Forgive me, for I have zinned! A WBW Post

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

A smattering of tastings – WBC Day 1

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Where does the time go?  The Second Annual Winebloggers Conference has already come and gone, and I am left wondering “what the heck was that bus that rolled over me  “.As one of the voices behind the curtain of the WBC Scholarship, and as a huge cheerleader, proponent and fan of the WBC, I am pleased, shocked, elated, bummed, and catching my breath after the weekend. On our first day, the rag tag Twisted Crew (@sonadora, @thebeerwench, @winehiker, @eljefetwisted, @ryanopaz, @gabriellaopaz, @houstonwino, @winewonkette) and I pulled up to the Flamingo after fighting what seemed to be an eternity in Central Valley and Infinion drag racing traffic followed by the usual Friday flow in to Santa Rosa.  Arriving at 12:30 or so, I didn’t spend much time with the sponsors, something which I regret doing.  Partially because many of them were familiar to me, partially because I was just plain exhausted due to unfortunate events the day before, I found my fellow people and sat down to eat some lunch. I was excited to see so many of my friends, both those that I know in person and those that I knew only online, as new recruits tot he WBC posse.  After catching up, albeit breifly, with some regulars, I was circulating the room trying to spy new faces while inspecting their name tags without looking like I was completely crazy.  Fortunately, I caught up with a few new regulars. After lunch, we attempted to do the speed tasting sessions, but well for reasons so many have discussed, it failed.  Miserably.  Like died on the operating table failed.  In its stead, we heard about the Wine Blogger Awards.  Unfortunately, I had purposely planned to skip this male dominated prom king style popularity contest, and moving it up unfortunately resulting in people not being there to accept thier awards.  Eventually the wireless supposedly turned back on but as I tried to tweet my tasting notes, the wireless only stayed up for 10 seconds at a time, I gave up and just enjoyed the wines.  Sorry folks, no tasting notes from me. After the speed tasting, we beat a hasty retreat to our short but sweet annual Anti-Conference BYOB session in the small space at the front of the hotel.  We did get to enjoy a large plethora of wines from attendees, and I really look forward to this time to meet new folks, try new wines, and just have a good time in an unstructured way. Not wanting to miss a beat, we then made our way out to the pool for a very crowded very crazy Sonoma Grand Tasting.  Not wanting to get crushed in the milee I pretty much avoided this, and found a spot at a table with Wine Biz Radio’s Randy Hall, his wife Jen and her amazing goat cheese, as well as some fellow bloggers.  There, we shared some wine, I opened some wine, Chritophe (@cork_dork) from Titus opened some wine, and we made our own tasting.  […]

Giving them the Finger

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The Finger Lakes wine region in upstate New York, was not one that I expected to be drawn to.  I had always had that joke in my head that the Finger Lakes were low quality, high sugar, wines for the masses.  Happily, I can report that I was wrong. Recently, I was invited to participate in TasteNY, where several bloggers around the country each were offered 12 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes to taste and share.  These were offered as no strings attached samples, and we were told that we could blog and tweet about if we wanted to, but the real goal was to get the word out that these wines existed and were an exciting region to explore. Being from California, and more specifically, the Bay Area, where I have at least 4 wine growing regions nearby, I am somewhat narrowly focused on where my wines come from.  I like to taste things before I buy them, and it’s difficult tot find a place to taste such variety outside of the comfort of my own couch.  This has caused me to have a love affair with California wines, but also, more negatively, to live with wine blinders on.  For that reason, I always love the opportunity to taste outside of my comfort zone, and to share with friends. The Finger Lakes area is New York state’s largest wine producing region, but certainly not the only.  There are more than 100 wineries and vineyards, that are clustered around the small Finger Lakes.  The climate that has developed as a result of the lake effect keeps the summer warmth in the soil through the winter, and mitigates the cold northern new York climate.  The grapes are naturally protected from frost, and results in a similar climate to the Alsace region of France and some parts of southern Germany.  The primary vinifera varitals that are produced here are Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc.  There are also some native American varietals produced here, but there are not as well known. On the day I planned to taste these 12 wines, I invited several wine lovers and wine bloggers over to my house to help me drain the bottles.  The only thing I asked them to bring was food that would pair well with the wines, and we had some tasty tid bits as a result.  We of course had a lot of Thai food, something that is a natural pairing in my mind, as well as some excellent cheeses and other snacks.  The spicy Thai food really paired well with the wines, which ranged from bone dry and minerally, to slightly sweet and refreshing. the 12 wines we experienced were: Heron Hill Winery 2005 Old Vines Riesling Ravines Wine Cellars 2006 Riesling Red Newt Wine Cellars 2006 Reserve Riesling Sheldrake Point 2006 Reserve Riesling Atwater Vineyards 2007 Dry Riesling Wiemer Vineyards 2007 Dry Riesling Dr. Konstantin Frank 2007 Dry Riesling Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards  2008 […]

Playing with balls…

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  Second labels are hot right now.  They are one way for a winery, who might be struggling with the economy, to use some of their juice and develop a lower price point wine.  or they might just be a way for the winemakers to have a little fun with their wine. Pétanque wines are made by Michel-Schlumberger, a leader in California premium wines, specifically for enjoying BBQ season, picnics, and Pétanque, the French game of lawn bowling.  recently, I had the chance to attend their opening party at Michel-Schlumberger, where the wines were being poured, the balls were being thrown, and band was swinging.  for $25, we got to eat the yummy food, dance with the Brother Cat Band, and drink all the wine we could!  In fact, Judd kept coming around to refill our glasses.  Probably to keep us, the riff-raff out of the rest of the crowd  😉 At the party, I was able to taste the line up of affordable, easy drinking quaffers that are value priced between $12.95 and $16.95  At these prices, you can enjoy a bottle every night!  part of the fun of these wines, is that we were outside in the garden, drinking from tumblers instead of glasses, and playing with balls as we drank and danced all afternoon long.  What a fun day! First, I tasted the 2007 Sav Blanc.  On a warm spring day in Dry Creek, this hit the spot.  The grapes for this citrus driven white were from Paso Robles, and it was aged in stainless steel  It’s a nicely balanced low alcohol wine at 13.^%. Next, even though I generally run screaming from Chardonnay, I had to give this one a try.  Most because my friend Judd was pouring it, but hey, what the hell  this is actually an unoaked chard, which made me smile.  I am not a huge chardy fan, and this was was decent, even if it wasn’t my favorite. My favorite of the lineup, and the one I drank all afternoon over and over, was the 2006 Syrah.  It was a big soft syrah, that came from right there in Dry Creek Valley.  It was very easy to drink and I did.  A lot!  I wasn’t really taking notes, but I just remember this was a fantastic BBQ wine. Next, came the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This came from the Sierra Foothills, and I was surprised about that since I don’t generally associated that area with Cab.  It was ok, but not really my cup of tea.  I found it too woody. The moral of this story is, if you find a winery that makes a second label, and you really enjoy their first, give it a shot!  There are great values out there and you might just have some fun trying them!  I’m big on the budget wines, and while I appreciate a special bottle and drink lots of that too, I love that there are tasting treats out there that are prime […]

A pinot that doesn’t fail!

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I first found MacPhail Wines at a tasting held at San Francisco Wine Trading Company last year, at the recommendation of my friend.  Since i know he is a bigger wino than I am – NO!  It’s true Alex you are! – I couldn’t miss it, and I knew that I would be blown away.  BOY was I not wrong!  At the time, I was pinching the employment pennies and only walked out with one bottle of the Sonoma Coast which I am treasuring like a pot of gold. Recently, my wino friends Jim, Shana, Vicki and Lil and I snuck in an impromptu visit with James and his dog, Zuni.  I am in love.  Pure, magical, pinot love.  One was better than the last, and the last was better than the first! MacPhail Family Vineyards was founded in 2002, with a directive to create passionate Pinot Noir from the best Sonoma and Mendocino County sources.  To that end, here are my yumyumyummy notes from our visit! 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir was a deep rose hue, and smelled of rose petals, hibiscus and cranberry.  I tasted the cranberry and hibiscus as well, along with  red ziner, rich red fruit, and grapefruit. 2007 Sonoma Coast is a blend of two vineyards, the Pratt Vineyard and the Goodin Vineyards, both of which are located in Sebastapol.  These wines were vinified separately, and then hand picked for the single vineyard wines.  The remainder was blended in to this treat, which showed spicy clove, dusty cherry, black cherry, even a touch of blackberry, followed by Dr. Pepper,  and dark rich intense flavors. 2007 Anderson Valley Toulouse Vinyeard is a combination of a the Dijon clones 115, 667, 777, and 2A.  MacPhail is one of the premier examples of a Toulouse pinot, and one of the first.  This is a big pinot for Anderson valley, and was full of bright strawberries, salty creamy berries, lots of earthy bark and cinnamon.  It had a lighter body and color and was zippy. 2007 Sonoma Coast Goodin Vinyard had a rich, deeper color.  I loved the rich, spicy earth flavors.  Lots of Dr. Pepper and black cherry.  Dark delicious ruit. 2007 Anderson Valley Vagon Rouge was a very special wine indeed!   Only 8 barrels were made, and it had wild strawberry, rich intense fruit and bright red berries with a nice balance. Strictly speaking, I loved ALL of these wines.  I left with 3 bottles to add to my 1 at home, and I will remember my visit for a long time.  I look forward to coming back and tasting again next year!   Google

Chile is HOT!

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

Spotlight on: Chile

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

All in the family!

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

Just say no to OAK!

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

A Folio of wines!

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

Rhône Around the World!

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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: Rutherglen The Alliance  (Viognier/Marsanne) 2006 Fireblock Grenache 2004 Four Vines The Peasant (Grenache) 2006 Bonny Doon Le Vol Des Anges (Late Harvest Roussanne) 2007 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: Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2007 Tablas Creek Mourvedre 2006 Kinton Syrah 2005 Verge Syrah 2006 Yangarra Estate Shiraz 2006 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.   Google  

Show me your juice, and no one gets hurt.

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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!   Google   PINOT!  PINOT!  PINOT!

To Infinity, and BEYOND!

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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 Google

Bottle Shock!

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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

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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: Lot 71 – 2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 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) Lot 73 – 2006 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 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. Lot 69 Dry Creek Merlot. 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’ […]