I love it when a plan comes together! One of my favorite things about wine, is tasting the expression of the winemaker in the bottle. Every touch, every decision, every nuance in his or her mind ends up in your glass. Pinot Noir particularly responds to a gentle hand, and there is no better way to taste that than by tasting wine crafted by two winemakers, with fruit from the same vineyard.
In this case, I am lucky enough to know two fabulous wine makers who are using Pinot Noir fruit from Mendocino County’s Mariah Vineyard. As a long time fan of the delicacy and brightness of Pinots from Mendocino County, I fell in love with these two wines at first sip – but each on it’s own merits. Now, having the opportunity to taste them side by side, I can key in on the specific attributes of each wine that make my taste buds smile.
The Mariah Vineyard is located in the extreme reaches of Mendocino, and is part of the Mendocino Ridge AVA. This is one of the most fascinating AVAs for wine, as it’s a non-contiguous region that is specifically drafted from “Islands in the Sky” – all vineyards that fit in the Mendocino Ridge AVA must be above 1,200 feet in elevation, and exist entirely within the coastal zone of Mendocino County. The vineyards in this magical plane are blanketed in a thick layer of morning fog, helping maintain the zingy acids, and sit in small patches of usable space on the ridgeline that is often covered in heavy Douglass Fir forest. Here in the Islands in the Sky, some of the state’s best Pinot Noir is grown.
First, the 2012 Cartograph Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48). Rich strawberry and cherry mingle with wild mint and wood smoke. Fresh cream is present, with a slight cola note on the background. Bright cranberry acidity plays with an herbal finish of forest floor and pine needles, with Bing cherries threading through the entire palate. The finish is coated in ground baking spices, reminding me of a gingerbread house and Thanksgiving’s cranberry sauce.
In contrast, the 2012 Waits Mast Cellars Mariah VIneyards Pinot Noir ($42) is slightly wilder, with more black cherry and bramble berry pie. The cedar woods are more pronounced, and the mint is hiding in the background. A slightly richer wine, brown sugar dances on my palate. The Waits Mast is Little Red Riding Hood, meandering the forest, darting in and out of black raspberry bushes, hinting at black cherry and voluptuous bramble berries, while enjoying a softer, more velvety mouth feel. The finish is dusted with a pleasant pinch of white pepper.
The primary difference in these wines comes from the clonal selection of the specific blocks in the vineyard. While the Cartograph block uses clone 115 and 777, the Waits Mast is block is 667 and Pommard. Pommard is known to be a richer style Pinot Noir, with dark fruit and depth of flavor, while the 777 has that eartly, forest floor and herbal character that I found in the Cartograph. The 667 in the Waits Mast brings out that dark cherry and plush tannin. Another key difference is the use of commercial yeast (Cartograph) vs native yeast (Waits Mast). Does yeast make a huge impact? Sometimes. Ocassionally. Maybe. These subtle but clear differences can showcase the stylistic features that each winemaker wants, while still representing the fruit in a clear and present way.
In the end, these wines are so similar, that the primary different is so subtle, it can be hard to pick up. Stylistically, they are on the same page; flavor wise, there are ever so subtle differences, that make them both sisters, and yet, unique. So, vivre le difference! Now, go forth and make your own vertical. See what is different, and what is the same. You won’t be sorry!
When you step out of your car, in the small makeshift parking lot that is really the vineyard, you are immediately transported to a rural setting a scant 10 minutes from downtown Napa. The iconic redwood barn and farmhouse stand proudly as sirens to Truchard Vineyards, straddling the Carneros region close to San Pablo Bay.
Arriving in California in the late 1960s, Jo Ann and Tony Truchard were Texas transplants that were enchanted by wine country as they went on a road trip exploring their newly adopted state. Ever the adventurer, Tony thought it would be fun to plant a vineyard in the then relatively unknown Napa Valley, paying homage to his family roots from Lyon, France. There had always been wine in Tony’s blood, including a pre-Prohibition winery in South Texas. On one of these meandering road trips through Northern California, the Truchards came across the abandoned orchard in Carneros that would become Truchard Vineyards.
Today, Truchard is known for it’s pioneering creativity, fighting back the brackish waters in Carneros to produce some delicious wines, but it started out as a labor of love. Serving as a doctor in the army, Tony soon started practicing in nearby Reno. But every weekend, they would drive down to Carneros to work the vineyard and camp out in the orchards. Slowly, the estate was expanded to include 400 adjacent acres, with plenty of open space and unplanted hillsides to maintain the bucolic feel of southern Napa. The estate also prides itself on being environmentally responsible, with approximately 80% sustainably grown and 20% organically grown grapes.
While we were there, the memory of the Napa earthquake of 2014 was still fresh. With the epicenter being less than 5 miles away, one might expect cracks in the caves, broken bottles, and ore of a mess. But aside from some cracks in the dried earth of the vineyards on top of the cave, and a few cracks that were structurally insignificant, Truchard was amazingly lucky; the farmhouse where the Truchards live was not as lucky as most of the contents were smashed, but the house itself? Looks like a Queen sitting in state. Nature really is amazing.
Well known for Pinot Noir, given the ideal grown area in Carneros, Truchard also produces some lovely Chardonnay, but my personal favorite is the Syrah. The smokey funk on the end of this medium bodied Syrah, made as an homage to Cote Rotie and the Truchard family legacy, compliments the dark blackberry and plum notes perfectly. The finish of cracked pepper and spices leaves you wanting another sip, and while funky, it’s funk in the best possible way.
Truchard is open by appointment only, and a visit includes a tour as well as a tasting. This is a must do for any visit to Napa Valley! For another take on Truchard, please visit my blogging buddy Tom Riley’s post on American Winery Guide.
A special thank you to Toby at Fineman PR for arranging this visit, and to Anthony Truchard, II for leading us on the tour & tasting. We were lucky enough to have Jo Ann visit with us after the tour, and if you want a day full of stories, see if she’s around!
Holman Ranch was established in 1928, well before the rush of wineries started to populate the rural and bucolic Carmel Valley. When one thinks of Carmel Valley, you might well think Carmel (by-the-Sea), but in teh short 10 miles up the narrow valley, Carmel by the Sea dissolves away in to Carmel Valley, where horse ranches and vineyards dot the rugged hillsides that once housed cattle and horse ranches.
The family owned Holman Ranch is at the northeastern end of the valley, and while only a few miles from the ocean, is a world – and a century away. The Ranch itself sits above a small subdivision on a hillside in Carmel Valley Village, but once you enter the gates – you are transported a world away.
Of the original 6500 acre Spanish Land Grant, the 600 acre property that would eventually become Holman Ranch was purchased by a wealth businessman from San Francisco for use as a “gentleman’s retreat”. With an historic Spanish Hacienda style main house built from local stone, the guest rooms were added later when the property changed hands in the mid 1940s. The addition of the guest quarters made it an ideal retreat for Hollywood luminaries, and it quickly became the hot spot for stars from Joan Crawford to Charlie Chaplin to escape to.
Fast forward to the late 1980s, and the property was converted back to a private estate to preserve the history and tranquility. This is when the original vineyards were planted, and the stables were added. In 2006, the Lowder family purchased the Ranch and began a restoration project that included adding 17 acres of vineyards as well as wine caves and event spaces.
Waking up in the peaceful mountains above the valley, it’s easy to see why the stars would want to retreat here. The early morning hours are silent and golden, and a walk through the property reveals the rugged hillsides and steep slops of vineyard that undulate down the hillsides. You can certainly see why the Hollywood elite escaped here.
Even though Carmel Valley is only 12 miles from the Paciifc Ocean, the temperature is much warmer; the early morning fog cools down the vineyards, and for this reason, is ideal for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonay. Holman Ranch specializes in Estate Pinot Noir, and offers four versions, plus 2 Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. I loved the Pinot Gris, and the Hunter’s Hill Pinot Noir really hit the spot while admiring the rustic cowboy theme in the tasting room.
While the Ranch itslef isn’t open to the public, it does host special events for the wine club as well as weddings, meetings and corporate retreats. I think I might start planning my 25th birthday party! Ok well maybe 40th. (shush you.).
If you find yourself in the Monterey Bay region, be sure to take the detour to the narrow little valley that time forgot. Knowing that Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel by the Sea, I would expect to see him riding the range above Holman Ranch from time to time. Stop your horse at the hitching post outside the tasting room, pull up a cowhide and sip a while. Or have dinnner at the newly acquired historical diner Will Fargo across the street. You won’t be sorry!
A special thanks to Holman Ranch for hosting us at the Ranch and allowing me to go back to summer camp for one night! I’ll be back…
- 2012 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay – 80% stainless steel, 20% neural oak. Aged sur lie, this high acid bright white wine had lush lemons, fresh lemonade, and a hint of fresh cream. The intense mineral finish had a touch of kumquat. This is what California chardonnay should be! Somewhat of a comeback kid, with the 2011 and 2010 harvests being botriyticized, this wine is primarily made from Block W in Bien Nacido Vineyard. These 40 year old vines are still going strong.
- 2011 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir – 40 year Pommard vineyard, 100% whole cluster fermentation lends itself to the best kind of funk possible. Luscious, with savory meat and bacon fat but a zingy finish.
- 2010 Native9 Pinot Noir – a classic in the making, made from a blend of 8 clones planted in the Rancho Ontiveros vineyard. This property is high on a ridge in Santa Maria Valley, and this dark, juicy baby opens up to baking spice, dried cherry and black pepper. The 8 clones in the field give it a very savory and herbal edge, while maintaining the core of Pinot Noir flavors.
- 2010 Autonom Red Rhône Cuvee – Knowing that I am a Rhone Head, I was very excited to taste these wines. While I had enjoyed all of the Burgundian varietals, the Red Cuvee, made of 80% Syrah, and 20% Grenache. While each vintage is unique, this bottle had the inky depth of a Syrah with the juicy pop of cherry that Grenache brings.
- 2010 Autonom Grenache – yes, I admit it. I love Grenache. I might even run away with it. This is no exception to why I love this grape so much. Planted in 1964, the Nielson vineyard in a warm corner of Santa Maria Valley, and the more recently planted Thompson Vineyard makes up the balance of the blend. Bing cherry, green fig, hibiscus, tobacco leaf. A sweet and savory treat in your mouth.
- 2010 Autonom Syrah – Speaking of fun, come meet the Syrah. As the name indicates, the Law of Proportions Syrah blends two vineyards (63% Thompson, 37% Laetitia) from very different terroirs. The resulting blend is mostly warmer climate (Thompson) but with the depth and richness of the cool climate fruit. Dark purple plums, cigar box, blackberry jam.
Suffice it to say, I bought more than a little wine while visiting Stephanie & Paul! I am looking forward to revisitng them soon, and seeing how the wines develop in my glass…and my cellar.If you are heading down to Los Olivos, be sure to stop in and say hello!
It was a bright and warm late spring day when I ventured up to St. Helena to see the new Hall Wines facility and tasting room. While I had visited before, in 2009, it was shortly after the LEED Certified production facility had opened, and what a difference 4 years can make!
With a focus on sustainability and responsibility, along with diverse culture, Hall has gone to new heights with the new Wine and Art Exploration tasting & tour which gives visitors to the winery a peek in to the passion for art & design that Former Ambassador Kathryn Hall has always expressed.
Arriving at the St. Helena property, the first thing you see is “Little Bunny Foo Foo” – a large metal sculpture in the circular drive. This imposing and imipressive piece welcomes you in to the parking lot and sets the tone for the day to come. This is just one of the many stunning pieces of visual art that are on permanent display at Hall.
As we we were welcomed in to the visitors center by a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc, we were surrounded by the textural art in the tasting room that screams reach out and touch me. Alas, we were not allowed to do so, but that type of art work that intrigues and inspires imagination is what draws you in and leaves you wanting more.
Wandering around the property, you will see several examples of these large pieces of art work that you can spend your time gazing at and just relaxing.
Completing your tour in the tasting room, your palate is delighted by the focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what Hall focuses on, as well as the WALT Pinot Noirs. A visit to HALL is a must on any stop in Napa, and you may never want to leave!
The winery also has special programs throughout the year, including the Friday Sunset Cruise – where guests can linger outside after hours, and taste through the wines open from the day, while sitting in the Adirondack chairs by the reflecting pool, eating some delicious appetizers.
Another program is Demystifying Wine & Food, where guests can expand their tasting experience with a guided food and wine experience.
There are many more experiences to choose from, so you should check them all out here.
I can’t possibly pick my favorite wine, since all of the Cabernets are silky, beautiful and luscious, but if you are a Cabernet Lover, you could opt for the Ultimate Cabernet Collector experience, where guests can enjoy history in a glass, one Cab at a time.
These experiences range from $30 to $100 and reservations are required.
If you are a wine lover, an art lover, and a Cabernet Sauvignon lover, take some time out of your day to stop and relax at HALL WInes in St. Helena.
It isn’t often that I find a new winery, that I haven’t at least heard of. Recently, when I received the invitation to the Ousterhout Wine & Vineyard Release party here in San Francisco, I was excited to be able to go and try new wines without having to go very far from home. Leave it to me and my city dwelling blogging friends to be able to go wine tasting on a Tuesday night in the Marina!
Owners Douglas and Nancy Ousterhout create delicious Pinot Noir Rose and Zinfandel from a small vineyards in Sonoma County, as well as thier estate vineyard in Alexander Valley. With strong agricultural roots, the Ousterhouts are wine naturals. With a thriving medical practice in San Francisco, the vineyard property is a weekend retreat where they can build their brand in the tranquility of this quiet corner of Sonoma.
Winemaker Michah Wirth cut his baby teeth in Oregon, working with cult producers like Raptor Ridge before moving back to Healdsburg. Here, he started working with Gary Farrel Winery, where he spent 7 years learning how to create stellar Pinot Noir. Like most young winemakers, he wanted to create his own wines, which he did in 2007 with Joseph Jewell in 2006. Today, he makes the wines at Ousterhout in a refreshingly different style. While the zins are bold, they are not overpowering. The roses are distinctive and not sweet.
With three roses and two Zinfandels, along with a Sauvignon Blanc for added measure, Ousterhout is tightly focused on their wines. In particular, the three roses really caught my attention.
This week, my rose of the week is the porch pounder summer loving Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir. Along with two vineyard designate roses, the Russian River is a delightfully crisp refreshing Rose. With bright red fruit, Tuscan melon, strawberries and mineral note, this is a great rose for grilled chicken, salads, and turkey burgers. At only $22, it’s an afforable summer wine, that is brest served well chilled on the deck with friends.
Check out Ousterhout’s other wines here! Enjoy a great dry rose of Zinfandel, or a classic Zinfandel from Dry Creek!
Jack Steffan, Director of Sales & Marketing graciously provided me with a bottle of wine for further inspection, but all options and expression of joy are my own.
When I first came to know the wines of Bucher Vineyards, it was through my love of all things Pinot. A very specific spot in the Russian River AVA, with a true sense of terroir, I had been drinking the wines of Holdredge Winee for years before I came to know the people behind the amazing fruit from Bucher Vineyards.
As I tasted more wines from producers that were lucky enough to get a share of these babies, like Thralls Family Cellars and Siduri, I was excited to be able to taste the Bucher Vineyards wines at Pinot on the River last year.
Once I tasted them, I knew I was hooked and I had to go see the property for myself. Fortunately, I was able to get to know John & Diane Bucher a bit, and they happily welcomed a small group of bloggers to their property for a history lesson and tasting.
Bucher Vineyards was born out of the family diary farm next door, which John’s parents, Joe & Annmarie, founded as immigrants from Switzerland int he 1950s. Starting out in San Francisco, they elder Buchers fell in love with the farming communities of the Russian River Valley and found the property that the dairy currently sits on.
Selling to local milk processors like Clover Stornetta, the dairy was the focal point of the 11,000 White-O Ranch, dating back tot he 1930s. With the purchase of a small 360 acre property, and a few dairy cows, the Buchers built up the herd to a prosperous 650 head. Joe & Annemarie’s son John grew up on the diary and learned the family business.
Attending UC Davis in the early 1980s, John returned after graduation to manage the operation. His goal at that time was to make it 100% organic, which he did successfully – all while looking for ways to diversify the family business operations. In 1997, after two years of researching varietals, analyzing soils, and talking to neighboring grape growers, John planted the first Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir blocks. starting with Pinot Noir, the plantings have grown to include Chardonnay, and now include 38 acres of planted grapes in 15 unique vineyard blocks. Being next to an organic dairy farm has it’s benefits, and the Bucher’s practice sustainable viticulture in the vineyard. After successfully selling grapes for a number of years, John & Diane decided to start their own label. In 2013, the first vintage of Bucher Vineyards was released and became Diane’s full time job. I have to say, her passion and dedication pays off! The wines we tasted truly show a sense of place, and as I like to call it “The Bucher Dirt”.
2013 Russian River Chardonnay This was a richer style Chardonnay but not at all like a classic California wine. With beautiful balance, and bright citrus based acid, this was a creamy lemon custard, green apple, and stone fruit. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral barrels, except for a single new barrel, there is just a kiss of oak. $28
Mother’s Day is coming up, and hopefully you are able to spend some time with your mom to celebrate her. What better way to celebrate mom putting up with your crazy than some bubbly?
Recently, I visited Mumm Napawith Vindulge’s Mary Cressler, my partner in crime and bubble buddy who was visiting the Bay Area. While there, we took the tour through the production facility, which includes a taste of the still wines that will become the magical sparkling wonder – made in the traditional way, Méthode Traditionnelle.
On the way to the winery, we stopped by the demonstration vineyard and heard more about the varietals Mumm uses in their sparkling program. While many producers focus only on the classic chardonnay and pinot noir grapes for their bubbles, Mumm adds in Pinot Muenier (“Little Miller”), a grape that I think is underused in both still wine and sparkling wines in the US.
Pinot Meunier tends to have less sugar and a higher acidity, and is harvested earlier ,which lends a brightness and cleaness to the wines made from it. Mumm has between 40-60 unique growers that they work with, including their own vineyards, which allows them to select from the best grapes to make the best sparkling wine.
- 2001 DVX – this library selection of the flagship tête de cuvée honors the work of Guy Devaux, who founded Mumm Napa in 1979. This rich golden oldie is full of brioche, yellow peaches, vanilla custard and baking spice. Made with only 11 select lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this special selection had 15% barrel fermented to add richness and depth. Sitting quietly for 13 years, this was a special treat. $85
- 2007 Santana – yes, it’s that Santana. Carlos Santana and Mumm Napa have had a partnership going back several years, and every year the legendary local musician creates a new blend. The 2007 was soft and lush, with deep red fruit and figs. With a hint of Syrah added to the mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is a fun wine that benefits the Milagro Foundation. $56
- Brut Reserve Rose Magnum – there is something special about wines in large format bottles. This non vintage bottling of a classic Pinot Noir & Chardonnay blend was my favorite, with bright cranberry, raspberry, and cherry flavors. It was completely different than the 750 bottling, which we also tasted and was a great way to show off how wine ages differently in different size bottles. $68
- Sparking Pinot Noir – a rare sparkling red, this dry red wine created in the traditionally champagne style is something totally different and fun. Ripe plums, baking spice, blackberry pie and chocolate all in one, this unique wine leaves you thinking and wanting more. $34
Mumm Napa is open 7 days a week, and is located on the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, just north of the city of Napa. Treat your mom to a special Mother’s Day and stop by next Sunday! Mumm is also widely available in your favorite wine shop or retail outlet and offers excellent value in sparkling wines.
A special thank you to Charles, our tour host and conversationalist, and Kate Regan at Folsom & Associates for arranging this visit!
In this case, this is the story of a little blogger who could. When I first met Ed Thralls, he was part of the first handfull of bloggers that were a group, around wine country, figuring out what this social media thing was all about. Ed was also one of the finalists for the now infamous Murphy-Goode lifestyle (which is another story – for another blogger – who also makes wine. But more on that later).
Interning at Holdredge Wine (who, as it happens, is someone I have known for over 10 years, and also makes world class Pinot Noir) as cellar rat, Ed sucked up as much knowledge about winemaking as he could. Realizing that he couldn’t possibly leave this wonderful world of delicious Pinot Noir and juice, he made the leap and moved to wine country full time. While working a full time job in the wine business, he tested, crafted, experimented, and made wine. Thus, the Thralls Family Wine label was born.
These days, Ed has created a line of four distinct, terroir driven Pinot Noirs from around Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Each wine expresses a different piece of personality that makes Pinot Noir such an amazing wine.
First up, the so called entry level 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir. This juicy, balanced, and bold example is everything I love about Russian River Valley. Not overblown like so many Russian River Pinots can be these days, the bright cherry, cranberry adn red fruit sing out with bold flavor and juicy fruit. Using 1/3 new French oak gives this wine those beautiful hints of baking spice, without overwhelming it. This is a fantastic everyday drinker for $32.
Next, moving in to a single vineyard showcase, the 2012 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir is one of my favorites. With a deeper cherry flavor base, Bucher shows more black cherry, dark raspberry, and forest floor than the brighter Russian River. The nuances of cedar and white pepper on the finish leave you guessing for more after the first sip. This is a wine that gets better with time, so try it over a couple of days, and see what develops! $40
Moving further west, the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir takes a step away from the bolder 667 and 777 clones of the Russian River bottlings. Bringing in some bright 115 and 114 froim the cool, foggy Sonoma Coast, this Pinot Noir has alpine strawberries, cranberry, bergamot smokiness and amazing acid. This wine goes native, using all wild yeast with 10% whole cluster fermentation to give it a bit of a wild thing note. Yum! $36
Finally, for the Pinot Noir geeks in the group, the 2012 Roma’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley is one for the ages. 100% Pommard clone goes in to this unfined and unfiltered gem, which looks a bit like cloudy cherry Kool-Aid but tastes like a dream. Roma’s Vineyard sits at about 1800 feet in elevation, high above the valley floor, which creates a sunbelt in a cool climate. This beauty is popping with mushroom, pine needles, bright cherry cider and rhubarb pie. It’s bright and has brilliant acidity, and will pop with any mushroom dish or creamy cheese. $42 (Editor’s Note: Another fabulous Roma’s Pinot, make in an entirely different style, can be found in Cartograph’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.)
The 2012’s are Thralls’ third time out of the gate, with the 2008 Syrah being his first attempt at going it on his own. Beginning with the 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Ed fed a passion for pinot, and intends on continuing this tradition of small lot, hand crafted premium pinot noirs while also sourcing chardonnay for his next release.
I can’t wait to see what comes next for the Navy Brat from Atlanta, who came to Sonoma County to pursue a dream!
Hats off to you Wine Tonight, and cheers!
We interrupt this armchair travel series on Rioja with a short trip to the Willamette Valley for two different Oregon Pinot Noirs, brought to you by Kramer Vineyards.
First up, the 2010 Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir, which is from the steepest part of the estate vineyards that Kramer sources fruit from. Planted in 1995, with rich red soils and ribbons of clay running through the slopes.
Hand harvested blocks due to the steep slopes were treated to a 25% new French oak treatment, and slept for 18 months, where it was then bottled unfined and unfiltered. The resulting wine is bright and slightly cloudy, with tangering, cranberry, wild strawberry and brilliant acid. I love the woodsy note on the nose, and the earthy violets in the glass that opens up to tart cherries and cinnamon spice on the finish. I loved having the comparison to the next wine, but the Cardiac Hill can go on for days, and belies the more traditionally bolder, bigger style of many 2010 wines from the region. $40
In contract, the 2010 Rebecca’s Reserve comes from just over the field from the Cardiac Hill, but was planted with a higher density. The grape clusters here are smaller, and tighter, creating wines with more depth and complexity.
Also harvested by hand, the fruit is given the same oak treatment as Cardiac Hill but had an extra month on oak before bottling. The result is bright red fruit on the nose, with strawberry, crushed raspberry, berry jam, and rich brown sugar. It is more lush and rounded, with a burst of lemon zest and blood orange on the finish. I love the baking spice on the palate along with vanilla and cola, with a long lingering finish. $35
Check out Kramer’s Wines for great examples of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton region. Small and mighty, winemaker Kimberly Kramer continue to impress with each passing vintage, be it still or sparkling.
These wines were provided by the winery for a live twitter tasting, always a raucous good time. Check out #drinkkramerwine and #tastekramerwine for off the cuff commentary!
Jake and Ben Fetzer have a big name to live up to. Third generation wine royalty, they grew up as members of the Mendocino powerhouse Fetzer family. Now, they are making their own name with some great Mendocino pinot noir.
The winery is located in the tranquil hills of Mendocino, in a barn that their father, Bobby Fetzer, build from recycled redwood. Now, this barn serves as a rustic backdrop full of family memories, for their winery.
Clinging to winemaking’s past, Masut makes small production pinot noir with all the benefits of the modern world. Hand punch downs and the use of a fair bit of native yeast give the wines a different flavor profile than one might expect.
Founded in 2009, the property was planted in 1997 by Jake, Ben and Bobby and has 23 acres in 13 blocks, of 777,115, and 113 clones. With the cool coastal weather
Masút Vineyard and Winery produces estate Pinot Noir from grapes grown on a hillside vineyard in Mendocino County’s coastal mountains. Brothers Ben and Jake Fetzer are the owners, growers and winemakers.
The 2011 Estate Pinot Noir is a blend of all 13 blocks. 2011 was another cool growing season for
pinot noir, something that I love, because I think it produces a clearer, crisper, acid laced product. Hand sorted and destemmed, the Estate spent 11 months sleeping in 35% new French oak. One of the signatures of Masut, the wine sat sur lie for an extended time, and was bottled unfined and filtered. A gorgeous deep ruby, the nose is jumping out of the glass with sour cherry and spice. Rich, but full of bright red fruit, there is an underlying note of root beer and forest floor, covered with green peppercorn and baking spice. A baby, this wine has huge potential and I can’t wait to taste it again in 6 months. Well balanced and integrated.
I will admit, I was not the biggest fan of the first two vintages – The 2009 was full of oak (at 55% new French I am not surprised) that totally killed the fruit. The 2010 was more integrated but just wasn’t…there yet. I am going to go wine spelunking to see if I can find the vertical, to see how they are developing!
Block 1 – is dense, bold, and full of dark cherries. Touches of rhubarb and cherry pie filling round out this workhorse. All clone 115, red fruit and aromatic floral delight.
Block 7 – The Block 7 bright, with zesty cranberry and bright red fruit. I love this wine! The 115 adds complexity and acid to the bold cherry notes, and hints of root beer and white pepper are showing through, and even though it’s aged in 100% new oak, it’s well integrated and I don’t find it overpowering (which is surprising given my adversity to oak). While you can sense the heavy oak on the nose, the palate is full of spice and orange pekoe tea. This will only get better.
The Block 11 comes out bold and rich, with Bing cherry and cola. It reminds me of Santa Lucia Highlands, wearing acid wash jeans. The tiny 1.75 acre block is planted with 100% 113, and this is another 100% new oak treatment. It’s a bruiser at 14.3% ABV, and shows brambley dark red and purple fruit. This wine is a good base for the Estate, but it’s not my favorite on it’s own.
2011 Block 13 is all earth, spice and mushrooms. All 777, it’s all oak, all the time (100% new oak for 11 months, like the Block 7 & Block 11). This wine grew on me; when I first opened her up, she was a bit quiet, and full of blackberry coulis. Tannic and bold, she mellowed out and became a velvety painting that was a beautiful companion to Downton Abbey.
All in all, I love where these wines are going. I’m impressed at the single block offerings, and while surprised at the use of a large oak tree in each barrel, Jake & Ben know how to make good use of that wood. The flavors are well integrated and will only get better. The Estate blend takes the best part of each block and creates a single masterpiece, where each block can sing her praises in harmony.
These wines were provided for review by the winery. I thank you and cant’ wait for more! Oh wait, I mean the next release.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Cornerstone wines. I’ve visited the tasting room in Yountville several times, and every new release is something to be savored. Now, Craig Camp and Tony Rynders, a well known Oregon wine making star, have teamed up to create something new: Cornerstone Oregon. It’s also probably no secret that I am in love with Oregon wines, particularly pinot noir. Cornerstone Oregon is a new baby and boy is she tasty.
After my whirlwind 10 days in Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference and wine tasting, I was missing the Oregon terroir a bit. Luckily for me, the Cornerstone Oregon wines showed up just as fall was rearing her ugly head.
A collaboration between former Oregon resident Camp and Rynders, Craig’s passion for pinot was ignited when he was meandering around the wilds of Burgundy. Rynders has been the winemaker at Domaine Serene for 10 years, a well known Oregon powerhouse of pinot. With Craig playing Batman, and Tony as trusty sidekick Robin (who usually does the heavy lifting anyway),these wines are sure to be amazing.
First off, I tasted the 2010 Chardonnay. No really! Normally, this is not my first pick for white wine, as I’d rather go for the delicious Oregon Pinot Gris that dapples the Willamette, but this was a departure from the expected. Similar in style to a French Chablis, this chardonnay was full of bright citrus, nutmeg and nectarines 2010 was a cooler growing season, which created lively, bright wines. This was a wonderful wine for a warm late summer evening and I look forward to future bottles.
Next up, the 2010 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – this is the second vintage of this wine, and I have to say I prefer the 10 to the 09. It was a cool year, which gives these wines a great acid profile and wonderful bright red fruit without being heavy. Tons of classic cherry and raspberry flavors, with tell tale Willamette earth, spice, and smoke. with 68% Yamhill-Carlton fruit, and bits from 5 other sub AVAs, it blends together perfectly. 62% new French oak meshes perfectly with the fruit without overpowering it. This is an absolutely beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir that shows the best of the region. It is soft and supple with a piquant wild strawberry finish that just makes my taste buds so happy. At $50 it’s a bit pricey but on par with most higher quality Willamette Valley pinot noirs. Considering the dynamic duo behind this project, it’s priced perfectly to fit with both the Cornerstone line, as well as the product.
Finally, the second label, 2010 Stepping Stone Pinot Noir – while the Stepping Stone label was created to be fun, creative, and affordable, more every day wine. This pinot noir however, is nowhere close to everyday. Very much a departure from the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the Stepping Stone is big, ripe, and red. The bulk of the fruit is Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity, which can sometimes producer bigger fruit flavors. Lots of big strawberry and raspberry flavors in there with cherry fruit roll up. A delicious wine, it is definitely a bolder style but is still full of Willamette leather, spice and earthy notes. Spicy figs and macerated berries pop through with some lovely rose petal aromas. $30 is a steal for this baby!
Bottom line, you really can’t go wrong with Cornerstone! I am a lucky blogger to have received these wines as samples, and unlike some of my blogger brethren I am hard pressed to hold these wines for very long. Go out and buy some for yourself! you will not be sorry.
While attending Carlton’s Walk in the Park, I was lucky enough to meet Ken Morrison of K&M Wines. Clearly passionate about Oregon wine, he began his winemaking career 15 years ago with the grapes on the vineyard property he lives on. With 6 acres planted and 3 more in process, K&M produces about 500 cases annually.
Initially Ken’s hobby, he and his partner Mauro Hernandez (the M) have grown this hobby in to a small business, pursuing their dream of food, wine, and entertaining. I was excited by Ken’s 2007 Pinot at the Walk in the Park, and little did I know that I would be seeing quite a bit of him over the next day and a half!
As the Blitz Carlton Crew split up in to two smaller groups on Monday morning, you’ve already heard about my adventure up the hill to Luminous Hills. Later that afternoon, after we rolled out of Cuvee’s delicious lunch, we walked around Carlton and did speed tastings in several tasting rooms. The first was K&M.
I was delighted to see that I would get the opportunity to taste more of Ken’s wine in a more focused (but fast) environment, and it confirmed that I did indeed like the wine very much.
First up, the 2010 Chardonnay, 50% Alchemy Vineyard Estate fruit and bursting with sandlewood, hazlenuts, and smoke. Fermented sur lie, in 100% neutral oak, this is gorgeous example of an Oregon chardonnay.
The 2009 Alchemy Cuvee Pinot Noir is the a blend of the estate vineyard and Dundee Hills fruit, and is a classic, bursting with cherries and red fruit. Dense and smoky, it is full of dark raspberry with soft, silky tannins. With only 25% new oak, it has a subtle finish that is much appreciated.
My favorite of the tasting was the 2007 Alchemy Vineyard Pinoit Noir, a special treat Ken was pouring at A Walk in the Park. Panned by critics, loved by pinotphiles, this is a very good example of the Oregon Pinot Noirs from this year. Raspberry, pomegranate strawberry and creamy vanilla, it is a classically elegant Pinot that K&M held back for a few extra months in oak to give it a long silky finish. Yum!
K&M Wines keeps prices affordable, and you can afford to splurge on these little luxuries. With the Reserve Pinot Noir topping the charts at $35, even the most budget minded wine lover can taste the Oregon terroir.
Thanks again Ken for the great wines and the entertaining ride back to Portland!
K&M Wines is located in Carlton, Oregon. Make sure you say hi if you make the trip!
When I first met Leon Glover, winemaker, owner, bottle washer, and mad scientist at Lionheart Wines, several years ago at Crushpad, I knew he was going to make some special wines.
Recently, I had the chance to catch up with him and see how things were going. WIth the wines resting (ok under lock and key and held hostage but the powers that be at the form Cr***p&%, but who’s counting), I thought they deserved some extra love. Getting them out of the warehouse was a challege that required some patience, but it was worth it to taste Lionheart’s wines.
First up: The 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Gap’s Crown Vineyard. This is one of my favorite locations for Sonoma Coast pinot. Typically, you think of the Sonoma Coast as a region that develops bright acid, cranberry and juicy red fruit. 2008 however was an odd year. High temperatures for a long summer as well as bad fires in Mendocino led to a big dark and dense wine, with spikes of acid. That tell cranberry, black cherry, cola, and black raspberry came out to dance on my tongue The mellow use of only 1/3 new oak balances out this wine without overpowering it. $42
Lionheart makes several other wines, and I will be sharing those one by one. I hope I tantilize you with my tastes, and that you run over and buy some for yourself!
On our Blitz Carlton tour of the Yamhill-Carlton wine region, I was lucky enough to visit the Luminous Hills vineyard sight. I have tasted the wines of Byron Dooley a few times before, as he owns the Seven of Hearts and Luminous Hills labels, but this visit was special.
Piling in to the trusty Subaru wagon (legally required if you live in Oregon), we trekked up a rough and ready road to the beautiful rolling hills. The steep slopes of the site are hidden from the main road and are a beautiful hollow in the hills where the cool air pools in the valley.
The vineyard is located in the southwest corner of the Yamhill-Carlton District, in a uniquely high elevation site full of both Jory and sedimentary soils. The two soils, which are very different, combined with the specific clones that Byron uses to make these wines, create some delicious and complex Oregon Pinot Noirs.
Like many vineyards in the area, the bulk of the plantings are Pommard, with blocks of 777, 667,
and 115 also planted to add terroir and variety. The property is dry farmed, which maximizes the site’s terroir, although emergency irrigation is possible if needed in a difficult vintage Sustainable farmed, the three Pinot Noirs from Luminous Hills are each distinct, wonderful, and full of character – much like Byron himself!
Luminous Hills producers four wines. I will let you taste them
for yourself, but the details are:
Rose of Pinot Noir – This is such a delicious refresher, with 70% purpose made from Pommard and 777, and 30 Saignee. The clean, crisp flavors jump out of the glass, and the bolder style is perfect to tuck away in your cellar.
Estate Grown Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton – This affordable luxury contains all four clones from the property, and is a clear picture of the location.
Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill-Carlton LUX – this wine is only Pommard and 777, with the richness of the Pommard overlapping the bright spikes of the 777. The higher elevation of the vineyard produces brighter, elegant fruit. This is my fave!
Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill Carlton- Utilizing the 667 clone from the top of the vineyard and the 115 from the bottom, the Astra has more whole cluster fermentation and is a rich, bold wine.
I hope you will stop by the tasting room in Carlton when you are in the Willamette Valley! Byron, Lena and the chocolate will be waiting for you!