23 July, 2009

A Visit to Dollarhide Vineyards - Honey, Peaches and A marvelous Sauvignon Blanc

Dollarhide! I have been dreaming of visiting this magic spot since the last blogger's forum at St. Supery, when we were mesmerized with the delicious St. Supery wines and tantalized by the offer of returning when peaches were in season. This visit, we were greeted by blast furnace heat of Napa in summer, which only made the gorgeous green vineyards seem more beautiful, illustrated what makes great grapes and the awesome St. Supery team: Lesley, Tina, Josh, Sarah and crew. So fun! We started the day with tasty bacon and entertainment observing the view---Napa's hot firemen setting up for their fundraising event. Then we piled into vehicles and roamed out onto the 1500 acre property. The first highlight was the stone fruit orchard. From the trees, the lovely perfume of peaches wafted out to greet us. St. Supery's vineyard manager, Josh Anstey grows about over 30 varieties of peaches and several more of nectarines. These grow on a site not suitable for grape cultivation, but produce magical stone fruit. Fresh, voluptuous specimens with fragrance, flavor and juice for days. Just picked still warm from the sun? Delectable! This produce often makes it on the the menus of local fine dining places like Ad Hoc, French Laundry, etc. And I tasted why. Too delicate to travel far, this fruit is a locavore's dream when you come to it! We observed both flora and fauna as we laughed and toured. Also seeing St. Supery's lakes and the birds the water attracts was amazing. We also got to see up close the variety of terrain and how the different sites are managed to put the best environment for each variety. This particular vista of Sauvignon Blanc vines which goes into the amazing St Supery Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc wine. Josh explained to us the the light and depth of soil conditions makes it ideal for Sauvignon Blanc. He also pointed out the surrounding hills where Cabernet Sauvignon grows. We loved the lessons in viticulture. But Josh had his other talents on display, too! As well as dazzling us with the stone fruit and schooling us on the vineyard, he also busted out the bee keeping. With the smudge pot and the protective gear, he brought out a frame of honey. We got all Winnie-the-Pooh, sticking our tiny paws right into the honey comb and lapping up the fragrant sweet honey. It tasted so different with less green flavors or floral flavors and a more delicately citrus taste than regular honey. Amazing! We absconded with the entire frame and took it to lunch where I drizzled it on peaches and melons and stuck the honeyed fruit into my prosciutto sandwich. Heaven! And what better accompaniment to a heavenly feast than St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc? We drank Dollarhide wine in the Dollarhide vineyard. A perfect match to for the salty lunch meat and hot summer day, the cool refreshing wine zinged onto my tongue with aromas of ruby grapefruit, Egyptian guava and lime. Lovely! We wrestled for the bottle. Thea won! The Dollarhide Cabernet Sauvignon was also delightful with a flavors of cherry, cola and luscious red fruit, but the heat of the day made us all crave white wine. After lunch we continued out tour of this magnificent property to get a better sense of the terroir. Literally heavenly! And the best? The generous folks at St. Supery sent us home with each our own box of peaches! Yum! I have been snarfing them and reliving a day of great fun, great company and great wine! Bonus: With perfectly ripe peaches, white peaches, nectarines and white nectarines in surplus what's a BrixChick to do? Make ice cream! Here's a fabulous recipe if you find yourself in the same position:
Saffron-Kissed Peach Frozen Custard:
4-5 smallish perfectly ripe peaches, nectarines, white, yellow or combo; Peel and mash only when ready to put in ice cream freezer
3-5 strands of Turkish or Iranian Saffron (use only 1-2 of Spanish saffron)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
dash salt (hibiscus, if you have it)

Put sugar, milk and salt and saffron in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Continue stirring occasionally over medium heat taking care not to boil mixture. When it almost boils, reduce heat to low.
Then, pour 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture slowly into beaten egg. After, pour egg mixture into rest of milk, stirring well and constantly. Continue stirring until mixture is slightly thickened about 4 -5 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerate overnight.
When ready to finish ice cream, strain custard mixture into bowl. Whisk in whipping cream, vanilla and mashed stone fruit.
Pour into ice cream canister and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

22 July, 2009

You never forget your first time, or your first Condrieu

"Condrieu is a wine for romantics." - Jay McInerney, A Hedonist in the Cellar - Adventures in Wine

"Really love your peaches/ wanna shake your tree." -from "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band

I am a lucky wine-blogger. I have tasted some fine wines since my blogger career began and I finally was able to taste my first Condrieu. I have tasted many Viogniers from all over the world, mind you, but Viognier from the Condrieu is a totally different animal.

I first heard about Condrieu from novelist/wine-writer Jay McInerney. He actually claims that Condrieu is his favorite white wine in his second collection of wine-writings "A Hedonist in the Cellar~Adventures in Wine." So I guess that is remarkable, considering how much wine he drinks and writes about. Also, I love that a man can admit that he actually has a favorite white wine.

Condrieu is a once-forgotten appellation in the Rhone that was revived in the 1950's. It is a small apellation on a steep hillside, so you can imagine that yields are low. These hillsides are located on the right bank of the Rhone and only 105 hectares of Viognier are cultivated.

Tasting my first Condrieu was like lounging in a May garden surrounded by peaches, especially those peaches shaken by Steve Miller from the tree! "Lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey all the time/oooo weee baby I just wanna show you a good time." I had a very good time drinking the 2006 Etienne Guigal "La Doriane", Condrieu, Rhone Valley (13.5%):

Robert Parker rated this wine 97/100. Wow, impressive, but this wine is truly amazing. I love the nose of white nectarine, and yellow peach marmalade but it was the honeysuckle that made it stand out the most. In fact, some fellow tasters said it actually tasted like flowers. I did not taste the flowers but I inhaled the intoxicating perfume repeatedly. And it tasted just as intoxicating. It is a full-bodied white that is relatively low in acidity that coats your palate with its lively viscosity. It is smooth, well-balanced and not too sweet, no detectable oak. I would drink this wine by itself but Jay recommends drinking it with foie gras.

Is this really a wine for romantics? I am not sure, but it is defintely a wine for hedonists. Drinking the Condrieu enlivens the senses. And, as the Brixchicks like to say: it defintely "flavored my experience." This "lovey-dovey" wine rocked my world.

This wine sells for $35 - 60 a bottle.

17 July, 2009

Dollarhide Vineyard at St. Supery, Blogger's Forum, July 18th, 2009

People are always asking us what we do as winebloggers, besides drinking wine. Well, we go to excellent events. This Saturday, July 18th the Brixchicks and a host of Northern California wine bloggers will be exploring the diverse terrain and terroir at Dollarhide Vineyard which is part of St. Supery Winery and Vineyards. The generous folks at St. Supery, including vineyard manager Josh Anstey, will be giving us a tour of this 1500 acre property that includes 7 lakes. Not only do they have 500 acres of Bordeaux varietals planted but there is a variety of plant and wild life, they make honey, and grow various fruit trees (including peaches of which Liza will be devouring). We will be donning our hiking shoes, and have our cameras ready to capture the amazing scenery, food and wine a people, so stay tuned!

Nectar and the Hummingbirds - Review of Clos La Chance Wines

Thanks so much for Benson Marketing who invited me to the Nectar Wine Lounge to meet the fabulous Cheryl Murphy-Durzy and greet the wines of Clos La Chance. On a pretty postcard San Francisco evening, with delicious snacks in a sophisticated spot, these wines were the perfect accompaniment to good company and great conversation, including the Clos La Chance story.

First, the 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, A clear, pale citrine color, the wine had a gentle but pleasant acidity. Kissed with oak, it was so delicious and refreshing I slurped it down before recording a whole lot, but stopped with a little in my glass to get whiffs of green apple tart and lemon custard. I loved the use of oak. The tasting notes detailed "...aged sur-lie for 10 months in 20% new French oak, 30% once filled French oak with the rest neutral French and American Oak". Nice!

Next came the 2006 Lila's Cuvee. A Rhone blend, Lila's Cuvee blends 40% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Carignane, 15% Alicante Bouschet, 5% Cinsault and 5% Petite Sirah. The color of this wine is amazing. An opaque ruby that made my mouth water. Aromas of dusky fruit , chocolate and a hint of vineyard earth enhanced my anticipation. Flavors of blackberries, cherries and earth underscored by pleasantly grippy tannins were delicious. Especially with the almost too pretty to eat cheese platter. Almost! The salty tang of the cheese and hints of spice in the salami made a great match. My favorite match was Nectar's uber good Truffled Buttered popcorn with the excellent 2007 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains. Talk about tasty! The color here was lovely as well, a garnet bright with promise. Promise fulfilled in aromas of earth, red fruit and something herbal/minty in the scent's core. Flavors of luscious juicy fruit along with a minerality typical of the region. Along with a bright yet soft acidity all its own. With the truffle popcorn? Yum!

Batting clean up for the evening was the 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine even looked lush as it came out a dark ruby. I found a kaleidoscope of aromas: blackberries, tobacco, licorice, faint herbal tone. The flavors were big and ripe with black fruit. Ironically, the discussion turned to how food was a necessary part of wine drinking, while I was thinking this was a nice wine with food, but the ripeness and the complexity made it something I would like to serve completely on its own. Delicious!

Cheryl talked about her family's wine business as it grew from a backyard hobby to an 80,000 case concern. Initially they started out with an idea to cultivate small parcels of an amazing AVA into available growing areas. The focus and instincts that grew from that concept into such well-made and delicious wines is truly a success story. How fun to get to hear first hand! You can go see (and even better taste) yourself. Clos LaChance produces events on Summer Thursdays called "It's Time For Wine" where you can bring your own picnic, enjoy the sunset and the Clos La Chance wines. Ha! I am so going!

Again, many thanks to Cheryl, Melanie, Colleen and Sarah for an awesome event. Next time I see Clos La Chance on a wine list I will be sure to dazzle my friends by introducing them to a great wine!

09 July, 2009

Twitter Taste Live - What the heck is it?

Do you know what social media savvy winos are doing for fun these days? It is called Twitter Taste Live. What is that you ask? Twitter Taste Live, or #ttl as it is known on Twitter, is the premier website for live wine and liquor tastings done simultaneously across the country and sometimes across the world. Basically, you are tasting wine and tweeting about it live. All you need to tweet is a twitter account (www.twitter.com), an internet connection, the wines for the tasting and an opinion. It is a new twist on wine-tasting and makes for a great party.

This Saturday, July 11th, we will be tasting and tweeting live the ethereal wines of St. Supery Vineyards and Winery of Napa Valley. Our very own Luscious Lush Thea Dwelle(@winebratsf) will be co-hosting the event with St. Supery winemaker Michael Scholz (@mrwinemaker). If you can't do at your own place you can participate at the Jug Shop in San Francisco, or the Roger Smith Hotel in NYC.

So go ahead and sign up at www.twittertastelive.com. It is a great way to try some new wines and learn about them, while having a drunken revelry with your fellow winos! What could be more fun??? Join us!

07 July, 2009

2005 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs - It was a very strange year

Eventhough Pinot Days ended long ago, my passion for Pinot Noir endures. That is why I jumped at the chance to participate in a blind tasting of a private collection of 2005 Sonoma Coast Pinots. Indeed, the 2005 vintage was reportedly filled with unusual weather patterns as it was one of the coolest in recent California history. The cool summer weather with all that coastal fog and lack of heat spikes gave long hang times,and supposedly produced wines with high acidity and higher than usual alcohol levels.

The wines were tasted blind and a highly-regarded Burgundy was thrown in as a ringer.

These wines were released in 2007 but reportedly lacked depth and richness. So how are they now after 2 years of being in the bottle? Here are the wines, the rankings, and my abbreviated tasting notes:

A. 2005 AP Vin "Kanzler Vineyard" Sonoma Coast (14.3%) med. ruby, whiff of cabbage, stewed cherries, cinnamon, bitter citrus on the finish, balanced, decent acidity
Group rank: #4 My rank: #2

B. 2005 Aubin "Verve" Sonoma Coast (14.5%) first came barnyardy aromas, white pepper, red cherry, cranberry, anise, smooth and balanced on the palate
Group rank:#2 My rank:#1

C. 2005 Simon Bize "Aux Guettes - Premier Cru", Savigny-Les_Beaune (12.5%)very light-bodied as in thin and watery, tangy cranberry finish, bitter citrus peel notes on nose and palate, lavandar, pepper on the nose
Group rank:#3 My rank: #4

D. 2005 Zepaltas, Sonoma Coast (14.5%) made by Ryan Zepaltas, assistant winemaker for Siduri. kerosene, skunk, cherry jello on the nose and palate. too simple, little bitterness,not enough acidity...
Group rank: #5 My rank: #6

E. 2005 Rhys "Alesia - Falstaff Road Vineyard" (14.1%) Vegetal nose, green pepper, floral,black fruit notes, graphite on the finish, good structure and balance
Group rank: 6 My rank: 3

F. 2005 Siduri "Sonatera Vineyard" Sonoma Coast, (14.5%) too much residual sugar, not enough acidity, tangy green pepper on the finish, cola nose, strong fennel sausage notes (making me hungry.) Just too big for my palate...
Group rank: #1 My rank: #5

Brixchick Analysis:
My palate prefers Pinots that are velvety yet acidic, elegant and balanced. In general there was something "off" about most of these wines. From the aromas of cabbage and skunk to the bitterness on the palate that I don't usually find in Pinot Noirs. Some of them were lacking decent acidity, which I thought was strange considering the long hang-time of these grapes. I think all of these wines could stand a few more years in the cellar.

Oh well, 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir tasting is coming up. Wonder if these wines will be much different. I will let you know.
**Many thanks to Ross Bott for sharing his amazing wine collection.**