Wine Spectator Awards Banquet 2015

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This year was the 35th anniversary of Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience. Three days of high-end tastings and seminars ending with the Grand Award Banquet on Saturday. The grand tastings on Thursday and Friday featured some outstanding wines, unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend those but I did attend the banquet on Saturday. At that banquet the Spectator presented the 2015 Grand Award winners and the 2014 Wine of the Year award which was 2011 Dow’s vintage port. They also presented the Distinguished Service award to Bill Harlan of Harlan Estate and one of his wines was poured at the dinner. The event as usual was held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, Manhattan and the entertainment was provided by Huey Lewis and the News.

The night was started with a Champagne reception of some very nice sparklers and then followed by dinner. I was surprised they only served two wines instead of the normal three with dinner until I found out the price of the Maiden.

Champagne Reception

2002 Salon Brut Blanc de Blanc Le Mesnil

NV Tattinger Brut Rosé Prestige

NV Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée

NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier

NV Piper-Hiedsieck Brut

NV Henriot Brut Souverain

Dinner and Wines Served

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad with Arugula, Citrus Oil and Maldon Salt

2012 Sterling Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve (Napa Valley) Ripe green apple and oak on the nose with tropical fruit and oak on the fruit, moderate fruit. Big time oaky Chard.

Petite Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Fig-Braised Beef Short Rib Served with Bone Marrow Hedgehog Mushroom Pudding, Sweet Potato Puree and Fall Harvest Vegetables.

2012 Harlan Estate “The Maiden” (Napa Valley). Dark red to black in color, brambly, dried herbs, tight and concentrated, on the finish I was getting green olives, tobacco and dark chocolate. Started out as a fruit bomb but the finish tightened up with complex layers, still young.

Carmel and Vanilla Chocolate Bar with Brown Bread Ice Cream



A Grand Tasting & Meat On The Grill

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One of the events at the Food Network food and wine fest that I look forward to attending is the Grand Tasting. Samples from over 200 of the city’s best restaurants, chefs from the cooking channel and of course plenty of wine and spirits to sample and a lot of people enjoying it all. They had a separate “Wine Gems Collection” room that poured some extra nice juice. It was held at the aircraft hanger sized Pier 94 on 55th Street and 12th Avenue.

After the Grand Tasting, nearby was another event, Meatopia whose motto of the afternoon was “meat, drink, fire, music, the ultimate meat lover’s feast”. The event was held on the rooftop of what once was a parking lot overlooking the East River. It was a crisp Autumn afternoon of meat on the grill, smoke in the air, drink in hand and live music with a great view of the New York City skyline.

Some of what I sampled:

2012 Flowers Winery Chardonnay “Camp Meeting Ridge” (Sonoma Coast). Big nose of ripe mango and vanilla with ripe fruit and you can taste the oak on the finish.

2011 Flowers Winery Pinot Noir “Seaview Ridge” (Sonoma Coast). Light brick in color with dark cherry and turned earth on the nose, cola and red cherry notes on the balanced finish.

2013 Seaglass Vineyards Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara). Medium brick in color with smoky cola on the nose, spicy fruit on the balanced finish.

2012 Paon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (Mt Veeder). Black, crushed red fruit and mint on the nose, thick, dense, silky tannin, herbs on the balanced finish. Big wine.

2011 Joseph Phelps Vineyard “Insignia” (Napa Valley). Black, closed nose of dark chocolate, dusty herbs on the fruit, firm tannin on the finish.

2011 Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “Cask” (Napa Valley). Inky black, dried leaf and black pepper on the nose, dense black licorice fruit with great balance.

2010 Inglenook Estate “Rubicon” (Napa Valley). Inky black with a big nose of tar and crushed black cherry, tight silky tannin, firm finish.

2012 Emmolo Merlot (Napa Valley). Inky black, crushed black berries on the nose, with dense licorice sweet fruit. Thick.

2013 Coppola Winery Cabernet Sauvignon “Directors Cut” (Alexander Valley). Black with crushed black fruit on the nose and thick and chewy black fruit.

2010 Torres “Mas La Plana” (Penedes). 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, decanted from a magnum, dark purple with leaf and dark plum on the nose, concentrated fruit.

2012 Tignanello (Tuscany). Dark red, closed nose, dusty, tight dark fruit with firm graphite on the finish.

2010 Alain Voge Cornas “Vielles Vignes” (Rhone). Medium purple with dried herbs on the nose, sour cherry on the finish.

2012 Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf du Pape (Rhone). Medium purple, closed nose of slate, juicy fruit.

2012 Louis Max Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru (Burgundy). Medium red, feminine perfume of crushed plums, tight, silky, smoky fruit, firm astringentcy at the finish.

2012 Louis Max Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (Burgundy). Brick color with warm crushed red fruit on the nose, tight with moderate tannins and acid, moderate to long finish.

2005 Marquis de Riscal Gran Reserva (Rioja). Dark brick with warm cooked berries and mint on the nose, chewy black licorice fruit and nicely balanced on the long tarry finish. Nice.

2010 Marquis de Riscal “Baron de Chirel” Reserva (Rioja). They tell me this isn’t available in the States, some Cabernet added, dark red to black with dried leaf and mint on the nose, herb notes on the silky and concentrated fruit, balance.

Food Network Cocktails, Caviar, Champagne and a Seminar

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The annual Food Network Food & Wine Festival began this week on Thursday. It’s a fun week of food, spirits, and parties. I began the festivities Saturday attending a wine seminar and a caviar, cocktails and champagne event.


The World’s Top Wine Estates hosted by Ray Isle

NV Drappier Brut Natural (Champagne).  An unusual dark copper color, yeasty, green apple on the nose, very tart green apple on the finish. No dosage added.

2013 Schloss Johannsberg Riesling “Silberlack Erstes Gewachs” (Rheingau). Medium yellow, dusty closed nose, tight fruit, closed, tart.

2013 Chateau La Louviere Blanc Pessac-Leognan (Bordeaux). Light yellow with greenish tints, turned dirt and green vegetable on the nose, toast notes on the fruit, mouth-watering astringency.

2012 Flowers Chardonnay Estate “Camp Meeting Ridge” (Sonoma Coast). Gold in color with ripe papaya and a hint of barnyard on the nose with lemon custard and crushed rocks on the fruit and finishes tight.

2009 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (Tuscany). Dark brick in color with a big perfume of fresh rosemary and dark leather, concentrated, chunky and tight, silky tannin.

2012 Coudelet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone Rouge (Rhone). Dark red with crushed red berry and slate on the nose, chewy, dense fruit, stone, silky tannin on the long finish. Tasty.

2009 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon “Mt Veeder” (Napa). Inky black with crushed black fruit and dark chocolate on the nose, dense and concentrated with cedar notes on the finish.

2011 Graham’s Quinta Dos Malvedos (Portugal). Black in color with cooked fruit and wet rocks on the nose, dense, very tight at the end with big tannin.

Later that afternoon, I attended the Delta Airlines sponsored Caviar, Champagne and Cocktails event at the Wayfarer at 101 West 57th Street in Manhattan. It was a big cocktail party with Caviars provided by Paramount Caviar, Champagnes from Henriot and various cocktails such as the Kentucky 75, Devil in a Red Dress, Courvoisier Cooler and the Courvoisier Classic. I’m not a huge fan of caviar but I did like the hackleback which were small pearls of very buttery tastiness. It was a fun party.


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Last day of the California wine tour was spent in Sonoma. Beautiful clear, sunny, dry day as has been for the week. After the obligatory lunch at In-n-Out, I concentrated my touring to the Southern part Sonoma mostly in the Green Valley sub appellation.

Taft Street Winery. A “garagistes” small production winery using sourced fruit.

2014 Pinot Gris. Very light copper-colored, big grapefruit notes on the nose with crisp, vanilla oak on the finish.

2014 Chardonnay “Reserve” Chardonnay. 173 cases made, medium yellow, honeydew on the nose, ripe tropical fruit, tangerine and oak on the finish.

2013 Syrah. Dark purple with a sweet perfume of violets and rosemary, starts juicy and tightens at the end, pickle juice notes at the finish.

Marimar Estate. Owned by the Torres wine family of Spain, the winery, built to look like a Catalan Farmhouse and is perched on top of a hill with a great view overlooking the surrounding vines. Organic and unfiltered wines.

2014 Chardonnay “Acero”. Gold in color, tropical fruit notes on the nose with full and rich tropical fruit on the finish.

2013 Chardonnay “La Masia”. Light gold, crushed peaches on the nose with moderate green vegetable on the nose and lime notes on the firm finish.

2013 Pinot Noir “La Masia”. Unfiltered, medium brick, cloudy with crushed red fruit on the nose, red cherry cola on the fruit.

2012 Pinot Noir “Mas Cavalls”. Dark red to black with crushed black fruit on toasted oak on the nose, plums and dark leather on the fruit. A big Pinot.

2012 Red Blend “Don Miguel Vineyard”. Only 60 cases made, an equal blend of Syrah and Tempranillo, inky purple with dried herbs and black licorice on the nose, chunky with silky tannin and nice acidity on the finish.

Lynmar Estate. Slick, modern winery with a spectacular view from the outdoor patio.

2012 Chardonnay “Russian River Valley”. Deep gold with honey and spicy vanilla on the nose, mouth coating glycerin a nd dried flowers and honey on the long finish. Very yummy.

2012 Chardonnay “Quail Hill”. The nose more closed than the RRV Chard, dried herbs and lime on the nose, restrained on the balanced finish. Nice Chard as well.

2012 Pinot Noir “Russian River Valley”. Medium purple with warm black cherry cola on the nose, juicy, red cherry fruit.

2012 Pinot Noir “Quail Hill”. Cloudy dark red with warm smoky black cherry and dark leather on the nose, deep and concentrated with silky tannin, great balance and long finish of leather and black cherry. Very tasty.

Merry Edwards Winery: Easy going tasting room.

2012 Chardonnay “Olivet Lane”. Gold with dark flowers and honey on the nose, lemon custard on the full fruit with tart lime on the finish.

2012 Pinot Noir “Klopp Vineyard”. Dark purple, barnyard and black licorice on the nose, concentrated with bitter black cherry on the finish, some heat.

2013 Pinot Noir “Klopp Vineyard”. Dark purple, pretty perfume of floral black licorice, darkly concentrated with bitter cherry on the finish. Tasty.

2012 Pinot Noir “Olivet Lane”. Dark purple, warm black fruit and some coconut on the nose, concentrated and chunky, silky tannin.

Woodenhead Winery: Small, off the radar winery with the tasting room on a hill overlooking the vines.

2014 French Colombard. Unusual to see this varietal bottled on its own, light yellow, barnyard on the nose, medium body with nice acidity and earth notes on the finish.

2012 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. Unfiltered, light red with red cherry on the nose, medium body with green herb on the tight, moderate to long finish.

2008 Zinfandel “Martinelli Road”. From 130 year old vines, cloudy dark purple, strawberry jam on the fruit, dusty, minty jammy fruit, black licorice on the finish.

Martinelli Winery: Old school winery from a family farming in the valley since the 1880’s.

2012 Pinot Noir “Three Sisters Vineyard”. Light brick with a big red cherry cola nose, spicy nutmeg on the fruit, good acidity.

2013 Pinot Noir “Moonshine Ranch Vineyard”. Light purple, closed nose, bright plummy dirt and red leather on the fruit with firm tannin and acidity on the finish.

2007 Syrah “Lolita Ranch Vineyard”. Inky purple, green asparagus and petroleum on the nose, dense, concentrated, very firm.

2012 Zinfandel “Vellutini Ranch Vineyard. Light purple with green herbs on the nose, jammy and tight. 17.3% alcohol but didn’t feel it on the finish.

Anderson Valley/Mendocino

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Yesterday I arrived in the valley late in the afternoon so my tastings were limited. Today I was up early and ready for a day of wine tasting. Beautiful weather in the valley, not as oppressively hot as in Paso. I began at the northern edge of the valley at the town of Navarra, the town being one general store and a two pump gas station. The redwood forest began at that part of the valley and it was a memorable sight for me since I’ve never seen so many trees that huge before. So I sat at the general store and enjoyed my morning coffee and the beautiful sunny day surrounded by the Redwood forest and the scent of pine, plus the herbal aroma of the other cash crop of the valley. I stayed in Ukiah which is sixteen miles East and would recommend staying in the valley if you plan on a comprehensive tasting. That sixteen mile route from the valley to Ukiah is on a one lane road over a mountain range with one curve after another. Something I wouldn’t want to do after too much tasting.

Lula Cellars: First stop of the day, small production winery, casual tasting room with a cool winery dog. Lost tasting notes.

2012 Mendocino Pinot Noir

2012 “Peterson’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir

2012 “Costa Vineyard” Pinot Noir

Drew Vineyards: Estate vineyards on the Mendocino coast. The tasting room is in a Mediterranean styled resort called “The Madrones” in the town of Philo.

2014 Albarino. 150 cases made, yellow with a greenish tint, white floral nose with tight lime notes on the finish.

2013 “Fog Eater” Pinot Noir. Medium brick with smoky black cherry on the nose, very tight, clean, and could have used a bit more on the finish.

2013 Syrah “Valenti Ranch”. Very dark purple, crushed dried herbs on the nose very tight with mouth tingling acidity, light finish.

Goldeneye Winery. Not the mom and pop operation like most of the vineyards in the area, slick tasting room and a gorgeous view of the vineyards and mountains from the outdoor terrace, nice vertical of Pinot.

2012 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Medium black, crushed red berries on the fruit, tight, astringent, with roasted nuts, oatmeal and dark chocolate notes on the finish.

2012 “Gowan Creek” Pinot Noir. Medium red with warm dark fruit and crushed stone on the nose, concentrated, slate and toast notes on the firm finish.

2012 “The Narrows” Pinot Noir. Dark red with smoky black cherry on the nose, tight leather, bitter cherry with some barnyard on the fruit.

2012 “Ten Degrees” Pinot Noir. Dark red, dried mushroom, forest floor and slate on the nose, starts juicy but turns tight, dried herbs on the moderate to long finish. Some heat at the end.

Back in Ukiah I had time for a couple of more tastings. There are wineries up and down highway 101.

Barra of Mendocino. This winery was the sleeper of the day. 100% Certified organic, you taste in a spectacular wood-beamed and tiled room. They have two tiers of wines, the Girosole which do no see any oak, and the Barra which do see oak. The wines are solid, unpretentious, everyday drinking wines at a fair price.

2011 Sangiovese Girasole. Dark red, cooked fruit, mint on the nose with dusty, ripe fruit notes.

2012 Sangiovese Barra. Dark red, some barnyard on the nose, black mint on the fruit with crisp acidity.

2011 Zinfandel Barra. Dark red with a beautiful perfume of crushed blueberry, camphor, juicy with gamey cooked fruit notes on the finish. The owner opened another bottle of the same wine and the fruit was brighter. Tasty.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Barra. Inky black, crushed black fruit and mint on the nose with dark chocolate and sour cherry on the finish.

2011 Petite Sirah Barra. Inky black with toasty black fruit on the nose, very big rustic and chunky fruit, good structure on the finish.

Parducci Winery. Widely available in New York, one of if not the oldest winery Mendocino, carbon neutral and my first chance to try their estate wines.

2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Medium brick, cola and forest floor on the nose with mushroom notes on the moderate to bright fruit.

2013 Petite Sirah “Reserve”. Dark purple to black, pencil shavings on the nose, dill pickle notes on the tannic finish.

2013 Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark red, dill pickle on the nose, dark prunes on the fruit with big, silky tannins.

Coro Mendocino: A few years ago a group of Mendocino County wine makers got together to create an ultra premium wine blend to showcase the Mendocino heritage varietal of Zinfandel. The wine must me made with 100% Mendocino fruit and contain 40-70% Zinfandel and up to nine varieties. The wine must then pass review of a panel of wine makers in a blind tasting. If it passes, it’s certified and bottled in a uniform bottle and given the Coro seal. It was an opportunity to try wines with some bottle age and each bottle was an individual blend of the winemaker.

2011 Barra of Mendocino “Coro”. 69% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark red, big perfume of wild flowers with minty tannin on the firm finish. If tasted blind I would have guessed a Chianti.

2007 Parducci “Coro”. 47% Zinfandel, 45% Syrah, 8% Petite Sirah. Dark red, cooked fruit on the nose, chunky with minty tannin on the finish.

2006 Parducci “Coro”. 55% Zinfandel, 19.5% Syrah, 18.5% Petite Sirah, 5% Grenache, 2% Charbono. Dark red, big perfume of violets and leather, chewy and dusty on the firm finish.

Anderson Valley Day 1

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After a couple of days touring Paso Robles, it was back on highway 101 and a five-hour drive northbound to my next destination, Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. At Hopland, I left highway 101 for highway 128 and a torturous drive over the mountains (thank God it wasn’t raining) to the valley. At the head of the valley I ran into the tiny Yorkville Highlands appellation and stopped at the first winery of the day. After which I followed 128 which meanders through the valley and stopped at the small town (about four blocks long) of Boonsville for a couple of tasting rooms.

Yorkville Cellars: First winery of the day in Yorkville Highlands, they bottled all six of the Bordeaux blend varietals individually from estate fruit.

2013 Malbec. Dark red, crushed strawberry on the nose, bright fruit, leather notes on the finish with good balance.

2013 Petite Verdot. Inky black in color with a big nose of black licorice, tight and silky with firm tannin at the end.

2013 Carmenere. Don’t see much of this grape bottled on its own, dark purple, juicy and silky with green vegetable on the fruit, balanced tannin and acid.

Meyers Family Cellars: Right up the road from Yorkville Cellars, family owned winery founded by Silver Oak Winery.

2014 Chardonnay. Light gold with toast, honey on the moderate fruit with melon notes and nice balance.

2012 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark red with a pretty nose of leather and pencil shavings, tight and dusty with graphite on the finish.

2012 “Spitfire” Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. American oak, dark red, closed nose of dried plums, concentrated with a dusty , moderate to long finish.

Foursight Wines: Tasting room in the town of Boonville, husband and wife team making very some very nice small production wines.

2012 Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard. Light red, slightly cloudy, warm cooked spicy fruit on the nose, bitter licorice on the firm finish.

2012 “Clone 05” Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard. Clear medium red, barnyard, earth on the nose, bright dark berry fruit, dried mushroom on the moderate to long finish.

2013 “Paraboll” Pinot Noir. Light brick, wood and forest floor on the nose, gorgeous fruit, mushroom, cola and a balanced, long finish.

Lazy Creek Vineyards: up a long road off the main highway, owned by Ferano-Carano.

2013 “Lazy Day” Pinot Noir. Clear light red, red leather on the nose, bright, tart cola notes on the finish, astringent.

2012 Estate Pinot Noir. Clear, medium purple, warm dark berry fruit on the nose, tight and tart.

2013 “Middleridge Ranch” Pinot Noir. Medium purple, cooked black fruit on the nose, tart and toasty.


Paso Robles Highway 46

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Second day of tasting in Paso Robles. Decided to focus at wineries along highway 46 which runs East to West as highway 101 runs North to South. I assumed visiting wine country in the Autumn would be full of cool, crisp days in the countryside. Not in Paso this week, today the temperature made it to 97º (36º for you foreigners) in the afternoon and that’s hot. Did begin the day visiting the Warbird and exotic car Museum in the East side of 46 where I began wine tasting and headed Westbound for the day and finally ending at some tasting rooms in tow.

Eberle Winery: First stop on the highway, the “godfather” of the Paso wine industry.

2014 Viognier “Mill Road Vineyard” Yellow with earth and honeysuckle on the nose, earth notes on the full and balanced finish.

2013 Sangiovese Dark brick, spicy black vanilla and cherry on the nose, dusty tannin on the moderate to long finish.

2013 Syrah “Steinbech Vineyard” From the 2nd oldest syrah vines in North American so I’ve been told, dark purple with a big perfume of toasty crushed black berries, chunky with big tannins at the end.

Peachy Canyon: Family owned winery on highway 46.

2012 “Especial” Low production of three zin lots,  dark purple, cooked vegetable on the nose, starts out juicy, tightens up with cola flavors and moderate tannin and acid at the end.

2011 “Para Siempre” All five Bordeaux grapes, dark red, green bell pepper on the nose, tight, concentrated with dill notes on the moderate to long finish.

2012 “Vortex” Zinfandel A blend of four single vineyard zinfandel, dark purple with crushed red berry and mint on the nose, dusty, dark chocolate on the finish.

Caliza Winery:

2013 “Sidekick” 140 cases mad, mostly Roussanne, deep gold with a stinky nose with full, rich fruit and some sweet notes on the finish.

2012 Primitivo Estate wine, dark purple with a big nose of cooked vegetable, chewy and chunky, big fruit, juicy, dark plums and nicely balanced.

2012 Syrah Estate wine, dark red to black, warm graphite on the nose, thick, concentrated and chewy, good balance.

Four Lanterns Winery: From the Willow Creak AVA, about 750 cases total produced.

2014 “Apricity” Picpoul Blanc, light yellow, dried herbs on the nose with tart lime notes on the finish.

2013 “Shadow” Grenache/Syrah blend, dark red to black, red leather on the nose, slky red leather on the fruit and green herbs, nice balance.

2013 “Firelight” Syrah, decanted, dark red to black, nose of crushed black fruit and mint, silky red fruit and nice balance.

Tooth & Nail Winery: Low key winery, big castle with a moat.

2013 Stasis Viognier Murmer Vineyard Light gold to greenish tint, white flowers on the nose with full tropical fruit flavors with some peachy notes on the finish.

2012 Stasis Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley Big old school Chard, vanilla oak, buttery finish.

After touring the wineries I usually head back to town to end the day at the urban wine trail. Usually the wines aren’t impressive. While wandering around I stumbled on a couple of off the radar tasting rooms that would be worth a visit if you are in the town of Paso.

Paso Under Ground: A small sign on the sidewalk directs you to walk through a clothing shop with a back room with a terrace with four tables staffed with small, independent producers pouring their wine. I stopped at Copia Winery which had the owner/winemaker as well as the owner of the back room Michael Dewiit pouring his wines. At 200-300 cases total production from the Willow Creek AVA for the year, these wines are extremely limited.

2014 “The Reason” 100% Viognier, yellow with a greenish tint, some green vegetable notes on the nose, rich fruit with good acidity and green apple notes on the finish.

2014 “The Answer” GSM blend, black in color with green, black fruit on the nose, thick and chunky, mint notes with good acidity on the finish.

2013 “The Blend” Another GSM blend, black with a purple robe, crushed green, red berry on the nose, big and juicy with moderate tannins and acids on the finish.

Another sign on the sidewalk pointed you to an entrance in an alley for Taste in the Alley. Small, brick-lined room that’s actually a wine shop but they will open any wine they have for a glass. I had a glass of the 2010 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.