Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Welcome To Paradise

All smiles at the check-in desk

On the last weekend in March the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association hosts Pinot Paradise, an annual celebration of Pinot Noir, at the Villa Ragusa in Campbell.

Around 40 wineries from all over the AVA attend, pouring their latest releases, and are joined by several local restaurants offering examples of their culinary skill designed to pair with Pinot Noir. In other words there was a lot of duck confit on offer.

One thing I particularly like about Pinot Paradise is that while it's a large and busy event the attendees generally seem to respect the wines more than at many other public tastings I've attended. However not everyone sees it that way and a few of the attendees had doused themselves with rather too much perfume or aftershave.

As usual I only managed to get round about half the tables - here are my impressions.

2009 Alfaro Family, Estate 
Nose of black cherry and smoke. Smooth, round black cherry fruit and a mineral finish, with lots of tannin. I generally find that Alfaro wines need time on release, but this is rather good now and will only get better. 90+

2009 Alfaro Family, Lindsay Paige Vineyard
Tight savory nose; rustic cherry fruit, quicker finish. This one certainly needs more time. 88+

2010 Bargetto, Santa Cruz Mountains
Blended with 2% Tempranillo from the Silvaspoons Vineyard in Lodi. I'm not entirely sure why.
Black cherry and oak on the nose. Sweet cherry and currant flavours, decent tannins. 86

2010 Bargetto Estate Reserve
Nose is bright with cranberry backed by some oak. On the palate there's redcurrant, tart cherry, and coffee. It's young and a little unpolished but give it 3-5 years. 89+

2010 Beauregard, Beauregard Ranch Vineyard, Ben Lomond Mountain AVA
This has a pretty floral and citrus nose; rose, rosehip glacĂ© cherry. Flavours of peach, cherry and a hint of banana  89

2010 Beauregard, Byington Vineyard
Nose shows pear and redcurrant. Palate is smooth and creamy, with wild strawberry and black cherry flavours. 87

2009 Big Basin, Woodruffe Vineyard
Big, earthy nose with black cherry and some rose petals. Good flavours of black cherry, supported by savoury notes and smoky oak. 91+
2009 Big Basin, Alfaro Family Vineyard
More subtle nose than the Woodruffe; on the palate it's similar but with less concentration - not surprisingly, as both vineyards are a couple of miles apart in Corralitos. 90+

2008 Black Ridge Vineyard, Estate
There seemed to be something wrong here. I got too much VA on the nose; on the palate it was rustic and tannic, with a little black fruit.  82

2008 Clos La Chance, Biagini Vineyard
Nice black cherry aromas, hints of smoke, matchbox and caramel. Sweet cherry and redcurrant flavours, touch of spice. Nice balance, though there's a hint of bitter tannin on finish that hopefully will resolve with time. 89

2008 Clos La Chance, Erwin Vineyard
Initially I didn't care for the nose; I was picking up sulphur and cheese, but after a while it blew off revealing some nice savory fruit. Palate showed redcurrant jelly, meat (poultry?) and herbal notes. 88

2009 Dancing Creek, Regan Vineyard
I kept getting whiffs of perfume, which I assume was coming from one of the nearby attendees. Flavours of rosehip syrup and tangy cherry. 86

2008 Dancing Creek, Regan Vineyard
Blended with 15% Nebbiolo. Earthy, floral nose; sweet fruit, sausage and pepper. 86

2009 Heart o' the Mountain, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Smoky, meaty nose. Smooth, rich redcurrant with some coffee and fine tannins. 89+

2009 Heart o' the Mountain Estate Reserve
Rose petals and oak on the nose. Good, complex fruit; redcurrant, cherry and plum, with a medium finish  90
House Family Winery

2010 House Family
The wines are made by Jeffrey Patterson of Mount Eden and the vineyards are close to the old Mountain Winery. This is their first commercial Pinot Noir release. 
Nose of smoke, cinnamon and cherry; taut and tannic with sweet cherry flavours. This should be good in 5 years. 90+

2002 Kings Mountain
Earthy, bretty, iodine on the nose.Sweet, earthy cherry fruit; some leather and cedar. 87

2008 Kings Mountain
Aromas of cranberry and clove. Lots of bright, spicy fruit, some earthiness particularly on the longish finish 89

Kings Mountain has been producing Chardonnay, Pinot and a Bordeaux blend since 1996. However recently the winery has decided to focus on Pinot Noir exclusively, and the old vines have all been grafted over.

2009 Mount Eden Estate
I tasted the Mount Eden wines recently so didn't bother to make detailed notes, but I wasn't going to pass on a chance to taste arguably the two best wines here. The Estate seemed less tight than last time; lots of allspice and cherry. 93+ 

2010 Domaine Eden
The wine is more fruit forward than the Estate, but it still has some of the Estate spice. Excellent value. 93

I spoke briefly to Jeffrey Patterson who confirmed that in future Domaine Eden will be the second wine of Mount Eden. The old "Saratoga Cuvee" label has been retired. All the Domaine Eden wines will contain fruit from the old Cinnabar vineyard as well as some other vineyards that the winery maintains in the Saratoga area and any barrels that are declassified from the Estate. Around half the land purchased from Cinnabar is fallow, so expect to see a significant expansion in the next few years.

Rhonda and Leslie of Mountain Winery
2009 Mountain Winery Estate Reserve
Smoky, cinnamon on the nose; Rich, smooth cherry and spice flavours. While tasting this I kept picking up someone's perfume which was most distracting. I have high hopes for this label as the vines mature. 89+

2009 Mountain Winery Reserve
A soft, easy drinking wine with nice redcurrant and cherry aromas and flavours. Made from local, not estate grapes. 87

2007 Mountain Winery Estate Reserve
Nose showed raspberry syrup, with a hint of VA. Flavours of cherry and raspberry, with a touch of spice. 88

2006 Muns
Nose of cranberry and roses. Nicely integrated oak and good cherry fruit with plenty of acidity. 89

2008 Muns
Nose showed cherry with an odd - possibly aldehyde - note. There's good cherry and redcurrant fruit, with lots of tannin and liquorice on the finish.  87+

2009 Nicholson Peter Martin Ray Vineyard
Nose is spicy and oaky, with dark cherry and brambles. Sweet cherry flavours backed by spicy cinnamon and clove notes. The Peter Martin Ray vineyard is just down the hill from Mount Eden and has the old head-pruned, sprawling vines planted half a century ago. This is particularly well priced at $34. 91+

2009 Nicholson Santa Cruz Mountains
Blend of Estate, Remde and Wark Vineyards.
Nose showed candied orange peel and pepper. I also got pepper on the palate, along with sweet cherry. Quickish finish. 87

2009 Odonata Domani Vineyard
Fragrant, floral nose. Good, solid cherry fruit, rustic finish. 90
Silent Auction for double magnums

2009 Pelican Ranch Amaya Ridge
The winery has done an interesting experiment in bottling the same wine from two different oak treatments. If you were ever curious as to how American and French oaks differ then here is a perfect comparison.

The first, from French oak, showed mostly oak on the nose, with flavours of sour cherry and spice, with lots of tannin. 87
The second, from Oregon oak, had a lighter nose, with a hint of dill. The flavour profile was similar, but with black pepper rather than spice. 87

2009 Pelican Ranch Meadowridge Vineyard
Nose of black cherry, with an aldehyde note. Smooth, black cherry liqueur and nutmeg flavours. 87.

2009 Pleasant Valley Vineyard Dylan David, Lester Family Vineyard
PVV make several wines from the Lester Family (formerly Deer Park) Vineyard. Each is named Dylan David and carries an almost identical red label, and I neglected to note exactly which one this was.
Earthy nose, initially with with a note of Parmesan cheese, but that blew off. Flavours of redcurrant, cherry, black pepper and spice. Nicely balanced. 88

2009 Pleasant Valley Vineyard Dylan David, gold label
The gold label contains a blend of Lester Family and Estate fruit.
Redcurrant and cranberry nose. Similar to the red label, but with more tannin and earth. 88

2009 Pleasant Valley Vineyard Dylan David, Estate
The 2 acre estate vineyard is planted to a mix of 113, 114 and 115 clones. This is a serious wine that merits ageing.
Spicy nose shows cloves and smoke. Rich, complex flavours of black cherry, plum, cocoa and spice. Taut tannins on the finish. 91+

2008 Regale Estate
Most of Regale's wines come from fruit purchased outside the appellation, but they do have a small estate vineyard planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Despite their youth these vines are already producing some very attractive fruit.
The light yet spicy nose belies the intense cherry, spice and pepper flavours, and the long finish. 92+

2010 Sarah's Vineyard
Blend of Veranda and Rebhahn vineyards. Nose of black cherry and plum. Rich cola and sweet black cherry. Just a hint of residual sugar. 87

2007 Sarahs Vineyard
Veranda Vineyard. Spicy oak and cherry nose; Sweet but light cherry fruit and a short finish. 86

2008 Silvertip Vineyards
First release - made from 828 clone only.
Muted earthy, oaky nose with some bright cherry. That bright cherry also shows on the palate, along with tart cranberry and cinnamon, with a papery finish.  88+

2009 Silvertip Vineyards
Made primarily from 828 and 115 clones. Significantly darker than most of the other wines on the day. The nose is savoury, with notes of oak and soy sauce. On the palate there's bright red fruit and a savoury note that reminds me of marmite. 89+

Silvertip is a new label from Nelson Family Vineyards, in partnership with winemaker Paul Stroth of Stroth-Hall Cellars. The first vintages were made at Stroth-Hall's Campbell location, but the family has built a new winery adjacent to the vineyard. One to watch out for.

2009 Villa Del Monte Quenneville Vineyard
Nose shows roses and smoky oak. Soft raspberry and currant flavours with some cinnamon and tannin on the finish. 87

2010 Villa Del Monte Regan Vineyard
Nose of cherry jam; flavours of sweet, jammy cherry and raspberry. 87

2009 Thomas Fogarty, Santa Cruz Mountains
Bright cherry and tea aromas. Nice flavours of bramble, black cherry, pepper and liquorice. 89

2010 Thomas Fogarty, Rapley Trail Vineyard
Bright cherry nose; Light oak, cardomom and black cherry. 88

2008 Woodside
Complex, savoury nose - plenty of spice and smoke. In the mouth there's sweet liquorice and boysenberry with lots of oak - clearly needs time. 91+