Horizontal Tasting: Mariah Vineyards Pinot Noir from Cartograph and Waits Mast

Cartograph & Waits Mast Mariah PinotI love it when a plan comes together!  One of my favorite things about wine, is tasting the expression of the winemaker in the bottle.  Every touch, every decision, every nuance in his or her mind ends up in your glass.  Pinot Noir particularly responds to a gentle hand, and there is no better way to taste that than by tasting wine crafted by two winemakers, with fruit from the same vineyard.

In this case, I am lucky enough to know two fabulous wine makers who are using Pinot Noir fruit from Mendocino County’s Mariah Vineyard.  As a long time fan of the delicacy and brightness of Pinots from Mendocino County, I fell in love with these two wines at first sip – but each on it’s own merits.  Now, having the opportunity to taste them side by side, I can key in on the specific attributes of each wine that make my taste buds smile.

The Mariah Vineyard is located in the extreme reaches of Mendocino, and is part of the Mendocino Ridge AVA.  This is one of the most fascinating AVAs for wine, as it’s a non-contiguous region that is specifically drafted from “Islands in the Sky” – all vineyards that fit in the Mendocino Ridge AVA must be above 1,200 feet in elevation, and exist entirely within the coastal zone of Mendocino County.  The vineyards in this magical plane are blanketed in a thick layer of morning fog, helping maintain the zingy acids, and sit in small patches of usable space on the ridgeline that is often covered in heavy Douglass Fir forest.  Here in the Islands in the Sky, some of the state’s best Pinot Noir is grown.

First, the 2012 Cartograph Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48). Rich strawberry and cherry mingle with wild mint and wood smoke.  Fresh cream is present, with a slight cola note on the background.  Bright cranberry acidity plays with an herbal finish of forest floor and pine needles, with Bing cherries threading through the entire palate.  The finish is coated in ground baking spices, reminding me of a gingerbread house and Thanksgiving’s cranberry sauce.

In contrast, the 2012 Waits Mast Cellars Mariah VIneyards Pinot Noir ($42) is slightly wilder, with more black cherry and bramble berry pie.  The cedar woods are more pronounced, and the mint is hiding in the background.  A slightly richer wine, brown sugar dances on my palate.  The Waits Mast is Little Red Riding Hood, meandering the forest, darting in and out of black raspberry bushes, hinting at black cherry and voluptuous bramble berries, while enjoying a softer, more velvety mouth feel.  The finish is dusted with a pleasant pinch of white pepper.

The primary difference in these wines comes from the clonal selection of the specific blocks in the vineyard.   While the Cartograph block uses clone 115 and 777, the Waits Mast is block is 667 and Pommard.  Pommard is known to be a richer style Pinot Noir, with dark fruit and depth of flavor, while the 777 has that eartly, forest floor and herbal character that I found in the Cartograph.  The 667 in the Waits Mast brings out that dark cherry and plush tannin.   Another key difference is the use of commercial yeast (Cartograph) vs native yeast (Waits Mast).  Does yeast make a huge impact?  Sometimes.  Ocassionally.  Maybe.  These subtle but clear differences can showcase the stylistic features that each winemaker wants,  while still representing the fruit in a clear and present way.

In the end, these wines are so similar, that the primary different is so subtle, it can be hard to pick up.  Stylistically, they are on the same page; flavor wise, there are ever so subtle differences, that make them both sisters, and yet, unique.  So, vivre le difference!  Now, go forth and make your own vertical.  See what is different, and what is the same.  You won’t be sorry!


A little sun in the city

Ah, Sonoma.  That illustrious wine growing region to the north.  Oh the delicious pinot, zinfandel, and other wines created there!  Well, here in San Francisco, sometimes it’s hard to get up there.  Traffic, time, gas, etc.

Fortunately for us city dwellers, Sonoma is coming to the city!  This week, through a series of tastings and events, the wines of Sonoma are being showcased here in the city.

Starting tomorrow, the Grand Tasting at the Westin St Francis, over 200 wines from 100 wineries and growers will be poured.   Here, you can explore over 200 Sonoma County wines from 13 regions hand picked to show off the diverse terroir and winemaking styles.  Tickets are $55, but you can get a discount if you use your VISA Signature card!  There is also a special VIP room ($65).

On Thursday, Forks & Corks will be at the Firehouse at Fort Mason.  Eighty wines will be paired with five of our best food trucks: An the Go, Brass Knuckle, El Porteno Empanadas, Japa Curry and the Crème Brulee Guy. Tickets are $75 ($50 with the VISA discount, or $40 using code SPECIAL).

For those who like a little less formal of a stating, Vin12, who does monthly wine tastings at urban locations, is hosting a tasting on Friday at SLOANE for $25.  Featured wineries include Ceja, Gloria ferrere, Roessler, and Tin Barn.

I hope to see you out and one or more of the events!

Happy Sipping!


It’s a well kept secret!

Recently, the good PR folks from The Wines of Chile (@RobBralow) sent me a surprise box of wine samples. In this box, held a treat for the sense, and an 89 pointer. Ok fine, really it was 88 points by the Spectator but it was voted a Best Buy.

The 2006 Viu Secreto Malbec hails from the Colchagua Valley region of Chile. The Colchagua Valley lies about 80 miles southwest of Santiago, and has a moderate climate. It has often been compared to Napa in many ways, but I bet you won’t find a Napa Malbec at this price point!

This Malbec is priced at a fighting $10-15, and is worth every penny in my opinion. I immediately smell a smokey richness, with fennel and herbs. It is a rich and chewy wine, which one would expect in the over $20 category, but is a treat at this price point. On the palate, there is heavy plum and herb, with an earthy richness. I also taste lavendar and a nice pepper overtone.

Chile has become my go to region for budget minded wines. I have personally tasted several Cabernet blends that are priced around $10 and are a STEAL. Particular varietals that do well in Chile are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Sauvingnon Blanc. I’m still exploring other varietals, so please stay tuned!

Walk, don’t run to your local shop for this gem!

Cross posted to the 89 Project




Around the World in 80 sips!

Can you really go around the world in only 80 sips of wine?  My friends at Bottlenotes think so and I’m going to try to find out!bottlenotes

Around the World in 80 Sips is inspired by Bottlenotes’ mastermind Alyssa Rapp’s tasting guide of the same name.

On Thursday, February 19, the first companion tasting event will be held here in San Francisco at Crushpad.  You know, Crushpad.  The place where I am making my own wine, the place where all the cool events happen, the custom crush facility in Dogpatch?  Yeah!  Crushpad!

This pour a thon will feature Bottlenotes wines, who will be pouring their wares, from all around the globe.  With wine being more popular than ever, and a global enterprise, Alyssa embarked on a guide that will provide us with sensible, and sophisticated advice from educated consumers.  The book was born out of popular tasting events by Bottlenotes, and this event was born out of the book!

This event is the first of it’s kind so be sure to get there early!  There is a VIP portion set aside for Media, Bloggers and special folk at 5pm, while the regular Joe’s can enter at 6.

Remember to bring your media enabled devices!  The Twitterati will be out in force, and we will be tweeting along with the sips.   Our hashtag for this event is #80sips, and you can follow all the fun by going to search.twitter.com and entering this code!

Tickets are $40 for the public, but if you are a blogger, please contact 80sips@bottlenotes.com for special dispensation to the VIP tasting event.  If you are a friend of Twisted Oak, ask Jefe how you can save $10 on tickets!