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Archive for the ‘Chardonnay’ Category

Rotari 2005 Flavio Talento Brut Riserva (DOC)

Posted by Gabe on March 27, 2014

rotariEach year Gambero Rosso visits the United States and hosts the Tre Bicchieri tastings in several American cities. What they’re showcasing is all of the best, most highly regarded wines from Italy the previous year. I’ve been attending the tasting in New York for the last seven or so years, and I can honestly say there isn’t an annual large-scale tasting I look forward to more. The breadth of excellent Italian wine is stunning. Whether you want to focus on a particular grape or style, or your preference is to wander around and survey the bounty, you’re more than likely to find something delicious at every turn. So when a wine or wines really make a strong impression amid such an imposing gathering, it’s noteworthy. This year one of my single favorites was a beautiful sparkling wine from Rotari, head over to my column at The Daily Meal to read about it.

Posted in Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine, The Daily Meal, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Hardys – 2012 William Hardy Chardonnay / 2012 Nottage Hill Shiraz

Posted by Gabe on March 3, 2014

A few months back I had dinner with the chief winemaker for the entire Hardys brand. They’re one of the largest producers in not only Australia but the world. The Hardys umbrella contains a number of labels under the flagship brand. Nottage Hill and William Hardy are two of them. Here’s a look at a wine from each of those that I just tasted and really enjoyed.

Hardys 2012 William Hardy Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced from 7 different regions, however just less than 60% came from the Padthaway region. Fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel tanks. This Chardonnay has a suggested retail price of $17. The nose here is loaded with a glorious amount of appealing apple aromas that are underscored by bits of stone fruit. Lemon curd is prominent on the palate along with pineapple and a bevy of pear flavors that include both Bartlett and Anjou. Apple pie spices lead the finish along with plenty of minerals and a tiny wisp of crème fraiche. This Chardonnay is crisp, clean and refreshing. It’s as enjoyable all by itself as it will be paired soft cheeses or light appetizers.

Hardys 2012 Nottage Hill Shiraz was produced from fruit sourced in South Eastern Australia. This offering is entirely Shiraz. Nottage Hill wines have been around since the 1967 vintage. It has a suggested retail price of $13. Red and black plum aromas are joined by black currant and cassis on the dark and somewhat brooding nose of this Shiraz. Dark fruit flavors dominate the palate with blackberry, black raspberry and plum leading the charge. The finish shows off kirsch liqueur and bits of chocolate sauce as well as a touch of earth. This is a proportionate and balanced Shiraz that will pair well with both medium and full flavored foods.

These two wines from Hardys are indicative of everything from the portfolio I’ve tasted of late. That is they are true to varietal, well balanced and food friendly. Each of these also represents a solid value. The Shiraz in particular is a steal. For closer to $10 a bottle, if you shop around, it’ll serve as a terrific house wine.

Posted in Australia, Chardonnay, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Banging Bubbly for New Years Eve

Posted by Gabe on December 30, 2013

I’m a firm believer that most of us should be drinking sparkling wine more often. It can be versatile with food, often delicious on its own and quite frankly just plain fun. That said the one day we all seem to agree on when it comes to Sparkling Wine consumption is New Years Eve. With that in mind here are three that I tried recently and really enjoyed. One of them falls into the traditional category of classic Champagne. The other two are new world entries, one traditional in style and intent, and the other leaps and bounds in a different direction. Most importantly each of them is unique and delicious.

Paringa – 2012 Sparkling Shiraz. This wine is composed entirely of Shiraz. The fruit was sourced from 14 year old vines. This sparkler saw a short window of time in French oak. 10,000 cases of this Sparkling Shiraz were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Black raspberry aromas lead a huge nose that is fruity and floral. If the nose of a wine could be compared to an invitation, this one is welcoming you to a party that is fun and boisterous. The palate is studded with vibrant black fruit flavors; blackberry and raspberry are most prominent. Molasses, anise, black cherry and a mélange of spices are all present in the above average finish. The bottom line here is that the Paringa Sparkling Shiraz is a fun and delicious wine. Pair it with dessert, a burger or drink it by itself, each alternative will work.

Mumm Napa – Brut Prestige was made from a combination of Pinot Noir (51%), Chardonnay (46%), Pinot Meunier (2%), and Pinot Gris (1%). The first three grapes are the classic triumvirate most often associated with Sparkling Wine; The Pinot Gris is something out of the standard realm that they have added. Fermentation took place primarily in stainless steel. 18 months of aging on yeast followed. This widely available Brut style wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Bits of citrus and white stone fruits fill the nose this wine. This entry level selection in the Mumm portfolio and it’s a classic Brut. The palate is dry and loaded with fruit and spice. Yeast and biscuit characteristics emerge on the finish which has nice length. While the friendly price makes it an obvious choice for holiday celebrations this wine will go very well with food whether it’s paired with a first course during dinner or alongside brunch, you’ll be pleased with the results.

Perrier-Jouet – Grand Brut (NV). This Champagne was composed from a blend of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%), and Chardonnay (20%). After fermentation and racking, more than 300 wines are tasted to assemble this blend. In addition to the current vintage reserve wines from previous vintages amounting to between 10% and 20% are also blended in. The wine is then aged in their estate cellars. This Champagne has a suggested retail price of $50. Aromas of apple, ginger and lemon are all part of the gently expressive nose. Orchard fruit flavors are dominant on the palate along with a core of accompanying spices. Bits of brioche and biscuit are present on the lengthy finish along with lemon zest and white pepper spice. This is a classic example of Brut that shines year after year. It will be a fine accompaniment to lighter foods and also a terrific choice to pop open to celebrate the arrival of 2014.

Drinking more sparkling wine, Champagne or otherwise, is a fine resolution for the new year. Get off on the right foot and finish off 2013 with one or more from this trio, you can’t really go wrong here.

Posted in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Davis Bynum – 2011 River West Chardonnay / 2011 Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir / 2011 Jane’s Vineyard, Garfield Block Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on December 20, 2013

Davis Bynum was the first Winery to truly recognize how special and viable Russian River Valley is for Pinot Noir. Their faith in the area was evidenced when they made the regions first single vineyard Pinot Noir with the 1973 vintage. Today the winery is safely entrenched under the Rodney Strong umbrella. They continue to make wines that are true to their origins. Here are three site specific examples.

The Davis Bynum 2011 River West Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced exclusively at the namesake vineyard. Blocks of fruit from this vineyard were harvested separately and each batch was pressed and fermented separately. Barrel aging took place over 10 months in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $30. Gravenstein apple and baker’s spice aromas are in full force on the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is fruit and spice driven with apples, pear, pineapple, cinnamon and clove all in evidence. Hint of lemon curd lead the finish along with minerals and a copious amount of spice. This Chardonnay is rich and round with crispy acidity. It’s delicious sipped alone but will flourish with lighter fare.

The Davis Bynum 2011 Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced in the namesake vineyard. It is composed entirely of Pinot Noir and features a blend of 7 clones. After fermentation it spent 10 months, exclusively in French oak. It has a suggested retail price of $40. Wild strawberry aromas fill the nose of this classic Russian River Pinot. Black cherry leads a substantial palate which is loaded with concentrated (for Pinot) flavors. Cloves, cinnamon, rhubarb and flint are all part of the focused and lengthy finish. This is a delicious Pinot that benefits greatly from about an hour in the decanter. It has firm acidity and medium tannins. It would be a tremendous match with honey glazed ham.

The Davis Bynum 2011 Jane’s Vineyard, Garfield Block Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced in the single named block. It’s planted exclusively to clone 667. After temperature controlled fermentation it was aged in entirely new French oak for 10 months. This Pinot has a suggested retail price of $60. This Pinot has a heady and intoxicating nose featuring a bevy of fresh red berry aromas. Strawberry, red cherry and interspersing bits of raspberry are part of the fierce palate which is remarkable in its cohesiveness and depth. Black tea, leather, and continued cherry characteristics are all part of the lengthy finish which is particularly distinguished by a refined richness. Garfield Block is a stunning example of Pinot that shows a driven singularity which you’d be hard pressed not to be knocked out by. If you’re looking for specific, vineyard driven Pinot Noir, grab this one!

I’ve had the chance to taste with winemaker Greg Morthole on several occasions. It’s clear to me that with the Davis Bynum wines he works hard to honor Davis’s legacy while moving the ball forward a bit. Quite frankly it’s a smashing success. These are delicious wines that speak of their place quite loudly. By producing excellent single vineyard and block wines they are re-cementing the foundation Davis Bynum first established. This is a beautiful trio of wines, which is also perfectly suited for the Holiday table. Taken as a piece, they’re a fascinating, focused, and delectable look at Russian River Valley. Grab them now, thank me later.

Posted in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir | Leave a Comment »

Visiting Black Stallion Winery on Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail

Posted by Gabe on December 13, 2013

Black Stallion Winery is a Napa Valley producer located at the Southern end of the Silverado Trail. Relatively speaking they’re a pretty new operation, having opened their doors on site in 2007. I was just out in Napa Valley and since I had liked a couple of their widely distributed wines which I’d had recently I thought I should visit and see what they were up to.

One of the first things you’ll learn if you visit Black Stallion is that their portfolio is far wider than the wines they have in distribution. In terms of releases, most of their offerings are aimed at their wine club and people who take the time to stop by their tasting room for a sample. There are a couple of different options when you do visit; these range in price from $15 to $30. The choices include things like a tour and tasting, Reds only tasting, private tasting, Wine & Pizza pairing and more. Basically they have something that will fit most people’s mood, desire, and budget.

The property Black Stallion sits on as well as some of the structures was previously an Equestrian center, the longest lasting one in California actually. I toured the facility while I was there and it’s an interesting an appealing property to check out. Right outside the building are rows of different grapes that are used as a learning vineyard. Many different varieties of grapes are featured, each with their own row. showing them side by side makes it easy for staff to teach interested visitors how to spot the differences between say a Chardonnay leaf and a Cabernet leaf. Walking through the production area it’s easy and fascinating to see where the doors to horse stalls once were. I enjoyed a nice, crisp and refreshing Rosé while I was walking around and then eventually sat down in a welcoming and comfortable room for a private tasting. Here are my thoughts on a handful of my favorite wines from the visit.

Black Stallion Estate Winery 2012 Chardonnay – This wine which is 100% Chardonnay is one of the two releases they currently have in nationwide distribution. It was aged over 10 months in entirely French oak; 30% of the barrels utilized were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Granny Smith apple aromas fill the nose of this Chardonnay. Taking the first sip the apple characteristics continue along joined by Anjou pear, baker’s spices and a bit of citrus zest. The finish is long and spicy with a hint of pie crust bringing things to a close. This wine is a solid value in readily available Napa Chardonnays.

Black Stallion 2011 Monte Rosso Zinfandel – 100% of the fruit for this wine comes from the esteemed vineyard of the same name. This offering is entirely Zinfandel. It was aged in French oak over 15 months. 46% of the barrels were new and the rest a combination of once and twice used. This wine sells for $45 through the winery. Right from the brambly nose it’s apparent that this is a classic example of Monte Rosso Zin. A potpourri of berry fruits fills the engaging palate with mouth pleasing flavors. Blackberry and raspberry flavors continue through the finish and are joined by black pepper and the essence of vanilla bean. This is a proportionate and even keeled Zin. Stylistically it owes much more to the classic old school Zin of past generations than it does the flashier, rocket fuel style Zins that are in fashion these days. This is simply an awesome Zinfandel and with less than 400 cases made it probably won’t last long, so grab it.

Black Stallion 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is composed of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. All of the fruit is from Napa Valley. Barrel aging took place over 22 months in entirely French oak. It sells through the winery for $75. This Cabernet has a huge and boisterous nose loaded with dark fruit character. Black Cherry flavors dominate the palate. Blackberry and boysenberry flavors emerge on the finish along with a fine helping of chicory and dusty cocoa. This Cabernet has excellent length, chewy tannins and firm acid. It’s delicious today but will improve over the next 5-7 years and age gracefully for a handful after that. If you like classic Napa Cabernet that’s fruity but not over ripe, not to mention proportionate and food friendly, this is a wine for you.

Black Stallion 2009 Bucephalus Red – This proprietary blend varies in varietal composition from vintage to vintage. The 2009 was made from Cabernet Sauvignon (92%), Merlot (7%), and Syrah (1%). Barrel aging took place over 24 months in entirely French oak. It sells for $175 through the winery. Plum and black cherry aromas leap from the nose of this blend. The palate is rich and lush with depth, complexity and flavor to spare. Big, ripe, red and black cherry flavors are joined by a copious amount of spice. The finish is long and lusty with hints of kirsch liqueur and sweet chocolate sauce making an appearance. This wine has medium tannins that recede with some air. It’s a big, bold wine but it’s also quite approachable. I had a chance to sample the 2007 vintage as well and it had aged nicely. While the varietal composition varied the general intent of style was similar and speaks to the wine’s ability to age well in the mid term. There is even a dedicated Bucephalus tasting option available on weekends (or by prior reservation). One of their lounges off the main tasting room is used for this and for $30 you get the chance to taste four vintages of Bucephalus, which even has its own dedicated club you can join to guarantee an allocation.

This is a small sampling of the wines Black Stallion is making; they have quite a few others in their portfolio. One upcoming addition is a Pinot Noir which is going to be distributed alongside the Chardonnay & Cabernet Sauvignon. Next time you’re in Napa Valley I highly encourage you to visit Black Stallion Winery and pick the tasting option that suits you best. It’ll give you the opportunity to taste some authentic Napa Valley wines that you won’t be able to get elsewhere in a beautiful and welcoming facility.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Wine, Winery Visit, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Gnarly Head 2012 – Chardonnay / Old Vine Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on November 19, 2013

With a boat load of holidays approaching everyone is thinking about their wine and spirits needs. The first thing on peoples minds is likely to be the wines they’ll serve if they’re hosting a holiday or what to bring over as a guest at someone’s home. Those are important, but I think it’s as important to consider wines to have around for the multitude of more casual get-togethers that happen during the long holiday season that happens from Thanksgiving through the New Year. With that in mind here’s a look at two budget friendly wines from Gnarly Head that fit the bill for casual entertaining, late night snack pairing and just any old time you want to open a bottle without breaking the budget.

First up is the Gnarly Head 2012 Chardonnay. The fruit for this wine came from vineyards in Lodi and Monterey California. Grapes were fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel; 40% underwent malolactic fermentation. In addition to Chardonnay (84%), this wine has some Chenin Blanc (10%), Malvasia Bianca (4%) and Viognier (2%) blended in. 50,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $9.99. Golden Delicious apple aromas are joined by toast and spice on the welcoming nose of this Chardonnay. Vibrant orchard fruit flavors define the palate. A copious amount of bakers spices are present as well. The crisp and fruity finish which has solid length shows off green apple and white pepper. This is a clean and refreshing Chardonnay that drinks well on it’s own, as well as paired well with classic Chardonnay loving dishes. Pastas with creamy sauces, roasted white meets and rich cheeses all come to mind.

The Gnarly Head 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced in the Lodi region. In addition to Zinfandel (84%), this wine has some Petite Sirah (16%) blended in. The fruit came from vines that have between 35 and 80 years of age on them. Fermentation took place over a bit more than a week. Aging in a combination of French and American oak followed. 180,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11.99. Dark plum aromas fill the nose of this Zin along with bits of violet and vanilla. The palate is medium bodied and loaded with dark and juicy fruit flavors. Sour black cherries and black pepper spice are part of the finish which has nice length. This Zin is easy to drink on its own and will also pair well with hearty foods. While many Zinfandels in this price category are over the top, Gnarly Head continues to be proportionate and well balanced. It’s a solid everyday value in Zinfandel and has been so for some time.

While these wines both retail for less than $12 you can often find them for a couple of bucks less if you shop around. At those prices these are very affordable wines to keep on hand for everyday drinking and spontaneous entertaining. When I think of wines in the around $10 price range like this I want offerings that are tasty, easy to drink, and true to the varietal in question. Both of these wines fulfill those criteria and they have loads of curb appeal. That’s to say they will be drinkable to a wide array of people.

Posted in Chardonnay, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Trione Vineyards & Winery – 2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay / 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on October 30, 2013

The folks at Trione Vineyards & Winery farm property in three distinct appellations within Sonoma County, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley & the Sonoma Coast. In total they have more than 650 acres. They use a small percentage of the resulting grapes to make the Trione Wines and sell the balance to others. Here’s a look at two of their current releases.

The Trione Vineyards & Winery 2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay was produced using fruit sourced at their River Road Ranch vineyard. This is a 115 acre parcel in the middle of the Russian River Valley. The fruit was whole bunch pressed. Fermentation and aging occurred in French oak. 45% of the barrels utilized were new and the balance were composed of once and twice used oak. 862 cases of this Chardonnay were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $30. Baker’s spices and orchard fruit aromas dominate the lovely nose of this Chardonnay. Pineapple and yellow delicious apple flavors are prominently featured through the rich and layered palate which has loads of depth in the form of pure, unadulterated fruit flavors. Granny Smith apple, cloves, cinnamon, minerals a hint of crème fraiche are all part of the finish which is memorably lengthy. This wine is crisp, refreshing and lovely. It’s a fine, fine example of well made Russian River Valley Chardonnay at a fair price.

The Trione Vineyards & Winery 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced from four blocks. These are all at their River Road Ranch Vineyard. The clones planted there are 115, 667 & 777. Open top tanks and manual punch downs were utilized. 20% of the fruit was whole cluster. Barrel aging took place over 15 months in French oak; 45% of the barrels used were new. 1,385 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $35. This Pinot has a heady and intoxicating nose which is spice laden and remarkably inviting. Cherries, cinnamon and bits of bay leaf are all in evidence on the palate. There is a gentle depth here and plenty of complexity. Sour black cherry, black tea, minerals and fine bits of earth are all present on the finish which has exceptionally good length and persistence. It will pair well with a broad array of foods.

Trione continues to turn out well made wines that show a genuine sense of both varietal and place. In the case of both of these wines we’re talking about Russian River Valley. Each of these represents that appellation favorably. The Chardonnay is lovely and quite delicious. The Pinot on the other hand is an absolutely outstanding value in Russian River Pinot. It simply outshines and outclasses many in that price range. You’re getting a ton of bang for the buck with this one so if you’re a fan of good Russian River Pinot, here’s one you’ll want to get your hands on.

Posted in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Tasting the Wines of Australia’s Moss Wood

Posted by Gabe on October 10, 2013

Recently I had the opportunity to taste through the wines of Moss Wood. They’re an Australian producer with a history dating to 1969. Their current winemaker Keith Mugford has been making the wines since 1979. Since 1984 Keith and his wife Clare have run the entire operation at Moss Wood. In their time at the helm they have made thoughtful advances such as being up to 75% in screw cap as far back as 2003. They’re located in Wilyabrup which is a sub-section of the Margret River region.

We started the evening by tasting a trio wines from four varietal verticals. Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon dating as far back as 1990 were the varietals and each was represented by an example from each of the last 3 decades.

Moss Wood 1993 Semillon – This 20 year old Semillon has an obviously darker hue than the others which is natural for a white of this age. Bits of citrus appear on the nose along with a touch of toffee. Plenty of secondary characteristics emerge on the palate to go along with apple and a boatload of baker’s spice. This wine is still vibrant and alive. It’s a lovely and truly gorgeous example of aged Semillon.

Moss Wood 2003 Semillon – A gentle hint of Petrol emerges on the nose of this decade old Semillon. The palate is filled with a bevy of citrus notes. The finish here is long and fleshy with minerals, spice and pineapple characteristics all in abundance. This wine is delicious and giving but it will continue to evolve positively with more time.

Moss Wood 2013 Semillon – This is the current vintage and it has a suggested retail price of $42. Meyer lemon and lime notes light up the nose of this Semillon. Additional fruits such as white fig are part of the gently layered palate. The finish has good persistence and things end with bits of crispy acidity. Compared to the older vintages this wine is a bit reticent now. Time will open it up and allow it to more fully express its charms.

Moss Wood 1991 Chardonnay – This 22 year old Chardonnay showcases a cavalcade of pure and expressive fruits. There is depth and complexity here to spare. Apple and pear flavors are joined by bits of hazelnut and toast. A bit of butter crème emerges on the finish which has excellent length and persistence. This is a gorgeous wine that exemplifies how fantastic Chardonnay can be when it’s treated appropriately all the way from vineyard to bottle.

Moss Wood 2003 Chardonnay – This Chardonnay has the darkest hue of the trio. The nose shows a bit of candied apple. The finish is fairly long with zippy acidity, minerals and a wisp of crème fraiche. Not quite as fresh or vibrant as either the 1991 or the 2011 but no less interesting.

Moss Wood 2011 Chardonnay – The current vintage, it has a suggested retail price of $63. Lemon custard and orchard fruits mark the deep and layered palate of this wine. Spices galore are present from the first whiff of the nose through the last, lingering note on the finish. This wine is loaded with gorgeous layers of fruit. It’s delicious now but will be even lovelier with time in the bottle. This release will likely get to a similar spot down the road that the 1991 is at today.

Moss Wood 1994 Pinot Noir – Plum aromas emerge from the still vibrant nose of this Pinot Noir along with mushroom and lot’s of secondary characteristics. Sour cherry notes dominate the palate and lead to a lengthy spice filled finish that also shows off black tea and hints of earth. This is a balanced and exquisite example of well aged Pinot Noir.

Moss Wood 2001 Pinot Noir – Red fruit, leather and a hint of smoked meat fills the expressive nose of this 12 year old Pinot Noir. Lots of cherry and strawberry star on te palate here along with hints of earth and mushroom. Minerals and sour red fruits emerge on the finish which has good persistence. Medium tannins that show a pleasing amount of grip and firm acidity speak to the wonderful structure this wine has. It’s delicious now, but certainly has quite a few years of aging ahead of it.

Moss Wood 2010 Pinot Noir – This is the current release, it has a suggested retail price of $62. Red and black cherry character dominates the nose of this Pinot. Red fruits interspersed with black, are key components throughout the palate, along with a well rounded complement of spices. All of these elements continue through the finish which has nice length. This Pinot is still young and a bit tight right now. It needs some time and a few years in bottle will serve it well. That said a few hours in the decanter are highly recommended if drinking it in the next couple of years.

Moss Wood 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon – The fruit on this 23 year old Cabernet has receded and the secondary characteristics have really taken hold. Earth, minerals, espresso and a potpourri of spices are the dominant players here. Chocolate and leather emerge on the finish with some lingering remnants of cherry. If you like your Cabernet Sauvignon aged (and I do), this happens to be an excellent example. It’s beautifully perfumed, loaded with minerals and spice, easy drinking and layered. This is the kind of wine I could hide in the corner with, allowing it to keep me content all night long.

Moss Wood 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is all about cherry characteristics. A combination of red and black cherry flavors dominates the nose and palate. Spice elements join in and continue through the finish where cherry flavors continue to ring out loud and clear. Bits of rhubarb and chicory are present as well. The tannins still have some bite and the acidity keeps things beautifully balanced. This is a fine Cabernet Sauvignon.

Moss Wood 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – The current release, it has a suggested retail price of $105. Red and black raspberries emerge on the welcoming nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Blackberry, cherry and spice are all prominent through the layered palate which shows lots of depth. Blueberry, spices and espresso notes dot the finish which has good length. The tannins here are firm but give with some air. This is a young but approachable Cabernet Sauvignon that will improve greatly with several more years of age. It’s a promising wine that will only become better.

After the vertical tasting we moved on to sample a handful of their other releases alongside our dinner at CraftBar. Three of them were blends and they were lovely wines well suited to our meal. But for me the knockout amongst this quartet was the final wine which was paired with dessert.

Moss Wood Ribbonvale Botrytis 2011 Semillon – This wine was slowly fermented and then racked to barrel. It was bottled in January of this year. It’s available in both 375ml ($38), and 750ml ($70) bottles. Mission fig aromas are part of the nose on this lovely dessert wine. The palate is sweet but not overly so with a variety of fruit and spice flavors coming to the forefront. Fruitcake spices emerge on the honeyed finish which has great length and nice acidity. This wine works equally well paired with other sweets or a cheese course.

Tasting these wines in such a setting allowed us to see their aging potential as well as take a look at what the level of consistency is. While there was certainly vintage variation and some stylistic differences as they have made some adjustments in treatment over the years, each varietal had connective tissues within their subset that allowed us to see how they related to each other. The key here is that these wines were all made in a style that allowed their origin in the Margaret River to be showcased along with the vagaries of what each vintage brings. These are not manipulated products but vineyard driven wines that are allowed to shine. Each varietal is shepherded into bottle in a manner that makes long term aging not only possible but interesting and exciting. The Moss Wood wines taken as a whole were quite impressive. They’re fine examples of their place, their respective grapes and their particular  vintages. If it’s been awhile since you’ve had top shelf Australian wine, the offerings from Moss Wood are a perfect spot to leap back in.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Dessert Wines, Pinot Noir, Sémillon, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Franciscan Estate – 2012 Equilibrium

Posted by Gabe on July 16, 2013

I’ve been enjoying wines from Franciscan Estate since my earliest familiarity with Napa Valley. In that time they’ve featured a consistently appealing portfolio of wines. Franciscan has also been steady in terms of what they release; their core has remained reliable as well. However every now and then they add something new. This summer it’s a new white blend, focused mostly on two varietals they have worked with for years. Here’s a look at it.

The Franciscan Estate 2012 Equilibrium is the inaugural release of this wine. This white blend combines Sauvignon Blanc (72%), Chardonnay (17%), and Muscat (11%). All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Napa Valley. 83% of the fruit was fermented in stainless steel and the remaining 17% in barrel. Just fewer than 6,000 cases of Equilibrium were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $22.99. This wine leads with a killer nose; tropical and stone fruit aromas simply burst out of the glass invitingly. Equilibrium’s palate is studded with an array of engaging bright fruit flavors; white peach, guava and mango are of particular note here. Lemon curd, white pepper and continued tropical fruit flavors abound on the finish which has nice length. This wine is soft, round, lush and mouth-filling.

The bottom line is that Franciscan Estate’s 2012 Equilibrium is a delightful and refreshing white blend that has arrived on store shelves just in time for the warmest weather of the year. There are many appealing, easy to drink white blends out there. The difference here is this one is 3 dimensional and has depth, length and persistence. It will appeal to those who lean towards porch sippers and keep the more discerning interested as well. Buy a bottle or more of this wine and have a party in your mouth!

Posted in Blends, Chardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Dinner with Cuvaison Winemaker Steve Rogstad

Posted by Gabe on February 26, 2013

Cuvaison Winery has a history in Napa Valley that dates back to 1969. However they were reset in 1979 when the Schmidheiny family from Switzerland purchased the property. A decade ago they built a new facility in Carneros under the stewardship of winery president Jay Schuppert and winemaker Steve Rogstad, who both joined on in 2002 and are still onboard. Previous to that the wines were made in Calistoga where they still own a facility and a satellite tasting room. Last week I had the opportunity to have dinner with Steve Rogstad at Tocqueville. We tasted through the core releases as well as a couple of wines made from the Brandlin Estate on Mount Veeder. My thoughts on my favorite wines from the evening follow.

The Cuvaison 2011 Estate Chardonnay Carneros is their flagship offering. It makes up roughly 75% of their total production which varies between 40 and 50,000 cases from one vintage to the next. The fruit for this wine came from 44 distinct blocks within their Estate. Each lot was picked and vinified separately. This Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in French oak for 8 months; 20% of the barrels utilized were new. This widely available wine has a suggested retail price of $25. This is a gorgeous Chardonnay with clean and crisp flavors. Apple aromas lead the nose and carry on to the palate. Tropical fruit flavors join in as well with pineapple and guava of particular note. Spice, minerals and a little kiss of crème fraiche emerge on the finish which has nice length. It is classic example of well made Carneros Chardonnay that allows the fruit to shine brilliantly through. This wine is a very solid value at its price point.

The Cuvaison 2011 Kite Tail Chardonnay is produced each year from a single block. This block is planted to the Wente clone. The fruit was hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. It was fermented and aged in barrel over 15 months in French oak; 50% of the barrels utilized were new. This wine has a suggested price of $42. Hints of smoke and toast light up the nose of this Chardonnay along with bits of orchard fruit. The flavors here are more concentrated and have a greater intensity. Apple and pear are in strong evidence along with a bit of mango. Bits of toasted almond, and copious spices such as nutmeg and white pepper emerge on the finish which has substantial length. Tasting these two Chardonnays side by side is a tiny little window into how diverse this grape is. In this case multiple factors play in to the distinction. Both wines are delicious and interesting in their own right.

The Cuvaison 2011 Estate Pinot Noir Carneros was produced with fruit sourced from 20 distinct blocks within the Winery Estate. Each block was vinified separately. Barrel aging took place over 11 months in small oak barrels; 30% of them were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $38. Fresh red fruit aromas fill the nose of this Pinot Noir. Bing cherry and strawberry characteristics are at play on the palate along with a bit of cinnamon and black pepper spice. Raspberry emerges on the finish along with wisps of rhubarb and earth. As a counterpoint to the Estate Chardonnay this is an equally engaging and well made example of Carneros Pinot.

The Brandlin Estate Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon is largely varietal (94%), with small amounts of Petit Verdot (4%), Malbec (1%) and Cabernet Franc (1%) blended in. This wine was aged over 22 months in French oak; 50% of the barrels utilized were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $55. Cuvaison purchased this property, which has been farmed by the Brandlin family since the 1870’s in the late 90’s. This is a historic Napa vineyard whose history they honor by name and in practice. Less than 40 of the 170 acres have been planted to vine. There’s a ton of excellent Cabernet Sauvignon in NapaValley. Personally I think some of the most compelling examples are made from mountain fruit. This selection from Brandlin is no exception. Black fruit aromas dominate the nose along with hints of toast. This is a young Cabernet and it’s a bit tight out of the bottle right now. It opens up nicely with some air and shows off blackberry and raspberry fruit flavors as well as hints of cocoa. Earth and black pepper emerge on the finish which has good length. This wine has firm, gripping tannins and solid structure. It’s tasty now but will be even better a few years from now. This is a nice example of Mt. Veeder Cabernet.

The connective tissue with the wines Steve Rogstad is making for Cuvaison and their Mount Veeder Property Brandlin is proportion. These are lovely, vineyard-driven wines that pair well with a wide array of foods and quite frankly life in general. Each wine is distinct yet it’s clear the guiding hand and winery principles employed at Cuvaison have led to the creation and maintaining of an impressive portfolio that leads with their property in Carneros and the beautiful grapes that are grown there. Add to that the rugged Cabernet and other Bordeaux varietals of Mt. Veeder and the picture of a producer that lets their properties speak through the bottle emerges. It’s always a pleasure to taste wines alongside the person who shepherded them into existence. When the winemaker is one like Steve Rogstad with his wealth of experience in the business in general and at his length of tenure at his current Winery, its all the more interesting and informative.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Wine, Winemaker Dinner | Leave a Comment »


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