Over the river and in to the Pinot

Davis Bynum
has quite a history to live up to, as the first winery to produce a single vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley.  Now, three decades later, the winery was sold to the Rodney Strong family of wineries, through Klein family, who has farmed here for 4 generations.

One of the things that strikes me about this winery is that the focus is on nature, and how they can best make world class wine with a minimal impact.  Additionally, the careful management of the vineyards pull out the local qualities in the grapes without homogenizing the fruit to a generic style.

The 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir is a blend of several vineyards, which gives the winemaker the ability to create the best concoction.  It was a big pinot, which is somewhat indicative of the RRV these days.  I found it bold, dark and full of black cherries and strawberry jam, followed by dusty bark, dried cherries and craisnes on the palate.  After leaving it open for a while, I started to taste rose hips, hibiscus and rhubarb with those bright berry flavors that are so yummy.  The juicy finish on this wine lasts a long time, and I found just a touch too much oak make the end a little bitter.  The very last note I tasted was a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda, which is pretty high praise since when I was a kid and we got to go tot he Holey Bagel, it was my sweet treat in a Coke-Free household.

For $35, I feel it is just a little overpriced but still tasty.  I would also say that if you did buy this, hold on to it for another year as I think it will settle downand become amazing, and therefore well worth the price point.

This wine was a sample provided by David Bynum winery.


On a mountain top

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!


I smell a Rat!

Alan Baker and David Horowitz

A Cellar Rat!  When I first met Alan Baker, aka @thecellarrat, I was in my first year of making a mess wine at Crushpad.  What I didn’t know, or rather, the connection I failed to make, is that he was the same Alan Baker who was the voice behind this crazy podcast that I had become addicted to over at Cellarrat.org.  Mind you, this was before I was a wine blogger, before I was the “glue that holds the twitter wine universe together”, and before I was Wine Biz Radio’s #1 fan.  Ahhh the olden days.

The months past, and I would see Alan every now and then around Crushpad, like a mad scientist on a mission to create the world’s best wine for himself, and other clients at the same time.  Enter Cellar Rat wines.  I first tasted the Cellar Rat syrah at one of Crushapd’s infamous tasting events parties, where Alan was pouring a touch of pinot and a smattering of syrah.  WOW!  I was blown away by this wine.  Both the pinot and the syrah were outstanding, and somehow, I was lucky enough to get a door prize (thanks Alan!) in a bottle of syrah that I took home and squirreled away for safekeeping and later drinking.

Fast forward 3 years, and Alan is now working with Arista Winery where he can both hone his winemaking craft and work on his social media and broadcasting skills.  I somehow convinced, cajoled, and begged him to let us come up and taste his pinot noir in progress, and so a blogger’s binge was born.
On a recent cool and foggy day, we met up at the picnic grounds of Arista, off of Westside Road in Healdsburg to talk wine, blogging, and fun.  Amongst the hoards were Patrick Llenra (@oenophilus), Marcy Gordon (@marcygordon), Hardy Wallace (@dirtysouthwine ), Ashley Routson (@thebeerwench), Shana Ray (@sharayray), Paige Granback (@thesnarkhunter), Danica Sattui (@danicasattui), and of course Alan & Serena.  Cool and foggy but happy, we set out to taste the latest and greatest.

Patrick Llerna, the birthday boy!

Patrick Llerna, the birthday boy!

First, we started out with a barrel sample of the 2008 Two Pisces Vineyard.  This vineyard is located just west of Petaluma, and has a wide variety of soil types, giving it a lot of diversity.  With 5 clones planted, I tasted sour cherries in this rich and spicy pinot, with bright raspberry flavors and classic Russian River Valley character, with cranberries and cinnamon.  33% new French Oak gives the wine just enough structure and spicy without going overboard.  Though I rather enjoyed this wine, Alan says he’ll definitely add some bigger fruit pinot in to the final blend, since it already seems to be falling off a  bit.  Tasty tidbit about this vineyard:  This is where our Bus 4 Cellars 2009 Sparkling Wine is coming from!  I’m excited about hte potential in this pinot, and what it means for my fledgling bubble enterprise.

The 2008 Split Rock (also known as Gap’s Crown, but they don’t like us to say that) is in the Sonoma Coast AVA, near Petaluma.  The cool growing region helps develop concentrated flavors that aren’t overripe.  Some of my favorite northern California pinots are from here, like Humanitas and Stomping Girl.  In the Cellar Rat, I found sweet cherry cola, strawberries (Shana’s favorite!), white pepper, and nutmeg.  This tasted of rich dark red fruit.  Yum!

Finally, we had the finished product in the  2006 Wentzle Vineyard Pinot from Anderson Valley.  This is the pinot I tasted at the Crushpad party, and it was even better than I remembered.  This wine was held in a combination of barrels, most notably one new barrel, one zebra barrel, and two neutral barrels, and then blended to created the finished product.  Now if you don’t know what a zebra barrel is, it’s a mad coopers experiment in fermentation where you basically deconstruct one used and one new barrel, stick it back together with every other stave being from one or the other.  You know what I mean, one new french, one used, one new one used, etc.  This is one way to accomplish x% of new oak, without actually using separate barrels and is quite effective for the small winemaker.

This finished wine was lighter in style, and true to what I would expect in the Anderson valley, with black raspberries and earthy mushroom characteristics with just a touch of Dr. Pepper.  The nice thing bout this wine is that it has the bold flavors that I’ve come to love in a California pinot, but its’ very subtle and not overpowering by some of the Syr-Pinots or Pino-syrahs I’ve had from parts south.  The Pinot 2.0 was crushed wtih about 7% whole clusters remaining, and these whole clusters were fermented with native years.  The rest of the juice was inoculated with yeast, and when blended with the whole clusters and the combination of the different oak barrels, it makes for a truly stunning pinot.

If you can bribe Alan, I HIGHLY suggest you get your hands on some of this, because it’s AMAZING and the $42 price tag is worth every penny.  I have great hopes for the future Cellar Rat (or whatever he names it) projects to come, and can’t wait to taste the barrel samples along the way.

Thank Alan for having us up and check back for my notes on the Arista Pinot-Thon soon!

Samples were provided by Alan Baker of Cellar Rat.  No actual rats were harmed in the tasting of this wine.


3 and Twenty Blackbirds

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 blackberries, with a touch of bark and dark spice.  Joel thinks this wine displays the essence of what zin is.  It is due east of Healdsburg, and at the time fo the planting 100% zin vineyards were exceedingly rare.  Typically, fields were planted with the old Italian varietals in field blends, but this land was special.  It’s currently owned by Bella, who also makes a wonderful Big River zin, and it was formerly known as black Mountain.  The second taste gave me figs, blackberries, pepper and dark blue fruit, with a slightly hot finish. Big River is in the Alexander Valley, where many old stalwarts of Sonoma County zinfandel thrive.  Inland from the cool coastal regions where Pinot is king, Big River thrives with rich ripe flavors that are well balanced and not overpowering.  The soil is full of cobblestones and volcanic nutrients, and is influenced by the cool fog and the hot summer sun.  This was one of my favorites of the night, and is a STRONG BUY at $35.

2007 Belloni – another old planting, in the true field blend style.  Patches of Carignang, alicante, Greanche, Petite Alicate, and zin produce this dark bruiser with blackberry juice, leather, anise, and baking spices.  Thsi is a wine to chew on.  The second taste revealed figs, more cloves adn spice, as well as some tobacco. The Belloni vineyard is on the edge of Santa Rosa, and was planted around the turn of the century.  The 90 year old vines thrive in the cool foggy Russian River climate, adn the classic field blend componants of Carignane, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet were mixed in to create a great blend that is fermented together creating a complex zinfandel based wine, with layers of red fruit flavor from the other players.  This was a complex wine that was much better with a food pairing to bring out the earthy leather and chewy characteristics.  I would BUY this again if I saw it, but there were others I liked more.

2007 Barricia – was planted in 1888 and became a vineyard designate wine in 1996.  This may very well be one of the oldest continuously planted zinfandel vineyards in America and the wine is quite an interesting little number.  Dark spcies, plumes, stewed prunes, and a slightly tannic backbone were very well integrated.  This wasn’t my favorite of the flight but still a very well balanced wine that went well with the pork loin I was eating.  The Bariccia Vineyard is named for partners Barbara and Patriicia, which also means wine barrel in Spanish.  The vineyard is planted on alluvial depositsa nd volicanic soil which washes down fromt eh moutains surrounding the vineyards.  100-year old vines were planted in 1892, while later plantings of zin were planted in 1995 accompanied by Petite Sirah in 1998.  The complexitiy of this wine did not taste like a classic zin, and really opens your eyes to the possibilities of terroir.  It was subtle and interesting, and worth a BUY for $35.

Old Hill (1995) – This older vintage was a fun wine to taste, with a firm structure and dark fruit.  There was a tocuh of lavender, bright raspberry and chocolate as well.  the most interesting thing about this wine that i found was a dusting of chili pepper in the palate.  The Old Hill is technically a zinfandel, but it has at least 13 other vaireies in it, making it a bit of a mutt and very old school in style.  The second taste brought more smoke and dirty forward, with a lot of cocoa powerder adn cinnamon followed but a touch of vanilla inflused coffee.  The Old Hill Ranch was ressurected in 1981, when the land was abandoned and overrun with brush and blackberries.  A determiend farmer ignored conventional wisdom and chemicals, and clearned the land the old fashioned way, stumulating the vines back to life.  The Sonoma Valley vineyard was planted in 1880, makingit the oldest vineyard that Ravenswood uses.  the clay loam is planted once again, with the classic Italian field belnd of Zinfandel, Carigninae, Mataro (Mouvedre), Grenache, Alicante Bouchet, Petite Sirah and who knows what else, giving the resulting wine a complex flavor.  I LOVED this library selection, which proves that you absolutely CAN age a zinfandel if it has the structure and strength to do so.

As a point of comparison, we also tried the 2007 Old Hill. This was big and bold, with a log of spcie.  I also tasted the essecne of violets and roses, followed by raspberries.  It has the classic blackberry notes, and grows in intensity as you leave it in the glass.  I enjoyed this wine, as the others, but it wasn’t my favorite of the night.  $60

2007 Teldesci – This vineyard has been farmed continously by the same family since 1910, in the heart of zinfandel country, Dry Creek Valley.  There is something to be said for farming continuously for that long, especially in an environment where family farms often change hands or break in to pieces.  This zin was dark adn robust, with dusty red pepper (spicy) and black raspberry.  The Dry Creek benchland gives it a coffee and molasses flavor that on Decanter Magazines best red wine in America award.  22% Petite Sirah and 2% Carignane are fermented seperately, and then blended to create teh final wine, which varies slightly every year, depending on the fruit.  $35 STRONG BUY

The moral this zinfandel story is that you can find  everything from A to Z in this wine.  Zinfandel CAN be aged well, and develop fascinating characteristics.  There is more to zinfandel than jammy overblown examples that are a dime a dozen.  Go out and look for some single vineyard designagtes and perform an experiment in taste sensations!

Happy Drinking

*Wine and food provided by Ravenswood Winery and Folsom & Associates marketing.


Corison, Kronos, and Cathy!

When Megan and I first drove up to Corison, smack in the middle of busy Highway 29 in the Napa Valley, I was struck by the charm of the little yellow cottage in front.  The unassuming winery behind the cottage was bustle with the frenzy of the mobile bottling line, but Cathy Corison welcomed us in anyway and took us on a walk around the Kronos Estate Vineyard.

Cathy Corison has been working in wine for more than 20 years.  She honed her craft at Napa Valley staworts like Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch.  While making wine for other people, she kept wanted to express her own wine voice, and so in 1987 the first Corison Cabernet was born.

The location of the winery is on the benchland between Rutherford and St. Helena, and is known to produce world class Cabernet.  The soil here on the Rutherford Bench is stony alluvial, and it is the best kind of growing condition for Cabernet.   The old vines produce a bold, powerful and elegant wine with red and black fruit showing through with grace and satin luminosity.

The estate’s Kronos Vineyard is in fact one of the oldest Cabernet vineyards in the region, and therefore is a rare treat.  At a time many in the wine business were ripping out old vines to replant and go with the modern technologies, this vineyard stayed put.  These granddaddies aer 37 years old (give or take), and are farmed organically.  Corison has owned the land since 1995 and the first vintage was 1996. These meaty vines are thick as tree trucks, and yield such small numbers that you would think you were at a fruit stand and not a winery.  That said, the resulting juice holds a terrific array of flavors with concentrated fruit and refined structure.

As we heard the story of the winery and Cathy’s career, we tasted through 4 of the Cabernets, each with their own style and flavor, but each an amazing treat.

1996 Kronos Cabernet – this was the first vintage produced after Corison bought the property.  This wine is alive with grass,  green pepper, plum, spice and blackberry.  It still has a lot of fruit for a 12 year old wine, and I could really pick out the cherry.  It is in the European style, and is powerful but still elegant.

1997 Kronos- Dark, deep, difficult to get nose.  More tannin and less fruit.  Firmer texture.  Slight flavor of grape bubble gum  More spice, less fruit, subtle.  Violets, dried roses, floral, nice acidity with a lot of spice.

1998 Kronos- rich red fruit, restrained leather and tobacco.  Plums and sandlewood, a touch of cassis.

We also tasted more recent vintages, but they are still babies.  I am looking forward to going back and tasting them again as they develop, as well as taste the older vintages again.  I was so wowed by them, my notes are a little lackluster and don’t properly do them justice.

If you are in Napa, dont’ miss a visit to Corison at 987 St. Helena Highway.  It is open by appointment only from 10am – 5pm, but since there almost always there, just give them a buzz at 707.963.0826.

Happy tasting!


Don’t cry for me Argentina!

vineconnectionsThe 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 the 90 liter per capita consumption decreased, exports increased.  Now, it’s trendy to have your second or third houses in Argentina.  The passion for winemaking has continued to grtow with teh native winemakers, and these wines are terriffic examnples.  In Argentina, large hailstones destroy up to 13% of the grape harvest every year.  Because of this, and small plots of land, grower designated wines are newly developed here.  It is a risky adventure with such hailstorms, since 15% of your crop could be wiped out.  That said, high risk, high reward.  There are now more and more grower labeled wines (we would call them vineyard designate) appearing.
The 2007 Cocina Blend is literally “The Kitchen Blend”, almost everything but the kitchen sink in theory.  This was my favorite of the reds, and with 60% malbec, 20$ Bondara, and 20% Syrah, there was a little bit for everyone.  Bonarda what Argentina calls Charbano, and it add a nice dark back bone.  Run out and buy this wine right now!  It was dark and inky, with lots of pepper and spice, with a fig and plum finish touched with smoke.  There were lots of blackberries, vanilla, and a chewy structure.  It had a kiss of oak and vanilla, after being aged in 20% new Oak (70% French, 30% American) for 10 months.  This wine also retails for $15, or less.  Seriously, run out and buy it right now!  This is a steal.
Next up we have the Pizzella Family Malbec.  This is from the same winery as the Cocina Blend, is was also a favorite.  I found smoked meat and pepper, with cherrires and bittersweet chocolate followed by blueberry.  It was a juicy 100% Malbec, aged for 10 months in 100% French Oak (20% new, 80% old).  The Pizzella family Vineyard is located at 3050 feet, and is closer to the mountains where it is generally cooler. This wine retails at $18, and is also a buy.


The last of my favorites of this tasting was the Mendel Unus.  This is a premier belnd of 70% Malbec and 30% Cab Sav.  This blend had dark cherry, plums, blackberry and dark blue fruit with a slightly vegetal note showing through.  I tasted rich earth, chocolate, bright berry, and vanilla in this sikly blend.  at $50 it was not an everyday treat like the others, but it was worth splurging on.

All in all, I will definitely be exploring Argentina more.  There are plenty of affordable and delicious options out there.  If you are seeking out these wines in the Bay Area, look for them at the Jug Shop, K&L, and the Wine Club.  Try to find wines that are not mass produced.  The cost of producing these gems in Argentina is much less than in the States, or even France, so don’t be afraid to experiment.  At $15 average, you can try many different wines.  Find a producer you like and go have fun!  Another tip that the Vine Connections people taught me is know your importers.  If you find an importer you like and trust, the odds are that you can purchase another wine from them and be reasonable happy.

Go forth adn wine-ducate!



Oh these hallowed Halls

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 original building, and make the historical structure its hospitality center.

Today, Hall has several vineyards, including the St. Helena visitors center, the Rutherford appointment only private winery and Sacrashe Vineyard, Napa River Ranch, Bergfeld which is also in St. Helena, Hardester, and Walt Ranch on Atlas Peak.  each one of these properties is chosen specifically with the intention of creating the best Bordeaux varietals possible, and represent different elevations, micro-climates and soil confabs.

After touring the winery, we headed up to the home ranch in Rutherford, on top of the eastern hills overlooking the valley.  Here, in the Sacrashe Vineyard, Don Munk the Director of Vineyard Operations explained to us about the tufa soil.  This vineyard in particular is planted with a high density 6×4 planting formation.  The smaller vines that are planted to a higher density give a more intense fruit profile, and increase the quality in the bottle.  This vineyard is organically farmed, and will be fully certified in 2010.  Here, it is more important to maintain balance of nature then it is to achieve it.  Practices such as encouraging owls as natural pest control, cover crops, and encouraging beneficial insects to use the vineyard are supported while minimal intervention occurs.  One of the important factors is controlling the vigor of the vines.  In the winter, cover crops can help penetrate the hard soil, and assist in aeration, which gives the vine roots a fighting change.

This vineyard is the basis for the flagship Cabernet blend, the Katheryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon.  Katheryn is a passport ambassador for her brand, and in fact was an actual ambassador to Austria for many years.  Raised in a Napa Valley wine family, she knows what it takes to make good wine and came back to the valley after a varied career in public service.  One thing that struck me at this beautiful winery was the inquisitive nature Katheryn has, and how she welcomed us in to her home, and really wanted to know what we, as the new wave of journalism, wanted from a winery and how we could form a symbiotic relationship and mutually advance each other.

Following our vineyard tour, we had a beautiful sit down lunch on the terrace overlooking Napa.

Starter:  Grilled bread, buratta cheese, white anchovies, nicose olives, cherry tomatoes, capers, arugula.  Paired with the 2008 HALL Sauvignon Blanc (see notes above)

Main:  Wood oven roasted long-bailey farms duroc pork tenderloin, summer squash, shelling beans, chanterelle mushrooms, thyme jus.  Paired with the 2005 HALL Napa River Ranch Merlot.

The Napa Valley Merlot is sourced from two different vineyards, the Napa River Ranch, and the Hardester.  The Hardester vineyard is planted on the rugged hillsides, with low yield vines, and is known for big chewy Merlots.  The Napa River Ranch vineyard is on the valley floor, and has rich fruit and plush mouth feel.  I truly loved this merlot.  Considering that I used to be a bit of a merlot snob, in that i didn’t touch the stuff, this is a big accomplishment.  What a treat!  Flavors of olives, cherries, plum, smoke.  Richly and blanaced with a touch of cedar.  Also tasted cranberry juice, chocolate.  This was a soft and supple Merlot   This wine was only $28, and i rate it a strong buy.

Cheese Course: Artisan cheese with fig jam, bouchon bakery herb pallidan, spanish almonds paired with the 2006 HALL “Kathryn Hall” Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is Hall’s flagship wine, and it is 100% Cabernet Savignon, 95% from Sacrashe and 5% Diamond Mountain fruit.  I tasted black cherry, chocolate, lots of tannins, cinnamon and nutmeg.  This was a dense, concentrated Cab, and not a fruit bomb.  It was a glass of dark fresh earth without being dirty.  The black fruit and spices really came through, and I felt like I could taste that famous Rutherford dust.  This could easily age for 15 yrs before it peaks but it is amazing NOW.  This was a special sneak peek for the bloggers, and it will be released on Release date is 9/12/09 at a retail of around $75.  Considering that it is a terrific Napa Cab, even though this is normally outside of my budget, it’s a wonderful example of a Napa Valley Cabernet and I would buy it if I tasted it again.

After lunch, we participated in a bit of blending fun, but that will have to wait for the next post!  All in all, I have found a new favorite Napa Valley winery.  The QPR on the wines is outstanding, and the graciousness of our hostess and the entire team at Hall was lovely.  A winery of this size that is interested in learning about the next generation of wine writers, wine critics, and social media gets a gold star in my book especially when they clearly don’t need to given the success that they enjoy.

Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Forgive me, for I have zinned! A WBW Post

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.

    Saini zin undergoing verasion

Saini zin undergoing veraison

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 about the wine!  After the vineyard tours, we headed back to Seghesio in Healdsburg where we were treated to a smorgasbord of ZAP Producer zinfandels, including the delicious Rock Wall Sonoma County zin.

If you don’t know, the Rock Wall Wine Company is Kent Rosenblum of Rosenblum Cellars fame.  Rosenblum is now owned by Diageo, but Kent and his daughter Shauna started the next chapter up down the street and are producing some mighty tasting stuff.

The Sonoma County zin is a punchy one, at 15.6% ABV, but I found it well balanced and subtle, even in the 80 degree heat.  There were only 475 cases produced, so at $25 you better get out and buy some before it’s all gone.  I tasted the classic blackberry, but also some dark raspberry and bittersweet chocolate.  I was lucky enough to meet Shauna, as she was behind the table pouring, so I thank you and look forward to seeing you in September for the ZAP Volunteer Thank You party!

Rock Wall Wine Company tastes their wines by appointment only (hey, it’s a licensing thing kids!) and is located at 2301 Monarch Street, Suite 300, in Alameda.  For you locals, that’s part of the old Naval Air Station, and is spitting distance from Rosenblum.  It is part of the booming urban vintners trend, and is a member of the East Bay Vintners Alliance. I love the fact that I can taste at almost 20 wineries less than 20 minutes from my house!  Keep an eye out here for urban winery events soon.

I also had the chance to taste Duane Dappen’s zins, from D-Cubed Cellars, in Napa.   Duane is the new ZAP Board President, and I have been talking to him on Twitter, so it was fun to meet him in person.  Duane has been working in Napa Valley since the early 80s, and has worked with some of the biggest names in zin, like Grgich Hills, Storybook Mountain, and Rombauer.  Happily, he now has his own label, and was pouring both the Napa Valley and the St. Helena versions at our BBQ.

I loved the 2006 St. Helena Zinfandel, which is now in its second vintage.  It is made from the Korte Ranch Vineyard, which was planted back in 1910. Talk about some old vines!  OK, so they’re not 100+ years old, but they are old at the same.  This fruit creates a wonderfully bold and balanced zin, with raspberries, blackberries, notes of vanilla, and some herbal notes.  It’s also relatively low ABV for a zin, at 14.5%.

You can taste D-Cubed wines, along with a dozen others, at the Vintners Collective in Napa.  They are located at 1245 Main Street, and area a great destination in town!

With both of these wonderful zins, as well as a smattering of tastes of others, the BBQ boys were there serving up pulled pork sliders, ribs, and sausages.  This is classic zin food, where the richness of the BBQ sauce and its tang goes with the bold dark berry flavors of the fruit in the zin.

I have always enjoyed this event, because we not only get to stuff our faces with pork product, but we get to taste a lot of different zins in one place that is more restrained than the Grand Tasting in January.  On a final note, for dessert, I took my raspberry sno-cone, and poured some leftover zin of unknown origin in to it.  Let’s just say it was probably the best zin based dessert I’ve had since the Zinfandel ice cream at Rosenblum’s Open House Last year.

I hope you’ll go out and taste some zin for yourself, and be sure to try some tasty BBQ treats with it!

PS please stay tuned to Palate Press for some more news regarding zin soon!

Chile is HOT!

wines of chileI’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.


Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2008say 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, 10% Syrah, and 5% Malbec so it’s a bit of a mutt.  However the $20.99 price tag makes it’s an affordable luxury in a Bordeaux Blend not from Bordeaux.  It is also from the Colchuagua Valley, and is a house of Domaines Barons de Rothchild Lafite.

I found it to have a lot of red fruit, followed by a strong backbone of tobacco and earth, with a touch of green pepper.  I normally don’t like green pepper in my wine, bu tthis was balanced.  There was a lot of dusty cocoa and deep dark brooding personality under there.  The second day, i had a glass of this with dinner.  It was even smoother, and had mellowed out nicely



Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2007– let me start out by saying that Carmere is not a personal favorite of mine.  I find them too smokey and vegetal for my liking, but I actually did enjoy the Santa carolina.  With 5% Petite Verdot thrown in, I think that the overwhelmingness of the Carmenere was subdued.  This wine comes from the Rapel Valley, which is the largest of the fine wine areas in Chile.  The climate and soil types vary widely, so we really have several micro-appelations in one larger one, much like the greater Napa Valey.  Merlot is the classic varietal grown here, and the Colchagua valley sub-appelation is within the Rapel appelation.  The fruit for this Carmemere is grown in two vineyards, from different sub-appellations of the Rapel, and is aged in French oak for 12-14 months.

This is a HUGE wine!  I wish I had decanted it for a while, instead of just opening it 30 minutes prior to tasting.  There was a lot of dark fruit, and spicy pepper and black licorice.  It was quite smooth, and I actually liked it – surprising for a carmenere!  It lacked the overwhelming smokiness that I don’t like, and at $14.99, I would try this wine again after decanting for a while.


Errázuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere 2007 –
for the 2nd carmenere of the evening, we move to the Aconcagua Valley.  This is a new regoin, planted in the early 1990s, and is known for it’s extended dry season and moderate summers.  This is primarily Carmenere country, and winemakers here strive to keep the fruit ripening well in to the fall, to minimize the herbaceous tendencies of Carmenere and expand the fruit flavors.

The Single Vineyard Carmenere is 3% Shiraz, and was aged in 100% Oak which was split between American and French for about 12 months.  I found it less enjoyable than the Santa Carolina, and much more smoky.  It was very peppery and had tons of green pepper.  At this price point – $26, I would prefer a differetn selection from Chile.  I like my green veggies on my plate not my glass!


Undurraga T.H. Syrah 2007 – ok yeah. YUM!  I loved this wine, even if it was a bold fruity syrah and not terribly complex.  It was the 2nd bottle that completely gone on the tasting night.  It comes from the Limari Valley, and even with it’s $24 priceta
g, I think it’s worth it.  The Limari Valley is 250 miles north of Santiago, and just south the driest place on earth.  Because of the dryness, drip irrigation is the rule.  The limestone bed under the valley’s clay soil is ideal for white wines.  the cool climate helps grapes to ripen slowly, producing classically crisp and acidic wines.

I really loved this wine.  It had huge red berry flavors, followed by chocolate and cocoa.  It was soft and lush, with a vibrant undertone.


Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon – Carmenere 2006 – This is an interesting blend, of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Carmenere, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Syrah.  It comes from the Maipo Valley region, with is located between two mountain ranges:  the Andes and the Coastal Mountains.  Most vineyards are located above 2000 feet, where the temperature variants develop rich and complex wines.

It had a ton of smoke, tobacco and leather.  It was very vegetal, and not bad but not really my style.  For $21, there were other Chilean Cab blends that I would buy over this.  This was ok, but nothing to write home about


Veramonte Primus 2006 – this lvoely Cab-Syrah blend was 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 17% Merlot, and 16% Carmenère.  It alos comes from the Colchagua valley, and I really enjoyed this blend.  The 2006 season produced intensely concentrated fruits, and this wine really shows that off.

It was rich and bold, with tons of spice.  I also tasted lots of dark fruit and full raspberry flavors, with a big body that was beautiful the next day.  It was well worth the $20 price tag.


All in all, Chile has some GREAT finds!  I encourage you to get out and try several to see what your style is.  In the Bay Area, some great resources are Cost Plus (World Market) and Costco, but also try your local retailers.  Chile is HOT!

Spotlight on: Chile

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 Pinot Noir, and has often been compared to the Carneros region of California, which is one of my personal favorites.
  • Valle Central, has four separate smaller regions.  Some of the most well known are the Maipo Valley and the Rapel Valley.  These smaller sub regions are Chile’s most prolific wine regions, and have a large export program, primarily becuase it is very close to the city of Santiago.  The Maipo Valley and Rapel regions are known for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Recently, several major wine houses in the US and Europe have planted roots in Chile to globalize their efforts.  Some of the efforts are more successful than others, but it’s a good indicator of an up and coming region!  I hope you have learned something and are going to go out and buy some Chilean wines.  With most price points being under $20, and may hovering around $10, you can afford to experiement!  If you’re interested in my Chilean reviews, you can find them here:

Secrets revealed! Lose weight with wine!

It’s a well kept secrret!

The North, vs. The South – a WBW Adventure

Red Hot Chilean Wine!

Is it Chile in here, or is it just me?

A Folio of wines!

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, which I just skipped over since I couldn’t taste them all.

Thanks again to Lessley for a great time and see you soon!

Folio Winemakers Studio is located in Carneros, at 1285 Dealy Lane.  This is just past Domaine Carneros, and a short drive from both Sonoma Valley and Napa.




It’s Zinful…

For this week’s Bacon Fridays post, I am honoring the Zinfandel Festival but pairing Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar Popovers with a California Zin.  Zinfandel has been named America’s Heritage Grape, and for 4 days every January, the Zin world comes together in celebration.

The Bacon Freak graciously provided me of samples of the Jalepeno bacon, and i incorporated this into one of my favorite side dishes, the Popover.  Ok fine.  So i usually eat the whole pan.  Shush!

To make this tasty treats, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray LIBERALLY!  Try to use a light pan if you can, because dark ones burn easily.

While the oven is preheating, cook the Bacon Freak Coastal Caliente Jalepeno Bacon until crisp.   I do this in the microwave, between 2 paper towels, on full power for 1 minute for each full slice.  You want to be able to crumble it easily.

In a bowl, whisk together:

  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 ground pepper

Whisk in 2 eggs, which you have beaten in a bowl.

Spoon 1 Tablespoon of the batter in to each muffin cup.  Sprinkle each with 1 tsp sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 tsp grated parmesean cheese, and 1/4 slice crumbled bacon.

When you have done all 12 muffin cups, spoon the rest of the batter on top of ecah cup to cover.

bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Continue to cook until golden brown, about another 15 minutes.

Remove from the baking tin and cool on a rack.  These popovers are best slightly warm!

To pair, I suggest a spicy zinfandel.  I tasted this with a lovely specimen from Paso Robles, which is known for black pepper and sweet spices.  I also tried this with a Sierra Foothills Zinfandel, which also has some lovely baking spice flavor characteristics that match well off of the kick of the popovers.

Happy tasting and please follow @baconcandy on twitter!




Everyone say it with me!

Albariño (
/ˌal.baˈɾiː.ɲo/Galician) or Alvarinho (/ˌal.vaˈɾiː.ɲo/Portuguese) is a variety of white wine grape grown in Galicia (northwest Spain) and northern Portugal, where it is used to make varietal white wines.

I’ve decided recently to refocus my efforts on my Century Club application, and really expand my international knowledge of wine as well as tasting more California varietals.

Last night at dinner, we opened the 2007 Bokicsh Albariño (Mokelumne River), which was a sample provided to me by my friends at Wine Q.

This Albariño is produced in Lodi, a hot growing region in Central Californian which has recently become a hot bed of Spanish varietal production. While Lodi has long been known for producing some of the States most prized Zinfandels, the Spainairds are invading this hot dry growing region, with some amazing results.

Bokicsh also produces another Albariño, as well as Garnacha and Tempranillo, two classic Spanish varietals, among others.

This Albariño was a lovely aromatic white wine that had a lot of citrus aroma. It was a rich golden straw color, that really shone in the glass. I smelled lemons, lime leaves, and a touch of earth. I tasted a burst of citrus flavors, like grown up lemonade, with a twist of lemon rind, followed by an interesting hazelnut character. Because it is 100% stainless steel fermented, you don’t see any oaky or toasted notes like you would in many other California whites. The nutty flavors are a component of the wine itself.

We all really enjoyed the mouthfeel of the Albariño , which was not light but not heavy. It coated the palate with the rich flavors, and had a long finish.

While i really enjoyed this wine, i think it could have been even better if we served it with the spicy Middle Eastern fish dish we were having with dinner. The bright acidity and citrus flavors would have cut through the spiciness nicely, and really complimented the fish.



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