When I was first introduced to Knez Winery, I knew they would be something special. It was no special occasion, or anything memoriable, it was just a bottle of fantastic pinot noir on the table one night at dinner. Sometimes, it’s the little things. I re-introduced to the label at a weekly tasting event at Arlequin Wine Merchant, where I had the chance to talk with the winemaker while I tasted the ones. Once again, I loved not just the Pinot Noir, but the Chardonnay as well. Fast forward to earlier this Spring, when I was meandering through Anderson Valley with my friend, we were working our way back south after a delightful day at Roederer, I stopped by The Madrones in Philo, a small collection of tasting rooms. Here, I was able to taste through the then current releases of the Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir, as well as a historical look back at two other vintages. Knez focuses on hand crafted, single vineyard wines influenced by the extreme climate of Anderson Valley, and the combination of marine influences, damn, cold, fog, and the soils of the area. With particular attention paid in the vineyard, winemaker Anthony Filiberti practices a more hands off winemaking approach, preferring to do as little intervention as possible. This old world philosophy encourages a sense of place to be developed in the wine, carrying the terroir over from vineyard to bottle. The Cerise Vineyard, where the Knez Pinot Noir is born, was planted in 1995 to ten clones. This mixture of clones, in 15 blocks, allows for careful selection and characteristics to be hand picked for each wine. 2009 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir A brilliant cranberry color with a mountain strawberry nose, and bold, bright red fruit. Strong acids with piquant notes of cranberry melt in to lightly scented vanilla flowers. As the palate opens, Bing cherry, ripe raspberries and rose petals appear. The mid palate reveals crushed minerals, cedar, and cardamon, cinnamon and anise, with a hint of violets. 2010 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir Dark and brooding, with a kiss of brown sugar, the 2010 is a deep garnet color with forest floor aromas and earthy, cedar notes. A touch of mint and wild berries blend with black cherry, deep raspberry and bergamot while dried lavender and white pepper dot the finish. Currently the 2013 is $34 in the tasting room. As these are library wines, I am unable to provide current pricing. Please contact the winery for more details. If you find yourself in Philo, be sure to stop in an taste the terroir at Knez!
Graff Family 2007, from the Chalone appelation to be precise. Graff Familiy is from Sonoma, but these grape hail from teh Chalone region in Monterey County. The Chalone AVA has some of the oldest producing vines in California wine country, and is composed of limestone, granite and clay. The wide diurnal temperature swings are great for Chardonnay and other white wines The Pinot Gris is fermented in French Oak, and tasted of honey, peaches and honeysuckle flowers with pear notes. It had a very creamy texture with low acidity and was nicely balanced, with a hint of wet river rock and minerality. I really enjoyed it and if I were to encounter is again I would certainly BUY it. Pinot Gris is becoming a go to white for me, with it’s mellow smooth flavor profile and softer approach than it’s sister Pinot Grigio; try it as your new summer sipper! Google
In the continuing journey through the alphabet of wine, F is for Thomas Fogerty 2007 Gewürztraminer. This variety has several variations, from off-dry to sweet, and produces a very aromatic and exotic white wine. This example tasted of tropical fruits, coconut, guava and pear, topped with a dusting of baking spices. It was off-dry to dry, and the spiciness was refreshing on a warm day. It’s a great alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, and is terrific with Thai or Indian food. Keep drinking, keep discovering! Google
Somewhere along the way of my Alphabet Challenge, I lost my path and started speaking in tongues, which made my order slightly questionable. Well, I’m back, from outer space, and am restarting with the letter E. E is for Elk Cove Pinot Noir, from the Willamette Valley appellation in Oregon. Now, i am new to the world of Oregon Pinot Noir, and i find it very much hit or miss. for the most part, I enjoy the subtle earthy spice that Oregon Pinot displays, but sometimes it can be over the top. The Elk Cove Willamette Pinot Noir is a blend of several vineyard sites, and aims to show the best of their style off. Elk Cove Vineyards was founded in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell, which marks it as one of Oregon’s oldest vineyards. They specialize in Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir, and has several single vineyard Pinot Noirs in addition to the Willamette Valley blend. This blend was an interesting beast, because when I first tasted it there were overwhelming notes of earth, musty leaves, mushrooms, bark, smoke, and dark raspberry. I wasn’t that impressed, but enjoyed the hidden pomegranate and nutmeg flavors. I found it a bit too nutty for me however, until i put it down for 30 minutes to enjoy letter G (you’ll have to wait to see that one). After opening up in the glass, the overwhelming bark had blown off to reveal rich cherry and raspberry flavors, with a touch of dark cocoa. Considering the ~$20 price tag, this is a very affordable example of Oregon Pinot Noir. I definitely recommend that you BUY it, and would encourage you to decant it for maximum enjoyment. Google
Ok so Dry Creek is a region, but I wanted to be sure that everyone knew about passport. Technically, it’s also a wine, so I’ll also tell you about Dry Lands Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. First, the Passport to Dry Creek is coming up in April. 46 wineries open their doors wide, and showcase their best wines and hospitality. Passport is a unique event, since there are limited ticket sales, and all of the wineries have amazing themes, food, and wines to share. There will be themes galore including Alice in Wonderland, Western, Mardi Gras, Circus, and Belly Dancing. Most wineries feature live entertainment! Tickets for the weekend are $120, and Sunday only tickets are $70. While it seems spendy, the exclusivity of the event coupled with the small wineries that are open just fro the event make for an amazing weekend. I went last year, and was delighted by the event. this is a great alternative to the larger Wine Road events, as it is more limited and there are fewer crowds. I hope I’ll see you there! Next up is the 2009 Drylands Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. We are having a touch of false spring here in the Bay Area, and it’s nice to have a crisp white to put me in the mood. The wine smells of gooseberries and 7-up, and has ripe citrus flavors, and lime zest. There is a touch of New Zealand grassiness, but it is very subtle. I am really enjoying this wine, and at $16-19, it’s a great priced summer sipper. I hope you go out and enjoy this as well! STRONG BUY I love Dry Creek, and I would pay any amount of money to enjoy my time there. The wine however, was graciously provided by my friends at Benson Marketing. Thanks! Google
C is for Cellar Rat, Craggy Range and Cobb. All pinots, and all very different. I’ve reviewed the Cellar Rat before, but every time I open a bottle I like it more. On this night, I was at my friend Amy’s house, who was serving pork butt, and what goes better with pork than pinot? It was the perfect way to start the evening as we sat around chatting about the ins and outs of pork and wine. As the others started to arrive, we opened the 2006 Craggy Range from Central Otago. Keeping in mind that the 2006 is actually 6 months older than our 2006 due to the southern hemisphere flip, this was a huge wine with lots of cherry, berry and cola flavors. I enjoyed this one as well but was a complete departure from the Cellar Rat. Our final pinot of the evening, but certainly not our final wine, was the Cobb piont. I tasted this again yesterday along with two other single vineyard pinot noirs from Cobb, and was duly impressed; I was able to discuss the wines with the winemaker, and had the added delight of meeting the new vineyard owner of Jack Hill as well. 2007 Jack Hill – This is the first commercial release of this wine from a 2 acre vineyard near Occidental. It was big but not overwhelmingly dark pinot reminiscent of a Russian River Valley pinot without the overwhelming cola-berry characteristics. I tasted blood orange juice, cranberry, raspberries and mild bits of earth. There was just a touch of mushroom at the end, with a hibiscus finish that lingered. 2007 Emmaline – is located closer to Sebastopol, but is still influenced by the ocean air. I found it bigger than the Jack at first, with more of the classic RRV cola and cherry flavors. 2007 Coastlands – This is Amy’s favorite, and she did try to convince me I liked it best. Yes, I loved it but I’m not sure I could pick a favorite! I loved them all. Coastlands was first planted in 1989, before Pinot Noir when crazy. This tiny 1.5 acre vineyard gave me big bold baking spices, cranberry, strawberry and white pepper. There was also more earth to this wine than the previous two, and there were notes of mushrooms and herbs. All in all, I loved all of the Cobb wines and can’t wait to try them next year (if not sooner!) C is a great letter for Pinot Noir lovers like my self! Google
In this case, a bottle of Broll Mountain Vineyards 2004 Syrah from Calaveras County. I first discovered Broll Mountain through a chance meeting at a ZAP volunteer event, where @brixchick_liza and i met Roger & Ginger, who are retirees who work part time at Broll Mountain. As chance would have it, the winery is in Murphys, which is one of my favorite wine getaways. you might know about my addiction to all things twisted and rubber. Rubber CHICKENS that is. This wine is deep and dark, with an earthy blackberry nose, with a touch of cherry syrup. It drinks quite dry, and evokes flavors of vermouth, with smoked meats. After a few sips, I’m finding it has quite a floral note to it, and I am almost drinking liquid violets and rose petals, with some great dark fruit behind it. It’s quite tannic but i think it would be awesome with food, and it has a lingering dark chocolate was only $19, so I definitely buy this again if i came across it. “Nose is earthy, brambly attack with plums and black cherry. A classic Syrah, meaty black fruit with olives and raspberries, cherries and rhubarb. Tannins and dark chocolate finish. Excellent paired with meats, cheeses and hearty food.” Google
The Letter A! You remember those closing credits on Seasame Street right? “Seasame Street is brought to you by the letter…”? Well my friend Amy @educatedpalates, told me about the Alphabet Challenge that she was participating in with some other bloggers. The Alphabet challenge pushes us to try wines frmo every letter of the alphabet. you could go crazy and do it all by varietal, A to Z, but I’m not sure I know of any Z grapes I’d want to try, and i’m certerain that I do NOT want to try white Zinfandel. Most of the others who are participating are doing it out of order, but I thought it would be more of a challenge, as well as a push to get some more Century Club grapes under my belt, if I did it starting with A. I could start with Albarino, because I have some in the cellar, but given the chill in the air and the misty fog, I’m not much in the mood for a chilled white. So i will start with A is for Audelssa. So I am going to try to Producers and Varietals, starting to with the letter A. A is for Audelssa, that makes my mouth sing. A is for awesome, cuz that’s just the thing. A is for audacious for that is what i found A is for Audelssa, who makes Glen Ellen Proud. On my recent visit to Audelssa, I tasted through thier current releases with Amy aka @educatedpalates. I had never been there and I was excited to try out the juice. Audelssa focuses on artisinal wines in the Bordeaux tradition, and is also releasing Rhone blends this spring. I must say, I particularly enjoyed their Bordeaux blends Summit and Summit Reserve, and am looking forward to the Rhone. The 2007 Summit is a Right Bank style belnd of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12.5% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, and 4.5% Petite Verdot. I found it earthy, rich and chewy with a flavor of underripe blackberries and a floral aroma. At $52, while it was interesting, I’d like to wait to see how ti develops in the next couple of years. HOLD My favorite of the tasting of 5 wines was the 2007 Summit Reserve, which is 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc. Only 100 cases were produced, and it was a deliciously rich blend with plum & blackberry flavors followed by cloves and spice. The lush wine was complex, with really nice blue & black fruit but a nice backbone and finish. It’s a bit pricey at $125, but I’d say it’s worth the splurge for a special occasion. If you have deep pockets, BUY this wine. Stay tuned for B-Z and thanks to all our group participants! Google http://www.audelssa.com/index.cfm?method=storeproducts.showDrilldown&productid=c26088dc-9b2a-40f9-f9df-2c69544f86d5&ProductCategoryID=a2b9e5f5-1cc4-fbb6-2394-45532d37d707&WineryID=A2B9E578-1CC4-FBB6-231B-B057770814E4&WineTypeID=&ProductType=&wineVarietalID=&wineRegionID=&vintage=&lowprice=&highPrice=&WineBrandID=&WineAppellationID=&lowletter=&highletter=&OrderBy=PXPC.DisplayOrder%20Asc,%20P.ProductName%20ASC&ShippingState=CA