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.

STRONG BUY

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

STRONG BUY

 

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.

BUY


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!

BUY ONLY IF ON SALE

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.

STRONG BUY

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

BUY IF ON SALE

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.

STRONG BUY

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?

All in the family!

France!  Varietal labels!  Two levels!  Oh boy oh boy!  I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got the invitation to taste two labels, Robert Skalli and Fortant, in a wine bar that I have been dying to check out, CAV. Since I have not had a lot of exposure to old world wine, and Old World wine that I enjoy, I was excited to learn about these two labels with the winemaker, Laurent Sauvage.

Robert Skalli began his career in southern France in the 1970s, where he earned his stripes before setting the French wine world on it’s ear in the 80s by throwing the establishment to the wind by producing France’s first single varietal wines.  Until he came along, France was dominated by centuries of classic blending techniques.  The upstart Skalli wanted to showcase the quality of the fruit while simplifying the wines for the new wine drinker.  The second label, Fortant, was created to showcase premier wines at a price that anybody could afford.  This was a foreign concept in the mid 1980s.  The introduction of varital specific wines to the South of France was an interesting prospect, since there was a lot of unexplored territory in wine growing regions.  This was a revolutionary idea that was quickly adopted by many wine growers.  It’s interesting to note that the Skalli family also owns St. Supery, located in the Napa Valley – which I recently wrote about HERE. I have a greater appreciation for producers that have multiple houses, because I think it gives them a full understanding of the different styles of wine that are produced in the wide variety of physical locations.

Here in the States, we are used to having varitally specific wines.  I think this is one of the reasons why old world wine can be intimidating to the average American consumer, because we don’t’ know what goes in to the detailed AOC labeling process.  Producing single varietal wines makes it easy to showcase the stars of a region, while simplifying the buying process for the consumer.

Skalli and Fortant wines are creations of the Languedoc.  This is the largest of the growing regions in the south of France, which is rich in micro climates and terroir.

The Languedoc wine region is included in the much larger Vin de Pays d’Oc.  This region overs the southeastern coastal Gulf of Lion, from the border of Spain to the famous South of France region of Provence.  The total production is approximately 700,000 hectares (1 729 737 acres).  It is the largest wine producing region in the world, and produces more than a third of France’s total wine production.

While historically, the Languedoc has been known for producing many of France’s bulk wines or Vins Ordinaries” there are increasingly, new stars being discovered in this region.

All of the wines we tasted were value priced, ranging in price from the steal of $6.99 to the moderate $18.99.  While I enjoyed all of the tastes, I particularly recommend the Fortant Merlot and the Robert Skalli Côteaux du Languedoc for their outstanding flavors and value.

2006 Fortant Chardonnay – $6.99

Pineapple, stone fruit, guava.  Creamy spice.  No oak is used in the Fortant wines, which strive to focus on the fruit.  The true expression of the grapes is the ultimate goal.  Honey & Tangerine, with a nutty finish.

2006 Robert Skalli Chardonnay- $15.99

This wine sees 6-8 months in oak, and smells like creamy sandlewood.  There is a lot of oak spice from the 1/3 new oak, 1/3 1 year old oak and 1/3 2 year old oak barrel aging.  I found this very spicy and yet a light chardonnay.  Grapefruit and lemon citrus, with crisp fruit.  Slight fig undertones.  IT was almost Sav Blanc like to me.

2007 Fortant Merlot Rose – $6.99

Strawberry lemonade, hibiscus flowers.  Cranberry juice cocktail with rose petals and lavender.

2006 Robert Skalli Piot NOir – $15.99

Earthly wet leaves & mushrooms.  It is unusual to have Pinot Noir crowing in Corsica, an island off the west coast of France, where this wine is from, but this particular parcel has very cool influences that allow for this wine to blossom.  I tasted tobacco and earth, with prunes and smoked meats.  Slight gamey aftertaste with plums and dried cherries.

2006 Fortant Merlot – $6.99

This was the first stand out wine for me at this tasting.  I tasted plums & cocoa, with blackberry juice flavors.  With no oak aging, the beauty oft he fruit really came through.  At this price point, this really is a winner for an everyday but extraordinary wine.

2006 Fortant Cabernet Sauvignoin – $6.99

Vanilla, currents, blackberries.  A lot of black pepper on the tongue, but smooth & rich without being overdone.  Fresh blue and black fruits that did not have oak aging made this a delicious fruit froward cab.

2006 Robert Skalli Cabernet Sauvignon – $15.99

This cab had 30% of the finished wine aged in oak for 6-9 months, which was then blended with the rest of the wine.  I tasted cassis, beef jerky and hickory smoke a well as plums.

2007 Robert Skalli Côteaux du Languedoc – $18.99

This was my other standout winner of the evening.  Even at almost $20, this Grenache – Syrah blend really knocked my socks off.  I tasted Coffee, chocolate, espresso, pepper, deep blue fruit and plums with allspice and anise.  I would drink this wine all the time if i could!

IN closing, it pays to do your research about French wine.  I have long held a bias that I don’t like Old World wine because they aren’t made int he style that I prefer.  That said, I now know that I can seek out wines from the Languedoc and get great QPR as well as great wine!

Special thanks to Benson Marketing Group (especially Tia Butts) for the blogger tasting, and to Laurent for taking the time out of his schedule to hang out with us!

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Just say no to OAK!

WOW!  What a day.  The mercury has reached 90 degrees, in SAN FRANCISCO.  IN APRIL!  Mother Nature is sure ticked off.  The saving grace to this terrible heat wave is that I have been enjoying some very nice white wines of late.  Now, you probably know that I am a red girl through and through, and have been known to drink Pinot with my fish, but there is something so relaxing about a cold white on a red hot day.

When I got home from work, my house was an oven, and the last thing I could think of doing was opening a red.  So I made
myself some cold chicken salad, and cracked open a bottle of Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay that I have had stashed in my fridge for a while.  The unoaked version of the classic white is my cup of tea.  I have long held the belief that we have destroyed a perfectly lovely white wine varietal by turning it the color of pee and adding oak essence to it.  I personally prefer the minerally citrus inspired dry and crisp light whites from France.  While this was by no means a light white, it was a refreshing change of pace.

While it goes through 100% malolactic fermentation, which gives it a rich and creamy mouthfeel.  Then, this wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and never sees oak barrels, hence the unoaked label.   I tasted butterscotch, vanilla pudding, and tropical fruits as well as crisper citrus notes.  This was like eating a juicy green apple, and it was very refreshing on a hot hot day.

I know i’ll be buying it again if i can find it!  The Kim Cracford Unoaked Chardonnay retails for around $15-18, and can be found at BevMo and Wine.com among other places.  Examples of Chardonnay of this quality and style are why i have permanently cancelled my membership int eh ABC Club (Anything But Chardonnay).  I hope too will give some of these a try!

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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.

 

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Rhône Around the World!

You’re the Rhone that I want!  That’s the theme for this year’s Hospices du Rhône event, and it’s a great one.  To tie in with this annual extravaganza, Twitter Taste Live is doing a multi-national, multi-coastal, multi time zone tasting event that you can be a part of!
It all kicks off at 7pm local time, on Friday – April 17th.

The first stop is 7pm GMT where in the UK where Robert McIntosh from wineconversation.com will be tasting along with some bloggers and tweeps.

Then we move across the pond to the East Coast, where Joe Roberts, the ONE the ONLY 1winedude, will host live from Wine Riot in Boston at 7pm EDT.  They will be tasting:

Then we move out West.  Out here the cowboys of the wine industry will be in multiple locations, at 7pm Best Coast Time!  Oops sorry, I mean PDT.

  • A tweet-up will be happening at ESATE Restaurant in Sonoma.  For the bargain price of $12 and a bottle of Rhone wine, you too can join the crowd and tweet live from Sonoma!
  • If you can’t make it to one of the live event, you can host your own!  If you can’t host your own, you can taste alone.  Pick one, pick a few but pick something!

Hope you can join us and and I look forward to Friday!

The west coast posse will be tasting:

For all the details and to RSVP. please head over to Twiter Taste Live.  You don’t need to be a wine blogger, or a wine snob, you just need a Twitter account and a Hospices du Rhone wine!  See you in the Twittersphere at 7pm YOUR time on Friday, April 17th.

 

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Show me your juice, and no one gets hurt.

PINOT!  PINOT!  PINOT!

Pinot Noir, the heartbreak grape. It’s a picky little woman, but when you get it right, you get it SO very right!  Pinot Noir is also a very seductive grape, and one that I go back to over and over again.  The beauty of this wine is that it is extremely susceptible to the local terroir, and I can really taste the differences between Carneros, Russian River Valley, and Santa Lucia Highlands.  Each growing area has tell tale flavor profiles, while adhereing to the beautiful baseline of earth that drives Pinot.  After the release of Sideways in 2004, a huge resurgence in Pinot lovers emerged.  Now, there has been some backlash against that, but I still love it.  Pinot Noir seems to be a more mature wine in many ways, and for me – a more experienced palate can appreciate it.  I still love Zin, but more often than not I reach for a bottle of pinot.

Affairs of the Vine is once again presenting the 7th Annual Passionate about Pinot Noir Summit.  This year’s event takes place on April 5th, at the Marin JCC. The 7th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout will showcase Pinot Noirs from near and far, including Chile, France, Australia and of course, California and Oregon.

The Summit is our unique opportunity to taste the top 40 finalists in the shootout blind.  We then get to compare our results to the judges results!  After the Shootout – Final Showdown, attendees are invited to attend Pinot specific seminars such as Food & Pinot Pairings, A Question of Style, Discovering New Stars and more.  Finally, at the end of the day, there will be an unveiling of the blind tasting, as well as an award ceremony.

Having attended this event last year, I can tell you it was not only extremely enjoyable, but VERY educational.  In fact, this is where I first met, and inspired my friend Liza (@brixchick_liza) to start her illustrious blog, BrixChicks! If that wasn’t worth it, I don’t know what is.  I hope you can join myself, Valerie (@winedog), and Shana (@sharayray) for some Pinot Passion!

Tickets are $100, but discounts can be obtained HERE.  You can purhcase tickets HERE. For complete details about this event, please see the Affairs of the Vine webiste.

Happy Drinking and I look forward to a full post event report!

 

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PINOT!  PINOT!  PINOT!

To Infinity, and BEYOND!

The Wine Century Club was developed for all adventurous wine lovers. Have you tasted 100 different grape varietals? I know what you’re thinking: I drink a lot. A lot of wine. Surely I must be a charter member! But It’s not as easy as you might think.

The most common varietals are some variation on the Big Six:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot (does anyone actually drink this stuff?)
  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Riesling

The Wine Century Club is made up of people that enjoy tasting new wines, and have an adventerous streak. Sounds like me! With Family Winemakers coming up, and the Wine Bloggers Conference shortly thereafter, what better way to challenge myself to learn about new varietals.

Here is a challenge to all of you Luscious Lushes out there.
See if you too can earn one of these fancy certificates! My goal is to have it completed by the time Rhone Rangers rolls around next year.


Download the Century Club application here:
Excel
PDF

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Bottle Shock!

Bottle Shock is about to be released!
Picture it.
Paris.
1976.
Scions of the wine industry gather in Paris for the annual Judgment of Paris wine competition.
In a blind tasting, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from France and California were pitted against each other, where, shockingly California won and changed the wine world forever.

On August 6th, the film adapted from the book Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine by George Taber, opens to audiences here in the heart of California wine county. To help celebrate the 22nd anniversary of this epic victory for American wine, Crushpad is hosting a premier party to celebrate our victory over the French. Come celebrate with us by tasting a recreation of the Paris competition, and then join us at the Kabuki for a screening of the movie.

Details to follow soon. You can watch the official trailer below for your entertainment!

GREAT Wine under $20


In homage to Dr. Debs (the real Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 fame), I am happy to report that I had a fantastic evening last night at the Cameron Hughes wine reception hosted by Cornelius of Wine 2.0 & RadCru.

Most impressive were the Alexander Valley & various Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon selections, poured from the new Lot releases by Cameron himself.

Cameron Hughes Wine has made a name for itself as premium quality budget priced wine, widely available at Costco warehouses everywhere. These premium wines average $15 and under, with a few of the more unusual selections hovering around $20. I don’t have to tell you, that $15 for a stellar Cabernet from Napa is like having someone forget to add an item on your bill at your favorite restaurant. It almost feels like stealing candy from a baby!

How do they do it? Well it’s actually a fairly old story of the negociant, a wine merchant who buys grapes or finished wine and slaps their own label on it. IN this case, which amazing results that are different with every lot and every year. Cameron Hughes Wine focuses on buying bits & pieces of leftover super premium wine. Sometimes, wineries don’t want a large case production, to create the illusion of scarcity. Sometimes, they just aren’t happy with the results. And sometimes, well sometimes I just can’t understand dhow they can give up such wonderful elixirs but I”m happy I reap the financial benefits!

My highlights from the tasting are:

This was my outstanding wine winner of the night, both because of the killer dusty cocoa, tobacco and richness, as well as the stupid cheap price. I pre-ordered 2 bottles of it, but now am kicking myself for not ordering more. $15 (not released yet)

A very close 2nd to Alexander Valley, I had a hard time picking my favorite. So I tasted more. And again. And often. Oy the joys of a cab ride home! $16 (not released yet)

  • Lot ? 2006 Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon

This was the first cab we tasted last night, and I thought it would be my favorite. But as we moved down the line, Alex and Chalk just kicked Yountville’s little butt. But it was still good, and a screaming value. Hell, all of them are. It’s young, and needs to be decanted & held, but for $15? Seriously!

  • Lot ? Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Silly me, I didn’t keep my tasting sheet because I turned it in to order, and now can’t remember the lot numbers. But this was a tasty tidbit too! I admit, at this point, i sort of lost count because they were so tasty.

For me, a typically non Merlot drinker, this wine blew me away. It is a rich & powerful merlot, coming from an area that i wouldn’t expect and yet didn’t’ have that overpowering manipulated feel of most commercial wines.
$15

A very minty syrah, with a lot of spice. It was a bit tannic for me, and could use a bit more balance but I expect great things in the future. $15

This was a surprise, and a really interesting blend that caught my attention quickly as we tasted the large array of wines on the bar. Grenache & Carignane come together to give a taste of Spain in a classic meritage. $20

The moral of the story? Don’t prejudge! I have had some of the other CH Wines, and wasn’t terribly impressed. However, with the variety of Lots and the amazing Cabernets, I will certainly not shy away in the future.

Thanks to RadCru and Cameron Hughes for a great time at Varnish!

 

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July is for Wine-ing!


The 4th of July is made for picnics, beer, lemonade and potato salad.
That makes the 5th of July perfect for wine!
Urbano Cellars is having a release party to celebrate their new wines.

  • 2006 Dry Creek Syrah – 290 cases
  • 2007 Green Valley (Solano) Vin Rose’ – 135 cases
  • 2007 Lodi Viognier – 30 cases
  • 2007 Lodi Five Barrel Blend -125 cases
  • 2005 Green Valley (Solano) Zinfandel – 125 cases

Join me in toasting these new releases across the bay with Urbano at Periscope Cellars (click for Google Map) in Emeryville. Afterwards, we can mosey on down to Lost Canyon and maybe even invade Rosenblum. Check out other East Bay wineries at East Bay Vintners Alliance.

As I was reading the list for the July 19th Santa Cruz Mountain Passport, I was happy to see there are now several wineries in the San Carlos / Redwood City / Woodside area.

Check out the list of mid-Peninsula wineries:

  • Domenico Wines
  • La Honda Winery
  • Aptos Creek
  • Kings Mountain
  • Michael Martella


As much as I love driving down to Santa Cruz, with the gas prices and beach traffic the way they are right now – wouldn’t it be fun to go local?

PS if you want to Caltrain, you can walk to Dominico from the San Carlos station!

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Happy Monday!

So you know it’s a good party when the aftermath takes 4 trips to the recycling bin to empty the kitchen of bottles.

Thanks all for celebrating my weekend (oh yeah and my 22nd birthday) with me!
There were some tasty wines indeed, and after a day of sleep to recover, I will have to do some reading to see what we drank and what I restocked on.

yum!

 

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Red Wine & Brews Festival – Carmel Valley

I was recently in Carmel Valley wine tasting, and was happily impressed by most of the offerings, particularly from Parsonage and Bernardus.
My friend just told me he would be manning his hand crafted woodcrafts booth (Green Tree Designs) at the festival, so why not come down and check it out?

 

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #46, Rhone Whites

Be sure to stop by Vinquire and take a look at our Wine Blogging Wednesday efforst.

For those of you who don’t know, once a month we get togheter a group, and taste in a particular theme.

This month, that theme was Rhone varital white wines. We were a little madcap, and tasting 6, from both France and abroad.

You can see the results here:

http://www.vinquire.com/blog/2008/jun/10/wbw-46-rhone-whites/

 

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June Already!

So you’ll have to forgive me for not doing this sooner, but I decided to migrate my email list to a blog. Mind you, I am not an experience blogger, so please bear with me!
I’ll be adding things here as I think of them, or as they come up, so be sure to bookmark me and check back regularly.
 

How is it June! Well, as shocked as I am, June is the month for wine. And birthdays. And vacations. So many things, so little time! 

With the global climate shift causing strange and unusual weather patterns, I decided that I better drink as much good wine as possible to stave off the bevy of new illnesses we will probably get.
No no, I’m not a pessimist. Just looking for an excuse! Thanks to Gabriella from Catavino, who’s doctor told her to drink more and eat more meat, I am following suit. 


Open House
 

Saturday June 21
Happy Anniversary to Crushpad!
 

S

an Francisco Wine Enthusiasts Meet the Winemakers

Wednesday June 25
I really enjoy these meet the winemakers sessions, because it gives us a chance to get to know some very small producers that you might not otherwise get to know.
This month, it might be our final episode because we have had a hard time attracting crowds. Please take a moment, find a friend, and come on down to see and try:

Sterling Albert Winery
Concord’s only winery and winemaker, will be pouring wines sourced from grapes grown on Mt. Diablo where many of the state’s more respected vineyards grew before Prohibition. You’ll also enjoy his Lake County Cab Franc from 35 year old vines that will produce no more, having recently been pulled out to make way for progress.

Pietra Santa Winery
Pietra Santa, located next door to Josh Jensen’s Calera winery, will be sampling estate wines from Cienega Valley including their Super Tuscan Blend Sassolino as well as their SangioveseDolcetto. and

Vin Nostro
The winemaker of Vin Nostro, Dario Zucconi, whose family owns Tomasso’s pizzaria, will join us to pour his double gold medal winners, the 2004 Alexander Valley Cab and ’05 Syrah from the Red Hills AVA (Lake County) and his ’05 Dry Creek Valley Zin.

Harvest Moon Winery
Among its wines, Harvest Moon Estate & Winery will be showcasing several Zins from the Russian River appellation.
http://wine.meetup.com/321/calendar/8055401/

Tuesday June 24
Ottimista Enoteca Pinot Pairings
$25 reservations required.
Six pinot producers will pour their finest to those interested in tasting and celebrating pinot noir, as paired with pinot-centric foods. Ottimista Enotecca-Cafe is known for its pairings; this is a tasting you do not want to miss.

  • Churchill Cellars
  • Handley Cellars
  • Olson Ogden Wines
  • Philo Ridge Vineyards
  • Hirsch Vineyard and Winery
  • Kanzler Vineyards
Thursday June 26
Table Hop Dinners

  • Isa
  • Jack Fallstaff


Saturday June 28
Focus Tasting Series

This year we are offering three Focus Tastings, each with a regional focus. Each of these tastings will feature 16 of the best producers efforts within the theme. We will drink the wines blind and reveal them after each flight. While you are tasting the wines, the winemakers
wi
ll field questions, discuss their own wines and the uniqueness of the region they are representing, and share their colorful stories about making some of the most exciting pinots available. All of this will happen while you are sitting and tasting some of the finest pinots on the market.

 

  1. Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills and Central Coast – 6/28/2008 1-3pm Cost: $ 80 SOLD OUT
  2. Best of Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley 6/28/2008 4-6pm Cost: $ 80
  3. Best of Russian River Valley and Santa Maria Valley 6/28/2008 7-9pm Cost: $ 80


Sunday June 29
Seminar Series
Our Sunday Seminar Series offer specific opportunities to appreciate wines of particular styles, or from particular regions or vineyards. Each Series consists of three unique, topical tastings: Appellation, Vineyard and Misto. The “Appellation Tasting” is a tasting of pinots from a specific appellation or region. The “Vineyard Tasting” is a tasting of pinots from a specific vineyard. The “Misto Tasting” is mix of pinot-related topics, ranging from an alcohol level study to a clonal study to a study of the effects of the various barrel types – you choose. A ticket to the Sunday Seminar Series includes the Grand Festival. Sunday Seminar Series ticket holders may enter the Grand Festival at 11AM with members of the Trade, and taste for one hour before heading to your particular seminar series. Seminars are two hours in length, so you may re-enter the Grand Festival at 2PM to enjoy three more hours of tasting pinot and meeting winemakers.

Grand Tasting

Sunday’s Grand Tasting will showcase 170 producers of pinot noir. This is California’s largest single gathering of pinot producers, as well as its most varied. Consumers will be able to sample up to 400 pinots from every important region in California, Oregon, New Zealand, and Burgundy, and to meet the winemakers who create them. We will also offer a number of pinots for auction, donating various charities.

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