It’s Bloggership Time!

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Happy New Year!  Boy am I glad 2009 is over.  While there were some fabulous times last year, the last few months were pretty wretched for me.  Today is 1/02/2010 however, and as a palindrome, I’m thinking it’s good luck. To kick this year off with a bang, I’m here to announce the 2010 Wine Bloggers Scholarship applications and donations are open!  This year, we are headed to Walla Walla in June to talk about wine, blogging and social media.  As with the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, this 3 day symposium brings together professionals, bloggers, winemakers and more to discuss the impact of industry and citizens bloggers, social media, and the adult beverage industry. We will spend 3 days in Walla Walla drinking great wine, learning the basics of wine blogging, blogging live while tasting, touring the Walla Walla wine scene, and also doing a whole lot of networking.  After the 2009 Conference in Sonoma, many connections were made, many bloggers blossomed, and several people got some killer careers going in wine.  What could YOU accomplish? In an effort to support bloggers that wish to attend to learn more, perfect their craft, or see what it’s all about, the WBC Scholarship sets out to raise funds to assist citizen bloggers (those unaffiliated with a  winery or other professional organization) get to Walla Walla and participate in the event of the decade.  Ok well the first year of the decade anyway. To find out more about the WBC Scholarship, please visit our site at http://wbcscholarship.wordpress.com/.  If you’re a citizen blogger and would like to apply for assistance, please see the Application page. If you would like to donate, or you know someone who would be a good resource, you may do so directly at our Paypal page here: If you prefer to send a check, or if you have any questions, please email us for details at wbcscholarship at gmail dot com. Google

The Benziger Blogger Follies!

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Benziger Family Vineyards sits inside an eruption cauldron, part of Sonoma Mountain, in Glen Ellen.  One beautiful early fall day, they took on a group of bloggers and showed us the VIP treatment and gave us a nice education and tasting lesson behind the scenes. Here at Benziger, the practice of biodynamics builds up the biological capital every year.  Building a closed ecosystem, the winery has created its own terroir through the careful management of the land, and the balance of nature and farming.  Eliminating the use of synthetic chemicals and starting more natural methods like crop rotation, composting, and natural insect and pest control changed the ecosystem. We started our day taking a tram tour around the property, where we had several stops where Mike Benziger, Kathy Benziger, and Next, we wandered down to the insectary, where Colby explained how the introduction of beneficial insects helps keep the farm in balance.  While in the insectary, we sipped on some 2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc Paradiso de Maria, Sonoma Mountain while a Praying Mantis came to sit atop our bottle.  I tasted lemons, cream, grapefruit, with a whiff of petrol on the nose, as well as chalk and hay.  It had a great acidify and was lively with granny smith apple flavors.  500 cases of this wine were produces from a one acre block that was dry farmed with minimal intervention.  The wine was fermented on native yeast, which I always enjoy because I think it provides such a unique factor to every barrel.  It was fermented in 100% stainless steel barrels sur lie and was delicious! After the gardens, we moved on to the compost pile.  Yes, the compost pile.  Unfortunately, i didnt’ have any wine with me at the time, but luckily enough, it did NOT smell like my kitchen bucket.  Mike Benziger explained to us that there are no magic tricks when making great wine.  Benziger vines havfe very deep root growth on the property, which in part is caused by a change in the irrigation strategy.  Deep roots allow for more stability int he vines.  According to Mike, biodynamics is the best fine tuning system for nature, to make the best wine.  The compost piles are actually kept separate for each block, and they are put back on the land where they came from.  This adds to the closed ecosystem and prevents any cross contamination from occurring. Our next stop was the water treatment facility, which is a series of ponds that are aerated at the back of the property.  This is a man made wetland, which acts as a natural filter and helps to recycles and resue 2-4 million gallons (yes kids that’s a LOT of water!) annually. Before we moved in to the cave to taste smoe with, we stopped by the crushpad to see their new sorting table. As it was in the middle of crush, we saw the line in action.  this new vibrating sorting table allows the workers to sort out the duds, so they are […]

On a mountain top

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Haber Family Vineyards, which sits high atop Howell Mountain, near the village of Angwin, was founded in 2004 by Ron and Sue Marie Haber, a couple of summer refugees from the East Coast. My blogging friend Melissa Dobson, of Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing, was kind enough to arrange a bloggers tasting day up on the mountain.  Sue Marie and Ron were gracious and welcoming, and the usual suspects (Randy, Michael, Marcy, and Ashley) made our way out of the Napa Valley for an unforgettable experience. The estate on Howell Mountain is a lean 5.5 acres, which was painstakingly developed 1 acre at a time due to local zoning laws at the time.  My personal opinion is that slow and steady wins the race however, and this turned out to be worth the slow development.  The Howell Mountain AVA was the first sub-appellation in Napa Valley to be officially recognized, and is known for it’s Cabernets.  The rocky red volcanic soil sits above the valley fog, which creates long mellow growing days.  The estate vineyard is between 1550 and 1650 ft, which is smack dab in the middle of the Howell Mountain vertical AVA. While the fruit grew, and the estate developed, the 2006 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon was released earlier this year . This bottle was decanted the night before our visit, and it was simply stunning.  Those of you who know me well know that I don’t like the typical overblown overdone overextracted Napa Cab, and this wine was the elegant, silky antithesis of that.  I tasted chocolate, smoke and salami in the wine.  Or was that the nibbles I was chowing down?  Sue Marie put on an amazing spread for us.  The wine continued with pepper and subtle blackberry, with juicy plum notes.  As the wine opened up further in the glass, and as we ate lunch and drank more, the rich mocha flavors came out to play and evergreen notes teased me.  At one point I had an overwhelming aroma of Earl Grey tea, which was followed by fig, black cherry and root beer.  I really enjoyed this wine, and for $80 it is worth it.  I would certainly buy another bottle to hold for a special (or not so special) wine drinking occasion. If you have an opportunity, try to catch Sue Marie and Ron while they are in town and make it a point to taste their beautiful wine.  The Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet will be released next year, and I look forward to going back and tasting that offering as well. Happy drinking! Google

3 and Twenty Blackbirds

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I was recently lucky enough to be invited to sit in the presence of wine royalty.  Joel Peterson, the founder and driving force behind Ravenswood Winery, hosted an intimate wine dinner where he poured and discussed his single vineyard designate wines.  What a treat! Ravenswood is a formidable force in the zin world, and Peterson is one of the few men that can be called the Godfather of Zinfandel.  In the early 70s, he challenged the going jug wine mentality and tried to create wines that tasted of the place and rivaled European wines. Single vineyard designates aer Joel’s passion, where you can work with small lots reflective of the European heritage of winemaking.  Zinfandel is still somewhat of a mystery in terms of growing and manipulating, and experiments with Native yeast, open top fermentation and oak treatments have yielded some beautiful examples. Most of these wines have very little manipulation, and are reflective of their terroir.  These wines allow the land to speak for them selves..  Zinfnadel is one of the few wines that is very unique to the area it is grown, and might be the most indicative varietal of terroir in the U.S.  there aer so many regions that produce zin, and each region is different in terms of sytle and flavor profile.  If you further refine that to vineyard blocks, you can start to see how the wine takes on the earth it is grown in.  The wide ranges of climate and terroir produces a higher quality over a wider growing region than any other varietal. Over the course of the evening, we tasted 9 wines, paired with delicious foods from Spruce.  I wish I had saved a bit of each wine to taste with the food, but it was all so tasty!  Each vineyard has it’s own character, and each is from a different corner of Napa and Sonoma.  2007 Dickerson – 1000 cases of this single vineyard were made of this 100% zin from Napa valley.  I found it light and bright, with juicy raspberry and hibiscus flavors.  I also found apple jolly rancher, with a tiny touch of evergreen.  This vineyard had an issue with leaf roll virus, which caused the grapes to have high acid and low sugar levels, somewhat mimicking the coastal environment of other vineyards.  The second taste I took of this showed black cherry and bosenberry.  My favorite sneaky little tidbit about this wine, is that the same wine, bottled under a different label, actually received different scores by certain influential critics.  How’s THAT for marketing!  This vineyard is located in Napa Valley, and was planted in sections between 1930 and 1985.  It is a classic example of an old, dry-farmed and head pruned example of Zinfandel in a valley dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. $35 This was the first zin of the flight and I would definitely BUY. 2007 Big River – also 100% zin, this vineyard was planted somewhere around 1880.  I tasted cracked pepper, dusty plums and […]

Au Currant…A WBW Adventure

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This month, Wine Blogging Wednesday returns to it’s founder, Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours for a little twist on drinking locally.  Lenn charged us to not only drink wines that are made locally, but rather to DRINK them locally, vis a vis at a winery.  Well, I took it an extra step.  As I had a wine adventure to the Sideways Land planned with some friends, I thought I’d tell you about the shining beacon of hope in an otherwise rained on my parade weekend. The Curran Collection of wines has a tasting room in Lompoc the Danish village of Solvang, but they make their wines in a small shared use space on a ranch that grows grapes, veggies, and legends.  Kris Curran, half of D’Alfanso-Curran, got her start at Cambria but really cut her teeth at Seasmoke where she shined as a superstar winemaker.  In 2008, she left Seasmoke for Foley Estates, and also focuses on her Curran label.  Kris has the distinction of being the ONLY person who is allowed to call me Precious.  Yep, that’s right – she named me Precious after the first 5 minutes, and we hit it off like mozzarella and crust for the next 3.5 hours. The other half of the team is Bruno D’Alfanso, who was instrumental in making Sanford a powerhouse in the Santa Rita Hills wine scene.  Bruno started at Sanford in 1983, and left when Sanford was cold to a corporate interest.  Personally, I’m glad to see him using his talents on his own wine!  Now, he’s making D’Alfanso and Badge wines in partnership with Kris at Trio VintnersTasting Room, their name for the three labels they are producing. We were greeted with the Curran Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, 2007.  This spicy little number was an amazing departure from the more well known Chardonnays of the region, and was impressive.  The crispness of the fruit was fermented in stainless steel,and carries a lot of citrus fruit, baked apples, and spice.  It wasn’t heavy but it wasn’t as acidic as a Sav Blanc and was just delicious.  This was the wine we went back to and kept opening as we chatted the early evening away and is a MUST BY at $22. Next, we moved on to the most beautiful dark salmon-colored rosé, the Curran Grenache Gris, Santa Ynez Valley, 2007.  Here’s a fun little factoid about Grenache.  Did you know there are actually three Grenache grapes?  There are three color related varietals:  Noir, Blanc, and Gris.  The Noir is what you would typically find as a Grenache red wine, while the Gris actually produces the pink juice, as opposed as a sagniee method rose where the juice is bled off or fermented on the red skins.  This crisp rose had a ton of tropical fruit and melon flavors, with a hint of roses.  It was a meaty rose with bold blood orange flavors.  I loved this wine.  I’ve been drinking a lot more rosé lately, and this one is […]

A zin by any other name

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As some of you know, I cut my wine teeth on zinfandel.  It is a particular passion of mine, and I love exploring different zinfandels; to that end, I joined ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, almost 10 years ago so I could be surrounded by the bold stuff.  I’m excited to announce that I’m now working with the ZAP office as the ZinWorld Community Liaison, where it’s my job to spread the love of Zinfandel to zin lovers, zin producer members, and prospective members via ZAP’s social network -z On ZinWorld, you can browse member wineries, see what deals ZAP members get, and find out who makes zin from a region near you.  Zin World is a public area on the ZAP website, where you can find out general information on zinfandel, research member wineries, find out what is happening in the zin world, and just have fun.  Members can create a profile, and you can connect with other zin lovers.  I love it as a resource for finding out who is having events, as well as what discounts ZAP members get.  Sometimes you can find that the events and perks going on are worth the ZAP Membership fee.  Check it out! Additionally, many of you might now that I am a contributing editor for the new online wine zine Palate Press.  We’ve launched!  The first edition is currently online and drawing attention.  Natch, my first piece was about the history of zin, so go check it out over HERE! As a companion to that, I’ve reviewed a couple of yummy specimens from Sobon Estates here.  It’s interesting to taste a Primitivo and a Zinfandel side by side, considering that they are genetically twins.  I didn’t find them identical at all; similar yes, family members definitely.  But the same?  Nope!  Check it out for your self. 2007 ReZerve Primitivo – 96% Primitivo / 4% Petite Syrah I really loved this wine.  It comes from one of the oldest plantings from Shenandoah Valley, and is full of dark brooding mystery.  Lots of dark loganberry, cocoa powder, dark plum, earth, cinnamon sticks, dark baking spices.  $24 2007 ReZerve Paul’s Vineyard Zinfandel – 96% Zin / 4% Petite Syrah At 15.2% ABV, you’d expect this to be a bruiser but it’s nicely balanced while still being bold.  Blackberries, chocolate, plums.  It’s got the earthy quality of Sierra Foothills zin that I really enjoy, but still keeps a lot of the bold fruitiness that makes it a zin.  $24 *While these were sent to me as samples from Sobon, I would gladly go out and buy them for myself. For fun, go out and try some more Primativo.  Some other producers that I know about are listed here, but there are MANY many more! Collier Falls D-Cubed Cellars Hendry Jacuzzi Family Layer Cake MANTRA Wines Rosa d’Oro Vineyards Go explore, try some Primativo today!  For help locating producers, try Able Grape, the web’s wine search engine.   Google

Don’t cry for me Argentina!

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The truth is, your wine is AMAZING!  I have been drinking this or that from Argentina for several years, since it’s a great value, but I must admit, I didn’t love it.  That is, until the good folks at Benson Marketing and VineConnections put together a blogger tasting to introduce us to their selections from the Mendoza and surrounding areas.  yum! First, a bit about Argentina in general.  Argentina is the world’s 5th largest wine producing country.  When you compare that to France, Italy, Australia, and the U.S., considering the size of the country, that’s a lot of juice!  There are many varieties that are produced, but the most well known is probably Malbec.  The primary growing region of Mendoza has four sub-appellations:  Lujan du Cuyo; Maipu; Uco Valley; and Eastern Mendoza.  While there is very little natural rainfall, most of the vineyards are between 2000 and 4700′ in elevation, and there is natural drainage from the snows off the Andes above.  I was excited to taste some Argentinian wine that I wasn’t guessing blind at, since most of my prior experiences had been mediocre mass market options form Cost Plus and Costco. The first wine we tasted was the Celestina Rose of Malbec, a sparkler that was a surprising treat.  I have tasting Sparkling Shiraz before, and was happily surprised at the interesting flavors, but the Malbec was amazing.  This was 100% Malbec, and the low 12.8% ABV was a nice reminder that not all wine needs to be over the top and  punchy.  Since Argentinians in general drink a lot of bubbles, something like 35 liters per person per year.  This wine was a blood rose color, with a yeasty nose and flavors of hibiscus, pink grapefruit and wild strawberry.  It is bottle fermented and aged for 14 months in the bottle, and retails for a low low price of $20.  Buy Next, we moved on to the Crios Torrontes.  I found jasmine, honeysuckle, honey and wildflowers in this white which reminded me of Muscat.  It was interesting as it was the only wine that wasn’t from Mendoza, but I loved it.  It had a ton of tropical fruit, musk melon, and a lovely perfumey nose.  At $15, it’s a great white for any occasion,especially seafood and salads.  I would love to have this with a nice fruit salad, or even a green salad with a citrus dressing.  Strong Buy From the whites, we moved in to the red wines of Mendoza. Malbec is Argentina’s signature red wine grape and one of the Bordeaux grape varieties.  Malbec was brought to Argentina by the French in the mid 186s, where it found a new home in Mendoza and thrived in the long growing seasons.  Since Mendoza gets over 300 sunshine days a year, the grape took off.  An interesting point about Argentinian Malbec is that there are now 22 distinct clones, which they plant on their own rootstock.  Most wine in Argentina was produced  for domestic consumption but as […]

Oh these hallowed Halls

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It’s the day after the WBC, and my trusty drinking buddy Megan (@sonadora) were wandering around Napa Valley, eager to make some new discoveries.  As luck would have it, we were personally invited to a Bloggers Day at Hall Napa Valley, a fairly large production facility, in St Helena.  Little did I know, I would leave that day with a much kinder view of that “other” valley, as well as a profound respect for an established winery who opened their doors and barrel room to a posse of renegade bloggers. Hall is most well known for it’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.  They are also the first GOLD LEED Certified winery in California (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).  They take their environmental responsibility seriously, and employ a variety of methods to ensure that they are eco balanced and green in all senses of the world.  Some of the tools they use to achieve this are bio-diesel powered farm equipment, solar power, radiant cooling & heating, and sustainable farming practices.  In fact, the solar power provides approximately 35% of Hall’s total reneger needs, and they are successfully selling back power during the strong sunny moths in the summer.  The LEED certification process is a complex multi-year undertaking, and Hall will be the first winery to achieve this. We met up with Joe, Amy, Liz, and the team from Hall at the St. Helena tasting room at production center.  Here, we were greeted with a taste of the 2008 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which retails for a very affordable $20.  I found the Sav Blanc very fruity, and crisp without being sharp.  It is fermented in 100% stainless steel, and has delicious citrus.  The vineyard manager explained to us that thinning the canopy and dropping some of the grape clusters actually helps bring out the citrus characteristics, more so than say a grassy Sav Blanc.  That brought up a good point – is that grassy flavor profile a flaw or a style?  The intimation was the the grassiness can come from over shading the grapes, which doesn’t allow the natural sunlight through.  I personally prefer a more well rounded Sav Blanc, so whatever the technique, this was a strong buy. After we tasted some of the juice, we headed out to the winery to learn about how Hall practices green wine making and learn more about their winery.  On the catwalk, we learned from winemaker Steve Leveque about their gravity flow winery, which they can expand in the future.  Three sections in the barrel room allow the winemakers to store wines in independent temperature controlled rooms, which allows for better aging and separation. The St. Helena winery sits on the grounds of one of Napa’s oldest structures, where the historic distillary operated in teh 1940s, making brandy and wine.  The original structure was built in 1885, and that structure transformed in to the Coop winemaking facility in Napa, which was somewhat of a local eyesore.  Fortunately, Hall has plans to restore the […]

Forgive me, for I have zinned! A WBW Post

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For this month’s adventure in the themed blogging topic known as Wine Blogging Wednesday, our hostess @sonadora from Wannabe Wino, is hosting us for the 5th Anniversary.  This time, Megan goes back to her love of Zinfandel, and encourages us to taste our favorite zins paired with some yummy BBQ. As luck would have it, this post coincided with the annual ZAP Summer Celebration, which is famous for it’s BBQ and plethora of zins.  To start out, we took a little tour of some of the ZAP producer vineyards, starting out with Pete Seghesio at Saini Vineyards.  Saini was planted in 1946, and is now run by the 4th generation of Sainis.  Prior to being farmed for grapes, it was planted with apples, pears, and prunes, as was much of the Dry Creek Valley where this vineyard is located. You may not have known this, but dry farmed zin can be one of the most difficult grapes to grow because it can rot from the inside out; the cool fog that drifts in to the valley over the western mountains cools down the fruit and can make it damp, and prone to botrytis.  Now, if you’re in to Sauternes, this is a good thing.  In red wine, not so much!  Dry farming also can have a 1pt increase in the over all brix (measurement of sugar) a day, in the summer heat. From Saini Vineyard, we went over to Lytton Springs, where Ridge has 175 acres planted next to their straw bale winery.  One of the most interesting things we saw was a newly planted field on the drive in, which is a purpose ffield blending of Zinfandel, Charbono, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mataro, Cinsualt, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Palomino and pretty much everything else in the kitchen sink.  This is an old school Italian field blend, and should be some interesting stuff.  Ridge will be harvesting this vineyard block by block, and while this will allow them to harvest depending on each varietals individual ripening, it will undoubtedly have some cross over. The Lytton Springs Vineyard is planted on old river rock, and you can really see the red soil coming through.  This vineyard is on a small bench, that seperates the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, and is between 80-100 feet in elevation.  The red river rock holds those 100 year old Zin vines in the cool morning fog, with hot summer afternoons.  This will give it a district flavor profile from the Saini Vieyard, which is on the more fertile flood plain of the Russian River. Ridge purchased fruit here since 1972, and bought he property in the early 1990s, making it part of their estate portfolio.  There has been zin planted here since the very early 1900s, when the old Captain Litton (spelling changed later) owned the land and had a large variety of grapes growing here.  That history of complementary varitals is show in that new field blend I mentioned above. But enough about the grapes, what […]

Chile is HOT!

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I’ve been talking a lot recently about value wines, and where you can find good value and good wine.  Chile happens to be one such place.  I’ve written about that here, here, here and here.  Oh yeah, and here too. Recently, RF Binder and the Wines of Chile people put together a premier tasting for bloggers, where we had the winemakers, the wine players, and the wine bloggers participating in an online tasting including a video uplink to Chile.  I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable live tasting events I’ve done in a while. We blew threw them extremely quickly, but here are my tasting notes: Emiliana Natura Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – this wine is from the Casablanca Valley in Chile, which is one of the fastest growing areas for viticulture in Chile, especially for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.   These varietals thrive in the cool growing region, which is known for high acidity and fresh fruit aromas.  The proximity to the ocean make the climate mild, with no extreme temperature extremes. I found this wine very enjoyable, and a GREAT deal at $10.99, and even better deal for less.   It was grassy on the nose, reminiscent of New Zealand sauvignon blancs, but was followed by crisp citrus fruit and green apple.  My Aussie friend who was tasting me is normally a NZ Sav Blanc drinker, but she said “super yummy!” which is high praise indeed!  This bottle did not last the night, because we kept going back to it.  Emiliana has two lines, and the Natura is from the Organically grown line.  They are certified organic grapes, and this is one of the best examples of a successfully made organic wine that I hvae had in a while.  Run, don’t walk to stock up on this summer sipper. STRONG BUY Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2008 – say what you will about California Pinot Noir, this wine was NOT good.  I don’t find it old world, and I don’t find it good.  I’ve had several Pinot Noirs from Chile to see if I can find ONE that I like but alas, I still have not. The Colchauga Valley region is the 2nd largest appellation in Chile, and is typically known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec and Syrah. I did not find much complexity in this wine, and found it flat and dusty.  It had notes of sour cherries, and I found it muddy.  It was decidedly better at the end of the evening in a 2nd taste, but even at $15, I’d have to give this wine an avoid. AVOID if you like New World Pinot Los Vascos Reserve 2006 – interestingly, this is one of the wines I tasted a while ago and found to be terrible.  It goes to show you, that anything can happen in transport, and I can clearly say that the previous bottle i tasted was off because I really enjoyed this wine. It is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenere, […]

Spotlight on: Chile

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With the economy in the state of panic that is is, and my wine budget being usurped by silly things like groceries, I have been spending a lot of  time recently seeing out budget friendly wines that are tasty alternatives to their North American counterparts.  Chile is one such place.  With a plethora of not so good wines on the market, you have to seek out the good stuff, but there is plenty of good stuff to be had! Before I became a wine blogger, I used to by Chilean wine at Cost Plus or Costo when I was feeling the penny pinch.  One of my favorite brands was Montes, and in particular the Montes Alpha Cabernet.  At $15 for a very rich and smooth cab, I thought this was a steal.  Now that i am blogging, I am lucky enough to have made friends with Rob Bralow, who works for the Wines of Chile PR folks and has given me different samples to try as well as a ton of information.  Armed with this knowledge, I can now go forth and shop for Sauvignon Blancs and Cabernet Sauvignon blends and feel confident that I can find a tasty treat under budget! First, a little geography lesson. Chile is a long, narrow country that hugs the west coast of South America.  It is widely known for its stunning Andes mountains, but is increasingly known for it’s wines.  Wine grapes in Chile are primary grown between the latitudes of 32 and 38 degrees south, which is similar to southern Spain and parts of North Africa.  The differnece between these European regions and Chile is the climate.  Chile is a more temperate zone, with mild summers and winters.  It has a Meddi9terrain climate, and is similar to Calfornia in that way. Chilean wine has a long winemaking history, which began in the 16th cnetury wwhen the conquistaor brought their European Vitis Vinifera grapes with them.  Later on, i nthe 1700s, the fighting varitals of Cabernet Sauvignona nd Merlot were planted. Carménère is relatively new to Chile, but was often mistaken for Merlot in the younger days of their wine industry.  In the 1990s it was finally recognized as it’s own varietal, which was broght over from Europe before it was wiped out there frm teh phylloxera epidemic. Carménère is hard to produce in cooler climates becuse it is a late ripening grape, but it was well suited to Chile’s temperate cilmate.     Chile has many different wine regions and they can produce vasty different wines.  This is mostly owing to the fact that Chiles geography is NOrth to South, so you have roughtly the distance of Seattle to Los Angeles to deal with.  As we all know, Los Angeles ain’t no Seattle!  Some regions that you may have heard of are: Aconcagua, which includes two smaller regions.  This is one of the newest regions, and is one of the cooler micro climates in Chile.  It has had  success growing Chardonnay and […]

All in the family!

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France!  Varietal labels!  Two levels!  Oh boy oh boy!  I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got the invitation to taste two labels, Robert Skalli and Fortant, in a wine bar that I have been dying to check out, CAV. Since I have not had a lot of exposure to old world wine, and Old World wine that I enjoy, I was excited to learn about these two labels with the winemaker, Laurent Sauvage. Robert Skalli began his career in southern France in the 1970s, where he earned his stripes before setting the French wine world on it’s ear in the 80s by throwing the establishment to the wind by producing France’s first single varietal wines.  Until he came along, France was dominated by centuries of classic blending techniques.  The upstart Skalli wanted to showcase the quality of the fruit while simplifying the wines for the new wine drinker.  The second label, Fortant, was created to showcase premier wines at a price that anybody could afford.  This was a foreign concept in the mid 1980s.  The introduction of varital specific wines to the South of France was an interesting prospect, since there was a lot of unexplored territory in wine growing regions.  This was a revolutionary idea that was quickly adopted by many wine growers.  It’s interesting to note that the Skalli family also owns St. Supery, located in the Napa Valley – which I recently wrote about HERE. I have a greater appreciation for producers that have multiple houses, because I think it gives them a full understanding of the different styles of wine that are produced in the wide variety of physical locations. Here in the States, we are used to having varitally specific wines.  I think this is one of the reasons why old world wine can be intimidating to the average American consumer, because we don’t’ know what goes in to the detailed AOC labeling process.  Producing single varietal wines makes it easy to showcase the stars of a region, while simplifying the buying process for the consumer. Skalli and Fortant wines are creations of the Languedoc.  This is the largest of the growing regions in the south of France, which is rich in micro climates and terroir. The Languedoc wine region is included in the much larger Vin de Pays d’Oc.  This region overs the southeastern coastal Gulf of Lion, from the border of Spain to the famous South of France region of Provence.  The total production is approximately 700,000 hectares (1 729 737 acres).  It is the largest wine producing region in the world, and produces more than a third of France’s total wine production. While historically, the Languedoc has been known for producing many of France’s bulk wines or Vins Ordinaries” there are increasingly, new stars being discovered in this region. All of the wines we tasted were value priced, ranging in price from the steal of $6.99 to the moderate $18.99.  While I enjoyed all of the tastes, I […]

Just say no to OAK!

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WOW!  What a day.  The mercury has reached 90 degrees, in SAN FRANCISCO.  IN APRIL!  Mother Nature is sure ticked off.  The saving grace to this terrible heat wave is that I have been enjoying some very nice white wines of late.  Now, you probably know that I am a red girl through and through, and have been known to drink Pinot with my fish, but there is something so relaxing about a cold white on a red hot day. When I got home from work, my house was an oven, and the last thing I could think of doing was opening a red.  So I made myself some cold chicken salad, and cracked open a bottle of Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay that I have had stashed in my fridge for a while.  The unoaked version of the classic white is my cup of tea.  I have long held the belief that we have destroyed a perfectly lovely white wine varietal by turning it the color of pee and adding oak essence to it.  I personally prefer the minerally citrus inspired dry and crisp light whites from France.  While this was by no means a light white, it was a refreshing change of pace. While it goes through 100% malolactic fermentation, which gives it a rich and creamy mouthfeel.  Then, this wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and never sees oak barrels, hence the unoaked label.   I tasted butterscotch, vanilla pudding, and tropical fruits as well as crisper citrus notes.  This was like eating a juicy green apple, and it was very refreshing on a hot hot day. I know i’ll be buying it again if i can find it!  The Kim Cracford Unoaked Chardonnay retails for around $15-18, and can be found at BevMo and Wine.com among other places.  Examples of Chardonnay of this quality and style are why i have permanently cancelled my membership int eh ABC Club (Anything But Chardonnay).  I hope too will give some of these a try! Google

A Folio of wines!

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There is something so alluring about a tasting room that offers several different wineries tasting in one convenient location.  Folio Winemakers Studio is one such place, and I popped int here one afternoon to do some tasting, since I happened to be stopping by. First, a little history on Folio.  Folio Winemakers Studio pours many brands, and is home to I’M (Isabel Mondavi), Oberon, Hangtime, Medusa, Spellbound and Mayro-Murdick wines.  It was founded by the Michael Mondavi family in 2004.  If you’re not sure which branch of the family tree Michael is on, it is the Robert Mondavi tree that sprouts these roots.  Michael is Robert’s oldest son, and it was together that they founded the Napa Valley dynasty known as Robert Mondavi Winery.  Now, five years after the sale of that winery, Michael has this new venture.  Folio houses the Michael Mondavi home brands, but they are I have been to Folio on a couple of occasions, but none of them compare to this trip.  My Twitter friend, Lessley VanHoutan (@foliowinemakers) kept asking me when I would get up there to visit, so I finally took advantage of her offer and was treated like royalty!  I arrived with Russ the Winehiker and The Brix Chicks in tow, and proceed to spend the better part of an afternoon relaxing and chatting away as we tasting through most of the reds. I started with a flight of pinots, being my passion, but then couldn’t stop and kept moving down the list.  It just got better and better, so without further ado, here are my highlights: 2005 Mayro Murdick Santa Lucia Highlands – Rich, cloves & spice.  Bright cherries and cola. 2004 Trinitas Mataro – blending with Petite Sirah, and a touch of Black Malbesie (I’m sure I spelled that wrong since I can’t find it on Able Grape!)  This was one of my faves.  Blueberries, blackberries, dark bark.  Dark chocolate.  I had to take one home. 2005 Hangtime Mounts Vineyard Syrah – Because it came from one of my favorite small vineyards in Sonoma, I just HAD to try this syrah.  Of course, I was not disappointed.  Inky rich, cocoa deliciousness.  Also came home with me. 2005 Oberon Oso Vineyard Pope Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – aged in 100% new French Oak, this was not my favorite cab, but it was a good value and tasty. 2006 Embelem Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon – Rutherford cabs are my weakness!  This is a new label, and was generously poured pre-release.  WOW!  Chocolate, deep rich sipping wine.  Classic Napa Cab but not overpowering.  Very appellation specific and clearly showed the Rutherford dust.  I will be back to buy this baby. 2005 Medusa Old Vine Zinfandel – easy drinking, smokey, food friendly zin.  This was not a fruit bomb but was simply lovely. With over 30 wines to pour, I highly recommend you stop by and try a few for yourself!  I am headed back up there this weekend, and plan to try some of the whites, […]

It’s a well kept secret!

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Recently, the good PR folks from The Wines of Chile (@RobBralow) sent me a surprise box of wine samples. In this box, held a treat for the sense, and an 89 pointer. Ok fine, really it was 88 points by the Spectator but it was voted a Best Buy. The 2006 Viu Secreto Malbec hails from the Colchagua Valley region of Chile. The Colchagua Valley lies about 80 miles southwest of Santiago, and has a moderate climate. It has often been compared to Napa in many ways, but I bet you won’t find a Napa Malbec at this price point! This Malbec is priced at a fighting $10-15, and is worth every penny in my opinion. I immediately smell a smokey richness, with fennel and herbs. It is a rich and chewy wine, which one would expect in the over $20 category, but is a treat at this price point. On the palate, there is heavy plum and herb, with an earthy richness. I also taste lavendar and a nice pepper overtone. Chile has become my go to region for budget minded wines. I have personally tasted several Cabernet blends that are priced around $10 and are a STEAL. Particular varietals that do well in Chile are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Sauvingnon Blanc. I’m still exploring other varietals, so please stay tuned! Walk, don’t run to your local shop for this gem! Cross posted to the 89 Project   Google