Sunday, September 27, 2009

2006 Guglielmo Zinfandel, Santa Clara Valley

After being reasonably impressed by a Petite Sirah I had high hopes for this Zinfandel, but was sadly disappointed. There's a nose of raisins and tea; simple, sweet fruit and not much in the way of a finish. 79 $18

Friday, September 25, 2009

2005 Martin Ranch "J.D. Hurley" Merlot, Santa Clara Valley

The Redwood Retreat Valley is in the south west corner of the Santa Clara Valley AVA on the border of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA; while the appellation boundaries generally follow the 600' contour at this point it dips to include the valley into the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Dan & Thérèse Martin planted Cabernet Sauvignon in 1993 and began making small amounts of wine in 1997. Initially the grapes were sold to Ahlgren, River Run and SCMV under the name Harvest Moon Vineyard; they later bonded as Martin Ranch Winery. Their first commercial release was in 2002 with the introduction of labels J.D. Hurley and Thérèse Vineyards wines. Dan is the primary winemaker for the J.D Hurley label.

The 2005 Merlot opens with an earthy, forest floor nose, with some floral and cocoa notes. On the palate there's initially a lot of acidity, but looking beyond that there is good black fruit, chocolate and a little smoke. The tannins are soft, with a medium length finish. Grows on you. 87. Listed at $20, the winery has it on closeout this month for $120 per case.

2006 Monte Verde Merlot, Villa Palma Vineyard

Monte Verde Vineyards is a small, new winery in Santa Clara Valley. They planted a few vines at their home in Morgan Hill and began making wine in 2003. Encouraged by the results they decided to get bonded; the first commercial release was from the 2006 vintage. Though the fruit is sourced from within the Santa Clara Valley AVA the wines all carry the Central Coast appellation. The winery is open for tasting on the 3rd Saturday of the month.

The 2006 Villa Palma Vineyard Merlot opens with shiitake mushrooms, earth, black fruit and leather. This continues onto the palate, adding orange pith and liquorice, particularly on the finish. The tannins are a little bitter at this stage. 85 $18

A decent effort for their first release; I look forward to following their progress.

2005 Casa de Fruta Merlot, Zanger Vineyards, Pacheco Pass AVA

Casa de Fruta is located in the southwestern corner of the Santa Clara Valley. This family owned business was established over 100 years ago as a fruit orchard. In the 1940s they began selling fruit at a roadside stand which over the years grew into a major retail outlet.

In addition to the orchards the family planted a few acres of vineyards, including Merlot, Zinfandel, Black Muscat and Cabernet Sauvignon, and began producing a selection of wines from both grapes and other fruits. In the early 1980s the Zanger family petitioned for appellation status, and in 1984 the Pacheco Pass AVA was established. Its 3200 acres straddles the border with San Benito and encompasses the Casa de Fruta ranch, the nearby San Felipe vineyard and a portion of the Dunne Ranch vineyard.

Initially rather herbal, with a little air it showed some dried cranberry, redcurrant and glacé cherry. A soft and fruity wine; not much in the way of structure or finish. Fairly one-dimensional. Expensive for what you get. 83 $18

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2006 Zayante Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains

Regular followers may have noticed that I haven't been drinking much Merlot. This is partially due to the impending arrival of a family member who loves Merlot, so I've been saving them up for her. However I probably won't be offering this one to anyone. In fact I was in two minds whether to post this, not because it's a poor review but because I couldn't decide whether the wine was flawed or not.

The initial nose was rather vegetal/herbal, with red bell pepper, rosemary, smoked meat and some heat (it's 14.2% acohol). On the palate there wasn't much in the way of fruit; a little plum and sour redcurrant. Possibly slightly corked; we couldn't decide, so no score.

Should you wish to try your luck it's available at Whole Foods for $12; if you do then please let me know whether or not your experience matches mine or not.

2006 Storrs Zinfandel, Central Coast

Storrs are perhaps best known for their excellent Chardonnays, but they also make some great Zinfandels. Sourced from some old vineyards in the Santa Clara Valley, the Rusty Ridge and Lion Oaks are typically intense, concentrated and delicious.

Recently I happened to be in Whole Foods and spotted their 2006 Central Coast at $20. As I understand it, the fruit is sourced from a number of young, domestic vineyards in Santa Clara Valley.

It pops out of the glass with a savoury nose of raspberry and oak. Lots of raspberry/brambly flavours and peppery spice. Although it's only 14.2% it showed some heat, though in its defence this was perhaps exacerbated by being served a little on the warm side. There's fair acidity but not a great deal of tannin so drink it now. At $20 it's reasonable value but not a stunning bargain, though the 10% half-case discount does help. 87

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coterie Cellars

Coterie Cellars is a small, new winery based in an industrial estate in Willow Glen. Founder and winemaker Kyle Loudon got some experience as a cellar worker at Eno Wines and Harrington Wines in the East Bay. After taking some courses in viticulture and enology at Davis he and his wife Shala entered the business with the 2007 vintage. The winery concentrates on Pinot Noir and Rhone varieties sourced from vineyards in Russian River, San Lucia Highlands and Fiddletown.

2007 Roussanne, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Saralee's Vineyard is a 275 acre property planted with 6 red and 10 white varieties, as well as an array of table grapes. The grapes are sold to 45 different clients around the state.

Very pale colour. The nose is faint, slightly floral with biscuit notes. On the palate it's dry and crisp with flavours of gooseberry and grapefruit, and a creamy mouthfeel. Quickish citrus finish. Seems like it should have been blended with something; doesn't particularly impress on its own. 84 $26

2008 Viognier, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley
More colour than the 07 Roussanne - a pale greenish straw - and a much bigger nose; very inviting and floral with honeysuckle & lychee. Rich, creamy mouthfeel with quince, lemon curd and vanilla wafers. Some bitter, green tannins showing on the medium length finish, but these may diminish with time; this is fairly new in bottle. An interesting wine; would like to try it again in a few months. 89+ $28

2007 Rose of Syrah, Casatierra Vineyard, Fiddletown AVA
Casatierra is a Syrah specialist near the Shenandoah Valley. They grow 7 different clones of Syrah.

Pale pink with a light nose of red currant and fresh turned earth. Light bodied, with not much acidity. Tastes like it's lost it's freshness - was probably better on release. 84 $18

2007 Pinot Noir, Fairview Road Ranch, Santa Lucia Highlands
Big spicy nose; coriander and dried cherry. Seemed a little extracted; the tannins were quite evident up front. Good cherry and cranberry fruit, good acidity, hint of bitterness and raisin on the finish. Give it a couple of years. 90+ $35

2007 Pinot Noir, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Not as intense or spicy as the fairview; cherry and oak on the nose and on the palate. A hint of mint on the finish. Less going on entirely. 87 $38

2008 Syrah, Casatierra Vineyard, Fiddletown AVA
Blended (not co-fermented) with 4% Viognier. Inky purple in the glass with white pepper, tart redcurrant and cranberry dominating. Flavours of blueberry and pepper, plenty of tannin but acidity is on the low side. Newly bottled, needs time to come together, hard to rate at this early stage so I'll hedge my bets with 87-90 $28

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

RIP Kathryn Kennedy

I just read that Kathryn Kennedy died last month, aged 82. There's an obituary in the New York Times (no login needed).

Although I never met her I have great admiration for her achievements and her wines. I met her son and winemaker Marty Mathis at an industry tasting earlier this year; a really nice chap. One of these days I'd love to visit the winery.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Beauregard Vineyards

Last weekend I took the kids to Felton, to rider on the the Roaring Camp railway. On the way home I wanted to show them where the Lockheed fire had burned, but that whole area seems to be shut off behind security fences; one of the reasons that the fire covered such a large area was because it's pretty much inaccessible wilderness.

Since we were in the Bonny Doon area I decided to call in on Beauregard Vineyards. About a year ago they took over Randall Grahm's old Bonny Doon tasting room and winery on Pine Flat Road and I hadn't been there yet.

Although the Beauregard label has only existed for around 10 years, the family has 60 years of viticultural experience. Amos Beauregard first planted vineyards in 1949. The family petitioned for the establishment of the Ben Lomond AVA, and Jim Beauregard used to own the Felton Empire winery, which is now Hallcrest. His son, winemaker Ryan Beauregard represents the fourth generation. The winery is renowned for their Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, though they also produce several other wines including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The tasting fee is $5 and covers five wines.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County
Regular readers will know I'm not a great fan of Californian Sauvignon Blanc. This is a reasonable example; a pleasant floral nose with, gooseberry, citrus and pear. On the palate it shows lime sorbet & gooseberry; there's crisp acidity yet a rounded mouthfeel. 87 I'd find it hard to justify the $17 asking price given what's coming in from New Zealand for less, but this month it's on sale for $100 a case and at that price it's very tempting.

2006 Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
The Trout Gulch vineyard was owned by Bernie Turgeon, founder of Turgeon & Lohr, which became J. Lohr after he sold his share. In 1988 Bernie and his son Gerry re-entered the business and made some very nice Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this 25 acre ranch near Aptos. Bernie has now retired, and while Gerry continues the Trout Gulch label, the vineyard is now leased by Beauregard.
Toasty, with lemon zest and red apples on the nose. flavours of tart lemon, vanilla and a touch of honey, with a long, mineral (baking powder) finish. 90 $35

2006 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
A blend of fruit from Trout Gulch Vineyard and Bald Mountain Vineyard.
The nose shows lemon, vanilla ice-cream and wet stones. Flavours of creamy lemon and green apple; similar minerality on the finish to the previous wine. 89 $22 a bottle, but on sale for $180 a case - a very good price. Value

2006 Pinot Noir, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Nose shows caramel, cranberry, cherry and smoke. On the palate there's plenty of rich fruit - cherry and raspberry - and oak. Notes of sour cherry on the finish. 90 and drinking nicely now. $45

2006 Pinot Noir, Bald Mountain Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
There's a really earthy / forest floor component to the nose, with lots of dried cherries. Overall there is so much more complexity; lots of rich fruit and cola, with a mineral finish. 91 with room to improve. $45

2006 Le P'tit Paysan Syrah, Russian River Valley

Le P'tit Paysan (the "little redneck") is Ian Brand's own label. I mentioned recently that he gave me a couple of bottles after our dinner in Los Altos; this was the second one.

The nose shows some lovely blueberry fruit as well as lavender and sandalwood notes. The palate has spicy chili and lots of berry fruit. It's smooth and balanced with enough structure to indicate that it would benefit from 2-3 years of cellaring.

It was much more to my taste than the Coastview Syrah that we drank at the dinner; it reminded me in some ways of the Stefania Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah although it seemed less concentrated. I'm not sure what the price is; assuming that it's around the $25 mark (which is in line with the Meritage) then it's a definite buy. 89, with potential. Recommended

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dealing with the green meanies

Sometimes a wine needs the right food pairing to show well. A light bodied wine that tastes thin and acidic alone might match well with a tomato pasta dish, and a full bodied, tannic red is a great match for a thick juicy steak.

Last weekend we had some friends over for dinner. I'd been to Costco and picked up some of their USDA Prime steaks; season them with salt and pepper, put them on the barbecue and eat them in the garden under the stars with a nice red wine, grilled vegetables and fresh bread. A perfect summer evening.

We'd had a spectacular 1990 Penfolds Bin 389 with the steaks, and followed that with a rather nice 2006 Stefania Uvas Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. It was still early, so I went to open something else, and pulled out a bottle of 2005 Fortino Santa Clara Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

The nose had lots of sweet blackcurrant with a whiff of nail varnish in the background, but on the palate it was tart and tannic, with flavours of sour blackcurrant, oak and a 'green' streak that I didn't care for. We decided on reflection that we'd drunk enough for the night so I recorked it and put it in the fridge, thinking I'd probably cook with it.

The following night Alison had a tennis match, so while she was out I made a curry. I love hot, spicy Indian food with loads of methi (fenugreek) and fresh dhania (coriander/cilantro) but pairing it with wine is always problematic as the food tends to overwhelm them. Some people recommend spicy off-dry whites like Riesling or Gewurztraminer, but I'm not a huge fan of off-dry whites - I'll usually just have a beer or water.

Anyway, I spotted the opened bottle of Fortino Cabernet and thought 'why not?'. Surprisingly it worked; the green streak was masked by the herbs and the tomato and vinegar took care of the tartness. The blackcurrant fruit showed through quite nicely.

So the moral is, if you happen to open a bottle of wine and it's not to your taste, you don't have to decide between suffer it, throw it away or cook with it; with a bit of imagination the right food can make all the difference.