Showing posts with label zinfandel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zinfandel. Show all posts

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Napa Cellars: latest releases

A few weeks ago, we tasted the latest releases of Napa Cellars, that were sent to me by the winery. Located on Highway 29 in Oakville, Napa Cellars produces several very reasonably priced varietal wines, all from the Napa Valley AVA.

Stretching from Carneros to Calistoga, Napa Valley offers multiple microclimates due to various geographical factors. The open southern part of the valley is close to the northern tip of San Francisco Bay and is cooler during the growing season. Then, north of Yountville, the valley becomes narrower and bends towards the west. The winds don't make the turn so the St. Helena and Calistoga areas tend to be much warmer. Napa Cellars takes advantage of these diverse climates when blending wines to achieve a consistent quality year after year and balance fruit flavors, tannins, and acidity.

Here are the wines that we tasted:

• 2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley: this is the winery's flagship wine. Most of the fruit is sourced from the southern part of the Napa Valley where summer temperatures can be ten to fifteen degrees cooler than those up north. The wine was aged 7 months in 100% French Oak (34% new). It had a light golden color and a nose that was more mineral than fruity. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, creamy, slightly oaky, with a good acidity and a lingering finish. Try it with a cream-based dish such as Fettucine with Smoked Salmon and Asparagus

• 2007 Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley: sourced from a collection of vineyards located in the St. Helena, Oak Knoll, and Rutherford districts, the wine was aged for 18 months, in predominately French oak (55% new). Showing a dark purple color and a red berry nose with notes of mint, eucalyptus, and vanilla, it was full-bodied with a moderate amount of alcohol (13.8%). It was surprisingly well-balanced in terms of acidity and tannins for a young Cabernet. Try it with grilled steaks such as Rib Eye Steaks with Mixed Mushroom Sauté

• 2007 Napa Cellars Merlot Napa Valley: most of the fruit comes from the cooler regions of Napa Valley, such as Oak Knoll and Carneros. The blend also includes a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). The wine was aged for 20 months in predominantely French oak (36% new). It had a deep red color and a nose of sweet black plums and blackberries. The palate was rich, full-bodied and showing more alcohol than the Cabernet, leaving notes of cocoa on the finish. Try it with a pork dish cooked with fruit such as Pork Roast with Winter Fruits and Port Sauce

• 2007 Napa Cellars Zinfandel Napa Valley: much of the fruit was sourced from the warmer regions of Napa Valley, including Calistoga, St. Helena and Pope Valley. The blend is 88% Zinfandel and 12% Petit Sirah, aged for 18 months in American and French oak (23% new). Showing a medium red color, the wine had a nose of red berry fruit. The palate was fruity but not too jammy with exotic spices on the finish. Try it with some Asian spiced grilled meat such as Sweet Soy-Grilled Short Ribs

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tasting some new releases from St. Francis Winery

While we were staying at the ski cabin with friends this weekend, we tasted a couple of newly released wines from St. Francis Winery & Vineyards that delicious life PR had sent me.

Located in Kenwood at the northern end of Sonoma Valley, St. Francis winery produces big, full-bodied wines from a variety of vineyards through out Sonoma County. What I particularly appreciate about St. Francis is the fact that since 2004, the winery is engaged in serious green and sustainable practices, including the installation of solar panels on the roof of the winery, the use of electric cart for the maintenance crews, water conservation programs in the vineyard and the winery, and several recycling programs. “With success comes responsibility to future generations who will live and work here as well”, says Christopher Silva, President & CEO of the winery on the company's website. “Engaging in green practices is the right thing to do, which makes it the right way to run a business.

We first tasted the 2006 St. Francis Merlot Sonoma County with a assortment of country pâté and cheese. The wine is a blend of valley and mountain grown grapes, hand harvested and aged in American and French oak barrels for 23 months. Showing a dark red color, the wine had aromas of sweet blackberry and vanilla on the nose. On the palate, it was full-bodied and still young and tannic with a pleasant lingering finish of spices, pepper and earthy flavors. The wine was good with the pâté but the best match was with the surprisingly sweet (for the season) strawberries that we had for dessert.

The other wine was the 2007 St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel Sonoma County. This “Old Vines” blend is made of grapes from at least 50 year old dry-farmed vines with many as old as one hundred years old. These vines come from small family-owned plots dating from the early 20th century and planted with a field blend of Zinfandel intermixed with some Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet. The grapes are hand-picked and aged in new American oak barrels for twelve to fifteen months.

The wine had a deep color and a nose of red berry and citrus. On the palate, it was full-bodied, strong, and sweet, with floral and sour cherry notes. It was a good accompaniment to our Pasta Bolognese, especially after I added a handful of black olives to the sauce.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Napa and Sonoma trip: Dutton-Goldfield Winery

After a nice lunch in Forestville, we met Valerie Wathen from Dutton-Goldfield at the winery's tasting room that it currently shares with Balletto Vineyards on the outskirts of Santa Rosa.

Dutton-Goldfield is the partnership of grapegrower Steve Dutton, a fifth generation farmer in the Russian River Valley, and winemaker Dan Goldfield. The winery's main focus is to produce cold-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and also a bit of Zinfandel, Syrah and Pinot Blanc. Most of the fruit is sourced from the various vineyards of Dutton Ranch in the Russian River Valley AVA

Russian River Valley AVA

With Valerie, we tasted the following wines:

• 2007 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Dutton Ranch: a blend of five Dutton Ranch vineyards from the coolest part of Russian River Valley. My notes: ripe apple and pear on the nose, creamy and lush on the palate with some good acidity, elegant finish.

• 2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch: a blend of five Dutton Ranch vineyards from the Russian River Valley. My notes: sweet and spicy cherry aromas on the nose, bright and fruity on the palate, earthy finish.

• 2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Freestone Hill Vineyard: farmed by the Dutton family, the Freestone Hill Vineyard overlooks the tiny town of Freestone located between Sebastopol and Bodega Bay. This cold-climate wine is bottled separately only in years when the fruit stands out as truly unique. My notes: exotic spices on the nose. On the palate, herbs and licorice flavors, very distinctive.

• 2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Devil's Gulch Vineyard: located on a steep hillside near the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, the Devil's Gulch Vineyard is farmed by local grower Mark Pasternak, a viticultural pioneer in Marin County. My notes: deep color, red and black berry aromas on the nose, rich and complex on the palate, lingering finish.

• 2007 Dutton-Goldfield Zinfandel Morelli Lane Vineyard: planted with Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Morelli Lane Vineyard lies just north of the town of Occidental in the Russian River Valley. My notes: nose of sweet blackberry, lots of fruits on the palate, lively acidity.

My favorites were the Freestone Hill and the Devil's Gulch Pinots and I bought a few bottles of each to bring back home. These wines should age well, said Valerie, so I am looking forward to retasting them in a few years.

Related posts:
•  Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa
•  Napa and Sonoma trip: Hanzell Vineyards
•  Napa and Sonoma trip: Emeritus Vineyards

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tasting of Zinfandel and Zinfandel related grapes

Considered America's sweetheart grape, Zinfandel was the theme of our latest wine club event. Our goal was to taste and compare different Zinfandel and Zinfandel related varieties from various wine regions, including Croatia, Italy, and California.

The story of Zinfandel is fascinating. It came to the United States in the early 1800s via the Imperial Nursery in Vienna, Austria, and quickly became a popular table grape in the Northeast. Then in the mid-1850's, it was introduced to California by a Massachusetts nurseryman who had joined the California Gold Rush. It thrived so well in the state's climate that by the end of the 19th century, Zinfandel was the most widespread grape variety in California.

For a long time, Zinfandel was California's mystery grape, but thanks to DNA profiling, it has now been proved that Zinfandel is a clone of the Croatian variety Crljenak. The grape was also imported to Apuglia in Southern Italy, probably by the Illyrians more than two thousand years ago. In Apuglia, the grape is called Primitivo because of its precociousness.

Here are the wines that we tasted:

• 2006 Dingac Plavac Mali Peljesac: Vinarija Dingac is a Croatian winery located in the Peljesac Peninsula on the Dalmatian Coast. Plavac Mali, which has been found to be a cross between Zinfandel and the local grape Dobricic, is the main red varietal grown along the Dalmatian Coast. My notes: only 11.5% alcohol. Light red brick color, plums and prunes on the nose, light to medium-bodied on the palate, nicely balanced. Really easy to drink and pretty popular among the guests.

• 2006 Bibich Riserva: The Bibich estate is located in Skradin in Northern Dalmatia. The wine is a blend of three local grapes (Babich, Plavina, Lasin) that are thought to be related to Zinfandel. My notes: 12.2% alcohol. Red berry color, spicy and peppery on the nose, medium-bodied on the palate, lively acidity, food friendly.

• 2007 Vinosia Primitivo di Salento: Aziende Agricole Vinosia is a new winery from Campania founded by Mario Ercolino, winemaker at Feudi di San Gregorio, and his brother Luciano. The wine comes the Salento region, a sub-peninsula in the south-eastern extremity of Apulia in Southern Italy. My notes: 13.5% alcohol. Deep purple color, peppery, red and back berry on the nose, earthy on the palate, good acidity, licorice on the finish. My favorite wine of the evening.

• 2006 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Collins Vineyard Russian River Valley: Limerick Lane is located at the eastern extremity of the Russian River Valley appellation and at the eastern end of the Dry Creek Valley appellation. The vineyard dates back to 1910 and some vines from that era are still in production. It is dry-farmed, relying on winter and spring rains to water the vines. The wine is stored for a year in a combination of French and Hungarian oak barrels. Each vintage uses between 25-30% of new oak. My notes: 14.6% alcohol. Medium red color, citrus and red berry on the nose, medium-bodied on the palate, herbal notes on the finish.

• 2006 Ridge Zinfandel York Creek: Ridge Vineyards started harvesting Zinfandel from the York Creek Vineyard in 1975. Situated high on Spring Mountain and overlooking St. Helena and the Napa Valley, the York Creek vineyard has well drained gravelly loam soils and a cool, mountainous climate. The 2006 vintage is aged in a combination of new and used American oak barrels. The blend is 99% Zinfandel, 1% Petite Sirah. My notes: 14.8% alcohol. Deep color, red berry on the nose, medium-bodied, good acidity, juicy on the palate, well-balanced. A favorite among the Zinfandels from California.

• 2005 Rosenblum Zinfandel Harris Kratka Vineyard: Rosenblum Cellars was founded in 1978 by veterinarian Dr. Kent Rosenblum and his wife Kathy. The winery works with over 80 unique grape growers and has an extensive wine portfolio of Zinfandel and Rhône varietal wines. The 16-acre Harris Kratka Vineyard is located just east of the Russian River in the Alexander Valley appellation. It is planted with half-century-old, head-pruned vines, 90% of which are Zinfandel, 5% Carignane and 5% Petite Sirah. My notes: blend of 75% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane. 14.7% alcohol. Deep color, herbal, spicy on the palate, good finish, tasty.

• 2006 Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley: Seghesio Family Winery was founded by Edoardo Seghesio who emigrated from Italy in 1886. The family-owned winery flourished in the bulk wine business until the mid 1970s, producing most of the red wine made in Sonoma County. Then in 1983, Ted Seghesio, a fourth generation family winemaker, bottled his first wines under the Seghesio label. Nestled in the heart of Dry Creek Valley, the Cortina vineyard was purchased by the winery in 1957. The climate is both coastal and inland with coastal fogs in the morning followed by long hours of sunshine. My notes: 15.2% alcohol. Medium red, sweet red berry on the nose, intense, hot on the palate, somewhat unbalanced, too alcoholic.

For our next wine tasting, we'll be tasting the wines blind, so be ready for the challenge!

Previous wine club tastings:
•  Drink Local Tasting
•  Pairing wine and cheese
•  Tasting the wines of the Rhône Valley

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A taste of Sonoma from St. Francis Winery

Founded in 1971, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is a winery located in the heart of Sonoma Valley, in Santa Rosa, California. It was named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi in recognition of the saint's love of the natural world. The Saint is also credited with bringing European grape cultivation to the new world.

The winery's President, Christopher Silva, is a fifth generation Sonoma County native that believes that the best wines can be grown in Sonoma County. His mission is for St. Francis Winery to become the premier producer of Sonoma wine. He is also seriously engaged in green practices such as water and energy conservation, wild life and natural resource preservtion, and use of solar energy.

I recently received a sample of the winery's new releases sent to me for review by Kobrand Corporation and so here are my tasting notes:

• 2005 St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County: made from grapes coming from five Sonoma County appellations: Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile. My notes: dark red color, black and wild berries on the nose, firm backbone on the palate, young but well balanced, good acidity, food-friendy. Try it with a Southwest Blackened Beef Rib Eye.

• 2005 St. Francis Merlot Sonoma County: the fruits come from selected vineyards through out Sonoma County, with diverse micro-climates ranging from the hillsides of the Mayacamas Mountains to the cooler Sonoma Valley floor. My notes: dark color, sweet berry and vanilla on the nose, softer and sweeter on the palate than the Cabernet, smoky finish. Try it with Pork Chop with Caramelized Onion

• 2006 St. Francis Zinfandel Old Vines Sonoma County: comes from head-trained and dry farmed vines that must be at least 50 years old, with many as old as hundred years old. My notes: medium garnet color, sweet red fruit on the nose, berry compote on the palate, juicy, pleasant finish. I am usually not too crazy about Zinfandel but this one was actually very tasty and food friendly in spite of its 15.5% alcohol content. Try it with Sonoma Sausage Sauté with Peppers and Mushrooms

Wild Oak by St. Francis is a new line of hand-crafted, limited production, varietal wines, named for Sonoma's Heritage oak trees.

• 2004 Wild Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County: according to the winery's notes, the fruits for this wine come from diverse locations: Lagomarsino Vineyard in the Russian River Valley for generous power and luscious mouthfeel, the red volcanic soil and high altitude climate of Nuns Canyon Vineyard for firm structure, dark color, rich berrylike character and ample tannin, the McCoy Ranch in the Mayacamas Mountains for intense Cabernet and firm chewy Merlot, more Merlot coming from the estate Behler Vineyard, and a touch of Rockpile's Petit Verdot to deepen the color and expands the texture and finish. My notes: dark garnet color, blackberry and wild berry on the nose, rich, firm, and oaky on the palate with some good acidity, promising but needs more cellaring time. The wine was actually better the day after opening. Try it (in a few years) with Braised Lamb Shank Osso Buco

• 2005 Wild Oak Merlot Sonoma County: according to the winery's notes, the grapes coming from the 35-year-old estate Behler Vineyard in Sonoma Valley bring intense, rich, fleshy fruit typical of Merlot grown on cooler valley floor vineyards. Additionally, a small amount of Merlot and Cabernet from Nuns Canyon Vineyard located along the Mayacamas provides the mountain grown fruit possessing the tannins needed to give the wine structure and complexity. My notes: deep purple color, sweet berry and tobacco on the nose, full-bodied on the palate, quite young and oaky right now. Try it with Five Spice Spare Ribs

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More on Thanksgiving leftovers: if you're ambitious, make a Turkey Mole

Two days after Thanksgiving, our friend and gifted cook Catherine was still full of energy and undertook the ambitious project to make a mole.

In Mexican Spanish, mole simply means sauce or mixture (like in guacamole, avocado mole) but in the US, mole usually refers to a specific sauce called Mole Poblano. Mole Poblano is a thick, rich, sweet sauce prepared with dried chile peppers, ground nuts, seeds, raisins, spices, and chocolate, and traditionally served with turkey. This is a recipe that requires long preparation times but the result is totally rewarding.

Mole mixture before being blended

Blended mole cooked with turkey stock

Now, what kind of wine can stand up to those strong, complex flavors? We tried a Zinfandel from Opolo Vineyards, a winery located in Paso Robles. Opolo co-owners Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols own about 280 acres of vineyards, most of them situated in the Adelaide range of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The name Opolo is a reference to Quinn's Yugoslavian heritage, and is actually the name of a blended rose-style wine found on the Dalmatian Coast.

The 2003 Opolo Mountain Zinfandel Paso Robles is a big, alcoholic wine (16.6% ABV) with a opulent, full-bodied mouthfeel and rich, sweet aromas of raisins and other dried fruits. Not the kind of wine that I would drink everyday, but with the mole, it made a interesting pairing.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Hillary, Obama, and a 1972 Zinfandel

I am with Hillary, Obama, and a co-worker of mine in the countryside somewhere in the Bay Area. Everybody is smiling and in a good mood: my co-worker had brought a 1972 Zinfandel from a local winery that she wants us to taste. In the glass, the wine has a beautiful light red color and a mild perfume of violets and raspberry. On the palate, it has a soft, velvety texture —almost like an old Burgundy — but with a distinctive Zinfandel character. We are all blown away by how good the wine is and decide to pay a visit to the winery, which happens to be close by.

I wake up. I guess I'd been browsing the web too much the night before!

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

With the turkey leftovers, a magnum of 2003 Ridge Lytton Springs

My friend Catherine has delicious ways to accomodate turkey leftovers. So the day after Thanksgiving, she made a soup with what was left of the turkey carcass. She had to cook the carcass for at least four hours to produce the broth, and then she made the soup with the broth, chopped vegetables, and diced turkey.

She also showed us how to make turkey croquettes with leftover mashed potatoes. Simply served with a green salad, they were the ultimate comfort dish: crispy on the outside, moist and tasty on the inside.

And we were far from running out of wine as it was time to open the magnum of 2003 Ridge Lytton Springs that our friend Pierre had brought.

It's in 1972 that Ridge Vineyards started making its first Lytton Springs Zinfandel from 80 year old vines, and in the early 1990s, the winery was able to purchase the land. The place is named after "Captain" William Litton, the actual owner in the 1870s. It was later in the early 1900s that the spelling changed to Lytton.

The vineyard is located north of Sonoma County, in the hills that separate the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. It is mostly planted to Zinfandel — including some 111-year-old vines — as well as Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Grenache.

The wine had deep red color and a rich combination of red and black fruits on the nose. The palate had some good acidity and sweet berry aromas without being jammy at all. Overall, the wine was very well balanced, offering much more finesse than most. I was happy: I too rarely find a Zinfandel that I like.

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