Kaena & Beckmen: One winemaker, two stories

Published on :

 After #GoingRogue with Tercero, it was time to meander down the road a bit to Beckmen Vineyards, were the #QBP had a barrel tasting arranged with Keana and Beckman winemaker, Mikel Sigouin.  I first met Mikel last year at Rhone Rangers in San Francisco, and when I mentioned that some wine bloggers were going to be in his neighborhood, he eagerly invited us to taste through his wines. Mikael, a native of Hawaii, makes wines for Beckmen Vineyards by day, and Kaena Wines by night, so I knew this would be a golden opportunity to taste some world class Grenache. Little did I know that we would taste through more wines than I thought possible, each one more unique and delicious than the last! But before we started this barrel adventure, we had to make our way out of Los Olivos, and down the road to Beckmen.  As I attempted to corral the #QPB out of the door of Tercero, what would appear to our wandering eyes but Frank Morgan – the erstwhile Drink What You Like Virginian.  If you are not familiar with this breed of wine blogger, it is a unique one; this breed mysteriously appears when least expected and is amiable to almost any activity. Since we were a posse of all girls, Melanie and I shouted out the car window for Frank to get in the car.  A few hollers later, some coming from the mobile command center of Brix Chicks Liza, the unwitting Frank hopped in the car.  It was clear from the look on his face that he was wondering how the wine mafia had tracked him to tiny Los Olivos.  Was it an ex-girlfriend?  Someone who didn’t appreciate his reviews?  No, it was just the #QBP, wine-napping him for an afternoon of delights. A few miles later, we met back up at the winery and began tasting our way through the barrels.  Here in the expansive barrel room, it’s hard to tell where Beckmen ends and Keana starts, a clear marker of how there is little separation in this extended family. When the Kaena brand was launched in 2001, it was to express Mikael’s passion for Grenache.  The name itself, Kaena, shows his spirit, with it’s meaning of “potential for greatness” and brings back Mikael’s Hawaiian culture.  Honing in on his obsession with Grenache, he has made a name for himself as the Grenache King, but hasn’t limited his style and influence on the other wines of Keana. While Grenache is certainly one of my favorites, I cannot slight the other wines that he had his hand in.  As we meandered the barrel room, tasting a bit of this and a bit of that, it was difficult to tell any favorites since they were all so good.  As they age in the barrels for the next year or two, I look forward to a return visit to see how they are developing. On this trip, I was intoxicated at the vastness of the selection, and focused on the nuances of barrel […]

Things are a little yeasty in there

Published on :

After meandering over to Alta Maria, it was finally time to meet my #QBP – Queen Bitches Posse  over at Tercero Wines, around the corner in Los Olivos.  As I had somewhat secretly clandestinely arranged this day of pre-WBC shenanigans, I was looking forward to being able to relax and enjoy my free day before the conference officially got under way. Meeting me at the Tercero Wines tasting room were BrixChick Liza, Marcy Gordon who always Comes for the Wine, and Melanie, the Dallas Wine Chick.  Although I wasn’t able to caravan down from the Bay Area with them, once they walked in to the tasting room it was all downhill fun and games from there, with my #QBP sisters. Tercero Wines specializes in artistic, small production Rhone style red & white wines.  Mastermind Mad Scientist Larry Schaffer creates unique, small lot wines from Viognier to Grenache, and everything in between.  Larry has also been mastering his breadmaking skills, and on this visit we were treated to all things yeast – one of his passions, and three kinds of bread to boot! While I am a fan of pretty much all of Tercero Wines offerings, this visit my favorites were: 2013 Mourvedre Rose – From a small parcel in the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara County, they only touched the skins for about an hour, giving it a bright but light and fresh pink color.  Fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks, it slept in neutral oak for 5 months before finally being released.  The bright pop of red berry is followed by blood orange and aromatic stone fruit, luscious watermelon and hard spices.  At only $20 this is a great summer sipper. 2012 Grenache Blanc – it’s no secret that this might be my all time favorite white grape.  Spiked lemonade over river rocks, this beautiful bright and fresh wine is the perfect summer palate cleanser. 2010 Verbiage – a class GSM blend, this black beauty is made up of 62.5% Grenache from two vineyards, 25% Syrah from two vineyards, and 212.5% Mourvedre.  Named Verbiage, like Larry’s person wine blog, because he likes to tell stories, banter, and talk, this wine is a conversation in a bottle.  Dark purple and inky black in color, this wine is full of lavender, lilac, chewy blackberry and beef jerky.  Finished with a dusting of white pepper and gingerbread spice, it’s a great bottle for a foggy summer night, or in front of the fire at the holidays. Tercero Wines is located in Los Olivos, CA in the heart of the Santa Ynez wine region. Much wine was purchased by the #QBP on this day, but the tasting was provided free of charge!  Unless you count us listening to the HMFIC payment enough…  

Grenache, Garnacha, Garnatxa

Published on :

I love Grenache, Garnacha, Garnatxa. There are so many variations that it’s hard to keep track!  From the Rhone to California to the desert crumbled hills of Priorat, Grenache and I have a love affair. Grenache even has it’s own day, in late September, where lovers from around the world converge on Twitter (#GrenacheDay) to compare tasting notes and host parties. It was on that very day that I tasted the Shatter Grenache. Shatter is a partnership between Dave Phinney of Orin Swift Cellars and Joel Gott of Joel Gott Wines.  Shatter is their first project together, and it is created in the small town of Maury, in the Roussillon Region of France.  The hillside vineyards are planted in black schist, similar to slate, that is widely known in the area to produce wonderful Rhone wines.  The poor nutrients in the soil allow the grapes to ripen slowly, through cooler nights and hot days. This big red bruiser is full of dark cherry and pepper, plums and spice.  It was slightly flabby at first, but had a nice black pepper note to it that is a classic Grenache profile.  Yum!  Big, bold, and classic California in style This wine was provided for tasting on #GrenacheDay.  My apologies for being a slow poke!  

A Graceful Grenache

Published on :

When I first met Angela Osbourne, she was working with the Natural Process Alliance (NPA) in Santa Rosa in 2010.  I had the opportunity to taste some of her early incarnations and knew we were in for a treat. Originally from New Zealand, Angela moved to California in 2006 to pursue her love of Grenache.  In 2007, Angela found her first fruit from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, which is located 33 miles from the Pacific Ocean, in a high desert landscape.  For a heat loving varietal like Grenache, this is the perfect location. At 3200 feet, the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard is located in an arid and hot climate, with cool snowy winters.  Sustainably farmed and planted for the site specifics, the vineyard has 12 varietals with Grenache only being 4% of the total planted land.  with 5 clones of Grenache, only 5 winemakers are making Grenache from this site. 100% Grenache, A Tribute to Grace is a lighter style Grenache, with a pungent strawberry punch at the beginning.  This is a fresh, lively wine, that shows off dry earth and red fruit in a fresh mouth full of flavor.  With a touch of spice on the finish and more red raspberry up front, this wine is 50% whole cluster fermented which Angela ligihtly treaded on daily.  At least I hope it was Angela doing the treading!  The other 50% was destemmed and the resultling wine is a lively fun, refreshing Grenache with the backbone whole cluster provides.  The use of whole clusters changes the flavor profile, tannin structure and aromas of a resulting wine, so by blending in a classically destemmed portion, Angela achieve a balance that creates a lovely wine. Check it out!    

Ranchero Cellars

Published on :

Ranchero Cellars is a small winery, based in Paso Robles.  When visiting for Hospice du Rhone this year, I made it a point to visit with Amy Butler, owner and winemaker for Ranchero on the recommendation of some local friends.

Something in the way you Rhone

Published on :

Attracts me like, no other lady! True story.  I am slightly addicted to Rhone wines, particularly Rhone reds.  I’ve been on a Monastrell/Mouvedre/Mataro kick lately, but my first love really is Grenache.  Of the 22 Rhone varietals, these are my go to babies.  Luckily for me, I’ve been having fantastic luck lately at Whole Foods (not to mention The Spanish Table) at finding some great wine at even better prices. But really, this post is about the mother of all Rhone gatherings:  Hospices du Rhône .  The annual Rhône celebration in Paso Robles will be celebrating her 20th anniversary next year! April 26th through 28th, Rhône lovers and producers from all over the world will converge on the Paso Robles Fairgrounds.  Over the last 20 years, HdR has hosted diverse personalities, from Charles Smith (aka AC/DC with Grower Bubbles) to Australian producers, to heritage growers from Châteauneuf-du-Pape This year, HdR is pleased to announce that there will be an exclusive  Conversations with Châteauneuf-du-Pape event, led by author Harry Karis, vigneron Philippe Cambie and Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe.  After the seminar, which is sure to sell out well in advance, dinner will be served at Bisto Laurentin.  These limited tickets are available a la carte at www.hospicedurhone.org.  Sadly the dinner is sold out at this time. This year, the seminars will focus on highlighting the last 20 years of Hospice-Du-Châteauneuf producers who have been center stage.  I am especially looking forward to Why Spain (continues to) Rock – which will focus on what is happening today in Priorat and beyond. Another fantastic seminar will highlight Walla Walla once again, with The Return of the Bionic Frog (say wha?), where Christophe Baron of Cayuse will make his debut at HdR. On Saturday, France will be showcased with A Collective Quest, highlighting Les Vins de Vienne. Finally, the seminars round out the day with Research, Revelations and the Art of Being Different.  Here, Chester Osbourn of Australia’s d’Arenderg will explore how recent studies in geology and sub regions have changed his winemaking and growing practices since his last HdR appearance in 1999. Phew!  But that’s not all kids.  Like a Ginsu knife commercial, the weekend is jam packed with more tastings. The Rhône Rendezvous is back, where over 100 producers from near and far will share their Rhône wines from large-format bottles. To complement this BIG evening of BIG bottles highly-acclaimed chefs from Blackberry Farm in Tennessee will serve up a taste of the South in a BIG way. But before that you need sustinance, right?   If you’re not entirely dead by this point, don’t forget to participate in the Rosé Lunch, which is always a treat.  This year, our friends from The Girl & Fig will fill us up with deliciousness once again!  Remember the pot de creme from years past? Um yeah.  MORE PLEASE!  I had to taste all three flavors, and I almost left with some in my purse.  The rosés for this delecitble feast will be provided by the attending producers, which is a departure (and a welcome one for variety’s sake). If you are sufficiently recovered from Friday […]

High on a Ridge (again)

Published on :

It’s another day on top of the mountain here, and the sun is shining at last.  It’s clear, and we can see San Jose and even a bit of San Francisco in the distance.  It’s time for a visit to Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino! We start our tasting with the  2009 Estate Chardonnay, which is aged in a mish mash of barrels from new to 4 year old American and French oak.  I found creamy vanilla custard, spicy oak, and lemon flavors with a healthy dose of tropical fruit.  This blend is harvested and vinified separately, and then finalized after a blind tasting of each component is done to determine the possible blends that could be made.  Most of the contents of this blend come from the Jimson Ranch vineyard which is at about 1500 feet elevation, giving the wine a lot of minerality and acidity. Next up, the 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc.  I loved this cab because it was racy and had some nice acidity.  The wild yeast fermentation shows a ton of mineral flavors with dusty sandlewood finish.  There were big black and blue fruit flavors, with plum and rich figs with juicy cherries on the palate.  It was rich without being overblown, a total winner in my book. The 2009 Geyserville Zinfandel is the 44th vintage of this wine, which makes it the longest continuously produced Zinfandel in the state, which, quite frankly with the ever changing wine industry – is quite a feat. Given that our state is known for it’s Italian immigrants and the traditions of Italian field belnds (mostly zin) that they brought over, the Ridge style of zin is a dying art.  The grapes come from properties that are interplanted and dry farmed with wild yeast fermentation and I tasted tradiitonally big blackberry jam, with some black pepper and cherries on top.  I also found some hibiscus zing which gives this 74% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouchet, 1% Mataro (Mouvedre, or if you prefer Monastrell) mutt some life and body. Compared to the 1999 Geyserville, the 09 was tapdancing on American Idol.  The 99 was chewy, dark and earthy witha healthy dose of cigar box to round out the rusticity (this is my new favorite word, and since Christopher loves $20 words….) The 99 is 68% zin, 16% Carignane, 16% Petite Sirah and was chewy and dense.  The fruit is still there after 12 years, but it’s brooding and not bright and zingy – which, is amazing and delicious in an entirely differently way. The 1985 Monte Belle Cab was a rare treat.  The color is an astounding browning bronze and the nose is rich and caramelized touch of white pepper.  It had quite meaty characteristics, with some floral notes on the palate and a bit of wood on the back end.  THe companion 1995 Monte Bello, a blend of 69% Cab, 18% Merlot, 10% Petite Verdot and 3% […]

On the table top…

Published on :

It’s Thursday, and I”m back in Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, the annual extravaganza showcasing the 22 Rhone Varietals from around the world.  Since the first event didn’t kick off until that evening, we had some free time to visit a few favorite wineries – starting with Tablas Creek. Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded in 1989, as a partnership between the Perrin family of Chatau de Beaucastel and Rover Hass, who founded Vineyard Brands.  Having a shared vision of creating Rhone wines in California,they set about creating a New World Rhone house. Today, Robert’s son Jason showed us around he property which boasts a spanking new tasting room, complete with cork floors (can I have some in MY house?  Seriously noise cancelling comfort at its best) and several tasting areas that are easiy divdied up for differnet groups, or opened up for a community feeling. The first wines of Tablas Creek were created in 1997 when the Estate Winery was completed.  On this day, we toured the property, examined the new tasting room, and…well, drank some wine.  With a wet wet wet 2010-11 growing season under way, Tablas – and most of Paso Robles- has seen a lot of rain.  In a place where a typical year sees 28 inches of rain, so far (and this was in April) they have seen 36 inches.  Tablas Creek is dry farmed, and with this kind of rain and whacky snow, sleet and frost, there has been some damage to the vines recently.  Fortunately, most of the crop was saved, and there will be wine to show for it.  What will this year’s weather do?  Who knows.  Stay tuned, I’ll take up the cause and go taste the wines every season.  I’m a giver that way. Each parcel on the property is hand picked to ripeness, meanng that there might be several passes on a row before all the bunches are harvested.  Another highlight of Tablas is that they use 100% Native Yeast, and do not innocolate with commerical yeastes.  It’s my personal belief that this gives much more character to a wine, and lets the fruit develop the beauty of the juice without overmanipulating it and turning it in to a Frankenwine. Our first taste on the warm spring day was the 2010 Verminto.  It was bright and crisp, with lot fo honey and stone fruit.  The minerals clung to the glass with a burst of tangerine that I just love. A new line for Tablas Creek is the Patelin de Tables.  Launcehd in 2010, the white is based on Grenache Blanc, (see my passion ofr this wine HERE), and the red is based on Syrah.  This is a ncie counterpart to the Esprit de Beaucastel line, which are based on Roussanne and Mouvedre.  The Patelin de Tables Blanc had crisp pears, and green apple and was fresh and bright.  I loved this wine, and could easily sip this on the patio for days. Next up the 2010 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, […]

Are you a Rhonely heart?

Published on :

And the winner is: Congratulations to Valerie, the WineDog and Helene! If for any reason you cannot go, the runner up is Beau and Brandye. These results were randomly generated by Random.org. ps if you didn’t win here, please check out: There’s a Name for My Condition: Rhone Ranger OR The Rhone Rangers Ride Again!   ________________           It’s that time of year again!  Time for one of my favorite of the big tastings here in San Francisco, Rhone Rangers.  Rhone wines are diverse which is one of the reasons I love them.  At this tasting, you can taste over 500 wines from more than 100 producers all in one place. The Rhone region of France is one of the oldest cultivated areas of wine.  Here in California, a similar climate has spawned a plethora of producers that specialize in the Rhone wine varitals.  Did you know that they were 22 distinct grapes that are Rhone?  There are both red and white Rhone grapes, and they create some delicious wines.  The region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is in the Rhone region, which is a classic blend of up to 13 variteis. Since you are reading this, you probably know a little bit about the area.  If that’s true, I have a challenge for you.  If you can correctly name TWO of the lesser known Rhone Grapes (there are 22 in all), you will be entered in a drawing for a free ticket to the public tasting on Sunday March 27th here in San Francisco.  I’ll give you a hint: Syrah is classically co-fermented (and sometimes blended) with Viognier.  Grenache is also known as Garnacha in Spain.  Mouvedre can be called Monastrell but not if you call it Mataro.  Marsanne and Roussane are best friends.    Those are six of the 22 grapes – can you name two of the other 16? Give it a shot!  If you name 2 of the rest of the 22 grapes correctly, and they can be Red or White, then you will be entered in a **random** drawing to win a pass to the Rhone Rangers Public Tasting here in San Francisco on Sunday March 27th.   Tickets are $40 each, so you can always buy one for your bestie to come with you!  Out of all of the correct answers, I will randomly pick TWO WINNERS. While you’re in town, check out some of the Rhone Rangers seminars!  You could learn about the Green Rangers, growing things sustainably, or maybe Mouvedre on the move (one of my favorites). Next up in Rhone News, is the world class and world famous Hospices du Rhone in Paso Robles April 28-30th.  This 3 day extravaganza of all things Rhone has been going strong for 19 years with tastings, seminars, and parties galore.  But more on that later, I just wanted to tease you a little bit – because I can. Good luck and I hope to see your comments here, and I’ll see YOU at Rhone Rangers! […]