de Heredia (“LdH”) is that they are straight-up traditionalists!  The winery was founded in 1877, and is still family owned. They don’t use chemicals, or machines in their vineyards.  But what really makes them old school is that they age their wines for an outrageously long time.  Take this wine for example, it was released last year after 4 years of barrel aging, followed by 6 years of bottle aging!  Since this wine is labeled as a “Crianza”,  Spanish labeling laws require it be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.  So this wine is aged 10x longer than required…now that’s old school!

Nowadays, single vineyard wines are fashionable.  LdH has been doing single vineyard wines for almost 100 years!  The four vineyards from which they source their grapes are Viňa Tondonia (the oldest -founded in 1913, and most famous), Viña CubilloViña Bosconia, and Viňa Gravonia (a.k.a. Viňa Zaconia) the source of grapes for this wine.  Viňa Gravonia is located close to the winery on the banks of Ebro river on south-facing slopes with poor, rocky white soil.  The average age of the vines is 45 years, and the vineyard is all planted to Viura grapes.

My tasting notes follow:

Pale gold color with complex aromas of beeswax, spiced apricot, citrus, and a hint of petrol. The palate follows the aromas in terms of complexity. The wine has a silky smooth, mesmerizing lanolin like texture, zesty acidity, and is very dry. It is medium-bodied, and slightly oxidative with tart lemon, apricot, and mineral flavors with a long finish. 100% Viura (a.k.a. Macabeo) from LdH’s Viña Gravonia – 91pts

This wine is a very food friendly wine.  In fact, I don’t think most folks will enjoy its own because of its slightly oxidative aromas and flavors, which are the result of the long aging.  But it’s hard to beat with food.  It would be great with tapas, fish, and shellfish, risotto, salad, poultry, and of course paella.

This is an excellent wine, and at $25, it’s a good value.  I wish I had more!

Wine Words Demystified: Hot

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s phrase is Hot

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

 Refers to a wine with a level of ALCOHOL that is out of BALANCE with its ACID and FRUIT. The impression of excessive alcohol produces a slight burning “hit” at the top of the nasal passages and on the palate.  

Image courtesy of

This wine descriptor is used when you stick your nose into a wine of glass to sniff aromas, take a deep sniff, and you feel a warm sensation in your nostrils.  The term “hot” (or for a lesser degree “warm”) is also used when you can taste, and feel the alcohol of a wine overwhelm the fruit and acidity.  It’s an undesirable trait, but sometimes, once a wine has had some time to breathe (see below) the “heat” may seem less pronounced.  On the “good, better, best scale”,  you’ll find “better”, and “best” wines manifest “heat” significantly less than “good” wines.

What Are The Most Food Friendly Wines?

It’s my pleasure to share this post of mine recently published by 12most.

12 Most Food-Friendly Wines

In my recent post entitled “12 Most Practical Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines”, one my recommendations for sensibly pairing food and wine is to get to know “food-friendly” wines. Food-friendly wines have three primary characteristics 1) Palate-cleansing acidity, 2) Lots of fruitiness with low tannins, and 3) Balanced components (i.e. fruit, acidity, and tannins).

Try these wines for those times you don’t want to put a lot of thought into what wine you’re having with weeknight meals, or more casual gatherings. There’s something here for everyone — Whites, Reds, Sparkling and Rosé. Keep in mind that each of the wines come in broad range of styles. Let your palate be your guide for the style you prefer.


1. Beaujolais

This wine, made from the Gamay grape is named for the region from which it hails. Think Beaujolais when you want a red that you’d normally have with a white wine. Many top crus go for around $20
Recommended Region(s): France – Cru Beaujolais (non-Nouveau)
Profile: Light-bodied with moderate to high acidity, and low tannins with aromatic red plum, cherry, raspberry, hints of black pepper aromas/flavors.

2. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the most well-known food friendly red wine.
Recommended Region(s): France – Burgundy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with aromatic with floral, cherry, red currant, raspberry, and sometimes gamey aromas/flavors when young, aging to vegetal and mushroom when mature

3. Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh)

Generally speaking, Italy makes a plethora of food friendly wines, especially reds. Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in Italy, and the most important grape used in the great wines of Tuscany. It is one of the wine world’s great gifts to the culinary world! It’s a natural for dishes containing tomatoes, or acidic tomato sauces
Recommended Region(s): Italy (Tuscany), California
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with black cherry, spice, smoky, herbal savory aromas/flavors.

4. Zinfandel

Zinfandel can go far beyond burgers and BBQ. I’ve enjoyed with Mexican, and Pakistani dishes. The style of Zinfandel is crucial for matching it with food. Look for lighter “Beaujolais” style Zinfandel at around 14% a.b.v, and “Claret” style between 14% and 15% a.b.v. for maximum food pairing versatility. If prefer “bigger” Zinfandels, then opt for pairing with richer foods.
Recommended Region(s): California
Profile: Medium/Full bodied moderate to high acidity, and strawberry, raspberry, plum, blackberry, pepper, bramble, and spice aromas/flavors

5. Syrah

Syrah and Syrah based blends do a great job of striking a balance between finesse and power. It can be full-bodied and complex like Cabernet Sauvignon, but tend to be less tannic. Cool climate Syrah is especially food friendly. And many very good examples can be found for less than $20.
Recommended Region(s): France (Rhône), California, Washington, and Australia
Profile: Medium/full-bodied with moderate to high acidity, with blackcurrant, plum, blackberry, earthy, herbal, chocolate, and violet aromas/flavors


6. Riesling

Riesling is the most well-known white food friendly wine. Thanks to its food loving nature, it’s on the upswing. If you’re looking for one wine to serve with many dishes, Riesling is an excellent choice, especially if you’re not into red wine. Look for dry and off-dry styles
Recommended Region(s): Germany, France (Alsace) Washington, New York, California
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and Intensely aromatic with floral, green apples, light spice aromas/flavors when you ageing to petrol and honey when mature

7. Sauvignon Blanc

Stylistically, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be the opposite of Chardonnay. That’s because it tends not to see as much oak as Chardonnay and its acidity is more apparent. It’s very versatile food wine, especially with dishes emphasizing, or enhanced with fresh herbs. Try it with guacamole!
Recommended Region(s): France (Loire, and Bordeaux), U.S., New Zealand,
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and aromatic, grassy, herbaceous, tropical, citrus, and gooseberries aromas/flavors

8. Grüner Vetliner

Grüner Vetliner (GROO-ner FELT-leen-ner) is indigenous to Austria, where it accounts for about a third Austria grape production. It’s a favorite of many sommeliers because of its versatility with foods. Here in the US we often reach for red wine to accompany meat dishes, but in Austria, Grüner is served with game, beef, pork, poultry and veal. Looking for a wine for tough food matches like asparagus, and artichokes? Try Grüner. And it’s great with fried chicken!
Recommended Region(s): Austria
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, with vanilla-dipped peach, grapefruit, and aromas/flavors with a distinctive spicy finish.

9. Chardonnay

This most popular wine has very good “foodability” if it is not overly oaked. In fact, more unoaked Chardonnay is being produced these days. While unoaked Chardonnay may be a bit more versatile food partner, oaked (used judiciously) Chardonnay typically makes a more full-bodied wine.
Recommended Region(s): France (Chablis, and Burgundy), California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina
Profile: Light/Medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, and floral, ripe apple, pineapple, butterscotch, lemon, vanilla, and custard aromas/flavors.

10. Sherry

Hear me out on this one. I’m not referring to your grandmother’s Cream Sherry. I’m referring to dry Sherry. And thanks to adventurous wine geeks, and passionate sherry lovers, this fortified wine is gaining in popularity because of its food friendly nature and exceptional quality/price ratio.
True Sherry, is only produced in Spain’s “Sherry Triangle”. It’s a singularly unique beverage because of its terroir, and the method by which it is produced. With its unique tangy, sometimes oxidative and saline flavors, it can be polarizing. It was a bit of an acquired taste for me, but I think it’s fabulous with food!

The principles of pairing Sherry with food are like other wines, according to weight and texture. For Fino and Manzanillo think appetizers, seafood, and sushi, and sashimi. Pair Amontillado, with its rich nuttiness, with stronger flavored foods (including spicy foods) like oily fishes and chicken dishes. Serve chilled.

Recommended Region: Spain

Profile: The main styles of Sherry are light-bodied, straw colored, dry Fino, and fuller bodied darker Oloroso. Between Fino and Oloroso in body, and dryness are Manzanillo, and Amontillado.  Typical aromas and flavors of Finos are yeasty, toasted almond, green apples, and slightly oxidative.  Oloroso tend to be more aromatic with fresh mixed nuts, dried fruit, and citrus peel.

11. Rosé

Rosés (in particular dry Rosé) combine the best of white and red wines, while maintaining their own unique charm. They possess the crisp acidity, delicacy and freshness of white wines, and the body, and flavors of red wines. Rosés are diverse bunch, produced from a wide range of grapes, in various styles ranging from simple quaffable wines to complex gems in a wide palette of colors. Don’t relegate these babies to warm weather months. Because of their versatility they’re wonderful year-round!
Recommended Region(s): France, Spain, Italy, and U.S.
Profile: Light/medium bodied with strawberry, melon, and cherry aroma/flavors


12. Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are very versatile and food friendly because of their innately high acidity levels, and their palate cleansing “scrubbing bubbles” effect. They can be served throughout the day, and throughout a meal too. The driest ones are excellent as an aperitif and with shellfish and caviar. Off-dry bubbly is suitable for brunch, lunch, salads, and many dinner entrees. The sweeter ones pair nicely with fruit- based desserts.
Recommended Region(s): France, US, Spain (Cava), Italy (Prosecco)

Profile: Light to medium-full bodied, and bone-dry Extra Brut to sweet “doux”.  Typical aromas and flavors are yeast, apple, citrus, stone fruit, and cherry depending on the blend of grape varieties used

With these 12 wines in your vinous arsenal, you’ll overcome many a gastronomic challenge! Are there any favorites of yours that I left out?

Featured image courtesy of jinhai via Creative Commons.

Wine Words Demystified: Meritage

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is meritage (rhymes with heritage)

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

 A United States trademarked designation, adopted in 1988 by the Meritage Association for California wines that are a blend of the varieties of grapes used in Bordeaux.  A red Meritage might be made up of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc.  A white Meritage would be a blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon…Producers may choose to not use the term Meritage even if their wine meets the qualifications.

In other words, it’s a Bordeaux blend without using the term Bordeaux on the label, which would infringe upon the Bordeaux region in France’s legally protected designation of origin.  The word itself is a combination of the words “merit”, and “heritage”.  According to the Meritage Alliance:

A Red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage. Also, to qualify as a Meritage, no single grape variety can make up more than 90% of the blend.

To qualify as a White Meritage, a wine must be a blend of at least two of three specific white “noble” varieties — Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Muscadelle du Bordelais. No single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend. The wine does not qualify as a Meritage if the blend includes any other grape variety.

I’ve not come across any white wines labeled as Meritage in my wine travels.  Have you?