Quinticentually Quintessa

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Earlier this year, before I embarked on a somewhat fool-hearty mission of getting my CSW credential, I visited the Napa Valley estate of Quintessa.  Tucked away, hidden from the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, the unique gravity flow moistly underground winery pokes out from the hillside.  When the Huneeus family took ownership of the land in 1990, the land was wild and pristine – and had never been used, or abused by other vines or crops.  Having never been planted to vine, the land had none of the after effects of the post-phylloxera recovery efforts, and mandatory replanting that some older, established Napa vineyards did.  It was virgin territory, and this prime real estate was ready to plant some amazing Bordeaux varietals.  With further research done on what naturally defended against the root louse that destroyed the industry in the past, new rootstock and innovative techniques were put in to place to create an amazing site. In 2002, the estate winery opened, it was built with a vision of a building that blended in to the natural elements.  In addition to the aesthetic beauty, careful consideration was given to the environmental impact as well as functional design for a working winery.  The result is a stunning gravity-flow winery that beginnings on the top of the hill where the crushpad is located, and continues through chutes in the floor of the crushpad that transport the juice directly to the fermentation tanks with a minimal of intervention.  With all the modern, yet mostly non-intervention techniques, you can bet there will be some great juice coming out of there! When you visit Quintessa, you have a wealth of tasting experiences to choose from.  The Estate Tasting Experience gives guests a comprehensive visit to the facility as well as the vineyard, and a seated tasting paired with local artisan products.  But the penultimate experience is what we enjoyed, the Quintessential Quintessa.  Here, you start at the winery where you see the operation, and then take a meandering walk up the hill to the ridge where tasting pavillions have been built.  These glass gazebos offer the ability to have a fully indoor / outdoor experience, while overlooking the vineyard property below. Up on the ridgeline, you leave the winery and the hustle bustle of the busy Napa Valley behind.  You are truly alone, and have the time to relax, and enjoy the details of the geology of the soils, a full tasting, and a great conversation about what makes teh property so special.  And oh, the cheese!  The cheese… With a tasting comparison of the current releases as well as library wine, this experience is a rare and special treat in the valley.  Trying to impress out of town guests?  This is the way to do it.  I especially enjoyed comparing the fresh, young current release, with the vibrancy and fruit forward notes of blackberry and earth, as compared to the library wine, showing dense and chewy notes of tobacco, baking spice and black pepper.  Having the […]

Live Blogging: Trione Red Wine

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The 2009 Trione Red Wine is a Bordeaux style wine, from Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma County. 69% Cabernet 12% Merlot 7% Petite Verdot 6% Malbec   This elegant and velvety wine was fermented separately and then blended after vinification.  Classic flavors of cassis, blueberries and deep blue and red fruits this is a great bottle for a steak.  $48

Steven Kent Winery – tradition and trailblazers

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Steven Kent Mirassou is part of the California wine industries pioneering royalty, and has grounded himself firmly in the rich soils of Livermore Valley.  As one of California’s hidden wine regions, Livermore offers more than meets the eye, and Steven Kent Winery is no exception. On a hot and bright spring day, the intrepid wine blogger crew headed out to Livermore, a scant hour from San Francisco, and located in the greater Bay Area.  One of many high quality local wine regions, Livermore is often overlooked as a world class growing region.  However, producers like Steven Kent are making their mark and changing what we define as California wine. Founded in 1996, the winery’s original mission was to make some killer Cabernet Sauvignon in the Livermore Valley that would give Napa a run for it’s money.  With the long history of Livermore Valley producing world class Bordeaux varietals.  In recent years, Livermore has become known as a bedroom community supporting the Silicon Valley, and home to government institutions, but the last 20 years have changed the face of the wine business drastically. And now, on to the wines!  Steven Kent Winery is home to two brands, Steven Kent, and La Rochelle.   With each brand represented by it’s own winemaker, the two sisters showcase the best of what the area has to offer.  While Steven Kent is focusing on the rich history of Livermore, producing some excellent Bordeaux style wines, La Rochelle maintains the family line of Central Coast wines, focuses on Pinot Noir f 2011 Steven Kent Merrillie Chardonnay – Named for Steven’s grandmother, the Merrillie Chardonnay is made from an old Wente clone.  As one of the founding wineriesin Livermore, Wente has created a unique line of clones, most noteably for chardonnay and pinot noir.  This wine showed rich custard, bold viscostity and tropical fruit salad. 2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay – Dutton Ranch – Morelli Lane – one of my favorite Sonoma County chard vineyards, the bright Meyer lemon notes are framed by sandlewood and baking spice.  The richness is counterbalanced by the bright acid, capturing the vitality, movement, momentum, liveliness 2010 La Rochelle – Donum Estate Carneros – Bright cherry, brown sugar and molasses are dancing in a mouthful of Dr. Pepper.  The clonal selection on the western block in the heart of Carneros is a luxurious blend that is indicabtive of Carneros fruit, rich and yet somehow not opulant.  The forest floor and jalepeno play in the black cherry of this elegant sipper. 2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – Donum Estate Carneros – it sin’t often we are lucky enough to have a side by side of two different vintages.  Richer and bolder than the 2010, there is black fruit, fig, and a touch of salinity on top of cherry pie filling.  This is a classic Carneros Pinot, but I prefer the liveliness of the 2010. For a change of pace, the 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – Soberanes Santa Lucia Highlands – is  a classic example of what Santa Lucia can offer.  Huge cherry and cola […]

Baby done a bad bad thing…

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Where is my John Wayne Where is my prairie son Where is my happy ending Where have all the cowboys gone Apparently, they are in Napa!  there is just something about a cowboy.  In this case, it’s the Bad Boy on the 2007 Bad Boy Red, by Rcca Family Vineyards in Napa.  This little baby is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot, and 10% Petite Verdot, but the only thing that is Bordeaux about this is the blend itself.  This is a big, bold, California Cab, with blackberry and plum notes up front.  There is a lot of baking spice in the nose, and the palate has juicy blue & black fruit.  I also found leather, tobacco, notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and dense chewy blackberries followed by cherries. The Bad Boy Red forms its base from the Cabernet Sauvignon grown at the Collineetta Vineyard stie in Coombsville, which departs from a classic Napa cab and makes it a great choice for a BBQ or a big steak.his wine is a from the Rocca vineyards in Yountville and Coombsville, and area that is well known for producing some of Napa’s best Cabernet.  The Coombsville climate is unique in Napa, since the fog from San Pablo bay breezes in and cools down the fruit.  The further east you go, the warmer you will get, which has a big impact on the terroir of the area. This Bad Boy was sent to me by Rocca Vineyards.  i’m sorry to say he is married, and a doctor, and he was not in the bottle.  the juice was good though!

Are you ready for some meatballs?

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Those of us who great up in the 80s will appreciate Morty’s summer camp trip on the lake at the end of the summer, Wudy da Wabbit’s run through the woods, and Tripper & Roxanne’s canoeing as they sang Let’s Walla Walla down by the mango tree. This summer, I will be doing a lot of Walla-ing, and this is just a sneak peak at one of the wineries.  L’ecole No. 41. resides in a 1915 schoolhouse, just outside of Walla Walla.  The first wine I am sampling from them is the 2006 Perigree, a Bordeaux blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  The name has an interesting history as Perigee is the point at which the moon is closet to the earth.  the winery uses this name to express their wish to be close tot he earth, and to reflect the earthy character of the wine. When I first opened the wine, I got a lot of dark blue and black fruit, including black cherry, blackberry and fig.  Then the power went out.  Suffice it to say, I couldn’t continue my tasting notes, and I did continue drinking.  This was a very pleasant wine, with lots of fruit adn medium body.  I rather enjoyed it but I’m not sure about the $49 price tag.    I look forward to getting to know more of their wines, as they sent me a large selection of current releases. While my summer camp beared no resembleance to camp North Star, we did sing.  Just not in canoes.  And I was a CIT for one summer, but they CERTAINLY had more fun than I; thank you to L’ecole no. 41 for the tasty treat i enjoyed while plunged in to darkness.  No thanks to PG&E for the darkness.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai and other tales of blending

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First – apologies for this post being late on arrival.  As some of you may know, I have been dealing with some personal issues that have been hammering me in to the ground like Wile E. Coyote under an Acme Anvil.  I’m trying to come up for air, so here goes.  Please excuse the lack of video, since I still don’t entirely know how to work my Flip.  I will learn someday, but not today.  And the lack of pictures is mystifying since I swear I took some of at least the bottles, but they are lost.  C’est la vie, tech fail! One recent Sunday, before the madness of Christmas, and after the food orgy of Thanksgiving, a crew of bloggers descended upon the good graces of Paul Askiman and Conn Creek Winery’s AVA Room to create our own personalized blends of wine. The Conn Cree AVA Room is a one of a kind wine adventure, where mad scientists wine lovers, and it this case, some bloggers, can learn how Conn Creek blends its flagship wine Anthology. The AVA Room was developed in Conn Creek’s search to find the best Cabernet Sauvignon that Napa had to offer, and in doing so, they found fruit sources from almost all of the 14 sub appellations in Napa.  In this secret room at the back of winery, next to the gardens, you will find 15 different barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon and a barrel each of the classic Bordeaux blending grapes Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot. The Cabernet barrels are grouped by major profile, like Soft, Supple, Complex, Rich and Bold.  One of the fascinating things about this experience is that as a wine ages in barrel, it may not stay in its category, as it becomes more complex or develops some backbone and loses some of the plush fruit upfront.  This is what makes wine such a tremendous beast.  Each Cab barrel starts out as 100% new French Oak, and eventually matures in 50% new / 50% neutral Oak, which also contributes tot he changes in the wine profile. I apologize in advance for not remembering all of the different component wines – I just lost my mojo and can’t find my booklet.  If i do, I’ll be sure to share! The base wine contenders that I particularly enjoyed were: Atlas Peak – Stagecoach Vineyard Rutherford – Conn Creek Vneyard Stags Leap – Clos du Val Vineyard After sampling the different options for the base wine (the Cabernet) I got to work creating my master blend. First, I tried 50% Atlas Peak – Stagecoach, 15% Rutherford Conn Creek, 25% Stags Leap Clos Du Val, and a splash of Petite Verdot and Cab Franc.  While I liked this wine, it was the first one i tried and I found it a big of a fruit bomb with blackberry pie, subtle spice, and firm tannins.  I thought I wanted a bit more structure, so I moved on to Blend 2 while keeping careful track of […]

Today’s wine is brought to you by…

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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

It’s Super! It’s Saintly! It’s LIVE!

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I am really excited to be co-hosting  St Supéry for Taste Live on July 11th.  Since St Supéry has been producing outstanding wines from their 1500+ acres in Napa Valley since the early 1980’s, and since I have written about them several times before here and here, I am really looking forward to this opportunity to taste them along with you on Twitter with several groups around the country, and hundreds on line. At  St Supéry, their wine making history stems from the Skalli family’s French roots, and Bordeaux varietals are the particular focus.  Additionally, St Supéry is well known for their Moscato and Chardonnay. We will have the opportunity to taste through the following delights and talk live the returning star winemaker, Michael Scholz. Scholz is a 6th generation family winemaker from Australia’s Barossa Valley, and has created the distinctive style that has made St. Supéry a landmark destination in Napa Valley.  He is new to Twitter, and will be answering questions about the wines for us as we taste. St. Supéry farms according to sustainable viticultural practices, including use of cover crops, estate composting, and natural predators.  On my recent adventure at the winery, Vineyard Manager Josh Anstey showed us how they do this, and walked us through their demonstration vineyard as well as thier practices. In 2008, Wine & Spirits Magazine named St. Supéry “Outstanding Winery of the Year”, and it really shows!  Their signature property, The Dollarhide vineyard, is an historic cattle and horse ranch nestled among the hills of Napa Valley.  It was here that Robert Skalli, the wineries founder, planted the Bordeaux grapes in the early 1980s, and developed the Rutherford estate property as the home of the winery and their first class Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. These are just a few of many reasons why you should join us for our tasting on July 11th!  We will be experiencing four superstar star wines: Moscato 2008 Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Virtu 2006 Cabernet 2004 If you are here in the San Francisco Bay Area,  head on down to the Jug Shop on Polk & Pacific, where you can taste live some of the winery crew.  For full details, you can visit their events page here. If you want to host your own Taste Live with St Supéry, you can find out how by going over to the website now! See you in the Twittersphere at 6pm PT on July 11th!   ____________________________ To learn more about Twitter Taste Live, click the logo! Google