Pinot Days is an event that allows tasters to experience many of the best Pinot Noir wines produced from California, Oregon and New Zealand. The following wineries will be in attendance Saturday December 7, 2013. Links to the wineries are available below. Buy you tickets soon as this can be a sell-out event. It is one of the few events where the taster can learn about different Pinot Noir clones, and how different blends of those clones can produce completely different versions of what we call Pinot Noir wine.
The list of the California Pinot Days wineries:
Morgan Winery New Zealand Winegrowers Ousterhout Wines & Vineyard Pali Wine Company
Tickets can be purchased through this link:
If you can not make it to the Los Angeles Tasting there are other dates for San Francisco, New York, and Chicago.
@ November 25, 2013
UGC MAIN TASTING 2013 Los Angeles, CA sponsored by Wally’s
Note: Most of these wines were open an hour or so before I tasted them, they are are big wines, that deserve several hours of decanting. None-the-less, here are my notes. Also be aware that the pH numbers are just a guide and not meant in any way to be an absolute measure of acidity–they are just a relative scale of what I noticed by tasting them, meaning 3.2 pH very acidic and 3.9pH barely acidic.
Domaine de Chevalier 2010- Violet in color, medium density with plum on the nose and palate, not exhibiting any green notes, yet showing some minerality, (3.9pH*), relatively open, WB 92 +.
Chateau Haut-Bailly 2010-, Red in color. impressive depth on the nose, layered plum on the nose and palate. Musky, yet manly and racy at the same time.. Medium density. (3.6pH*), some minerality, open. Long finish of over 15 seconds. One of my favorites of the tasting. WB 96+
Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion 2010- Violet color, medium to medium-light density, lemony blackberry on the palate, silky tannins, (3.4pH*), open, with some minerality, WB 92+
Chateau Pape Clement 2010- Violet color, very integrated, medium density, chalky on palate, med-high minerality, (3.75pH*), WB 94
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2010- Candied asparagus, with a good underbody/backbone tannic structure (provided by merlot?), medium density, lemony blackberry on nose and palate, somewhat green, (3.6pH*), longer finish of 15 seconds.WB 92
Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere 2010- Lime, plum and round blueberry-like flavors on the palate, lemony raspberry on the nose, (3.6pH*), WB 93
Chateau Clinet 2010- Round, sour plum on the palate, dark red color, medium-light bodied, somewhat closed nose (early in the tasting), ripe, (3.5pH*), WB 93+
Chateau La Lagune 2010- Deep backbone (merlot?), dark red color, medium-light bodied, somewhat closed on nose (early in the tasting), black pepper, spice, and dark sour cherries/plums on the palate. Some minerality as well, . (3.45pH*), WB 91
Chateau Cantenac Brown 2010- Less vinous than Brane-Cantenac, dark red color, light body, a bit watery, not green, somewhat minerally, open, medium dry cherry on palette, (3.6pH*), WB 91+
Chateau Brane-Contenac 2010- Watery, definitely vinous, dark red color, very light body, somewhat minerally, open, sour dry cherry on palate, (3.7pH*), WB 89
La Conseillante 2010- Dark red in color. Delicate on the palate, , medium-to medium light in weight, flowery nose — daffodil, lavender on palate, open, (3.8pH*), WB 93
Chateau Giscours 2010- Sweet Meyer lemon, depth of berry fruit on palette. Score?
Chateau Lascombes 2010- Red/violet color. Aromas of lilacs, gritty tannins, , medium-high density, not green, some minerality and blackberry on palate, (3.8pH*), WB 92+
Chateau Pieure-Lichine 2010- Red violet in color, medium density, pencil lead on palette, blueberry/raspberry on palette and on nose, a bit acidic (3.8pH*), WB 93
Chateau Rauzan-Segla 2010- Medium dark red, medium density, with fine tannins, light and playful, yet tight underlying structure, open on palate with sour plum notes, (3.8pH*), WB 92.
Pavie Macquin 2010- color?, bit green on the palate, with an eclectic nose, it shows quite a bit more acidity than many of the others in this tasting, (3.5pH*), too early to really evaluate WB 91+
Leoville Barton 2010- Red violet in color, not green, fine tannins, orange peel and tangy orange on palate along with raspberry and cherry, (3.5pH*), some minerality, open on the nose, WB 92 +
Saint Pierre 2010- Medium-plus toast on nose, most apparent oaky notes of any wine in this tasting. , Aromas of coffee and chocolate also present, red-violet in color, with medium to high density, showing minerality, and orange citrus on palate, (3.7pH*) WB 94+
Grand-Puy Ducasse 2010- Medium dark red in color, with medium density, delicate yet hot sparkling on tongue- secondary fermentation?, some minerality, lilac on palate, seems like mushroom and earth tones will surface in the future, WB 92+
Lynch-Bages 2010- Red in color, medium density, dry fig and plum on the palette, very fine tannins, (3.8pH*), little minerality, longer finish WB 93
Pichon-Longueville 2010- Dark red in color, medium density, chocolate on nose, very very fine tannins, well balanced, delicate, bit hot (from alcohol level), some minerality, open on palate with a stony cherry, best wine of the tasting, (3.8pH*), WB 96+
Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2010- Very dark red in color, medium plus density yet strangely watery also, lighter brighter fruit on palate than above, bit hot (from alcohol level), (3.7pH*), less minerality than above, open on palate with dry cherry notes, WB 94
Phelan Segur 2010-Medium dark red color, medium high density, not green, open on palate with cascading layers of fruit, great depth of fruit-somewhat sour cherry, cherry on the nose, WB 94+
Chateau Cantemerle 2010-Medium dark red violet color, medium density, acidity not very noticeable on palate, picked at the moment the fruit turned ripe, it is a model wine for discussing acid/fruit balance, at this point the fruit, though lush and brooding, seems to overpower the acid, later after aging for 2-3 years the fruit balance with acid should be more even. The improvement on fineness of tannins over previous years (probably due to the use of all French oak vs. some American and some French), beauty of fruit, and the price point make this the wine buy of the tasting, (3.85pH*), WB 92-93.
La Tour Blanche 2010- Dessert wine with white grapefruit on the palate and nose, with very good acidity, WB 92
Note: Most of these wines were open an hour or so before I tasted them, they are are big wines, that deserve several hours of decanting. None-the-less, here are my notes. Also be aware that the pH numbers are just a guide and not meant in any way to be an absolute measure of acidity–they are what I noticed by tasting them.
@ January 23, 2013
As with previous ratings with a range, it means that either the wine was closed and not revealing itself, or that the wine was so new, as in a barrel sample, that it is really too early to pinpoint a rating.
2009 The Hilt Chardonnay Old Guard. Light yellow in color, the 2009 The Hilt Chardonnay offers up scents of flowers, ripe lemon and a hint of reduction. Medium-bodied, a bit four-square at the moment, with a distinct stoniness in the mid-palate, it requires 1-2 years of cellaring prior to consumption. WB 90.
2009 Flor de Jonata. Light golden-colored Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend, with telltale fresh cut grass aromatics, the 2009 Flor is waxy, yet minerally in the mouth. Finishes fairly short, with some bitter, somewhat detracting quinine-like element. WB 89.
2009 The Hilt The Vanguard Pinot Noir. Aromatics of flowers and red cherries transition into a medium-bodied wine with gentle grip and red raspberry-infused mid-palate. A mix of 667/777 clones, the modern-styled Vanguard is ready to drink now. WB 90.
2007 Jonata Todos. A real everything-but-the kitchen-sink blend, the Syrah/Cabernet-heavy 2007 Todos boasts a nearly impenetrable red/black color. Aromatically, the nose is dominated by bacon fat and smoke. On the palate, minerals, cassis combined with a good degree of refinement and persistence make this wine a winner. WB 92.
2005 Jonata Sangre. A an inky purple, syrah-based wine, the Sangre offers up subdued notes of grilled meat, charcoal and incense. Full-bodied on the palate, with massive tannins and good fruit concentration, it needs to be forgotten about for at least five years. Mostly closed at present, its Cornas-like personality will eve eventually re-emerge for the patient connoisseur sometime down the road. WB 93.
2009 Jonata El Desafio. A deep purple/red color characterizes this Bordeaux-like blend from Jonata. Faint aromas of cassis, red berries and licorice suggest that the wine has entered a dormant state. The palate is characterized by a dense core of fruit, good degree of refinement and big, clamping tannins on the finish. Like the Sangre, this will benefit from and reward 5+ years of cellaring. WB 92+.
Paul Lato Wines
2011 Sierra Madre Vineyard Chardonnay “Le Souvenir”. Flowers, citrus and stone dominate this well-crafted chardonnay from Paul Lato. A seamless texture, medium body and a long finish make for a well-crafted wine that requires a year or two to come together. A second sample from a Francois Frères barrel exhibited better integration and even more cut and definition. WB 92-94.
2011 Pisoni Vineyard Chardonnay “East of Eden”. A mere 4-barrel lot, the big-bodied, minerally Chardonnay is certainly an impressive debut. Packed with power and stoniness, yet highly refined, with a suave tactile feel and a long, cascading finish, it is reminiscent of a top-flight Corton-Charlemagne with a bit of extra oomph! WB 93-96.
2011 Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Chardonnay “Belle du Jour”. Light yellow. This is yet another impressive Chardonnay from Paul Lato. A slightly reductive note gives way to apples, white flowers and hints of Meyer lemon. Huge-bodied and powerful, with lots of obvious minerality that permeates every nook and cranny on the long, delineated finish that is characterized by superb acidity. Might not be better than the 2010 version, but certainly in the same league. WB 93-95.
2011 Gold Coast Vineyard Pinot Noir “Duende”. Light red. A light-bodied pinot noir, with ample cherries, dried spices and minerals, the Duende has immense upfront appeal. Finishes cleanly with moderate length and no sense of heaviness. This one will drink well on release. WB 90-92.
2011 Zotovich Vineyard Pinot Noir “Seabiscuit”. Dark red. A bouquet of fresh-cut flowers and red raspberries jumps from the glass of the 2011 Zotovich Pinot Noir. Beautifully layered on the palate, with a mélange of red and black cherries and copious minerals that simply refuse to fade away from the long, resonant finish. Incredible elegance and purity here. WB 93-96.
2011 Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Pinot Noir “Alegria”. Dark garnet. Slightly more closed aromatically than the Zotovich, Hilliard Bruce is notable for its big, and rather sweet inner core of fruit that is deftly balanced by firm acidity in a cashmere-like texture. Finishes very long with a whiplash of flavors, but really should be cellared for several years prior to consumption. WB 93-95.
2011 Sierra Madre Vineyard Pinot Noir “The Prospect”. Very dark red. Huge, nearly ostentatious aromas of roses and marinated cherries are almost overpowering. In the mouth, a superb texture, with lots of sweet fruit, nearly over the top, yet somehow the shows enough acidity to balance things out nicely on the long and layered finish. I suspect that with some cellar time will be really beneficial here, as the starting materials are superb. WB 94-96.
2011 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir “Lancelot”. Deep red. From the very first sniff of spring flowers all the way through to the long, kaleidoscopic finish, one cannot help but think that the 2011 Lancelot personifies greatness. With tremendous concentration, a diaphanous, caressing texture, and mind-boggling complexity that is readily apparent even at this embryonic stage, it may well be the greatest Pinot Noir that Paul Lato has yet crafted. A true standout even in this exalted portfolio. Grand Vin! WB 96-98.
2011 John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir “Atticus”. Ruby red. Cherry predominates this rather forward, yet still rather primary Pinot Noir. The plush mid-palate is characterized by lots of sweetness, yet the acidity is not quite as refreshing as in The Prospector. Style-wise, this is closer to the fruitier side of the spectrum than some might prefer, yet there is no denying the winemaking here. WB 91-93.
2011 Wenz Vineyard Pinot Noir “Popout”. A one-time project, the purple/reddish 2011 Popout is stylistically on the opposite end of the spectrum from the 2011 Atticus. Crunchy red currants, violets and roses give way to a medium-bodied, distinctively Burgundian Pinot Noir that is already very complex. Finishes very long, with a lingering note of minerals. A star in the making! WB 94-96.
2011 Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir “Suerte”. A pink/red color, and an abundance of cherries, cranberries and hints of rose characterize the 2011 version of the Suerte, one of the highest production wines from Paul Lato. Medium-bodied, refined, and already displaying good complexity, this is another winner. WB 93-95.
2011 Larner Vineyard Grenache “Lumiere”. From a new oak barrel, the translucent red 2011 Grenache comes across as a delicate, Pinot Noir-like concoction. With aromas of garrigue, incense and exotic spices, a medium body and wonderful refinement, the wine has a lot going for it. Finishes long, with some wood notes that have yet to be absorbed. A pretty wine that needs to be cellared for 2-3 years. WB 93-95.
2011 Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah “Il Padrino”. Very dark red. Typical Syrah aromas of bacon fat and black olives yield to a smooth-as-silk mouth feel, with copious minerals, black cherries and smoked meat making themselves present all the way to the very long finish. This tremendous Hermitage-like Syrah will benefit from several years of cellaring. WB 94-96.
2011 Larner Vineyard Syrah “Cinematique”. Nearly impenetrable red. Soaring aromatics of violets, barbeque smoke and bacon fat are easy to find in the 2011 Cinematique. Like the Il Padrino and most of the rest of Paul Lato’s lineup, the wine is seamlessly-textured, with a mélange of red and black plums, powdered stone and admirable precision and lift that continue through all the way to the nearly endless finish. Clearly in the very upper echelon of Syrahs made in California today. WB 95-97.
Tablas Creek Winery
2011 Marsanne. Faint yellow. Slightly waxy, with hints of white flowers and ginger. Medium-bodied, well balanced, refreshing and uncomplicated on the palate. Will drink well for several years. WB 90.
2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. Light yellow in color, with lanolin, lychee, and a floral note. Medium-bodied, fairly deep on the mid-palate, with a 20+ second finish. At once more sophisticated and polished than the Marsanne. WB 91.
2011 Cote de Tablas Creek Blanc. Highly translucent yellow. Marked by considerable reduction and difficult to evaluate. What is clear is that there is good density, underlying stone and minerality, and fine texture. If the bottling recovers from the reductive notes, it could be better than indicated here. WB 88+(?).
2011 Patelin de Tablas. A dark red GSM blend composed of 29% Grenache, 52% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre and the balance Counoise and other less popular Rhone varietals, the Patelin is notable for aromas of smoked meats and hints of dark plum. Medium-bodied, with gentle grip, this is ready to be drunk now. WB 89.
2010 Cotes de Tablas Creek. A step up in concentration and refinement from the Patelin, the 2010 Cotes de Tablas Creek red is another G/S/M blend that displays aromas of grilled meat, olives and a barnyard-like component. Exhibiting good refinement, this medium-bodied wine sinuously lingers on the palate for 15 seconds before fading away. This could be drunk now, or cellared for up to a decade. WB 91.
2010 Counoise. Violets, exotic spices and Zinfandel-like cotton candy aromas make up the aromatics of the 2010 Counoise. A cherry-infused mid-palate, hints of charcoal and a fairly long spicy aftertaste contribute to the unique character of the wine. WB 91.
2010 Mourvedre. Very dark red, the 100% Mourvedre cuvee from Tablas Creek is nearly completely closed aromatically. Only with vigorous swirling do the aromas of underbrush, flowers, and slight reduction can be discerned. What it lacks in the olfactory sensations is made up for on the full body that is crammed with marinated black cherries, a good dose of minerals and spices. This requires at least 3-4 years in the cellar prior to consumption. WB 92.
2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Red. Deep garnet. Subdued nose of burning embers, grilled meat and plums. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate, with a clear step up in refinement over the preceding wines. Finishes very long, with mounting grip. 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 21% Syrah and 4% Counoise. WB 93+.
2010 En Gobelet. Deep ruby. Restrained aromas of stewed cherries intermixed with incense. Big-bodied, with clamping tannins and a long finish. More impressive than pleasurable at present. WB 92.
2010 Tannat. Nearly impenetrable black. Blackberries, licorice, subtle charcoal are all to be found, at present surrounded by a massive wall of tannin. Finishes long, with very drying but spherical tannins. Will require a long time for the tannins to melt away. WB 91+.
2010 Vin de Paille “Sacrerouge”. Amber/gold hue. Sweet candy and hints of apricot on the nose and a palate not dissimilar from fruit compote in the mouth. Burned sugar-like notes present as well on the long finish. Just enough acidity to make it not cloying. WB 92.
2011 Chardonnay Heintz Vineyard. Light yellow. Flowers, citrus zest and gunpowder flow into a medium-bodied, refined wine with ample minerality and a long finish with great cut. The 2011 Heintz’s cool-climate pedigree would make it an ideal ringer for a premier cru-level Puligny Montrachet from the Cote d’Or. WB 92.
2011 Chardonnay Martin Ray Vineyard. Light gold. Slightly reduced aromas of flowers and citrus fruits. In the mouth the Martin Ray is slightly oily, with a bigger body than the Heintz, and has a rapier-like mineral streak that cuts a wide swath across the palate. Excellent refinement and density make this standout wine an ideal candidate for several years of bottle aging. WB 93+.
2011 Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard. Bright gold. Lemon peel, ginger, and hints of grilled nuts and matchstick jump from the glass of the 2011 Porter Bass Chardonnay. Medium- to full-bodied, with considerable minerality and excellent refinement that lead to an exceptionally long, stone-infused finish. Think of it as a Sonoma Coast version of a top-flight Corton-Charlemagne or Chevalier-Montrachet — it is that good! WB 94+.
2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Violets, red cherries and exotic spices combine to form the flavor profile of the 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This challenging vintage produced an excellent, ready to drink wine that is light on its feet, with a medium body and good persistence. WB 92.
2012 Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir. Vinified with 50% whole clusters, the 2012 Hellenthal comes across as a wine with high purity of flavor, with an undercurrent or crunchy red cherry and cranberry fruit. Even at this early stage, it appears to be well balanced and destined for success. WB 91-93.
2012 Porter-Bass Pinot Noir. Beautiful aromas of dried cherries soar from the glass of the 2012 Porter Bass Pinot Noir. Medium-bodied on the palate, with gorgeous fruit purity, cashmere-like texture and impeccable balance, this one is destined for greatness. A hugely promising inaugural vintage! WB 93-96.
2012 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon. There are roughly 3 barrels of 2012 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from 90 year-old vines in the eponymous vineyard high in the Santa Cruz mountains. Reticent aromas of cassis give way to a medium-bodied palate with licorice, slight leafiness and minerals. Offers good grip on the long finish. About as far from the overdone, heavily oaked Napa cult Cabernets as one could get. WB 92-94.
2009 Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon. Very dark red. Cassis and smoke predominate the aromatics of Larry Fairchild’s GIII Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep and vinous, with a hefty mineral streak, but gracious and svelte at the same time. Finishes long, with mounting but noble tannins. A big success in this challenging vintage. WB 93+.
2009 Sigaro Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep crimson. Lead pencil, blackberries and a complicated floral component give the Sigaro Cabernet Sauvignon a personality on all its own. Layered and complex, earthy, with superb mouth feel and a near-regal texture push the refinement level a notch or two past its Georges III stable mate. Impeccably balanced, and not at all heavy or overripe like some valley floor Cabernets. Bravo! WB 96.
2011 De La Guerra Chardonnay. Pale yellow in color, the De La Guerra Chardonnay represents the young vines selection from the Hyde vineyard in Carneros. Raised in all neutral oak, the De La Guerra displays an impressive mineral edge, a fairly deep mid-palate and a moderate length finish with bracing acidity. An excellent North Coast Chardonnay. WB 91.
2009 HDV Chardonnay Estate. White flowers and some reduction notes are prevalent on the nose of the 2009 Estate. Medium-bodied, crammed with citrus fruits, minerals and hints of green apple, the Estate is more refined, dense, and complex than the De La Guerra. Finishes very long – at least 30 seconds – with powerful, palate-cleansing acidity. This will repay several years of cellaring. WB 93.
2008 Californio Syrah. Purple-tinged red. Some olive aromas and hints of smoked meat. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, with gently sweet, uncomplicated plum flavors that linger for about 15 seconds before fading away into oblivion. This is very good rather than great. WB 88.
2008 Belle Cousine. A Bordeaux blend, the ruby-red colored Belle Cousine gives up aromas of chocolate and plums. Medium-bodied in the mouth, with excellent refinement and gently gripping tannins on the moderately intense finish. Could use more density. WB 89.
2010 Sauvignon Blanc. White flowers, freshly cut grass and a whiff of vanilla make up the aromatic profile of the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. It is medium- to nearly full-bodied on the palate, with remarkable depth of fruit, strong acidity and some unresolved oak that will integrate in time. This serious Sauvignon Blanc has to be cellared for at least 2-3 years prior to consumption. WB 92.
2008 Coliseum Block Cabernet Sauvignon. Blackberries and vanilla dominate the aromatics here. Full-bodied, with licorice, crushed stone and massive tannins on the long finish. This one is for the long haul – I would recommend cellaring until 2018 before consumption. WB 93.
2008 Obsidian. High-toned red raspberries, exotic spices and even a hint of lead pencil on the complex aromatics. Big-bodied and exhibiting superior refinement, the 2008 Obsidian flows seamlessly over the palate, in the process engaging the senses, never letting go all the way to the outrageously long and powerful finish. Fantastic! WB 95+.
2007 Obsidian. A product of a riper vintage, the 2007 Obsidian starts off with notes of violets, cassis and chocolate. Silky-smooth on the mid-palate, it carries its rather extroverted personality all the way to the very long finish that seemingly saturates every olfactory receptor and taste bud. It only suffers in comparison with the 2008, which appears to have the upper hand as far as freshness and complexity go. WB 94.
2009 Obsidian. Very ripe, nearly jammy aromatically, with licorice, toast, and some black fruits. While it shares textural refinement with the earlier vintages, today the 2009 Obsidian comes across as rather monolithic and a touch lighter in style. Perhaps time will ameliorate that – wait and see. WB 92.
Conn Valley Vineyards
2011 Sauvignon Blanc. From fruit grow in Lake County, the light gold-colored Sauvignon Blanc impresses for its beeswax, lime and stony notes. Nicely balanced, its citrus-rich medium body transitions to a finish that gently fades away after about 15 seconds. This is ready to drink now. WB 90.
2011 Chardonnay. Hailing from Carneros, the 2011 Chardonnay displays some reductive notes in its aromatic profile. Medium-bodied, with green apple, lemon custard and nary a trace of oak, enjoy this fine non-malolactic Chardonnay over the next five years. WB 92.
2008 Pinot Noir. Jammy red berry aromatics transition to a big, fat mid-palate saturated with nearly overripe cherries and a hefty dose of toasty oak. Medium length finish is marked with charred notes and low acidity. No doubt fans of big, fruit-forward California fruit bombs will go ga-ga over this, but I find the wine way over the top. WB 83.
2010 Right Bank. Very deep red. A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, the 2010 Right Bank is characterized by notes of espresso, chocolate and violets. Med- to full bodied, with dark plums and vanilla on the palate that eventually give way to big tannins on the fairly long finish. Give this modern-styled blend a few years in the bottle. WB 92.
2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Nearly impenetrable black, the 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon gives off aromas of cassis, licorice, smoke and vanilla. Big-bodied, with tons of sweet vanilla, slight minerality and a high degree of refinement, the wine comes across as a quintessential high quality Napa Cabernet. Needs a few years of bottle age for all the elements to come together. WB 92+.
2009 Eloge. Very deep purple. A blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 8% Merlot, the 2009 Eloge is highly aromatic, with complex notes of flowers and menthol. It is deep and vinous, with licorice, blackberries and some oak notes that lead to a long finish with highly refined tannins. Clearly the flagship wine, and will improve in bottle for some time. WB 93+.
2008 Petite Syrah. Spicy aromatics and a huge, fruit-filled body are the distinguishing characteristics of the 2008 Petite Syrah. Well-crafted, with no sense of alcohol despite it being well in excess of 15%. While enjoyable now, this has a long life ahead of it. WB 92.
2006 Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe, nearly jammy aromas of red raspberry and camphor. Lots of bitter oak on the palate, with clamping tannins on the finish. This one seems imbalanced, but perhaps it needs more time. Hard to say if the fruit will outlive the tannin here. WB 84-86.
2009 Bancroft Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Black raspberry and incense notes of moderate intensity characterize the nose. Black fruit on the entry, with toasty oak on the mid-palate and a fairly short finish. A bit heavy-handed. WB 88.
2009 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Purple hued. Sweet cherries, underbrush and some spicy wood dominate the 2009 Private Reserve Cabernet. While the wine exhibits good refinement, it is lacking the density of previous top vintages such as 2007, 2005 etc. Needs some cellar time, but will never be a blockbuster. WB 91.
1996 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The 1996 vintage of the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon opens up with marinated cherries, spices and some mustiness. Suave on the palate, with a medium to full body and a long, minerally finish, the wine is clearly in its drinking window. Presence of some tannin on the long finish shows that the wine will last for at least another decade, though I am not sure that it will improve from this point on. Quality-wise, it is just a hair below the terrific duo of 1991 and 1994. WB 94.
2007 Nightingale. Apricots and sweet beeswax aromas give way to a super-sweet palate, with good acidity and a promising future. At the moment the wine is a bit four-square, but should gain in complexity with some aging. One of the best Nightingales in recent years. WB 93.
1995 Nightingale. Dark amber in color. Honey and butterscotch notes befitting of a fully mature wine on the downslope of its useful drinking window. Very heavy on the butterscotch on the palate, with some orange peel mixed in for good measure. This should be consumed now. WB 90.
2011 Riesling. There are 1,500 cases of the 2011 Riesling, a wine that gives off aromas of sweet candy, flowers, apricots and peaches. Good minerality on the palate, this simple but quaffable wine drops off quickly in the mouth. Quality-wise, think mid-level QbA. WB 88.
2011 Sauvignon Blanc. A 500-case cuvee, the pale yellow 2011 Sauvignon Blanc starts off with a hypothetical mix orange rinds and considerable grassiness. Light-bodied and ungenerous on the palate, with high acidity, a steely personality and a short finish, the wine could seemingly use some more fruit. WB 86.
2010 Chardonnay. Light Yellow. Green apples and a light body characterize this Chardonnay. It is quite acidic, with a tart fruit and a moderately intense finish. Somewhat reminiscent of a North Coast version of a good villages-level Chablis, enjoy this non-malolactic Chardonnay over the next decade. WB 89.
2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. A ruby-red blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, the 2009 Napa Cabernet is aromatically demure, with some flowers apparent after considerable coaxing. The palate is characterized by red raspberries, plums and is of decidedly medium weight. Sound acidity is evident on the medium length finish. WB 90.
2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. A slightly smoky nose, with copious blackberries and licorice on the medium to full-bodied palate are the hallmarks of the 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The flagship wine exhibits a good degree of refinement and a long finish which is at present dominated by a late note of red cherries and minerals. This will reward considerable cellaring. WB 93.
2010 Chardonnay. The gold-colored 2010 Chardonnay sees 80% new oak. Smoky, with hints of butter, citrus and minerals, it already exhibits good depth and complexity, in a no-holds-barred style. Good acidity marks the finish of this solidly made wine. WB 91.
2009 Proprietary Red. A Bordeaux-style blend, the deep red-colored 2009 Proprietary Red is a meaty, full-bodied wine, with a good dose of vanillin oak accompanying its big-fruited personality. It will require a few years to settle down and absorb the oak before it is drinkable. WB 90.
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. This rather modern-styled Cabernet assembled from fruit hailing from a wide variety of Napa valley vineyards is big, meaty and full-bodied. Like the 2009 Proprietary Red, it needs to absorb a good amount of oak before it is ready for prime time. However it is better balanced and more promising. WB 91.
2010 Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon. Ruby-red. Restrained aromas of spicy red berries characterize the 2010 Georges III. Medium- to full-bodied, with good refinement, it finishes with reasonable length and good intensity. A nice, if not profound example of this bottling. WB 92.
2010 Beckstoffer To-Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon “South Block”. Flowers, Asian spices and black raspberries emanate from the glass of the South Block Cabernet. Very plush in the mouth, with spices, earth, and great energy and balance. Finishes very long, with a whiplash of minerals and late-arriving tannins. Great stuff, but requires years in the cellar. WB 95.
2010 Beckstoffer To-Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon “North Block”. This wine opens up with a nearly jammy, sweet nose of black cherries and hints of smoke. Liqueur-like on the mid palate, with a very long, graceful finish – not a hard edge to be found here. Could not be more different in style from the previous wine, yet of a very high quality nonetheless. WB 94.
2010 Era. A flagship Bordeaux blend, the 2010 Era is stacked and packed with sweet fruit on the nose and palate. Very full-bodied, with excellent refinement, sound acidity and a solid tannic spine that carries on all the way through to the long, fine-grained finish. This impressive concoction will require 10+ years of cellaring prior to consumption. WB 94+.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard. Deep purple in color, the 2010 Stagecoach starts off with lifted aromas of smoked meat, crushed blackberries and a faint hint of violets. Suave in the mouth, with licorice, underbrush and great harmony and balance. A long finish with massive tannins hints at a slow evolution in bottle. WB 94.
2010 Syrah. Bacon fat, Kalamata olives and smoked spices could discerned in the aromatics of the 2010 Syrah. Sweet on the entry, the wine expands in the mouth, with a raw meat-like component standing out among the rest. Finishes with good, but not outstanding length. While approachable early, this will likely improve a bit in the bottle. WB 92+.
2007 Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon. Very dark, nearly impenetrable red. Deep currants, minerals and blackberries make up the 2007 Black Cat. Not overdone by any means in this vintage, the wine exhibits good energy in the mouth, with some licorice and plums intermixed with considerable underlying minerality. Finishes quite long with considerable tannins. This should be allowed to sleep in the cellar until 2017. Might be the best Black Cat to date. WB 93+.
2009 Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby-red. Red raspberries dominate the aromatics here at the moment. Lighter in density than the 2007, with a slight liqueur-like quality, the wine glides gently across the palate to a moderate-intensity finish with building tannins. This will require a few more years of slumber, but will not approach the heights of either 2007 or 2010. WB 91.
2010 Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark ruby-red. Rather restrained aromatically, the 2010 Black Cat comes off with a Pauillac-like nose of cassis, spiced plum and a whiff of flowers. Very elegant in texture, with a great balance and refinement which carries all the way through to the long finish. This is a very young and promising vintage which may in time eclipse the 2007 – no small feat! WB 93+.
@ December 24, 2012
We again are using the same “Wine and Beer Tasting” rating scale denoted by the WB prefix. Note if the rating includes a ” ? “ that means that the wine seems to be in a state of change and it could (and usually does) go higher up the rating scale, but at the time of tasting, we were not sure.
2009 Zotovich Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills
Light golden yellow. Light- to medium-bodied, with easygoing apple notes and a hint of smoke. Good acidity, with considerable minerality that when coupled with the rather lean palate creates a sense of overall austerity. WB 89.
2008 Zotovich Pinot Noir Estate
Garnet. Aromatics of dark cherries, cranberries and smoke. Medium-bodied, with a red fruit character that eventually gives way to a 15-second finish of moderate intensity and duration. This bottling sees 35% new oak (medium+ toast), which is nearly completely integrated. WB 90.
2008 Zotovich Syrah
Ruby red. Rather reticent aromas of black olives and minerals transition to a peppery, dense mid-palate that is chock-full of minerals. Finishes with a whiplash of big tannins which will require a few years to tame. WB 90+.
2010 Moretti Bianchetto
Very light yellow. Clean aromas of white pears and acacia flowers. Medium-bodied in the mouth, with good acidity throughout. Finishes crisply with briefly lingering minerals. This pleasant, uncomplicated drink is best consumed over the next few years. WB 88.
2010 Moretti Rosso Mio
Light Red. A blend of 60% Dolcetto, 30% Barbera and 10% Nebbiolo, the Rosso Mio exhibits aromatics of rose petals, red berries and a whiff of minerals. Medium-bodied, with considerable oak masking red fruit flavors, but good acidity. This may improve with a year or two of cellaring, but the overall oakiness is troublesome. WB 87.
2009 Dolina Pinot Noir
Light Red. Raspberry, underbrush, and cranberries can all be found in this elegant Pinot Noir. Light bodied in the mouth, with raspberries and spices predominating throughout. Solid acidity and a deft touch complete this wine crafted by the winemaker for Rozak Estate. WB 91.
2009 Thorne Pinot Noir Rio Vista
Red ruby. Very ripe nose of red cherries and candied raspberries. Fruit-forward on the palate, with nearly cloying compote-like flavors. Low acidity makes this difficult to drink. Some may like this style better than I. WB 85.
2006 Kenneth Crawford Syrah Lafond Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
Very dark red. Mostly closed aromatically, but with some swirling, aromas of black olives and minerals emerge from the glass. Rather dense in the mouth, with earth, tapenade, and vitamins that are complemented by a toasty note. This rather refined wine will benefit from some cellar time. WB 91+.
2007 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay
This deep golden Chardonnay spent 28 months in barrel. Distinguished by aromas of lemon and powdered stone, it is medium bodied in the mouth and exhibits serious cut. Finishes with a strong limestone aftertaste. WB 91.
2006 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay
Light gold. Aromas of lime, minerals and flowers. Nearly full-bodied in the mouth, with brisk granny smith-like acidity and a long finish. A considerable step up over the 2007 vintage, this will live and improve for a long time. WB 92+.
2008 Bratcher Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Light gold. Nose of white pears and freshly cut flowers. Medium- to full-bodied, with good acidity, with citrus fruits and a hint of nuts on the palate. A riper style than the preceding Arcadian Chardonnays. WB 91.
2007 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir
Cherry, nutmeg and spices on the nose. Middle weight, with minerals throughout and a hint of oak and some tannins. A seamless, cooler climate Pinot Noir built for aging. WB 91+.
2008 Bratcher Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
Ruby Red. Slightly reduced on the nose. Palate is dominated by red cherries, underbrush, minerals and brightness. Not much persistence on the simple finish. WB 88.
2007 Arcadian Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard
Crimson. Aromas of red cranberries and flowers lead to a medium-bodied, seamless wine containing a panoply of red fruits, earth and exotic spices. Finishes with very long, kaleidoscopic red fruits and minerals. A great wine in the making. WB 93+.
2002 Arcadian Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard
Light red. Flowers, red cherries, underbrush and vitamins dominate the flavors here. Medium-bodied, with no undue weight yet powerfully intense flavors. Finishes long with considerable late-arriving tannins. This impressive wine has years to go and will improve. WB 94+.
2007 Arcadian Syrah Sleepy Hollow Vineyard
Deep garnet. Aromas of green olives, bacon and smoke. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate,with black raspberries, earth, and minerals all present. Some tannins are apparent on the medium-length finish. 92.
2010 Paul Lato Chardonnay Sierra Madre Vineyard
Medium yellow. This very impressive Chardonnay is chock-full of yellow fruit, yet is almost steely in character, with bracing acidity and a hint of vanilla on the long finish. Medium-bodied and impeccably refined, this will be superb with a bit of bottle age. Well done! WB 93-95.
2010 Paul Lato Chardonnay Hilliard Bruce Vineyard “The Outlier”
As good as the Sierra Madre Chardonnay is, it is dwarfed by “The Outlier”. Soaring aromatics of white flowers, citrus and a trace of gunpowder characterize this exciting Chardonnay. It possesses a huge body, a mid-palate crammed with wet stones, powerful acidity and a seemingly endless finish. Too bad there are only three barrels of this stupendous juice. WB 95-97.
2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Sierra Madre
Dark cherries, earth and slightly medicinal notes characterize this silky-smooth, medium bodied Pinot Noir. Medium-bodied and utterly seamless, if a bit youthfully reserved at the moment, it finishes fairly long and linear. Will undoubtedly improve once in bottle. WB 92-94.
2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Hilliard Bruce Vineyard
Dark red. Red raspberry, spices and flowers can all be found in this medium-bodied, silky and elegant Pinot Noir. Impeccably balanced, with a solid core of red fruit that transitions to a long, complex finish. Demonstrates superior fruit purity and winemaking. WB 94-96.
2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard
Unlike the Hilliard Bruce bottling, the Solomon Hilliard Pinot Noir comes across as distinctively dark-fruited. A serious, brooding wine, with good density of black currents and a touch of spices. Silky smooth on the palate, where it glides effortlessly and saturates every nook and cranny of the palate. Delicious. WB 94-96.
2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard
Deep red in color, the 2010 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir is heart-breakingly beautiful. Seemless on the entry, light on its feet yet powerful at the same time, it unleashes a wave upon wave of juicy red and black raspberries, flowers, minerals ,and aromatic herbs, all of which are accompanied by powerful, refreshing acidity. Somehow, it all comes together in just the right way, with balance and harmony that may cause one to shake their head in disbelief. This tour-de-force Pinot Noir has a long and promising life ahead of it, for those lucky enough to latch onto a bottle or two. WB 95-97.
2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Zotovich Vineyard
Red cherries, violets, and earth can all be discerned in the Zotovich Pinot Noir. Like the other wines in Paul Lato’s stable, the refinement and purity of the fruit come through to the forefront, all wrapped up in a cashmere-like texture that is all but irresistible. This may be better than the 2009, and that’s saying something. WB 94-96.
2010 Paul Lato Grenache Larner Vineyard
Light red. The inaugural vintage of the Larner Vineyard Grenache is all about red raspberries, sweet cherries, with hints of rhubarb and mineral. Medium-bodied and Pinot-like, this very seductive wine, made in the style of Chateau Rayas, is all about elegance. A promising debut. WB 91-93.
2010 Paul Lato Syrah Larner Vineyard
Very dark red. Aromas of flowers, fried bacon, garrigue and a whiff of green tobacco make up the complex and powerful aromatics. Full-bodied and dense in the mouth, with black olives, fatty meat and dark plums all coexisting with good acidity. Fantastically polished, with a slowly mounting long finish that really packs a punch. A very impressive Syrah that will be long lived, yet is already providing much pleasure! WB 95-97.
2010 Paul Lato Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard
Nearly impenetrable dark red. Powerful aromatics of olives and underbrush can be found in the 2010 Bien Nacido Syrah. On the palate, the wine is very dense and masculine, with beef blood, black olive and lurking minerality. Finishes very long, with lots of very fine grained tannins. This one should be buried in the cellar for at least a few years, but it has all the hallmarks of a great wine in the making. WB 94-96.
2009 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc
Very light yellow. Melon, freshly cut grass and and peppery note characterize this full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc from Howell Mountain. Made in the style of Bordeaux Blanc, with big viscosity and a moderately long minerally finish, it really needs to be aged for several years prior to consumption. Note: a second bottle opened for two days displayed no peppery note and was a bit easier to drink. WB 92.
2008 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Coliseum Block
Deep red. Black raspberry, plums, vitamins and flowers comprise the aromatic profile of the 2008 Arkenstone Coliseum Block Cabernet Sauvignon. Vinous in the mouth, with licorice, cassis, oak, spices and powerful acidity. Finishes long with building tannins and a trace of wood. A great Cabernet that needs years in the cellar. WB 94.
2009 Arkenstone Construction Cuvee
Flowers, licorice and minerals can all be found in the 2009 Construction Cuvee (Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, with 8% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot). Medium-bodied, with a long berry aftertaste, it is an infant. WB 91+.
2006 Arkenstone Construction Cuvee
A dead ringer for a top-flight St. Emilion, the 2006 Construction Cuvee bursts forth with chocolate, red berries, asian spices and saddle leather. Now entering early maturity, this medium- to full-bodied, impeccably balanced blend glides seamlessly across the palate and finishes with lingering berry aftertaste. Excellent. WB 95.
2009 HDV Chardonnay De La Guerra
Pale yellow. Mostly made up from younger vines, the De La Guerra Chardonnay offers up Meyer lemons, quince, and a hint of orange rind. Medium-bodied on the palate, with citrus fruits and minerals that transition into a 20+ second finish. Dring this very good wine over the next 5 years. WB 92.
2008 HDV Chardonnay Estate
The estate sees 20% new oak for 12 months, and is the flagship Chardonnay bottling. Reticent aromas of roasted nuts, white flowers and a hint of reduction. In the mouth, the wine is full-bodied and powerful, with a glycerine-like mouthfeel. Really impressive on the very long, complex finish. This will benefit from some bottle aging. A real star. WB 94+.
2010 HDV Chardonnay Commendante
The pale yellow Commendante Chardonnay is predominantly Wente clone juice that sees 100% new oak aging. Yet, there is barely a trace of wood in the wine. Rather, this medium- to full-bodied Chardonnay is dominated by flowers, stony fruit and an ever-present minerally streak. Long and classy, with lots of acidity throughout. Very impressive. WB 93-95.
2007 HDV Californio Syrah
Deep red with purple highlights. Rather reserved aromas of olive and smoked beef that take require some coaxing to emerge. Smooth in the mouth, with lots of tannin and a certain coolness of fruit. This seems shut down, but there is no doubting that the components are all there for a very nice Syrah years down the road. WB 92 (+?).
2007 HDV Belle Cousine
Impenetrable dark red. The Belle Cousine is a Bordeaux-style blend comprised of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium-bodied, stuffed with red current, licorice and chocolate, it reveals some lingering tannin on the 20-second finish. Distinctively cool climate in personality, the Belle Cousine needs to be cellared for a few years, but will last for two decades. WB 92.
2010 HDV Cabernet Sauvignon
This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is dominated by powerful notes of lead pencil and incense. Liqueur-like and exotic in the mouth, with bitter chocolate, licorice and dried herbs all leading to very long, polished finish. This Napa-style bottling stands in sharp contrast to its more reserved stablemate the Belle Cousine, yet is an outstanding wine on its own. WB 94-96.
2010 Kapcsandy Rose
Bright pink. Fruity, with flowers sharing an equal billing with minerals. Quite flavorful and balanced for a rose. Good acidity. WB 88.
2003 Kapcsandy State Lane
This medium bodied wine displays dark chocolate, blackberries and minerals in its flavor profile. Decidedly easygoing, this will not get any better, and should be drunk up over the next 5-6 years. WB 89.
2008 Kapcsandy Endre
Aromatics of flowers, burning embers and licorice. Seamless and integrated in the mouth, with great acidity. Approachable now, but will be better in a few years. WB 91.
2009 Kapcsandy Endre
Verk dark red. Violets, boysenberries and black cherries are present in the 2009 Endre. In the mouth, it is considerably more powerful than the 2008, with excellent fruit sweetness and purity. Finishes very long, with gentle tannins coating the palate. WB 92+.
2009 Kapcsandy Estate Cuvee
Notes of dark berries and smoke dominate the aromatic profile of the Estate Cuvee. In the mouth, this very young wine is rather austere, with an almost medicinal-like quality. Nevertheless, one can sense the underlying components and the considerable fruit density lurking below the surface. This will need some serious time in the cellar, but is very impressive. WB 95.
2005 Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon
A dark mass of fruit and a huge body distinguish this flagship wine from Kapcsandy. Cassis, currants and minerals are everywhere, including on the very long and linear finish. A hugely promising, though practically embryonic, Cabernet Sauvignon that must be cellared for at least 5 more years. WB 95+.
2009 Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Vin
As good as the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is, the 2009 kicks it up another notch or two. A big, yet very refined blend of lead pencil, cassis, and spices. Unbelievably big in the mouth, with skyscraper-like texture and an unreal 60+ second finish. Already incredibly complex, this wine reminds me of a very ripe vintage of Latour (such as the 2003), and will require at least a decade in the cellar before reaching its apogee. Grand Vin indeed! WB 97+.
2009 Kapcsandy Roberta’s Reserve
Chocolate, incense, and sweet berries dominate this Right Bank-inspired blend. Super silky in the mouth, like drinking liquid nobility. Positively explodes on the finish, with a mélange of red and black fruit flavors effortlessly intermingling with very fine grained tannins. An inspiring wine that’s better than the vast majority of top-notch St. Emilion and Pomerol cuvees. WB 97.
2008 Kapcsandy Vino del Sol
This port-style wine is fortified by the addition of grape brandy. Drinking nicely already, with good acidity and no obvious cloying character, this would make for a nice apres-dinner quaffer. WB 91.
2009 Alpha Omega Sauvignon Blanc 1155
Very pale yellow. The Sauvignon Blanc 1155 offers up aromas of lanolin, wax and freshly-cut grass. Medium- to full-bodied, viscous and slightly oaky, it could use a touch more acidity. WB 89.
2009 Alpha Omega Chardonnay
This Chardonnay sees 100% new oak and suffers as a result. Aromas of melted butter and white flowers are followed by a medium-bodied, low acid, tropical fruit-infused palate that feels ponderous and imbalanced. No doubt fans of over-oaked and low acid Chardonnay will be all over this. WB 84.
2008 Alpha Omega Proprietary Red
Flowers, cassis and a hint of toast jump from the glass of the Proprietary Red, a Bordeaux-style blend composed of 36% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Petit Verdot and 12% Cabernet Franc. Rich and velvety in the mouth, but the opulence is balanced by good acidity. Finishes fairly long with some serious, late-arriving tannins. Cellar this baby version of the flagship ERA for a few years. WB 93.
2009 Alpha Omega Proprietary Red
Even more promising the the ’08 version, the 2009 Proprietary Red (37% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc and the rest Petit Verdot) smells like a blend of flower esters and incense. Silky-smooth, with plums and cherries galore, and a long, resonant finish, this is a very fine wine. WB 93+.
2009 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon
The Cabernet Sauvignon opens up with aromas of leather, cassis and camphor. Sauve on entry, with a licorice-dominated mid-palate and a long finish, this impressive Cabernet could be consumed anytime over the next 10-15 years. WB 93+.
2009 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard
Slightly closed, with lead pencil, raspberries, all wrapped up in a smooth, full-bodied package. A very promising wine that needs several years to come together. WB 94?.
2006 Alpha Omega ERA
The purple-tinged ERA, the flagship cuvee from Alpha Omega, offers up glorious aromas of incense, lavender and ripe raspberries. Medium- to full-bodied, this unabashedly hedonistic wine is ultra refined and very long in the mouth. Still needs years in the cellar, but it will be worth it in the end. WB 95+.
2009 Alpha Omega ERA
Liqueur-like aromatics dominate the latest vintage of the flagship ERA, a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. On the palate, a veritable cornucopia of red and black berries, aromatic herbs and minerals. All wrapped up in a seamless, powerful package. This opulently-styled wine can be drunk now for the fruit, but will handsomely repay a decade’s worth of cellaring. WB 96.
2010 Ladera Sauvignon Blanc Howell Mountain
Nearly clear, with pale yellow accents. A nose rich with grass, hay and lemon essence make it easy to identify the Ladera Sauvignon Blanc when tasted blind. Medium-bodied on the palate, with citrus, quince and some minerals. Drops off somewhat rapidly and abruptly on the finish. Drink now. WB 89.
2007 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which also contains small percentages of Cabernet Franc and Merlot (3% and 1%, respectively), exhibits aromas of cassis, violets, and smoke. On the palate, bitter wood dominates, overshadowing what little fruit there is. The heavy toast levels are a definite concern, and I doubt that the wine will ever absorb all of the oak it is saddled with at present. WB 86.
2007 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
Dark purple in color, the Howell Mountain bottling is much better than its Napa Valley sibling. Heavy on the cassis, with medium body and an easygoing personality (highly unusual for a Howell Mountain Cabernet), this wine can be drunk with pleasure now and over the next 10-15 years. WB 91.
2006 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Lone Canyon
Incense and black raspberry can be found in the aromatics of the 2006 Lone Canyon, which comes from a steep hillside vineyard on Mt Veeder. Dense in the mouth, with lots of black plums, minerals and a respectable, refined finish that lingers on the palate. WB 92.
2008 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon High Plateau
Comprised of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec, the High Plateau offers up notes of licorice, spices and black plums, all in a nearly opaque red, medium-bodied package. Finishes smooth, with lingering tannins that don’t take away from the current enjoyment. WB 92.
2008 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon “The Sisters”
A second label of the flagship Estate Cabernet, The Sisters possesses copious boysenberries, bluckcurrents and licorice in its repertoire. Medium-bodied and well-crafted, it is best suitable for enjoyment over the near term. WB 90.
2006 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon
A restrained, red-fruited Cabernet, which is clearly well-crafted, yet does not taste especially ripe. Medium-bodied on the palate, and marked with wood at the moment. Nonetheless, this has the stuffing to absorb the oak in due time. Patience is key here. WB 91.
2005 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon
Ruby-red. Smoke, raspberries and vanilla notes dominate the aromatic profile here. Medium-to full-bodied, harmonious, with red fruits and a long finish make for an impressive and eminently drinkable wine with no hard edges. WB 93.
2007 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon
Aromatically, the 2007 Jones Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of raspberries, dark cherries and a hint of vanilla. Smooth on the entry, the mid-palate is heavy on the licorice and minerals. Needs a bit of time, but it’s all there. WB 92+.
2008 Harris Estate Indulgence
Chambord-like aromatic essence leads to a liqueur-like mid-palate, with a medium-full body and a silky-smooth texture. A ripe style of wine, but with lots of acidity to keep the different components in balance. Drink over the next decade or so, as this is unlikely to be a marathon runner. WB 93.
2007 Harris Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Jake’s Creek Vineyard
A step up in intensity and complexity form the Indulgence, the Jake’s Creek bottling is distinguished by very ripe raspberry aromas, sweet tobacco and flowers. Full-bodied, with cherry compote-like mid-palate and a very long finish. Makes for a very satisfying wine in a distinctly ripe (but not overripe) style. WB 94.
2009 Beringer Chardonnay Private Reserve
Light gold. Vanilla, white flowers and a trace of reduction on the nose. Medium-bodied, with orange peel, pineapple and oak. Low acidity throws off the balance and makes it difficult to drink. WB 86.
2006 Beringer Merlot Howell Mountain
Ruby red. Fruitcake, chocolate and incense can all be found in the aromatics of the Howell Mountain Merlot. Dark cherries and oak predominate in the mouth, and the acidity is just barely adequate. WB 90.
2006 Beringer Cabernet Franc Steinhauer Ranch
Deep red. This Howell Mountain-sourced Cabernet Franc gives off notes of lavender, baking spices and a trace of vanilla. Medium bodied, with lots of oak on the rather spicy palate. Short finish of moderate intensity. WB 87.
2007 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Quarry Vineyard
Red raspberries and plums on the nose. Medium-bodied, with licorice, smoke and toasted oak. Finishes gently, with lingering wood tannins. WB 90.
2004 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Lampyridae
Very dark red. Flowers and cassis are ever-present on the aromatic nose, and a hint of vanilla can be discerned as well. Smooth, with licorice, dried herbs in the mouth, and gentle tannins that show some unresolved wood. Needs a couple more years in the cellar. WB 91.
2006 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve
Classy nose of violets, candied raspberries and dark plums. Sweet in the mouth, with a medium- to full-body, and a seamless texture and refinement that is head and shoulders above most other wines from this house. Long finish exudes class. WB 94.
2007 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve
Highly aromatic nose of sweet cherries, bay leaf and a hint of reduction. Shockingly sweet and rather fruit-forward in the mouth, with strawberry jam and a hint of minerals. Long finish with some gripping tannins. This can be drunk now with decanting or cellared for 10-20 years. Very Impressive. WB 95.
2008 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve
Macerated cherries on the nose, with a slightly youthful character. Then, very sweet in the mouth, yet vinous, seamless and plush. Finishes quite long with the tannins buried under the masses of fruit. A very promising Private Reserve vintage that really calls out for a few years of bottle aging. WB 94.
2007 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Rancho del Oso Vineyard
Smoke, black currants and licorice can all be found in the aromatics of the 2007 Rancho del Oso Cabernet. Silky sweet in the mouth, fruit-forward and gentle, with a medim-length finish. Suffers when tasted side by side with the Private Reserve, but a good wine in its own right. WB 92.
2006 Beringer Nightingale
This Sauternes-style dessert wine is dominated by aromatics of apricots, spices and a slight grassiness. Sweet in the mouth, with good acidity and complexity. Long finish with a tactile-like powder stone component. Excellent effort. WB 94.
1997 Beringer Nightingale
Darker in color, like a grade “A” maple syrup. Dried apricots, orange rind and a slightly oxidative note can all be found in the 1997 Nightingale. Medium-bodied, with a fairly long finish that reveals minerals and traces of vanilla. WB 92.
2004 Beringer Port of Cabernet Sauvignon
Aromatics of candied raspberries, with an occasional hint of a sherry-like element. Slightly rustic, with baking spices and a certain plumminess in the mid-palate. Good acidity prevents any sensation of cloying. WB 91+.
@ January 26, 2012
I have wondered that for years. My personal research has confirmed….yes. And why you may ask? Well over the past 6 years I have aged a number of beers. The Gouden Carolus Noel, for 6 years, in a 750ml version exhibited aging characteristics similar to old Port. The “fruit” element of the beer has fallen off dramatically, and the sugar/sweet element even more so, however, the hops, and some of the added flavoring elements (which are normally added to Belgian Beer…especially the Noels-or Christmas Beers) do remain in various amounts. And the polish….is amazing….so smooth….so lean–due to the lack of sugars–so different from the original, yet compelling. You may ask, what happened to the sugars? Typical of many Belgian Beers, when bottling, they add some live yeast. This yeast, feeds on the sugars, and keeps the beer fresh even after years of aging. After time, the yeast eats up most, if not nearly all of the sugars.
Most of the time I say a beer needs to be 8% or higher ABV for aging. Now I change my opinion, I opened up a 6.7% ABV Grotten Brown Ale (Belgian) that was 4 yrs old. Normally, I would say its over the hill. Nope….there were sufficient sugars originally for the yeast to feed on (creating more ABV) allowing it to stay fresh and remain alive. If the beer doesn’t have active yeasts and have sufficient sugars for the yeast to feed on…then yes a 10%+ ABV would be better for aging over 2 years, however if it does have yeasts and sugars, I would venture to say 6%+ ABV would work also.
@ August 12, 2011
One of the most compelling reasons for growing grapes and making wine is that the more you experiment with locations and growing regions the more you get rewarded. With a wine making history of over 300 years, Argentina has evolved from a country that makes wine for its own consumption to a Country that makes wine that now begs comparison with some of the world’s most compelling producers. With wine making at altitudes ranging from 1000 ft to over 10,000 ft in rare cases, with 3000 ft being a common elevation, Argentinean wines have good acid from the diurnal temperature range , while their warm daytime temperature produces lush ripe fruit. The rocky, mineral laden soil, at the foot hills of the Andes Mountains gives a depth to some of these wines that reminds one of Italian wines. Low tonnage per acre and the use of French varietals in addition to Malbec and Tennat, help lend some contiguity with other world wine regions while retaining its own signature palate and terrior.
@ June 29, 2011
|DECEMEBER 2010 – CALIFORNIA TASTING
With this trip up the coast of California, WineandBeerTasting.com is introducing its rating system. Scores are based on the 100-point system, initially introduced by Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate newsletter more than three decades ago, and now widely used by other leading wine publications like Wine Spectator and International Wine Cellar. Most wines scored here will be fall in the 80 to 100 point range, indicating wines that range anywhere between decent with no real flaws to all-time classics. On the latter end of the spectrum, we are not ones to liberally use three-digit scores at every available opportunity. Those scores, we feel, should be reserved for the elite few – wines that transcend time and represent the very pinnacle of this art form. Wines like the 1945 Mouton, 1989 Haut Brion, 1985 Sassicaia or the 2001 Yquem may be considered the vinous equivalent of the Mona Lisa, Michaelangelo’s David, or Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in that there is little to no room for improvement. Therefore, we feel that bestowing a perfect or a near-perfect score on a wine, especially if it is still unformed and in barrel, should be done with great caution and with serious consideration of how the wine will ultimately measure up to all-time great examples within its peer group.
In general, we evaluate wine based on the following parameters: color, aromatic complexity, purity and intensity of fruit, length of finish, refinement of tannins, and overall balance. Each wine’s note is followed by a numerical score, which represents, in our best opinion, what the wine will drink like at its peak. A (+) designation behind some of the ratings suggests that the wine possesses considerable upside, and at maturity may merit an even higher rating. Also a score with a bracket, as in:  means that it is a tentative score and the wine was not very accessible, but would seem to score around a 90. In rare instances, a wine may not be scored at all. This scenario may arise if the wine is completely closed aromatically or we feel that our sample may not be truly representative of the wine for some reason. The highlighted name designates the paragraph that discusses that specific wine.
2007 California Reds- Both in Napa and Central Coast were powerful, with big fruit and an accompanying good acidity, balanced, and generally ageable. Some select Central Coast wines showed a slightly roasted character and were slightly out of balance. Overall, though, the vintage was a smashing success all the way from Santa Barbara to Napa and Sonoma. Wines from most properties are very easy to drink now, yet will generally benefit from a few years in the cellar.
2008 California Reds- These wines varied dramatically all over the state. In the Central Coast, the vintage clearly appears inferior to 2007, as few Rhone-style blends exhibited pure, fruit-driven personalities. Most of the 2008’s were quite a bit more tannic and in general more reserved than the 2007’s were at the same time last year. The best examples will clearly benefit from a few years in the cellar, but they will never be confused with the flamboyant and extroverted 2007’s.
In Napa, some of the properties made better wines in 2008 than in 2007. Like in the Central Coast, the 2007’s are generally more approachable and fruity, while the 2008’s display more of a cool vintage character as well as more obvious tannin. In select properties, the 2008’s appear to have more stuffing and aging potential, and in time will likely eclipse their 2007 counterparts. Some 2008’s are also more aromatically complex, and more thought-provoking, cerebral wines with less flash than the 2007’s but with greater overall interest.
Dec. 2nd, 2010
The winery, located in a rather non-descript building right off State Route 101 in Santa Ynez valley, is chock-full of barrels housing primarily the 2009 and 2010 vintages. On this visit, however, we tasted several bottled 2007’s in addition to a good number of barrel samples of the promising 2009 vintage. Matt Dees, the personable and energetic winemaker has been crafting powerful Bordeaux- and Rhone-style blends for the last several years.
The first wine sampled was the Pairing, a second label recently introduced as a more affordable introduction to Jonata’s wines. The 2007 Pairing consists of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. A dark, Cabernet-dominated concoction, the Pairing is dominated by notes of cassis and licorice as well as some smoky oak. Already approachable, this wine represents a great value at its $25 price point. Although technically a second wine, the Pairing contains enough structure and extract to drink well for a decade, and may even improve with a couple of years in the cellar. WB 89.
The 2007 Fenix, a Merlot-based wine aged in 75% new oak, is one powerful youngster. Very dark in color, the Fenix boasts a nose of dark plum, cassis, chocolate and subtle oak. On the palate, a plum, cassis and a subtle iron-like note lead the way to a big blast of tannin that coats everything in sight. This serious, brooding Merlot begs at least a few years of bottle age in order for the components to become better integrated. WB93.
The 2007 Todos is an intriguing wine – a blend of 44% Syrah, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and a host of other grapes (>5), including Viognier! Dark ruby-colored, the wine is dominated by its Syrah component aromatically. Beef blood, bacon fat and smoky olive can all be found here. The wine finishes with a 20+ second cascade of dark fruit, a peppery component and round tannin. At the $50 price point, this bottling could be considered a good value, at least when compared to its much more expensive siblings. WB92.
As good as the 2007 Todos is, it is towered over by its big brother, the 2007 Sangre, a 98% Syrah/2% Viognier blend. Here, the aromatics are more powerful, while the Viognier adds intriguing floral note that is not evident in the Todos. Bacon fat, smoke and violets dominate the soaring nose, and the mid palate is marked by strong minerality and a powerful acidic backbone. At 60+ seconds, the finish is distinguished by fine-grained tannin that refuses to let go. This very darkly colored Syrah recalls some of the ripe vintage Hermitage wines of the Northern Rhone, yet has a personality that is all of its own. There is no doubt that it will last for at least two decades or longer. WB95.
Jumping to the barrel samples, one of the more interesting wines year in year out is the Cabernet Franc named Alma. Perennially one of California’s best Cabernet Francs, the 2009 Alma does not disappoint. Dark red in color (but not as dark as the 2007 Sangre), the nose is redolent with freshly picked flowers and red cherries. Complex notes of cassis, licorice and minerality dominate the palate and don’t let go for a long time. Even at such a young age, this is clearly a star in the making! WB 93-95.
The 2009 Desafio, Jonata’s flagship Bordeaux blend, had a tough act to follow, coming on the heels of the brilliant Alma. Dark purple in color, the Desafio was slightly reduced on the nose. Once past the reductive note, cassis, licorice and dark plum component were in evidence. A linear, full-bodied mid-palate lead to a 30+ second finish. A very solid offering here that is likely to be excellent given the solid track record of this wine ever since its debut vintage of 2004. WB 92-94+.
A big Viognier component (7%) gives the 2009 Sangre a violet/lavender-like lift– some might say an effeminate touch. Lighter in color than the 2007, the 2009 barrel sample is meaty, beefy and minerally on the palate. Time will tell whether it will reach the great heights of the 2007, but there is little doubt that this will be a serious, uncompromising Syrah of considerable breed and nobility. WB 93-95+.
The 2009 La Tierra, a predominantly Sangiovese bottling, is darker in color than just about any other Sangiovese that I have ever tasted. Classically-styled Brunello this is not! Once past the dark color, the wine is marked by very strong acidity, a bit shocking given its hot-climate birthplace. Strong tannin and acid really clamp down on the finish. No real reference point here, so it is difficult to tell what will become of this down the road. [WB 90]
A 100% Roussanne cuvee, the 2008 L’Avion spends 20 months in 100% new French oak, primarily in 130-gallon puncheons. Copious kiwi and lychee flavors, a full body, high glycerin and good acidity characterize this white Rhone-styled wine that is nicely balanced and could be an interesting ringer in a flight of high quality Roussanne/Marsanne-based wines from the southern Rhone. WB91.
Although co-fermented with Viognier, the 2008 Syrah Originals is a meaty, bacon fat-laden wine in which a subdued component can only be discerned with vigorous swirling. Medium- to full-bodied, with good fruit density, the Originals ends with a big tannic punch that lingers for 20+ seconds on the palate. WB90+
A flagship Syrah, the 2008 Hilltops is dark red in color. The Viognier component provides considerable aromatic lift to the otherwise dark plum and smoky meat aromatics. Considerable tannin in the finish will demand a few years in the cellar. A serious Syrah, but perhaps not as true to varietal here as at other properties visited on this trip. WB 92.
Paul Lato Wines
As the only white in the 2009 stable, the 2009 Sierra Madre Chardonnay is light gold in color. Packed with prominent citrus fruit on the nose and palate, this Chardonnay is quite minerally in the mid-palate, with some unresolved oak lurking in the background. With powerful mineral- and melon-infused finish of at least 20 seconds, this concoction would benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age. Clearly in a Burgundian style here, like a top flight Puligny premier cru from the likes of Sauzet or Henri Boillot. WB93-95.
The 2009 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard Suerte sees 100% new oak during élevage. Rich ruby red in color, with a deep red cherry and an exotic floral note, the wine is equally beautiful on the palate, with liquid cashmere-like texture that is a testament to superior winemaking skill. Surprisingly fresh in the mouth yet richly fruited, this is far from your typical full-throttle fruit bomb that passes as pinot noir in some parts of the state. WB 93-95+.
A new bottling, the 2009 Zotovich Vineyard Pinot Noir Sea Biscuit hails from the Santa Rita Hills. Like the Suerte before it, the thing that stands out the most is the incredible silkiness and balance here. Displaying ripe cherry, raspberry and intriguing eucalyptus aromatics, this nectar seamlessly cascades across the palate with layer after layer of red fruit flavors. A remarkably beautiful wine! WB94-96+.
For the first time, Paul Lato was able source some Pinot Noir grapes from the Hilliard Bruce vineyard in Santa Rita Hills for his own use (he serves as a consulting winemakers for Hilliard Bruce Vineyards). Light on its feet, the 2009 Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Pinot Noir displays the same refined seamlessness that is found in spades in the Suerte and Sea Biscuit. Medium red in color, the wine is marked by cherry cola and potpourri notes. On the palate, it is nearly weightless, but is packed with red raspberries, cherries and a hint of plums. A proverbial “iron fist in a velvet glove”! WB 93-95+.
By contrast, the 2009 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir is much darker in color. Aromatically, dark cherry, plum, black raspberry and a hint of smoke can all be found here. The serious theme carries through on the palate, where a whiplash of acidity and some earth undertones prevent the sweet dark fruit from taking over. For all of its power, this wine has the same magical refinement as the Suerte, Sea Biscuit and Hilliard Bruce. A more serious, if not necessarily better, counterpart to some of the more red-fruited pinots in this portfolio. WB93-95+.
Also dark in color, the 2009 Fiddlestix exhibits aromatics of cherry coke, black raspberry and spices. On the palate, flavors of black cherry preserves, iron, minerals and smoke are impressively powerful and complex, yet one can sense that the overall product is a bit more rugged and slightly less polished than the other Pinot Noirs on display here. By the exalted standards of this operation, this is more Pommard than Vosne-Romanee. WB 91-93+.
In addition to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, Paul Lato also produces Syrahs of distinction. The 2009 Bien Nacido Syrah Hillside is co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Spice, bacon fat and floral notes lead to a deep, meaty palate crammed with dark plum, tapenade, and some pepper. While bigger in body than the Pinot Noirs, the Bien Nacido Hillside Syrah possesses the same level of refinement and balance that are found throughout the Pinot Noir lineup. There is nothing warm climate about this Syrah – in fact, I think it would make for a great ringer in a lineup of top-notch Côte-Roties from a ripe vintage. A sample from a second barrel was equally impressive. WB 94-96+.
Finally, the 2009 Larner was aromatically closed, making it more difficult to assess. Like the Bien Nacido Hillside, the Larner sports a glass-staining dark purple color. Full-bodied and meaty, with hints of black olive, it does not seem to be as floral as the Bien Nacido Hillside. Judgment reserved.
Dec. 3rd, 2010
2008 HMR Vineyard Pinot Noir is light ruby red in color. Aged in 30% new oak barrels, the wine is medium- to light-bodied, with red cherry and currant flavors, bracing, crisp acidity. By no means overpowering, this Pinot should be consumed over the next few years. WB88.
The 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve is considerably darker in color than the HMR Vineyard bottling, with a crimson hue prevalent. Medium-bodied, with deep cherry, tart raspberry and exotic spice flavors that lead to a tannin-dominated finish that really clamps down on the mouth. This really needs a few years of bottle age to shed away some of the tannin cloak. WB 89+.
Dark red in color, the 2007 Syrah Anna’s Estate is filled with smoky beef, bacon fat and black olive aromas. In the mouth, this powerful syrah is full-bodied and tannic. Big, slightly gritty tannins make their presence known on the 20+ second finish. This could use a bit of refinement, or at the very least a 2-3 hour aeration. WB 89.
A bit four-square is the 2007 Viking Reserve Cabernet. A bit closed on the nose, some vigorous swirling reveals hints of cassis, red cherry and plum. Medium bodied, the wine lingers on the palate for more than 30 seconds. It could use a bit complexity, although it might just be in an awkward stage at the moment. [WB90]
The 2006 The Don is a Port-Like wine that carries lots of sweetness throughout, but very little acidity. These sorts of wines always confound me, so I will reserve judgment.
An interesting mix consisting of 68% Muscat and 32% Viognier, the 2007 Dessert Wine offers up aromas of strawberry, kiwi, and passion fruit. Compote-like sweetness on the palate is coupled with low acidity, which makes it difficult to drink more than a few sips. WB85.
We started the tasting with the 2009 Cotes du Tablas Blanc. A second label of sorts to their Esprit Blanc, the Cotes du Tablas Blanc is a blend of 45% Viognier, 28% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne and 7% Grenache Blanc. Subdued aromas of lemon, quince, and flowers on the nose lead to a strong acidic profile in the mouth, with bitter pits, lemon rind and overt oaky element that detracts from the wine’s balance. This is meant to be drunk on the young side. WB 87.
A big step up was the 2009 Esprit Blanc. Aromas of quince, pear and ginger lead to a medium- to full-bodied white with a slightly waxy texture and a 20+ second finish. Unlike the Cotes du Tablas version, the oak here is perfectly integrated and as a result, the wine is much more harmonious. WB 90.
Yet another notch better is the 2007 Esprit Blanc. A blend of 68% Roussanne, 22% Grenache and 10% Picpoul, it exhibits aromas predominantly consisting of citrus fruit and pears. On the palate, the full-bodied, slightly waxy, tangerine-dominated palate leads to a long clean finish with no discernable oak notes. This one will age effortlessly, but is already drinking very well. WB 92.
An interesting counterpoint to the 2007 Esprit Blanc is the 2009 Bergeron, a 100% Roussanne Cuvee that can only be obtained at the winery. This wine has the sheer thickness of Arnold Schwarzenegger – but is rather clumsy in other respects. Pungent aromas of beeswax and flowers lead to a viscous, glycerol mid-palate that is honeyed yet bitter at the same time. The rather abrupt finish is refreshing, but one cannot help but ask as to why not try to go for a touch more grace here at the expense of the big muscle. WB 89.
The final white we tasted was a 100% Chardonnay called the 2009 Antithesis. Aged in mostly old oak, the wine was closed aromatically when we tasted it. Medium-bodied, citrusy, with bracing acidity, this Chardonnay resembles a good quality Puligny at the Villages level. A good effort that can be drank now. WB 88.
The first red we sampled, the 2008 Cotes du Tablas Creek, had a pleasant note of red cherries, cranberries and pomegranate. Medium-bodied, with delicate red cherry flavors on the palate, the wine culminates with a 15-second finish and light tannin. A pleasant wine meant for current consumption. WB88.
As expected, the 2008 Esprit is a much more serious red than the Cotes above. Considerably darker in color, the wine unfurls raspberry, cherry aromatics as well as an intriguing spice note. Bigger on the palate as well, with some earthy overtones, finishing with big, dusty tannins that coat most of the gums. It is a serious Rhone-style blend that will probably improve after 2-3 years of cellar aging. WB92+.
Earth dominates the 2006 Esprit, both on the palate and on the nose. Medium red in color, with musky, earthy notes interspersed with red raspberries, meat and herbs, the wine continues to hold on with a long lingering finish that is characterized by its round tannins. A very successful bottling, but won’t make anyone forget about the ethereal 2007 version. WB91.
The 2007 Syrah, which contains a dollop of Grenache, is a dark-colored, modern-styled beverage. Dark cherries, plums, and a faint olive note are the hallmarks of this wine. Medium- to full-bodied, this dark-fruited Syrah ends with massive tannins that demand at least several years’ worth of bottle age. The only shortcoming on this is that tell-tale Syrah aromas appear to be in short order here. WB 92.
There is no doubting that the 2008 Mouvedre is true to its terroir. Filled with dark fruits, slightly spicy and gamey, this beverage steamrolls through the mouth and leaves a huge tannic track in its place. Really cries out for a few years in bottle. WB 89+.
Unlike the 2008 Mouvedre, I did not find the 2008 Tannat all that exciting. Blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is fairly tight, with copious plum and animal notes present throughout. It would need several years to let down its guard. A bit thin in the mouth, it drops off at the end like a boulder at the edge of a precipice. At this point, the wine is of academic interest only. But, I give kudos to the winemaker for trying to wrestle with this varietal. Judgment reserved.
The 2006 Vin de Paille, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier, is an alluring wine. Pretty notes of honey, ginger, and flowers lead to palate saturated in marmalade and candied citrus slices. Best part is that there is a generous amount of acidity on the finish, so that the wine never becomes cloying or tiring. Delicious! WB 92.
Even more unusual is the 2006 Sacre Rouge, a 100% Mourvedre (yes, Mourvedre!) dessert wine. Orange-red in color, it exhibits complex notes of figs and plum compote. The sweetness is prevalent on the palate, and an unusual gamey component adds to the interest here. Could use a touch more acidity. Interesting wine here, but not for everyone. Again mostly of academic interest, but sometimes experimental uses of uncommon varietals can be rewarding. WB88.
By comparison, the 2006 Pinot Noir is much better. Translucent red in color, this gently extracted wine displays notes of red raspberry, cherry and eucalyptus. Light- to medium-bodied, delicate flavors of cherry and tart cranberry lead to an acidic finish with little tannin to speak of. Lacks the polish exhibited by many of the Pinots that we tasted on this trip. Drink now. WB85.
|The 2006 Aria, a blend consisting of 55% Syrah, 27% Grenache and 18% Counoise, was ruby red in color. Marked by a light cherry note and some spice, this tasted much older than the vintage indicates. Medium bodied, with light tannin on the rather abrupt and acidic finish, this is ready to go. WB85.
The 2006 Syrah displayed aromatics of black cherries, beef and some funk. Like the Aria, this wine was medium-bodied and is gently extracted with a bright, acidic profile and clear crimson color. This really could use a bit more mid-palate punch, at it is a bit light for a Syrah. This too should be consumed on the early side. WB 88.
A varietal that I am normally not very fond of, the 2007 Zinfandel delivers an olfactory shock with notes of cherry cola, campfire smoke and raspberry. Once past the ostentatious nose, the wine is medium bodied, filled with red cherry, cranberry and slight spice on the back end. With no traces of alcohol that are so common with this varietal in general and in this region in particular, the wine ends rather abruptly on the palate. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill Zin here. WB 88.
Recently bottled, the 2001 Assini (60% Sangiovese and 40% Zinfandel) spent nearly nine years in barrel prior to bottling in the fall of2010! Much darker in color than the preceding wines, with cola, spice and underbrush notes, this medium-bodied wine carries dark fig flavors and a leathery component into a tannin-filled finish. This will hold for a while. Could not be more different than the other wines from this winery. WB 89.
A 100% Sangiovese-based dessert wine, the 2006 Riza is a port-styled wine. Sweet, slightly stewed nose of black cherry and herbs leads to a raspberry liquor-like mid palate that could use a bit more acidity. Interesting for academic reasons only. WB 84.
Dark ruby in color, the 2007 Pinot Noir has a red fruit-dominated nose with some reduction stink that is not very pleasant. On the palate, the wine displays excessive sweetness and not enough acidity. A poster child for overdone CA Pinot Noir. WB 81.
Better is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark purple in color, this Cabernet is at present dominated by cassis and Asian spices. Very fruit-forward in style with a medium finish, this can be drunk now or cellared over the short term. WB87.
The 2007 Syrah has a soaring nose with beef, olives, and camphor. The palate, however, does not quite live up to the aromatics, with a rather four-square dark plum fruit component that leads to an unexpectedly short finish. WB 88.
Darker in color still is the 2007 Petite Syrah, which in this instance is blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. With a meaty, savory and slightly smoky nose, the wine leads to a very fruity mid palate that culminates with a 15 second finish with some tannin. Could be drunk now but probably better in 2-3 years. WB89.
Dec. 4th, 2010
The flagship 2007 Obsidian, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend, is deep purple in color. Aromatically, one could easily discern black raspberries, mocha, flowers, and lead pencil on the effusive nose. Big and powerful in the mouth, with cassis, plums, underbrush and considerable minerality coexisting harmoniously. For a wine packing such a big punch, it is remarkably svelte. Finishes very long (45+ seconds), with enormous tannins. Unlike the 2006 Obsidian, which could be drunk on release, this one is for the cellar. But in the long term, the 2007 Obsidian will probably eclipse its more approachable older brother. WB 94+.
Rich purple in color, the 2008 Outpost Zinfandel (1000 cases) is characterized by notes of blueberries, incense and figs. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate, with notable smoothness, the wine effortlessly carries a rich blue fruit mid-palate to a lingering finish filled with fine-grained tannins. A young, but very good Zinfandel! WB 91.
The 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is dark ruby red in color. Soaring cassis note interspersed with a slight leafy character that adds to the complexity here. Silky on the palate with liqueur-like sweetness. Really fans out on the finish, where the big tannins and serious structure make themselves apparent. A very nice wine with considerable polish. WB92.
Next, we moved onto the 2007 Outpost True Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. A blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, the 2007 True Cabernet struck up dark cherry, raspberry and some smoky notes. Beautiful cassis fruit and liqueur-like elements seamlessly transition into a long and fruit-filled finish. Drinking well already, this will age effortlessly. A spectacular Cabernet that is polished to the max, this is a wine to seek out! WB 96.
In comparison with the rock star 2007, the 2008 True Cabernet comes across much less focused. Subdued nose of black raspberries, plums, flowers and a hint of herbs, with a spicy nature characterize this serious and masculine wine. Potentially more complex than the 2007, it is dense and filled with dark berries, with a distinctly cool climate character to the fruit, and with none of the liqueur-like sweetness that is the hallmark of the 2007 bottling. This very serious wine will benefit from a few years’ rest in the cellar, and only suffers in comparison with its more extroverted older brother. Only time will tell if it will catch up, or even surpass the 2007. WB92-94+.
The 2008 Petite Syrah is an impenetrable inky purple in color. Very sweet boysenberry and dark cherry compote flavors are in evidence throughout. In spite of its massive size, the wine shares the same polish that makes the Cabernets here such standouts. Enormous tannins on the finish beg for at least 3-4 years of undisturbed cellaring. Fans of Napa Petit Syrah should be all over this. WB 93.
A step up in quality is the 2007 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky purple in color, this very dense wine boasts lots of cassis, spice, and underlying minerality. It is also longer and slightly fresher than its 2007 Howell Mountain brother. Long finish with serious tannins here – needs to be aged for a minimum of 5-7 years. WB93+.
2003 State Lane Vineyard Proprietary Red (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot) is the first wine produced from Kapcsandy’s State Lane Vineyard after replanting. Already displaying some evolved aromas of sweet tobacco, a touch of leather, red raspberries and flowers, this medium-bodied wine is ready to drink, but will continue to evolve over the next 5-10 years. WB90.
The 2006 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard (48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc) is a noticeable step up in intensity and quality. It has a dark ruby red in color, with smoke, black cherry and plum on the nose. The deep, concentrated mid-palate is loaded with cassis that is deftly balanced by just the right amount of acidity. Not too dissimilar to a ripe vintage classified Margaux. In a word – fabulous! WB93.
A second wine of sorts, the 2007 Endre is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. A very approachable Bordeaux blend, the 2007 Endre is actually mostly (85%) press wine. Dark raspberries and plums can be found all over the place here, and the wine has a very opulent feel to it, especially for a second label. Drink now. WB92.
The 2007 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard (46% Cabernet, 46% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot) is very dark in color, especially compared to the Endre. A bewitching nose of red raspberry, aromatic herbs and sweet earth leads to a full-bodied, cassis- and licorice-infused nectar that has remarkable polish on the palate. The serious tannins arrive quite late. This is even better than the 2006. Fabulous! WB 95.
The 2008 Endre is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (16%) and Petit Verdot (8%). A dark, brooding nose of smoke, red and black raspberries jumps from the glass. On the palate, plums, earth, smoke and serious minerality are all in abundance. Not liqueur-like at all, with a long 25+ second finish. This second wine is good enough to compete with many so-called first labels in Napa and elsewhere. WB 92.
As good as the 2008 Endre is, it does not measure up to the 2008 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot). Beautiful aromas of black raspberry, plum, flowers and bay leaf soar from the glass. A big, round mid-palate is full of cassis and carries the impeccable balance into a long, broad finish. On the same level as the 2007, and possibly even better. WB 96.
The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, blended in this case with 8% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc, displays aromatics of cassis, licorice and plum that are uncompromising in their intensity. A bit monolithic at present on the palate, the wine is crammed with beautiful dark fruit and minerals. Very round tannins reach everywhere on the long finish. This is at the same level as or perhaps a hair below the 2008 Estate in overall quality. I suspect that this will be much better in 5 years’ time. WB94+.
The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon contains 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, is an impenetrable inky purple, nearly black in color. Licorice, blackberries, lead pencil and violets comprise the highly aromatic nose. On the palate, cassis and minerality dominate the taste buds. The texture here is ethereal, and a near perfect balance and weightlessness that can only be found in very few cabernets in the world. It finishes explosively with round, very fine tannins that linger on the palate for longer than a minute. Wow! WB 96+.
If liberally thrown superlatives bother you, and then please feel free to skip over the loose verbiage referencing the following wine. I am talking about the 2008 Roberta’s Reserve, a predominantly Merlot-based wine that also contains a small percentage of Cabernet Franc (4%) that left me nearly speechless. With a highly aromatic nose of lavender, plums, red raspberry, coffee and smoke, this utterly seamless wine packs a serious wallop on the olfactory senses and salivary glands. Red raspberry preserves, mocha, orange peel and deep minerality are accompanied by a near weightless sensation on the palate, leaving this taster to shake his head in disbelief as if the flavors somehow magically materialized on the palate. Really fans out on the very long, kaleidoscopic finish that just won’t quit. This is, without a doubt, the best US Merlot that I’ve tasted, and would make for a great ringer against top vintages of Pomerol superstars such as Trotanoy, La Conseillante, and L’Evangile etc. My favorite wine of the trip. WB 98.
EMH Black Cat
The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is probably a tiny notch below the 2007 in overall quality, which is saying something! Purple in color, it tastes like a cooler climate version of the 2007. Richly-fruited and well-balanced, this wine still has some oak and tannin to integrate, and really needs to be cellared for a few years. WB 92.
Our sample of the 2009 Black Cat was much more similar to the 2007 than the 2008. Very dark red in color, the wine had an expansive nose of black cherries, black raspberries and aromatic herbs. Lots of fruit on the palate, and little to no detectable oak makes the wine drinkable already, even though it has yet to be bottled. One of the few times it was sampled in barrel. Excellent! WB92-93+.
Dec. 5th, 2010
The 2005 Estate Chardonnay, on the other hand, is anything but lacking in power. Aromas of citrus, nut oil, and traces of pineapple and oak are at once more powerful and defined than the preceding wine. Medium- to full-bodied, with orange, quinine and a very powerful stony sensation on the palate is accompanied with bracing acidity. The long finish continues the sensation of liquefied granite and is accompanied by a youthful bitterness that is normally absent in New World Chardonnay, but is found in some of the better examples from Corton-Charlemagne and Chablis. A bit disjointed now, this could really improve in a few years’ time. WB 91+.
Tasted last year from barrel, the 2007 Syrah continues on its positive evolutionary trajectory. Notes of bacon fat, underbrush, Provencal spices are all in evidence. Musky black cherries, tapenade and hints of gaminess characterize that medium-bodied palate. Even at this early stage, the wine is impeccably balanced and without a sharp edge in sight. While approachable now, this too will benefit from a few years in the cellar. WB 93+.
There are only 125 cases of the deep purple-hued 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Aromas of black raspberries, cassis, violets and bay leaf on the nose give the impression of a cool-climate year. Medium-bodied, with cassis, plums and striking minerality on the palate, this is hardly your typical Napa Cabernet. Cool, deep dark fruit with slightly green undertones continue to linger on the palate for more than 20 seconds, and are accompanied by a whiplash of serious tannin that grip like a vice. If the fruit outlive the tannin, this could be even better than it is showing at the moment. WB 92.
First up was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (clone 1155). This cuvee sees 20% new oak, but it is completely soaked up by the fruit. Aromatically, this is easily identifiable as a Sauvignon Blanc due to the tell-tale grassy aromas. In addition, one could discern pink grapefruit, lemon, and flowers in this medium- to full-bodied wine that is quite fruity, but not at all sweet. WB 91.
The 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay exhibits aromas of lemon and white flowers. On the palate, this Chardonnay is medium-bodied and tastes like a liquefied Granny Smith apple mixed with crushed stone. Laser-like acidity, the absence of any discernable tropical fruit and a long, harmonious finish fool the taster into believing that this is like a high quality 1er Cru Puligny or a minerally Meursault-Perrieres. WB 93.
Switching gears to the 2007 Proprietary Red (50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot). Soaring aromatics of cassis, coffee, and lavender, play off a minerally mid-palate with red raspberry, plum, and licorice. It finishes with big tannins that beg for bottle age. But there is no doubting the high quality here. WB 93.
Even more exciting is the 2008 Proprietary Red. Although a bit shy at present, the beautiful nose can be coaxed to reveal flowers, aromatic spices and pencil lead. It is beautiful on the palate with deep black cherry, raspberry and while having a minerally streak that won’t quit. A very long finish with very fine tannins makes this a very approachable yet cellar-worthy Cabernet. A buy! WB 94.
The 2008 Era (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot), tasted from barrel, is a behemoth of a wine. Inky purple in color, with sensational aromatics of blueberries, violets, lavender, and incense, this is not for the shy of heart! Liqueur-like in density on the palate, with licorice, blueberries and ripe plums harmoniously co-existing with structural components and acidity in an unabashedly full-bodied yet refined package. It finishes for 50+ seconds with huge tannins and lingering sweetness. This is pure Napa decadence. Wow! WB 94-96.
As hard as it is to imagine, the 2008 To-Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon may be even better than the Era! Outrageously intense nose of violets, raspberries and lead pencil jumps from the glass. Incredibly complex, with a rich mouth feel and flavors that seamlessly transition from cassis to earth, from leather to smoke, all underpinned by gentle minerality. The amazingly long finish lasts for at least 60 seconds, throughout which gentle tannins caress the palate. A runner-up for wine of the trip! WB 96.
The 2008 Late Harvest wine is a blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon. Apricot, honey and peach show themselves on the nose. Fruit compote, nectarine and beeswax can readily be found on the palate. It finishes long and sweet, with just enough acidity to keep the wine from becoming cloying. 170g/L residual sugar. WB 92.
A dead ringer for a high-quality Sauternes, the 2006 Late Harvest Reserve is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. Strong botrytis displays itself on the nose, while candied oranges, peaches and apricots on the very sweet mid-palate. There is just enough acidity to keep things in check. A very nice effort. WB 93.
Better is the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve. Violet, super-ripe raspberry, and liqueur aromatics give way to smooth, plummy, licorice-infused flavors on the palate. It finishes with, big, dusty tannins. This really needs lots of time, preferably at least five years. But there is no denying that the quality is there. WB 92.
While it is too early to tell, I would venture a guess that the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve will eventually reach greater heights than its 2005 brother. A dark, brooding nose is presently dominated by blackcurrants and a hint of lavender. On the palate, this is a serious, dark, brooding wine filled with licorice, minerals and spices. Serious tannin exists on the long finish. This is already excellent, but should really be cellared for a few years to allow for harmonious coalescence of the vinous components. WB 92+.
Deep ruby-red, the 2007 Chabot Cabernet is lighter in color than the preceding Private Reserve Cabernets. Dominated by black raspberries, plums, and licorice, this wine is very fruit forward, displaying all it’s got in the first few seconds. A perfume-like nose that falls off rapidly thereafter, with a rather tannin-infused clipped finish that is a touch less refined in comparison to the flagship Private Reserves. WB 89.
The 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is dominated by blueberry and raspberry liqueur aromas. Medium-bodied, with black cherry and underbrush on the palate, the wine finishes with dusty tannins and a lingering note of spice. A solid Cabernet, yet one might expect more Howell Mountain fruit. WB 90.
A Sauternes-style wine, the 2006 Nightingale is a blend of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. Heavy on the apricot and spiced pears on the nose, the wine is dense on the palate, with fruit cocktail, mango, and marmalade flavors coming through. The problem is that there isn’t enough acidity to buffer all of the considerable sweetness on the palate. As a result, the wine just isn’t as refreshing as it ought to be when compared to dessert wines from colder regions like the Loire. WB 86.
|UPCOMING EVENTS OF INTEREST Pinot Days Southern California (www.pinotdays.com) will return to Barker Hangar for its second year on January 15, 2011 and will feature
Serious wines and serious fun: Over 90 wineries will pour more than 300 wines and the winemakers will share their stories.
Although the wines are highly acclaimed and sophisticated, Pinot Days is not a wine-word slinging, ascot-wearing wine tasting event; rather, It’s decidedly fun. The winemakers are inviting and animated. (No doubt some of them, having spent the early hours amid the grapes, will show up with a little vineyard dirt on their jeans.) The high quality and wide diversity of these wines, coupled with the passion and accessibility of the producers, make Pinot Days a very unique, invigorating wine tasting experience that will make an ardent Pinotphile of you if you are not one already. So step into your casual So Cal style and join us for a wonderful day of exquisite, hand-crafted wines and absolutely enchanting pinot people. Last year’s inaugural event was a sell out; the Los Angeles crowd fell for pinot and its
Also, the most comprehensive tasting of the new releases from Bordeaux will be at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, CA on January 22, 2011
Union des Grands Crus Bordeaux Tasting
Date: Saturday January 22nd, 2011
For tickets, go to:
MEET THE WORLD’S GREATEST WINEMAKERS AND CHATEAUX OWNERS
BE AMONG THE FIRST TO TASTE THE 2008 BORDEAUX!
Wally’s has the honor once again of welcoming over 100 of Bordeaux’s greatest Chateaux owners and winemakers to Los Angeles for the incomparable Union des Grands Crus tasting. The growing popularity of this unique event has prompted us to stage this year’s edition at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, which will allow you ample room to navigate your way through the hundreds of wines being poured. This tasting is an unrivaled opportunity for you to explore the very best Bordeaux has to offer at a fraction
Current list of participating Chateaux
Château de Chantegrive, Château Bouscaut, Château Carbonnieux
AGING WINES, WHY BOTHER?
So, what makes a wine ageable? This is a hotly debated topic in wine circles. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, and no one-size-fits-all formula that can be used to determine whether a wine will benefit from aging. However, long-lived wines do share some common characteristics. First, the ageable wines frequently have lots of fruit or dry extract in industry parlance. Whether the wine is sweet or dry, cellarable wines need to have lots of dry extract in order to age years or even decades. Freshly bottled wines are typically very fruity; yet long-term cellaring causes wines to steadily lose fruit. Wine enthusiasts and collectors who cellar bottles understand that what mature wines lose in youthful exuberance, they gain in texture, seamlessness and complexity.
Second, ageable wines have typically high acidity and/or tannin. Sound acidity is of special importance for the aging of white wines, as they are normally devoid of tannin that is present in some of the more robust red grape varietals. Dry red wines primarily based on cabernet, merlot, syrah and (to a lesser extent) pinot noir typically contain a good amount of tannin, which helps in graceful aging of those varietals. The mechanism by which tannin and acid aid in aging is poorly understood, yet those two components are often a good predictor of age-worthiness of wine.
Finally, sulfate level is important, especially in dry white wine, as it acts as an antioxidant. Oxidation of wine is typically detrimental to wine, and prolonged oxidation turns wine into vinegar. Sulfates remove any free oxygen in wine and retard or prevent oxidation from taking place. Wines low in sulfates should not be aged for any extended period of time, as the risk of oxidation is too great. Some wines have so much sulfur added to them by winemakers that upon opening they may reek of rotten eggs! One way to combat elevated sulfur levels in young wine is to either oxygenate it by decanting, or to immerse a small copper fragment (or a clean penny!) for a few seconds. The latter binds up much of the dissolved sulfur, thereby allowing the fruit to shine through.
Some of the most ageable wine in the world is produced in and around Bordeaux, France. This fascinating and historical wine-making region is explored in greater detail below..
SHOULD YOU EVALUATE WINE AND BEER WITH FOOD OR WITHOUT?
Wine on it’s own, when comparing type to type (cabs to cabs, etc), you get an appreciation for region, climate, residual, tannins, and so forth. The same can be said for cheese, such as different cheddars, the sharpness, the aging, and texture.
All great chefs seem to be of one mind, finding what works well together by marrying foods and wines to be in harmony with each other, not to cause conflict and disorder.
Remember to find your way through your nose and your stomach, always smell and taste, and enjoy.
Until next time.
We all have differences of opinion, I as a taster, disagree with Mr. Short. When I am trying to evaluate a specific beverage, I prefer to evaluate without the influences of extraneous flavors. By introducing different outside flavors, obviously you can judge their compatibility and interaction with their paired foods, but it is hard to dissect the food from wine since they can play off each other and interact with each other.
The beauty of cooking and preparing food is that it can be a collage of flavors which play off of and interact with the wine/beer that is consumed at that time; the combination broadens and adds complexity to the wine/beer and food experience. But when finding out what ingredients you are starting with, i.e. what the beverage tastes like on its own, and what the food tastes like on its own, you can then prepare a better marriage of flavor when later uniting them.
Thanks you Mr. Short for your submission.
We accept submissions, please contact Editor Peter Ronen email@example.com
Read Pass Articles
@ June 29, 2011
The March 2011 Family Wine Makers Tasting consisted of two parts, one at Del Mar Fairgrounds, on Sunday March 13, which initially accommodated media and industry and later allowed general public attendance; and a second at the Pasadena Convention Center, on Tuesday March 15th, which was open to media and industry only. Both locations enjoyed a large number of attendees, perhaps 500-1500 at once, with a total attendance of over 2000 each.
With over 200 hundred wineries, and some wineries only attending one of the two sessions, it was helpful to attend both sessions. Furthermore, it allowed repeat tasting of the wines I really enjoyed, helping to solidify my opinions.
Overall, the wines are evolving closer and closer to what I would call a restrained or old world standard, meaning that fruit is not necessarily overpowering or even a dominant component in the overall experience. Case in point is Tablas Creek, where their 2006 Syrah has a large acid component.. In fact, it was almost too acidic — and can be described as “acid forward”. This is quite a feat in the often hot climate of the central coast of California, where summer heat can literally cook grapes on the vine making them super sweet, while destroying the sugar/acid balance in the process.
That is not to say that there weren’t any “fruit forward” wines at the tasting. In fact, wineries such as Hall and Justin produced multiple bottling that follow in that style. On the other hand, there were plenty of wineries on the opposite side of the spectrum, best exemplified by Dragonette (2009 Pinot Noirs) and Longoria (2007 Pinot Noirs) wines with a playful balance of acid and fruit, with no single component predominating.
Some wineries pushed the envelope with unusual blends, such as L’Aventure’s 2008 Cote a Cote, a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) containing a high amount (20%) of rich, tongue smacking Mourvedre, causing one to stop and contemplate. This is no ordinary GSM—its eclectic, engaging, raw, yet composed with good acidity to tie it all together. Similarly thought-provoking is L’Aventure’s 2008 Estate Cuvee, a blend of 50% Syrah, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 14% Petit Verdot. It doesn’t taste like Syrah, or Cabernet Sauvignon, or anything really identifiable except for the purple, velvety–yet focused–Petit Verdot element, which will probably integrate into the wine’s broader components over time. Yet, even without belaboring unusual academic percentages and traditional categorizations, it works, and works well.
Having so many varietals spanning so many wine growing areas in this tasting allows the taster to compare and contrast single varietal wines, from single vineyards or growing areas. In this case, I tasted through a number of Pinot Noirs from Solomon Hills, the western-most vineyard within the Santa Maria vinicultural area which sits on a slope with direct exposure to cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean. With such fine terroir, it is instructive to compare winemaking styles from individual estates while still seeing common as terroir elements permeate through.
A perfect example on the influence of winemaking style can be seen when comparing Summerland’s 2008 Solomon Hills Pinot Noir with Tantara’s 2008 Solomon Hills Pinot Noir. Tantara seems to emphasize the earthy, spicy, and richness of the terrior while cradling a round and polished fruit element that is a mix of mostly ripe cherry with a tinge of blueberry, all balanced and integrated with the acid and the alcohol. Summerland, on the other hand, puts the fruit forward of the terroir, while still paying homage to it, allowing the spotlight to showcase the fruit, and allowing the terrior and acid to remain in the background. As a side note, both wines were tasted after being open for approximately 90 minutes to 120 minutes in order to allow for these individual expressions to become more pronounced.
Similarly, one is able to compare and contrast Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (grown at elevation of 600 to 2200 ft in Napa) versus Napa Valley floor fruit (grown at elevation of 50-200 ft). Quite an educational “compare and contrast” example. Cornerstone produces a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, an all-Howell Mountain fruit Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Cabernet Sauvignon with a blend of both fruit sources. By keeping the wine making consistent, the comparison is much more revealing. In this example, the Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet (vintage) from the Napa Valley floor had richer, denser fruit, with a less of an acid profile, while the Cornerstone Howell Mountain Cabernet (vintage) had more elegant, refined fruit, with a higher minerality, higher acid, and more subtleties of terroir on the palate and on the nose. I noticed other Howell Mountain Cabs, such as those from Outpost, which I sampled outside of this tasting have similar characteristics, where fruit is not as dominant, allowing subtleties of minerality and terroir to showcase themselves.
Lastly, a similar interesting comparison is found in Ladera’s 05 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and their 06 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Rarely is a wine maker able to satisfy the in-laws on both sides of the family. Here, the family from Europe that likes complexity of earth, wafting smoke, dark fruit, yet good acidity with a depth of character will enjoy the Howell Mountain version, grown in volcanic, iron-rich soils, while the Napa Valley floor purists will enjoy the Napa Valley Cabernet, bright, big, dense fruit handed to you on a silver platter with fewer “distractions”.
Overall, it is rare to find so much to try in one tasting–so many varietals, so many regions, so many possible cross-comparisons–all in a venue that allows enough time for the wines to breathe and open up. The lines are not prohibitive, wine makers abound to answer questions, distributors, and wine reps freely exchange tasting notes and ideas. What more could you want…
I wish to that the participating wineries, staff, and management for another successful pair of tasting events. Their passion to bring the diversity of product and a quality wine tasting experience to both the industry professional and general public alike is greatly appreciated.
@ March 29, 2011
January 26, 2011 — Mostly from UGC Bordeaux Tasting, Boston, MA with input from Michaela Norrman, who contributed her tasting notes from the Los Angeles UGC Event co-sponsored by Wally’s Wines.
With its panoramic views of the inner harbor and nearby piers, the Wharf Room at the posh Boston Harbor Hotel provided the perfect venue for the representatives of the >100 Bordeaux Chateaux to showcase their 2008 vintage before an energetic crowd of wine buyers, restauranteurs, bloggers and other wine industry professionals. In sharp contrast to the windswept snow outside, the warm and enthusiastic atmosphere inside the ballroom, coupled with the impeccable service by the hotel staff, made for a very pleasurable tasting experience.
It is difficult to pigeonhole the 2008 vintage in Bordeaux. On the one hand, the wines lack the overt fat and muscle of the 2005, yet on the other hand, the wines have plenty of concentration and charm, and many of the best wines are anything but thin. Most can be characterized by an abundance of red fruits in their flavor profile, good concentration, and adequate tannin to allow for 10+ years of development. What they are not is the fruit bomb-like 2003’s – not a single wine that I tasted could be classified as over-ripe. On the lower end of the totem pole, a few of the wines exhibited some green elements, but by and large these under-ripe characteristics were not in evidence in the better wines of the vintage. A few Chateaux were guilty of over-extraction, and some others wine were unbalanced, with the most frequent culprit being tannins that were too aggressive and rough. However, those winemakers that used a deft touch produced lovely wines that will age gracefully for some time. Overall, the vintage appears less consistent than 2005 or 2000, where nearly everyone made successful wines. However, it is not the minefield that is 2003, in which so many of the wines are overly alcoholic, imbalanced and full of over-ripe fruit, while others are an essentially a perfect marriage of fruit, structure and accessibility. One thing seems certain – the top wines of 2008 (and there are many of them) are not far off from their older counterparts of 2000 and 2005. In my mind, what separates the 2008’s from those two stellar vintages of the last decade is the considerable number of Chateaux whose wines are off the mark and do not approach the heights that they are capable of reaching in the very best vintages. Luckily, careful selection of the best 2008s will reward the shrewd consumer with many age-worthy wines that are the near-qualitative equals of the very best wines from these Chateaux, all for a mere fraction of the prices that those top bottlings normally command.
What follows are tasting notes on 50+ red wines that were sampled, many of them several times, at the UGC event. Scoring is done on a 100-point Parker scale. The wines are arranged alphabetically within each appellation. A good percentage of the wines were re-tasted at a private event in early February, with consistent notes. Happy hunting!
Highly aromatic nose of loam, smoke, red raspberries and oak. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied with red raspberries, earth and a touch of oak. Flavors linger for 15 seconds on the finish. This is just a notch below the 2005 in quality, but still a very good wine. This will drink well early. WB 90.
Domaine de Chevalier
Soaring, noble aromatics of smoke, pipe tobacco, sweet raspberry. Red fruit on the entry, with some underbrush and very light toast on the medium-bodied frame. Twenty-plus second finish, with refined tannins gently gripping the palate. A clear step up from the Carbonnieux. This will benefit from some bottle aging, and is far better than what the estate produced even 10 years ago. WB 93.
Chateau de Fieuzal
Smoky spices and tobacco on the nose. Medium-bodied, with red currants, orange rind and a hint of oak. Falls off a cliff on the short finish with some unrefined tannins briefly clinging to the palate. WB 86.
Very dark red. Noble nose of smoke, dark cherry tobacco and cassis jumps out of the glass. Red and black fruits in the mouth, with a beautifully round mid-palate serving as exhibit A of superior winemaking. Medium-bodied, with a long finish marked by fine-grained tannins that arrive very late. This superb Haut-Bailly needs a minimum of 10 years in the cellar, but it has all the elements of a star in the making. WB 95.
Smokey, modern nose with tobacco and black raspberry. Rather fruit-forward on the palate, with plums, cherries and earth in evidence. Medium- to full-bodied and a bit short on the finish, this Haut-Bergey is not in the same league as the 2000, but is a good, modern Pessac nonetheless. WB 90.
Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion
Deep red with some purple evident. Sweet tobacco and some serious smoke and plums on the rather effusive nose. Silky in the mouth, but linear and rather four-square at the moment, with plums and cassis making their presence known. Finishes with a good burst of fruit on the 15- to 20-second finish. A qualitative equal of the 2000 and 2005. WB 91.
Smoke, underbrush and black tobacco on the nose. Darker in color than most of the other Pessac reds, almost purple-ish. Medium-bodied with black cherries and toast in evidence. Finishes with big tannins and a healthy dose of toasty oak. I wonder whether the oak will ever be completely integrated here. WB 88?.
Ruby red. Subdued nose of smoke and plum. Rather lean on the palate, with some cherry red fruits in evidence. Finishes short and abrupt. WB 84.
Dark Red. Very modern – toasty oak, vanilla, and coffee on the nose. Lots of extract, big body, dark fruits and drying tannins throughout. Best on the long finish that really fans out. Of all the wines tasted in this appellation, this one has the least Pessac character. Nonetheless, could be very good if it comes together. Needs lots of time. WB 92+.
Very dark red. Smoke and tobacco on the very reserved nose. Full-bodied on the palate, loaded with black cherries, loam and tons of vanilla oak. The long finish is very drying. In the style of the 2004 at this estate. If oak fully integrates, this could be even better than current assessment. WB 91+?
Very dark red. Powerful and noble aromas of violets, raspberry and asian spices. Medium to full-bodied in the mouth, with dark plums, licorice and mocha, all presented in a package of notable refinement. A good, rather than great vintage of Angelus, but still one of the better St Emilions of the vintage. WB 93.
Purple. Smoke, incense and flowers dominate the aromatics here. Refreshingly cool in the mouth, with dark berries, chocolate and minerally overtones abundantly present. Finishes with medium length and some dusty tannins. WB 91.
Ruby-red. Red cherries, smoke, and lavender on the nose. Red currants, wood, vitamins on the decidedly medium bodied palate. Quite refined, with no sense of heaviness, and flavors that linger for 20+ seconds on the finish. Not forced at all. WB 92.
Darkly colored, with lots of oak and violets evident on the nose. Slightly rough around the edges on the palate, with a medium body, black raspberries, toasty oak and considerable tannin which is even more evident on the 15+ second finish. WB 90.
Chateau La Dominique
Very dark, nearly opaque red. Here too the Cabernet Franc asserts itself with lavender, dried herbs and some cassis on the nose. A smooth entry with dark fruits leads to a medium-bodied palate that is quite minerally and spicy. Lots of oak evident on the finish – if it gets better integrated (and this is a big if!), this wine will merit a higher score. WB 90+?
Clear medium red. Restrained aromas of flowers and red raspberries. Some spice on the palate, with considerable tannin and an underlying herbal streak. Not in the same league as the stellar 1982, 1990 or 1998. It may ameliorate with some years in the cellar, but that’s far from a sure thing. WB 86+?.
Deep red. Nose heavy on the Cabernet Franc components, with violets and exotic spices especially strong. Shockingly sweet and suave in the mouth – nearly compote-like sweetness that’s followed by a long, minerally finish with high quality oak and very fine grained tannins that arrive quite late. The latest installment in a string of excellent wines from this Chateau. WB 94.
Chateau Franc Mayne
Ruby red. Medium-intensity nose of fresh flowers and incense. Sweet berries on the medium-bodied palate, a little monolithic in comparison to the better St. Emilions of the vintage. Finishes with adequate length and a touch of minerals. WB 89.
Chateau Grand Mayne
Deep, dark red. Noble aromas of violets, mocha, and dark cherries. Deep and vinous in the mouth, full-bodied with black raspberry, chocolate and plum notes that eventually lead to a long, minerally finish with fine tannins coming on quite late. A very impressive young wine. WB 93.
Chateau La Gaffeliere
Dark red with hints of purple. Chocolate, plum and spice on the nose. Medium-bodied and refined on the palate, with plums, sweet red cherries and exotic spices making up the flavor profile. High degree of refinement and a deft winemaking hand go al long way here. WB 93.
Deep garnet. Wild strawberry, dried herbs and a hint of mint can be found on the nose of the 2008 Larcis-Ducasse. Silky-smooth in the mouth, with a medium body and lots of red raspberries and sweet chocolate. Finishes fairly long with some oak poking through at the very end. Thoroughly modern-styled, and unabashedly hedonistic. WB 93.
Nearly opaque red. Aromatics of cassis, chocolate, spices and violets distinguish the nose of this St. Emilion offering that hails from the Côte Pavie. Powerful and dense, full bodied in the mouth with good complexity of flavors, ranging from mocha, licorice, and plum to roasted herbs and a hint of exotic spice. Suave and refined, with a strong minerally streak that is seemingly omnipresent all the way to the long, resonant finish. WB 94.
Inky purple/red. Nicely-delineated aromatics of lavender, spices and subtle vanilla and camphor. Very powerful in the mouth, with a dark berry essence and underlying minerality that just won’t quit. This shows an exhilarating sweetness/acid balance and a very long, complex finish. This superb wine really demands at least ten years in the cellar. WB 95.
Light ruby red. Rather flamboyant nose of plums, mocha and flowers. Quite sweet on the palate, with a good density and red cherry-dominated flavors. Lingers for 15 seconds on the finish. This will provide immediate pleasure. WB 90.
Intense aromatics of violets, lavender and plums. Full-bodied on the palate, with raspberry coulis, licorice and figs all in abundance. Finishes with a burst of fruit that lingers on the palate for more than 30 seconds. A very impressive Clinet – quite possibly the finest vintage here since the otherworldly 1990! WB 95.
Ruby red. Raspberries and smoky plums on the moderately intense nose. Good fruit density on the palate, with dark plums, blackberries in evidence and adequate acidity. Some oak and tannin still need to be resolved on the 20+ second finish. This should really come together after about 5-10 years in the cellar. WB 92.
Chateau La Conseillante
Deep garnet. Aromatically complex nose of red raspberries, violets, mocha and subtle oak. Light- to medium-bodied on the palate, almost deceptively airy, yet at the same time packed with red fruit and herbs. Best on the long, very minerally finish that really fans out like a peacock’s tail. A dead ringer for the 2001 tasted at a similar stage. This will really be stunning should the wine gain weight with bottle age. WB 93+.
Chateau La Lagune
Deep red with purple tinges. Camphor, spice and smoke on the nose. Medium-bodied and very dry on the palate, with lots of extract but a rather rustic style. Medium length finish. WB 90.
Translucent red. Rather reserved red berry- and herb-dominated nose. Very green on the palate, with a strong sense of underripeness. A disappointment in the context of the vintage. WB 80.
Dark red. Margaux berries and smoke make up the aromatic profile of the 2008 Cantenac-Brown. Red currants, cherries and dried herbs on the decidedly medium-bodied palate. A 15-second finish caps off this decent, but by no means standout, wine. WB 88.
Chateau Du Tertre
Red with hints of orange. Smoky nose with camphor, plum, mocha and spice – aromatically, this could be from anywhere. Red-fruited mid-palate, not overly complex at this stage, but not overdone either. By no means a blockbuster, but a nice enough drink. WB 89.
Ruby red. Elegant nose of red cherries and subtle flowers. Medium-bodied, reasonably refined on the palate, but a bit four-square at the moment. A nice, early drinking wine. WB 89.
Garnet. Penetrating nose of spices, cassis and flowers. Medium- to full-bodied, with red and black berries, plums and herbs dominating the taste buds. A note of bayleaf makes itself apparent on the 20+ second finish and adds complexity. Not for fans of very ripe meritage blends. A notch below the very successful 2000 vintage here. WB 90.
Nearly black in color. Aromatics are highlighted by cassis and toasty oak. Full-bodied and loaded with dark fruit. Very fruit-forward with a short, 10 second finish with nice licorice notes but also loads of toasty oak. Far too modern-styled and overextracted for me. WB 84.
Deep red. Cranberry and bell pepper on the nose. Light- to medium-bodied, with raspberries and green herbs in evidence. This should be drunk upon release, and does not seem fully ripe. WB 82.
Dark red. Powerful, aromatic nose of red cherries, cassis, and incense. Sweet on the entry, with black raspberry, mocha, and licorice on the medium-bodied palate. Medium-length finish with some toasty oak showing through. WB 91.
Ruby red. Cassis, lavender, and oak all make their presence known on the flamboyant nose. A smorgasbord of red and black berries on the medium-bodied palate, with some minerality for good measure. As approachable as this is now, this will really benefit from some time in the cellar. This chateau is making some of the best wines that are coming out of the Margaux appellation. WB 92+.
Deep, dark red. Dark, brooding nose of flowers, black cherries and high-quality toast. Similar on the palate, with cassis, toasty oak and considerable stuffing. Finishes with medium length and considerable tannin. Today this has all the elements of an overextracted, overoaked wine. If it ever comes together, it could merit a significantly higher score. WB 90+?
Dark garnet. Modern nose of red raspberry, asian spices and a hint oak. Medium-bodied and quite complex on the palate, with red cherries, licorice, sweet plums and minerals. Flavors really linger on the 20-25 second finish. Not a heavyweight by any means, but what great balance here! WB 93.
Smoky, musty nose with licorice, red cherry aromas – really stands out among the other wines tasted. Masculine and dark in the mouth, with lots of cassis and dark plums, a full body with fine-grained tannins on the medium-length finish. A unique wine. WB 92.
Cassis and violets on the somewhat subdued nose. In the mouth, chunky red and black raspberries, drying tannins and lots of stuffing. The overall sensation here is that of a big-framed wine that is lacking some polish. A Medium-length finish is all bitter chocolate at the moment. Wait and see on this one. WB 90+?
Chateau Langoa Barton
Dark red in color. Some red cherries and hints of blackberries on the nose. Medium bodied and rather stern on the palate, just a notch below aggressive. Certainly too austere for current enjoyment, and probably will always be marked by an excess of tannin and paucity of fruit. WB 85.
Chateau Leoville Barton
Nearly impenetrable red. Reserved nose dominated by cassis and oak, with hints of lead pencil. Serious, somewhat stern on the palate, with strong minerality, black cherries and slight oak char. Long finish of 30+ seconds. This is reminiscent of the 1995 here, and will require 10+ years for the tannins to subside enough to provide enjoyment. This one is for lovers of traditional claret. WB 92.
Deep ruby-red. Very effusive on the nose, with currants and tons of vanilla in evidence. Silky-smooth on the palate, nearly full-bodied with copious black cherries, cassis, plums and licorice all present. Long finish with omnipresent tannins. This modern-styled cellar-worthy concoction is miles away from its classically-styled, reserved neighbor Leoville-Barton. WB 94.
Very dark, nearly opaque red. Aromatic nose of camphor, violet, spice and berries. Big, bracing tannins permeate the palate, as do dark fruits, dried herbs and oak. A 25+ second finish saturates the palate. This up-and-coming estate has really been on a roll since the 2003 vintage. WB 93.
Medium intensity red. Redcurrant and asian spice note, and a slight mustiness on the nose. Medium-bodied on the palate, with a bright red fruit character and intense underlying minerality. Some oak is evident on the medium-length finish. Solid wine that needs five years in the cellar to come together. WB 90.
Cedary, aromatic nose that screams Pauillac. Medium-bodied on the palate, with cassis, licorice, minerals and a smidgeon of high-quality toasty oak. Flavors linger on the palate for more than 20 seconds after wine is swallowed. A very nice, traditional-styled Pauillac. WB 91.
Ruby-red with hints of purple. Aromatics of smoke, cassis, lead pencil and a hint of violets. Medium- to full-bodied, with cassis, dark chocolate and minerals all present on the palate. Finishes with a 20+ second burst of fruit and tannin of reasonable polish. WB 92.
Deep red. Aromatic nose redolent of cassis, with interspersed hints of cedar and flowers. Smooth on the entry, with mostly red fruit and a hint of oak on the medium-bodied palate. Slightly shorter and less dense than Clerc-Milon, but quite nice nonetheless. WB 90.
Very dark red. Rather reserved on the nose, with cassis aromas being predominant. Medium- to full bodied on the palate, with dark fruits and toast in evidence. Some tannin is pokes through on the medium-length finish. A good rather than great vintage here – closer to the 1999 than to the 1989. WB 91.
Translucent red. Fruity nose with gentle, freshly picked raspberries and hints of dried spices. Medium-bodied on the palate, with rather four-square sweet red cherries in evidence. Falls off a cliff on the short finish. This simple, but pleasant claret ought to be consumed over the short term. WB 85.
Very deep red. Noble, effusive nose of cassis, black plums and flowers. Full bodied on the palate, with a panoply of fruit, licorice and minerality and high-class refinement that really separates the 2008 Pichon-Baron from the pack. A very long, complex finish of at least 40 seconds is a fitting crescendo for this first-rate claret. Superb! WB 96.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Lighter in color than the Baron. Highly complex, aromatic nose of plums, smoke, asian spices and violets. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate, with red cherries, cranberries and chocolate all beautifully delineated. Silky-smooth, liquid cashmere-like texture effortlessly glides across the palate, leading to a long, resonant finish that leaves the taster without any doubts about the noble pedigree of this wine. WB 96.
@ January 29, 2011
On October 14, 2010, Gaia Gaya hosted a rare tasting of her wineries offerings at the Wine House. The Gaja Winery was founded by Giovanni Gaja in 1859 and has been owned and operated by four generations of the Gaja family. The daily operations are now partially overseen by Angelo’s daughter Gaia Gaja, seen here. The bottles ranged from the 2007 Gaja Ca Marcanda “Promis” SRP $45, 2007 Gaja Ca Marcanda “Magari” SRP $97, to the Piedmont region were the 2009 Gaja Rossj Bass SRP $95, the 2008 Gaja Sito Moresco SRP $265, 2005 Gaja Sperss SRP $333 and the 2005 Gaja Costa Russi SRP $414 were tasted. The most approachable of the group was the Promis. With an hour of time open to breathe, the nose was already reaching out of the glass with a rustic, dark leathery terroir note. Quite impressive for such a young offering. Although this wine can age up to 10 years it is meant to be opened at 3 to 4 years after bottling. As Gaia mentioned at the event, it is the bright fruit that I enjoy in this wines first 4 years, therefore I suggest not to age it. However, as the U.S. distributor representative said about the Piedmontese offerings….”how long do you have to age it”, as long as you have time the wine will accomodate and grow. He also mentioned that after 40 years these Piedmontese wines were engaging and alive, impressive for an Italian offering, no less for an offering of any region. While the larger wines did show hints of their future potential, these other wines (with the exception of the Rossj Bass, a Chardonnay based wine), needed time…10, 20, 30 years to really appreciate them .It is impressive considering the medium density of these wines that they are so ageable; most ageworthy Bordeaux tend to have a higher density. One reason for this maybe the good balance of fruit to acid, another might be the sea shell/calcium laden soil in which the vines grow.
The daily operations are now partially overseen by Angelo’s daughter Gaia Gaja, seen here.
picture courtesy of the Wine House, Los Angeles
3 Attached Images
@ October 14, 2010