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Archive for August, 2010

Wesley Ashley Wines – 2009 Cuvée Blanc / 2007 Intelligent Design Cuvée

Posted by Gabe on August 30, 2010

Over time I have come to value the food friendliness of wines more and more. I can appreciate wines that stand better on their own, but my need for them has dissipated greatly over time. More often than not when I’m drinking wine, I’m also eating. Well made blends can be some of the best wines to pair with food. Today I’ll look at two Rhone inspired blends from Wesley Ashley Wines.

The Wesley Ashley Wines 2009 Cuvée Blanc was produced using fruit sourced in Santa Barbara County. This wine is a blend of Viognier (50%), Roussanne (30%), and Grenache Blanc (20%). Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. 60% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Barrel aging took place over 10 months. 250 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $34.

Fresh, ripe stone fruit aromas are joined by hints of hibiscus, vanilla bean and white pepper in the effusive and engaging nose of this 2008 blend. White peach, apricot in droves and nectarine flavors are all part of the multi-layered palate that also shows off plenty of spice. Oodles of unctuous fruit flavors lead to hints of clover honey and continuing spice on the finish. Lovely acidity keeps everything in check.

I found the Cuvée Blanc to be delicious ice cold, but if you chill it a bit less or just let it warm in your glass a bit it really explodes with complexity. This seductive and delightful wine is a brilliant take on white Rhone style blends.

The Wesley Ashley 2007 Intelligent Design Cuvée was produced from fruit sourced on California’s Central Coast. Specifically the grapes were picked from the vineyards of Clos La Chance. This offering is a blend of Carignan (51.5%), Grenache (15%), Cinsault (14%), Petite Sirah (11%), Mourvèdre (4.5%) and Pinot Noir (4%). Each varietal was picked and fermented separately. Barrel aging (also separate) occurred over 18 months in French oak; 36% of the barrels were new. The final blend was assembled prior to bottling. 500 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $38.

Mushroom, strawberry, black cherry, and hints of forest floor emerge from the nose of this red Cuvée. Both red and black fruits alternate throughout the palate; raspberry, pomegranate, plum and strawberry all playing key roles. Sour cherry, pomegranate, rhubarb, pepper, clove, nutmeg and emerging earth are all part of the lengthy even keeled finish. Solid acidity keeps things in check.

The moderate alcohol content this red blend has (13.8%) helps make it the sort of bottle you can savor over a long meal. If you’re sharing with a friend, you may want to have a second bottle on hand to open when the first is gone. I love how the flavors on this wine are simultaneously gentle and deep. This wine is easy to drink, but incredibly complex and fun to analyze, should you be so inclined.

Each of these offerings is delicious and distinct. Both of them are also perfectly suited to pair with a wide array of foods. These wines are well worth any extra effort needed to locate them.

Posted in Blends, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Six Distinct Chardonnays from Thomas Fogarty Winery

Posted by Gabe on August 28, 2010

Thomas Fogarty Winery located in the Santa Cruz Mountains is a producer I’ve been impressed with over the last few years. They have been making wine since 1981.Their portfolio includes a wide range of offerings but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay stand at the core of what they do. With both varietals they make a host of selections, both single vineyard offerings and cuvee style wines. The single vineyard offerings, which are the heart of their portfolio in many ways, allow them to highlight the unique sense of place and time that separates one vineyard from another and one vintage to the next. Today I’m going to look at six distinct Chardonnay releases from them; 4 single vineyard selections and 2 cuvee style offerings.

First up is the Thomas Fogarty 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay. Fruit for this wine was sourced from three vineyards; Winery Estate (89%), Gist Estate (8%) and Camel Hill (3%). This wine was aged in French oak for 10 months. Just fewer than 2,600 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $29.00.

Citrus aromas are underscored by a hint of toast in the nose of this Chardonnay. Orchard fruit and lemon cream flavors are on display through the palate which is dominated by a pure blast of fruit. Nutmeg and baker’s spice emerges and carries through the finish which is crisp and refreshing with solid length. Fine acidity makes this a food lovers wine. This is the most widely available of the Fogarty Chardonnays and it’s a fine example of mountain Chardonnay with depth, and balance to spare.

The Thomas Fogarty 2007 Estate Chardonnay was produced using barrel selection from two of their estate vineyards; Damiana and Langley Hill. Half of the fruit comes from each vineyard. This wine was aged in French oak for 16 months; 30% of the barrels were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $37.

Pineapple, Golden Delicious Apple and gentle wisps of vanilla fill the effusive nose of this Chardonnay. Orchard and tropical fruit themes continue through the palate where they’re joined by stone fruit in the form of apricot and white peach. These flavors come together to from a core of fresh, vibrant flavors. They lead to the finish which shows off minerals, apple pie spices, toasty oak and solid acidity. This wine has a bit more complexity than the SCM Chardonnay. At three years old this offering is actually on the young side. If you have the patience to lay it down for a year or two you’ll be rewarded with an even lovelier wine.

The Thomas Fogarty 2007 Portola Springs Estate Chardonnay is a single vineyard effort with 100% of the fruit sourced at the vineyard of the same name. Portola Springs Estate Vineyard sits 10 miles from the ocean at an elevation of 1,920 feet above sea level. This selection was aged in all French oak for 18 months; 50% of the barrels were new. Less than 75 cases of this wine were produced and it sells for $48.

A wisp of candied apple emerges from the nose of this Chardonnay and beckons you to take a sip. Pear, apple, pineapple and lemon zest underscored by a touch of crème all make their presence felt in the palate of this Chardonnay. Apple pie spices emerge on the finish along with tart green apple and some savory fruit notes. This wine has solid acidity. It takes a bit of air for this wine to really show its charms. Of these wines, particularly the single vineyard offerings, the Portola Springs is perhaps the most reserved and austere.

The Thomas Fogarty 2007 Langley Hill Estate Chardonnay was produced using fruit from the vineyard of the same name. Langley Hill is Thomas Fogarty’s largest estate vineyard at just over 5 acres. It sits 10 miles from the ocean at an elevation of 1,920 feet. This wine was aged over 18 months in French oak; half the barrels were new. Less than 100 cases of this selection were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $48.

Aromas of citrus fruit join golden delicious apple characteristics in the engaging nose of this Chardonnay. Tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple lead an impressive plate which is fruity, full-bodied and loaded with spice notes such as nutmeg and clove. Lush fruit characteristics continue through the finish which continues the spice parade along with hints of Crème brûlée and a who’s who of mineral notes in droves. The finish is lengthy enough to be both impressive and noteworthy.

The Thomas Fogarty 2007 Albutom Estate Chardonnay is a single vineyard offering. 100% of the fruit was sourced from the namesake vineyard. Albutom Vineyard sits 10 miles from the ocean at an elevation of 1930 feet. This wine was aged for 18 months in French oak; 50% of the barrels were new. Fewer than 50 cases of this selection were produced and it sells for $48.

Asian pear leads the nose of this single vineyard effort. It’s underscored by a solid whiff of spices. The pear theme continues through the palate where Anjou pear flavors rule the day. White pepper and pineapple flavors with a sour fruit element mark the finish followed by toasty oak notes. This wine has a nice acidic bite. This selection is perhaps the most outgoing of these wines. The fruit is a bit more powerful and heftier than the other three single vineyard offerings. Yet, as with every wine I have tasted in their portfolio, it retains balance.

The Thomas Fogarty 2007 Damiana Vineyard Estate Chardonnay was produced using fruit sourced exclusively from the vineyard of the same name. Planted in 1978, this is their oldest vineyard. This selection was barrel aged in new French oak for approximately 18 months. Fewer than 100 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $48.

Inviting fall aromas of apple pie spice and orchard fruit in general emerge generously from the nose of this Chardonnay. The fruit notes throughout the palate are bold, powerful and engaging in nature. Hints of citrus join the orchard flavors along with some yellow and green melon. Hazelnut, white pepper and minerals join toasty oak on a long, lusty and impressive close. This wine has vibrant acidity.

I had the good fortune to sample these wines side by side in a horizontal tasting. Doing so was educational and fascinating as well as rewarding. I learned a lot about the differences in the Thomas Fogarty Vineyards as well as how the subtly different ways they treated each wine helped bring the intrinsic characteristics to the forefront. Most enlightening was the differences between these wines. You might wonder how different six Chardonnays from the same producer, each from their own vineyards might be. Each of these wines is remarkably different and distinct. If you’re a Chardonnay lover you owe it to yourself to try these wines side by side if you can. Another impressive element is that each of these wines will drink well for a number of years. The average shelf life will be 3-5 years but a couple of the single vineyard efforts will go a bit longer.

Posted in Chardonnay, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Michael Torino – 2009 Malbec Rosé

Posted by Gabe on August 27, 2010

September is almost here and with its arrival many folks will shift away from Rosé to other wines. But there’s no reason to do that. Well made, dry Rosé’s can be enjoyed all year; late summer and fall are as good a time as any. Today I’ll look at an Argentine example made from their signature varietal, Malbec. This offering is from Michael Torino. They have more than 1,500 acres under vines, most sitting at elevations of more than 5,500 feet above sea level.

The Michael Torino 2009 Malbec Rosé was produced from fruit sourced in the Cafayate Valley of Argentina. The grapes were harvested manually and after crushing there is some skin contact. Fermentation and vinification is handled in the same manner as their white wines. This selection has a suggested retail price of $11.99.

This 2009 Rosé has a darker, deeper hue than most. Aromas of wild strawberry and cherry fill the nose along with a light hit of spice. Vibrant red fruit flavors underscored by hints of tropical and citrus fruits lead the vivid, appealing palate. White pepper and fruit flavors that take a savory turn are part of the finish on this selection. This wine is lush and refreshing with solid, racy acidity.

This is a Rosé with a bit more heft than most. It’s fuller body and a bit of brighter fruit makes it a natural partner for more substantial foods than the average Rosé. That said, some of those same qualities make it very enjoyable to drink on it’s own as well. In either case a very refreshing and appealing Rosé whether you drink it as summer wanes or with Thanksgiving Dinner in a few months.

Posted in Malbec, Rosé, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Vino de Fratelli – Prosecco (NV)

Posted by Gabe on August 24, 2010

Sparkling wine comes in all shapes and sizes, which is good because there are many settings that it’s suitable too. I drink it more casually these days than I used to; more often as well. Whether it’s a starter to a meal, a welcome wine or paired with lighter foods, Sparkling wine can be a great go to choice. Today I’ll look at a Prosecco.

The Vino de Fratelli Prosecco is a non vintage selection. This sparkling wine was produced using 100% Prosecco from Veneto Italy. Vinification and fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks over 15-20 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Yeasts and sugar are then added over 20-25 days to reach the chosen amount of bubbles. After chilling and filtering it’s bottled. 1,000 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14.99. This wine is finished in screw cap.

This Prosecco has a lively nose that shows off a hint of candied apple. Orchard fruits such as continued apple as well as some pear are on display through the palate. Through the whole of the wine there is a creamy, yeasty undertone that provides substance and bite. Ginger spice and white pepper emerge on the finish along with some mineral notes.

This wine is a good value at under $15. I like it on its own but more specifically, this is the kind of sparkler I enjoy pairing with brunch or serving as a welcome wine when guests come over my house. The screw cap closure on this wine makes it easier to save for a day or so in your refrigerator, retaining the bubbles. That’s assuming there’s any of this tasty wine left once you open it and take the first sip.

Posted in Prosecco, Sparkling Wine, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Cakebread Cellars – 2006 Dancing Bear Ranch

Posted by Gabe on August 23, 2010

Cakebread Cellars has been in operation in Napa Valley since 1973. With vineyards spread over a host of appellations they have more than 450 acres under vine in a handful of prime Napa Valley locations. They started out making Chardonnay in their first vintage and that as well as Sauvignon Blanc remain amongst their best known offerings year after year. However their portfolio includes a growing stable of well made reds. That includes no less than 3 distinct Cabernet Sauvignons. Today I’ll look at their Bordeaux inspired blend from Howell Mountain.

The Cakebread Cellars 2006 Dancing Bear Ranch was produced using fruit sourced at their estate vineyard on Howell Mountain. The Dancing Bear Ranch is comprised of 200 acres; just fewer than 30 are under vine. This vineyard was planted in 1999. This offering is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), Merlot (17%), and Cabernet Franc (4%). This wine was fermented in stainless steel and barrel aging occurred in French oak over 26 months; 60% of the barrels were new. 2,500 cases of this selection were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $105.

The nose of this wine is a touch reticent at first. But as it gets some air, aromas of bramble, blackberry, thyme and vanilla emerge. Cherry flavors are prominent on the palate and they’re underscored by solid wallops of fig and dark berry flavors as well as a host of spices such as white and black pepper. All of these come together to form a pure burst of flavor that showcases the unadulterated intensity of mountain fruit. Pencil lead, espresso, earth and mineral notes all emerge on the lengthy, layered and rather impressive finish of this wine. This release has firm tannins and solid acidity.

I really like this estate blend from Cakebread Cellars, but it’s still in its infancy. Dancing Bear Ranch is a wine you’re going to want to lay down for maximum enjoyment. However if you’re going to drink it now, I’d recommend decanting it for a solid 5-6 hours as well as pairing it with hearty fare. I went back to this wine after it had been open for a full 24 hours and it was even more impressive than it had been on night one. But if you’re patient, lay this beauty down in your cellar for a decade or so and then pull it out for a special occasion over the following 6-8 years and you’ll be in for some serious gratification. Either way this is a well made wine showcasing it’s pedigree of serious Howell Mountain fruit. This is a terrific addition to the Cakebread line.

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Wine | 1 Comment »

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone – 2009 Corallina Rosé / 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on August 20, 2010

Finding a wine producer I really like is heartening. Then when I see them replicating quality over a number of vintages it takes things to a new level. Cornerstone Cellars in Napa is such a producer. The Cabernet’s they produce are top shelf wines. Having had a chance to taste several recent vintages as well as a few with some age on them I’ve taken note, of the consistency of quality, their wines show off, balanced against vintage variation that helps display their sense of place. So it’s been particularly nice to see them launch Stepping Stone, the sister label to Cornerstone. The first wines I had from this label were impressive in their price point and I was eager to taste their new releases. Today I’ll look at two of those with a few more to follow in the next week or so.

The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2009 Corallina Rosé was produced using fruit sourced at the Fore Family Vineyard in the Red Hills section of Lake County. This offering is a blend of Grenache (50%) and Syrah (50%). This wine underwent cold fermentation in stainless steel followed by oak aging in older puncheons. Just fewer than 200 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $16.

This 2009 Rosé has a fresh and inviting nose that brings to mind a bowl of red summer fruits sitting in a bowl on a nearby windowsill. Cherry, strawberry and spice flavors all come out in force through the lively and bright palate. Baker’s spices emerge towards the back end and lead to the finish which shows off some red ruby grapefruit and crisp savory notes. A thump of vigorous white pepper closes things out. Acidity keeps things in check. More than anything this wine is summer in a glass. Pair this delicious, beautifully dry rosé with life itself.

The second wine is the Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was produced using fruit sourced at vineyards in four distinct Napa regions; Oakville, Wooden Valley, Coombsville and Carneros. This selection is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 964 cases of this wine were bottled and it has a suggested retail price of $35.

Plum and blackberry aromas waft invitingly from the nose of this wine. Taking the first sips it’s clear this offering is a bit tight and needs some air to allow it to blossom. An hour or so in the decanter does the trick and after that it opens up more and more with each passing moment and every successive sip. This is a full bodied wine that shows lots of sweet berry fruit through the palate; blackberry is in particular evidence with black raspberry playing a secondary role. These flavors are joined by a veritable cornucopia of spices that emerge a little at a time and lead to the finish. Lot’s of dark bittersweet chocolate, sour cherry and wisps of pomegranate mark the lengthy and layered finish. This wine is full flavored, full bodied and impeccably balanced. At $35 this represents an excellent value in Napa Valley Cabernet when you consider its quality level. it’s very tasty right now but a couple of years in the cellar will make it even lovelier.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Tempra Tantrum Vintner To Host Virtual Wine Tasting Underdog Wine Bar

Posted by Gabe on August 19, 2010

When I get word of a cool event I like to pass it on. This information was given to me and I thought everyone might find it of interest. Sounds like a fun event. Check it out:

Who:  Dynamic Spanish vintner Rocío Osborne of Tempra Tantrum wines, a sixth generation winemaking family.
What: A live virtual tasting of Rocio Osborne’s new Tempra Tantrum wines, streaming on Underdog TV.  Wine bloggers and enthusiasts can log in to Underdog TV via the web to interact with Rocio in real time as she presents her wines.  Tempra Tantrum specializes in Tempranillo blends in a modern style, including Tempranillo/Cabernet, Tempranillo/Grenache, Tempranillo/Shiraz, and Tempranillo/Merlot.  Rocio will be presenting the just released 2009 vintage of her wines from the Tierra de Castilla region of Spain.
When:  August 19, 2010 at 6:30pm PST/9:30pm EST, virtual wine tasting streaming on Underdog TV  
Additional information is available at and at

Posted in Wine | Leave a Comment »

Oberon – 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Posted by Gabe on August 18, 2010

Oberon is a Napa Valley partnership between Rob Mondavi Jr. and Tony Coltrin. They source fruit from vineyards in key spots throughout Napa Valley. Their focus is on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Today I’ll look at their current release of Sauvignon Blanc.

The Oberon 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced at two Napa Valley Vineyards; one in Pope Valley, the other in Southern Napa. This offering is 100% varietal. Tony decided to both cold tank ferment and barrel ferment to maintain the fruit and to impart some subtle characteristics. This wine is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $14.99.

Aromas of orange blossom and honeydew melon are apparent in the nose of this 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Throughout the palate white peach, mango and continued citrus flavors all play a significant role. These come together in a gentle layered fashion, loaded with delicate spice and other quietly emerging characteristics which add complexity. Apricot and key lime pie flavors stand out in the finish where they are joined by a solid wallop of minerals. This wine has terrific length and excellent acidity.

I get the opportunity to taste a lot of Sauvignon Blanc and they come in all shapes and sizes. This offering from Oberon simply knocked me out with its complexity, length and deceivingly gentle nature. Savor this over a few hours and you’ll be amazed as this wines charms slowly reveal themselves. This wine will certainly pair well with lighter foods, but it’s nothing short of a revelation on its own. The 2009 Oberon Sauvignon Blanc is delicious, refreshing and has plenty of complexity to hold your interest as you undoubtedly drain the entire bottle over a leisurely afternoon on your porch.

Posted in Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Apothic Red – 2008 California Winemaker’s Blend

Posted by Gabe on August 17, 2010

When I’m headed to a party, or planning to entertain masses in my home I look for crowd pleasing wines to serve. Left to my own devices I gravitate towards the esoteric; most though want something tasty to drink alongside their sandwich. So in these cases I often seek out blends. They can offer a range of flavors to keep savvier folks interested, and plenty of out front satisfaction for those who just want something that goes down easy. Often times these blends are ones that includes Zinfandel or Syrah. Today I’ll look at one from California that is widely available.

Apothic Red 2008 California Winemaker’s Blend was produced using fruit from vineyards throughout California. This offering is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Merlot. The alcohol content is a modest 13.1% and this wine is available all over the country for a suggested retail price of $14.

Red and black fruit aromas are plentiful on the nose of this 2008 California wine. Once you take the first sip you’re hit with a solid wallop of sweet berry fruit that continues through the fruit driven, bright palate. Towards the back end of the palate dried fruit notes emerge and they lead to the finish which shows off cinnamon and nutmeg spice notes as well as white pepper and a nice assortment of sour fruit flavors. Sufficient acidity keeps things in check.

Apothic Red is a appealing, up front wine that will play well large groups of people. Whether you pair it with a burger or a slice of pizza this wine will work well. It has everyman, everyday appeal. This the sort of release everyone should have a few bottles of on hand, to serve to surprise guests, or to pair with leftovers.

Posted in Blends, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Two Angels – 2007 Angel’s Secret Merlot / 2007 Mayacamus Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on August 15, 2010

Most of what Bob Pepi touches turns to Gold. You can call that bias on my part if you like; I prefer to think of it as recognizing a master for what he is. Bob has a consistent track record of hands on winemaking and consulting the world over. He came to prominence with his family’s namesake wines; a company they later sold. Today he works on a host of different projects. One of them is Two Angels, essentially a private label of importer and distributor Quintessential Wines. I’ve been taken by some of their previous releases and today I’m going to look at two selections from the 2007 vintage.

First is the Angel’s Secret 2007 Merlot. The fruit for this wine was sourced at vineyards located on the Mayacamus Mountains.  This range of mountains runs right between Sonoma and Napa Valley. In addition to Merlot (94%) there is a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (6%) blended in as well. Barrel aging occurred over 20 in a combination of new, (40%) and used, (60%) French, (90%) and American (10%) oak. Just fewer than 800 cases of this Merlot were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $16.99.

Aromas of violet and cherry are underscored by a touch of thyme in the slightly austere nose of this 2007 Merlot. Dried fruit flavors rule the day throughout the gloriously dry palate of this wine; cherry, blueberry and wild strawberry are in strong evidence. A layer of spices led by cinnamon kicks in and leads the way to the finish. Earth, a drove of mineral notes and a hint of charcoal all emerge in the above average finish. This wine has medium tannins and solid acidity.

What I absolutely love about this Merlot is that it is made in what I consider to be the correct style for this grape. It has structure, acidity and length without sacrificing very enjoyable fruit flavors. This is a wine that excels when paired with food.

The second wine is the Two Angels 2007 Mayacamus Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon. As the name indicates the fruit for this wine was sourced near the top of the Mayacamus Mountains. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (78%), the offering also has a generous helping of Merlot (22%) blended in. Barrel aging was accomplished over 18 months; 85% in French oak (40% new). The rest was aged in new American barrels. Just over 1,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $27.99.

Brambly fruit, vanilla and cream aromas all emerge in the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate features a bevy of sweet berry fruit flavors; cherry, raspberry (red and black), boysenberry and blackberry flavors are all in strong evidence. A touch of kirsch liqueur emerges and leads to the finish which shows off pomegranate, roasted coffee bean and pepper notes. This wine has lush tannins and more than sufficient acidity.

This Cabernet is absolutely terrific on its own but will also pair with full flavored foods.  Enjoy this wine over the next 3-5 years for best and most enjoyable results. The bottom line is that these selections represent two more outstanding wines from the hands of Bob Pepi.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Wine | Leave a Comment »


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