Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for May, 2011

Mercer Estates – 2008 Columbia Valley Merlot

Posted by Gabe on May 24, 2011

The Mercer Estates 2008 Merlot was produced utilizing fruit sourced at two growing regions within the Columbia Valley appellation of Washington State. In addition to Merlot (93%), this wine also contains some Cabernet Sauvignon (7%). All of the fruit was hand harvested as each block matured. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in a combination of French and American Oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $23.99.

Aromas of dark berry fruit fill the nose of this 2008 Merlot. Wisps of herb and a touch of eucalyptus add additional depth to the aromatic profile. Black cherry plays a starring role in the palate of this wine. Raspberry flavors kick in as well along with tobacco leaf characteristics. Subtle Kirsch Liqueur elements emerge at the back of the palate and lead to the finish which also shows off black pepper, earth, dusty dark chocolate and chicory. This wine features firm structure and solid acidity.

There’s a lot to like about this Merlot. First and most importantly it shows off lots of varietal character. It’s also a well balanced wine that drinks beautifully now but will improve in the short term and drink well for another 7 or 8 years. If you drink this Merlot in the next 2 years I recommend decanting it for about 90 minutes. That aeration really helps this wine flourish and show off all its charms. This wine is a nice value in Merlot and if you shop around you’ll be able to find it for under $20.

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Masút Vineyards and Winery – 2009 Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on May 23, 2011

There’s quite a bit of tasty, well made Pinot Noir emerging from Mendocino County. Many of the noteworthy offerings are from family owned, boutique wineries making small amounts of wine. Masút Vineyards and Winery, which was founded by third generation vintners Ben and Jacob Fetzer, fits that description. This wine is dedicated to their Dad who passed away in 2006. Today I’ll look at their inaugural release of Estate Pinot Noir.

The Masút Vineyards and Winery 2009 Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced at Ben and Jake Fetzer’s Estate Vineyard in Mendocino California. Three clones of Pinot Noir (777, 115, and 113) were used. Their vineyard in the family tradition is certified organic. Barrel aging took place in French oak, 55% of the barrels were new. 1,700 six-pack cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $40.

Aromas of cherry and wild strawberry dominate the nose of this 2009 Pinot Noir. Hints of mushroom and vanilla play supporting aromatic roles. Black cherry fruit is prominent throughout the palate along with lighter flourishes of plum and black raspberry. Lots of spice notes appear as well with clove, nutmeg and cardamom the most prominent. Black tea, minerals and earth notes are all apparent in the finish which has excellent length, and depth of flavor. This is a Pinot Noir that will pair as beautifully with a wide of foods as it will drink on its own.

This introductory release from Masút is impressive and speaks well to the quality products we can expect from them on a go forward basis. If you’re a Pinot Noir lover, this is a release you should go out of your way to seek out.

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Cuma – 2010 Torrontes

Posted by Gabe on May 17, 2011

Many wine styles and varietals are more popular for late spring and summer drinking than during the rest of the year. Torrontes is a grape that certainly fits in that category. When they’re well made they’re floral, spicy and quite refreshing. Today I’ll look at one from Cuma that fits that description.

The Cuma 2010 Torrontes is an Organic Wine. The Cuma label is part of the Michael Torino Estate and represents their Organic offerings. This selection was produced from fruit sourced in the Cafayete Valley of Argentina. It is 100% Torrontes, fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel tanks. This offering has a suggested retail price of $12.99.

Aromas of lychee fruit, apricot and white flowers fill the fresh and vibrant nose of this 2010 Torrontes. White peach, and nectarine are in abundance throughout the palate; wisps of vanilla play a supporting role. Additional spices such as nutmeg emerge and lead to the finish which is of medium length. It’s crisp and refreshing with a final drying characteristic providing the last note.

The body and spice components of this Torrontes bring to mind Gewurztraminer that sells for twice the price. That said this is a very nice example of Torrontes, with excellent varietal character, that will work perfectly well for summer sipping or paired with lighter foods. If you’re having a Memorial Day BBQ, keep plenty of this wine on ice and you’re sure to have a yard full of happy guests. If you shop around you’ll find this wine available for about $10 which is an excellent value for a very enjoyable bottle.

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V. Sattui Winery – 2008 North Coast Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on May 16, 2011

The 2008 V. Sattui North Coast Petite Sirah was produced using fruit sourced in Lake County (65%), Napa Valley (30%) and Dry Creek Valley (5%). In addition to Petite Sirah (95%), this wine has some Zinfandel (5%) blended in. This wine is available directly from the winery for $30.

The first noteworthy thing about this wine is its color. Like most great Petite Sirah it leads with a deep, dark, purple hue. It’s fair to say it’s as dark as night. From there comes the nose which is deep and brooding, loaded with aromas of plum and blueberry. This Wine has a big, burly palate which features intensely layered black fruit flavors which intermingle with copious spice characteristics. Blackberry, plum, and blueberry are the dominant fruits; plum pudding spices are prominent as well. Earth and dark chocolate notes are present on the finish which has good length and oodles of complexity. This wine features solid acidity and firm, gripping tannins.

Petite Sirah is a grape whose offerings I look to taste as often as possible. Sometimes I run across a surprising example of the varietal that exceeds expectations. This 2008 release from V. Sattui is such a release. The intense layers of complexity and good length along with its overall balance make this a wine that provides more quality than its price point suggests. If you like classically styled Petite Sirah, this is an offering you’ll want to sample. This wine is delicious now, but some additional bottle age will help it round out a bit. If you have patience lay this down for about 5 years and you’ll be dutifully rewarded with an even more resolved wine. If you’re drinking it now I recommend decanting it for about 2 hours.

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Visiting Judd’s Hill Winery on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley

Posted by Gabe on May 9, 2011

Wine tasting is one of the greatest and most relaxing ways to spend a couple of hours, a day or a week. If you spend enough time in tasting rooms it’s easy to pick out the places that are truly special. At the end of the day if the wine is good, that’s sufficient I suppose. That said some places take it to another level by treating their visitors particularly well or offering more than just a couple of pours at a bar in the corner. I spent the last week plus out in Napa and Sonoma and I found some excellent places to recommend. Once such producer is Judd’s Hill, which is located on the Silverado trail. If you hit the trail out of downtown Napa they’re quite literally the first producer you’ll run across.

Judd’s Hill is a boutique winery that sets itself apart from the masses in Napa in a number of ways. From the moment you drive onto their property you’ll feel like you’re transported to a different time. Their facility is just perfectly secluded enough to make this an incredibly serene environment. Lucky for us wine lovers that they share it with the public. Tastings at Judd’s Hill occur daily from 10 AM to 4 PM by prior appointment. The tasting room itself seems like anything but the standard bearer rooms you find at many other spots nearby. It’s a bright, well lit room, with a large conference style table at the center. The walls are adorned with artwork from both local artists who are being featured and members of the family such as founder Art Finkelstein. Tastings at Judd’s Hill are $10 (waived with a $45 purchase) and officially they have about 5 wines at a time they pour. However often they have other wines open which are gladly sampled for the keenly interested. Someone will guide you and/or your group through the tasting and walk you through the facility as well if you’re interested. Their wines are made both from estate and purchased fruit. What is distinct about the Judd’s Hill wines is that they are each well-balanced and loaded with varietal character. They’re also priced very fairly which is nice to see. Their new release 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($24) is a particular standout in terms of being an exceptional value. The Estate Pinot Noir which is available only at the winery was my favorite of their current releases. I also got to sample a Merlot and several Cabernet Sauvignons. Each wine they poured for me was terrific and if you’re a fan of one of their wines there’s a good chance the portfolio in general will appeal to you. The reason for this is the house style which is aimed towards producing balanced and food friendly wines which are proportionate.

In addition to producing wines under their own label, Judd’s Hill is a custom crush facility. That means you can sign up to utilize their equipment and vast wine making acumen to make your own wines. Unlike many of the other such facilities out there Judd’s Hill is a Micro Crush facility; their focus is not on large commercial clients but rather on wine enthusiasts the world over who want a place to enjoy their hobby or start their small brand. By focusing on smaller clients, one barrel (24 cases) is the minimum; they can apply the same personal touches they do to their own small-lot wines and tasting room visitors to their Micro Crush clients. Their website contains many more details, but in short someone who wants to participate can pick exactly which parts of the process they want to be involved in, Judd’s Hill will handle the rest for you.

Judd’s Hill also offers a wine club that can be customized to suit your personal tastes and needs. This includes selecting the number of bottles you receive (shipments are quarterly), as well as an option to receive red wines only. Wine club members are also welcome to pick their wines up at Judd’s Hill. That sounds like a perfect reason to stop by for a taste every 3 months. They also throw events throughout the year including wine pick up parties. If you’re lucky, winery namesake Judd Finkelstein’s Ukulele band will be playing.

So whether you’re in Napa Valley looking to taste wine or you want to bottle some of your own, Judd’s Hill is a place to keep in mind. Their friendly, welcoming atmosphere as well as eclectic artistry and tastes guarantee you’ll have spent time at a special and distinct place when you eventually walk out their door. Call them at 707-255-2332 to schedule a visit; you’ll be glad you did.

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Visiting Signorello Estate in Napa Valley

Posted by Gabe on May 4, 2011

I’ve been travelling to Napa Valley since the early 90’s. Even with trips out here several times a year there are wineries that have existed that whole time that I have yet to get to. With that in mind I try to scratch a few off of my list each time out so I can taste their wine and of course see what they’re up to. One such producer whose wines I’ve been drinking over the years is Signorello Estate located on Silverado Trail. Even before landing I had them on my short list of places to finally get to this trip. I’m happy to say I’m very glad I did.

The drive up the road to Signorello Estate from Silverado trail isn’t a long one, but when you reach the top you’re sure to feel like you’ve entered a special place. The grounds are stunning and the colors of the tasting room building inside and out are warm and inviting. When I reached their tasting counter I was greeted enthusiastically and noted that there are several tasting options. In addition to current release and Reserve flights poured in the tasting room Signorello offers tours, food and wine pairings and picnics on their patio. The food is cooked in house, actually right in the tasting room which features an open kitchen area.

The day I visited the current releases being featured included two whites and three reds. This tasting is available for $15. The reserve tasting featured fived reds; within that a three year vertical of their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and two vintages of “Padrone” their Proprietary Estate Blend. Depending on the day you go, they may have other treats open for you to sample. For example I got to experience a Cabernet Franc that was simply out of this world. One of my favorites amongst the current releases is their white blend “Seta.” This classic Bordeaux inspired blend is 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, flipping the formula on most of the White Bordeaux style wines you’ll run across in California. It’s a really lovely wine that features a gentle palate layered with lots of flavor and a slightly zippy finish with good length. It’s delicious on its own but it’ll really work fabulously with lighter foods.

At the other end of the spectrum I thought that their proprietary Red “Padrone” was a knockout wine. I tasted both the 2006 and 2007. Currently the 2007 is a bit more accessible and ready to drink. However both are beefy, Cabernet based wines that will age gracefully for a minimum of 15 years. Other wines I tasted included Chardonnay, Syrah and Zinfandel. There’s clearly a house style at Signorello; Proportion, grace, balance and precise power are the words I’d use to describe that style. Each wine I sampled was loaded with varietal character and made in a food friendly style. I had the chance to speak to Pierre Birebent for quite awhile and he’s a charming host and great ambassador for these wines, not to mention a killer winemaker. He’s been at Signorello since 1998 after working at several other places as a vineyard manager, a title he also retains here. His passion for making excellent wines that are balanced but not wimpy was obvious in speaking to him. He’s clearly achieving his goal.

Out in back of the tasting room is beautiful patio and pool, where events and some of the tastings take place. The view is nothing short of stunning. Truthfully it took me much longer to visit Signorello Estate than it should have. One thing is for certain, it won’t take me nearly as long to get back. Their picnic on the patio sounds way too tempting, plus the wine is outstanding. I highly recommend you add Signorello to the itinerary on your next trip to Napa too! These folks are doing a wonderful job and a stop will be well worth your time and money.

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