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Archive for November, 2008

Lang Wines – 2005 Amador County Syrah

Posted by Gabe on November 25, 2008

langsyrahA couple of months back I looked at a Zinfandel from Lang Wines. It impressed me and was a standout during the 12 Days of Zin. With that in mind I was looking forward to tasting some of their other selections. Barbera, Syrah & Sauvignon Blanc are the other offerings they make. All together their production is around 1,500 cases. They’re more of a grower and actually started producing wine as a way to show potential clients, the quality that could be produced using their grapes. Today I’m going to look at their current Syrah release.

The Lang Wines 2005 Syrah is made from Amador County fruit. Purchases through their website are setup by the case. At $198 per case it works out to $16.50 per bottle.

Observing it in the glass, the Lang Syrah is a gorgeous cherry red hue. Strawberries and cream notes burst out of this wines nose. The palate is loaded with sweet berry fruit and accompanying spice notes. The finish features sour cherry, leather, tobacco, mineral, spice and earth in addition to substantial bakers chocolate notes. This is a great wine to drink on its own. It offers plenty of complexity and intensity to make a very interesting wine to simply sit and contemplate. That said it’ll match well with a variety of foods, grilled meats in particular.

What I like best about the 2005 Lang Syrah is the stylistic line it straddles. The nose is big, bold and somewhat jammy bringing to mind Aussie Shiraz. Throughout the palate though, it more closely resembles a Syrah from the Rhone. A terrific wine and one of the more memorable examples of Syrah I’ve tried of late.

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Ravenswood – 2006 Vintners Blend Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on November 24, 2008

There are a ton of wines out there to drink with your holiday meal this Thanksgiving. And it seems there are almost as many recommendations guiding your choices. That’s important, but what about rw_vb_bottle_petitesirahthe next day? Come Friday the big Thanksgiving meal will be over and you’ll have a refrigerator full of leftovers. You may choose to eat them as they are, make sandwiches or completely re-purpose some of the leftovers to create new dishes. Regardless of your choice, you’ll probably want to enjoy some wine with that post-holiday feast. So I set out to write about a wine that would be an appropriate match for your leftovers. I wanted this to be a widely available wine that was also priced to move off the shelf. It should be the sort of selection you might consider drinking any day of the week. After tasting through a handful of wines I had lined up to write about, I chose the Ravenswood 2006 Vintners Blend Petite Sirah as my recommendation to match with your 2008 Thanksgiving leftovers.

The Ravenswood 2006 Vintners Blend Petite Sirah is 92% varietal and the balance Syrah. This offering was aged in mostly French oak with 15% of it being new. The suggested retail price for this wine is $10.

Violet and plum notes fill the nose of this Petite Sirah. Dark fruit characteristics are prominent throughout the palate, along with subtler but present nutmeg and pepper. Dark chocolate notes emerge in the mid-palate and carry through the finish which also shows understated hints of sour cherry. Good acidity and a very approachable style make this an excellent match for a wide array of cuisine.

Most of us will have a wide array of leftovers staring at us this Friday. The Ravenswood Petite Sirah is a great choice to match up with whatever your refrigerator ends up stuffed with. At a suggested price of $10, this wine is a very nice value that offers good varietal character and lots of flavor. The selections in the Ravenswood “Vintners Blend” series are widely available, making this an easy go to wine wherever you’re located.

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Rodney Strong – 2005 Alexander Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on November 23, 2008

One of the things I take into account when considering a wine is intent. What was the goal set out for rsrcthat particular offering and was it achieved? Rodney Strong makes a wide range of wines in many price categories. Wines with a suggested retail price under $25 make up a substantial number of their offerings each year. Many of those in fact are under $20. So it’s clear they’re serving the everyday market with many of their wines. However the wine I’m looking at today is from their reserve line.

The 2005 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was produced from Alexander Valley fruit. This selection is 100% varietal. It spent 24 months in a combination of French (93%) and American (7%) oak barrels. The suggested retail price for this Cabernet is $50.

Casis, cedar, vanilla and leather notes fill the nose of the Alexander Valley designated Cabernet along with subtle tobacco. Taking the first sip it’s apparent this wine is a bit on the young side right now and thus a little tight out of the bottle. A solid 60-90 minutes in the decanter alleviates that and allows the wine to express it charms. Black cherry and dark plum are prominent throughout a rich mouth-filling palate. The finish which is lengthy brings out white pepper, mocha notes and an emerging earthiness.

This offering has excellent structure, firm but approachable tannins and good acidity. While it’s delicious now, especially after decanting, it’ll improve for the next couple of years and drink well for at least 6 or 7 after that. This is a fine example of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

It seems Rodney Strong has set out to make a reserve Cabernet appropriate for special occasions and mid-term aging with more complexity, nuances and elegance than their entry level Alexander Valley Cabernet. By this measure they have succeeded. This will stand up to scrutiny against similarly priced Alexander valley Cabernet’s.

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Opolo Vineyards – 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on November 21, 2008

opololOpolo Vineyards in Paso Robles is probably best known for their Zinfandels. That’s no surprise as they make several Zins in a range of styles and designations. However, Opolo also makes a host of other wines. Some of their Bordeaux varietals and blends are particularly compelling. Today I’m looking at their current Cabernet Sauvignon release.

The 2005 Opolo Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal and all Paso Robles fruit. This wine spent 18 months in a combination of 40% new French oak and the balance in American oak. 1,035 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $30.

Rich ripe casis fills and dominates the nose which is underpinned by eucalyptus, cedar, nutmeg and dark plum notes in a supporting role. The Opolo Cabernet is opulent and ripe throughout the palate offering a mouth filling experience. Dark, lavish berry fruit fills the mid-palate along with some dark bakers chocolate notes that carry on towards the finish, which lingers. That finish brings out a load of bing cherry notes and additional chocolate characteristics. This wine is fun to drink on its own but will also pair well with substantial food. A Steak would be perfect.

What I like best about this Cabernet Sauvignon is how smooth it is right now. It drinks incredibly easily for a young Cabernet and that’s its intent. This is a big, bright, hedonistic Cabernet Sauvignon built to drink now. It’ll certainly hold for a couple of years, but this one is not for long term aging. Drink it while it’s young, bold and brash.

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Wild Horse Winery – 2006 Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on November 19, 2008

Wild Horse Winery in Paso Robles has a 25 year history of wine-making. That’s well above average for a 06_chardregion that has been growing steadily in the last decade. They make five varietal wines in the “Wild Horse” category or designation. Today I’ll look at their 2006 Chardonnay.

The 2006 Wild Horse Chardonnay is mostly varietal with a small amount of Viognier blended in. The wine was aged in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak with 25% of it being new. The suggested retail price for this wine is $16.

Pear, apple and nutmeg spice fill this Chardonnays nose. From the first sip forward good apple characteristics dominate the palate along with subtler but present Asian pear underpinning it. Vanilla notes emerges in the mid-palate along with a touch of tart granny smith apple. Baked apple, butter and general pie crust spice notes emerge on the finish and linger along with mineral characteristics that close things out. This wine sips well on it’s own and will also be a match for a host of chicken dishes as well as pastas with cream based sauces.

While this wine retails at $16 it’s generally available for a couple of dollars less. For that price, this is a solid fruit driven Chardonnay with enough complexity and varietal character to make it interesting. The new oak makes it’s presence known a bit on the finish but doesn’t detract from the bold fruit flavors that dominate.

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Four Vines Winery – Two Zinfandels

Posted by Gabe on November 17, 2008

Four Vines Winery is a Paso Robles based Winery. While they make other varietals, Zinfandel stands at the heart of their production. In addition to Zinfandels produced from Paso Robles fruit they also make Zinfandels from several other regions. Today I’m going to look at two of their current releases.

Up first is The Maverick. This is a 2006 Zinfandel made from fruit sourced in Amador County. 3,900 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $25.00

Cedar, cherry and vanilla notes fill the nose of this hearty Zinfandel. It’s a bit tight out of the bottle and an hour in the decanter does wonders to help it shine. Once it opens up, tons of black cherry appear from the very first sip and lead to persistent mocha notes that carry through the palate. These are followed by more dark berry fruit notes and spice characteristics. The finish brings out some earth 4vovcas the spice notes emerge more prominently. White pepper is the most prominent of the spice characteristics, followed by subtler nutmeg. This wine is balanced by firm acidity and will be an excellent match for red meats and grilled fare in general.

Amador County is an excellent source of Zinfandel. Many fine examples emerge from there, some of them from tiny producers which don’t always make it throughout the country. This is a fine example from Amador with a production large enough that it should be available to most people.

The second wine from Four Vines is the 2006 Old Vines Cuvee. Lots of wine from Amador, Paso Robles, Lodi, Sonoma & Mendocino were blended together to create this wine. 28,000 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is right around $15.

Berry Jam and vanilla notes fill this wines nose. The palate is full, rich and concentrated with tons of berry fruit. Pomegranate notes, sour cherry and black pepper kick in at mid-palate and carry through to the finish which also includes a subtle bit of earth.

While it has a suggested retail of about $15, the Old Vine Cuvee can commonly be found for around $12. At that price it’s been an excellent value for a number of years now. What I like best is that it provides good varietal character at a modest price. This is a Zin you can open any night of the week without breaking the bank. With the number of cases produced, it won’t be hard to find either.

I’ll be looking at a couple of other Zinfandels from Four Vines in the upcoming weeks, look out for them.

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Sonoma Vineyards – 2007 Sonoma County Syrah

Posted by Gabe on November 14, 2008

Sonoma Vineyards is owned by Tom Klein, who along with his family also owns Rodney Strong Vineyards. The wines under this label are Sonoma designated and aimed at the folks who are starting to discover their passion for wine to the point that their palate has graduated tosvsyrah varietal wines. In addition to the Syrah I’m looking at today, they produce Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and an un-oaked Chardonnay.

The 2007 fruit for the Sonoma Vineyards Syrah was primarily sourced from Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. It was barrel aged in a combination of French and American oak for 8 months. The suggested retail price for this selection is $15 and it’s finished with a screw top.

Dark plum is the most prominent characteristic of this wines nose. The palate is loaded with dark berry, plum and currant notes. Black cherry emerges on the mid-palate and lingers throughout. Spice, mocha, tobacco and leather notes emerge on the finish followed by a touch of sour cherry that provides the very last note. This wine is solidly built with good balance. It drinks nicely on it’s own and will pair with an array of foods.

There’s a sea of mediocre wine out there in the $15 and under price range. Finding the bargains is always fun. The Sonoma Vineyards Syrah is a solid little wine that provides good varietal character, a fair amount of complexity and a good finish in its price point. This wine is built to drink now. It seems the intent of this offering is to provide solid everyday drinking for a reasonable price. Sonoma Vineyards has achieved that goal.


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Visiting Bouchaine Vineyards

Posted by Gabe on November 6, 2008

bouchA couple of days ago I visited Bouchaine Vineyards in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Carneros is in many ways Napa’s answer to Burgundy. There are vast differences of course, but in simplest terms, both regions are best known for their production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Each is also known for emphasizing the impact that a specific place has on the profile of a wine. In Carneros this is a newer movement than in Burgundy where it’s been that way for generations. While I spent time with a number of the folks that work in varying positions at Bouchaine, most of my time was spent with winemaker Mike Richmond.

Mike has been with Bouchaine Vineyards since 2002. He has over 30 years experience in the Wine industry, much of it within the Carneros appellation. Touring the vineyards and facility at Bouchaine it was clear that Mike has guided this winery in the direction of making the best wine they can from their little spot on the map. From planting the vines, picking the grapes to selecting barrels from different coopers and countries with varying degrees of toast, every decision is constantly in flux from vintage to vintage with the aim of producing world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

While I referenced Burgundy earlier it would be a bit of an misnomer to say they are making wines in a Burgundian style. The similarity is not so much the style as it is the intent. That is to get the best out of what nature gives them in Carneros within their vineyards. While they make a host of other varietals and several distinct Chardonnays and Pinot Noir’s, the Estate designate version of each are at the heart of what they do. Everything else strikes me as working off of those two wines and helping to illustrate the wines that Bouchaine is making.

At some point I lost track of the number and variety of barrel samples we tasted through. In some cases, the samples were different clones, in others the same varietal and clone in varying barrel types. What this exercise illustrated is the machinations and live experimentation they go through on a continual basis to not only improve the wine and make the best wine from a particular vintage, but also to ultimately learn more about the place they are making wine and what sort of fruit it yields.

Their Estate Chardonnay, was amongst 2 or 3 that stood out among the sea of them I tasted on my recent trip to Napa & Sonoma. Quite frankly it’s right in my sweet spot for Chardonnay. It features excellent fruit, restrained used of oak, plenty of complexity in the form of spices and mineral notes as well as a long lingering finish. It was lovely on its own, but it’ll go well with a wide array of lighter foods. The Estate Pinot Noir was also impressive and true to what this varietal can be when made in a pure style without trying to turn it into something it’s not.

Single vineyard efforts as well as wines made in small quantities in slightly different styles were a fascinating case study of the directions one can sculpt wine in. A limited production dry Rosé was amongst my favorites of the small lot offerings I was poured. In truth, each wine I tasted at Bouchaine was a quality offering that told parts of their story. The balance of their story was filled in by Mike, a gracious host who clearly loves what he does as well as showing it off.

The bottom line is that if you have the opportunity to visit Bouchaine Vineyards and taste wine by all means, do so. If you get the chance to speak to Mike while you’re there and take a tour, better yet. But if for some reason you can’t see the place, taste their wines. Whether it’s the Estate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or one of the smaller production wines, drinking them will not only be enjoyable, but tell you a lot about their origin. If you enjoy pure and true expressions of these varietals, Bouchaine is a name to look out for.

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