Friday, January 29, 2010

Ridge's 2009 harvest report

Ridge have published their report on the 2009 harvest on their 4488 wine blog. The good news is that Monte Bello was harvested before the storms hit and the quality is looking very good. We'll find out in March at the first assemblage tasting. I'll be there, will you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SCMWA Trade Tasting

The SCMWA held a trade tasting in San Francisco today. A couple of dozen great wineries pouring their current releases for buyers, distributors, restauranteurs and writers. It would be difficult enough to try all the wines without taking notes; at every table there's an old friend to catch up with. Many apologies to everyone whose wines I didn't get to taste.

These are more impressions than proper tasting notes. Overall the quality was excellent, with hardly any signs of over-manipulation.

2007 Black Ridge Viognier, Santa Cruz Mountains
Lychee, mango and tropical fruit nose. Touch of residual sugar, flavours of apricot and mango. A great pairing for spicy food. 90
2007 Black Ridge Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Heavy, black cherry nose. Rich, spicy cherry fruit. Medium, tannic finish. Needs a year. 91+

2007 Clos LaChance Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Black cherry nose. Smooth, rich cherry fruit, some spice. Light on the tannin and acidity. Drink now. 89
2007 Clos LaChance "Buff Bellied Hummingbird" Zinfandel, Central Coast
Smoky, ripe raspberry nose. Intense, concentrated dark raspberry fruit. Good structure too. 91 This would be good value anyway, but apparently Safeway have it on offer for $12 right now. Back up the van!
2006 Clos LaChance "Lila's Cuvee", Estate
Rhone blend. Smoky, meaty and earthy nose. Well structured, with good fruit backed by mushroom and earth notes. Needs a year or two. 90+
2006 Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate
Soft blackcurrant fruit, fine tannins and a smooth finish. 90

2007 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Tart cranberry and cherry nose. Rich concentrated fruit, kirschwasser on the finish. 90+
2006 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Dusty oak, cherry. Nice sweet fruit, seemed more balanced and integrated. Drink or hold. Think I'm in the minority in preferring the 2006, to drink now at least. 91

2001 Kathryn Kennedy Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Lovely rich warm, nose, complex currant notes. Wow. Intense fruit, nicely integrated. Seriously delicious now but will hold. 96
2005 Kathryn Kennedy Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Fainter nose than the 2001, black fruits. Good fruit but not as integrated. Lots of structure. Less intense than 01 but perhaps more elegant. Needs time. 94+
2006 Kathryn Kennedy Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Sourced from 10 different vineyards from Woodside to Morgan Hill.
Soft, rich berry fruit on the nose. Smooth blackcurrant fruit, nice oak, good acidity, quickish finish. 91

2006 La Honda Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Cabernet Sauvignon 57% Sangiovese 43%
Light nose, some black fruit. Light bodied and earthy. The tannin has calmed since I last tasted it, but it still needs time. 86
2006 La Honda Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill
Blackberry and dusty oak on the nose. Big, rich, ripe blackberry/blackcurrant flavours. Long tannic finish. Give it at least another year. 92
2006 La Honda Meritage, Chalk Hill
Nice floral, black fruit nose. Good blackcurrant fruit, less tannin than the Cabernet Sauvignon. Drinking well now. 91
2007 La Honda Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Unlike 2006 all the fruit went into one blend. I think it's a good decision.
Cherry Cola on the nose. Big ripe fruit, cherry and cranberry. Needs time. 90+

2008 Martella Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey
Fermented in steel, aged sur lie for 5 months.
Citrus nose, grapefruit, lemon and fig. Bright and fruity, mandarin pear and peach. 90
2006 Martella Grenache
Ripe, porty nose. Ripe, tart fruit (acid added?). Notes of liquorice. 85
2007 Martella "Hammer" Syrah
Earth, black fruit on the nose. Lots of tannins, liquorice again, bitter finish. 87
2008 Martella Zinfandel
Initial mushroom nose blew off to reveal floral, rose petal nose. Some residual sugar. Sweet raspberry, low acid, tannic finish. 85

2008 Martin Ranch JD Hurley Chardonnay
Cidery nose. Vanilla cream and smooth apple. Cidery finish. 86
2006 Martin Ranch JD Hurley Merlot, Santa Clara Valley
Oak, smooth plum fruit. 88
2006 Martin Ranch JD Hurley Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Earthy berry nose. Good acidity, nice fruit, tart finish. 88
2006 Martin Ranch Therese Vineyard Syrah, Santa Clara Valley
Earth, smoke and black fruit. Lovely fruit, nice acidity, crisp finish with white pepper 91
2005 Martin Ranch Therese Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Shy, earthy nose. Dense blackcurrant fruit, lot of tannin. Needs 3+ years in the cellar. 90+
2006 Martin Ranch Therese Vineyard Sangiovese, Santa Clara Valley
Lots of earth and sweet oak. Nice red fruit, red currant, earth, smoke, liquorice 91
2007 Martin Ranch Therese Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador
12% petite Sirah. Around 0.5% residual sugar.
Sweet raspberry syrup nose. Sweet raspberry, decent structure 87

2007 Mount Eden Saratoga Cuvee Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Made from declassified estate fruit as well as some from managed vineyards.
Peaches, pears and vanilla on the nose. Rich, sweet fruit, nice oak - not too heavy. Good tart finish. 91
2006 Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Lighter nose than the Saratoga Cuvee, showing some caramel. Bright fruit, green apple. Not really showing much right now. Long finish though. Great potential. 90++
2007 Mount Eden Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Huge nose - cherry, raspberry and oak. Full bodied - rich cherry spice, orange peel and so much more. Long, lingering finish. Could be better than the awesome 2005. Buy this and cellar it. 96+
2007 Mount Eden Saratoga Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Always a good value. Nice dusty, blackcurrant nose. Good berry fruit, nice balance. 89
2006 Mount Eden Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Another 2006 with a light nose. Seems to be a feature of the vintage.
Elegant and structured, but way too young. There's a big wall of tannin around the fruit. Hard to rate at this stage; 89++++

2008 Odonata Chardonnay, Peter Martin Ray Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Toast, fig and apple pie on the nose. Rich pear, peach and apricot. Toasted brioche on the finish. 92
2008 Odonata Grenache
Raspberry/cherry pie on the nose and again on the palate. Spice, raspberry, shows some oak. 91
2007 Odonata Malbec
Tart blackberry nose. Orange, blackberry, toast and clove. Good acidity. 90
2007 Odonata Durif, McDowell Valley
Nice black fruit. Spicy. Good tannin control. 90

2007 Sarah's Vineyard Old Vine Grenache, Santa Clara Valley
Interesting smoky, meaty nose. Medium bodied. Rich, concentrated fruit, light tannin. Very tasty 91

2008 Storrs Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Apple and vanilla nose. Flavours of green apple and tropical fruit. 89
2006 Storrs Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Spicy, with cinnamon, clove and dried cranberry nose. Sweet cranberry fruit and white pepper, but there's bitter tannin on the finish. 88+ if the bitterness goes with time.
2006 Storrs "Two Creek" Rhone blend, Santa Clara Valley
Savoury, gamey, roasted meat nose. Rich and full bodied. Sweet, dark fruit; intense and concentrated. Medium finish. Good tannins. Great value at around $25 92
2005 Storrs "Lion Oaks" Zinfandel, Santa Clara Valley
Spice, black pepper, raspberry nose. Another wine with intense, concentrated, sweet fruit. Long finish. 92
2005 Storrs Petite Sirah
Nose shows barnyard, some tart black fruit. Lots of tannin, but not too much and there's fruit to support it. 89

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brand Recognition - Update

Paul Romero has suggested getting together as a group on February 11th. If there's sufficient interest he'll bring a vertical of his excellent Santa Clara Cabernet from the Uvas Creek vineyard. I can bring a couple of older vintages of Sycamore Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. The 1978 has been drinking really well recently; I also have the 1979 and am interested to see if that's held up anything like as well.

If you're interested in joining us leave a comment here or on Paul's blog, or contact either of us directly. We can decide on a venue once we have an idea how many people are coming. The more the merrier!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ridge Wine Clubs

Ridge held a special event yesterday promoting their wine clubs. They have three different programs that you can participate in: ATP, Z List and Monte Bello Collector. I've been a member of the Monte Bello Collector scheme since it started, and was purchasing Monte Bello under their futures scheme prior to that, but I've never joined the other clubs.

Ridge's Monte Bello is widely considered to be one of the top wines (some would say the top wine) in California. While drinkable young, it has the potential to age that rivals top Bordeaux; it typically reaches its peak 15-20 years after vintage. The Monte Bello Collector program lets you taste the wine very early, when the individual components are still being blended, and to purchase futures at a significant discount (around 35%). Minimum purchase is just 2 bottles (or 1 magnum, or 4 halves)

Z List members receive two shipments a year, each shipment containing two (or more) bottles of three different Zinfandels.

The ATP (Advance Tasting Program) includes nine shipments a year of limited production single-vineyard wines. The shipments include Zinfandels as well as Rhone varietals and blends. Production of these wines is often so small that they are only made available to list members.

Participants in any of the programs get a 10% discount on all other purchases of current releases (15% on cases) as well as free tasting and admission to events like this.

My view is that if you live locally the Monte Bello Collector club makes the most sense. The commitment is as large or as small as you want it to be, you get a significant discount on the wines as well as the opportunity to taste at both the assemblage tastings (two of my favourite events of the year) and discounts on the other wines. Plus you can mix and match formats and even arrange to pick up rather than have the wine shipped. If you don't live locally then the Collector club still makes sense, but the Z List and ATP get you wines you wouldn't have access to otherwise. For details see the Ridge web site

Here are some tasting notes from the event.

2007 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Lovely nose showing peach, fig, mandarin orange and some oak. On the palate it's rich and complex, with vanilla and citrus on the finish. If this is the second wine then the 2007 Monte Bello Chardonnay ought to be spectacular. 92 $40

2007 Zinfandel, East Bench, Dry Creek Valley
Includes 8% Petite Sirah. The vineyard was replanted a few years ago with cuttings taken from Lytton Springs. This is only the second vintage from these vines.
Ripe nose, with raspberry and date. Big, rich brambly fruit with a herbal note. Good structure, tannin shows on the finish. 90 $30

2007 Zinfandel, Pagani Ranch, Sonoma Valley
Includes 5% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah.
Earthy, lighter nose than the East Bench. A cocktail of bright fruit with some liquorice root. There's less tannin but good acidity. Tasted by themselves I preferred the East Bench, but when paired with some delicious fennel salami from The Fatted Calf the fruit really stood out, whereas the East Bench seemed a little overwhelmed. 90

2007 Carignane, Buchignani Carignane, Sonoma County
Black fruits and mushrooms on the nose. Savoury, with some "red vines" fruit and good structure. 89 $28

2004 Grenache, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley
Includes 16% Petite Sirah, 9% Zinfandel
Nose shows cream soda, redcurrant and earth. There's lots of tannin, good red fruit and nice acidity. A good food wine. 89 $25

2006 Monte Bello
68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Lovely nose of blackberry, blackcurrant and sage. As you'd expect it's really tight and young, but there's still loads going on; good fruit and great balance. The finish is dry and on the short side at this stage. Shouldn't be touched for at least 10 years. 93+

1992 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
An interesting demonstration of how well Ridge wines age. Bear in mind that this is the second wine, the lots that didn't make it into the Monte Bello Chardonnay, and isn't intended to be aged.
The colour was a nice bright yellow; I'd have expected a darker colour from an 18 year old wine. On the nose it was pure caramel; there was caramel and nuts on the palate. Showing a little oxidation and a light 'fino sherry' finish. A very interesting wine. I rarely get the chance to try whites this old and they typically disappoint, but this did not. 90

Curses, Foiled Again!

Let's play a game. Look at these six wines and see if you can name the producers. Then decide whether the price of each was more or less than $20

Wines are intended to be stored lying down, which makes it difficult to see the labels but easy to see the tops. Yet so many wineries use cheap plain foils, making it difficult to identify wines easily. Of the six wines pictured, the three with generic foils all cost over $20; the others cost $20 or less.

So what are foils for anyway? According to Paul Romero of Stefania Wine, their primary purpose was to detect tampering by unscrupulous household servants. Since so few of us have butlers these days he didn't see the point, so has eliminated them.

Another problem with foils is that they obscure the cork. A cork may be failing or a bottle may have leaked, but until you remove the foil it's impossible to tell. Some wineries such as Ridge use short foils so that the base of the cork is exposed, but they are in the minority.

So here's a request to all wineries still using generic foils - please consider why you're using them. Are you trying to hide the poor quality of your corks? Are you convinced that without a generic foil your wines would be easier to fake? Or is the implication that your wine is as generic and boring as the foil?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brand recognition

I wanted to revisit an article I wrote last week. I wrote it in a hurry and looking at it afterwards I pretty much failed to make the point I had in mind. So forgive me for rehashing an old piece; hopefully this time I've done a better job of it.

One of the reasons I write this blog is because I feel that the Santa Clara Valley has poor brand recognition. 150 years ago there were more vineyards in Santa Clara County than any other county. The first French grapes were planted here, at Almaden. By 1883 there were 15,000 acres of vines - Evergreen and Cupertino were covered in vineyards. Just to the south in San Benito County they have the oldest existing winery in the state.

In the recent San Francisco Chronicle wine competition, wines from Santa Clara Valley took home a good haul of medals, including two Best In Class and a Double Gold. There's some very good wine made here; I'm trying to do my bit to raise awareness of them.

So when I saw that Rick Bakas was hosting a virtual tasting of Californian Cabernet Sauvignons I was interested. Now for those of you who don't know Rick, he's the director of Branding and Social Marketing at St. Supery in Napa. He's on twitter as @RickBakas His website is

As I said in my original post, Rick had helpfully included a map of the major growing areas. That map highlighted such bastions of quality wine as the Central Valley. The map called out Marin County, which has just 7 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted, San Diego County which has 23 acres and even Santa Cruz County which you might be surprised to learn has only 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted (almost all the Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is actually grown on the Santa Clara side of the appellation). But it did not include Santa Clara County or San Benito County, with over 500 acres planted between them.

The simple fact is this: If a self-declared "branding super freak", who works for a winery and is trying to promote Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, can somehow omit such a significant region then clearly there is a problem with that region's brand awareness.

So what can we do? Well if you believe as I do that the local wineries are worth supporting then sign up for the event. If you own or work for a winery, tell your mailing list about it; Donati Family in Paicines is offering a discount on their Cabernet just for this event. Then on February 11th let's all open some great bottles and tell the world about them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sones Cellars

A fellow Brit, Michael Sones was born in Worthing in the south of England. After a career as a cruise photographer, during which he met his wife Lois, they settled in the Bay Area. Michael worked at Bonny Doon and David Bruce wineries before becoming the winemaker at Bargetto. Sones Cellars was launched in 2003; the figurehead emblem on the labels reflecting the couple's maritime history.

Sones Cellars concentrates on Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. They also make a white blend which has had several names.

2008 Cancion del Mar, California
The name means "Song of the Sea". It's a blend of Viognier and Torrontés from Lodi with some Pinot Gris from the Dettamanti vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains and
Sauvignon Blanc from Monterey.
A lovely floral nose. Light, crisp and floral with lots of white stone fruit. 90 $21

2007 Zinfandel, Central Coast
A blend, sourced mainly from the Wiedeman vineyard.
Light raspberry nose. Layers of rich, sweet raspberry/brambly fruit. 88

2007 Zinfandel, San Lucas
The San Lucas AVA lies at the southern end of the Salinas Valley in Monterey County
This has a lighter, smoky nose than the Central Coast, but on the palate it's concentrated, tannic and intense with lots of acidity. 90 $26

2007 Petite Sirah, French Camp Vineyard, Paso Robles
A barrel sample; the wine is ready to be bottled. Michael does a particularly good job with Petite Sirah. It often makes tough, tannic wines that can (or must) age for years, but if the tannins are controlled the grape can show rich dark fruits.
The nose is smoky, gamey and meaty. There's loads of rich, smooth black fruits and a nice finish. 89

2008 Zinfandel Wiedeman Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
Another barrel sample, this has around 1% to 2% residual sugar.
Fruity raspberry nose and lots of sweet berry fruit. Despite the sugar there's good tannin and acidity. 88

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard was founded in 1974 by Ken Burnap. He purchased the century-old Jarvis vineyard from David Bruce; the land had been replanted with Pinot Noir by Bruce 5 years previously. SCMV soon established a reputation for big, tannic Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignons and Durif (Petite Sirah) that would age for decades.

In 1977 a student called Jeff Emery helped out on the bottling line. Jeff continued to work part time and after graduating in 1981 he joined the winery full time. The two continued to work together for the next two decades.

In 2003 Ken decided to retire and sell the winery. Jeff was able to purchase the name, inventory and equipment, however the Jarvis vineyard and the winery were sold separately and are now known as Vine Hill Winery. Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard operated out of Bradley Brown's Big Basin winery for a few years before moving to a permanent location on Ingalls Street in Santa Cruz. Since taking over Jeff has toned down the tannins somewhat, making the wines more appealing in their youth.

In 2009 the winery launched a second label, Quinta Cruz, focusing on Iberian grape varieties.

2006 Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Nose shows raspberry syrup and a hint of anise. There's good cherry and raspberry flavours, plenty of acidity and fine tannins. Needs some time. 89+

2007 Quinta Cruz Tempranillo, Pierce Ranch, San Antonio Valley
Light nose of black fruits. Good black berry & plum flavours. Plenty of tannin and acidity. Another one for the cellar. 88+

2006 Grenache, McDowell Valley Vineyard, Mendocino County
Made from 100 year old head trained vines.
Bright, smoky nose of redcurrant and rhubarb. Complex, intense red fruit, good acidity, some oak showing. Herbal, tannic finish. 90

2006 Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands
Smoky and gamey nose with black berry fruit. A meaty, rich Syrah loaded with black fruit and pepper. 90

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Luchessi Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
The Luchessi Vineyard is on Monte Bello Road, near to Ridge.
A funky, earthy nose showing a bit of Brett. Good blackcurrant fruit and an earthy, tannic finish. Another wine that needs time. 87+

2007 Quinta Cruz Graciano, Bokisch Vineyard, Mokelumne River
Graciano isn't a grape I'd heard of, but it's one of the main components of Rioja.
An initial whiff of sulphur turned out to be hiding some floral notes.
On the palate - Wow - loads of interesting, spicy fruit and a note of bitter chocolate. Good acidity, soft, fine tannins. Something very different. 92

2005 Rabelo dessert wine, Pierce Ranch, San Antonio Valley
Made entirely from traditional port grapes - Tinta Roriz (AKA Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão, this is a true single vineyard, vintage wine. Some Tempranillo is harvested early, fermented and distilled at Osocalis to provide the "aguardente" spirit that is used to fortify the wine and stop fermentation.
Sooo good. Sweet but not overly so, loads of complexity backed by the tannin and flavours of traditional port grapes. Made in the LBV style, so not oxidised. This is as good a port-style wine as you'll find outside Portugal. 95

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hillcrest Terrace

Joe Miller is a former professor of astronomy at UC Santa Cruz, and a long time amateur winemaker. Having retired from the University he decided to start a small commercial winery among the growing band of vintners around Swift and Ingalls in Santa Cruz.

The fruit is all purchased, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot coming from Bargetto's Regan Vineyard. No new oak is used; everything is at least 1 year old. Current production is around 800 cases, with plans to slowly expand to around 2000 cases.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Arroyo Seco
Lovely citrus, grassy nose. Lots of acidity; flavours of lemon, pear and green apple. Crisp finish 88 $15

2008 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
All Clone 4, from the Regan Vineyard. Unfined and unfiltered.
Creamy lemon nose. Lightly oaked, red apple and a little vanilla, good finish. 88 $18

2008 Pinot Noir, Regan Vineyard
Fermented in stainless steel with an 'oak chain' added.
Bright garnet colour. Nice cherry/raspberry nose, lots of cherry fruit, light acidity. Initially showed some pithy bitterness on the finish and was too cold; gained weight after it had warmed up. 88

2007 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
From Talbott's Sunny Slope Vineyard.
Darker colour than the Regan, nose was earthy with black cherry. Richer and more full bodied; lots of black cherry and currant fruit with some coffee on the finish. 89

What's wrong with this picture?

EDIT: I realised I was quoting out-of-date figures; the post has been updated with the acreage from the latest NASS report for 2008.

On Thursday, February 11th there's a live Cabernet Sauvignon tasting planned. People all over the Internet are invited to open their favourite Cabernet Sauvignon and post tasting notes. It's organised by Rick Bakas, Branding expert and social Media director for St. Supery. There's even a map showing the major Cabernet Sauvignon producing areas.

Take a look. Notice anything?

The Santa Clara Valley isn't listed on it. Apparently they don't make Cabernet Sauvignon worth talking about in Santa Clara or San Benito counties.

They grow it in San Diego. In fact according to the official survey by the National Agricultural Statistics Service for 2008 they had a full 27 acres, plus there's 52 acres in Los Angeles. Marin County is a little smaller, with just seven acres planted. Solano County has a massive 361 acres. And don't forget that bastion of quality wine the Central Valley, home of Charles Shaw. Yeah, they grow an awful lot of wine there. (Or should that be a lot of awful wine?)

But Santa Clara and San Benito, with over 500 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon between them? Not listed.

There's definitely a message about branding here.

New lightweight glass bottle

The British supermarket giant Tesco have announced that they have adopted a new lightweight glass bottle. An average wine bottle weighs about 15 ounces - the new Kingsland bottle weighs a little over 10 ounces, a reduction of around 30%

The bottle is designed to take a screw cap, so has the additional benefit of not requiring a cork or foil. Overall the cost of the finished bottle should be the same if not less than a traditionally cork-stoppered bottle, with additional savings in terms of transport costs and environmental impact.

Initially the bottle will be used by Tesco and the Co-Op (another UK supermarket chain) for their own label wines, but it shouldn't be long before it's available worldwide.

No word on whether a version is planned that takes a traditional cork. I have no doubt that they are working on it, or at least I hope so - anything that helps to rid the world of those oversized won't-fit-in-my-rack bottles is a good thing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cordon Creek

Matt Buchanan and Roger Biringer teamed up as home winemakers in 1996. The following year Cordon Creek was launched. Though based in San Jose, the winery focuses on Bordeaux grapes grown in Amador and El Dorado counties, part of the Sierra Foothills AVA. Over 100 wineries were established in the Sierra Foothills during the Gold Rush, and many old vineyards still remain. With land prices much lower than in the better known AVAs the area has a reputation for big, ripe fruit and good values.

2003 Cabernet Franc, El Dorado
A fruity but fairly one-dimensional wine with tobacco and blackberry notes. 81

2003 Meritage, Sierra Foothills
Nose shows oak and brambles which follow on to the palate. There's a spicy, possibly jalapeño component and a nice finish. 87

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sierra Foothills
Sweet blackberry, almost jammy nose. Lots of ripe berry fruit and chocolate. 85

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, OBrien Vineyard, El Dorado
Blackcurrant nose with a slightly metallic tinge. Plenty of smooth, ripe blackcurrant fruit and a hint of liquorice. 85

2002 Meritage, Sierra Foothills
As with the 2003 the nose is oaky and brambly and there's lots of fruit, though the 2002 had more tannin. Surprising that this is 7 years old, it doesn't show. 87

Dancing Creek

One of the newest wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains is Dancing Creek. They released their first wines - little more than a barrel of each - at the end of last year. Though they only plan to make around 400 cases a year they have their own winery as well as a half-acre Chardonnay vineyard that is not yet producing. The fruit comes from several local growers including Bargetto's Regan Vineyard, Zayante and Nicholson. Zinfandel, Syrah and Pinot Noir are not yet released. You can follow them on Twitter: DancinCreekWine

2008 Dancing Creek Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Sourced from the Nicholson vineyard.
Nose is slightly musty, with notes of lemon thyme. A lighter bodied wine; crisp, with green apple and grapefruit, and a note of burnt sugar on the finish. 86

2008 Dancing Creek Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains
From the Regan vineyard. A nice deep garnet colour, though hazy from being unfiltered and shaken in pouring. Nose shows smoke and some tart fruit - cherry?
Earthy plum flavours, good tannin & acidity, dry finish 86

Clos Tita

Dr David Estrada is a dentist by trade. Around 1990 he planted 700 Pinot Noir vines around his home in Scotts Valley. The vines are closely spaced and farmed in a sustainable manner with minimal intervention.

Clos Tita was bonded in 1997 and is named after his wife, Britta. The first release included two Pinot Noirs - an Estate and a "Cuvee" blend of estate and purchased fruit, as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Over the years these three wines have been the mainstay of production, though the Cabernet Sauvignon is now a blend called "Gironde". In addition the winery occasionally releases a Syrah or Syrah blend.

Clos Tita were pouring at Michael's On Main for the SCMWA Passport Event.

2005 Clos Tita Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
The Estate is aged for 2 years in new French oak. The nose shows earthy cherry and spicy, smoky oak. Full bodied, with rich, earthy fruit and a dry, earthy finish. Very young; needs 3-5 years cellar time. 90+ $36

2005 Clos Tita "Cuvee" Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
The Cuvee includes fruit from the Branciforte Ridge vineyard and sees less oak. While still earthy and smoky the nose shows much more cherry and less oak notes. There's nice, rich cherry and brambly fruit with some spice. Much more fruit-forward than the Estate, this is clearly one to drink while waiting for its sibling. 90 $30

2005 Clos Tita "Gironde", Santa Cruz Mountains
A 50/50 blend from two small vineyards; Cabernet Sauvignon from Saratoga and Merlot from Los Gatos. The nose is smoky with brambly notes. There's nice blackcurrant fruit and light oak. Reminds me of Mount Eden's Saratoga Cuvee. 89 $27

2003 Clos Tita "Sierra Azul", Santa Cruz Mountains
A blend of Syrah, Merlot and Viognier.
Light nose. On the palate the Syrah shows with black fruit and white pepper notes, and a dry finish. 86

Aptos Creek Vineyard

Terry and Mary Kay Parks founded Sycamore Creek Vineyards in 1975. They retired in 1989 and moved to Aptos where they established a 2 acre Pinot Noir vineyard. This was purchased in 2001 by Andrea Vollersen who began producing wines under the Aptos Creek Vineyard label. The first vintages were made at Hallcrest by Kenny Likitprakong and John Schumacher; when Kenny moved to Moshin in 2005 he continued as winemaker. The latest vintages are being made by him at Beauregard's facility in Bonny Doon. The wines are 50% whole cluster fermentation and see 50% new French oak for 18 months. The vineyard is at 200' above sea level and so carries the Santa Cruz County appellation; the winery is grandfathered into the SCMWA.

2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz County
Medium garnet colour. Nose of Bacon fat, smoke and black cherry. Rich and spicy with flavours of cherry and cinnamon, good balance, touch of cocoa on the finish. 89 $28

2001 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz County
Slightly lighter colour than the 2004 with an amber tinge to the meniscus.
The nose is very funky with leaf mulch and earth; I expected earthy flavours too but was surprised by bright redcurrant, blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Good depth of flavours, nice acidity, probably at its peak right now. 90 $28

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bruzzone Family

John and Berna Bruzzone planted an acre of Chardonnay in Scotts Valley 1999. Then in 2005 they planted a second, 7 acre vineyard about half a mile away.
The wines are made by Matt Oetinger at Fernwood Cellars. Current production is around 200 cases; this is expected to increase to over 500 cases once the new vines are fully mature and will also include a Pinot Noir.

2007 Estate Chardonnay
Straw yellow colour, with a nose of buttered toast, baked apple and vanilla.
It's creamy with some lemon notes. The acidity is light and it shows lots of oak, particularly on the finish. It's well made but there's too much oak for my taste. 84 $27

2008 Estate Chardonnay
The 2008 vintage was harvested 3 weeks later than the 2007 and includes some fruit from the new vineyard. This has the same straw colour as the 2007, but the oak is much less obvious. Nose of lemon and stone, good apple and lemon fruit flavours, more acidity and a clean, crisp finish. 88 $27

Friday, January 15, 2010

2009 Vintage - early reports

I'm starting to hear some preliminary reports on the 2009 vintage which might be of interest.

The winter of 2008-09 was not as dry as the previous two years, but the total rainfall was still slightly below average. The growing season was long and cool, with a little late season Powdery Mildew to watch out for. Early predictions of a bumper crop proved largely unfounded; many growers are reporting roughly average yields, though in some cases there was some green harvesting. There were some reports of shatter on early flowering varieties.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are early ripening varieties and had mostly been harvested prior to the storms in October. The storms were not as heavy as predicted, but still posed significant problems; the grapes took in water and sugar levels dropped. In some cooler areas the grapes struggled to ripen and may taste green or dilute; in warmer areas sunburn was a problem. The rain also encouraged the development of botrytis, which is unwelcome in red grapes. But overall most seem happy with the quality and yields; at least one winemaker has told me he believes the 2009s are the best wines he's made so far.

Elsewhere in the state the big problem has not been the weather but the economy. The market for $50+ wines has all but evaporated, with consumers scaling down their purchases in search of value. Many growers who had failed to sign contracts for their fruit have been forced to sell cheaply, to pick and crush for the bulk market, or in extreme cases not to pick at all. Expect a glut of bargain 2009s in the near future.

I hope to try some barrel samples of the 09s in the coming months and will report what I find. In the meantime I hope that local growers and winemakers will add their thoughts either as a comment or - if you prefer not to be attributed - by email.

Passport Weekend

It's the January SCMWA Passport weekend coming up. This is a great opportunity to try the wines from smaller producers who aren't usually open.

A good place to try new things is Michael's On Main in Soquel. Five wineries will be pouring there:

Aptos Creek make a single Pinot Noir from their 2 acre estate vineyard.
Bruzzone Family currently have a single estate Chardonnay, with a Pinot Noir expected soon.
Clos Tita make two Pinot Noirs and a Cabernet Sauvignon, sometimes others.
Cordon Creek make a range of wines with fruit sourced from Amador and El Dorado Counties. Creek have just released their first vintage: 2008 Chardonnay and Merlot from the Santa Cruz Mountains

Up in San Carlos, Domenico Winery will also be hosting some guest wineries:
Aver Family are making some interesting wines from Grenache, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grown at their estate vineyard in Santa Clara valley
Katy Lovell's Poetic Cellars are offering a 10% discount on the 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir for this weekend.
Plus a last chance to try the now closed Generosa.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wine for Haiti

Palate Press is arranging a wine auction in aid of the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. All proceeds from the Wine For Haiti auction will go to the American Red Cross. Currently they are seeking donations; the auction will begin as soon as the first case is complete. Bid early, bid often, and spread the word.

Leading the way in Sustainable Winegrowing

I just saw a press release from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) announcing a Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing program. The scheme encourages practices that protect air and water quality, conserve water, promote energy efficiency and reduced pesticide use, and preserve ecosystems and animal habitat, among others.

What's particularly interesting is that of the 17 wineries that have received certification under the pilot program, three of them are local: Clos LaChance, Cooper-Garrod and J. Lohr. That's a pretty high percentage. Congratulations.

To learn more about the scheme go to
The press release is here (PDF).
There's an article in the Press Democrat
Also a piece on

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another Clos LaChance cellar blowout

Looks like Clos Lachance are having another clear out this month. Many of these seem to be wines that were in the last sale; I can recommend the "FACA06 2006 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon" and "SRCH06 2006 Monterey County Chardonnay" which I picked up last July as being very good values.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Barterra has a small tasting room in downtown Half Moon Bay. It's a negociant brand, which means they own no vineyards or winery; instead they purchase finished wines from other producers and sell them under their own label. The company sells around 2,000 cases annually, with at least 10 different wines from various appellations. The wines are available at a number of local restaurants or at the tasting room.

There is no charge for tasting, but you are asked to make a donation to local charities. They also have a range of own-label olive oils, as well as some rather good chocolates.

2006 Sparkling Wine, Carneros
Blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A creamy, toasty nose. Smooth and soft, with a yeasty finish. 87 $38

2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Amador County
The grapefruit and gooseberry nose tells you that it's a Sauvignon Blanc, but on the palate it could be anything. Aging in neutral oak has taken away the crispness; there are notes of vanilla. If it wasn't for the nose I'd probably have guessed a Rhone style. 85 $23

2006 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Made by Bargetto from the Regan Vineyard. Nose of spicy oak and cherry. A lightweight wine with soft cherry fruit and cinnamon. There's a bitter citrus pith note on the finish. 86 $25

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
Light nose, earthy with some brambles. Lots of tannin, some cocoa and blackcurrant fruit. Dry, tannic finish. 83 $39

2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
Same vineyard and vintage; the Reserve is free-run juice rather than pressed, and it shows. The nose is more assertive and less earthy. On the palate it's fruitier and more intense. It seems riper too, with perhaps some residual sugar. The tannins are much finer and controlled. 87 $45

2006 Dry Creek Zinfandel
There's a funky, earthy component to the nose. Flavours of raspberry and grapefruit. Soft tannins and a quick, dry finish. 84 $25

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 SF Chronicle Wine Competition

The results are in for the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Some good results for local wineries. "Best of Class Judges' Choice" awards went to:
  • Creekview Vineyards 2007 Syrah, SCV
  • Martella 2006 Heart Arrow Ranch Petite Sirah, Mendocino
  • Quinta Cruz 2007 "Bokisch Vineyard" Graciano, Mokelumne River
  • Storrs 2006 Rhone Blend, Two Creek Vineyard, Santa Clara County
  • Wente Vineyards 2008 "Morning Fog" Chardonnay, Livermore Valley

Double gold went to
  • Clos Lachance 2008 Estate Zinfandel
  • J Lohr 2007 Tower Road Petite Sirah, Paso Robles
  • Satori Cellars 2006 "Hallelujah" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Soquel Vineyard 2007 "Garvey Family Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

There are a few head-scratchers in the list, such as Bronze medals for Stefania's excellent SCM Cabernet Sauvignon, Windy Oaks "Diane's Block" and the sublime Quinta Cruz "Rabelo" port.

Here are the results for the other local wineries - apologies for any errors or winners that I've missed, corrections are appreciated. The full results are here. There's also an interesting blog post by one of the judges talking about how it all works.

Bronze: 2007 "Veranda Vineyard" Pinot Noir, SCM

Alfaro Family Vineyard
Silver: 2008 "Lindsay Paige Vineyard" Chardonnay, SCM
Silver: 2007 "Lindsay Paige Vineyard" Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2007 Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2007 "Billy K Vineyard" Merlot, SCM

Silver: 2007 "King Vineyard" Syrah, San Benito County
Silver: 2007 "Gimelli Vineyard" Syrah, Cienega Valley

Aver Family
Silver: 2007 "Hope" Rhone Blend, California
Bronze: 2006 "Heritage" Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast

Gold: 2004 "La Vita", SCM
Bronze: 2007 Reserve Merlot, SCM
Bronze: 2007 Gewürztraminer, Monterey County

Beauregard Vineyards
Gold: 2005 Merlot, SCM
Silver: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, SCM
Silver: 2007 Zinfandel, Ben Lomond Mountain
Bronze: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ben Lomond Mountain

Big Dog Vineyards
Gold: 2006 Estate Cabernet Franc, San Francisco Bay
Bronze: 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Port, San Francisco Bay

Black Ridge Vineyards
Silver: 2008 Viognier, SCM
Silver: 2007 Pinot Noir, SCM

Castillos Hillside Shire
Silver: 2007 Petite Sirah, SCV

Gold: NV "Lot 310 - Philosopher's Stone", California
Silver: 2007 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
Silver: 2007 "Mercury Rising", California
Silver: 2007 Chardonnay, SCM
Silver: 2008 Chardonnay, Monterey
Bronze: 2007 Merlot, Paso Robles

Clos LaChance
Double Gold: 2007 Estate Zinfandel, Central Coast
Gold: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast
Silver: 2007 Chardonnay, SCM
Silver: 2006 Merlot, Central Coast
Silver: 2007 Meritage, Central Coast
Silver: 2006 "Lila's Cuvee" Rhone Blend, Central Coast
Silver: 2005 "Red Wine" Central Coast
Bronze: 2006 Estate Petite Sirah, Central Coast

Cooper Garrod
Bronze: 2007 "Finley Vineyard" Viognier, SCM
Bronze: 2005 "Francville Vineyard" Cabernet Franc, SCM

Creekview Vineyards
Best of Class: 2007 Syrah, SCV
Gold: 2007 "Wilder Vineyards" Merlot, SCV
Silver: 2008 Chardonnay, SCV
Bronze: 2008 Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco

Gold: 2006 Aglianico, Amador County
Silver: 2006 Primitivo, Amador County
Silver: 2006 Nebbiolo, Amador County
Bronze: 2007 Columbia Gorge Merlot

Fernwood Cellars
Bronze: 2008 "Vanumanutagi" Chardonnay, SCM
Bronze: 2007 "Redwood Retreat Vineyards Syrah, SCM

Gold: 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, SCV
Silver: 2007 Charbono, SCV
Silver: 2005 Sangiovese, Central Coast
Silver: NV "Maribella" Red Blend, Central Coast

Gann Family Cellars
Silver: 2007 Malbec, Santa Clara County

Silver: 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, SCV
Bronze: 2007 Estate Zinfandel, SCV
Bronze: 2007 Sangiovese, Central Coast
Bronze: 2006 Estate Petite Sirah, SCV

Hallcrest Vineyards
Gold: 2005 "Terra Serena-Upper Block" Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2005 "Terra Serena-Lower Block" Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2006 "Clos de Jeannine" Rhone Blend, El Dorado County
Bronze: 2006 "Vista Del Mare" Pinot Noir, SCM

Hearts Fire
Bronze: 2007 "Treborce Vineyard" Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley
Bronze: 2007 "Moniclaire Vineyard" Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

J. Lohr
Double Gold: 2007 Tower Road Petite Sirah, Paso Robles
Gold: 2008 "Riverstone" Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco
Gold: 2007 "South Ridge" Syrah, Paso Robles
Gold: 2007 "Seven Oaks" Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Gold: 2006 "Cuvee PAU" Paso Robles
Gold: 2006 "Cuvee POM" Paso Robles
Silver: 2007 "Los Osos" Merlot, Paso Robles
Silver: 2007 "Arroyo Vista" Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco
Bronze: 2006 "October Night Vineyard" Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco
Bronze: 2006 "Cuvee STE" Paso Robles

Silver: 2008 Estate Chardonnay, SCV
Silver: 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, SCM
Silver: 2006 "Dorcich Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, SCV
Bronze: 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, SCV

La Honda Winery
Silver: 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese blend, SCM
Bronze: 2005 Viognier, Napa Valley

La Rusticana d'Orsa
Gold: 2007 SCM
Silver: 2006 SCM

Lionheart Cellars
Bronze: 2007 Syrah, Dry Creek
Bronze: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Bronze: 2008 "The Angel's Share, Saralee's Vineyard, RRV

Liquid Sky Vineyards
Silver: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley

Loma Prieta Winery
Gold: 2008 "Amorosa" Pinotage, Lodi
Silver: 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2008 "Saveria Vineyard" Pinot Noir, SCM
Bronze: 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, SCM

Best In Class: 2006 Heart Arrow Ranch Petite Sirah, Mendocino
Silver: 2007 "Hammer" Syrah

Martin Ranch
Silver: 2006 Therese Vineyards Cabernet Franc, SCM
Silver: 2003 Therese Vineyards Estate Nebbiolo, SCM
Silver: 2006 Therese Vineyards Sangiovese, SCV
Silver: 2005 Therese Vineyards "Dos Rics Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon, SCV
Silver: 2006 JD Hurley Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Bronze: 2006 JD Hurley Merlot, Santa Clara Valley
Bronze: 2007 JD Hurley Zinfandel, Santa Clara County
Bronze: 2007 Therese Vineyards Zinfandel, Amador County

Muccigrosso Vineyards
Gold: 2007 Pinot Noir, SCM
Gold: 2007 "Moniz Vineyards - Stanzin" Zinfandel, SCV
Gold: 2006 "Moniz Vineyards - Stanzin" Zinfandel, SCV
Gold: 2006 "Table Two" Syrah-Sangiovese blend, California
Silver: 2007 "Table Two" Syrah-Sangiovese blend, California
Silver: 2007 "Lynzin" Zinfandel, SCV
Silver: 2006 "Lynzin" Zinfandel, SCV

Silver: 2007 "McDowell Valley" Petite Sirah, Mendocino
Silver: 2008 "Alta Mesa" Grenache, Lodi
Bronze: 2007 "Jen & Woodys Top Block" Pinot Noir, SCM

Pietra Santa
Gold: 2006 Estate Sangiovese, Cienega Valley
Gold: 2004 "Vache Red Blend", Cienega Valley
Gold: NV "California Cask #5 - Sacred Stone Red Blend", Cienega Valley
Silver: 2007 "Signature" Chardonnay, Cienega Valley
Silver: 2005 Estate Merlot, Cienega Valley
Bronze: 2008 "Amore" Pinot Grigio, Cienega Valley
Bronze: 2008 "Dunne Ranch Vineyard" Pinot Grigio, SCV
Bronze: 2007 Zinfandel, Central Coast
Bronze: 2005 Dolcetto, Cienega Valley
Bronze: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cienega Valley

Poetic Cellars
Silver: 2007 "Mantra Vineyard" Rhone Blend, Livermore Valley
Bronze: 2006 "Stanza Vineyard" Syrah, Livermore Valley
Bronze: 2006 "Pentameter Vineyard" Petite Sirah, Livermore Valley
Bronze: 2006 "Muse Vineyard" Mourvedre, Livermore Valley

Quinta Cruz
Best of Class: 2007 "Bokisch Vineyard" Graciano, Mokelumne River
Silver: 2007 "Pierce Ranch" Tempranillo, San Antonio Valley
Silver: 2007 "Pierce Ranch" Touriga, San Antonio Valley
Bronze: 2006 "Rabelo", Pierce Ranch, San Antonio Valley

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
Silver: 2007 "Branciforte Creek" Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2004 "Bella's Reserve" Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2007 "McDowell Valley" Durif/Petite Sirah, Mendocino
Silver: 2006 "Luchessi Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, SCM

Sarah's Vineyard
Gold: 2007 Pinot Noir, Central Coast
Gold: 2007 "Old Vine" Carignan, SCV
Silver: 2008 "Cote de Madone Blanc" Rhone Blend, SCV
Silver: 2007 "Cote de Madone" Rhone Blend, SCV
Silver: 2007 "Old Vine" Grenache, SCV
Bronze: 2007 "Zayante Vineyard" Zinfandel, SCM

Satori Cellars
Double Gold: 2006 "Hallelujah" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
Bronze: 2006 "Oh-So Zin, Fratelli Vineyard" Zinfandel, SCV
Bronze: 2007 "Merlot of the Violet Flame", SCV
Bronze: 2007 "Harmonic Convergence", SCV

Savannah Chanelle
Silver: 2007 "Gunsalus Vineyard" Pinot Noir, RRV
Bronze: 2007 "Tina Marie Vineyard" Pinot Noir, RRV
Bronze: 2007 "Armagh Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

Solis Winery
Gold: 2009 Fiano, SCV
Gold: 2008 Muscat Canelli, SCV
Silver: 2006 Estate Merlot, SCV

Silver: 2007 "Tondre's Grapefield" Pinot Noir, SLH
Silver: 2007 "Muns Vineyard" Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2007 "Amber Ridge Vineyard" Pinot Noir, RRV

Soquel Vineyards
Double Gold: 2007 "Garvey Family Vyd" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Gold: 2008 "Lester Family Vineyard", Pinot Noir, SCM
Gold: 2007 "Lester Family Vineyard", Pinot Noir, SCM
Gold: 2006 "Lester Family Vineyard", Pinot Noir, SCM
Gold: 2007 "Luna Matta Vineyard" Sangiovese, Paso Robles
Silver: 2006 "Garvey Family Vyd" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Silver: 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2008 "Schmierer Vineyard" Zinfandel, Lodi
Silver: 2006 "Partners Reserve" Merlot, SCM
Bronze: 2006 "Partners Reserve - Pyramid", SCM

Gold: 2007 "Haut Tubbe", California
Bronze: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, SCM

Best of Class: 2006 Rhone Blend, Two Creek Vineyard, SCV
Gold: 2006 "Lester Family Vineyard", Pinot Noir, SCM
Gold: 2007 "Christie Vineyard" Pinot Noir, SCM
Gold: 2007 Zinfandel, Central Coast
Silver: 2006 "Rusty Ridge" Zinfandel, SCV
Silver: 2008 Chardonnay, SCM
Silver: 2008 "Christie Vineyard" Chardonnay, SCM
Silver: 2007 "Riverview Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Monterey

Sycamore Creek
Gold: 2007 Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2007 "Mosaico" SCV
Bronze: 2007 Estate Chardonnay, SCV
Bronze: 2007 Estate Merlot, SCV
Bronze: 2006 "Uvas Valley Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, SCV

Thomas Fogarty
Gold: 2008 Gewürztraminer, Monterey
Gold: 2008 Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2006 Estate Chardonnay, SCM
Silver: 2006 Skyline Red, California

Bronze: 2007 "Tondre's Grapefield" Pinot Noir, SLH

Vine Hill
Gold: 2007 Gatos Locos "Clements Hills" Syrah, Lodi
Gold: 2007 Pinot Noir, SCM
Silver: 2008 "Clements Ridge Vineyard" Chardonnay, Lodi
Bronze: 2007 Cumbre "Barrel 31" Pinot Noir, SCM

Windy Oaks
Bronze: 2007 "Diane's Block" Pinot Noir, SCM
Bronze: 2007 "Terra Narro" Pinot Noir, SCM

Thursday, January 7, 2010

1997 Mirassou Petite Sirah, Monterey County

I've just written up a brief history of the Mirassou winery and family for the Friends of the Winemakers blog. It seemed only fitting to open a Mirassou wine too.

I found this in the bargain bin at K&L recently. (I also picked up a 1992 Petite Sirah, which sadly wasn't drinkable). Edmund Mirassou, who founded the winery in 1937, had died the previous year, so this 60th anniversary bottling was dedicated to his memory.

Petite Sirah isn't my favourite grape; when young it tends to be tannic and monolithic, and though it can age well the tannin often outlasts the fruit. This bottle was in excellent condition; the cork looked brand new. The nose was musty at first, like old library books. With air some herbal and dried fruit notes emerged. There was still plenty of tannin and acidity, but the tannins had softened and were backed by lots of lush black fruit. Over the course of the evening the fruit became more pronounced; there was also a distinct hint of mint. A rather nice wine. 89