Archive for the 'Petite Sirah' Category

Napa/Sonoma trip – Day 2 in Sonoma Valley

Our second day in California’s wine country got off to a lazy start at my new favourite coffee spot in Santa Rosa, Flying Goat Coffee. After taking a leisurely stroll around Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square, we hopped in the car and headed toward our first stop of the day – Mazzocco Winery, near Healdsburg.

I had been emailing back and forth with Mazzocco for a while regarding a sample bottle they wanted to send me. Because of British Columbia’s antiquated and ridiculous liquor laws, it’s next to impossible to receive wine as samples in our province (I know – go figure)… so, while I was down in the area, it made sense to drop by, pick up the sample and taste the rest of the current releases.

Mazzocco Winery
It was Saturday, so that meant that both the parking lot and tasting room were chock full of Mazzocco wine fans. Candace and I made our way in and found a little corner at the tasting bar. I’ve liked pretty much everything I’ve tried from Mazzocco, so I was looking forward to trying their new wines. I’ll give something away here – I wasn’t disappointed. At all.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2007 Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay ($36)
    Nice notes of vanilla, butter, caramel and citrus lead to a balanced and crisp finish.
    4 stars
  • 2004 “Inheritance” Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
    5 years in oak produced a smoothly balanced wine with a lot of vanilla and licorice spice to the dark currant flavours.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Merlot – Dry Creek Valley ($28)
    This had a nice vanilla edge and some cracked pepper and a tonne of dark cherry/berry fruit with a long finish.
    4 stars
  • 2005 Aguilera Petite Sirah ($35)
    This was very firm and tannic, yet approachable with its licorice and black cherry/berry flavours.
    4 – 4.5 stars

The Zinfandels:

  • 2007 Briar Zinfandel ($29)
    This was the first Zin of the tasting and wow – the pure fruit that Mazzocco gets out of their Zins is so good. This had big ripe blackberry syrup with a vanilla bean edge. The finish lasted minutes.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Stone Zinfandel ($29)
    Big, delicious ripe red berry fruit with a syrupy edge and a long, long finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Warm Springs Zinfandel ($32)
    A dose of Petite Sirah added some tannic heft to this full-bodied dark berry bomb. So good.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Smith Orchard Reserve Zinfandel ($50)
    Wow. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but… again – this wine has outstanding dark berry with a syrupy edge to its long and pleasantly tannic finish.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Maple Reserve Zinfandel ($60)
    Mmmmmmm… the Maple Reserve. I really liked this (though I have to say that I really liked all their Zins). This one stayed with me just a little bit more. It had a dusty edge to its dark berry fruit with a touch of brown sugar to the long finish. Outstanding.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Antoine Philippe Reserve Zinfandel ($120)
    The winemaker’s personal reserve. Ever wonder what an over-$100 Zinfandel tastes like? Like this… or this is what that should taste like. When I reviewed the 2006, I called it “possibly the best Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted.” Well this may have surpassed it. Although the previous wines were great Zins, this was just a step above. Firm, but fine tannins cap the delicious dark fruit. Wow. Just wow.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Kenneth Carl Reserve Zinfandel ($150)
    This is just about right up there with the Antoine Philippe. This is the personal reserve chosen by the winery’s owner, Ken (Kenneth Carl) Wilson. It’s immense, with blackberry, black pepper and licorice. The finish just keeps on going. Another amazing effort.
    4.5 stars

I’d like to give a shout to Bernie (that’s her with me in the pic above), who despite having a packed tasting room, manged to keep the samples coming and was kind enough to fill me in on every wine we tasted and even showed me pics from the different vineyards.

The Zinfandels that Mazzocco turn out really hit my palate in all the right ways. They’ve got big and balanced fruit flavours with a briary edge to the firm, but not too firm tannins. Candace agreed. She picked these as her favourite wines of the trip.

Mauritson Wines
After leaving Mazzocco, I chose to drop in at nearby Mauritson Wines. Last summer, while in the area for ZAP, I had picked up a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County from them and was curious as to what their other wines might be like.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley ($17)
    This had crisp citrus fruit and a nice mineral edge to the finish. Very refreshing.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Chardonnay Alexander Valley Valley ($25)
    I really liked this. It had a crisp citrus edge to its tropical fruit that led to a long finish. A very nice effort – only 457 cases were produced.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2008 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($27)
    There was an almost meaty edge to the pepper and dark berry/cherry fruit. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County ($35)
    This had refined and tasty black currant fruit with a vanilla edge. The tannins were fine, but firm and the finish lasted minutes. This could definitely benefit from some time in your cellar.
    4.5 stars

The Rockpile Zinfandels:
These are the wines for which Mauritson is best-known. I hadn’t really tried them before and have to say that I was very impressed. They were very well-balanced with loads of spice and dark fruit.

  • 2007 Rockpile Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel ($35)
    Tasty jammy ripe red berry fruit with black pepper and really nice mineral-edged tannins on the finish. Really good stuff.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Rockpile Jack’s Cabin Vineyard Zinfandel ($37)
    This really grabbed me. I picked up flavours of black pepper, licorice, dark chocolate and juicy dark berries.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Rockpile Westphall Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel ($37)
    I got a bit of a meaty edge to the nose of this wine… but the flavours were all about the dark berry fruit along with licorice. Wow – a very tasty Zin.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Rockpile Cemetary Vineyard Zinfandel ($39)
    This is a bit of a monster – it’s got all the beautiful dark Zinfandel fruit, but with layers of complexity and a load of tannins on the finish. This is the one I tasted that could sit in your cellar for a while. Very, very good.
    4.5 stars

There were a few other wineries I would have liked to have visited on Saturday, but quality should always win out over quantity. I would whole-heartedly recommend visits to both wineries. The folks manning the tasting rooms were unbelievably friendly and the wines… well, there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. Check them out. Your taste buds will thank you.

2 comments

Napa/Sonoma trip – Day 1 in Napa Valley

Candace and I headed into the Napa Valley last Friday and I was really looking forward to the appointments I had set up. The weather was spring-warm perfect, the traffic was light and I was looking forward to tasting some of Napa’s Cabernet. First in line was the venerable Beaulieu Vineyard, located in Rutherford. The second appointment was set for 2pm at Whitehall Lane Winery and we were penciled in at Cuvaison Estate Wines in Calistoga for 4pm. It was going to be an afternoon full of (hopefully) good wine.

Beaulieu Vineyard:
I had only visited Beaulieu once before – way back in 1991. That was also my first visit to Napa Valley. What I really remember about the visit was that, back then, like many guys in their early 20’s I was into the whole Seattle music scene and had the hair to match. It was halfway down my back. I know… I know, but hey – it was the early 90’s. The point of mentioning this was that many of the wineries, upon seeing 4 long-haired musician-looking types headed their way, lived up to the much-feared wine snob stereotype – they treated us like crap. We were there to learn, sample and buy. They made that much less pleasant than it should have been.

Not Beaulieu. To this day, I have a soft spot for them because of the open and friendly way we were greeted and led through a wine sampling education. It was what a visit to a winery should be – FUN. They helped send me down the road to being the wine geek I am today. I don’t remember the names of the nice folks from that visit, but will fondly remember our tasting with Robert last Friday.

We were greeted at the door with a sample of their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and then made our way to their tasting bar and through their Maestro Collection and their Napa Valley Cabernets. Here’s a list and quick rating of what we tasted:

  • 2006 Maestro Petite Sirah ($32) – 3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2005 Maestro Ensemble Red ($27) – 4 stars
  • 2006 Maestro Zinfandel ($30) – 4 stars
  • (Unsure of the vintage) Tempranillo ($?) – 4 stars

The Cabernets:

  • 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) – 4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 1 ($65) – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars (my favourite of this flight)
  • 2006 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars

After tasting these, Robert took us down to the members’ tasting lounge and seated us in front of 4 glasses. Into those he poured:

  • 2006 Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir ($45)
    Beautiful colour with elegant ripe plum and cherry flavours.
    4 stars
  • 2003 Tapestry Reserve ($? – a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec)
    Balanced ripe fruit with firm yet silky mineral-laced tannins.
    4 stars
  • 2006 Tapestry Reserve ($60)
    Bigger and earthier with a toasty edge to the dark cherry, black currant and dark chocolate flavours. Lots of tannin. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115)
    Really good. Lots of complexity. I got licorice, blackberry, black currant and vanilla spice on the nose. The flavours showed all that along with some coffee. The finish lasted minutes and was very firm. It has the structure to last for quite a while and will be best in a few years.
    4.5 stars

Whitehall Lane Winery:
Next up was our 2pm appointment with Katie. This is a much smaller family operation compared to Beaulieu. It was bought by Tom Leonardini Sr. in 1993 and has seen extensive changes to the winery and the equipment since that time. The winery owns roughly 110 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley including the Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena and the Rutherford West Vineyard in, you guessed it, Rutherford.

Katie poured us a sample of their Chardonnay and led us out of the tasting room and into the winery. We watched them bottling their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and had a quick tour of the member’s lounge and a beautiful view of the surrounding vineyards from its deck. We then headed back to the tasting room to sample their wines. Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($16)
    Crisp acidity and nice citrus and melon fruit.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Chardonnay, Carneros ($28)
    Again – nice and crisp with pear and citrus with some vanilla from the oak.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Pinot Noir, Carneros ($28)
    Very light with nice red cherry and a bit of citrus and spice.
    3.5 stars
  • 2006 Merlot, Napa Valley ($28)
    Black cherry and berry with a floral edge lead to nice vanilla and spice on the finish.
    4 stars
  • 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($40)
    Nice tannins edge the ripe blackberry and black currant fruit with earth and spice on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This is a blend of fruit from both of their Cabernet vineyard sites in the Napa Valley. It really grabbed my taste buds with its ripe fruit and elegant balance. Flavours of black currant, dark cherry and berry led to a spicy vanilla-tinged finish from the oak. It’s still quite young and will be best in a year or so (or more).
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This was Candace’s favourite wine of the day, with a really nice nose that hinted at the ripe fruit to come. A sip literally explodes in the mouth with jammy back currant and berry fruit, followed by a long and elegant finish with very firm tannins.
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This wine was a very interesting counterpart to the St. Helena Cab. It tasted of the “Rutherford Dust” the area is known for. This also had really elegant fruit and a long spicy finish. I really liked this one.
    4.5 stars

All in all, I’d have to say that I really liked the Cabs we tasted. As a matter of fact, I liked them enough that I took a few with me when we left.

Cuvaison Estate Wines:
Last July when I was down in Napa and Sonoma for the Wine Blogger’s Conference, a mix-up left Graham, Shea and I standing in Cuvaison’s Calistoga parking lot wondering where the rest of the crew had disappeared to… only to realize that they had been bused down to Cuvaison’s newer Carneros facility. Well, I made a mental note to return to the cozy Calistoga tasting room the next time I was in the area – so with an appointment set up by my friend Paul Watkin of Seacove Wines (who represent Cuvaison in BC), here we were.

After a recent re-vamp, the room was not only cozy, but modern as well. We settled in at one of the tables and Gabe brought around the samples and filled us in on the geographical and winemaking facts for each wine. I was really impressed with what he poured:

  • 2007 S Block Chardonnay ($38)
    This had really gorgeous fruit – orange peel, melon and pineapple that led to a balanced and crisp finish. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 ATS Chardonnay ($54)
    Wow. There was an explosion of flavour on the finish of this wine – crème brulée, nut, apple and mineral-edged lemon. Initially, a sip gave peach, and citrus flavours, but man… that finish. Very good.
    4.5 stars
  • 2008 Mariafield Pinot Noir ($32)
    This Swiss clone gives bright purple cherry and cola flavours, with tonnes of spice and cherry cola on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Block F5 Pinot Noir ($45)
    I really liked this wine. It was darker in colour than the Mariafield and struck me as having more going on. On the nose, there was blackberry and ripe red cherry. A sip gave me silky tannins that edged the black cherry cola, spice and floral flavours.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Zinfandel, Bald Mountain ($35)
    This wine surprised me. I know Cuvaison is known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but they also turn out a tasty Zinfandel. It had nice dark plum and berry on the nose. Flavours of ripe plum, dark berry led out to bramble spice and cracked pepper on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($45)
    Black pepper and ripe currant on the nose led to black pepper, currant and licorice flavours and a long finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2006 Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($85)
    This really caught me off guard. Its’ delicious! The nose showed purple berry, vanilla and licorice spice. The flavours were big and balanced – ripe dark berry, black currant, licorice and spice on the long, long finish. Wow.
    4.5 stars

I have to say that this is the way to spend a day in Napa Valley. Make a few appointments and really spend the time going through each winery’s wines. There are a lot of great wineries in the valley, so take some time to check them out.

8 comments

Sean Thackrey Pleiades XVII

Last Saturday night Candace and I headed out to Graham’s for a BBQ dinner and to taste a few wines… and film a few reviews. First up is Sean Thackrey’ delicious Pleiades XVII. It’s a blend of Syrah, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Viognier, among others.

Pretty amazing stuff.

$19.99 at the Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA.

4 1/2 stars

5 comments

2005 Stags’ Leap Petite Syrah, Napa Valley

A video run-down of our latest wine… turns out it’s a field blend of Petite Syrah, 8% Syrah, 4% Grenache and 2% Viognier vines, all of which are around 85 years old.

$34.99 USD on Maui.

4 1/2 stars

6 comments

Sean Thackrey Pleiades XVI

02192009Wow. What else can you say when you taste this wine? I would actually mistake it for a Nebbiolo-based Piemontese wine… It’s just that hard to pin down. I first tasted it at Vancouver’s Salt Tasting Room a while back and had been looking for it since.

It’s a field blend of Syrah, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Viognier, among other varietals. After harvest, winemaker Sean Thackrey lets the grapes sit and “rest” at least 24 hours outside his home. Then after crush, he transfers the juice to ferment in open vats under the eucalyptus trees that surround the winery.

Thackrey doesn’t keep track of the exact percentage that ends up in each blend so it’s different from year to year. No fancy schmancy modern science-driven techniques going on here. He got his education from what he says is the world’s largest collection of ancient wine scripts and lets his palate guide the final mix. The man is a character – something his wines have in spades.

The nose is really unique, especially for a California wine. There’s tar, powerful dark cherry and a bit of citrus edged by Thackrey’s signature note of eucalyptus. A curious sip gives up tar-edged cherry fruit along with a full-bodied mouth-feel and a finish that actually builds before it starts to fade a minute later.

I could drink this all the time and when you can find it, it’s quite the value. I was lucky enough to come across it at K & L Wine Merchants on my recent trip to San Francisco for the 2009 ZAP Festival.

$22.99 USD at K & L Wine Merchants in San Francisco.

4 1/2 stars

5 comments

2007 Orin Swift Cellars The Prisoner

01172009I’m always up for trying a vintage of The Prisoner. I’ve loved the last 2 vintages (the 2006 made my list for top wines of 2008), so when I came across the 2007 on Friday, I grabbed one to test it out.

One thing I should point out – this is a young wine and really benefits from some time in the decanter. I’ve grabbed a couple to put away for a while (if I can keep my hands off them).

So, I decanted this for a couple of hours last night before taking a sip and that really helped it out. When I first popped the cork, the wine had that bright and youthful fruit thing going on… as the air mellowed it, that evolved into dark jammy blackberry fruit with chocolate.

That really became evident when I took a sip. This blend of 50% Zinfandel, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Charbono and 1% Grenache made for a concentrated dark fruit explosion with a beautifully balanced chocolate edge to the long finish. Imagine a big handful of ripe blackberries mixed with chocolate covered cherries. Yep, that’s this wine.

Another score for Dave Phinney and the gang down in St. Helena. Tasty stuff.

$52.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

11 comments

WBW #40 – 2004 Carmen Reserve Petite Sirah, Valle del Maipo

12112007.jpgEven though I’ve been writing this site for over 2 years, I’ve never taken part in Wine Blogging Wednesday. So, when I read that Petite Sirah was the focus of WBW #40, I decided to finally bite the bullet… Thing is, I’ve always had a soft spot for Petite Sirah. It’s often used as a blending grape in many of my favourite Zinfandels and blends to add colour and depth and can occasionally be outstanding on its own. A couple of the best I’ve had were on visits to Napa at Ridge Vineyards in Sonoma and at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (when they were still making their delicious take on the grape). In other parts of the world, it’s also known as the Durif grape.

A while back, I reviewed the tasty Concannon Petite Sirah, but haven’t had a 100% version of the wine since… Well, WBW #40 made me change that… and I’m all for change when it comes to what I’m tasting. :)

12112007a.jpgI wandered into a downtown specialty LDB store today, briefly considered the 2004 Stag’s Leap Winery Petite Sirah (not to be confused with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars), but was looking for something more in the $20 – 40 CDN range. I settled on the 2004 Carmen Reserve Petite Sirah, took it home opened it, gave it a few hours to breathe… and now I’m sipping.

It’s a 100% Petite Sirah from the Maipo Valley region of Chile. In the glass it’s an inky purple-red, with a nose that smells like it looks. For lack of a better word, it smells “purple” – there’s licorice, violets, dark berries, dark chocolate and a distinct vanilla edge from the new French oak barrels in which the wine was aged. A big ‘ol sip gives up juicy licorice-edged dark berries, that dark chocolate and a distinctly spicy and vanilla-edged finish. It’s carrying 14% booze, but does so nicely… there’s no “hot” edge to the wine.

I really like this wine. It doesn’t blow my mind, but it’s a bloody tasty drop for the moolah. My usual judgment is whether I’d buy a wine again… and yep, I would.

OK, so I might be posting a few hours early (on the West coast), but it’s already Wednesday in many places. :)

$29 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

3 comments

2005 Joe Blow Wine Cellars Red, California

11282007.jpgThe bottle says, “This wine is serious! The name is not.”… and you know what? I like the fun attitude they’re putting out there with a statement like that. This wine really is just plain tasty. It’s a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

What all that adds up to is a juicy and completely unpretentious glassful of sippin’ fun. The colour is a deep and dark red… the nose is a complex bunch of tobacco, dark fruit and licorice. A tip o’ the glass gives up a nice bunch of brambly dark berries, licorice and a long dark chocolate-edged finish.

When you see a bottle like this, you may just dismiss it as a California version of a “critter” wine… but it’s more than that. For the price, it’s fantastic. It’s actually got some complexity and depth.

I like it. This is my new house red. ‘Nuff said.

$17 in LDB stores here in BC.

3 1/2 stars

1 comment

Wine – 2005 Ridge California Lytton Springs

11032007.jpgI’ve always considered Ridge to kinda’ be my “desert island winery” – if I could take wine from only one winery, it just might be them. I’ve always had a soft spot for their wines. The Geyserville, Lytton Springs, Sonoma Station, Santa Cruz Cabernet… on and on. They’re just plain tasty and very well made wines.

I’ve had this one a few times before… tonight I sat down with my friend Michael and happily sipped away. It’s a blend of 77% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah and 6% Carignane that adds up to a lip-smacking and full-bodied wine with 14.4% booze.

In the glass, it’s medium dark, purple-edged red. A big sniff shows a bright edge to a big bunch of dark berries and a bit of earth and briar. The flavours grow when they hit your tongue with a firm, but silky bunch of tannins. All the dark berry is there with a dash of espresso, cherry and even a bit of brandy that leads out to pretty long finish. It’s not your typical sweet red Zin… it’s got a more refined edge to it, so if you’re looking for a loosy-juicy slutty Zinfandel go elsewhere.

Ridge makes some of the only Zins I’ve tasted that could actually use a little bit of age and this is one of them. I visited their winery in Sonoma and tasted the 1983 Geyserville and it was bloody tasty. Right now, this wine is young and a bit bright… maybe it needs to sit down for 6 months to a year to come back better than ever.

I’m not absolutely in love with it, but it is definitely a very good wine. Thanks Mike!

$49.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

No comments

2005 Orin Swift Cellars “The Prisoner”

06042007.jpgIt’s been a little while since I had this bottle… and the thing is, I liked it enough that I can almost taste it when I think about it. The 2005 is a bit more of a wine than the 2004 I had back in December. Wine Spectator recently gave it a huge 93-point rating.

It’s firmly ensconced in the “New World” wine camp. It’s huge and luscious with a tonne of coffee/toffee-laced ripe raspberry and blackberry fruit, finishing with a spicy chocolate edge. It’s well-structured and balanced… it really is great stuff.

If I likened the 2004 to “a hearty fire, a warm blanket paired with a warm and sexy companion“, this wine would be the outcome of snuggling under that blanket. Sexy stuff.

The blend is 48% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah and 2% Charbono and it all adds up to a lot of flavour. It’s positively Zinfandel-istic. Yum.

$49.99 in LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

No comments

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