Italian Wine Merchants

A sunny Saturday afternoon so of course that means time to go to a wine tasting! This was a consumer tasting held at the Italian Wine Merchants which is located at 108 E 16 Street.

At most consumer wine events they will put out something to nibble on while you try the wines. Most times that will be some stale sliced baguette or crackers with cubes of massed-produced yellow and white cheese.  At this event venue I have to admit they put out an admirable spread. Today they had prosciutto and speck and several good cheeses including some very good buffalo mozzarella all served with excellent crusty and chewy Italian bread.

There were four tables of wine, Spanish, French, Italian, and “Other” which included wines from  California, Chile, Slovenia, and Austria.

Starting at the Spanish table I had the 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial Rioja, medium red with warm dusty fruit and oak  on the nose with medium fruit and bitter cherries on the finish. The 2009 Bodegas Mauro Tudela de Duero, was dark purple with a nose of black plums, dark velvety fruit and bitter almonds on the long finish. The 2001 Bodegas Cune Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja was medium dark red, pickle juice on the nose (American oak), tight black cherry fruit and a lingering finish.

At the French table I started with the 2011 Chateau de Pibarnon Bandol Rose, light pink with dried rosemary on the nose and chewy for a rose, firm finish. The 2009 Louis Latour Chassagne Montrachet Les Cailleret had a nose of pineapple and bubblegum but with tight fruit and pencil shavings on the finish. The 2009 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Bordeaux was dark purple with dusty, stewed plums on the nose, firm, dusty finish with moderate tannins and acids. The 2007 J L Chave Selection Hermitage Farconnet was dark purple with a big nose of tar, cigar box and black cherry with a tight velvety finish and firm acids on the finish.

At the Italian table I started with a sparking wine from Campania, the De Conciliis Selim Spumante Brut NV (Fiano, Aglianico, Barbera). Very nice with a light copper color and a crisp, citrus finish.  The 1995 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva had a brick rim with a big perfume of menthol and red roses, tarry fruit and crisp acids on the finish. The 1999 Bovio Barolo Riserva Parussi was dark red with an orange robe, dried mushroom, tar and rose petals on the nose with silky fruit and a mouthful of tannins on the long finish. The 2005 Paolo Bea Sagratino di Montefalco Pagliaro was dark red with a slighty closed nose of roses and black cherry, chewy, dense fruit and good structure on the long finish. I would say this was my favorite red wine of the night.

At the “Others” table I had the 1995 Kalin Cellars Cuvee LD Chardonnay from Sonoma. Dark gold with a nose of honey and pickle juice, tight fruit with notes of celery on the finish. The 2008 Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir from Argentina was dark red with chewy, dense fruit and dried flowers on the finish.


Russian River Pinot Fest Day Two

Sunday, day two of the Russian River passport to Pinot. Yesterday I concentrated on the southern half of the valley so the plan for Sunday was to tour the wineries in the northern half of the valley. The weather continued to be beautiful but HOT! The temps quickly climbed into the mid 90’s and those cool wine cellars were very inviting. I decided to begin my tour at a couple of urban wineries in the town of Healdlsburg. The wineries I visited this day were Davis Family, Holdredge, Matrix, John Tyler, Hop Kiln, Arista, Thomas George, Muller, and ended the tour back at the urban wine mall at Krutz.

At Davis Family the 2009 “Soul Patch” Estate PN was medium red with a big nose of barnyard and leather, elegant with silky mouthfeel on the finish with some heat. The 2009 “Starr Ridge” Estate PN was purple with some smoke on the nose with warm, dusty fruit and a velvet finish. I also had the 2009 “Horseshoe Bend” PN. Passport participants were served pork sliders with coleslaw.

Across the street was Holdredge. Mr. Holdredge himself was pouring five wines plus a barrel sample. The 2006 “Bucher Vineyard” PN was throwing sediment and was beginning to show its age, a nose of dried red roses and leather with moderate fruit. His 2008 “Bucher Vineyard” PN was light red with a spicy, cinnamon nose good concentration and a long finish. The 2009 “Bucher Vineyard” PN was darker than the 09 with barnyard on the nose, dark fruit and a balanced long finish.

At Matrix, they poured three single vineyard Pinot and their barrel samples. The 2009 “Buoncristiani” PN had aromas of black cherry and bubblegum, bright fruit and some damp earth and candy apple on the finish. The 2009 “Bacigalupi” PN had a stinky, stewed fruit nose with a crisp, barnyard finish with some heat showing through. The 2009 “Nunes” PN was darker than the previous two with a toasty nose, smoky fruit and a firm finish. They served a crispy mushroom and truffle oil appetizer which was pretty tasty.

At Hop Kiln I had some mighty tasty lamb meatballs in tomato sauce which went well with the barrel sample of the 2011 “Turin Corner” PN which was dark purple with spicy cherry fruit.

At John Tyler, the 2007 “Bacigalupi“PN was made from 100% Pommard clones and was medium red with some fresh rosemary on the closed nose, full, mouth filling fruit with hints of bitter almonds on the finish.

At Arista winery, the tasting was outdoors and at that point the temp was 96. They had the foresite to serve the reds slightly chilled which I believe made a difference on how the wines came across. The 2010 “Bacigalupi” PN was medium red, slighty cloudy with cherry leather on the nose, dark but bright fruit and good balance. The 2010 “Mononi” PN  was dark with a nose of cocoa powder with dusty, dark fruit on the finish. They served some nice chewy pizza straight out of the oven.

The tasting room at Thomas George was in a modern cave which was blissfully cool. They poured several Pinot including the 2009″Starr Ridge“, the 2009 “Barkers Ridge“, and  the 2009 “Lancel Creek“. The 2009 “Cresta Ridge” had a warm, barnyard nose with silky dark berry fruit and a moderate but long finish. The 2009 “Bee Ranch” Syrah was black with a violet and cigar-box nose, dense chewy fruit with slate undertones on the finish.

At Mueller, the 2010 “Tempi” PN was dark to black in color with a nose of black cherry, very concentrated with good balance and dark, fresh herbs on the finish.

Russian River Pinot Fest Day One

Russian River Passport to Pinot is this weekend. Several wineries are participating and the wineries will be pouring their Pinot including barrel samples of the current vintage so I spent Saturday afternoon driving around the rolling hills of Russian River.

The wineries I attended this day were: Joseph Swan, Harford Winery, Dutton Estate, Iron Horse, DeLoach, Hook & Ladder, Harvest Moon, Martinelli, Russian Hill Vineyards, La Crema, and last but not least, D’Argenzio.

My first stop was at Joseph Swan. I had the 2008 Trenton Estate Pinot Noir, slightly cloudy, medium red with cola flavors. In addition to their regular tasting they poured multiple lots of barrel samples of their Estate Pinot from different blocks in the same vineyard.

Hartford Winery in my opinion was the star of the day. The winery is new to me and this was the first time I had their Pinot Noir. If there was one wineries Pinot that I would have to describe as “Burgundian” it would be this one. Of the five wines I tried they all had the flavor profile of a good Burgundy. The 2009 Fog Dance Vineyard PN was medium dark to red, dusty mushrooms on the nose, tight but balanced finish. I also had the 2008 Stevens Bench PN, the 2009 Velvet Sisters PN and the 2009 Jennifer PN as well as a couple of barrel samples. And by the way, they had the best hor d’ourves of the day.

At Dutton Estate I liked their 2009 Thomas Road PN which was dark red with a nose of warm mulled spices with a tight, firm finish. And the salmon sliders were not bad either.

Iron Horse vineyards had to have the best view of any vineyard I visited this day, to reach the winery you drove along a winding, one lane road to get to the top of the hill where the winery was located. I liked their 2007 Golden Gate Cuvee sparkling wine. Poured from a Jeroboam, it was pale salmon in color, crisp with good balance and it went well with the bbq brisket sliders they served.

The Martenelli Winery was one of my must go to stops and I wasn’t disappointed The Pinots were very interesting. The 2009 Sonoma Coast PN was medium red with black cherry and mushroom nose, tight with dried mushrooms on the long finish. The 2009 Bondi Home Ranch PN was dark purple with a slight oily, rubber band nose, fleshy, full-bodied, concentrated but closed flavors. the 2010 Bondi Ranch PN had a toasty nose, juicy but balanced, deep fruit. The served a plate of three cheese to go with the wines which were very tasty.

My final winery of the day was D’Argenzio which is located in a small mall with several other wineries. I had a chat with Mr. D’Argenzio, sipping his 2008 Bacigalupi Vineyard Petite Sirah (still in barrel!) while sitting in the back near the bocce court, listening to an excellent guitar duo and a pretty women shaking her tambourine.

Dry Creek Valley

Had an excellent wine adventure in Santa Cruz and now it was time for a weekend in Sonoma. Since I would spend a couple of days doing the Pinot passport in Russian River, I decided to spend Friday afternoon touring Dry Creek Valley which is slightly north of Russian River.

Again it was a beautiful day whenI started the tasting tour at Rafanelli Winery which is known for their Zinfandel. They poured three outstanding wines. Their 2010 Zinfandel DCV was black with a sweet, dusty plum nose, chunky but not jammy with moderate structure at the finish. The 2009 Merlot DCV was black and brambly with chewy concentrated fruit and good structure on the long finish with a touch of heat peaking through. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon DCV was black with a nose of oak and black plums, chewy concentrated fruit without being jammy with good structre on the finish. Very tasty wines.

Next stop was Martorana Winery, a small family winery and the winemaker was doing the pouring duty in the tasting room this day. He  poured wines made from Dry Creek fruit as well as from Alexander Valley fruit. The 2007 Alexander Valley Zinfandel was dark red with black cherries on the nose with good, but not jammy fruit and good balance. The 2006 Merlot DCV was dark red with blueberries on the nose and good concentration of fruit. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon DCV was dark red to black in color with chocolate and mint on the nose, good structure with mouth coating tannins on the finish.

The drive to the tasting room at Mounts Family Winery took me through beautiful rolling hills surrounded by vines and the workers tending them. I started the tasting with their 2010 Viognier which had a bouquet of canned peaches with creamy, full fruit. Their 2009 Old Vines Zinfandel DCV was dark violet to black with a nose of black plums, very concentrated, great balance and menthol on the long finish. Their 2008 Petite Sirah DCV was black with a nose of toasty blackberries, very chunky with a nice mouthful of tannins on the long finish.

At Zichetti Winery the 2008 Estate Zinfandel which is made from vines planted in the 1960’s was dark and concentrated with notes of black licorice on the long finish. I tried a barrel sample of their 2011 Estate Zinfandel and what was unusual was getting peaches and apricots on the nose with some peach notes on the finish.

At Passalacqua Winery their 2009 Estate Zinfandel had a closed nose with velvety fruit and a long finish was some crisp acids.

Santa Cruz Day Two

Had my morning coffee walking along the Santa Cruz pier, watching the sun rise over the mountains with the smell of the sea air and the sounds of sea lions barking in the background. Looks like it will be a nice day for wine tasting.

From Santa Cruz I drove into the mountains to get to wineries that were open on a weekday. My first stop was Burrel School Winery. The building is an actual schoolhouse from the 1950’s that was restored and converted to a winery. The property was on a ridge, in fact a fault line in the mountains, great view The produced a wide range of wines from santa cruz fruit as well as sourced fruit from other appellations in the state. Their 2007 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir started with a huge nose of red raspberries with a touch of cigar box followed by long fruit and a balanced, tight finish.  Their 2009 Estate Chardonnay started with toasty notes, mineraly but not heavy fruit with a toasty finish. Their 2007 Syrah “Pichon Vineyard” had a nose of smoky bluberries, was dark and concentrated with firm acids on the finish. Was tasty but I thought it dropped a bit on the finish.

A few miles away was TestaRossa Vineyards. The site of an old monastery, an impressive building on top of a hill. All the wines they poured this day was from outsourced fruit from outside santa cruz appellation. Their 2010 Bien Nacido Chardonnay was old school Cali, light gold, aromas of butterscotch and pineapple with juicy tropical fruits on the finish. The 2010 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir was medium red in the glass, red cherry with some barnyard on the nose, tight, bright fruit with crisp acidity on the finish.

Next stop was the tasting room for Cinnaber Winery located in the town of Saratoga. From their tasting menu I liked the 2008 “Clautiere Vineyard” Mourvedre from Paso Robles. With a nose of raspberry, chocolate and herbs on the nose with a finish that on my notes I wrote “chocolate covered cherries”.

Back in town I stopped at a couple of urban winery tasting rooms, Storrs Winery and Vine Hill Winery. At Storrs I enjoyed the 2007 Pinot Noir from Monterey fruit. Medium red with some barnyard and cola on the nose with juicy fruit and a firm finish. Their 2008 Grenache from the Central Coast was dark red with a nose of dark cherry and blueberry, concentrated fruit with a dusty, firm finish. Very tasty but needs some more time for everything to come together.

At Vine Hill, their 2009 Cumbre Chardonnay from santa cruz fruit had a sea tang on the nose with tight fruit with slate undertones and a nice balance. Their 2007 Cumbre “Hicks Family” SCM Pinot Noir had warm and dusty nose with rosemary and mineral on the balanced fruit with a long finish. The 2006 Cumbre “Raffanelle Vineyard” SCM Pinot Noir was very nice with a nose of barnyard and fresh herbs, great balance, tight with herb notes on the long finish.

California Road Trip: Day One Santa Cruz

I decide to take a few days off and take a trip to Nothern California.  I planned on a couple of days in Santa Cruz and then make my way up to Sonoma for the Russian River Pinot festival.

After my non-sleep at the airport, I made into to San Jose around noon, picked-up my rental, who made me a deal I couldn’t refuse and rented me a convertible mustang, and made my way south towards Santa Cruz. On the way I would have to drive over the Santa Cruz mountains so I decided to start my wine vacation by stopping at some of the wineries in the mountains. Unfortunately many of the wineries in the mountains are closed to the public and the ones that are open are opened on weekends only so I had limited options. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a long drive from the airport to wine country. About a fifteen minute drive to the highway exit for my first of two wineries to visit, David Bruce and Byington.

That drive from the highway exit to the wineries was pretty spectacular, real mountain driving. The road was barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass with winding roads and no guard rails and in many cases the road turning into one lane. The views were great, the air smelled great but I didn’t think I would be doing to much power drinking in the mountains this day.

First stop was Byington Winery. Beautiful building surrounded by a great view of the mountains.  I tried six of their wines. The 2009 “Ball Mountain” Chardonnay from Santa Cruz was golden in color with a spicy, pineapple nose good mouthfeel with a minirality running through it, nicely balanced and reminded me of a Meaursalt. The 2006 “Bates Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon was black with a nose of herbs, lush and concentrated with nice minirality. The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir had a beautiful nose of dusty barnyard with a tight velvety, lingering finish with a little of the 14% alcohol heat peeking out at the finish.

Down the road was the David Bruce Winery. Another spectacular view from the tasting room. I started with their 2004 Estate Chardonnay. Interesting to try a Chard with some bottle age, deep gold color, nose of camel, toffee and some sherry notes.  The 2002 Estate  Syrah which was blended with some Petite Sirah, was dark and concentrated with a nose of dry leaf  and a long finish.

Since most of the tasting rooms were not open to the public, I headed to the town of Santa Cruz. They have a warehouse district where several wineries have a tasting room. I stopped by the Bonny Doon tasting room. Bonny Doon is one of the “Rhone Rangers” and specializes in wines made from the Rhone varietal. The tasting room is also a restaurant as well with a modern decor. I had a cheese plate with my wines, all the cheeses were from California and very good. I had several of their “Le Cigare Volant” (flying cigar) wines which are blends of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. The 2000 had a nose of cardiman and old leather, bright fruit with a crisp, lively finish. The 2007 & 2008 had a nose of warm plum with tight, slatey fruit. The 2010 Le Ciagare Blanc  (Rousanne & Grenache Blanc) was tasty with a nose of white flowers with good balance and a long finish.

I stopped at the Santa Cruz Mtns Winery tasting room. They were unusual in that they specialize in Spanish and Portugese varietals. The 2011 Verdelho had typical nose of grapefruit with citrus, grapefruit flavors. I also tried their 2010 Tempranillo, and their 2009 Touriga. The 2007 Duriff SCM was dark red with a nose of blackberries and rosemary with crisp acids and firm tannins on the long finish.