Thursday, October 23, 2014

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard/Vino Cruz

2013 Grenache Blanc, Bokisch Vineyard
An unoaked white wine, made entirely in stainless steel. The nose is floral and creamy with a hint of vanilla; it's balanced and rich with a tannic prickle on finish. 

2012 Verdelho, Silvaspoons Vineyard
Smoky nose; flavors of candied Ginger and mineral notes, but the finish is quite quick.

2011 Pinot Noir, Branciforte Creek, Santa Cruz Mountains
SCMV has always been known for its excellent Pinot Noirs, and this is no exception. Lots of Umami, fruit and pencil shavings; Good structure, nice acidity. There's a long finish with flavours of sour cherry. Very good indeed. Recommended.

2012 Grenache
There;'s plenty going on here - the nose shows white pepper and leather; lots of tart cranberry flavors backed by good structure. At the price this is a wine you should buy by the case. Highly recommended.

2010 Tempranillo Reserve
Ripe (but not overripe) fruits, backed by flavors of licorice and coffee. Spicy, with good acidity

2011 Graciano
Barnyard nose; palate is earthy with liquorice and black fruits.

2010 Touriga
I liked this wine so much that I barely made any notes, beyond the nose of fresh cut grass and flowers. A blend of two grapes - I think it was Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca - and a great price. I bought some and plan to give it the review that it deserves soon. Highly recommended.

2010 Souzão
Blind I'd have guessed Cabernet Sauvignon; it's got that blackcurrant/blackberry character and eucalyptus notes. But it after a good start it tails off toward the end.

2011 Petite Sirah
I've said many times that Petite Sirah is a difficult grape to do well; this is one of those cases where it works. The dark fruits shine through the tannins; but even so it needs a couple of years at least.

2007 Rabelo
If anyone outside Portugal is making a better port-style wine then I'd like to know it. Intense plum, pepper and spice - like a Christmas pudding in a glass.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Former Bargetto winemaker Michael Sones has been crafting interesting wines under his own label for around 10 years, initially focusing primarily on good value Zinfandel and Petite Sirah - two varieties that Bargetto isn't well known for.
Production is around the 1300 case mark.

2012 Cancion Del Mar
A lone white wine in a sea of reds, this is a blend of
Viognier, Pinot Gris, Torrontés and Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is floral, with mineral notes; it's a rich, smooth creamy wine; less crisp than I remember previous vintages being, but still a good wine to have with seafood.

2010 Zinfandel, Zayante Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
An intense, rich wine whose raspberry nose follows on through the palate into the finish. Good structure. Recommended.

2009 Syrah Zayante Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
This is a wine that calls out for a slow cooked pot roast or stew. From the gamey, meaty nose to the tart, raspberry finish it continues to evolve and change, revealing notes of eucalyptus, cocoa and pepper on the way. Recommended.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wiedeman Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
Sporting a label by local artist Ben Davis Jr,  this archetypal valley floor Cabernet shows blackcurrant, brambles and coffee. Nice acidity and a good finish. Recommended.

2011 Fashionably Late Zinfandel 
I was a little surprised to see any kind of late harvest red wine from 2011; a cooler vintage where mildew, odium and botrytis were a constant issue and rains at harvest forced many to pick early - yet here we have a Zinfandel with 5% residual sugar.
As you'd expect it's intense with plenty of raspberry flavors, but little else; it cries out for something to give it more backbone (a hint of Petite Sirah maybe?)

2012 Sack
Caileen with the 2010 Wiedeman Vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon
Sack was an old English term for fortified wines from Spain. It grew in popularity in the Elizabethan age despite - or because of - the ongoing war between Elizabeth and Philip II. In Henry IV part 2 the character Falstaff performs a monologue in praise of “sherris sack”, concluding “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack.”

This wine was produced in association with Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and some of the profits go to support that group. It began as a base white wine made from Torrontés  which was then fortified with brandy and sweetened with grape must. It comes in at 18% ABV.

Hard to know what to compare it to. It doesn’t have the same oxidation or maturity of a modern Sherry; neither does it have the freshness of a Pineau or Mistelle or the sweetness of a Tokaj. Instead the Torrontés gives it a very appealing floral nose, with notes of peach or apricot, but unfortunately on the palate it’s rather flat; there’s either too much heat from the brandy or not enough sweetness from the must. A curiosity that will appeal to some but doesn't really work for me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Stefani at Savannah-Chanelle
The history of Savannah-Chanelle goes back to the early days of the California wine boom. Pierre Pourroy emigrated to California from France in 1887 and was joined by his brother Eloi six years later. Together they bought land - including a vineyard - in Saratoga from the Bonjetti family and planted Zinfandel, Carignane and Cabernet Franc, among other varieties. They also planted fruit trees and produced prunes. By the 1920s the family owned over 400 acres.

The winery was established in 1917. The Pourroy wines were sold in jugs or small barrels - there was no commercial bottling - and Eloi Pourroy did not even own a truck, preferring to use horse drawn sleds and wagons. They continued producing wines and selling grapes even during prohibition, finally stopping in the mid-1950s. Many of the Pourroy family were buried in the Madronia cemetery in Saratoga.

By the late 1960s the vineyards were largely derelict. A group of Lockheed employees got together intending to purchase a parcel of land to establish a Christian camp ground. However they ran out of resources and asked a local businessman, Victor Erickson, for help. He eventually purchased 53 acres of land and raised vegetables.

A neighbor tended to the old vines and took the crop, and through him Daniel and Robin Gehrs learned about the property and persuaded Erickson to re-open the winery. In 1976 Congress Springs was established, with Gehrs as winemaker and Erickson as owner. Together they refurbished the old vineyards and planted some Chardonnay. In the mid 1980s Erickson sold the company (but not the land) to Anglo-American, a world-wide agricultural business who also owned vineyards in the San Ysidro District. However the company lost millions when a venture in Australia failed, and were bought out by some east coast bankers, who had no idea how to run a winery, and so it went bankrupt. Daniel Gehrs left to become winemaker for Zaca Mesa and eventually established his own label in Santa Barbara.

In the early 1990s the property was leased and then bought by John Del Mare, with the intention of resurrecting the Congress Springs winery. In 1996 he then then sold it to Kellie and Mike Ballard, who renamed it after their two young daughters - Savannah and Chanel. Today The winery produces Pinot Noir from a variety of sources, and a tiny amount of estate wines from the original Pourroy plantings, which are among the oldest of their kind in the country.

2013 Pinot Noir rose 
A bone-dry rose showing strawberries on the nose and palate.

2013 Chardonnay, Tondre's Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands
An unoaked Chardonnay; notes of asian pear on the nose. 
In the mouth there is crisp acidity and minerality with a chalky, lemony finish.

2010 Pinot Noir, Regan Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Savory nose with some black cherry. The palate has rich, dark fruit and some soy or nori notes. 

2011 Pinot Noir, Tondre's Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands
Despite its youth the nose shows notes of leather and earth. My friend said it reminded him of "a wet dog running in the countryside". Good red cherry fruit, with a longish finish.

2008 Syrah Coast View Vineyard Herbal nose; there's a good core of fruit, but it's under a mass of tannin. Definitely needs cellar time.

2011 Estate Zinfandel, Santa Cruz Mountains Good as the other wines are, the stars of Savannah-Chanelle are the estate bottlings.
 This Zinfandel comes from century old vines, producing around 1.25 tons per acre.
Nose is minty and herbal, with a slightly metallic note. In the mouth there's stacks of concentrated ripe raspberry fruit.  The finish is long, rich and peppery. Wonderful stuff; highly recommended.