Posted by Gabe on May 21, 2013
There are certain wines that hit my desk one vintage after another. It’s generally interesting and instructive to taste a new vintage of a wine to find out about if it’s as good, better or not as good as a previous example. We all have things we love a little more than most and for me excellent dry Rosé is near the top of my list. For several years now Cornerstone Cellars has been making a beautiful Rosé under their Stepping Stone imprint. It’s become one of my favorite new world Rosé’s and a wine I can’t wait to sample each year.
The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2012 Corallina Rosé was produced using Napa Valley fruit sourced in the Oak Knoll District. This wine is 100% Syrah. After fermentation this wine spent 5 months in previously used French oak Barrels. Just more than 400 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $20. The gorgeous light pink hue of this wine stands out immediately as you pour it. The nose on this Rosé is like a bowl of fresh, red fruits; wild strawberry and cherry aromas are of particular note. Red fruit flavors star through the palate. Corallina is perfectly dry with engaging, fruity flavors. Savory spices emerge on the finish which has excellent length. In short this wine is lovely, refreshing and delicious. Pair it with light foods or drink it on its own.
The 2012 vintage of this wine is more of the same in the best way possible. It’s another tremendous example of top shelf new world Rosé. It’s totally dry and loaded with engaging fruit and spice flavors. Most importantly perhaps it seductively keeps drawing you back to the glass for additional sips. Before long the entire bottle is gone. If you love dry Rosé, as I do, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on this wine.
Posted in Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on April 22, 2013
Common perception holds that Rosé’s don’t age well. Sometimes common beliefs are totally wrong and in other cases they become foregone conclusions for a good reason. In the case of Rosé’s longevity the truth is not 100% either of those things. Reality is that very few Rosés are built to age well. Some will hang around and be quite tasty for a couple of years but most go south after that. I’m the sort of person who is perfectly content drinking good, dry Rosé in the middle of winter, so I’m a fan. When the opportunity popped up to taste several vintages of Rosé from Chêne Bleu out of both standard bottle and magnum for some vintages over a meal, how could I resist?
Chêne Bleu is a project that began 20 years back. The husband and wife team of Nicole & Xavier Rolet began restoration of a property in the Southern Rhone that had been lying dormant for many, many years. Their work included restitution of the vineyards which are now farmed sustainably as well as the estate house itself. It was a massive undertaking and took years from start to fruition of their first vintage. They make several other wines such as Viognier, two Red Rhone blends and a White Rhone Blend, but Rosé represents the lion’s share of their production.
The current release is the Chêne Bleu 2012 Rosé. This vintage it was produced from a blend of Grenache (60%), Syrah (35%), and Cinsault (5%). Prior to 2011, they weren’t using Cinsault in this wine yet. The Grenache and Syrah vines utilized have 40 and 30 years of age on them respectively. This wine which was produced using entirely natural methods and finished in screw-cap has a suggested retail price of $28. It’s also available in large format bottles. The Chêne Bleu Rosé has a lovely pale, pink hue, just the sort of color that comes to mind when I daydream about deliciously dry Rosé. This wine has a big nose loaded with gentle red fruit aromas; strawberry and bits of Bing cherry are both in evidence. The palate is gentle and layered with boatloads of flavor. Ref berry flavors dominate with citrus and hints of stone fruit taking part as well. There is crisp acidity and tons of spice such as white pepper and cardamom on a finish that is long and persistent. This wine is absolutely delicious all by itself; however it’s also well suited to pair with a fairly wide array of foods.
A couple things are of particular note having had the chance to taste vintages as far back as the 2007. One is the overriding fact that these wines age well for at least a 5 year period. Another is that the ones poured out of Magnum had some similarities. I found them both to show off a bit more spice and a couple of extra hints of sour fruit on the finish. Unlike the 750 ml bottles, the magnums were finished in cork. Regardless both we quite tasty, but the subtle differences are worth mentioning and looking for if you have a chance to drink them out of different formats
Across the board the Chêne Bleu wines are well made, proportionate offerings that are built to accompany food. Any of them would be welcome on my table at anytime, however I have a special place in my heart for Rosé and now I have a new one to drink regularly. If you love good dry Rosé you should make a special effort to obtain the Chêne Bleu. If for some crazy reason you don’t already love Rosé this could be the wine to turn you. They say every true wine lover eventually falls head over heels for Rose; so why wait, get some Chêne Bleu now.
Posted in Cinsault, Grenache, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, 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 November 20, 2012
For more than 30 years the Trione Family has been growing and selling grapes in Sonoma County from their own property as well as vineyards they manage. In 2005 they launched Trione Vineyards & Winery to bottle their own wines. They hired Scot Covington as winemaker. He brings both winemaking experience in Sonoma County and elsewhere to the table as well as winery building and design knowledge. Here’s a look at a few of their current releases, all made from fruit sourced in Sonoma County.
First up is the Trione 2008 Russian River Valley Syrah. The fruit for this wine was sourced from 2 blocks within their Russian River Ranch. Fermentation took place in small open top tanks. Barrel aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 40% of the barrels were new. 678 cases of this Syrah were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Black plum, violet, rose petal, and vanilla aromas fill out the nose of this 2008 Syrah. Dried Blackberry, cherry and blueberry fruit characteristics are all in evidence on the palate. Dusty cocoa, earth, chicory and savory herbs all emerge on the finish which has terrific length. This Syrah shows off beautiful structure, firm acidity and medium tannins that yield with some air. This is a new world Syrah that shows off old world inspired style.
The Trione 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was made utilizing fruit sourced at four blocks within their property. These blocks are planted to clones 115, 667 and 777. The fruit was harvested by hand and fermented in small open top tanks. Barrel aging took place over 15 months in entirely French oak; 45% of them were new. 1,114 cases of the 2009 Trione Pinot Noir were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Cherries, white pepper and wisps of mushroom aromas fill the nose of this 2009 Pinot Noir. Wild strawberries, continued cherries, loads of spice notes and a subtle hint of cola are all in evidence throughout the palate. Black tea, pomegranate and earth characteristics emerge on the finish which has substantial length and persistence. This Pinot was a bit tight on opening but its charms came out in droves after it had a bit of aeration. My recommendation is to decant for an hour or so if you’re going to drink it over the next 2 years. Alternately, lay it down for a few years if you have the patience. In either case this is a fine example of Russian River Pinot Noir.
Trione’s 2008 Alexander Valley Red Wine is a Bordeaux inspired blend. This offering includes Cabernet Sauvignon (53%), Merlot (22%), Petit Verdot (11%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and Malbec (4%). The fruit for this wine came from three properties within Alexander Valley. Each varietal was fermented separately. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in French oak; half of them were new. 2,435, 6-pack cases of this blend were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $48. Fresh red and black berry aromas, vanilla bean and green herbs illuminate the nose of this 2008 blend. The plate is studded with dried red fruit flavors interspersed with black fruits and spice elements such as black pepper and cardamom. Sour cherries, black tea and a host of minerals are in evidence on the finish. This wine has terrific structure and is well proportioned. It will age gracefully for at least a decade.
Last but not least is the Trione 2007 Alexander Valley Block 21 Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the Cabernet comes from the Trione Cloverdale Ranch which is in the northern portion of Alexander Valley. The vines sourced were planted in 2001 to clone 337. In addition to Cabernet (85%) this wine has small amounts of Merlot (10%) from Geyserville as well as Petit Verdot (2.5%) and Malbec (2.5%) from Cloverdale. This wine spent a total of 24 months in barrel, 12 months prior to blending and another 12 after. All of it was French oak and 45% of the barrels were new. 733 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $64. Boisterous dark berry aromas are buoyed by cardamom and hints of toast on the nose of this 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is laden with an avalanche of sweet, dark berry flavors laced with just a speckle of green herbs. Minerals, earth, clove, white pepper, black cherries and cinnamon are all in evidence on the finish which has excellent length. What’s most impressive to me about this wine is the depth and purity of fruit favors that just beam forth from the glass from the first impression to the final sip. At 5 years old this Cabernet Sauvignon is at the beginning of its true accessibility. It will drink well over the next 8-12 years. This is a fine example of how good Cabernet from Alexander Valley can be.
This is a diverse and appetizing quartet of wines from Trione Vineyards & Winery. The common threads that run through them are character, balance and elegance. These are all lovely offerings that will drink well for a number of years. This was my first time trying their wines and I look forward to drinking future releases from them to see how they progress as a producer.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 19, 2012
Terroir is one of those ideas that is thrown around a lot as a buzz word in the wine industry. Depending on who it is bringing it up there can be a bit of controversy surrounding it. And while it may seem a little out there to some folks to think that Cabernet Sauvignon for example planted in a specific spot can be imbued with very different characteristics than a Cabernet Sauvignon planted a few hundred feet away, the truth is in the bottle. All one really needs to better understand the concept of Terroir is a taste, once you’ve experienced it first hand it’s easier to believe. Of course it’s a sliding scale and not every wine or more specifically every place will impart that. Furthermore some wines are made in such a style that their Terroir ends up being masked. That’s a different part of the subject for another day. This is about wines that do show their sense of place. I attended Vinos De Terroir hosted by Wines of Chile. The concept was a focused look at 10 great examples of Terroir driven wines from Chile. The event took place at Colicchio & Sons, hosted by Pedro Parra PhD and Terroir expert, author Mark Oldman and Sandy Block Master of Wine. Over the course of a couple of hours we took a long hard look at 10 wines in a classroom style format. After that we sat down for lunch and the same 10 wines were available to taste with our meal. These wines were uniformly excellent examples of Terroir. What follows are some reflections on the ones that were my personal favorites.
The one white wine from this particular tasting was the Casa Marín 2011 Cipress Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. This is a 100% Varietal wine sourced from a vineyard at the very top of a hillside. The fruit came from 6 blocks within this specific vineyard. It sits 4 km from the ocean and is one of the most extreme plantings in all of Chile. The conditions are very windy and result in low yields. This wine has a suggested retail price of $28. There’s a huge burst of lemon characteristics that explode from this Sauvignon Blanc. They’re joined by bits of green herb to form a pleasing nose. Citrus, tropical fruits and lots of mineral notes are all part of the complex and layered palate which has excellent weight. Lemon curd, bits of candied tropical fruits and a bevy of spice notes are part of the persistent finish. This Sauvignon Blanc is a real knockout, impressive in every way. It’s well worth making a special effort to locate. I can’t overstate how phenomenal this Sauvignon Blanc is, grab some and taste its excellence for yourself.
Concha y Toro’s 2008 Carmín de Peumo is a blend of primarily Carménère (90%), with Cabernet Sauvignon (7.5%) and Cabernet Franc (2.5%) blended in. The vineyard this fruit was sourced from has river bench soils with alluvial clay loams. It’s a cool area that promotes a long growing season. The wine was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. This offering has a suggested retail price of $150. Bits of green herb emerge from the nose of this wine along with red and black fruit aromas. Blackberry and cherry flavors are in strong evidence on the palate along with spices to spare, and minerals aplenty. The finish is tremendously pleasing and impressive in length and perseverance; sour black fruits, hints of smoked meat and continued spice and mineral notes all play a role. This is an impeccably balanced example of Carménère that shows off oodles of eager fruit as well as the wisps of green herb that are part of this varietal when it’s well made. When Carménère isn’t properly grown or handled it goes too far in one direction or the other. This wine sits perfectly in the middle. Carmín de Peumo is a stunning and world class example of a varietal that’s on the rise.
Lapostolle’s 2009 Clos Apalta is a blend of Carménère (78%), Cabernet Sauvignon (19%), and Petit Verdot (3%). The fruit for this selection came from hillside vineyards in Apalta that feature diverse soils. Aging occurred in entirely new French oak over a period of 24 months. This wine has a suggested retail price of $90. The 2009 Clos Apalta has a nose loaded with mission figs and plums with bits of red fruit interspersed as well. The juicy and willing palate is absolutely studded with velvety, dark fruit flavors, savory spices and bits of graphite. There is tremendous depth here from the first sip to the last impression this wine leaves. Fruit, spice, minerals and bits of earth reverberate for a long while after the last bit has been swallowed. This has been one of the benchmark wines of Chile for a number of years now. The 2009 vintage simply continues that reputation forward and proves again that it’s a well deserved one. If you have never tasted Clos Apalta before you owe it to yourself to do so; the 2009 vintage is as good a jumping off point as any.
Finally we have the Montes 2009 Folly. This is a 100% Syrah wine. The fruit for this wine came from the highest slopes of the La Finca de Apalta vineyard. Aging of this wine occurred over 18 months in New French oak. The suggested retail price is $90. Dark fruit aromas gush from the nose of this Syrah with stunning conviction. Blackberry and plum flavors dominate the palate along with minerals, spice, coffee, chocolate sauce and more. The finish shows off dusty cocoa as well as continued spice and dark fruit flavors. This is a wonderful example of Syrah that is delicious today but will benefit from a couple of years of bottle age. It will work particularly well paired with full flavored foods.
There are two things exhibited by this quartet of wines as well as the others tasted alongside them. First is the fact that terroir does matter and it is being utilized in Chile to make wonderful site specific wines. Second, these wines underscore the notion that Chile is producing wines at a wide array of levels, including offerings that can compete with the best in the world. The bottom line is whatever sort of wine you’re looking to drink and regardless of how much money you want to spend, Chile should be on your radar.
Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chile, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 16, 2012
Cornerstone Cellars has been making exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley for just over 20 years. For the last few years they have also been making wine under their Stepping Stone label. These wines are produced from fruit sourced in Napa as well as some other regions in California. Additionally they have a few releases sourced in Oregon. Today I’ll look at the newest vintage of a Stepping Stone release.
The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cellars 2010 North Coast Red Rocks blends together Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot. The lots of fruit for this wine were sourced in Lake County, Sonoma and the Napa side of Carneros respectively. Just more than 1,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18.
Blackberry and vanilla aromas leap with some intensity from the nose of this 2010 red blend, those aromas are augmented by bits of smoke and bacon. Lots of red and black fruit flavors are in evidence from the first sip to the last one. This is a very tasty, appealing, and easy to drink red wine. Willing and eager fruit flavors complemented by bits of spice continue through the finish which has decent length. This is a terrific little blend for the money and a fine example of a new world wine that is enthusiastic and loaded with fruit flavors but still even keeled.
What I like best about this wine is that it’s a fun, well priced wine that will appeal to large crowds of wine drinkers. It’s also a well made wine that will pair with a wide array of foods. It’s primed for immediate drinking so enjoy this over the next 1-2 years to get the most out of its agreeable, young fruit flavors.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on October 21, 2012
A couple of hours after arriving in Chile I found myself in the lobby of our hotel meeting up with my travelling companions for the next week. We were heading to lunch. The first meal together with a bunch of folks you don’t know can be telling. This particular lunch screamed, fun week ahead. I’m lucky to be travelling and learning about Chile with a friendly, diverse group that’s as thirsty for knowledge and well wine as I am.
We proceeded to walk a few blocks to Miguel Torres Restaurante De Vinos the sight of our first meal together and, as it turned out later, a nightcap. What we experienced was a wonderful meal accompanied by some terrific wines. And speaking of wine the first sip I took on Chilean soil was a marvelous welcome. One of the folks on the trip noticed a sparkling wine she’d tasted prior and loved so we all decided to give it a shot. The wine was the Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado Rosé. This wine was produced from the grape Pais which played a large role in Chile prior to the influx of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. I can’t speak to other examples as to the best of my knowledge I’d not tasted the grape prior. One thing is certain I’m curious to taste some additional ones now. This was a really lovely Rosé, perfectly dry with persistent red fruits, spice and a more than reasonably long finish.
The food at Miguel Torres was as delicious as the wine. A feast of appetizers laid out in front of us disappeared quickly as did the first wine. Chickpea Fritters and a traditional omelet with potato and Piquillo peppers were my favorite bites amongst the appetizers. Both worked really well with the Rosé as well as the next wine, the Miguel Torres 2008 Cordillera Carmenère. The Miguel Torres portfolio has several tiers of wines and Cordillera is one of them; it represents smaller craftsman productions. This wine blends Carmenère with small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot. Delicious off the bat and featuring appealing black fruits, it really came into its own after getting a little bit of air. Carmenère promises to become a bigger and more widely known varietal for Chile, perhaps a calling card of sorts as Malbec is for neighboring Argentina. This example from Miguel Torres only strengthens that notion for me. We followed that wine up with the Miguel Torres 2008 Cordillera Carignan. One of my hopes for this visit to Chile is to taste many examples of things like Carignan, varietals that aren’t getting as much attention yet as they perhaps deserve. That said this wine was a good place to start that journey for me. It was interesting to compare to the Carmenère we’d just finished, particularly as it was not just from the same producer but also in the same tier. Sometimes producers fall into the trap of each tier being overworked by a house style that overwhelms the grapes characteristics. This was happily not the case here. Each wine stood out on it’s own with varietal character to spare. The Carignan was a bit more reserved and slightly austere where the Carmenère was juicier and more giving up front. It would depend on my mood and what I was eating on any given day but as it developed in the glass my preference shifted to the Carignan. It played hard to get a little and perhaps that was part of it. In any case I’d happily drink either one. And if they were paired with the wonderful foods we enjoyed at Miguel Torres, all the better.
He Just Wanted Some Wine
Our meal ended with a selection of desserts accompanied by the Miguel Torres Vendimia Tardía Reserva Privada, a Late Harvest Wine made from Riesling. This was a sweet and lovely ending to the meal. As delicious as it was I’d bet this particular dessert wine would be even better served paired with a cheese course.
I mentioned a nightcap earlier and it took place in the same spot. After lunch we were given a tour of downtown Santiago. This afforded us the opportunity to see quite a few sections of the city; both the newer financial district where we’re currently staying as well as older areas that feature distinct architecture dating back to about 1910. After the tour was over we went back to the hotel for some downtime followed by dinner. After dinner our party was split into two, three of us chose well needed rest and the remainder of us chose more wine. We decided to go back to Miguel Torres and once there the obvious choice to drink became the Miguel Torres 2008 Cordillera Syrah. We’d had and loved the other red selections in this tier earlier so it seemed natural to close the day out with this offering. In addition to Syrah some Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier were blended in. Red cherry fruits filled the nose along with some darker berry components. They all carried through the palate along with spices and bits of chocolate. The finish which had a touch of smoke and green herb also showed nice length. In short this wine was what I expected after tasting the other two in the tier; a well made Syrah that showed off the varietal. It was delicious by itself but will sing with its supper.
That last bottle of wine was a wonderful way to cap my first day in Chile. The wines, food and people I spent the day with all came together and formed a harbinger of what promises to be a brilliant week, tasting and exploring what Chile has to offer.
Posted in Carignane, Carmenere, Chile, Dining, Sparkling Wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 5, 2012
Benessere Vineyards is a boutique sized winery in Napa Valley that’s also a treasure to those lucky enough to discover it. They produce varietally correct wines sourced from their estate vineyards. The fact that they lean towards Italian varietals such as Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio makes them somewhat unique in the valley. Their property is beautiful and the wines are by and large delicious and fairly priced. Today I’ll look at the current release of Phenomenon, their red Super Tuscan inspired blend.
The Benessere Vineyards 2007 Phenomenon is a proprietary blend. This Napa Valley wine was made entirely from fruit sourced at their Estate Vineyard in St. Helena. Cabernet Sauvignon (49%), Sangiovese (38%), Merlot (11%), and Syrah (2%) were fermented and barrel aged separately. They were then assembled and barrel aged for two additional years prior to release. Just fewer than 500 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50.
The nose of this 2007 blend is loaded with dark fruit aromas and spice. Plum and blueberry characteristics lead the way and they’re accompanied by cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and a hint of eucalyptus. The plate of this wine is impressively loaded with a terrific array of expressive flavors that are lead by deep, dark fruit flavors such as black cherry, and plum. Earth, chicory, black tea and continued waves of spice reverberate on the finish which has terrific length. The 2007 Phenomenon is a great example of what a blend should be; each of the varietals comes together seamlessly to form a cohesive unit. This wine is delicious on its own, but really shines when paired with food. Roasted meats and dishes with red sauce will work well as will medium strength cheeses and charcuterie.
Benessere Vineyards did well to release to release this wine when they did. It’s inviting, engaging and ready to drink now. While it’ll certainly continue to improve for a few years and drink well over the next 6-8, it’s delicious and hard to resist right now. So I vote to pop that cork sooner rather than later. And when your travels take you to Napa Valley, be sure to visit this terrific winery.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Uncategorized, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on August 20, 2012
It’s a good thing I keep lists. In this case it’s a list of Wineries in Sonoma County I keep meaning to get to but haven’t yet. Thankfully I can now scratch Balletto Vineyards & Winery off of that list. A couple of years back someone had poured one of their wines for me and It had left an impression. Subsequently a few people whose opinions I trust had mentioned them to me as well. But I kept running out of time on previous trips and never made it there, until last week. I’m quite glad that I did. Balletto Vineyards sits at 5700 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa, CA and their phone number is 707-568-2455. Balletto is open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Balletto started out as growers and farmers and they still are, selling off roughly 90% of their fruit in most years. The tasting room has a country charm which instantly brings to mind classic Sonoma County. The day I visited they had roughly ten wines they were pouring. Overall, both whites and reds left a very good impression as did the welcoming nature of their tasting room and operation as a whole. Here’s a look at a few of the wines that stood out the most on my visit.
Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2010 Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Gris is the 9th vintage they have made of this particular release. All of the fruit came from their own vineyards. This wine is 100% Pinot Gris. Just fewer than 2,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18. A welcoming nose shows of bits of Lychee as well as vanilla bean. The palate shows an impression of sweetness in the droves of stone fruit such as Apricot and White Peach. Lemon Zest rounds things out and leads to the finish which is clean and crisp with zippy acidity. This is perfectly suited to pair with spicy food and light meals; it’ll also work perfectly as a welcome wine.
The Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2009 Russian River Valley Estate Gewüurztraminer is the 5th vintage they have produced this wine. This is a single vineyard effort with all of the fruit coming from their Piner Road vineyard. It’s 100% Gewüurztraminer. Just over 500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18 but when I visited they were selling it for a bit less. White rose petal aromas emerge from the nose of this wine along with loads of fruit and hints of spice. Stone fruits, pear and bits of white pepper and vanilla are present on the palate which is gentle and layered with plenty of complexity. The finish here is lengthy as well as spice and mineral laden. This is a really beautiful example of Gewüurztraminer, something a bit too rare in California. Whether you drink it on it’s own or pair it with light foods, this wine is a sure fire winner.
The Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2011 Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced at 5 different vineyards within the winery’s Estate holdings. It’s all Estate fruit and this is the 11th year that they have produced this offering. It’s 100% Pinot Noir. Just fewer than 3.900 cases of this brand new release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $29. Bits of tea and strawberry emerge on the slightly reticent nose of this 2011 Pinot Noir. This is a new release a bit on the young side and some additional time in the bottle will be a benefit. Cherry and cranberry lead the palate which has good depth as well as being gentle and proportionate. Nutmeg and clove as well as white pepper emerge on the finish along with bits of mineral characteristics. This is a really nice Cuvee style Pinot Noir that you should decant for an hour or two if you’re going to drink it soon. Otherwise hold it for another year or so and it’ll be immediately approachable.
The Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2009 Russian River Valley Estate Syrah is a Single site effort with all of the fruit coming from their Estate BCD Vineyard. This is the 5th vintage they have produced this wine. A mere 210 cases were made and it has a suggested retail price of $24. Aromas of smoked meats and black fruits fill the deep, dark nose of this Syrah. Dark, brooding fruits continue on the palate along with spices that include both white and black pepper. The smoked meat characteristics continue on the lengthy finish along with bits of dark, dusty chocolate. This wine, which is a killer example of how well Syrah can be made in CA when it’s grown and treated right, will pair well with a host of bold meat dishes.
I highly recommend Balletto Vineyards & Winery as a stop to anyone visiting Sonoma County. The wines are well made, delicious and quite reasonably priced. The folks manning the tasting room are friendly, welcoming and informative. In short it’s a great place to while away some time, tasting excellent wine. The day I visited they had several wines on sale which made those particular wines nothing short of a steal. It took me awhile to get there, but I’ll be back, on my very next trip.
Posted in Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Winery Visit | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 3, 2012
Rosé is one of the things in the wine world that I most enjoy about summer. Theoretically they taste just as good in cooler months. However to my lips, when the temperature rises, well made Rosé is even more delicious and tempting. Part of their appeal is their versatility with food. Their refreshing nature and the fact that they feature some of the characteristics of both red and white wines all lend to what makes them cherished by many wine lovers. Today I’ll look at a quartet of current Rosés from California producers.
First up is the Pedroncelli 2011 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel. This Rosé is produced from fruit sourced in the winery’s home appellation of Dry Creek Valley. It’s a 100% varietal wine. Pedroncelli has been making Rosé since the 1950’s. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This wine saw no oak treatment. Just fewer than 1,000 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry emerge from the welcoming nose of this Rosé. Cherry flavors dominate the palate along with hints of white pepper. Vanilla, and continuing juicy red fruit flavors continue on the crisp and refreshing finish. This a lovely dry Rosé of Zinfandel with some perceived sweetness from all the engaging fruit flavors. This is an excellent choice for a picnic.
Next up is Clayhouse Wines 2011 Adobe Pink. This wine was produced from fruit sourced at the winery’s Red Cedar Vineyard located at the outskirts of Paso Robles. It’s a blend of Mourvedre (38%), Grenache Noir (37%), and Syrah (25%). Harvesting, crushing and processing of the grapes was handled as white varietals would be. Following fermentation in stainless steel, 25% of the wine spent 2 months in neutral oak. 600 cases of this selection were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14. Bright red fruit aromas and hints of citrus are apparent on the nose of this wine. Strawberry, cherry and bits of vanilla bean are apparent through the palate. This wine is incredibly fruity and juicy with just a touch of sweetness to round things out. Raspberry and continued cherry flavors close things out with bits of spice weaving in and out. This Rosé works particularly well ice cold.
Today’s third wine is the Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Stepping Stone Corallina Syrah Rosé. The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Oak Knoll appellation within Napa Valley. This offering was produced entirely from Syrah. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel followed by 5 months of aging in neutral French oak. 455 cases of the Corallina were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $20. The Corallina Rosé from Cornerstone opens with a highly engaging and deeply perfumed nose. Red and black cherries are joined by a crush of spices including vanilla bean. The palate is loaded with continued red fruit characteristics including strawberries, cherries, hints of green herbs and a crush of spices led by nutmeg and white pepper. This wine is crisp, dry and refreshing. The finish shows off wisps of sour red fruits and a touch of crème fraiche. This is an very nice example of Rosé from Napa Valley and it will be an excellent partner to a wide array of summer foods.
Today’s final wine is the V. Sattui Winery 2011 North Coast Rosato. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane. Fermentation took place with select yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel. This Rosé is available directly from the winery for $21.75. The first thing you’ll notice about the V. Sattui Rosé is that it has a slightly darker hue than the average. Made up of classic varietals the nose of this wine leaps from the glass with rich, red fruit aromas. Strawberry, red plum and a hint of red apple are apparent on the palate along with a bit of quince. Bright cherry, red raspberry, black and white pepper are all part of the finish which shows off the impression of sweetness due to all the engaging fruit flavors. This wine has a bit more heft than the other Rosé’s above and thus will stand up to some more substantial foods. Anything off of the grill will work perfectly.
This quartet of Rosé’s should keep your taste buds lit up all summer long. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing glass of wine to enjoy on your deck or something to pair with the foods of summer, I urge you to enjoy some Rosé this summer.
Posted in Carignane, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Zinfandel | 1 Comment »