Posted by Gabe on October 24, 2013
Flora Springs Winery was founded in Napa Valley in 1978. Over their 35 years as a winery they have remained a family owned and run operation. They have more than 650 acres of vineyards which are organically farmed. 90% of the fruit for their wines comes from those vineyards; the balance is sourced from others. Here’s a look at two current releases which are part of their Napa Valley tier of offerings.
The Flora Springs 2011 Napa Valley Merlot was produced using fruit sourced at two vineyards in Rutherford; The Komes Ranch and Bella Oaks. This offering is 100% Merlot. Barrel aging took place over 16 months in a combination of French and American oak. 4,500 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $25. Violets as well as red and back cherry aromas are prevalent on the nose of this 2011 Merlot. Cherry characteristics continue through the palate where they are prominently on display, carrying the day. Elements of tobacco and leather are present as well. Bits of sweet chocolate in addition to mineral notes emerge on the finish which has good length. A final flourish of sweet cherry fruit makes its presence known too. The tannins here are soft and appealing with a sufficient amount of structure. This is a varietally correct Merlot which is loaded with character and fruit. It’s delicious today and will drink well for the next 4-6 years.
The Flora Springs 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced within three Napa Valley appellations; Oakville, Rutherford and Saint Helena. Barrel aging took place over 22 months in a combination of French (60%) and American (40%) oak. 5,500 cases of this Cabernet Sauvignon were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $40. Deep, dark fruit aromas emerge from the nose of this Nape Valley Cabernet. A bit of pleasing green herb and black cherry flavors are apparent through the deep and layered palate. Bramble, black tea and a hint of blackberry are all present as well. Chocolate covered cherry characteristics lead the finish along with chicory and black pepper. This quintessential Napa Cabernet is lush and generous with medium tannins and a lengthy finish. It’s drinks well today, particularly after an hour or so of air. However it will improve over the next couple of years and drink well for the next 8 or 9.
Each of these wines is a solid example of the respective varietal and how it prospers in Napa Valley. They each offer tons of character and terrific value for their price points. Merlot that looks, smells and tastes like Merlot isn’t as easy as it should be to come by. This example from Flora Springs gets the job done, at a good price to boot. When it comes to Cabernet in Napa you can spend just about any dollar figure you want. At a retail of $40 this one over delivers. Flora Springs continues to make real Napa Valley wines from organically grown fruit in the heart of the valley, check them out; your taste buds will thank you.
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on October 23, 2013
Stickybeak is a California based winery that sources grapes in a host of regions such as Napa, Sonoma and Monterey. They have now widened their reach by making a wine with fruit sourced in Italy. These particular grapes come from the 40 year old Cerreto Guidi vineyards located in Tuscany. Here’s a look at this Italian blend.
The Stickybeak 2011 Toscana was produced from a blend of Sangiovese (85%), Merlot (10%) and Syrah (5%). The Sangiovese and Merlot were both sourced in Tuscany with the Syrah coming from Maremma which is close by. Wild yeasts were used for fermentation which took place over roughly 15 days. Each varietal was aged separately over 18 months in entirely French oak. Blending occurred prior to bottling. This wine is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $20. Violet and red cherry aromas light up the nose of this Tuscan blend. Strawberry, cherry, spice, and vanilla bean are all in play throughout the palate which has nice depth. Leather, cherry, raspberry and black peppercorn flavors all show up in the finish which has above average length. This wine really shines when paired with food. Anything with red sauce on it will work well. I drank it with homemade pizza and it was memorable and delicious combo.
A lot of wines are looking for your attention and your wine dollars in the $20 or under category. Here’s an example that shines with food. It has excellent Sangiovese character at the forefront with the Merlot providing a bit of structure and the Syrah some pronounced wisps of sweet berry fruit. It’s terrific now and will drink well over the next 5 years. This is a very solid value.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 27, 2013
In general people love Red Blends. Well when they’re tasty of course. There are all sorts of styles out there but the ones I’m specifically talking about today are the kind that are well priced, made for a wide audience and generally available. These have a found a big following with different kinds of wine lovers. To the novice Red wine drinker they can be easy to drink and appealing. To the seasoned wine drinker they offer something tasty and easy on the budget that will satisfy a lot of different taste buds. Murphy-Goode has a new blend called Homefront Red. For every bottle of this wine sold Murphy-Goode will doncate 50 cents to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency and financial assiustance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. With that in mind here’s a look at the wine.
The Murphy-Goode 2011 Homefront Red was produced from fruit sourced throughout California. This offering blends together Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. This wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak. It was recently released and is available nationally. 50,000 Cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $15. Blackberry and raspberry aromas light up the nose of this wine along with a little hint of anise. The palate is loaded with berry fruit flavors such as black raspberry and spices galore. Red Cherry is present as well and leads to the finish which has wisps of sweet chocolate and black pepper. Homefront Red will pair well with a pretty wide array of foods. It will be particularly good with casual grilled foods.
Good cause, good wine, good price, a win all around. Pick up a bottle or two for your next BBQ or casual get together with friends. Homefront Red is sure to please a broad array of palates. And by doing so you’ll also be helping a good cause.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on August 26, 2013
Holiday weekends, parties and festive gatherings of every shape and size always get my mind thinking about what kind of wine to serve. These events offer a particular challenge. What will make the casual drinker happy and still keep the wine lovers interested? And certainly it wouldn’t hurt if it’s a wine that pairs well with a broad array of foods. Of course one answer would be to serve multiple wines but that has various complicating factors. So when possible I strive to find one main wine to serve at large gatherings. Here’s a look at what I plan to pour this upcoming Labor Day.
The Frisk 2012 Prickly Rosso was produced from fruit sourced in the Victoria region of Australia. This offering blends together Merlot (51%) and Docletto (49%). Fermentation took place in stainless steel with a selection of yeasts. This wine features a bit of fizz brought on by the yeast. It has a suggested retail price of $11.
This wine leads with a boisterous nose that’s loaded with red plum and blueberry aromas. The palate is refreshing and filled with sumptuous red and black fruits. These flavors are lively and juicy. They’re joined by a host of spices and as mentioned a bit of fizz. The finish shows off sour fruit flavors that lean towards darker plum and black cherry. Zippy acidity keeps things in check here.
This wine works best with a nice solid chill on it. The alcohol content is fairly low and it goes down easy with all kinds of food. In addition to being delicious and versatile Frisk Prickly Rosso is a fun wine that will delight crowds. At $11 or less it’s hard to resist; drink it up this Labor Day Weekend!
Posted in Dolcetto, Merlot, Wine | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 9, 2013
Many wine making regions produce Bordeaux inspired blends and the results vary greatly. In my mind the downfall often comes when trying to mimic the great wines of Bordeaux to the point of not focusing on what does best in the region in question. Argentina of course is best known for Malbec which thrives there in a variety of styles. The latest release from Bodega Achaval-Ferrer is a Bordeaux inspired blend and it’s also a wine with a relatively large percentage of Malbec in it. So here’s a release where Bordeaux inspiration and local rock-star grape meet. Here are my thoughts on the results.
The Achaval-Ferrer 2010 Quimera was produced from fruit sourced in three appellations: Lujan de Cuyo, Medrano, and Tupungato. This offering is a blend of Malbec (31%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%), Cabernet Franc (18%) and Petit Verdot (4%). Each varietal underwent primary fermentation separately in small tanks; Malolactic fermentation followed after the wine was blended. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in entirely French oak; 40% of the barrels utilized were new and the balance had been used once prior. Just more than 3,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $56.
Ripe, red and black fruit aromas fill the heady nose of this 2010 blend from Argentina. The palate is studded with tons of fresh and exuberant fruit flavors; plum, blueberry and blackberry are of particular note. There is depth to spare here, all of the ripe and ready fruit flavors are joined by a notable spice component. The finish is velvety and lingering with pepper, bits of chicory and a dusting of sweet dark chocolate to close things out. The tannins are smooth and lush, pulling you in for sip after mouthwatering sip. There is a load of engaging and eager fruit here that is ready to please now, but there is also structure in place that will allow the 2010 Quimera to age well for a dozen years or more under proper storage conditions.
The goal of great blended wine is to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The 2010 Quimera is a seamless mélange of varietals that comes together deliciously to achieve that very goal. And yes while this wine draws some inspiration from Bordeaux it gains as much from the fact that it focuses on what does well in Argentina both in terms of specific grapes and stylistically. This is a wonderful wine that should be on the short list of anyone who loves excellent red blends.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 23, 2013
Ravenswood Winery under the direction of Joel Peterson became known for Zinfandel. Whether it’s cuvee style offerings from different appellations or single vineyard wines, to this day Ravenswood has a Zinfandel for just about every budget and palate. And in addition to Zinfandel they make some other wines of note too. Most of these are small production offerings that are found in better wine shops and some restaurant wine lists. One of these is Pickberry Red; I’ll look at the current release today.
The Ravenswood 2008 Pickberry Red is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit was sourced at the namesake vineyard which is located on Sonoma Mountain. This offering is a blend of Merlot (59%), Cabernet Sauvignon (39%), Malbec (1%) and Petit Verdot (1%). This wine was aged over 22 months in entirely French oak; 22% of the barrels utilized were new. 600 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50.
Dark fruits such as black cherry and plum fill the nose of Pickberry Red. The palate is also loaded with deep, inky fruit flavors which are simultaneously intense, layered and proportionate. Black cherry characteristics lead the way along with black raspberry and blueberry playing roles as well. Minerals and spice offer a nice counterpoint. Earth, violets and black pepper are all part of the finish which has terrific persistence. This wine has chewy tannins that soften with some air and firm acidity at its backbone. While the 2008 Pickberry Red is delicious today it’s built for the long haul. If you have the patience to lay this down for 8-12 years you’ll be justly rewarded. This is a new world wine that brings to mind old world flavors and style. Pair it with a delicious meal for best results.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 5, 2013
Last week Franciscan Estate threw what amounted to a birthday party, for Magnificat their flagship wine, in Manhattan at Calliope Restaurant. I was glad to be in attendance at this event which showcased the Franciscan Bordeaux blend. Bordeaux blends have been made all over the world for many years, including in Napa. However, it has now been 25 years since the term Meritage was introduced and along with it Franciscan’s first vintage of Magnificat. As such it was a noteworthy milestone to mark, and an excellent reason to take a look at Magnificat alongside some of its peers. Franciscan Winemaker Jay Turnipseed was on hand to speak about his wines as well as to offer some insight in a general sense about all of the Bordeaux inspired wines.
Those peers helped make the event particularly interesting. They were part of a blind tasting of six wines composed of Bordeaux varietals from around the world; Magnificat was of course amongst their number. Tasting them blind was a fine exercise in testing each of our abilities to nail regional characteristics and styles. The sense I got was that most of us gathered had about 2/3 of the regions picked out correctly. All of the blends tasted were from the 2009 vintage. The regions in play were New Zealend, Bordeaux (Left and Right Banks), Walla Walla Washington, South Africa and of course Napa Valley. I was pretty happy getting 4 out of 6 regions correct. The Magnificat stood out to me immediately probably for a few reasons, not the least of which being I’ve been drinking it consistently since the 90’s.
After the blind tasting we sat down to dinner where we were poured several Franciscan wines. This included the current vintage of Magnificat again, side by side with the 2003. The older vintage was actually darker in color that the 2009. Often at about 10 years old the color starts to morph a bit, but this wine was vibrant in color and flavors. While it certainly has a number of years of enjoyable drinking to come, The 2003 Magnificat is in a really lovely place right now. Secondary characteristics have started to kick in and the fruit flavors are ever so slightly tamed. Earth and espresso bean were prominent on the finish.
The current release is the Franciscan Estate 2009 Magnificat. This vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignn (64%), Merlot (26%), Petit Verdot (5%), Cabernet Franc (3%), and Malbec (2%).It was fermented and macerated over a 22 day period. Barrel aging followed over 20 months in French oak; 70% of the barrels were new. Just over 6,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50. Booming, black fruit aromas emerge from the nose of this wine. The flavors are ripe and eager. Blackberry, raspberry and cherry flavors are all in evidence. There’s dark chocolate and chicory on the lengthy finish along with black pepper and a hint of nutmeg and vanilla bean. The 2009 Magnificat does an excellent job of threading the needle. It’s powerful and elegant at the same time. The flavors are big but never over the top and the tannins firm but not overpowering. In short this is an excellent vintage of Magnificat a wine that is one of the standard bearers of Meritage. It’s delicious today but there’s no need to rush, it will certainly drink well for the next 15 years if stored properly.
Tasting the current vintage of Magnificat alongside counterpart wines from around the world, another vintage of Magnificat and several other Franciscan wines throughout the night really helped showcase its beauty. Happy Birthday Magnificat!
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on January 14, 2013
I’ve personally been drinking wines from Napa Valley’s Franciscan Estate Winery since the early 1990’s. In that time they’ve remained a solid player that offers appealing wines sold at consumer friendly prices. Their portfolio has occasionally expanded a bit but they have mostly remained focused on their core offerings. Here’s a look at three current releases that make up a large portion of the backbone of their operation.
The Franciscan Estate 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay is a 100% varietal wine. All of the fruit comes from the winery’s home appellation of Napa Valley. Barrel aging occurred over 7 months in a combination of French and American oak; 20% of the barrels utilized were new. 74,000 cases of this widely available offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18. Golden Delicious apple and vanilla bean aromas emerge from the nose of this Chardonnay Orchard fruit and apple pie spice are in abundance throughout the even keeled palate. A bit of crème fraiche leads the crisp finish along with cloves, white pepper and an undercurrent of lemon zest. This is an easy to find Chardonnay that is well made vintage after vintage. If you’re looking for a New World Chardonnay that showcases its appealing fruit flavors this is one to consider.
The Franciscan Estate 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from Napa Valley Fruit. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), small amounts of Merlot (11%), Syrah (3%), and Malbec (1%) were also blended in. Barrel aging took place over a period of 20 months; 25% of the barrels utilized were new. 117,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $28. Blackberry and blueberry aromas star on the nose of this 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Loads of dark berry flavors dominate the palate, interspersed with bits of red fruit throughout. Copious spices are present as well and add to the depth and complexity of this eager and appealing Cabernet. Minerals and earth are prominent components of the finish which shows good length for its category. Medium tannins yield with some air. This is a textbook example of a Napa Valley Cabernet that is meant for relatively short term consumption. It’ll hold up over the next 5 or 6 years, but it’s appealing, well priced and perfect to drink now, no reason to wait.
The Franciscan Estate 2008 Magnificat is a Napa Valley Meritage wine. This Bordeaux inspired blend has been produced since the 1985 vintage. The 2008 version blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), Merlot (23%), Petit Verdot (6%), and Malbec (2%). This wine spent 20 months aging in oak; 70% of the barrels utilized were new. Just over 7,000 cases of the 2008 Magnificat were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50. Bramble, red and black raspberry, as well as bits of vanilla bean are present on the nose of this 2008 Meritage. The palate here is studded with sumptuous black fruit flavors, lead by blackberry as well plum and accompanied by a vigorous spice component. Dark chocolate, espresso, earth and black pepper are all in strong evidence on the lengthy and persistent finish of the 2008 Magnificat. This is one of the longest standing and also most consistently excellent Meritage wines coming out of Napa Valley. At $50 a bottle it offers a combination of quality level and relative bang for the buck that is hard to beat. There are similar style blends selling for more than twice the price that can’t touch Magnificat. Whether you purchase it to drink today, or you want to lay it down for a special occasion a decade or so from now, you’re going to get a terrific bottle of wine at a very good price.
The Franciscan wines are standard bearers in Napa Valley. This is producer that makes fairly large quantities of wine that are easy to find all over the country. Their wines also represent a consistent level of quality and offerings that are fairly priced. These wines are well worth your time and money.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on December 4, 2012
Last week I was lucky enough to sit and taste wine over dinner with Bernard Portet at Union Square Cafe. He was one of the founders of Napa Valley stalwart Clos du Val. Bernard was with them in a variety of capacities until just a couple of years ago, when he retired. That retirement didn’t last very long and now he’s involved with a smaller, personal project called Heritance. It’s been my good fortune over the years to sit across numerous tables, tasting counters and barrels from a wide array of winemakers. These opportunities are always a pleasure and it is also quite educational to learn about and taste wines with the person responsible for their existence. The experience is all the better when what the winemaker describes and what I taste in the glass true up; somewhat remarkably this isn’t always the case. I’m happy to report that the wines that I tasted with Bernard were exactly what he was describing, well balanced, food friendly offerings that will age appropriately for their intended styles. What follows are my thoughts on a few of my favorites from the evening.
Heritance 2010 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This offering is made utilizing mostly Sauvignon Blanc (91%), with a small amount of Semillon (9%) blended in. Aging of this wine took place in stainless steel. 2,000 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $24. This is a fresh and lively Sauvignon Blanc with a mid-weight palate. The Semillon adds to that weight as well as to the complexity and roundness. The acidity here is firm but not aggressive. Citrus and orchard fruit characteristics are in evidence throughout and they’re buoyed by subtle wisps of grass. This is an absolutely awesome Sauvignon Blanc that can be described as pure elegance. If the only wine I tasted that evening was this Sauvignon Blanc I would have been happy to drink it all night. We also sampled the 2011 vintage and instead of Semillon it has a dollop of Roussanne blended in. It’s a nice wine as well that needs a few months before it really comes into its own.
Heritance 2011 Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Carneros. Fermentation took place in open top, stainless steel tanks with twice daily punch downs. Barrel aging took place in previously used French oak 300 cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $45. This wine opens with an enormously fragrant nose loaded with Bing cherry, spices and bits of leather. Cherry, strawberry and spice are in abundance through the palate which is even keeled and loaded with depth. Pomegranate and sour cherry are in evidence on the finish along with black pepper and mineral elements. This wine is loaded with varietal character and does a great job of showcasing what excellent Pinot Noir from Carneros is all about.
Heritance 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (94%), Merlot (4%) and Petit Verdot (2%). The fruit for this wine was hand harvested and fermentation took place over 10 days at high temperatures. Barrel aging occurred over 20 months in a combination of new and previously used French oak. 5,796 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $36. Black fruit aromas lead the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is rich and velvety with plum and black raspberry flavors leading the charge. Chocolate and espresso notes are in evidence on the finish which has good length. Firm tannins yield with some air. This is a nicely structured Cabernet that works well today with richly flavored foods. Over time it will soften and become more elegant. The 2008 which I also had the opportunity to sample is a delicious, ready to drink now Cabernet. Its style and graceful elegance speak volumes to where the 2010 is likely to be in a year or so. $36 for Napa Cabernet of this quality is, to say the least, a terrific value.
In addition to these wines we tasted several others; one particular standout was a 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon that Bernard made at Clos du Val. It was delicious and loaded with lively fruit and excellent character. It still has several years, perhaps a decade of life ahead of it. I asked Bernard why he picked the 1979 in particular and he indicated that while the 1978 had been hailed critically, he had personally always been a bigger fan of the 1979 which he felt even back then showed great promise. Bernard has a long track record of producing well made, approachable, food friendly wines that will age gracefully. The bottom line is that all the wines I sampled at dinner, which fall under his new label, continue that tradition. In addition to being well crafted and taking advantage of his 40 + years of experience they are also excellent values in their respective categories.
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 21, 2012
Rodney Strong Vineyards has a large portfolio of wines that crosses many price tiers. Whether you’re looking for an everyday value in the $10 range or site specific wines for a lot more than that, they have them and many in between as well. I continue to be impressed with their reliability across those layers and consider them a go to producer for a variety of wine needs. Here’s a look at two vastly different current releases from them.
The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2011 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced in Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley. 90% was fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel at low temperatures; the balance in French oak. This widely available wine has a suggested retail price of $15 but can most often be found selling for closer to $11. Lemon ice, white pepper and mineral aromas fill the excitable nose of this 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus characteristics dominate the palate along with bits of orchard fruit and a gentle hint of pineapple as well. The finish is clean and crisp with mineral and spice notes reverberating well after the last sip has been swallowed. Year after year this wine delivers awesome flavor for a very small price. This is a terrific Sauvignon Blanc for the money and one you can bank on one vintage after another.
Rodney Strong Vineyards 2009 Symmetry is a Red Meritage. This selection is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), Malbec (14%), Merlot (6%), and Cabernet Franc 1%). Most of the fruit for this wine was sourced in the same Alexander Valley Vineyards that they use for their Single Vineyard Cabernet’s. Barrel aging occurred over 22 months in all French oak. This wine which has been part of the Rodney Strong Portfolio for over 15 years has a suggested retail price of $55. It can often be located for about $45. Red and black raspberry as well as black cherry aromas roar out of the nose of this 2009 Meritage. The palate is loaded with a stunning array of fresh and dry red and black berry fruit flavors that are buoyed by complementary spice notes. The cherry characteristics steal the show here and appear in droves from the first sip to the very last. Earth, chicory, black pepper and sweet dark chocolate notes are all part of the lengthy and harmonious finish. This wine will drink well over the next 8 or so years. However it’s so willing, juicy and ready to give of itself now that there’s simply no reason to wait. This delicious wine is a real pleasure to drink both on its own and paired with hearty foods.
I’m a big fan of Rodney Strong Vineyards and the dependability their wines represent. You can plunk your money down for their offerings with the confidence that you’re going to get value back. Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc is on my short list of a small handful of California Sauvignon Blanc’s that deliver eminent drinkability, quality and consistency vintage after vintage for a nominal price. Symmetry is precisely what I believe a Meritage wine should be; it seamlessly blends the varietals together to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In its price category it also represents a terrific value.
Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »