Thursday, April 22, 2010

2009 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling


2009 Pewsey Vale Riesling

Edna Valley

Australia (South)

12.5 % Alcohol

100% Riesling



Wines from the high altitude and cool climate of South Australia's Edna Valley have really been catching my attention in the past few months. Due to the conditions these grapes are grown in they tend to take on flavors and complexity you wouldn't find in your average white wines. Most people don't usually think Riesling when they think Australian wine, however Edna Valley is becoming quite well known for their age worthy Rieslings. Even this, 2009 Pewsey Vale Riesling with its great QPR can hold through 2019.

In the glass, the wine clean and clear with light straw gold hues and green undertones. On the nose aromatic scents of tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, peach, citrus, pear and hints of mineral and grass are present. There is also an underlying scent of petrol and white florals which is a tell tale sign of the grape. On the palate, the tropical fruits hold true with some spiciness and honey on the finish. The acid is crisp and high, and balances the ripeness of the fruit. The finish is nice and drawn out with flavors of citrus and mineral characteristics.

This is a perfect spring and summer wine and great for pairing with brunch favorites and spicy fare like Thai or Indian foods. Because of the amazing price I would definitely buy a few bottles and experiment with aging; the wines acidity gives it the ability to hold for medium cellaring; about 6-10 years.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2008 Achával Ferrer Malbec


2008 Achával Ferrer Malbec



14.4 % Alcohol

100% Malbec



Argentina and Malbec go hand and hand in the wine industry and this young Malbec is a nice starting off point for exploring the region and its offerings. Because of Mendoza's high-altitude location and relatively arid climate the grapes tend to be quite acidic however retain their rich and ripe fruit flavors.

In the glass, the wine is inky and opaque with ruby purple coloring and little rim variation. The producer of this wine chose not to filter its juice in order keep the integrity of the flavors used to produce this wine. The nose is clear and fruit forward with aromas of stewed blue and dark fruit like blueberry, blackberry, huckleberry and plum. Scents of vanilla, violets and some herbal characteristics are also present with a hint of smoke and oak. In the mouth, the wine has a full and rich mouthfeel with the tannins nicely rounded out and balanced. The wine is dry with acid on the higher end and concentrated flavors of blueberry pie and tobacco. The taste on the palate stays true to the aromas on the nose and has such a beautiful sensation of sun ripened fruits with some additional savory characteristics of herbs and spice. The finish is nice and prolonged with the fruit and vanilla bringing the wine to a close.

This wine is young and is meant to be consumed in just that way. I would pair this wine with hearty meats that you would find in your typical Argentinian fare. Fire roasted beef steaks, grilled chicken and sausage, barbecued corn as well as spicy chili would be an amazing complement to this Malbec. Because the flavors of this wine are so concentrated I would definitely decant this and let it sit a bit before drinking.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Russian River Valley is calling....

photo credit: wilshirepix/fickr

Russian River Valley is hands down my favorite place in California to relax, enjoy the sunshine, dine, and, most importantly, drink wine. Yes, I am a bit biased having grown-up there summer after summer since birth; however, the area has so much to offer, and I can’t say enough about it. The Russian River Valley is a hidden gem nestled under soaring redwood trees and sun filled blue skies where food, wine, and activities abound.

When it comes to the history of this region and the birth of this wine country we can thank the Russian settlers who were the first to plant grapes here in the 1830’s. From then on, numerous generations of settlers came to develop the area. Large producers like Korbel Champagne Cellars and Foppiano Winery helped the area gain recognition. The Prohibition area tried to slow the industry down, however the hard work and determination of farmers in the area carried on. It wasn’t until the 1960s, when they realized that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay flourished, that this valley began to really excel, and the rest is…well…History.

The typical varietals you will find in this AVA are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with some Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel scattered in between. As always there are producers trying their hand at and doing great things with grapes like Gewurztraminer, Syrah, Malbec and Viognier. The climate of this region couldn’t be more perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, with long warm days, cool moderate evenings and coastal morning fog. The wines produced from these grapes are known world wide for their structure, complexity, signature flavor, and style.

There are a handful of wineries in the area that I feel embody this region and all it has to offer. Small producers with a focus on the valleys “terroir” take pride in the wines they produce and are set in their tradition of winemaking in this specific manner. Some of these masters include, but are not limited to, Rochiolli Winery, Davis Bynum Winery, DuMOL, Williams Selyem Winery, Gary Farrell Wines along with some relatively newer players Arista Winery and C. Donatiello Winery. Wines coming from these producers are the epitome of Russian River Valley and should not be missed. Whether it be grapes from the Sonoma Coast or the Valley itself, wines coming from the region will have a boldness that you will not encounter anywhere else. Take a ride down the famous Westside Road and make yourself familiar with its inviting winemakers, breathtaking views, and fair weather. After a long day of wine tasting, there is nothing better than a five-course dinner at the world renowned Madrona Manor. Naturally, with great wine comes great food, and this region’s world-renowned chefs and restaurants that call this place home.

When I think wine country cuisine I think fresh, natural and simple as well as foods that complement local wines. No other restaurant in my opinion does this as well as Madrona Manor with their mix of timeless elegance, above and beyond service and food that will make your knees weak. When you enter the gates of Madrona manner you feel as though you are transported to another time and place. The statuesque yellow Victorian Manor guarded by redwood trees and framed beautifully with manicured gardens instantly removes you from your day-to-day hustle and bustle. Upon entrance into the main building you notice its stunning décor and period furnishings. Whether under dim romantic chandelier lighting indoors or below the canopy of the manors outdoor deck; you have the pleasure of enjoying Chef Mallgren’s artistically prepared Californian creations, paired with mainly local wine producers along with a selection of world offerings as well. Dining here will change your mind about what you though food and wine could be when they are masterfully joined as one.

With wine and cuisine taken care of there is the river to enjoy; canoeing, boating and swimming are a rocks throw from the vineyards. This area has so much to offer and once you visit there is no denying you will be back. The wine, the food and the river are calling.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 Sonoma vs. Napa Showdown Highlights

I had the pleasure of attending Uncorked Events: Sonoma v. Napa Showdown tasting last night in San Francisco at Fort Mason’s Officers Club. All the heavy hitters were in attendance; Duckhorn, Silver Oak, Fisher, Dominus etc. Not only were the views of the bay phenomenal, but so was the wine that was being poured. A few wineries that I expected to really impress didn’t bring much to the table, while a number of others that I didn’t expect really blew me away.

My stand out favorite of the evening had to be St. Helena’s Pahlmeyer; with each wine poured stepping up in complexity and flavor. From their four offerings the 2007 Pahlmeyer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($70) was by far at the top of my list of the night with rich and decadent flavors of tropical fruits (mainly pineapple), peach and buttered brioche. This is the epitome of what every Chardonnay should be with some strong aging potential. On the heels of this Chardonnay are the 2006 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Proprietary Red ($105) and the 2007 Pahlmeyer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($70) following closely behind. As the event progressed I watched Pahlmeyer’s table go from bare to barely there with crowds of impatiently waiting drinkers swarming from right and left.

Another strong offering was presented by Twomey Cellar whose 2008 Twomey Russian River Pinot Noir ($49) quickly made my top 10 of the evening. The flavors were ripe and concentrated with flavors of bright red cherry, raspberry, cola and cigar box. This Pinot has the ability for some aging potential and I feel it would fare even better with a few more years in bottle. Moving onto another “Sonoma” selection; Sol Rouge’s 2007 Russian River Valley Viognier ($32) with it’s light sophisticated flavors and aromas of white tea leaves , peach, orange blossoms and white florals. The crisp and acidic elements of this wine were a wake up call from the overly oaked Chardonnays presented by many of the other participants.

As far as Napa standouts go, I was actually a bit under whelmed by their big players and downright disappointed in some. One that definitely did not disappoint was the Krupp Brothers 2006 Black Bart Bounty Syrah ($45) with bold dried bramble berry flavors of blackberry, raspberry and blueberry with subtle hints of vanilla, oak, spice and aromatic florals. The tannins are quite present and would definitely soften with a few years of aging.

All in all it was a great night with some really spectacular wines and Sonoma really taking the Trophy for me. There were too many to mention in this one post but many other producers really did present some outstanding wines.

Additional Recommendations:

2009 Fort Ross Rose of Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($12)
2007 Sol Rouge Zinfandel, Tom Feeny Ranch Russian River Valley ($36)
2008 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($31)
2008 Siduri Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($31)
2009 Twomey Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($25)
2006 Dominus , Yountville ($135)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2007 Twisted Oak Torcido


2007 Twisted Oak "Torcido"

Calavaras County


14.4 % Alcohol

89% Garnacha 11% Petite Sirah



This is a wine from a winery I would usually steer clear of...Plastic chickens, skulls on wine bottles and gimmicks galore; however their wines esp the "Torcido" is an amazing showing of a smooth fruit forward Garnacha. Proves that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Point taken! Onto the wine...

On the nose the aromas are fruit forward with ripe red cherry, raspberry, dried cranberries and fig; with hints of smoke, clove, and cinammon. The flavors on the nose reflect the palate, however the taste takes on a more dark fruit flavor of stewed blueberry, blackberry and plum. There is a soft and full mouthfeel with a nice velvety finish that lingers long on the palate. The alcohol is high and the heat is definitely present yet I don't feel it overwhelms in any way.

Because of the rich flavors of this wine I would suggest pairing it with something that can stand up to its bold flavors. Hearty meat dishes like a roast, honey glazed ham or a juicy pepper steak would really get the palate going. This is quite a treat on it's own as well which is exactly how I choose to enjoy it. This is a great selection from a great producer who's wines have a great deal to offer. Note: This wine did take quite awhile to open up so I would suggest decanting it and giving it some time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2000 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja


2000 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja



13% Alcohol

75% Tempranillo, 25%



Rioja, Rioja, Rioja is all I can think about these days; quite a shame I hadn't discovered it's charm until recently. This Rioja validated these sentiments exactly, and is such a great example of why this style of wine is currently at the top of my list. The
La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva is a blend of mainly Tempranillo with one quarter of its juice coming from Garnacha. This blending really adds nice dark fruit character to the ripe red cherry flavors of Tempranillo.

In the glass the wine is medium in intensity with a garnet brick color and some slight rim variation. The age of this wine definitely shows in the glass, however still retains it's youthful glow. On the nose aromas of leather, baking spices, cigar box, red cherry and Cola/Dr. Pepper are all present adding to the rich bouquet. The palate mirrors the aromas in the glass yet adds a more stewed/candied characteristic to the fruit with darker fruits like blackberry and some red raspberry. In the mouth the wine is smooth as silk with the age of this wine really rounding out the tannins. The balance of wood, fruit and acid is impeccable in this wine and adds further to the complex flavors and aromas. The finish is medium in length with candied fruit, vanilla and oak rounding out the end. This is a very special wine for an extremely fair price and I highly recommend scouting this one out.

As far as pairings go, I would suggest beef dishes like carne asada, hamburgers, braised meats like pork and lamb and sauces that contain tomatoes like salsa or a rustic ragu. This wine is available locally at K & L Wine Merchants.

Monday, April 12, 2010

2005 Keller Estate La Cruz Pinot Noir


2005 Keller Estate La Cruz Pinot Noir

Sonoma Coast

Petaluma, Ca

14.1% Alcohol

100% Pinot Noir



This wine is the perfect example of the reason I'm head over heels in love with Pinot Noir from this region. Because of the maritime influence from the ocean, these grapes don't have the uber ripe cherry flavor you get from warmer climates. The flavors are tart, young and fresh.

This wine's ruby red clarity and dark intensity sit perfectly in the glass. The aroma is not as intense as expected however the scents are well defined and clear with black cherry, oak, vanilla, baking spice and white pepper on on the forefront. The wine is rich luscious and smooth with flavors of ripe red cherry, cola, vanilla, oak and raspberry. The finish is substantial in flavor with a light smokey and fruity end. This quality producer has definitely hooked me and I truly look forward to sampling their other vintages and varietals.

This wine is light enough in body that it can be paired with a variety of foods and flavors. Smoked ham and barbecued red meats would be a great match for this wine. However, when it comes to Pinot Noir I personally don't like to complicate things. I prefer keeping it as the main event.