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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for April, 2012

Davis Bynum – 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on April 30, 2012

Davis Bynum was the first winery to produce a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Over the years they’ve established a long track record of well made, varietally correct Pinot Noir. A couple of years ago the winery was acquired by the owners of Rodney Strong, another terrific Sonoma County producer. Having had several vintages under their stewardship it’s good to see that the string of excellent Pinot continues unabated. Today I’ll take a look at their 2010.

The Davis Bynum 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced from vineyards located in a small sub section of the Russian River Valley. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. The fruit was hand harvested prior to cluster and berry sorting. Fermentation was cool and temperature controlled. Barrel aging occurred over 10 months in 100% French oak. 8,500 cases of this vintage were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $35.

Fresh wild strawberry aromas lead the nose which also shows off herbs and a dollop of earth. The palate tastes like a bowl of fresh red berries. Those fruit flavors are accompanied by loads of spices such as clove, white pepper and a hint of fennel. Sour red cherry, rhubarb and raspberry are all in evidence throughout the lengthy finish along with a hint of black tea. Firm acidity keeps things balanced and helps make The Davis Bynum 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir a marvelous food lovers wine.

It’s nice to be able to count on certain things; the wines of Davis Bynum as well as their sister winery Rodney Strong are two things you can count on for consistent quality and value. My recommendation is to drink them up whenever you get the chance.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Newton Vineyard – 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay / 2008 The Puzzle

Posted by Gabe on April 25, 2012

Recently, I had the opportunity to taste a number of Newton Vineyard’s current releases alongside Chris Millard their winemaker. It was one of the more interesting tastings in recent memory; in addition to the wines themselves there was a special focus on filtration. Newton makes both filtered and unfiltered wines. All of the releases we sampled are well made and eminently drinkable. I for one however leaned towards the unfiltered wines as my preference. There is an inherent weightiness to their palate and a deeper concentration of flavors and aromas that stood out to me as particularly special. To conclude the tasting we also sampled filtered coffee versus unfiltered French Press. This was also a revelation and it’s a somewhat simple experiment that anyone with a French Press as well as a filtered coffee maker can replicate at home. I encourage you to do just that as I believe you might well be amazed. I decided to revisit a couple of my favorites from the Newton Vineyard portfolio and here’s a look at them.

First up is the Newton Vineyard 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay. This wine was produced utilizing fruit sourced from several locations within Napa County including Newton’s 30 year old Carneros vineyard. Newton’s unfiltered Chardonnay is a 100% varietal wine. Fermentation took place with wild yeasts. Barrel aging occurred over 16 months in French oak; 30% of the barrels utilized were new. This offering has a suggested retail price of $60.

This Chardonnay has a deeply perfumed nose loaded with appealing aromatics. Apple, guava and subtle hints of vanilla bean each play a role. Pineapples, oodles of apple, hints of apricot and spices galore are all prominent throughout the palate. An undercurrent of tropical fruit flavors is present as well. There is an amazing depth of palate here and it is simply loaded with controlled intensity and complexity. The finish on the Unfiltered Newton Chardonnay is long, lusty, fruity and engaging. It goes on and on persistently with fruit and spice notes reverberating. A touch of creaminess provides the final, pleasing note. The bottom line for me is that this is one of the small handful of very best and most honest Chardonnays coming out of Napa Valley at any price point.

The second wine is Newton Vineyard’s 2008 The Puzzle. This is a Bordeaux inspired blend that was made from fruit sourced at their home vineyard on Spring Mountain. Their property is broken up into small blocks and each vintage the finest lots are selected to assemble The Puzzle. As such the varietal composition can vary greatly from one year to the next. The current release is a blend of Merlot (42%), Cabernet Sauvignon (36%), Cabernet Franc (14%), Petit Verdot (6%) and Malbec (2%). Aging occurred over 20 months in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $80.

Cabernet Franc lovers will recognize it’s presence in this wine from the first whiff they take. It lifts the nose and provides a lovely gateway with black cherry, dark chocolate and hints of leather leading the way. Plums and blackberry flavors show up on the palate along with continued cherry (both red and black) characteristics. Nutmeg, black pepper and clove spices are present as well. Earth, hints of smoked meats, cardamom and minerals all emerge on the finish which is persistent and impressive in its length. Impeccable structure and acidity are also present, helping to make this an absolutely phenomenal blend. This is classic Napa Valley mountain fruit in all it’s glory with finesse, depth and a rugged backbone. I sampled The Puzzle after it had been open for a full 24 hours and it was drinking even more beautifully.

There’s no two ways about it, these are both stunningly terrific wines. I’m particularly finicky about California Chardonnays in the premium price range. I find way too many of them are over priced wood and butter bombs that taste like almost anything but Chardonnay. The Newton Vineyard Chardonnay flies in the face of that and is loaded with pure Chardonnay fruit that is enhanced by the oak treatment it received. At $60 it’s not a wine aimed at everyday consumption, but it is an impeccable example of how well Chardonnay can do in California when treated appropriately through the entire process. If you love Chardonnay you owe it to yourself to try this wine when you can. The Puzzle is an excellent blended wine that you’ll have fun drinking with a great meal or sitting with some friends and picking apart all the varietal components that shine in their own way as they come together to make a most excellent and well balanced blend. Both of these wines will drink well for a number of years, The Puzzle in particular while delicious now will improve over the next 10-15 years. If you haven’t tried the wines from Newton Vineyard, they are well worth both your time and your money. Their more readily available and lower priced, filtered offerings are also wines you should consider.

Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot | Leave a Comment »

Parducci – 2010 Small Lot Blend Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on April 24, 2012

Parducci Wine Cellars has a lot going for it. They’re a Mendocino County producer that has been around for quite a long time. In their history they’ve seen and done a lot. What they have been doing of late is producing vintage after vintage of well made, varietally correct wines that are perfect for everyday consumption. These are budget friendly wines that are generally available all over the country. Today I’ll look at their current release of Chardonnay.

The Parducci 2010 Small Lot Blend Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced in their home appellation of Mendocino County. The fruit was picked, fermented and vinified in small lots. Aging was accomplished over 8 months in a combination of stainless steel (95%) and used French oak (5%). Afterwards select lots were blended together to create this wine. This nationally available selection has a suggested retail price of $10.99.

The story of this wine can be summed up in one word: apples. It starts with he first whiff of the nose which gives the feel of being in the middle of an apple orchard. The apple party continues on the palate where Golden Delicious and Macintosh apples star. They are joined there by a bevy of bakers spices and a nice dollop of lemon curd. Minerals, citrus zest and continued apple flavors reverberate through the finish which has more than sufficient length for its category. Bright acidity keeps things in check and makes this wine a natural partner for light fare of all kinds.

The 2010 Small lot Blend Chardonnay from Parducci is another in a long line of well made, fairly priced releases that most can drink any night of the week without breaking the budget.

Posted in Chardonnay, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Dry Creek Vineyard – 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on April 23, 2012

The Facts:

The Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel was produced using fruit sourced at vineyards throughout Dry Creek Valley. In strictly keeping with their ideal of the Old Vines designation the vines soured range in age from 85 to more than 110 years old. In addition to Zinfandel (92%) this offering also contains a small amount of Petite Sirah (8%). Barrel aging took place over 18 months in a combination of French (71%), American (18%) and Hungarian (11%) oak; 51% of the barrels were new. Just fewer than 2,700 cases of this Zinfandel were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $28. Dry Creek Vineyard is located at 3770 Lambert Bridge Road in Healdsburg. They’re open daily from 10:30 AM until 4:30 PM. Private tasting options and tours are available by prior appointment. Check their website for the details or call them at 800-864-9463.

Gabe’s Take:

Dry Creek Vineyard makes several fine Zinfandels each year. The vineyard designates are quite special in their own right. Their Old Vine Zin though has its own unique appeal. Vintage after vintage this wine showcases what an excellent cuvee style offering made from true Old Vines in the heart of Zin country is all about. After tasting the 2008 I can report that it’s no exception. Blackberry and dark plum aromas are in strong evidence on the nose. The first sip reveals raspberry and cherry characteristics in abundance. Darker fruit characteristics reveal themselves just a moment later and carry through the finish which shows off hints of pencil lead and graphite as well as a veritable avalanche of spices. As it has been over the years this is a classically styled Zinfandel that is an absolutely archetypal example of Dry Creek Valley.

Posted in Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Graffigna – 2010 Centenario Malbec

Posted by Gabe on April 17, 2012

April 17th is World Malbec day. This day was chosen for it’s historical importance to both Argentina’s wine industry as a whole and the focus on Malbec as their calling card varietal. Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed the wines from Graffigna on numerous occasions. Today I’ll look at one of their current releases of Malbec.

The Graffigna 2010 Centenario Malbec was produced from fruit grown in the San Juan region of Argentina. Hand harvesting of the fruit occurred in the early morning hours to assure cooler temperatures. After transport to the winery in small vessels the grapes were macerated for 15 days followed by fermentation in stainless steel tanks; another 7 day period of maceration followed.  Barrel aging occurred over 12 months in a combination of French (85%) and American oak (15%). This wine can be most often found on store shelves for right around $10.

This Malbecs nose is filled with red and black raspberry aromas. These characteristics as well as cherry, mission fig and a host of spices such as nutmeg and fennel emerge on the palate which shows good refinement. Vanilla bean, cardamom, white and black pepper as well as a bit of cranberry emerges on the finish which has good length for its category. The Graffigna Malbec shows off medium tannins that yield easily with air. It also displays a few hints of the eager, bright fruits so typical of Malbec in this category but leans heavily towards the darker, denser fruits and structure more often found in pricier examples. This is a solid value in Malbec and a fine choice to drink on World Malbec Day.

Posted in Malbec, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Masút Vineyards and Winery – 2010 Estate Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on April 12, 2012

I was quite impressed with the 2009 vintage of Masút Pinot Noir. So when the 2010 came across my desk I was particularly excited to sample it and see if it compared favorably to that previous vintage. Masút Vineyards and Winery was founded by third generation vintners Ben and Jacob Fetzer. They’re a small family own and run winery specializing in Pinot Noir; a grape that has gained tremendous popularity in the United States over the last decade and is becoming a key varietal for Mendocino County. Today I’ll take a look at the 2010 release

The Masút 2010 Estate Pinot Noir was sourced from the winery’s 23 acre hillside parcel. This vineyard was planted in 1997. The property is split into numerous blocks; 13 different ones, hand picked over 12 days were utilized to create this Pinot Noir. After hand sorting and destemming the fruit was fermented over 16 days in stainless steel utilizing both native and select yeasts. Barrel aging occurred over 11 months in French oak; 50% of the barrels were new. 1,400 6 bottles cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $40.

Wild strawberry, leather, mushroom and thyme aromas leap from the glass of this 2010 Pinot Noir. The palate is loaded with appealing and eager fresh, red fruit flavors; strawberry, cherry and raspberry are all here in abundance. Gingerbread spices kick in along with white pepper towards the back of the palate. The finish is impressively persistent and shows off rhubarb, sour cherry, black raspberry and a bit of green peppercorn. This wine is finely structured and has lively and vibrant acidity. It’s easy to enjoy on its own and will pair favorably with an incredibly wide array of foods

This Pinot has depth and layer upon layer of delicious flavors to spare. I recommend decanting this wine if you’re going to consume it over the next year or two. It’s ever so slightly tight and some air really allows it to open up and showcase all its charms. As great as the 2009 release was, this one is strikingly better. The bottom line for me: The Masút 2010 Estate Pinot Noir represents everything that great Pinot Noir from California should be. If you love Pinot Noir I can’t recommend this wine vociferously enough; grab it before it’s gone.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Waterstone – 2008 Napa Valley Merlot

Posted by Gabe on April 2, 2012

It seems that Merlot is still recovering from a couple of things, One is the boatload of insipid examples that clogged wine shop shelves for years; finding the good ones was akin to a treasure hunt. As a sort of response to that the film Sideways did a number on this excellent grape. Thankfully these days more of the Merlot’s you’ll find on your shelf are worth spending your time, not to mention money on. Today I’ll look at a fine example of Merlot from Napa Valley.

The Waterstone 2008 Merlot was produced from Napa Valley fruit. The majority of the fruit used to make this wine is from the Truchard Vineyard in Carneros. The balance came from Chiles Valley. This wine is 100% Merlot. All of the fruit was hand harvested. Gentle crushing and fermentation followed. Barrel aging was accomplished over 21 months in French oak; 35% of the barrels were new. Just fewer than 1,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18.

This Merlot’s gorgeous nose includes raspberry, cherry eucalyptus and subtle candied fruit characteristics. The palate leans towards dark fruits with blackberries, plum, black raspberries and cherries all in abundance. Zingy black peppercorn notes are present as well. Chicory, tobacco leaf, lingering berry fruits and lots of spice notes makeup the above average finish. This wine has good structure that shows off firm but yielding tannins that give with some air. While it’s ready to go now, this Merlot will drink nicely for the next ½ dozen years. This represents a nice value in Napa Valley Merlot.

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