Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Harvest in Sonoma County/J.Pedroncelli Vineyards

In a few days September will be with us,and crush2016 will soon be here.We will enjoy the wines of J.Pedroncelli Vineyards today,and have 4 wines to open and share with you.Let's start with the Sauvignon Blanc.We will check out the tasting notes and look back at the great history of this fabled winery. Since 1927, when John Pedroncelli, Sr. purchased vineyard and a small winery in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, two elements remain unchanged: the exceptional place the Pedroncelli family farms vineyards, and the family's dedication to making fine wines. From selling grapes to home winemakers during prohibition in order to keep the vineyards going, to growing a small base of business during the 1930s and 1940s, to the second generation joining their father: son John becoming winemaker in 1948 followed by Jim in 1955 as sales director, to 1963 when the winery was officially purchased by John and Jim from their father, to growing the line of wines in the 1960s with vineyard expansion and diversification, to the boom time of the 1970s and 1980s along with many changes and additions to our sales base including national sales and export, the third generation coming on board and vineyard replanting in the 1990s to the 21st century refining our focus to restaurants and casual dining/meet-up wine bars and independent wine shops across the nation. to the transfer of ownership of the company to the third generation (now a 70% woman owned company with a woman winemaker!) to the second decade in the new millennium where the fourth generation is coming up the ranks... Nine decades strong, we are still family owned and operated. The SB is the 2015 vintage,and a crisp wine filled with beautiful fruit. Aromatic with lemongrass and a touch of green apple. The fresh flavors are layered with lime, tropical fruit, and honey. Our Sauvignon Blanc is quite refreshing and tangy with bright acidity and a silky mouth feel. Please enjoy upon release or within a year or two as no aging is required.This is perfect to star a meal and will be great with many seafood dishes.Now the next wine is one of my favorites.Every time you open a bottle of the 2014 Bench Vineyard Merlot, you enter Sonoma County Merlot paradise.I have often told folks that this wine is an amazing value and consistently the same vintage after vintage. Pedroncelli Merlot presents aromas of black plum and spice. Red cherry and deep plum flavors are showcased along with cinnamon notes and, in the background, a touch of vanilla and smoky oak. Medium bodied with smooth tannins follow through to a velvety finish. I always request meat with this wine as well as the next two wines.First we will open the Dry Creek Valley Three Vineyards Cabernet. Rich aromas of red plum, sage and toasted oak introduce our Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe cherry fruit, black olive and black pepper spice follow on the palate. The wine showcases the fruit with a bit of jammy blackberry and a spicy finish. From a richer vintage showing firm tannins and good acidity. Enjoy upon release or cellar up to eight more years.All of these wines will be a great addition to your family feast.But let's also include the wisdom Cabernet from J.Pedroncelli Vineyards. This wine will impress you with it's complex finish and incredible up front fruit. A full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with aromas of black plum, warm spice and currants. The rich flavors of ripe plum, berry and black pepper are woven with mellow tannins and great acidity. With it’s reserve-style complexity and depth, this is a wine to enjoy now or age 5–8 more years.These wines will be a perfect fit with steaks,and chops.I'm thinking a New York strip steak with a large amount of pepper sauce.AND I think we should get started NOW!!Please join us!We will follow this feature with some features from the past with the great folks at J.Pedroncelli Vineyards.Please plan on visiting Sonoma county and J.Pedroncelli soon,as we enjoy the crush of 2016.Cheers!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Northern Californian Zinfandel Paradise/Steele Wines

I moved to northern California about 20 years ago.At that time I loved red wines and had many favorites.Shortly after moving here, I had my first Zinfandel.I have not looked back,since opening that bottle.I love the wines and the stories that come with them.I have loved Jed Steele's wines for many years,and I'm very excited to open these bottles today.We have three Zinfandels,so we better get started. We will open first,the Steele Zinfandel 2010 Dupratt Vineyard. We will check out the tasting notes and a little history. Even in a good year, picking the DuPratt Vineyard is never easy. A mountain vineyard with hilly terrain gives some vines more sun. By its nature Zinfandel ripens unevenly and each cluster has raisins, ripe berries and under-ripe berries. Choosing when to harvest takes skill, intuition and sometimes, good luck. Our answer to this is a test pick in which we harvest two rows, which run the length of the vineyard. If we get what we feel are adequate sugars after a day of soaking on the skins, we then harvest the remainder of the vineyard. Even so we keep the upper (riper) part of this vineyard separate from the lower portion.Mendocino Ridge is known for great wines,and a tough time making them. This tiny 5.5 acre plot of 80 year old vines has always produced wines of spectacular quality. The long season enjoyed by grapes grown in the Mendocino Ridge appellation does allow full ripeness and consistent quality year in and year out. Aging for 16 months in a special mix of Taransaud French Oak barrels is the other key to the great flavors and drinking pleasure that is a hallmark of the DuPratt Zinfandel. The long season and elevation makes wines that are rich, elegant and complex. They are more like fine Claret than typical old vine Zinfandel from California.This is the oldest of the three Zinfandels we will taste today. I like to drinks these wines young,but the fruit is still great in this wine,and we will need a very complex dish to go with it.I picked the Korean Ribs from Gary Chu's Chinese . Now what I want to do is suggest a few dishes for these wines.So let's move on to our other 2 wines and get back to the food shortly.Our second Zinfandel is the 2012 Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel from Steele wines. The vineyard is located on the Bell Hill bench of Lake County just south of Kelseyville. Catfish Vineyard, planted in 1901, is head pruned and stands on its own roots. Steele Wines purchased the vineyard in 2000 and we have been working to rehabilitate the old vines since that time. Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel, is actually a field blend of a number of varieties, including small amounts of carignan, alicante bouschet, cabernet sauvignon , petite sirah, and cinsault. Having more than one variety assured the old-time vintners that they would have some grapes to harvest regardless of the spring frosts or autumn storms.Steele has made this wine for many years,and it always sells very quickly.You will love turning your friends on to these wines,and this wine will be requested over and over.One of the best Zinfandels made,end of discussion.BUT,we do have another Zinfandel,and this is the 2013 Pacini Vineyard. The Pacini Family planted this vineyard circa 1940 on the western foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains in Mendocino County. This beautiful old vineyard is head-pruned as are most Zinfandel vineyards of the era. Steele Wines purchased the vineyard in 1998 from the Pacini Family. Since then we have been refurbishing the vineyard and replacing vines in the positions where the old vines have died. The location of the vineyard prevents us from irrigating or frost protecting due to the limited water supply. This provides for the intense flavors and aromas in this low yielding Zinfandel. when the vines are very old they produce far less but most Zinfandel lovers will tell you that's part of the fun,is the age of the vines,and the unique wines that are produced. Steele wines keeps the temperatures on their fermentations moderate to develop the color and flavors inherent in this wine. They age the Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel in American oak barrels for 12 months. The nose is full of ripe cherry and blueberry with undertones of toasted hazelnut and vanilla. The palate is full of ripe wild berries, spice, and cherry cola, with dusty cocoa and light tannin on the finish. The wine has great structure, and is well balanced. The structure in these wines is why I think they are perfect for Asian food !The sauces are a great match for the deep,lingering finish on these wines.The Catfish has a coffee background note that just keeps me pouring another intriguing taste of this wine.The Dupratt is best paired with a cheery or Orange sauce,and I picked Spicy Orange Chicken,and it works very well. I went "Bridge" with the Pacini Zinfandel,and paired it with the Duck and Spicy sauce.I knew I was in for a feast when I opened these wines,but I have passion for this cuisine and also for the Zinfandels from Steele Wines.There is still work to be done...would you care to join me?Kindly bring three glasses over when you sit down.I will follow this new feature with a few Steele features from the past.I'm ready for more food and wine,pardon me!Cheers!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Crisp White Wines for a Summer Day/Handley Cellars/Randy Shock

As July 4th holidays approach,the summer heat has been present daily.The vineyards are doing well,and the drive into Anderson Valley is like driving into paradise.Let's check out a little history and then tasting notes on our two white wines today. Handley Cellars is a small family-owned winery in California’s Mendocino County. Bonded in 1982, we produce around 12,000 cases of wine a year. Our quality starts with our Estate Vineyards in Anderson Valley. We are located at the northwest end of the Anderson Valley on 59 acres of the original Holmes Ranch. Still standing on the property are the now-refurbished ranch house, barn, and the original water tower. At Handley Cellars, we offer a wide variety of wines that complement today’s diverse cuisines. Winemaker Milla Handley seeks to make balanced wines that possess distinctive varietal characteristics, wines that reflect the soil and climate in which they were grown. Handley’s beautiful tasting room is located 6 miles northwest of Philo, California, on Highway 128. We offer tours by appointment, and our garden courtyard is open for picnics. Stop by to try our selections and, while visiting, enjoy our unique display of folk art collected from around the world. At Handley Cellars, they firmly believe in a conscious and conscientious approach to farming and winemaking. We purchase grapes from small, local, family growers, and whenever possible, we select fruit that is farmed organically. Our winemaking philosophy is to let the distinctive qualities of each vineyard shine through. Working with carefully tended, exceptional sites, we strive to create wines which faithfully reflect the unique characteristics of the vineyards and viticultural region, focusing on our appellation of Anderson Valley. We select vineyards that fully ripen at lower brix, resulting in wines with low to moderate alcohol levels. Beginning with the 2012 vintage, our white wines are free of animal products. From start to finish, we are mindful of our impact on our rural valley, and the implications of our farming and wine making choices for future generations. 2014 was a year of early harvests in Anderson Valley. On the nose, this Pinot Gris offers tropical aromas of papaya and banana, with hints of orange blossom and freesia. Flavors of grapefruit, nectarines, and creamscicle, with hints of butterscotch and savory spices accompany a crisp, yet creamy, mouth feel. This wine would pair nicely with a cold cucumber soup, gazpacho, barbequed oysters, or steamed mussels with garlic and butter. The Pinot Blanc was picked by hand and gently pressed whole cluster. The juice was allowed to settle for three days in a stainless steel tank and then racked off the solids to another stainless steel tank to begin fermentation. The juice was inoculated with VL1 yeast which was selected for its ability to enhance the terpenes naturally present in this varietal. A small amount of Riesling was blended in post fermentation to add structure and a hint of sweetness. Both the Pinot Blanc and Riesling were prevented from undergoing any malolactic fermentation to preserve their bright fruity characters. The wine was sterile filtered and no eggs, dairy, or animal derived products were used in the production of this wine. This Pinot Blanc immediately draws you in with its sunny nature and aromas of spring flowers, apricot blossoms, and musk melon, its signature fragrance. The aromatics are boosted by the addition of Riesling providing floral notes. The fleshiness and creamy texture is created by extended yeast lees contacting. It has juicy peach and pineapple flavors, along with the creaminess of Macadamia nuts. This Pinot Blanc shows stature and structure, all the way through its long finish, which leaves you with a pleasant lingering smack of Bartlett Pear. This is a good starter wine that works well with appetizers such as prosciutto wrapped melon, cheese platter, roasted nuts, or chicken salad. Randy and I have enjoyed a glass of the wines and food just arrived at the table.We ahve a huge chicken salad,and have added fresh crab salad.A loaf of fresh bread,and mixed nuts.The only way this gets better ...if we are eating picnic style in the vineyards.DONE!And the entire crew has joined us!Cheers! Click here and join our summer lunch at Handley Cellars.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lake County /The home Of Steele Wines/Writer's Block

We have two more wines from Quincy Steele and his Writer's Block Grenache 2013 and My favorite the Writer's Block Zinfandel 2012. We will take a look at their tasting notes and open these bottles.We will also make a couple dishes to go with these wines...After all...I haven't eaten in almost 40 minutes. This Grenache is made from two Lake County vineyards, predominantly Fiora Vineyard, with a smaller amount coming from Shannon Ridge Vineyard. Fiora Vineyard is in the far northeast Long Valley area, and is situated on an old creek bank. Shannon Ridge Vineyard is situated in the High Valley AVA I like the idea of pairing a pork chop with this wine.I like to start in a fry pan,and then finish the chop in the oven.I also like to open a beer...(often)...And pour a small amount over the chop and return to the oven.Maybe even do that twice.It adds to the flavor,and makes the meat bake in it's own sauce.Now I have to admit,I'm looking forward to our next wine. California’s grape having connected origins in Italy and Croatia, Zinfandel is one of the oldest and most predominant varietals grown in California; both presently and historically. Every region where wine grapes are grown in California contains some Zinfandel, though Northern California (above SF bay) counties; Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Amador, are primarily where it is found in greater density. Zinfandel makes a wide range of different wines depending on the climate where it is grown and how it is grown to harvested (earlier or later in the season). Zinfandel has a long history in Lake County, evidenced by the estate Catfish Vineyard, mostly Zinfandel, and dating back to 1901. As a microcosm of Zinfandel in California, Lake County is a generally warmer viticultural area. Some Zinfandel is harvested mature in early September and some toward the end of October.I love Zinfandels,and this wine will go very well with Ribs and ZIN!A standard in wine country. Robin Hill vineyard, managed by Jeff and Walt Lyon, is the primary source for the Writer’s Block Zinfandel. The Zinfandel of this vineyard was planted in 2001, and as the site and early harvests have indicated is a very promising Zinfandel source. The vineyard is located off highway 29 approximately 10 miles North of Lakeport. It is surrounded by oak trees on the top of a hill with slopes that nearly border the Clearlake AVA. This vineyard tends to ripen early, and as such exhibits fresher red fruit aromas and flavor, with some herbal tea, and characteristic notes of clove.We have more for you as we will follow with one of the best features I have ever done.I'm talking about the incredible Stymie Merlot from Steele Wines. The story is as good as the wine!AND the wine is the 2012 vintage.This is one of the best wines I have ever,and I mean EVER had the pleasure to drink.I will enjoy this tonight with a NY strip Steak,and all the trimmings.Check out the features to follow as we look back and listen to Jed Steele tell us a REAL horse story!Cheers!

Steele Wines/Lake County/Writer's Block/Quincy Steele

Jed Steele is a pioneer in the wine business.he has a long and fabled history of making world class wines in northern California. His son, Quincy Steele, is now the next generation of the Steele family.Today we share some of the features we did with Steele Wines,and also focus on the Writer's Block wines.I will start with the tasting notes of these wines and then we will open these wines.We start with Roussance,and then move on to 4 red wines. The Roussanne was sourced from Shannon Ridge Vineyard exclusively. The vineyard sits at 1900ft elevation and is planted on some of the steepest vineyard slopes in the county. The soils are sandy and well drained. The combination of the shorter growing season, specific soils, and small cropped vines, produce outstanding grapes.We have started with this wine and it offers a perfect beginning to any meal. I have made a small beginning course of swordfish grilled and topped with a Bearnaise sauce.Just a small amount of sauce,and the fish and wine balance with perfection. This Roussanne shows varietal aromas and flavors of apricots, pear, some mint and green tea-leaf. The wine is fermented in 20% new Hungarian oak and aged for a minimum 8 months before bottling. Notes of herbal tea, honey and pear with hints of honeysuckle and vanilla are the aromas and flavors you find in this Roussanne. Typical of white varietals from the Rhone Valley, this wine has a viscous texture to its mouth feel. To balance this wine, we keep as much of the natural acidity of the wine alive by arresting its malolactic fermentation. We now will open the Writer's Block Malbec This Malbec is sourced from the Red Hills Appellation of Lake County. The vineyard was planted in 1999-2000 on well drained slopes of iron rich red soil, remnants of an eruption of Mt. Konocti. An excellent vineyard site above 2000’ ft. planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Steel Wines were one of the first wineries to work with Red Hills Malbec. WINE STYLE & TASTING NOTES Winemaker Quincy Steele’s experiences working in Argentina inform this wine and its style. Native yeast fermentation, extended macerations, and cooler fermentation temperatures give him as much control as possible with respect to extracting. Aged in French, Hungarian and American oak (equal parts, although only 15% new). Aromas and flavors are very pronounced ripe red berry and black fruit, and spice with medium acid and moderate tannins. I like this wine and have paired it with TriTip and an Asian sauce.The wine is big enough to stand up to the sauce,and I love this Pairing! We will include one more of the wines from Writer's Block and Quincy Steele. we now will open the 2013 Writer's Block Petite Sirah. The fruit for the Petite Sirah comes from Clay Shannon’s vineyards in High Valley. This high elevation, cooler climate vineyard produces a little leaner Petite Sirah compared with lower elevation sites. Not much has to be done to the Petite Sirah grape for it to be bright with fruit and deep with color. During the fermentation we used the rack and return process to increase mouthfeel and tannin balance followed by aging in French and Hungarian Oak for 8 months. This wine speaks for itself.The tasting notes are short(as you see),and I like the fruit that comes thru,and I will start up another course to go with this great wine. The intense flavor of Petite Sirah usually calls for intense foods to match the flavors. However, since this wine is slightly lighter than typical Petite Sirahs, it will pair well with anything from fennel sausage pasta to Osso Buco.I agree with the winery! Ossu Buco is a balanced and perfect match.We will now follow this feature with a few features on some of the older vintages of these great wines. Cheers!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Drew Family Cellars/Anderson Valley/Mendocino Ridge/Syrah

We have featured the wines of Drew Family Cellars recently and now have a great feature about Syrah! We will look into the tasting notes and a little back ground on these wines,and then join Jason drew as he tells us of his Syrah(s). With such a strong background in the vineyard it is no surprise why Jason Drew sees the vineyard site as the foremost ingredient in making exceptional wines. Considerable time is spent researching each vineyard chosen for the Drew portfolio. He establishes relationships with growers who share in his enthusiasm for meticulous and sustainable farming practices. Jason feels he is merely the steward of the fruit in his winemaking. Grapes are picked when they have reached the desired flavors, while also maintaining essential acidity. Depending on the lot, a certain percentage of the fruit is destemmed while some is left whole clusters; the fruit is dropped into open top 4x4 wooden box fermentors. The fruit/must is left for a cold soak for several days. All fermentations are started with the native yeasts. During fermentation the cap of the must is punched down by hand 1 to 3 three times per day to ensure desired color and phenolics. When the must is dry it is gently pressed into tank and left to settle and then gravity racked into 100% French Oak (5-30% new oak) to begin its elevage of 11- 18 months in the barrel. During this elevage lees stirring is employed on certain lots for added structure and interest to the wine. Drew wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. Jason’s aim is to make beautiful examples of Pinot Noir and Syrah that reflect the traditional nature of the varietal, the site and the appellation and , of course to be enjoyed with food and friends! There are three Syrahs. We will tell you of two of them today. 2014 Valenti Ranch Syrah Mendocino Ridge This is a challenging coastal site with daily maritime winds and fog resulting in cooler temperatures throughout the growing season. Being only 6 miles from the coast and sitting on an east face this site produces extrordinary concentration with an elegant foundation. The fierce coastal winds lends itself to naturally low yields resulting in excellent ripeness and intensity at lower sugar levels. Made in the tradition of the northern rhone, we co-ferment with 5% Viognier from the same vineyard. The result is a well structured and intensely flavored Syrah, a wine meant to pair with food. Preferably roasted lamb. 2013 Perli Vineyard Syrah Mendocino Ridge The Mendocino Ridge is the only appellation based on proximity to the Pacific Ocean and elevation. As such, in order to qualify a vineyard must be 12 miles or less from the ocean and at least 1,200 feet above sea level. As members, these vineyards get more sunlight, more intense coastal wind and natural cooling from the surrounding fog. They are also typically on slopes with excellent drainage and thin soils. This all translates into intense wines with great structure, concentration and complexity. This classic cool climate Syrah is just beginning to show what is has to offer. It has all the crushed black pepper and wild bramble berries along with some lovely flint and leather notes. We are quite taken with this wine. Pair with roasted game or spring lamb among other savory.We have a third wine,but will open these two,as we enjoy our great feature. Cheers! Click here and join us as we enjoy the wines of Drew Family Cellars.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chef Luc LaTouche/A French Feast/The wines Of Rodney Strong Vineyards

Today we decided to stop work early and prepare as chef Luc Latouche will arrive shortly.The early summer day is very warm and we we enjoy a number of courses with Chef Luc.First let's look at the wines from Rodney Strong Vineyards.We will start with Chardonnay and move on to Pinot Noirs from this great Sonoma winery. 2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ESTATE WINEMAKING NOTES Our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is brimming with apple, pear, pineapple and lemongrass with a core of bright acidity and a long toasty finish. This wine was barrel fermented in new French oak creating toasty vanilla and spice complexities in the wine. We regularly stirred the lees during the 10 months of barrel aging to add richness and texture. The remaining portion was cold fermented in stainless steel, where malolactic fermentation brought additional character. The 2014 Reserve Chardonnay has wonderful aromas of baked apple, pineapple and baking spices. On the palate the creamy lemon meringue and nutmeg notes are well balanced by crisp acidity and a rich mouthfeel. FOOD PAIRINGS Enjoy this Chardonnay now with cheese raviolis with cream sauce, herb crusted halibut, roasted chicken, or cellar it for enjoyment over the next 3 to 5 years. THE VINEYARDS A mild, dry winter followed by a replenishing amount of rain in February and early March of 2014 encouraged the vine buds to push a little earlier than normal. The spring was warm, dry and frost free, thankfully. Overcast days became the norm in late July and August, helping to preserve berry acidity. Higher than average yields proved fortuitous in slowing the pace of ripening as the 2014 growing season would register to be the warmest in many years. We picked the Garfield Chardonnay on September 17, with the clone 15 coming in at 23.0 brix and the clone 76 at 24.0 brix. The acidity was perfect, the flavors were complex, plus we dodged a little sprinkling of rain that fell that evening. we also have two Pinot Noirs from Rodney Strong Vineyards. WINEMAKING NOTES Grown in some of the coolest areas within the Sonoma Coast region, this traditionally made Pinot Noir aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, a third of them new. This mediumbodied wine starts with aromas of pomegranate, cola, raspberry and spice, with crisp acidity and vibrant fruit and spice fl avors that fi nish smooth and silky. HISTORY Situated in the Southern and Western end of Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast is a distinct region that is directly infl uenced by the Pacifi c Ocean and is known to produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of exceptional complexity with true varietal and terroir characteristics unique to the region. Sonoma Coast’s climate means the region is ideally suited to cold-climate viticulture, encouraging the full expression of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are very different to those from warmer regions. Our Pinot Noir comes from two distinct areas of Sonoma Coast — a majority from Green Valley and the remainder from Petaluma Gap. Green Valley is known to be the coldest area within the AVA with a strong coastal climate infl uence due to constant fog in the miles near the Pacifi c Ocean and the channel created to bring that fog further inland via the Russian River and Petaluma Gap. Combined with its unique soil type — Goldridge, Green Valley Pinot Noir exhibits unique characteristics true to coolclimate Sonoma Coast and our vineyards within Green Valley help us create an exemplary medium-bodied, acidic, elegant Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. THE VINEYARDS 2013 was the kind of growing season that most would wish we could have every year: a dry, frost-free spring, a warm summer without heat spikes, and a warm, rain free autumn that allows for picking all varieties in their turn when they are perfectly mature. This Pinot Noir was harvested from vineyards in Sonoma Coast between September 11th and September 17th. We are now ready to enjoy a few dishes with these great wines.Join us as we visit with Greg Morthole,and then chef Luc Latouche!Cheers! Click here and join us as we enjoy the chardonnay first. Click here as we enjoy great Pinot Noirs from Rodney Strong Vineyards.