Archive for the 'California Wine' Category

2001 Mayacamas Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley

God knows I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Merlot. I’m pretty much there with Miles from “Sideways“. When I hear “Merlot”, I think a bit of cherry fruit, bland, vanilla and pretty much nothing else. There’s a lot of that floating around this province, produced here and elsewhere, that fit that description perfectly.

Here’s how I happened to pick this bottle up at Marquis Wine Cellars the other night. I was headed out for a long road cycling workout the next day and hadn’t soaked up much iron in my diet in the last week, so I thought a steak would be a great choice for dinner. With that in my mind, I headed into Marquis and was looking for the classic steak pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon. While scanning the Cali section, my eyes landed on this bottle. 2001. From Mayacamas. A Merlot, I know, but I was thinking a Mayacamas Merlot should fit the bill quite nicely.

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call this an Old World style New World wine, but I guess I will. It’s got a funky edge to it that most California producers seemingly try to avoid. Instead of a manipulated and polished vanilla-ness, this wine tastes of the grapes and that’s  good thing. Its colour is a dark brick-ish red that doesn’t show any age-driven mellowing around the edges. The nose is an intriguing mix of black olives, tea, plum and dark cherry.

The flavours? Wow. The flavours amplify the slightly bitter edge of the dark cherry and finish off with tea-edged dark plum. The finish goes on for minutes. I had it with that steak and experienced one of those happy food-wine moments I wanted to last and last.

If you want to try an old-school California approach to Merlot that won’t have you longing for less oak and more flavour, give this a try.

$49.90 at Marquis Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4    1/2 stars

2 comments

2007 Mauritson Wines Rockpile Jack’s Cabin Vineyard Zinfandel

It’s been a while since I wrote up a Zinfandel, but last week was the big Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival in San Francisco. I didn’t attend this year, but it’s a wine fest that holds a special place in my heart. It’s got to be the most fun-oriented/least pretentious wine event I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I was down there the day after it ended, but America’s grape was on my mind. I went into my write-up archive and found this one that I had tasted a month or so ago. I had picked this bottle up at the winery when Candace and I visited Napa and Sonoma back in March, 2010.

In the glass it’s got a dark-dark red colour. I kept burying my nose in the glass to smell the aromas of ripe blackberry, dark chocolate, black pepper and cracked stone. You can smell the minerals from the soil. After a sip, the progression of the wine’s flavours disappointed just a bit. They start out full and ripe, but then disappear a bit and go flat… then they make a sudden reappearance with the full ripe berry fruit and a jammy, yet balanced and looooooong finish. So what we have here is a wine with a killer nose that starts out impressively in the mouth then disappears for a bit before making a memorable comeback.

All in all, I did like this wine – quite a bit. I liked the dustiness and minerality that mixed in with the fruit.

~$37 at the winery.

4 stars

No comments

2003 Sean Thackrey ‘Aquila’ Sangiovese, Eaglepoint Ranch

I’m currently down in San Francisco for work and haven’t really had much time to shop for wine. So, the other day I visited the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant to see what interesting wines they had in stock. I’m always on the lookout for wines from Sean Thackrey (they’re pretty scarce, so we don’t get them in Canada) so when I saw this bottle sitting there, it called out to me.

What’s it like? Good. Really good. It’s got a really cool nose that has eucalyptus, leather, ripe cherry and tar. The nose really says Cali-Italian Nebbiolo more than Sangiovese from anywhere. The flavors pretty much play that out. It’s a medium to full-bodied wine with a schwack of leather and tar with a floral thing going on as well as the full-on cherry liqueur flavours. It’s delicious and drinking perfectly right now.

If you can find it and are curious about the wines of Sean Thackrey this is the wine for you.

$35 USD at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants in San Francisco.

4    1/2 stars

No comments

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

2007 Flying Horse Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

A couple of days ago, I had the chance to sit down with Shea (from JustGrapesWine.com) and the owner of Marquis Wine Cellars, John Clerides to taste the delicious wines from Mayacamas Vineyards. Last night I headed into Marquis hoping that the Sauvignon Blanc would hit the under-$30 sweet spot. Alas, it didn’t… being priced at $34.90 (though it’s very good and may make its way into a future post). So, in its place – and due in part to Shea’s glowing review of their Petite Sirah (yes, I picked some up) – I chose to give this a go.

Well, I’m glad I did. For those of you who are New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc fans (myself included), California SB’s are a different beast entirely. Many of them see time in oak and show a completely different range of flavours. According to the winery’s web site, this wine was cold pressed into stainless steel tanks, then spent its fermentation in 60 gallon French Oak barrels; (80% once-used and 20% new). Once fermentation was finished, the wine rested sur lie for 7 months prior to bottling. It was not put through malolactic fermentation. This all adds up to give the wine a very complex and alluring nose and flavour profile.

The nose was really interesting. I got something like candied ginger peach. The flavours were completely different from the nose – I got vanilla-spiced pear leading out to a round and then crisp lemon and orange edged finish. It’s really very nice stuff.

If you want to explore how Cali Sauvignon Blanc differs from the New Zealand fruit bombs, this would be a great start.

$26.90 at Marquis Wine Cellars.

4 stars

1 comment

2006 Mazzocco Zinfandel “Antoine Philippe” Reserve, Dry Creek Valley

My first post of the year is a review of what is possibly the best Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted… A big claim, I know, but it’s my palate and you can pick your own favourites. :)

Graham, Shea and I came across this bottle while visiting the Mazzocco Winery during 2009’s Wine Bloggers’ Conference. We dropped in and tasted everything they had on hand with their exceptionally friendly staff, before being offered a special tasting of a few of their Reserve wines. Having fallen in love with their wines at ZAP, we weren’t about to turn that chance down. The result? I thought they were all standouts, but this one really grabbed our interest (and money).

I forget the exact story of how this and their other Reserve wines came into being, but the story is something along the lines of “owner of the winery thinks he (Kenneth Carl), the winemaker (Antoine Favero) and the vineyard manager (Juan Rodriguez) should peek at how the current vintages were developing and select small amounts of what they thought were the best of what they found  – and each of them would make their own blend”. The results are the Kenneth Carl Reserve, the Juan Rodriguez Reserve and the subject of this post – the Antoine Philippe Reserve.

It goes without saying that I was looking forward to popping the cork and savouring a few glasses. Graham had his in late 2009 – I enjoyed my bottle on the last night of my recent holiday.

I’ve never gotten this much from the nose on a Zin… there’s just SO much going on – I get maple-brown sugar, red licorice, brambles and so much ripe blackberry that my mouth started watering. It’s not overwhelming or boozy at all. The nose is surprisingly balanced for a wine with 16.2% ABV.

The flavours? My initial reaction was, “Wow.” It’s just so full and complex. Initially there’s a mouthful of ripe blackberries and plum fruit, which is then followed by an incredibly balanced mix of licorice, brown sugar (with that maple edge) and a lingering bit of violet on the velvety-tannic finish – which lasts minutes.

Graham had this to add:
I too was taken in by the breadth of the nose on this wine.  I found the beautiful fruit and sweetness on the nose balanced by some nice leather and floral notes.  So appealing and elegant for a Zin of this magnitude.

It is completely mouth-filling with a nice dark plum backbone under the beautiful berries that mix over top.  The real “wow” here is how this wine is concentrated and structured but not at all over the top or cloying in anyway.  At 16.2% this is some seriously ripe fruit, but Antoine Favero has maintained an incredible finesse in this wine.”

How can you not love this wine?? Don’t like Zin? Try something this complex and balanced. It’s not just a Zinfandel. It’s a memorable and exceptional bottle of wine.

Only 100 cases were made.

$120 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

5 comments

2006 Brown Estate Vineyards Chaos Theory, Napa Valley

Chaos. The holiday season seems to breed it in various forms, and today for me it was in the form of my youngest daughter’s 5th birthday and a bowling party for 21 five year olds. Chaos sometimes comes lovely and adorable ways.

To celebrate the success of this event, I decided to open the last of my gems from our journey to Brown Estate Vineyards in July. We have detailed the stunning nature of the visit and the wines previously (including this one, however it is worthy of mention repeatedly). Again, it lives up to all the others.

The Chaos Theory is blend of the various blocks of zinfandel, and some of their tasty cabernet. When we visited, we had the chance to savor a barrel sample of the upcoming Cabernet (to be blended with Syrah I believe) and it had a beautiful dark fruit and graphite character. This offering makes the blend a seamless silky goodness.

The nose has beautiful blueberry with some cedar and nettle the builds into what I can only describe as “Christmas Spice” that continues on throughout every gorgeous sip. The palate has delicious dark fruit, plum, currant, and more blueberry in all it’s viscous goodness. The finish brings some clove, orange zest, and just superb balance that characterize Brown Estate wines in my experience.

This is another in the series of Brown Estate offerings that speak to the honesty, integrity, and genuine passion that are hallmarks of their wines. Love it. Plain and simple.

$36 USD at the Winery (a great deal).

4 1/2 stars

No comments

2007 Brown Estate Westside Zinfandel, Napa Valley

12022009Well now. I think we have a candidate for a top 5 wine of the year, at least in my books (or bytes in this case). This is one of the wines I brought back from my visit with Deneen and Coral Brown at Brown Estate Vineyards with Graham and Shea while we were attending the 2009 Wine Bloggers’ Conference. We all loved it then… and I’m liking it even better this time around.

The nose is insane. It’s a pure expression of Napa Zinfandel fruit. There’s a nettle edge to the brown sugar, allspice and straight-ahead ripe blackberry fruit. I just want to sit here and take sniff after sniff of my glass. I would if I didn’t know that the wine tastes even better than it smells.

Oh my God! The flavours. It’s like a beautifully balanced (even at 15.8% booze) Zinfandel concentrate. There’s so much going on. They start out with a burst of cranberry, rhubarb and ripe blackberry. The fruit blends seamlessly with vanilla, allspice, and a brown sugar-like edge to the LONG finish.

This is a seriously tasty bottle of wine. I dare any of you out there to taste it and not love it. I don’t think it can be done.

$48 USD at the winery (sold out).

4 1/2 stars

3 comments

Best Damn Tasting Ever! presented by the Seacove Group and New World Wines

OK, so I’ve been really bad with posting lately… and rightfully so. I’ve got a life and a full-time, outside wine job. I’ve been feeling badly about the lack of posts, so I’ve resolved to writing at least a few of ’em a week for the next while. Not only does that accomplish the more-posts-in-a-month goal, but it also makes me document the wine I drink, which was the original idea behind this site.

Well, now that that’s out there, I’ll get down to the task at hand. A few weeks ago, I received an invite from my friend Paul Watkin, who works with the Seacove Group, a wine agency in town for a tempting-sounding trade tasting being held at the Metropolitan Hotel.

The tasting was put on by the Seacove Group and the New World Wines agencies – and featured a diverse selection of wines from pretty much everywhere. There were wines from Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA. Graham and I made our way around the room and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t enjoy. Both agencies have some stunners, so I’m just going to give you our top 5’s from each.

Graham’s picks from Seacove:

  • Champagne de Venoge Brut Milliesime 1995 – Stunning length with beautiful citrus and lees.
  • Livon Braide Alte 2006 – Loved this wine.  Superbly crisp with nice pear and lime and solid mineral finish.  I imagined this with mussels or clams.  Mmmmm….
  • Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – A gorgeous Napa Cab with great black fruit.  This wine was like someone ground a pepper mill over the glass.  Excellent stuff.
  • Chateau des Graviers AOC Margaux “Quintessence” 2001 – Delicious.  Great nose of tea, marker and ground coffee.  Finishes up with some nice graphite and green leaf.
  • Moncellior Pinot Noir 2008 – I really liked this one.  Nice full raspberry nose with great acidity and some nice green stalk on the finish.  This is a great value in the Otago Pinots for $35.

My picks from Seacove:

  • 1995 Champagne de Venoge Brut Millesièmme -Wow. Just wow. So graceful and tasty.
  • 2006 Signorello Winery Padrone – OK, it’s expensive, but it’s also really bloody tasty. Massive black fruit and pepper are followed by equally massive tannins. This one needs time.
  • 2005 Van Zeller Douro CV “Curriculum Vitae” – Elegant dark plum and berry fruit lead to a loooong finish. Pretty wonderful stuff.
  • 2003 Egelhoff Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Great dark fruit and black pepper flavours made me want to go back for more.
  • 2006 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional – Dark fruit and chocolate with a finish that lasted minutes. I love this wine.

Graham’s picks from New World Wines:

  • Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain 2006 – Amazing spice on this wine.  Anise and Cinnamon with gorgeous red fruit.  Loved it.
  • Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz 2005 – Deep intense black fruit with nice black pepper and firm tannins.
  • DeLille Cellars D2 2006 – This was soft and sexy goodness.  Gorgeous red fruit and silky finish.
  • Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2006 – Beautiful dark chocolate, black fruit and some nice mint on the finish. – Loved it.
  • Flowers Vineyard & Winery  Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 – Elegant, with beautiful cranberry and currant.  Great length with a bit a brown sugar on the finish.

My picks from New World Wines:

  • 2005 Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz – So good! Immense dark fruit, dark chocolate and black tea flavours lead out to a long-long finish.
  • 2006 Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain – Dark chocolate and plum fruit with a toasty edge. So good.
  • 2006 Betz Family Clos de Betz – It may be starting to sound like a record on repeat, but dark chocolate and blackberry flavours made me want more.
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars D2 – Mouth-filling dark fruit. Yum.
  • 2004 Lail Vineyards Blue Print – This had a hint of bell pepper to its dark fruit and spice. Bloody good.
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