Archive for the 'California Wine' Category

2005 Cosentino Cigar-Zin Zinfandel, Lake County

03142009As I’ve mentioned, I do enjoy seeking out some of the value finds at my local stores, and with the whole economy challenge it seems there are few more sell-offs happening of late. With the monthly vino budget being targeted for the Playhouse Wine Festival store, this one was a “must have.”

You know we love the Zin, and this is a tasty treat for the price. A swirl and sniff brings lots of vanilla with a little bit of briar and almost a bit of cinnamon. Basically the nose is really quite dessert-like. A couple of sips give some tart cherries and ripe red plum with some floral hints as well. The finish has some nice acidity with a bitter dark chocolate edge. A Zin with a bit of bite! (In a good way).

I like it. Not the fruit bomb-type, it has this misdirection in the middle that is kind of fun – it comes off on the nose as being sweet and jammy but has some serious backbone and a bit of an edge. Tasty, and at $10 off, even better!

$19.99 marked down at the local LDB store.

4 stars


2004 Mauritson Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County

03062009While we were down in San Fran for ZAP, Graham and I spent an afternoon hanging out with Shea from Just-Grapes having some lunch, driving around in a rented convertible and shopping for some wine at K & L Wines.

This bottle comes from a winery better known for its Zinfandels, but with this wine, they make a heckuva’ Cab. The 100% Cabernet fruit comes from the Dry Creek, Alexander Valley and Rockpile areas. What that blending adds up to is a 14.5% ABV wine that could age in your little cellar for a while yet – I’m thinking another 5 -10 years could do it a world of good.

This is a gorgeous, balanced and reasonably-priced Sonoma Cabernet. It has a nose that gives up a bunch of red currant, blackberry and dark berry fruit. A smooth sip shows what it would be like to lick dark and juicy red fruit cocktail off a satin sheet. This is a polished wine, folks… The fruit is refined and the tannins are gentle, but firm. The finish carries on for a while and reminds you exactly why you are eager for the next sip.

$24.99 USD at K & L Wines in San Francisco.

4 1/2 stars


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


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


2006 Klinker Brick Winery Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi

02072009I reviewed the 2005 vintage of this wine a couple of weeks ago and quite liked it. This one? Not so much.

Maybe it’s my palate this week, but I’m not liking it. The nose has a smoky-sweet BBQ sauce kinda thing going on. That pretty much tells you what’s happening. It’s like there was a fire near the vineyard and the smoke infused the grapes. It’s not working for me.

It’s like you’ve got a handful of crushed blackberries (sounds good so far) and then douse them with a generous dose of Jack Daniels BBQ sauce (OK, not sounding so good anymore). That’s followed up by a short and slightly hot (15.8% booze) and sour finish with not much going on in the middle. ‘Nuff said.

I’d say to give it a pass. Either search out the 2005, or another Zin in the price range.

$31.99 at Liberty Wine Cellars.

2.5 stars


Video notes from the 2009 ZAP Festival Tasting

So, I’ve finally taken the plunge into video for the site. I purchased a Kodak Zi6 HD Pocket video camera and took it along on the trip to ZAP down in San Fran. I meant to film more, but managed to get some of the festival on video.

Here’s a brief intro to the media tasting lounge at ZAP and a quick (and shoddily filmed) shot of the view of the bay.

I wish someone had given me these tips before I first attended the ZAP fest a couple of years ago. Some stuff to think about before going to a big wine festival:

A quick show of the 2nd pavilion and early trade and media crowd at the 2009 ZAP Festival tasting:

How can you not love tasting wine with a view like this??

… and finally, here’s a look at how quickly the pavilion fills up when the doors are opened to the public at 1pm. Compare it to the earlier video shot of just trade and media people. Also, to guage the size of this tasting, remember that there’s another separate pavilion that housed wineries ordered alphabetically A – L. This is a HUGE tasting folks.

That’s it for the shaky video. Don’t be scared by the purple zombie teeth. That’s what happens between brushings when you’re tasting Zins. Graham and I will be putting together our list of highlights this week. Until then, head over to Just-Grapes and have a read of what Shea thought of the tasting.

UPDATE: Viddler seems to be having a few issues today. Their site has been down and all embedded videos may not be showing up. If you don’t see videos in the post, maybe come back later. 🙂


2009 ZAP Festival Tasting in San Francisco

01312009I’m not going to make this a long post, but I just wanted to give a quick update to our SF trip. Today marked the third year in a row that both Graham and I have made the trek down to San Francisco for the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP for short) Festival Tasting at the Fort Mason Center.

There’s a reason we head here every year – it’s FUN. The thing about Zinfandel seems to be that it’s the least threatening of the wine varietals. It tends to be jammy and fun, so the people who are drawn to it tend be unpretentious sorts. That was certainly true this year. Everyone from the winemakers to the volunteers seemed to have fun at the fest.

We hit the floor at 10am for the start of the media and trade tasting and stayed until around 2:30… a lot of that time spent up in the handy media lounge pouring our own samples and taking notes. We spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Shea Coulson from Just-Grapes – another Vancouver-based (but down in Berkeley for the next few months) wine geek and a heckuva’ nice guy.

We were all impressed with the quality of the wines this year. They seemed a bit more in balance and complex. Having said that though, I’ll be up-front and say that my favourites were hit-you-over-the-head fruit bombs. Mazzocco, Turley, Woodenhead and Ravenswood had standouts along with a bunch of smaller producers. The quality of the wine being poured was pretty bloody high.

Another thing that Graham just reminded me of was that all the big-boy producers were pouring full line-ups – from 5 – 10 wines and all of the were great. It was “Mmmm” after “Wow.” Ridge, Ravenswood, Renwood and Mazzocco had multiple wines on the table that just reminded me why I love this grape.

We did run into a few detractors of the wines’ styles, but you know what? If you don’t like your wines diverse – sometimes lean slky and complex but  sometimes huge and jammy, don’t go to the Zin tasting. ‘Nuff said.

I’ll be back next year… and here’s a little shout out to Julie Ann Kodmur and the ZAP folks for the great time we had at ZAP 2009.


2007 Barber Cellars “Mr. Beast” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

01302009Well, it’s ZAP time folks. Graham and I are down in San Francisco to do our thing at the big Zinfandel Tasting at the Fort Mason Center tomorrow. We’ve got our rental car and have done a tour of familiar spots in town. One of them was K & L Wine Merchants… one  my favourite wine shops in town.

While we were there, we picked up a couple of bottles to pop open tonight to get things going. Of course one of them was a Zinfandel – a small-production wine from Barber Cellars. There were only 200 cases of this blend of 85% Zinfandel and 15% Sangiovese made.

God, I love finding cool little wines… it just makes me all warm and fuzzy. This won’t knock you out with it’s size or jamminess, but you will have a little “Wow” moment when the dark chocolate coated maraschino cherry finish builds and lingers in your mouth. That follows a nose of ripe blackberry, dark chocolate and licorice. Before that tasty finish, there’s a crushed juice bit of blackberry and cracked pepper… then that “Wow.”

It’s a good deal down here. So search it out if you can.

$18 USD at K & L Wines.

4 stars


2005 Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Santa Cruz Mountain Estate


NOTE: Graham opened this a couple of weeks before I opened mine. Here’s what he had to say. (Sean)

Resistance is like the Borg said “futile” when it comes to a wine like this. It’s amazing this one has lasted this long in the cellar. I ‘ve been debating opening this for a while and man, it did not disappoint.

We first tasted it last year at the Playhouse wine fest and were stunned at the nutty tropical goodness. Plain and simple – this is an amazing bottle of chardonnay.

The nose is full of sweet hazelnut and with hints of almond and some lemon as well.  Basically I could sit and swirl and sniff this wine for hours….

On to a couple of gorgeous sips – right off the bat there’s loads dried pineapple and apple that leads into sweet figs. The beautiful fig flavor continues long into the finish with some toasty caramel, some citrus and beautiful honey notes that go on and on.

No doubt about it. This wine is amazing. Love it. Want more.

~$50 when I bought it at a BC LDB store.

4 1/2 stars

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2005 Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi

01272009It’s ZAP week for anyone who is a Zinfandel nut and I was craving a Zin. I headed to the BC LDB store near my office and came across this wine. For some reason, I’ve never had it, even though it’s in that reasonable under-$30 category.

From what I could find, this wine is made from grapes grown on vines that are in the 35 – 110 years old range. What that usually means is a little extra complexity in flavour and structure. The old vines don’t turn out as much fruit and what fruit is produced has a depth of flavour that isn’t found grapes from young vines.

OK, wow. This is actually pretty good – better than I expected, actually. The nose is a mix of bright and brambly cranberry/raspberry fruit with a spicy backbone braced with crushed blackberry juice. Yep, that sounds good and it was. A big ‘ol sip gives up gobs of smoky, spicy blackberry juice with a nicely structured briary backbone with nice tannins. That all leads to  medium-long finish that shows some heat from the 15.5% booze. Even with the heat, it’s satisfying stuff. Yum.

If you’re a Zin fan and like ’em big and ballsy sometimes, this is a wine you should take home.

$28.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars


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