Dot…dot…dot

It’s hard to tell my looking out the window these days, but it’s high summer.  Generally speaking, high summer means warm weather, sunny days, and relaxing weekend BBQs with cold, refreshing pink wine.

Ellipsis Wine Company was founded in 2008 by Jonathan Neisingh, who, after growing up in the heart of Sonoma wine country (in Healdsburg) moved to San Luis Obispo to pursue his education in agribusiness (and wine!).  Completing his education and moving back to Sonoma County,  I met Ellipsis several years ago, at one of the large tastings here in SF.  At that time, I knew I loved their wine, and am thrilled to see them grow and develop over the last 8 years.  Growing up in Healdsburg, Jonathan saw first hand the industry grow and change over the last twenty years, which drives his passion to make world class wine (with the help of their consulting winemaker) that expresses each region’s unique terroir in every sip.

Ignoring the seemingly endless mist outside, summer can come in a glass!  Particular this glass of Ellipsis Wine Company Rosé of Pinot Meunier.  The first thing you notice about this beautiful pink wine is the depth of color:  a pure purple toned pink, it looks gorgeous in the glass, and the first whiff gives off a lovely savory dried herb character.   The first sip reveals savory watermelon salad with lavender, juicy wild strawberries, and tropical notes.  I love the mineralality that plays off of the juicy citrus, and the medium body makes it a great wine for grilled chicken, burgers and other summer fare.  I can’t wait to visit and get more of this fantastic summer sipper!  $25

Thank you to #winestudio and Ellipsis for another great Tuesday Tasting!

 

Pierson Meyer — from a mountain grows pinot

wine bottle labelPeirson Meyer Wines were born from a friendship that was formed in early 2001, when Lesley Warner-Peirson, her husband Alan Peirson, and Robbie & Shannon Meyer met at Peter Michael Winery.  With a shared passion, their first wine, the L’Angevin Russian River Chardonnay, was produced in 2001.

Today, Peirson Meyer crafts small lot wines sourced from Sonoma and Napa, and made to reflect the land.

Starting with the 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir, with only 50 cases (2 barrels) produced, winemaker Robbie Meyer really enjoys the use of native yeast.  In this wine, Pinot Noir clones 777 and 828 from two Sonoma County vineyards create this pale pink princess with rose petals, ripe peaches and berry coulis.  An elegant and restrained rosé that deserves to be the centerpiece of a summer day.  $32

While Peirson Meyer is known for Pinot Noir, the 2013 Ritchie Sauvignon Blanc comes from a cooler site where the grapes ripen more slowly.  Using the native yeast and a gente pressing of whole clusters, this wine is aged in neutral oak.  Bursting with tropical melon and juicy pears, the minerality shines through with a chalky, floral finish. $30

In contrast, the 2013 Ryan’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from a much warmer site in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district, and produces a bolder, more tropical style of wine.  Native yeast fermentation reveals dense apricots and honey, with slight banana notes.  $30

One of the highlights of our tasting experience was the ability to taste three chardonnays side by side.  Doing so allows us to really see the differences each site makes, as well as the nuances of wine making such as barrel selection or yeast selection.

First, the 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  Aged in 45% new French Oak, and fermented with native yeast (are you starting to see the pattern here?), it is a blend of three vineyards.  Robbie allows malolactic to complete naturally, and uses the native yeast to his advantage, creating a natural, and rich wine.  Viscous and replete with baked apples and nutmeg.  $38

The 2012 Sophia’s Chardonnay comes from a site in the Russian River formerly known as the Sullivan Vineyard.  With 40 year old vines located near Graton, in the west of Sonoma County, this wine is nutty and cirrus driven, with preserved lemons, caramel, vanilla and fresh cream.  $44

The 2012 Heinz Vineyard Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast appellation is physically near the Sullivan Vineyard, yet worlds apart.  Restrained and clean, with Asian pears and graphite.  This wine is clean and focused.  $55

Finally ,we were treated to a trio of Pinot Noirs, each one unique, but with some wonderful similarities.

2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is classic Russian River, with dark forest floor, cola, and cherry notes.  Holiday baking spices dance on the tongue in this rich Pinot Noir.  $44
In the small town of Graton, the Miller Vineyard turns Russian River on it’s head by offering a lighter style of Pinot Noir.  The 2012 Miller Vineyard Pinot Noir has bursting black cherry, root beer, and raspberry flavors with cracked pink peppercorn aromas.  The savory aspect of this wine with mushrooms and cedar flavors give it an enchanting profile that is sure to please.  $50
In contrast, the 2012 Bateman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Sonoma Coast region north of Miller Vineyard, and gives this wine brighter acid, and a more masculine, defined structure.  Savory, earthy funk in all the best ways, the Bateman wafts bergamot and tangerine, with a hint of tomato leaf from it’s cool hillside foggy lair.  This elegant wine is an instant classic.  $60
Pierson Myer also producers a lovely Merlot and and Cab Sav, but for these purposes, I’d stick to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.  These are perfect for your holiday table, and gift giving!
Thank you to the good folks at Peirson Meyer for hosting us in their gorgeous vineyard house, high on top of Howell Mountain, as well as Relish Communications and Michelle Yoshinaka.  Make a point of seeking out these wines for your table, you won’t be sorry!

Spell Estate – Diversity in Pinot Noir

Wandering the aisles of the annual Pinot Days in San Francisco is a combination of old friends, new discoveries, and random skee ball shooting.  This year, there was a new venue, new wineries, and new tastes abounding, of which a few really stood out.

I fully admit that I stopped by the Spell Estate table, simple for the reason that I had never tried them.  When approaching events of this size, I often target those “new to me” folks, of which I am unfamiliar.  I was happy that I had the opportunity to do so, because Spell Estate really is a special find that I have on my “must buy” list for Pinot Noir now.  After chatting with winemaker Andrew Berge, I knew that I was excited to taste the full line up.  Thanks to
General Manager Allisun Groat, I was able to taste the large variety that Spell Estate offers and here are some of my notes.

Founded in 2006, Spell Estate was inspired by Bill & Tiki Spell’s love of Pinot Noir.  Committed to delivering the best expression of Pinot Noir possible, they focus on the vineyards to create world class Pinot Noir.

Engaging winemaker Andrew Berge, who grew up in Europe and is deeply indoctrinated with the wine & food lifestyle, was a smart move for the Spells.  With a depth of experience in winemaking, Andrew is passionate about his wines.  With Spell, as well as his other label La Poutchine , Andrew can extract the expression of each microclimate and terroir as detailed as small patch of vineyard on a steep slope. With each winery comes a unique style, both created and ever evolving by Andrew Berge.

 2013 Alder Springs Pinot Noir – Located just 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the fruit comes from three blocks planted between 1700 and 1900 feet.  The volcanic soils here lend themselves to the earthyly old world character of this wine, will tea leaves, dried herbs, and leather, with a bright garget color.  With the earthy underlying notes, the bright red berry and cherry notes are calling attention to this age worthy example of Mendocino Pinot.
2013 Weir Vineyards – Yorkvile Highlands Pinot Noir – just southeast of Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands is the gateway to Pinot country.  The Weir Vineyard is planted between 850 and 1000 feet, with the cooling influences of the coastal fog, giving this wine a brilliant cherry base with macerated strawberries.  A hint of graphite and smoked meat round out the finish.  With just 43% new oak, the wine is balanced and calm with the remaining 50% one year or older.

2014 Umino Vineyard Pinot Noir – a classically bold Pinot, with strong cherry flavors and a rich and sultry mouthfeel.  With the vineyard located in the far western reaches of Sebastapol, in western Sonoma County, the foggy influence moderates the hot summer days creating beautiful acid and structure.

2011 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir – from a vineyard on the true Sonoma Coast, in Freestone, this luxurious wine is bursting with tangerine and bright berry, while the forest floor mingles with honeycomb and graham crackers in the deeper layers.  Delicious for those of us who enjoy acid.

The flagship of Spell Estates Pinot Noir lineup is the 2013 Terra de Promissio.  Just east of Petaluma, the maritime influence in the Petaluma Gap helps to maintain cooler temperatures and slows ripening.  Planted in 2002 to 777 and 115, the Terra de Promissio has a plethora of flavors, from strawberry and raspberry paired with tart cranberry, to classic cherry.  The spicy notes of star anise and cinnamon flow through the edge of toasty oak and coffee, with a finish of dark chocolate.  A truly memorable Pinot to hold on to as long as you can resist!

All wines are $48, except the Terra de Promissio, which is $58.

Make sure you stop by and taste these wines when the opportunity strikes!  Tastings can be arranged by special appointment.

Stay tuned for more on Andrew Berge’s other project, La Poutchine!

Roses of Summer: Ousterhout Wines Russian River Valley

Ousterhout Wine & VineyardIt isn’t often that I find a new winery, that I haven’t at least heard of.  Recently, when I received the invitation to the Ousterhout Wine & Vineyard Release party here in San Francisco, I was excited to be able to go and try new wines without having to go very far from home.  Leave it to me and my city dwelling blogging friends to be able to go wine tasting on a Tuesday night in the Marina!

Owners Douglas and Nancy Ousterhout create delicious Pinot Noir Rose and Zinfandel from a small vineyards in Sonoma County, as well as thier estate vineyard in Alexander Valley.  With strong agricultural roots, the Ousterhouts are wine naturals. With a thriving medical practice in San Francisco, the vineyard property is a weekend retreat where they can build their brand in the tranquility of this quiet corner of Sonoma.

Winemaker Michah Wirth cut his baby teeth in Oregon, working with cult producers like Raptor Ridge before moving back to Healdsburg.  Here, he started working with Gary Farrel Winery, where he spent 7 years learning how to create stellar Pinot Noir.  Like most young winemakers, he wanted to create his own wines, which he did in 2007 with Joseph Jewell in 2006.  Today, he makes the wines at Ousterhout in a refreshingly different style.  While the zins are bold, they are not overpowering.  The roses are distinctive and not sweet.

 With three roses and two Zinfandels, along with a Sauvignon Blanc for added measure, Ousterhout is tightly focused on their wines.  In particular, the three roses really caught my attention.

This week, my rose of the week is the porch pounder summer loving Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir.  Along with two vineyard designate roses, the Russian River is a delightfully crisp refreshing Rose.  With bright red fruit, Tuscan melon, strawberries and mineral note, this is a great rose for grilled chicken, salads, and turkey burgers.  At only $22, it’s an afforable summer wine, that is brest served well chilled on the deck with friends.

Check out Ousterhout’s other wines here!  Enjoy a great dry rose of Zinfandel, or a classic Zinfandel from Dry Creek!

Jack Steffan, Director of Sales & Marketing graciously provided me with a bottle of wine for further inspection, but all options and expression of joy are my own. 

 

Google

Bucher Vineyards – a step back in time

When I first came to know the wines of Bucher Vineyards, it was through my love of all things Pinot.  A very specific spot in the Russian River AVA, with a true sense of terroir, I had been drinking the wines of Holdredge Winee for years before I came to know the people behind the amazing fruit from Bucher Vineyards.

As I tasted more wines from producers that were lucky enough to get a share of these babies, like Thralls Family Cellars and Siduri, I was excited to be able to taste the Bucher Vineyards wines at Pinot on the River last year.

Once I tasted them, I knew I was hooked and I had to go see the property for myself.  Fortunately, I was able to get to know John & Diane Bucher a bit, and they happily welcomed a small group of bloggers to their property for a history lesson and tasting.

Bucher Vineyards was born out of the family diary farm next door, which John’s parents, Joe & Annmarie, founded as immigrants from Switzerland int he 1950s.  Starting out in San Francisco, they elder Buchers fell in love with the farming communities of the Russian River Valley and found the property that the dairy currently sits on.

Selling to local milk processors like Clover Stornetta, the dairy was the focal point of the 11,000 White-O Ranch, dating back tot he 1930s.  With the purchase of a small 360 acre property, and a few dairy cows, the Buchers built up the herd to a prosperous 650 head. Joe & Annemarie’s son John grew up on the diary and learned the family business.

Attending UC Davis in the early 1980s, John returned after graduation to manage the operation.  His goal at that time was to make it 100% organic, which he did successfully – all while looking for ways to diversify the family business operations. In 1997, after two years of researching varietals, analyzing soils, and talking to neighboring grape growers, John planted the first Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir blocks. starting with Pinot Noir, the plantings have grown to include Chardonnay, and now include 38 acres of planted grapes in 15 unique vineyard blocks.  Being next to an organic dairy farm has it’s benefits, and the Bucher’s practice sustainable viticulture in the vineyard. After successfully selling grapes for a number of years, John & Diane decided to start their own label.  In 2013, the first vintage of Bucher Vineyards was released and became Diane’s full time job.  I have to say, her passion and dedication pays off! The wines we tasted truly show a sense of place, and as I like to call it “The Bucher Dirt”.


2013 Russian River Chardonnay
This was a richer style Chardonnay but not at all like a classic California wine.  With beautiful balance, and bright citrus based acid, this was a creamy lemon custard, green apple, and stone fruit. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral barrels, except for a single new barrel, there is just a kiss of oak.  $28

2013 Rosè of Pinot
Beautiful rose petals and floral aromas break in to blood orange and pink grapefruit, with nectarines.  Dry, with explosive fruit, this is a luscious rose.  The 667 clones of Pinot in this block are intensely floral, and created a delectable wine.  $18 (sold out)

 

2012 RRV Pinot Noir – Is classically Russian River, with pungent, beautiful blackberry flavors bursting out of the glass, followed by a hint of rose petals.  Cola and cracked black pepper follow the burst of fruit, with a nice finish of tangerine and baking spices.  A blend of three vineyard blocks, the backbone comes from a primarily Swan clone block, with Pommard and 667 making up the balance and adding complexity.  A hint of oak from 40% new French barrels rounds out this luscious Pinot Noir.  At $40, it’s well worth more, and I look forward to adding it to my collection soon!

 

If you’d like to visit Bucher Vineyards for yourself, join their mailing list here.  Tours & Tastings are available by appointment only, and Diane would love to see you!

Expression is in the eye of the drinker

What do you think about when you think about wine?  Flavor, name, price?  When I think about wine, I think about location.  Where is it from?  Is it from a vineyard I know?  An area that I’m fond of?  Somewhere new?  All of these things are characteristics of wine that peak my curiosity, and make me want to know more.

I love wines that express their sites and show the uniqueness of the area.  Luckily for me, there are winemakers that are as driven and curious as I am.  In this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor of LIOCO, who founded the winery with the fundamentoal idea that wine should be an expression of terroir.  in this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor wanted to express the unique charachteristics of various terroirs of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a unique blend – Indica, a Rhone style blend.

By selecting the best possible fruit available from independent grape growers,, they are able to express control over their fruit and hone in on the exact fruit and characteristics that make the best wine.  Through careful clonal selection, sustainable practices, and careful site selection, the wines are born in the vineyard.

Moving indoors to the winemaking itself, using wild yeast in hand sorted grapes, with very little oak treatment, you get unique, wild, clear representations of the fruit in each bottle.  Having known about LIOCO since my early days of blogging, I was excited to have the opportunity to taste the latest releases.

First up, the fresh and lively 2012 Estero Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  This blend of two vineyards, both in Russian River Valley, reflects the cooling influence of the sites, low in elevation and susceptible to the fog fingers that linger in the mornings.  This proximity to the ocean creates a need for longer hang time, delivering a strength in flavor and bright acidity that is so magical in this wine.  This is what chardonnay should be:  expressive, bright, fruit driven.  Vinified in all neutral oak, the selection of blocks for the Estero is very specific, with all other lots going in to the Sonoma County bottling.  The Estero is showing Meyer lemon, lemon curd, fresh cream, underripe nectarines, fresh cream, and a flinty mineral finish that dances on your palate.  For $35, I’d drink this all day.

Next, two Pinot Noirs from different areas of California.  The first, the 2012 Laguna Sonoma Coast, is a blend of the Teach-Mor and Hirsch vineyards, both from the extreme Sonoma Coast.  This wine is everything I love about Sonoma Pinot Noir, with tangy, hibiscus and bright cherry filled bursts of flavor, with forest aromas of cedar and mushroom.  Fermented from wild yeast, the fruit was fermente with 30% whole cluster bunches.  With vineyards in the fog catching zone, the cool temperatures create the bright red fruit and zingy acidity that I love so mcuh.  This wine was not long for the table as we drank it quickly and happily, but it will age well and the big black raspberry and pomegranite notes are tasty with Thai curry and anything bacon.  Yum!  At $38 it’s an affordable luxury.

The second Pinot is from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, south of San Francisco at at elevation.  The 2012 Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir is also 30% whole cluster, and is unfined and unfiltered.  Finding fruit from a well kept secret in the Saveria Vineyard 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean, clones 115, 667 and 777 are cooled by constant morning fog and a diurinal swing of ~40 degrees.  That ocean is fickle she is!  Aromas of gingerbread and Christmas trees are followed by flavors of balsamic strawberries, rose hips, cranberry sauce with orange zest and black cherry.  The juicy red fruit lingers with the spice box on the finish that is just wonderful, with a touch of cedar smoke lingering on my palate.  A splurge at $50, this would be a wonderful wine with your Easter ham.

The wines of LIOCO bring back the true meaning of terroir, and what it means to be a winemaker and not a wine factory.  WIth so many wineries tryign to achive continutity year after year, makign a product that is a known entity, LIOCO strives to go beyond that and focus on expressing the fruit as much as they can.  Every vineyard and every vintage demands different treatmetn, and deserves careful attention and focus through bottling.  These guys are doing it right.  Balance, flavor, uniqueness.

If you would like to visit the winery, it is located in an urban wine ghetto in Santa Rosa, CA.  Open by appointment only, you can find them at liocowine.com.

These wines were provided by the PR company for consideraton, but I have been known to buy a bottle or two of LIOCO myself.  After this trio, I will buy a bottle or three more!

Passport to the best of Dry Creek Valley

It’s that time of year again – warm sunny days, cool rose, and wine events galore.  One of the best events in Dry Creek is Passport, which takes place April 26-27 in Dry Creek Valley, part of the Sonoma County region.
This year, the region celebrates 25 years of Passport to Dry Creek, where 50 wineries open thier doors and welcome wine lovers.

Saturday and Sunday, special vineyard tours are offered to give visitors an insider peek at the grape to glass experience.  This year, you can choose from Pasternick, specializing in Rhone style wines, Grey Palm Vineyard, who is home to the newest member winery – Cast Wines,  or on Sunday, head over to Palindrome Vineyard where you can dig in the red bench soils, or – finally  – Hawley Winery high up on Brandford Mountain.  These tours are a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a deep dive in to a particular area of Dry Creek, and worth the price of admission alone!

I love the themes, the music, and the fun atmosphere of this event.  I also love that there are many wineries that are not open to the public, and this is my best chance to taste the wines and visit the properties.

Check out some of my favorite wineries along Dry Creek Valley:

  • Frick is serving up Rhone style wines in a quiet secluded spot with gorgeous views
  • Kokomo Winery – with so many options, it’s hard to choose which is my favorite wine, but the pinot and the grenache rose are very special.  Take a taste of some fusion cuisine, and enjoy the new age bluegrass band
  • UNTI – always amazing, will be shucking oysters to pair with thier rose, as well as food from local fave Spinster Sisters, all to the tunes of the Healdsburg High School band
  • Ridge Lytton Springs will have southern confort food to go with their stunning zinfandels and rhone blends
  • Mounts Family Winery is a hidden gem on the west side, with a circus theme of magical elixirs to quench your thirst

With over 50 wineries participating, and musical, food, and winery experiences, why not spend the weekend in Dry Creek Valley!  Sunday only tickets are sold out but you can book your full weekend pass for $120 now Many of these wineries are not open to the public on a regular basis, so this is your to check them out!

I plan on visiting my favorites, but also a few new stops along the way.  I’ll be sure to report back after the event with some top stops along the wine road.

My passport is stamped and I’m ready to go!

My visit was provided by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek, but my picks and thougts are my own.  Follow along on Twitter for updates during the weekend at #DCVPassport and be sure to follow @DryCreekValley and @luscious_lushes on twitter!

Google

 

From Blogger to wine maker – Thralls scores a home run

Thralls Family Wine - Luscious LushesIt’s enough to make a make for TV movie, or at least – a great article in the Sunday food section.  You know the story, small town boy, goes to the big city to live a dream and makes it big.

In this case, this is the story of a little blogger who could.  When I first met Ed Thralls, he was part of the first handfull of bloggers that were a group, around wine country, figuring out what this social media thing was all about.  Ed was also one of the finalists for the now infamous Murphy-Goode lifestyle (which is another story – for another blogger – who also makes wine.  But more on that later).

Interning at Holdredge Wine (who, as it happens, is someone I have known for over 10 years, and also makes world class Pinot Noir) as cellar rat, Ed sucked up as much knowledge about winemaking as he could.  Realizing that he couldn’t possibly leave this wonderful world of delicious Pinot Noir and juice, he made the leap and moved to wine country full time.  While working a full time job in the wine business, he tested, crafted, experimented, and made wine.  Thus, the Thralls Family Wine label was born.

These days, Ed has created a line of four distinct, terroir driven Pinot Noirs from around Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  Each wine expresses a different piece of personality that makes Pinot Noir such an amazing wine.

Thralls Wine

Ed Thralls – Photo by Thea Dwelle

First up, the so called entry level 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir.  This juicy, balanced, and bold example is everything I love about Russian River Valley.  Not overblown like so many Russian River Pinots can be these days, the bright cherry, cranberry adn red fruit sing out with bold flavor and juicy fruit.  Using 1/3 new French oak gives this wine those beautiful hints of baking spice, without overwhelming it.  This is a fantastic everyday drinker for $32.

Next, moving in to a single vineyard showcase, the 2012 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir is one of my favorites.   With a deeper cherry flavor base, Bucher shows more black cherry, dark raspberry, and forest floor than the brighter Russian River.  The nuances of cedar and white pepper on the finish leave you guessing for more after the first sip.  This is a wine that gets better with time, so try it over a couple of days, and see what develops!  $40

Moving further west, the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir takes a step away from the bolder 667 and 777 clones of the Russian River bottlings.  Bringing in some bright 115 and 114 froim the cool, foggy Sonoma Coast, this Pinot Noir has alpine strawberries, cranberry, bergamot smokiness and amazing acid.  This wine goes native, using all wild yeast with 10% whole cluster fermentation to give it a bit of a wild thing note.  Yum!  $36

Finally, for the Pinot Noir geeks in the group, the 2012 Roma’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley is one for the ages.  100% Pommard clone goes in to this unfined and unfiltered gem, which looks a bit like cloudy cherry Kool-Aid but tastes like a dream.  Roma’s Vineyard sits at about 1800 feet in elevation, high above the valley floor, which creates a sunbelt in a cool climate.  This beauty is popping with mushroom, pine needles, bright cherry cider and rhubarb pie.  It’s bright and has brilliant acidity, and will pop with any mushroom dish or creamy cheese.  $42  (Editor’s Note:  Another fabulous Roma’s Pinot, make in an entirely different style, can be found in Cartograph’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.)

The 2012’s are Thralls’ third time out of the gate, with the 2008 Syrah being his first attempt at going it on his own.  Beginning with the 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Ed fed a passion for pinot, and intends on continuing this tradition of small lot, hand crafted premium pinot noirs while also sourcing chardonnay for his next release.

I can’t wait to see what comes next for the Navy Brat from Atlanta, who came to  Sonoma County to pursue a dream!

Hats off to you Wine Tonight, and cheers!

 

Jordan Royalty


IMG_2897
Sitting on the mountaintop overlooking Alexander Valley, Dry Creek and Geyserville, you might feel like doing your best Leonardo DiCaprio impression from Titanic.  I’m the king queen of the world!

Jordan Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1976, with a passion for world class Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, made in the heart of Sonoma.  Today, that vision has grown to include a showcase for the local terroir, as well as a focus on sustainability and stewardship of the land that the vineyards are planted on.  From solar panels to water treatment facilities, Jordan strives to maintain the land that produces these beautiful wines.

On a gorgeous late summer day, I joined a group of fellow bloggers to preview the newest tour & tasting offering, the Estate Tour & Tasting.  This 3 hour tour will make you feel like you are Gilligan, lost in the rolling hills of oak trees and back acreage, but you will soon be found in your glass of wine and several stops along the way.

Meanding down from the main chateau and tasting area, the first stop is in the gardens, where the produce for Chef Todd Knoll’s culinary program.  Having had several meals at

IMG_2899

Jordan, I know first hand what amazing vegetables can do for a meal.  Wandering through the rows of raspberries, roses, and veg, we had a mini feast of summer tomatos and fruit before boarding the newly christened (and air conditioned) Jordan shuttle for our next stop on the tour.

Next up, Seven Oaks is a stand of oak trees surrounding a new tasting bar, with sweeping views of the lake and olive orchards.  Here at Seven Oaks, we tasted two vintages of Chardonnay, paired with bento boxes of fresh vegetable sushi.  My favorite was the 2011, with beautiful crisp green apple and citrus fruit, with a healthy dose of white necterine.  The 2010 was equally beuatiful if not differnt.  The 2010 was a classic California Chardonnay, but more restrained, with creamy golden delicious apple, pear, vanilla, and baking spice.  Two yin and yang experiences, refreshingly chilled on a hot day.

IMG_2910 IMG_2909

 

At Creekside Landing, on next stop, we strolled through the vines heavy with Malbec and Petite Verdot grapes, and tasted the componant grapes that go in the Jordan’s Cabernet program.  If you haven’t tasted fruit off the vine, this is a once in a lifetime opportuinty to taste the tannic Malbec skins, and the rich ripe flesh of Petite Verdot!

IMG_2924IMG_2926

 

At our final stop on the tour, with the time going all too fast, we reach the crest of the hill at Vista Point.  This open air gazebo has 360 degree views of Alexander Valley, Geyserville, and peeps of Dry Creek and Chalk Hill and is an amazing viewpoint for sunset.  There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, as we sat down to enjoy our tasting of Cabernet and nibbles.

IMG_2947Starting with local cheeses, artisan bread and Jordan’s olive oil, we moved on to Sonoma miso beef, served with mushrooms and endive.  Both courses were paired with the 2002 and 2009 Cabernets, two amazing examples of what can be achieved here in Alexander Valley.  The amazingly fresh 2002 tasted as if it were just bottled, and was well integrated with earthy black pepper notes and blue fruit jumping out of the glass.  The 2009, by comparison, was fresh, lively and young – and still delicious – with blackberry, lavender, and herbs de provence.  As we sat chatting and tasting, it was easy to see our glasses emptied and refilled as we sighed away the afternoon on the mountain top.IMG_2951

From the wine lover to the wine geek, the Jordan Estate Tour & Tasting is the perfect experience for any one who wants to learn more about the proprey and the products produced here.  For $120 per person, you have an amazing experience to remember.IMG_2942IMG_2941

The bloggers on this preview tour were guests of Jordan Winery

 

Dot…dot…dot…

2011 Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

I love a good rosé.  I’m also very picky about my rosé.  From pale pink to deep salmon, a rosé of pinot noir can be all over the map, but generally speaking, it is delicious.

Ellipsis Wine Company

Sonoma County natives Jonathon and Chris, founded Ellipsis after returning to the area after college.  Jonathon holds a degree in Agribusiness, while Chris has his MBA, but they both realized they wanted to be back in the thick of it.In 2007, they headed back to Healdsburg and decided to combine talents and create a wine brand that created hand crafted, premium wines that showcased the best of the surrounded vineyards.This rose shows the love they have for the region.  Darker in color but not in flavor, this lovely summer sipper is full of red berry, pomegranate, and a touch of vanilla cream.  I could sip this $22 love every day this summer and not get sick of it!  Perfect for an afternoon, or perhaps with some salmon, it’s great on it’s own or also with food.

Go check it out!

This wine was provided by the boys of Ellipsis, after chatting with them at a wine event.  Thanks guys, and yum!

 

Cornerstone Rocks!

I’ve been a long time friend, and fan, of the wines of Cornerstone Napa.  With a wide range of both classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignons, as well as the newest addition, Cornerstone Oregon, they have made their mark on the wine business producing distinctive wines with style.

In comes the renegade second label, Stepping Stone.  Every bit the equal of Cornerstone, Stepping Stone gives room to play, both with styles, but varietals.  Producing single varietal wines like my favorite Cabernet Franc, as well as blends like the delicious summer sipper Corralina Rose, these wines are affordable, tasty, and fun.

One of the best things to come out of Stepping Stone is the Cornerstone Rocks! series.  Created to be a fun, irreverent, and everyday enjoyers, these two unique blends take a detour to the North Coast, creating two distinctive blends that literally do, rock.

The 2011 Stepping Stone White Rocks is a fascinating blend of Chardonnay and Gewurtraminer.  When I first opened the bottle, the unexpected floral notes of the gewertz floated up with honeysuckle, nutmeg, and musk melon.  On the first sip, the tropical lushness and citrus of the chard pokes it’s head out with a crisp, clean finish.  At only $18, this is a great bottle to bring to that BBQ or dinner party.  The slight honey sweetness from the gewertz would make it great pairing with Indian or Thai as well!  Yum!

The 2010 Stepping Stone North Coast Red Rocks is a fun little blend of Zin, Syrah and Merlot.  Something you don’t see often, this zippy little number is a spice cone of cherries jubilee, with cracked black pepper on top.  The syrah lends itself to some meaty notes hiding under the fruit of the merlot and zin, but they blend together beautifully.  This is a playful wine, and is an easy quaffer.  Another steal at $18, this wine got better and better as the night (and the next day) went on.

The fun with this  is that it goes to show you – if you don’t like a wine, wait a while.  Let it breathe.  Run it through a Soiree.  Decant it.  You will be surprised at the results!  Another trick I have learned is that the glass makes a difference.  Yes, there are glasses and there are glasses.  I really only have two main types:  Pinot Noir glasses and everything else.  That said, a small, inexpensive tasting glass collected from one of a dozen or so events will not do every wine justice.  Invest in some affordable Bordeaux glasses.  I personally love the Connoisseur Series from Cost Plus, which are made by Spiegelau (owned by Riedel).  Through this tangled chain, these $5 stems are the right shape and the right thickness.  Bonus – if you break them like I do, you won’t cringe!

Both of these blends are unique every year, and are only made in limited quantities.  The blends and the flavor profiles are only limited by the creativity of the winemaker.  These wines are pure fun.  You don’t need to study them, you don’t need to think about them, simply enjoy them!

These wines were provided by Craig Camp and his indubitable team at Cornerstone, who very much rock! 

Heart like a Lion

2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma CoastWhen I first met Leon Glover, winemaker, owner, bottle washer, and mad scientist at Lionheart Wines, several years ago at Crushpad, I knew he was going to make some special wines.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with him and see how things were going.  WIth the wines resting (ok under lock and key and held hostage but the powers that be at the form Cr***p&%, but who’s counting), I thought they deserved some extra love.  Getting them out of the warehouse was a challege that required some patience, but it was worth it to taste Lionheart’s wines.

First up:  The 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Gap’s Crown Vineyard.  This is one of my favorite locations for Sonoma Coast pinot.  Typically, you think of the Sonoma Coast as a region that develops bright acid, cranberry and juicy red fruit.  2008 however was an odd year.  High temperatures for a long summer as well as bad fires in Mendocino led to a big dark and dense wine, with spikes of acid.  That tell cranberry, black cherry, cola, and black raspberry came out to dance on my tongue   The mellow use of only 1/3 new oak balances out this wine without overpowering it.  $42

Lionheart makes several other wines, and I will be sharing those one by one.  I hope I tantilize you with my tastes, and that you run over and buy some for yourself!

Inman Family Winery turns ten!

I have been fortunate enough to know Inman Fammily Wines, and by extension winemaker Kathleen Inman, and her husband Simon, for several years now.  Growing from a small industrial warehouse near the Santa Rosa, CA airport, to the current winery on Olivet Lane, Inman focuses on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay grown from the special grapes grown in the Russian River Valley.

Winemaker Kathleen Inman realized her dreams when she traded in spreadsheets for cover crops, to start Inman Family Wine.  She was recently honored with the Women for WineSense Rising Star award, which is presented annual to women who demonstrate extreme leadership, or are innovators in the industry.  Inman is a leading advocate of natural wine, and wine that possesses a more restrained and elegant style from the Russian River Valley, with moderate alcohol levels and healthy, natural acidity.

A Napa Valley native, Inman fell in love with wine as a student at UCSB, holding a summer job at Napa Creek Winery. After years as a finance executive in England, she and her husband returned to California to indulge her passion for Pinot Noir. She obtained the 10.45-acre Olivet Grange property in Sonoma County and began planting it following organic farming practices in the year 2000.

The estate vineyard, Olivet Grange, is organically farmed and sustainable practices are used to produce the best fruit possible.  Here on the estate, the focus on the environment is clear:  the winery itself is built of reclaimed materials, employing redwood, eco friendly labels, reusable wine bags, and renewable energy sources.  If you drive an electric car, you can even juice up in the parking area!

This year, Inman Family Wines celebrates the 10th anniversary since its first harvest in 2002.  In honor of the 10th anniversary, Inman Family has announced plans for a year of celebration, starting with an exclusive retrospective tasting featuring a complete vertical of the Estate’s Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir.  At this special tasting, a dinner paired to this wines will follow, which promises to be amazing.

Tickets are extremely limited for this exclusive event on October 13th at the winery, so get yours now for $125.  You can get yours by calling 707-293-9576.

Hope to see you there!

Don't rush this pinot!

No pinot should be opened before it’s time!  In this case, it’s been sleeping for a few years, so I think the 2009 David Bynum Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is safe to be consumed.

This is what I consider to be the now classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  It i big and rich, and full of chewy black cherries.  After a pass through my trusty Soiree however, the wine opened up to some sarsaparilla and pomegranate notes and was much calmer.

While this is a large and robust pinot, RRV is tending that way.  I think there are two primary reasons for this:  Firstly, the global climate shift has changed weather patterns and made the area have more degree days than in previous years.  Secondly, the palate of the masses likes a bolder pinot, tending towards syrah.  This is similar to areas like the Santa Lucia Highlands, as well as the Santa Ynez Valley, made famous by Miles & Jack.  There is a lightness of raspberry and bright red fruit hiding under all of that chewy cherry, but it’s dampened by the bitter quinine finish.  The baking spices are strong, especially the clove notes which numb the tongue a touch.

This is certainly a candidate for decanting, as well as aeration, but could use some serious opening up time.

For $30, it’s averagely priced, but I’d like to see this about the $20 range.  At  14.9% AVB it’s also going to knock your socks off if you’re not careful!  If you can find it for less than retail, and you enjoy a larger pinot, you should TRY THIS!

 This wine was provided by Rodney Strong, paretn company of Davis Bynum, for consideration and sipping.  It’s been hiding in my cellar so it’s aged to perfection!

Sometimes, smaller is better

Often times, people have the assumption that larger is better; whether it’s in wine, packages of snacks at Costco, or houses with more bedrooms than people in the town where I went to boarding school, the message is bigger is better.  Even in wine, the message can be bigger is better; while not referring to size, it often shows up in large production labels, that assume that releasing 10,000 cases means they are successful.  It also shows up stylistically, when wines become Fraken-fied, with additives and strange concoctions of science much more than art.

My choice, therefore, is to spend as much money as I can on supporting smaller, local producers who not only need to cash more, but have more creativity and stylistic control than – dare I say it – that label with the Kangaroo on it down the street.

Luckily for me, I was invited to the Micro Winery Open House at Inspiration Custom Crush in Santa Rosa recently.  Here, several smaller wineries – including Inspiration, were pouring their wares.  I have a few highlights from the event and a shamless plug for a fellow blogger turned winemaker who is doing some great things with Rhone varitals.

First up, Wesley Ashley Wines‘ Intelligent Design Cuvee Blanc is a Rhône style
blend of  Vioginer, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc from Santa Barbara.  The Viognier adds a nice aromatic note, while the Roussanne gives a crisp acidity that would be perfect for a summer sipper.  We all know by now, that I love a good Grenache Blanc, and the 20% addition to this blend rounds out the white and gives it a solid body.  This is no wimpy wine!  Classic flavors of nectarine and apricot show up under the floral notes of the viognier.

Also from Wesley Ashely, the 2009 Intellivent Design Cuvee is another classic Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah.  The Grenache, which is 75% of the blend, shows off its strawberry spice, with the Syrah adding some great backbone.

YOu can find Wesley Ashely Wines at the winery by appointment, The Wine Mine in Oakland, and several restaurants around the bay area.

This is a winery to watch!
Keeping on the Rhône theme, next up we meet the Two Shepherds.  William Allen, a fellow wine blogger over at Simple Hedonisms, and partner Michelle Berger launched Two Shepherds wine to focus on Rhône style wines from California with distinction.

So far so good I’d say!  It takes extreme talent and guts to start a winery, particularly if you’re day job is in sales, as William’s is.  Having known him for a few years now, I have seen first hand the sheer tenacity that it takes to launch a brand, learn about the chemistry of winemaking, the ins and outs of running a business and also trying to pay the bills.  Kudos to a successful launch!

I was one of the lucky few to taste the delicious Grenache Blanc, which is sadly sold out now – but it was a great example of a Rhône white, that balances out acidity with the creamy subtle sweetness.  Some GBs can be either too acidic (I’ve had a few from Spain) or too full bodied which implies sweetness.  The Two Shepherds balances those two, with a nice minerality, white peach, lemon lime flavors, followed by a flinty finish.  I am eagerly waiting for more of this to be bottled so I can nab some for the cellar!

Also from Two Shepherds, the MRV is a classic white Rhône blend, comprised of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier.  I enjoyed a bottle of this last night with Butternut squash Lasagna, and the creamy body of the MR balanced the sweetness of the Butternet perfectly.  The Addition of the viogner adds a touch of honeysuckle.

There are two red offerings from Two Shepherds, the GSM, and the SM (Syrah/Mourvedre).  The GSM blend is a bit different than your average southern Rhone, or for that matter, Paso Robles Rhone blend, as the Grenache in this blend adds acidity and flavors to develop that are unique to the area.  The lighter style blends perfectly with the fuller bodied Syrah and Mourvedre, to create a masterpiece of bright red berry, spice box, and a lingering flavor that I personally can only describe as Grenache.

This wine isn’t technically released, but it will be soon and I suggest buying a bottle and letting it sleep for a bit.  If not, give it some air before you sip and swirl.

The Syrah/Mourvedre blend uses the same Syrah from Russian River, and is blended equally with Mourvedre.  The SM is slightly fuller bodied than the GSM, as you don’t have the higher acid in the Grenache to lighten the load.  It is also delicious and would be fantastic with roast chicken, a burger, or cassoulet.

You can find Two Shepherds wines at the winery by appointment, and via mail order, but also at K&L Wine Merchants, Wicked Wines in HBG, and several restaurants in the Bay Area including The Girl & Fig, Spoonbar, and Toast Wine Lounge.  Click here for details.

The moral of this story?  Seek out those small producers.  They work in small lots, and can be more creative than people making large amounts of wine.  Have fun discovering them.  The custom crush / coop tasting room is more and more popular, as it allows smaller brands to showcase their wines while sharing costs for capital expenditures.

Now, I don’t harbor any fantasies of being able to be a chemist and make my own wine, but it sure is fun to live vicariously!  I’ve picked up some of the pieces of the puzzle on the way, and while I don’t think I could go it on my own, I do lust after a barrel or two of Pinot Noir in my future.

Some of my other favorite coop tasting rooms:

  • Winery Collective – San Francisco
  • The Wine Yard – Santa Rosa
  • The urban wineries of Coffey Lane (that’s my own name) – The NPA, Carol Shelton, Vinify Winery Collective & Custom Crush, Inspiration Custom Crush, all located in the same complex as the micro wineries featured in this post.

Explore your town!  There are Urban wineries in San Francisco such as Dogpatch Wineworks and Bluxome Street.  Oakland and Alameda have an urban explosion.

Support your local winemaker!  You won’t be sorry!

 

1 2