Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Santa Clara Valley tasting, Bella Mia, 18th March

Between them, Santa Clara Valley wineries garnered 45 medals at the Chronicle wine competition this year. To celebrate and raise public awareness, Jason Goelz of Jason/Stephens Winery organised a tasting in downtown San Jose. In all, 9 wineries participated. It was a very pleasant event; enough time to visit all the wineries without feeling rushed.

Many of the wineries are only open to the public on the 3rd weekend of the month. Here are my brief notes from the event.

2006 Mercury Rising (SILVER)
A good value blend of bordeaux varietals sourced from several regions; Napa, sonoma, Lodi and Paso Robles. Meaty, smoky nose; balanced with nice berry fruit.
2007 Pinot Noir, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands (GOLD)
Nice expression of Pinot from this well known vineyard in Monterey County. Rich chocolate and cherry fruit with a lingering finish.

Clos LaChance
2007 "Glittering-Throated Emerald" Chardonnay (GOLD)
This unoaked Chardonnay shows mango and other tropical fruit dlavours. Nice clean, crisp finish. Always a bargain; watch out for it on offer in Safeway and stock up.
2006 "Black Chinned" Syrah (SILVER)
A nice fruity nose leads into good fruit and spice flavours; hints of nutmeg and white pepper. Good oak and tannins.
2006 "Buff-Bellied" Zinfandel (BRONZE)
Light nose; good raspberry fruit. Tart cherries on the finish.
2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (GOLD)
The Estate series is generally available direct from the winery. It spends over 2 years in new French oak. There's big blackcurrant fruit together with espresso and a hint of mint. It's still very young and needs time for the oak and tannins to soften.

Creekview Vineyards
2005 was the first vintage for Creekview, based in San Martin.
2007 Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco (GOLD)
Lemony nose; butter and vanilla on the palate. This is your textbook Californian oak-and-butter Chardonnay.
2006 Syrah (DOUBLE GOLD)
Sourced mainly from the Dorcich vineyard, it also contains 6% Mourvèdre and 3% Négrette.
Dark fruit and a little smoke on the nose, rich sweet fruit on the palate. A real crowd pleaser that's ready to drink.

J. Lohr
Based in San Jose, J Lohr produces over 1 million cases annually from their 3000 farmed acres, mostly in Monterey and Paso Robles. Known mainly for their Estate series found in supermarkets everywhere they also have several high end labels.
2007 Sauvignon Blanc "Carol's Vineyard", Napa Valley (SILVER)
Very aromatic, crisp nose. Peach and gooseberry flavours, with less acidity than I expected. Nice finish.
2007 Pinot Noir "Fog's Reach Vineyard", Arroyo Seco (GOLD)
Notes of sweet cherry and toffee, both on the nose and palate. Fine tannins show on the long finish.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon "Hilltop Vineyard", Paso Robles (GOLD)
Concentrated flavours of blackcurrant and coffee, with big tannins. Surprisingly good value at $35

First vintage for this partnership of winemaker Jason Goelz and veteran grower Stephen Dorcich.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (BRONZE)
Bottled under screw cap and targeted at the restaurant 'by the glass' market, this is an easy drinking, balanced Cabernet. Nice fruit; lightly oaked.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dorcich Estate (BRONZE)
Sourced from the same vineyard, the Estate sees more oak, which shows on the nose. There's also a lot more tannin, but there's decent fruit and nice acidity. Needs another year or so for the oak to integrate.
2006 Syrah (SILVER)
Earthy, smoky, rustic nose. Great fruit, good balance, long tannic finish.

Monte Verde
2006 was the first vintage from this husband and wife team in Morgan Hill. The estate is planted with Spanish varietals Tempranillo and Verdejo.
2006 "Villa Palma" Merlot (BRONZE)
Nose reminiscent of dried lavender. On the palate it's got nice plum fruit, if a little 1 dimensional. Soft tannins on the finish.
2006 "Muritabo" Syrah (SILVER)
A bright nose of red apples. On the palate there's black cherries and coffee, with quite a long finish.

Sarah's Vineyard
2007 Estate Chardonnay (SILVER)
The more I try this wine, the more I like it. There's a nose of green apples and pears; on the palate today it was showing a creamy caramel fudge quality. Very nice.
2007 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains (SILVER)
Similar in style to the Estate, but with more lemon on the nose and more acidity on the palate. Long, rich finish. Two excellent Chardonnays.
2007 Estate Pinot Noir (GOLD)
Spicy nose showing cinnamon and oak; rich cherry fruit with a long finish
2007 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains (BEST IN CLASS)
Very perfumed nose; it's the Estate and more besides, with the oak showing a little too much at this stage. Give it cellar time.
2005 Syrah, Besson Vineyard (BEST IN CLASS)
For some reason the nose on this reminded me of tinned sweetcorn. A big wine, lots of ripe fruit and a long finish. A nice wine, but a touch too ripe for my personal tastes.

Satori Cellars
Another newcomer; 2006 is their first vintage. Bright, eye catching labels and a real sense of fun.
2006 "Halelujah" Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington (GOLD)
I haven't had many cabs from Washington, but what I've tasted so far has been good. Interesting nose of Vimto and smoke. Good rich, sweet fruit; blackcurrants on toast. Soft, crisp finish.
2006 Estate Zinfandel (NOT ENTERED)
Big, bold raspberry flavours are only hinted at by the light nose. The tannins are firm on the finish.
2006 "Ta Da" Syrah (BRONZE)
A bright nose of blueberries. Soft fruit on the palate and a fairly quick finish
2006 "Ha Ha" Petite Sirah (BRONZE)
It's hard to make a Petite Sirah that isn't a tannic monster, and this is no exception. Smoky, oaky nose and a hint of liquorice on the finish. There's some fruit there but it's mostly obscured by the tannins.

Sycamore Creek
Taken over in 2005 by Bill Holt and Ted Medeiros, of Uvas Creek Vineyard.
2006 Chardonnay, Vanumanutagi Vineyard (GOLD)
Nose of oak and butterscotch. On the palate it shows rich, creamy fruit, particularly honeydew melon.
2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Uvas Creek Vineyard (BRONZE)
Floral nose; violets from the Petite Verdot and some oak. Lush fruit; blackcurrant and brambles. Soft tannins on the finish.
2007 Zinfandel (DOUBLE GOLD)
Sourced from a 1 acre domestic vineyard in Coyote Valley. Bright fruity nose; raspberry and brambly, which follows through to the palate. Very nice acidity and balanced; no heat from the 15% alcohol.