Posted by Gabe on April 30, 2011
Much like Wineries come in all shapes and sizes so do Winery visits. When I landed in San Francisco yesterday I had quite a few wineries on my list to visit during my trip. I didn’t however have any specific plans for my first day. My itinerary that initial day involved getting settled in and attending Gateway to Passport in Healdsburg. Of course though once I was settled in and had several hours to spare I headed off to make a couple of stops. On my way to my first stop I passed a tasting room I hadn’t noticed before in Alexander Valley I made a note and on the way back I stopped in to check out Medlock Ames.
Their tasting room sits on the same property that for decades housed the Alexander Valley Bar and Store. They rebuilt the structure on the same footprint using as much reclaimed material as they could. Walking in the feel is rustic, modern, incredibly natural and quite welcoming all at the same time. I made my way up to the tasting counter and noted that they have a couple of different options. Their standard flight of four wines is available to taste for $10 and their Library tasting which features those 4 plus others is $20. In addition to the tasting counter they also have a long, picnic like table that accommodates quite a few folks for a sit down tasting. The room is tastefully adorned; wine sits naturally throughout the room as does the olive oil and pickled vegetables they make. Medlock Ames is both sustainable and Biodynamic; that’s clear in their approach and the purity comes singing through when you taste their wines.
I sampled about 6 wines during my visit. The regular flight included, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition to those I got to sample a Cabernet/Merlot blend and an earlier (2001) vintage of Merlot. Each of their wines was impressive in its own right. Varietal correctness is the order of the day and there is no doubt when you taste their Chardonnay for instance, the clarity of the grape shines. My personal favorite however is their Merlot. The fruit for this comes from their home estate on Bell Mountain. It’s mostly Merlot with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. As it should this wine tastes like Merlot. It’s sad but there is a sea of uninspired, tired, flabby wine out there with Merlot written on the label. This is NOT that. This is a tremendous wine with great structure, pure fruit flavors, gripping tannins and a long, inspiring finish. This 2006 Merlot has excellent aging potential to boot. I also sampled the 2001 which was made from the same vineyard source. That 10 year old Merlot is in peak mode now and it’s drinking like velvet.
In the grand scheme of things Medlock Ames is a tiny producer. They make about 4,500 cases with plans to expand a little over the ensuing years. But the way they grow their wines, operate their business and shepherd their property makes them a very important player. They’re part of a movement that is increasing in size every day. This little boutique winery with a charming tasting room on a corner in Alexander Valley is well worth a visit. Check them out soon, you’ll be happy you did. I know I’m absolutely thrilled that I popped in yesterday. Sometimes these last minute, unplanned visits are the best kind, this one was a true delight.
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Posted by Gabe on April 28, 2011
The Paso Robles region in California has been exploding over the last decade. Both it’s reputation and number of wineries have grown by leaps and bounds. It’s a fascinating region where a wide swath of varietals can thrive. However one of the biggest marks they have been making is with Rhone varietals. Bottled both as stand alone wines and in blends, many grapes known best for theirRhone origins thrive spectacularly in Paso Robles. Today I’ll look at a white blend from Eberle Winery.
The Eberle 2008 Cotes-Du-Robles Blanc is a blend of Roussanne (49%), Grenache Blanc (33%), and Viognier (18%). The fruit for this selection was sourced from two vineyard sites; Steinbeck Vineyard and Robert Hall Vineyard. Each varietal was hand harvested separately and inoculated with yeast in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation and aging then took place in French oak (20% new) over a period of 9 months. The components were brought together to form the final blend right before bottling. This offering is currently available at WineChateau.com for $22.89
Aromas of Lychee, white peach and apricot are all present on the nose of this wine. Both stone and orchard fruit present themselves on the palate. Pear, apricot and white peach are all prominent and abundant in flavor throughout the palate of this wine which has substantial depth and layer after layer of flavor. An unctuous quality emerges on the finish which also shows off copious spices and bits of clover honey. This wine drinks beautifully on it’s own but will be a tremendous partner for soft cheeses, or pastas with cream based sauces.
Eberle has been a solid name in Paso Robles for quite awhile now. Their take on a white Rhones tyle blend is another feather in their cap. With warm weather here, this wine is a great choice to have on hand for outdoor gatherings.
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Posted by Gabe on April 20, 2011
Cabernet Sauvignon really rules the roost in a number of different wine regions. Chile is one of the countries that has really made a mark with this classic varietal. Long before the average consumer recognized Chile as a go to country for good values, wine geeks recognized that Chile was exporting a ton of terrific Cabernet at hard to beat prices. These days you can get Cabernet from Chile at every conceivable level of quality and for just about any price point. Today I’ll look at one from Koyle.
The Koyle 2008 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon was produced using fruit sourced at three areas within the Colchagua Valley. All of the fruit was hand harvested. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (86%) this wine also contains Carmenere (14%). After fermentation aging took place in a combination of French Oak (60%) and stainless steel tanks (40%). The wine is filtered once prior to bottling. This Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon has a suggested retail price of $16.99.
Aromas of crushed fresh berries fill the nose of this 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. A little wallop of herb underscores that along with touches of vanilla and white pepper. Both red and black cherries are prominent on the palate with the red taking the lead. Raspberry kicks in as well and these flavors are joined by a solid core of spices such nutmeg and clove in particular. Black pepper, espresso, cranberry and pomegranate notes emerge on the above average finish along with hints of black tea. This wine has soft, yielding tannins and firm acidity.
What appeals to me most about this Cabernet is the juicy, ripe mid-palate which is incredibly engaging. This wine is also well balanced and will pair well full flavored foods in particular. This Cabernet Sauvignon is best suited for drinking in its youth when the fruit flavors are going to shine. I recommend drinking this between now and 2015 for best results.
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Posted by Gabe on April 19, 2011
Napa Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon go together just about as well as any region and varietal. There are a dizzying number of excellent Cabernets emerging from Napa and it’s often hard to keep track. However one particular producer that has impressed me for awhile now is Cornerstone Cellars. They’ve expanded of late and they’re about much more than Cabernet Sauvignon. Each of their releases is worth a long look; Cabernet however remains their benchmark wine. Today I’ll look at the current release of their Napa Valley Bottling.
The Cornerstone Cellars 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is made entirely from fruit sourced in Napa. Vineyards in three distinct sections of Napa are utilized. One third each came from Howell Mountain, Oakville, and Southern Napa County. This wins is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The lots from each vineyard were fermented separately. Barrel aging took place over a 21 month period in all French Oak; 75% of the barrels were new. 1,200 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $60.
The deep, dark hue of this Cabernet Sauvignon is immediately apparent when you pour it. Aromas of berry, cherry, leather and a touch of eucalyptus each inform the nose with prominence. The palate is loaded with black, purple and red fruits; blueberry, blackberry, and cherry are quite prominent and accompanied by a bevy of spices such as pepper and clove. Earth, pencil lead and chicory are the main cogs of the lengthy, persistent finish. This wine has relatively firm tannins which yield with some air, as well as solid acidity.
There’s a lot to like about this Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s an intense wine, layered with concentrated fruit flavors, but it still manages to show restraint and excellent proportion. It’s a fine example of what can be achieved with cuvee style offerings in Napa Valley. My recommendation is to lay this wine down for roughly 3 years and to drink it in the 5 after that. If you’re drinking it today, decant it for 90 minutes to get the most out of it. The bottom line is that Cornerstone Cellars continues to turn out vintage after vintage of classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Posted by Gabe on April 18, 2011
Sprint is here and it’s time to head out to the grill and Barbecue. With the grilling season upon us you’ll want to find wines that pair well with that style of cooking. Malbec is an excellent choice for that, particularly if you’re cooking meats on your grill. Today I’ll look at one from Michael Torino.
The Michael Torino 2008 Don David Malbec was produced using fruit sourced in the Cafayate Valley of Argentina. Michael Torino Estate Winery was founded in 1892 and has over 1,500 acres under vine which are more than 5,500 feet above sea level. This offering is 100% Malbec. The suggested retail price for this wine is $15.99.
Dark, dense fruit aromas fill the nose of this Malbec. Blackberry and blueberry are of particular note. Dried dark fruit flavors including plum are prominent throughout the palate along with a bevy of spice notes led by vanilla bean and clove. This wine has a particularly juicy middle which continues to the finish where kirsch liqueur emerges along with earth and sweet, dark chocolate notes. Excellent acidity keeps things in check here.
This Malbec from Michael Torino is an excellent example of the varietal. It’s delicious on its own and will pair well with full flavored foods. As I mentioned above it’s particularly well suited to grilled meats. However you decide to drink it you’ll find that this wine is a really solid value. If you’re a Malbec fan already here’s a good one to add to your list to try. If you’re new to Malbec this release from Michael Torino is a great place to start.
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Posted by Gabe on April 12, 2011
Zinfandel and Sonoma County go hand in hand. For my money, most of the best examples of Zinfandel come out of one or another area in Sonoma. Sometimes these wines are single vineyard efforts, other times cuvee style offerings. And in this case we have a widely available wine from stalwart Rodney Strong Vineyards that delivers quality, consistency and sheer pleasure vintage after vintage. Today I’ll look at the 2008 edition of the Knotty Vines Zinfandel.
The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Knotty Vines Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced at Estate Vineyards in the northern part of Sonoma County. In addition to Zinfandel (98%), small amounts of Syrah (1%) and Merlot (1%) are blended in as well. Barrel aging took place in a combination of French (62%) and American (38%) oak over a period of 17 months. This offering which is available nationally has a suggested retail price of $18.50.
Black raspberry, vanilla and a gentle undercurrent of herbs all fill the nose of this 2008 Zinfandel. Cherry flavors of varying types, from red and black to kirsch liqueur are the dominating characteristics through the palate along with an overriding core of spices that accompanies them. Dark chocolate and earth notes lead the finish which has good length; spice notes continue to ring out as well, particularly black pepper. This is a well balanced Zin with good acidity. It’s tasty on its own but as is the hallmark of the Rodney Strong portfolio, this offering is meant to accompany a meal.
Year after year this wine delivers good Zinfandel characteristics and terrific value. It has a suggested retail of $18.50 but if you shop around you’ll find it for close to $15. This wine is a no doubter that you can turn to time and again to provide drinking enjoyment at a reasonable price.
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